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Michael Mann - Unprecedented Attacks on Climate Research
Posted: 26 February 2010 01:39 PM   [ Ignore ]
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For the scientists who study global warming, now is the winter of their despair.

In the news, it has been climate scandal after alleged climate scandal.  First came “ClimateGate,” then “GlacierGate,” “Amazon Gate,” and so on.  In public opinion polls, meanwhile, Americans’ acceptance of the science of global warming appears to be declining.  Even a freak snowstorm now seems to sow added doubt about this rigorous body of research.

In response to growing public skepticism—and a wave of dramatic attacks on individual researchers—the scientific community is now bucking up to more strongly defend its knowledge.  Leading the charge is one of the most frequently attacked researchers of them all—Pennsylvania State University climatologist Michael Mann.

In this interview with host Chris Mooney, Mann pulls no punches.  He defends the fundamental scientific consensus on climate change, and explains why those who attack it consistently miss the target.  He also answers critics of his “hockey stick” study, and explains why the charges that have arisen in “ClimateGate” seem much more smoke than fire.

Dr. Michael E. Mann is a member of the Pennsylvania State University faculty, and director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center.  His research focuses on the application of statistical techniques to understanding climate variability and change, and he was a Lead Author on the “Observed Climate Variability and Change” chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Scientific Assessment Report.  Among many other distinguished scientific activities, editorships, and awards, Mann is author of more than 120 peer-reviewed and edited publications.  That includes, most famously, the 1998 study that introduced the so called “hockey stick,” a graph showing that modern temperatures appear to be much higher than anything seen in at least the last thousand years.  With his colleague Lee Kump, Mann also recently authored the book Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming.  Finally, he is one of the founders and contributors to the prominent global warming blog, RealClimate.org.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/michael_mann_unprecedented_attacks_on_climate_research

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Posted: 26 February 2010 03:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Excellent show, guys, and actually pretty harrowing to listen to.

And thanks once again for taking some questions from our forumites.

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Posted: 26 February 2010 03:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Yet another boring luv in by the Climate religion without even a pretense of analysis or critical.  A long rambling podcast of self pity and vitriolic patronising attacks on those disgusting sceptics who just refuse to kneel down and kiss their scientifically brilliant feet, while whining and whinging endlessly about the cheek of non believers to attack them. It’s no wonder the momentum is now with the sceptics with this kind of incestuous group hug. This whole farce is becoming a laughing stock and Science is suffering one of it’s worst periods in modern history at the hands of this arrogant clique.

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Posted: 26 February 2010 04:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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scepticeye - 26 February 2010 03:28 PM

  A long rambling podcast of self pity and vitriolic patronising attacks on those disgusting sceptics who just refuse to kneel down and kiss their scientifically brilliant feet, while whining and whinging endlessly about the cheek of non believers to attack them.

I’m not sure if you were listening to the same podcast as I was because I did not hear any “vitriolic patronising attacks” or “whining”, nor did I hear any reference to “disgusting sceptics.”  In fact, what Mann seemed to be making abundantly clear was the fact that science itself, including climate science, is inherently skeptical.  However, he did also suggest that it was basically impossible to doubt the underlying physical reality of the radiative effects of greenhouse gasses. 

Incidentally, the most recent issue of Skeptical Inquirer has four articles pertaining to the AGW “debate”; all of those articles side with the climate scientists.

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Posted: 27 February 2010 07:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Everyone I know is more opinionated and sure, one way or the other, about global warming than I am, but I can’t believe they are all better informed. I know enough to know I don’t know enough to evaluate the arguments independently. There are three arguments going on. 1) the climate is or is not warming, 2) it is or is not caused by the actions of civilized man, 3) we can or can not correct it. #3 gets curiously little airing considering that if the answer is CAN NOT, most of the arguments on 1 & 2 are moot. (We seem to assume 2 & 3 are the same question. Maybe activists have an incentive to promote this confusion.) The environmental movement long has been and the skeptical movement is becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of political liberalism. Liberals don’t understand nonliberals and don’t care. Straw men are much more useful. The reason conservatives are so skeptical about warming is not that they are demonically greedy, ignorant and evil. It is that they don’t trust liberals who they see as diabolically evil and power hungry. It is that simple. They can see that whether there is anthropogenic warming or not, the agenda is dead sure to vastly increase centralized control of society and extirpate much liberty. I think, if warming, anthropogenic or otherwise, is real, there isn’t a thing we can do about it. You can reduce carbon dioxide emission about as effectively as you can reduce lust and for many of the same reasons. Sustainable and renewable energy are pipe dreams. I see only three theoretical ways to reduce human damage to the environment: 1) smaller people, 2) fewer people, 3) poorer people. Everything the environmentalists advocate sounds like 3 to me. #2 is the nearest to a practical approach but that is not very near at all and no one faces it. Knowing how much liberals have at stake here, anyone would be crazy not to be skeptical. If warming is real, liberals have their own past to blame for their difficulty in persuading people.

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Posted: 27 February 2010 08:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Pragmatic Naturalist - 26 February 2010 04:53 PM
scepticeye - 26 February 2010 03:28 PM

  A long rambling podcast of self pity and vitriolic patronising attacks on those disgusting sceptics who just refuse to kneel down and kiss their scientifically brilliant feet, while whining and whinging endlessly about the cheek of non believers to attack them.

I’m not sure if you were listening to the same podcast as I was because I did not hear any “vitriolic patronising attacks” or “whining”, nor did I hear any reference to “disgusting sceptics.”  In fact, what Mann seemed to be making abundantly clear was the fact that science itself, including climate science, is inherently skeptical.  However, he did also suggest that it was basically impossible to doubt the underlying physical reality of the radiative effects of greenhouse gasses. 

Incidentally, the most recent issue of Skeptical Inquirer has four articles pertaining to the AGW “debate”; all of those articles side with the climate scientists.

I listened to the whole interminable thing unfortunately and from the first words of the interviewer we got a long steady one sided stream of whining about the poor climate scientists who have been attacked and criticised with no justification and the nasty sceptics have no scientific basis for their attacks and the science is 100% solid. Please. It was so much nonsense. Then we were treated to a tiresome restating of all standard scientific mantras that we get on a constant basis from this group of Climate people, unquestioned and untested as usual. It reminded me of those republican in-house get-togethers where they all stroke each other’s egos and bash the liberals. All very entertaining for the faithful but it will do nothing for the argument or the debate and will only convince sceptics of the merit of their cause. For me as a sceptic and a regular contributor to this valuable ‘sceptics’ forum it is however a deep disappointment to see scepticism abandoned in such a totally anti-sceptic manner.

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Posted: 27 February 2010 08:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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scepticeye - 27 February 2010 08:24 AM

Please. It was so much nonsense.

Are you a climate specialist? Do you have the data available that show it is all ‘nonsense’? Please present them to us. No opinions, please.

GdB

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Posted: 27 February 2010 08:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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rg21 - 27 February 2010 07:31 AM

Everyone I know is more opinionated and sure, one way or the other, about global warming than I am, but I can’t believe they are all better informed. I know enough to know I don’t know enough to evaluate the arguments independently. There are three arguments going on. 1) the climate is or is not warming, 2) it is or is not caused by the actions of civilized man, 3) we can or can not correct it. #3 gets curiously little airing considering that if the answer is CAN NOT, most of the arguments on 1 & 2 are moot. (We seem to assume 2 & 3 are the same question. Maybe activists have an incentive to promote this confusion.) The environmental movement long has been and the skeptical movement is becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of political liberalism. Liberals don’t understand nonliberals and don’t care. Straw men are much more useful. The reason conservatives are so skeptical about warming is not that they are demonically greedy, ignorant and evil. It is that they don’t trust liberals who they see as diabolically evil and power hungry. It is that simple. They can see that whether there is anthropogenic warming or not, the agenda is dead sure to vastly increase centralized control of society and extirpate much liberty. I think, if warming, anthropogenic or otherwise, is real, there isn’t a thing we can do about it. You can reduce carbon dioxide emission about as effectively as you can reduce lust and for many of the same reasons. Sustainable and renewable energy are pipe dreams. I see only three theoretical ways to reduce human damage to the environment: 1) smaller people, 2) fewer people, 3) poorer people. Everything the environmentalists advocate sounds like 3 to me. #2 is the nearest to a practical approach but that is not very near at all and no one faces it. Knowing how much liberals have at stake here, anyone would be crazy not to be skeptical. If warming is real, liberals have their own past to blame for their difficulty in persuading people.

A lot of good points rg21. I have no vested interest, business, personal or emotion in the truth of this controversy. As someone who is science trained and who worked in science for several years I follow the evidence and the evidence is a swiss cheese of flaws and holes - and it doesn’t matter how many millions of times the Climate Change people say it isn’t. They have consistently refused to tackle the weaknesses of their theories in an arrogant and patronising manner and have been caught with their pants down in the email fiasco. More and more significant errors in their data are surfacing along with research that rebuffs significant elements of their core findings yet they plough on like the titanic refusing to face reality with their noses in the air. They appear to have adopted the tactics of the bully boy US political system in how they treat their opponents and that is a tragedy.
Of course apart from society itself and the financial costs of this nonsense, it is Science that is the biggest loser. It is Science that is being dragged into the mud by
this neo-religious Climate group and it is it’s reputation for independence and accuracy and integrity that is being smeared in the eyes of the wider public. I fear it will take decades to repair what is being done. We desperately need some organisation or some reputable independent group who can reset the debate from the beginning and start an open and frank debate where the evidence is examined in public view and with the modesty and humility that science deserves. All voices must be listened to. Arrogance must be left at the door and perhaps, just perhaps this whole un-holy mess can be rescued. Unfortunately too many candidate groups have sold their positions on this topic to convenience, political correctness and the financial might of the Green movement.
I won’t be holding my breath.

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Posted: 27 February 2010 08:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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GdB - 27 February 2010 08:34 AM
scepticeye - 27 February 2010 08:24 AM

Please. It was so much nonsense.

Are you a climate specialist? Do you have the data available that show it is all ‘nonsense’? Please present them to us. No opinions, please.

GdB

Please spare me your instructions. I have no interest in them. Your arrogance in suggesting that only Climate Specialists deserve to have a voice in this debate is unacceptable to me. Next we will be told that only ministers of the church can contribute to the Religious debates and only doctors can opine on CAM topics.
Read the forums and discuss the data and it’s origin if you are interested in it and if such debate is allowed on this forum, which unfortunately it is not.

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Posted: 27 February 2010 08:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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scepticeye - 27 February 2010 08:24 AM

I listened to the whole interminable thing unfortunately and from the first words of the interviewer we got a long steady one sided stream of whining about the poor climate scientists who have been attacked and criticised with no justification and the nasty sceptics have no scientific basis for their attacks and the science is 100% solid. Please. It was so much nonsense. Then we were treated to a tiresome restating of all standard scientific mantras that we get on a constant basis from this group of Climate people, unquestioned and untested as usual. It reminded me of those republican in-house get-togethers where they all stroke each other’s egos and bash the liberals. All very entertaining for the faithful but it will do nothing for the argument or the debate and will only convince sceptics of the merit of their cause. For me as a sceptic and a regular contributor to this valuable ‘sceptics’ forum it is however a deep disappointment to see scepticism abandoned in such a totally anti-sceptic manner.

If you knew more about the science supporting global warming, you’d have more sympathy for Dr. Mann.

So spend an hour listening to this lecture: http://www.agu.org/meetings/fm09/lectures/lecture_videos/A23A.shtml to get yourself up to speed on the science.

The lecture was presented at the American Geophysical Union 2009 Fall Meeting.  The lecturer is one of the leading earth/climate-scientists; he’s an AGU Fellow and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

In fact, *everyone* here should listen to the lecture—it is a Tour de Force presentation of the science supporting AGW.  Although the lecture was presented by a professional scientist to an audience of professional scientists, laypeople should not have trouble understanding it in a “big picture” way.  The only problem is that the video doesn’t show where the lecturer is pointing his laser pointer, so there are places in the lecture where you have to “guess” a bit as to which part of the displayed viewgraph he’s referring.

Here are some highlights:

There’s a particularly nice debunking of the silly “CO2 lags warming, therefore CO2 cannot cause warming” talking-point, starting about 35 and 1/2 minutes into the video. If you don’t have the time to watch the entire video, at least catch that section. Dr. Alley takes down that talking-point in a very clear and humorous way.

The “cosmic ray” hypothesis (a favorite of AGW “skeptics”) is very nicely taken apart starting about 42 minutes into the video. That section is also a “must watch”.

Starting at about 45:40 is the “money-quote” recap—a quick two-minute-ish summary of why CO2 *must* be the primary driver of the Earth’s temperature.

Also, during the Q&A session (about 49 minutes into the video), Dr. Alley was asked what would happen to the Earth’s climate if we burned up all the economically recoverable fossil fuel reserves. His reply was, “some chance at getting above the Cretaceous level”. For folks not familiar with the Cretaceous period, that means no polar ice caps, a sea-level about 250 feet higher than today’s, and open-ocean sea surface temperatures in the neighborhood of 100 degrees F.
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Posted: 27 February 2010 09:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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scepticeye - 27 February 2010 08:45 AM

Please spare me your instructions. I have no interest in them. Your arrogance in suggesting that only Climate Specialists deserve to have a voice in this debate is unacceptable to me. Next we will be told that only ministers of the church can contribute to the Religious debates and only doctors can opine on CAM topics.
Read the forums and discuss the data and it’s origin if you are interested in it and if such debate is allowed on this forum, which unfortunately it is not.

In fact, people who spend their lives studying a phenomenon scientifically are in the position to know the most about it. Within the scientific fields that actually study climate, the facts of anthropogenic global warming are completely established.

This debate is analogous to the earlier debate about the dangers of tobacco smoking, or the present debate about evolution versus creationism. That is, these are “debates” that have little or nothing to do with the science, and everything to do with economic interests and political ideology.

Re. the church, there is no science of religion or theology.

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Posted: 27 February 2010 10:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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To his credit, Chris Mooney stated the objective of the interview at the beginning of the podcast—to offer support to Prof. Mann, as a way of participating in the defense of Climate Science against the attacks of the corporate-funded denialist conspiracy.

That may (or may not) be a laudable goal, and Mr. Mooney’s thumbnail description of the roiled waters may (or may not) be correct and complete.  Opinions vary, even on this thread.

In any case, this was not a good jumping-off point for a compelling podcast.  Like anybody else who has been paying attention, I could anticipate Prof. Mann’s answer to each question posed.  Call-and-response.

In that light, it’s too bad that Mr. Mooney didn’t select the two questions I submitted on the contributions of the Tiljander proxies to the Mann group’s 2008 paleoclimate reconstruction. 

Prof. Mann knows these proxies intimately.  They were the focus of the Response he authored in reply to a Comment published in the peer-reviewed journal PNAS last February.

I couldn’t have predicted Prof. Mann’s answers to those questions, had Mr. Mooney posed them.  But I can guarantee that they would have been interesting, informative, and newsworthy—whatever they turned out to be.

That used to be what journalists aimed for.

If more background would be useful, try Googling ‘Mann Tiljander’, or ‘Mann Tiljander AMac’ if you wish.  It’s a topical and fascinating story.

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Posted: 27 February 2010 10:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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GdB - 27 February 2010 08:34 AM

...No opinions, please.
GdB

In my opinion it was another excellent interview by Chris Mooney, who is drawing on his contacts for terrific guests and his experience to carry a pretty insightful discussion.  Chris is putting a lot of effort into the prep and it shows.

Chris led off with an introduction noting a [ a special symposium organized at the last minute last week in San Diego at the AAAS annual meeting]; the symposium focused on the “feeding frenzy” following Climategate.

And the same day that Chris released the interview [ the Wall Stree Journal had a front page story on the topic with quotes on Michael Mann and the hockey stick plot]

I agree with Pragmatic Naturalist—it was an even handed interview and Michael Mann did an excellent job handling the questions in a mature, knowledgable way. For example at the end mckenzie’s question about skeptics was answered that from Mann’s perspective there isn’t a “one-size fits all”—skepticism is good and some questioners are honestly questioning certain points.  The easy answer would have been to pick up the answer mckenzie suggested (any questions are driven by ideology).  In other sections of the interview Mann was equally poised and really doing an excellent job.

At the beginning of the interview Mann noted that it’s well-established that certain gases do have a greenhouse effect.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas for example.
I came across the “curiously strong” absorption of CO2 in the infra-red in the context of trying to understand an industrial manufacturing process—it really is an interesting effect.  I am surprised {but maybe naive} that this would be questioned.

Chris Mooney is choosing topics which involve both Science and Public Policy—in this interview he seems to focus on the science of global warming and less on the “what are we going to do about it” part.  As far as science goes,  I think the main questions knowledgable skeptics have is how accurate are predictions for the future, and what needs to be done to make predictions more accurate. I’ll have to replay the interview. Mann referred to one example, which is that how clouds interact with global warming is important and complicated. 

I really was not aware that there is a “tobacco-like” conspiracy to frustrate efforts to do something about global warming. Maybe this was what was bugging skepticeye.  I have to agree it comes across as an ad hominem response—- the criticism of global warming ‘alarmists’ needs to be answered directly rather than claiming this is not necessary because “Big Petroleum” has a conspiracy “just like” the tobacco companies.  It is not “just like” tobacco. 

On the other hand I do think that the climate brouhaha has its roots in something involving money or power (or both) and that discussion of the root issue is important. Maybe it’s petroleum companies.  I thought it was that people don’t see a way to change energy consumption abruptly without causing an economic catastrophe.  I really appreciate these interviews and the discussion on the forum because I’m always learning something.

From a public policy perspective I was wondering if the problem will go away by itself because we will run out of fossil fuels and shift to alternate forms of energy because they are cost effective.  I question whether realistically the use of fossil fuels can be regulated worldwide and that it would be more pragmatic to develop cost-effective alternatives which become cost-competitive as soon as possible.

Thanks again to Chris for this interview and for joining Point of Inquiry…

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Posted: 27 February 2010 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Jackson - 27 February 2010 10:48 AM

.
I came across the “curiously strong” absorption of CO2 in the infra-red in the context of trying to understand an industrial manufacturing process—it really is an interesting effect.  I am surprised {but maybe naive} that this would be questioned.

There are people with more passion than education (or sense) on all sides of this issue.  It’s a curse, common to all controversies, it seems.  One good recent example can be found in the comments following
Climategate: Not Fraud, But ‘Noble Cause Corruption’
That’s an article at a conservative website that is rather unsympathetic to the climate scientists caught in Climategate.  All of the commenters take the author to the woodshed for not being hostile enough!

Not much to say to people who are convinced that CO2 doesn’t act as a greenhouse gas.  Hard to see them playing a constructive role in the debate.

The contentious issues, as Prof. Mann mentioned, are in identifying the important positive and negative feedbacks to CO2’s fairly modest direct effects, and figuring out their relative contributions, thus the likely total warming effect.

I do think that the climate brouhaha has its roots in something involving money or power (or both) and that discussion of the root issue is important.

On that, many people will agree.  There are big winners and losers no matter what is or isn’t done, and “appearance of potential conflict of interest” is an important consideration.  Contra Prof. Mann’s suggestion, this issue doesn’t cut only one way; consider the motives behind Wall Street’s enthusiasm for “cap and trade,” for example.

I question whether realistically the use of fossil fuels can be regulated worldwide and that it would be more pragmatic to develop cost-effective alternatives which become cost-competitive as soon as possible.

Good point.

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Posted: 27 February 2010 11:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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dougsmith - 27 February 2010 09:04 AM

In fact, people who spend their lives studying a phenomenon scientifically are in the position to know the most about it. Within the scientific fields that actually study climate, the facts of anthropogenic global warming are completely established.

This is simply not the case and as with Mann, repeating it over and over again doesn’t make it so. The science is riddled with holes and inconsistencies and extrapolation. I am lucky to have a high quality Science education and be able to assess the specific science involved. It is a pity that the minds of this anthropogenic movement are so totally closed to discussion. I have given up posting on this topic on this forum because the Forum establishment and the loudest of the contributors are so closed minded and aggressive. But that doesn’t bother me because it only deprives readers on this forum of the chance to engage in this debate. I continue the debate elsewhere where it is most effective and happily most successful.

This debate is analogous to the earlier debate about the dangers of tobacco smoking, or the present debate about evolution versus creationism. That is, these are “debates” that have little or nothing to do with the science, and everything to do with economic interests and political ideology.

This is the kind of arrogant smugness that is dragging the Climate Change debate into the quagmire, with respect, Doug. It is all about the deeply and fatally flawed science, some of it appallingly so, and the financial might of the Green lobby.

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Posted: 27 February 2010 01:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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scepticeye - 27 February 2010 11:50 AM

This is the kind of arrogant smugness that is dragging the Climate Change debate into the quagmire, with respect, Doug. It is all about the deeply and fatally flawed science, some of it appallingly so, and the financial might of the Green lobby.

Excuse me, but the arrogance is all on your side, assuming that someone without the appropriate scientific background can tell the experts what they’ve done wrong.

And the notion that “the Green lobby” has anything like the “financial might” of the oil companies bankrolling this effort at obscuring the truth is, simply put, grotesque. The fact is, as stated before, “With the release of the revised statement by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in 2007, no remaining scientific body of national or international standing is known to reject the basic findings of human influence on recent climate change.”

This includes, among other organizations:

32 national science academies
National Research Council (US)
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Chemical Society
American Institute of Physics
American Physical Society
American Geophysical Union
European Federation of Geologists
European Geosciences Union
Geological Society of America
American Meteorological Society
Royal Meteorological Society (UK)
World Meteorological Organization
American Quaternary Association (Paleoclimatology)
International Union for Quaternary Research (Paleoclimatology)
American Medical Association
World Health Organization
American Astronomical Society
American Statistical Association

The notion that all of these diverse scientific organizations have somehow been corrupted by “the Green lobby” beggars belief.

It is simply shameful that the public is being systematically mislead about these facts.

[ Edited: 27 February 2010 01:21 PM by dougsmith ]
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