“The IPA is proud to be sceptical of climate change…” – Climate Change: The Facts, page.1
In April I received a copy of materials sent to Australian politicians by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) as part of their concentrated push to influence the debate on climate change. Central to this campaign was the publication of the book “Climate Change: The Facts” (CCTF).
In addition to this, a new website was also launched: http://climatechange.ipa.org.au/
Since then I have reviewed the materials. Over the coming week I will be examining both the covering materials sent to politicians and individual chapters of the text in a series of posts.
I believe this is important: not only it will it highlight the specific arguments of the denial movement, but more importantly shows how they attempt to shape the political debate.
“We don’t believe ‘the science is settled’. As a think tank committed to the idea of free and open enquiry and debate we are not afraid to stand against the mainstream of prevailing elite opinion. Time and time again, the mainstream opinion of elite opinion has been proved wrong…”
– Climate Change: The Facts page.1
The IPA proudly declares itself to be “sceptical” of the science, but that it does so in the spirit of true scepticism:
“Scepticism should be the hallmark of science. A ‘sceptic’ was once defined as someone who asked questions. Science should be about asking questions. Unfortunately when it comes to the ‘science’ of climate change, those who dare ask questions are too often labelled ‘deniers’…”
– CCTF page.1
Indeed, scepticism is the hallmark of good science, and critical thinking.
However, the book CCTF is anything but good science.
The IPA declares the book to represent the thinking of “the world’s leading scientists and economists”. And yet in reality, the list of authors is a roll call of the same individuals closely associated with the denial of science:
- Ian Plimer
- Christopher (Lord) Monckton
- Richard Lindzen
- Willie Soon
- Richard Tol
- Alan Moran (IPA)
- John Roskam (IPA)
Without any sense of abashment, the directors of the IPA not only contribute to the text, but boldly declare themselves amongst the world’s leading economists and scientists.
“The IPA published this selection of ‘sceptical’ viewpoints in Climate Change: The Facts because there has been so little debate about the science of climate change…” CCTF page.2
CCTF (re)packages long debunked “arguments” that mainstream science has already addressed. It presents no new evidence, no original research or a “fresh” perspective on the debate.
It is a primer for the committed sceptic.
It is intended to provide talking points, factoids and factually incorrect statements on climate science.
What I hope you will learn along the way
All journeys begin with a single step: we begin our journey into the very heart of the denial movement.
CCTF is the ideology, worldview and methodology of the denial movement distilled into 140 pages.
It represents the thinking of their most qualified members. Its their “best arguments”.
CCTF has it all: Climategate, the rejection of the peer-review process and the dismissal of consensus science.
Noted “sceptical” scientists such as Plimer, Soon and Linzden have contributed. The globe trotting “Lord” Monckton provides an essay, as do senior staff of the IPA. These are the “big guns” of denial in Australia and internationally, and it was carefully packaged and sent directly to Australian politicians.
When neoliberalism and science collide: the objectives of the IPA
This is not a small, insignificant publication that should be ignored: it represents a major assault on the reputation of science and scientists.
Considerable time and effort has gone into presenting a range of “acceptable forms of denial”.
However the IPA’s intention is not to dismiss climate science, it presents a spectrum of denial from the outright denial of Monckton and Plimer, to the more nuanced ‘scepticism’ of Richard Tol who accepts climate change but argues it’s effects are overstated. The pseudo attempt it introduce “balance” into the debate masks the real agenda of the IPA.
The IPA wants to cause just enough uncertainty in the science in order to stall, delay or halt any response to the threat of climate change that conflicts with the interests of energy and resource companies.
The IPA views any response to climate change as a threat to industry or to “liberty”. They focus obsessively on the supposed “astronomical” costs of responding to climate change, believing they will destroy “free markets”.
Their neoliberalism is at odds with the science. But rather than adjust their economic position, they would rather dismiss the scientific consensus on climate change.
A plea to the reader
I ask that you stay with me over the coming week as we dissect CCTF. Along the way I hope to illustrate the following:
- How CCTF epitomises the denial movements misunderstanding – and distortion – of the science
- How the IPA’s donations have grown extraordinarily over the last few years on the back of their campaign to deny the science
- How the IPA is one of the leading members of Australia’s denial movement
- How CCTF represents the “paranoid” style of politics that has dominate the conservative movement and is a function of “epistemic closure”.
Along way please challenge my analysis, provide additional insights and correct any mistakes I may make (either factual or typographical).
Next: Part 2 of this series of posts will be an analysis of the covering letter sent by the IPA’s Executive Director, John Roskam to Australian politicians. In it Roskam states “no reputable authority claims the science on the matter is ‘settled’ and that the scientific community has committed ‘fraud’.