Category Archives: Climate changer deniers

Oh Lordy: Monckton rejected by his own political party, but “Uncle” Monckton’s effect on Australia’s media landscape is still playing out

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) is typical of the right-wing extremist parties plaguing the European political scene: anti-immigration, anti-European Union, demands more funding for the military, small government and against same-sex marriage.

You know – the usual grab bag of idée fixe of older, angry white men.

With such a platform it was little wonder that “Lord” Christopher Monckton – he of climate denial fame – was attracted to the UKIP. Indeed, for some time he was the party’s deputy leader.

Well no more it seems as DeSmogBlog reports.

It seems Monckton is too extreme for the extremists. Guardian reporter Leo Hickman reports the UKIP now regards Monckton as a “loose cannon” and is cutting ties with the eccentric “Yes I am!” (but not actually) wannbe member of the House of Lords:

“…I asked if there had been a falling out between Monckton and the current UKIP leader, Nigel Farage. Towler said not, but said that Monckton – whom he described as a “17th century pamphleteer” – was sometimes the source of “frustration” and was “very much Lord Pearson’s man – they own contiguous shooting estates in Scotland”. Towler added that Monckton had been active in the party at a time when it was “not drowning in talent”, but the recent surge in popularity for the party had seen a fresh influx of personnel. Monckton was a “loose cannon”, said Towler, but Helmer is a “tied-down cannon, pointed in the same direction”.”

Rinehart and “Uncle” Monckton

Earlier this year Monckton was caught on video advising that a very rich “someone” invest in Australia’s media in order to reshape the political debate:

As many of pointed out, Gina Rinehart’s play for Fairfax seems to be part of the strategy outlined by Monckton. Rinehart has a penchant for listening to the advice of eccentric daddy figures like Plimer and Monckton – she takes her climate scepticism from “Uncle” Plimer and her “politics” from “Uncle” Monckton.

The thought that an extremist rejected as a ‘loose cannon” by the extremist UKIP somehow shaping the Australian media landscape is indeed terrifying

The Heartland Leaks: will the mainstream media pick it up?

Imagine if a prominent Australian scientist propagated the idea that AIDS was not a deadly disease.

Imagine if this scientist declared the existence of an elaborate conspiracy perpetrated by the medical establishment to help cover up that “fact”.

Imagine that for a period of time sections of the media faithfully reproduced the claims of this scientist without fact checking. Indeed contrary to all the evidence, this scientist was allowed to make these claims in print, radio and on TV.

Imagine if it was discovered this scientist had been receiving thousands of dollars from an ideologically motivated think tank to spread such misinformation.

Imagine if governments refused to fund programs to curb AIDs based on the claims of this scientist because “the science wasn’t settled”.

Imagine if thousands of individuals listened to this scientist, and ignored conventional medical advice about practicing safe sex.

What would be the result of this deceit?

Shattered lives, a medical emergency and billions spent on helping those afflicted with the disease.

Indeed this has already happened in South Africa.

But what if this had happened in Australia?

Would the media report on this tragedy?

Would the media ask itself why it allowed itself to be deceived – and in turn deceive the public?

Would the scientist come under scrutiny for their actions?

Now imagine if a scientist took funding form a think tank to deny global warming, another emerging crisis…

Oh wait, we don’t have to imagine that.

“Sceptical” politics: responses to the non-scientific arguments made by the deniers

John Cook’s Skeptical Science is perhaps one of the best tools combating the misinformation campaign by providing counters to the denial movement’s false claims about climate science.

For some time I’ve been musing on producing a similar resource that provides short, snappy responses to the denier’s non-scientific claims. Very much a small, modest compliment to the Skeptical Science communities wonderful work.

While the deniers may use arguments such as “the climate has always changed” and “it’s the sun”, more often than not what they rely upon are arguments such as “it’s a conspiracy” and “climate change is a religion”.

So far I’ve come up with a short list of these most commonly used arguments.

I’m writing short counter arguments to these – indeed I welcome feedback, contributions and suggestions.

The conspiracy arguments

  • It’s a conspiracy or gigantic fraud
  • Scientists are conspiring to silence sceptics/critics 
  • Its an attempt to introduce a “one world government”
  • The “water melon” theory: socialists using climate change to impose left wing tyrannies 
  • Climate change is being used a means to forcibly reduce the worlds population 
  • Climate change is being used as a means to de-industrialise the “West” 
  • Scientists are hiding something by not releasing their data to the public

The financial and economic arguments 

  • Governments are using this as a ploy to tax/revenue raising 
  • The “follow the money” argument: scientists are making up climate change to receive “billions” in funding 
  • Scientists, politicians and others stand to personally gain from promoting climate change 
  • The “left” sees it as a chance to redistribute wealth
  • Bankers and financial interests wish to profit from carbon trading
  • Action on climate change will destroy the economy and way of life

The world view arguments

  •  Climate change is a religion 
  • The science of climate change is a product of left wing/socialist ideology 
  • The science of climate change is a product of left wing bias in universities and academia 
  • Climate change is being used to “scare” the population into submission (for many of the above purposes)

Arguments based on sociology, psychology etc.

  • Climate change is just one more in a long list of “false alarms” (DDT, global cooling)
  • Climate change is a form of popular delusion or group think among scientists

Most are variations on two simple arguments:

  • It’s a conspiracy 
  • The conspiracy is perpetrated by those with an either ideological agendas or stand to personally gain

Reader assistance

I’d like to ask readers to contribute any I’ve missed. I don’t have a title yet, so “sceptical politics” is the working one.

If anyone has any good ideas, feel free to suggest!

I don’t want to sully the good name of John’s Skeptical Science!

Cheers Mike @ WtD

Pepper spraying the truth and speaking in dead tongues: how the deniers seek to irritate, confuse and blind us

There is much to be said for stepping away from the climate change “debate” and coming back refreshed.

In many respects it’s disheartening in a way to see to the same old deniers trotting out the same old tired arguments: “the climate has always changed”; “it’s the sun”; the absurd “it’s not happening”; and the wonderfully insane “it’s a conspiracy!”

Watching Plimers recent performance in London reminded me of  some of the basic tactics employed by the denial machine and its operatives.

Firslty, just how proficient the deniers are at what is called the Gish Gallop: throwing out hundreds of little factoids and arguments in order to a) sound authoritative and b) confuse.

Fact checking their statements is both tedious and time consuming: the “Gish Gallop” allows them to make dozens of absurd claims without risk of being challenged. Both Ian Plimer and “Not-really-a-Lord” Monckton are practitioner’s par excellence.

Playing dress up

Coming back into the debate also reminded me how much the deniers love nothing better than playing the adult version of dress-ups by assuming the garb and vocabulary of scientists and other authority figures.

Plimer loves to take the “trust me I’m a scientist” line in order to assume the authority of science, while simultaneously attacking what is settled science.

It is why Monckton is so strident in his attempts to claim he is a “member of the House of Lords” when he clearly is not.

But in order to accept the claims of Plimer and Monckton and the roles they want to play, one needs to also wave away hundreds of uncomfortable facts.

Even though Monckton is famously not a member of the House of Lords, to his supporters he “really is”.

It helps explain why Jo Nova and Andrew Bolt will accept Monckton’s claim to being a “Lord’ over official statements by that very body. One only has to see Jo Nova’s post on the issue to see the depth in which the denial community is desperate to protect the status of one of their “tribal elders”.

Can Monckton claim to be a member of the House of Lords Nova asks rhetorically?

According to a constitutional lawyer. Yes, quite so.

Monckton, on returning fromAustraliafrom his tour this autumn, consulted Hugh O’Donoghue, a leading constitutional lawyer at Carmelite Chambers, overlooking the River Thames just a mile downstream from the Houses of Parliament. His question: “Am I or am I not a member of the House of Lords?”

O’Donoghue, who specializes in difficult human-rights cases and Peerage law, spent months carefully researching Monckton’s question. He says Lord Monckton “was and is correct at all points”. The conclusion of his 11-page opinion (see PDF at bottom of this article), reviewing 1000 years of Peerage law, is clear on the issue:

Yes… because the opinion of one single lawyer trumps the official view of the UKs upper house.

I mean this lawyer sits just one mile downstream from the Houses of Parliament! Golly gosh, that makes them really authoritative. And its 11 pages!

To have any real validity, either statute law would need to be changed or the matter taken to court where a Judge would make a determination.

Until then, this advice is merely an unsubstantiated opinion.

Caution, extreme usage of dead languages ahead

The classically trained Monckton loves to sprinkle his monologues – and I say monologues because Monckton doesn’t have conversations, he simply talks and talks, and talks – with snatches of Latin.

Monckton’s use of dead languages is intended to do two things: intimidate his critics and demonstrate his arcane knowledge to impress his gullible audience.

It very much reminds me of the very things George Orwell noted in his famous essay, “Politics and the English Language“.

Cautioning the reader against words used to “dress up a simple statement and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgements”, Orwell notes:

“Bad writers, and especially scientific, political, and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones…”

Monckton arguments are so fatuous, fact free and incredibly fanciful that he needs to dress them up what is essentially verbal pyrotechnics.

To which all I have to say is caveat emptor.

Pepper spraying the truth

So why all this dressing up and verbal pyrotechnics?

The denial movement exists to do one thing, and it does it very well: to confuse.

It uses a variety of tools and techniques to support this strategy of confusion: denying climate change is real; attacking the reputations of scientists; hacking into computer systems; threatening scientists with death threats; engaging in email campaigns of intimidation and  harassment; plastering online forums with sound bites and denier memes.

Their campaign is nasty, relentless and effective.

I call it “pepper spraying the truth” because their tactics are designed to itimidate, bully and force us to look away.

The millions of words generated by the denier blogs posts and Andrew Bolt articles are simply the individual particles of a pepper spray applied to the public debate. It forces the closure of our eyes, blinding us to urgency of climate change.

In their application of their pepper spray, the deniers have degraded public discourse.

There is no “debate”.

There is no “reasoning”.

There is the denial machine whose only function is it is whip out the pepper spray and violently apply it to the public “eyes”.

“But what if climate change is real? What can we do? What should we do…” asks the public

“It’s not real! Look away! “ the deniers scream as they keep up a steady spray of false memes.

Read any online forum or comments section on a newspaper article discussing climate change and you’ll see the “spray” of denier memes and arguments. Every word, every post, every article from the deniers angrily sprayed into our eyes.

Don’t look.

Don’t engage.

The “pepper spray” makes it too painful to engage in any form of discussion or debate.

Tragically all of us are left irritated, confused, and blinded

Ian Plimer really needs new material…

Hat’s off to Ian Plimer for acting as a one-man climate denial machine.

Given that the number of scientists who are sceptics are thin on the ground, the denial movement is busily sending “Our Ian” around the globe.

Recently Plimer was in London trying to convince UK politicians climate change was all a big lie:

To quote:

“I’m a geologist [pause]… and the one thing we miss out in looking at in climate change is the past. Climates have always changed”.

To which I have to say:

Ian, say hello to Chapter Six of the last IPCC report on the paleoclimate. I mean even a surface glance indicates an appreciation of “past climates”.

If the report includes discussion of the climate over the last 400 million years, I’m assuming scientists are thinking about the past. Let’s have a look at one of the diagrams in Chapter Six shall we…

So a graph illustrating atmospheric CO2 concentrations over the last 400m does not qualify as looking at the past?

Come on Ian, do your really think the entire scientific community hasn’t twigged to this “past climate stuff”? That somehow the IPCC and tens of thousands of scientists have ignored past climate, and that you’ve somehow just pulled off the greatest “Gotcha!” moment in science?



Plimer also makes some wonderfully absurd claims:

  • the Romans wore togas, ergo it the whole globe was hotter (!)
  • the “monies floating around for climate research… is a fad and fashion… and quite perverse”
  • the climate industry “has for me been a huge attack on the scientific method”
  • he repeats his oft debunked claim about sea volcanoes (!)
  • the “climate industry ignores history”

Thanks Ian for some unintentional comedy!

I’m currently putting together a rebuttal.. all in good fun of course.

Trust me, I’m an expert: researching a climate commentators expertise

"I say!"

Who can you trust?

In a debate as complex and technical as this one you need to have confidence in the experts. These are the individuals whose job is to help the general public navigate the torturous, and esoteric debate around the science.

However, in the climate debate not all is at it seems and not everyone is who they say they are. So how can you trust an expert? Luckily there is a wealth of resources and databases out there that can provide you information on the more prominent deniers out there whose job it is to mislead.

Biographical information: where to start looking

Always start by profiling the individual. There are some handy – and free – resources out there that can help you determine their expertise:


Sourcewatch is an excellent “wiki” style database developed and supported by the Centre for Media and Democracy. It’s mission is to “profile[s] the activities of front groups, PR spinners, industry-friendly experts, industry-funded organizations, and think tanks trying to manipulate public opinion on behalf of corporations or government. We also highlight key public policies they are trying to affect and provide ways to get involved…”

It has a great deal of information, including individual biographies of high profile individuals in the denial movement with some good links to other resources. A quick look at the page on Anthony Watts – of “Watts up with that” fame – gives you a good idea of the information they produce. I use this as my first port of call for researching individuals.

DeSmogBlog Information Database

The guys at DeSmog Blog have put together a great list of the most prominent “sceptics” in the climate change debate. It is not a search-able database, but is arranged alphabetically by the surname of “climate change sceptic”. The have good profiles which gives you basic biographical details (education, professional career etc.) and some notable facts.

Profiles that contain the most relevant information

University and research department websites

You’d be surprised just how much information the average university website has. Not only will it give you the  qualification of a scientist, but also a list all their publications. It also is a means to qualify their expertise: if an individual claims to be a scientists at a specific institution, go their website and look for proof!

More often than not there will be a searchable database of academic staff. Many of these sites also make available the full text of their publications, an added bonus to dedicated researchers.

Compare and contrast qualifications with profiles on the web

The home pages for right-wing institute and think tanks associated with the denial movement are worth visiting. Normally they will profile their experts and try and “sell” them as qualified to comment on the science. Checking this sources does two things:  it qualifies the claims of the individual and allows you to see how they are attempting to present themselves.

Let’s look at our old friend Richard S. Courtney again. . On his profile for the Heartland Institute it is claimed:

“He is an expert peer reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and in November 1997 chaired the Plenary Session of the Climate Conference in Bonn. In June 2000 he was one of 15 scientists invited from around the world to give a briefing on climate change at the US Congress in Washington DC, and he then chaired one of the three briefing sessions…”

As we have already discovered, the claims to being a scientist and a “expert reviewer” for the IPCC are simply false. This is not just misleading, they’re outright lies.

Wikipedia: a launch pad for research, not the end

I will use Wikipedia as a handy tool to help brief me on general concepts, and then dive into more specific research papers, reports and links. Indeed, the most valuable section in most Wikipedia entries is at the end of the page where it will list the sources consulted.

Don’t stop at Wikipedia, go to the resources it cites for further clarification.

This is where the real gold is...

Google: some search tips

Ah Google, my very good friend and bitter rival! You are the gateway for to the universe of knowledge. And yet the danger is that anyone with a website, blog or  YouTube account can publish and become an instant “expert”.

Treat everything you encounter you find on Google with a high degree of scepticism:

  • Pick your search terms – plugging in the term “climate science” will obviously wield millions of results. If want to understand what “global warming is”, then use search terms such as “climate change” and “understanding”. Google also has advanced search feature that will allow you to filter your results by date, media type and even country.
  • Start with scepticism – the first rule for using sources on Google is don’t trust them. Don’t start reading the website/blogs content uncritically. Read the section called “About” to get an understanding of the author/s intent and point of view.
  • Apply some filters – what is the authors expertise? Where have they published? Blogs are usually the strict opinion of the author and should taken as such (including this one). A blogger that purports to take apart climate science, and who lacks scientific traditional in the area is an enthusiastic amateur. They have no expertise, it’s just arm chair theorising. A scientist conducting research in that area usually as a far greater understanding of the real issues.

I hope this helps anyone out there wondering just how “expert” some of those familiar names are in the climate debate. Scepticism is a powerful tool to find the truth, not simply the oppurtunity to disagree.

McGauren’s attack on CSIRO: throwing the denial movement a bone

The impact of the CSIRO’s “State of the Climate” report becomes more evident, as noted by Crikey:

“The basic denialist technique is to sew confusion in the community by repeatedly throwing up confected and disproven claims about the science, or attacking the credibility of climate scientists and scientific institutions, and keep doing it until people figure there must be something to their claims. And it has worked, with assistance from the media.

..But once Australians start making the connection between their own experiences and climate change, and moving climate change from a nebulous future threat to something happening in Australia right now, that technique stops working.  And that’s what the CSIRO-BOM report did.”

I think this confirms my initial analysis of the impact CSIRO’s report will have.

Obviously the denial movement is looking desperately for someone – anyone – in politics to “tell it as it is” and pander to their fantasies of conspiracies and data manipulation. It would be inappropriate for Leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, to attack the CSIRO: it would look incredibly foolish (as I’ve noted here).

Abbot tends to shoot from the hip, and get himself into trouble. Heck if even Andrew Bolt criticises Abbot on his statements about gays, then he really needs to start watching his words.

Avoiding the CSIRO report is probably a smart strategy, Abbot does want to be caught between having to support the science or attack the CSIRO.

Still, the small but electorally significant denial movement that has thrown it’s support behind the Liberals needs to feel that their concerns are being noted.

Release the hounds on climate science! Or a hound. Actually, release a small rather toothless puppy…

Leave it to Victorian Senator Julian McGauren’s to attack not just on the CSIRO report, but the organisation itself:

Senator McGauran says the organisation has been stripped of its independence and is doing the bidding of the Minister for Science, Kim Carr.

“Minister Carr without doubt has wandered through the CSIRO offices, intimidating the scientists and the executive to do as they’re told,” he said.

“This is now a political organisation. The executive have become compliant to the minister, utterly.”

A few pot-shots from a Senator barely anyone knows is the denial movements white knight. A quick check of his history demonstrates a rather colourful history and repeated incidents of behaviour that borders on the unethical:

On 11 August, after the Liberal-National Coalition narrowly won a vote in the Senate, he made a gesture to Labor Party senators on the floor of the Senate in response to comments. This prompted calls from Labor senators and Greens Senator Bob Brown that he be sacked as Deputy Government Whip in the Senate. Senate President Paul Calvert ruled that the gesture was “unseemly but not obscene.”[1]

In 2005 McGauran was accused of releasing to The Age newspaper the private patient records of a woman who had had an abortion, in breach of a Supreme Court suppression order; however, he denies this accusation.[2] The Victoria Health Minister, Bronwyn Pike, is quoted in the article as saying that McGauran was “exploiting this woman in pursuit of his own ideological agenda”, describing the act as an assault on the doctor-patient relationship.

A man of high ideals and integrity indeed.

Give the dog a bone: go get ’em Senator!

The short-termism of this strategy will no doubt rebound on the Senator. No doubt he’ll get a flood of emails from deniers complementing him on his bold statements, but for mainstream Australia it just looks, well, nuts.

It will further convince most Australians the denial movement is a bit like that embarrassing uncle that turns up at family weddings: a bit of a duffer obsessed with JFK conspiracy theories and perpetual motion machines. Harmless and best avoided: “A conspiracy you say? Oh my that’s interesting…. is that the canapes? Must go!”

Really, it’s just dog whistle politics – get a unknown backbencher to throw the denial movement a few bones and keep them happy. Deniers will chew over and relish the comments in their forums and blogs and be kept happy, distracted and amused.

We can safely ignore McGauren’s comments, it simply highlights how the ground is slowly shifting beneath the feet of the denial movement.

And again, it shows how science communication done correctly is a powerful tool to counter the distortions and misinformation of the denial movement.

Note: Crikey has a wonderfully funny comic on the issue here.

Jo Nova’s even bigger claim: old National Geographic article proves “they” are hiding the data!

I know I should be more charitable, more patient and less judgemental. And heck, I hesitated posting this, but sometimes the denial movement spirals into just plain silly.

Jo Nova has a history of making really, big earth shattering claims on her blog that “demolish” the “myth of AGW”. This week, she uses an old National Geographic article to show how climate data must have been “doctored”:

“Frank Lansner has found an historical graph of northern hemisphere temperatures from the mid 70’s, and it shows a serious decline in temperatures from 1940 to 1975. It’s a decline so large that it wipes out the gains made in the first half of the century, and brings temperatures right back to what they were circa 1910. The graph was not peer reviewed, but presumably it was based on the best information available at the time. In any case, if all the global records are not available to check, it’s impossible to know how accurate or not this graph is…”

Nova has an interesting point, and in the fine tradition of her reasoning I can now prove – yes prove – the Sun goes around the Earth! Apparently astronomers in the 16th Century had a very good idea of how the solar system was actually arranged:

What other data have those scientists rigged?

What else are those scientists hiding! Demand the truth! Question everything!

Yes Jo, because the methodology of science and collection of data have not changed since the 1970’s. Is that the best the denial movement can do? I mean, really?

It’s like they’re not even trying anymore.

File this under hunting for anomalies.

The continuing misadventures of Richard S. Courtney: (non) scientist

Or how the denial movement misleads the public and abuses the trust of it’s own constituents… 

How to spot a fake one...

This blog is about exposing the tactics of the denial movement: how they mislead the public and inject claims into the debate intended to confuse. Perhaps the worst thing they do is abuse the trust of their own “foot soldiers”, the ordinary individuals attempting to understand the science. 

As I’ve noted before, in the battle of the experts – between “pro-warming” and “no-warming” the denial movement frequently inflates the “expertise” of it experts.   

Which brings me to the fascinating case of Richard S. Courtney, the noted climate sceptic, British coal PR spokesperson and non-scientist.     

My encounters with Courtney: the denialist white knight?

While conducting my little foray into the discussion Jo Nova’s blog Mr. Courtney made a quick and sudden appearance into the debate following my posting of actual peer reviewed research. Courtney swoops in at post 35:    

…As you have quoted, Kuo et al. determined that atmospheric carbon dioxide and global temperature cohere such that changes to carbon dioxide concentration follow changes to global temperature by 5 months. Several subsequent studies have confirmed this finding but have shown that the lag varies from 5 to 8 months depending on latitude.   

You presented this Abstract (without a reference) as evidence that carbon dioxide concentration affects temperature. But the paper provides evidence of the opposite of what you claim: it proves that temperature affects carbon dioxide.   

I wonder where you get your information; RealClimate, perhaps?   


He makes future posts, and many members are ecstatic feeling Courtney has dealt climate science a devastating blow. 

Huzzah! The evil alarmist science is dismissed! Huzzah! 

Typical of the responses is what I got on my own blog:  

Did you not bother to read Richard S Courtneys post #75 before you posted your tripe at your blog? He IS a scientist. He HAS contributed to the IPCC. He IS qualified to comment about climate science and he, along with many others just like him SAY THE SCIENCE IS NOT WELL ESTABLISHED.   

Now, what does Dunning-Kruger have to say about lemmings?  

Courtney has a great deal of authority here, and uses it well in his attempts to “quash” real science emerging into the debate. 

Note the claims: Richard is a scientist, Richard was a IPCC reviewer. Sounds impressive? Trouble is, none of those claims are true. So dear readers, I present to you Mr. Courtney’s actual qualifications as noted not just by “alarmist” blogs but coming from Mr. Courtney himself.    

Educational qualifications: there’s no science there

Courtney’s educational qualifications are not in climate science. Often he is referred to as a “scientist”, or as  “Dr. Courtney” and even “Richard S. Courtney PhD”. However, as far as anyone can tell Courtney does not have any scientific qualifications. As SourceWatch notes:  

Courtney is often referred to without any academic degree, even if others are on the same page, like the ESEF member list of 1998 where he is not listed as ‘Academic Member’ but as ‘Business Member’. Even in a recent publication of Richard Courtney (August 2004) no degree is mentioned. There are however a few exceptions on Internet where he is mentioned as ‘Dr. Richard S. Courtney’ or ‘Richard S. Courtney, Ph.D.     

The blog Rabett Run however manages to pin down his actual qualifications as part of a similar exchange I witnessed on the Jo Nova boards: failing to alert readers that he does not hold a doctorate:     

…Courtney, who somehow forgets to tell everyone that he does not hold a doctorate…     

As can be noted by replies to my own blog and the discussion on Jo Nova’s blog, Courtney is often referred to as a scientist. It is very clear he is not. The post has now grown to >130 entries, and Courtney is quite active in the continuing discussion. However, at no point does he say “You know guys, I appreciate your trust in me, but I’m not actually a scientist…”     

No, he lets those claims be repeated again, and again. Of course there are plenty of other examples on the Internet where Mr. Courtney has been caught out doing the same thing. Indeed, as Rabett Run shows Courtney is happy to allow people think he is qualified in the area.     

Lucky, Mr. Courtney is able to clarify the situation himself in one of his own  publications, Wind Farms Provide Negligible Useful Electricity :     

Richard avoids confusion about him in his scientific and religious activities by rarely citing his academic achievements, but his material science qualifications include a DipPhil (Cambridge), a BA (Open) and a Diploma (Bath).     

A DipPhil is a Diploma of Philosophy. As Rabett Run notes:     

A DipPhil is not a Doctor of Philosophy, but a Diploma in Philosophy. The University of Cambridge offers one year postgraduate courses leading to Diplomas, but not in Philosophy, at least not now however there are other, less distinguished universities in Cambridge such as Anglia Ruskin.(corrected 2/5, Angelia weeps). It would be nice knowing what field and what University those Diploma’s came from.     

Links to denialist “think tanks”

Courtney is a “founding member” of the European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF), a think tank that not has not only published materials on climate denial, but studies attempting to discredit any link between second hand smoke and adverse health effects.     

It would seem that any science is fair target if it conflicts with the powerful coal and tobacco industries. DeSmogBlog has a full profile on Courtney:      

Courtney was a technical editor for CoalTrans International, which describes itself as the “web’s most comprehensive resource” on the coal industry. He was also a spokesperson for the British Association of Colliery Management, a coal industry union in the United Kingdom, and has written opinion papers expressing his concern over the loss of jobs in the coal industry as a result of the UK’s movement towards renewable energy.     

As can be noted, Courtney is not a scientist. His professional experience is in the fields of media and public relations.     

Expert reviewer for the IPCC?    

Much as is made of Courtney being and “expert peer reviewer” for the IPCC 1997 report. It’s certainly sounds impressive, until you realise that anyone can be an “expert reviewer”. All you have to do is ask for a copy of the draft report prior to publication, the catch is you can’t comment publicly on the draft. As DeSmogBlog notes:  

A lot of climate change deniers like to tout the fact that they were an “Expert Reviewer” for the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and a few DeSmog readers have been asking what exactly if takes to become an “Expert Reviewer.” Well, thanks to our friend Tim Lambert at Deltoid Blog it turns out that an “Expert Reviewer” really isn’t as exciting and not nearly as prestigous as it sounds. Tim writes:  

“Expert reviewer for the IPCC” doesn’t mean that they asked him to review material — all it means is that he asked to see the draft report. The only real requirement to be a reviewer is to sign an agreement not to publicly comment on the draft.”  

I have confirmed this with one of the authors of the updated IPPC report.  

Now, both myself and others suspect that many of these denialists who claim to be “expert reviewers” are misleading the public. It sounds impressive, but really all they’ve done is read the draft.  

In order to facilitate transparency, the IPCC distributes drafts for discussion of it’s reports.  The denial movement has exploited this in order to puff up the credentials of their experts (a tactic I’ve already discussed here).  

You can consult the list of expert reviewers for that report here, but as the reader will note the list of names and organisations not not only includes a R. Courtney, but Shell Australia, Exxon, 3M and the American Petroleum Institute.  

Now, if Courtney was involved in drafting the report, or was an editor then I’d be curious to know.  If he contributed peer reviewed research, I’d love to know. In fact, many people are curious (pace Rabbett Run on their blog).     

This is again another common tactic of the denialist movement: inflate the qualifications of it’s “experts” in order to impress the lay audience.     

The denial movement and “truthiness”

The  denial movement has a parasitic relationship with science. It recognises that many people place a great deal of trust in scientists, and that calling oneself a scientists lends a lot of credibility. People place their trust in experts, because they recognise the limitations of their capabilities. As one poster in the forum notes:  

I can understand Richard’s reasoning, but I don’t have the knowledge or means to test it. Yet I trust it, (subject to the dictates of true scepticism!) because I can see that it takes the form of falsifiable argument and observed data. Furthermore, his analyses have been published, and therefore available to falsification, for some time, and I have seen no attempt, successful or otherwise, to do so.  

This is a perfect example of how the denial movement abuses the trust of it’s own constituents. It allows them to believe their experts are genuine experts, when in reality they hide behind impressive sounding titles and puffed up qualifications. 

The denial movement produces literature that looks and sounds a lot like science, but is simply pseudo-scientific. Indeed their tactics mimic those of Intelligent Design, creationism and alternative medicine. 

Deniers want to tear down the science, but heavens they are desperate to ride on it’s coat tails in order to gain legitimacy. 

Self proclaimed climate change sceptics claim to be genuine sceptics, and hate the term “denier”. Nova herself felt sufficiently piqued to reply to my post on the Dunning-Kruger effect to say: 

Mike’s Dunning-Krugar effect blog was the most entertaining piece of self-satire I’ve read in a while. Thank you Mike. (I mean that genuinely, I really did enjoy it). It’s like we’re a species of beetles that keen junior budding philosopher and sociologist wants to study. I appreciate his politeness and curiosity. I only wish he didn’t keep calling us “denier”-beetles — incorrectly thinking it is a subspecies label when really it’s the wrong species, genera and kingdom. 

I believe many genuine sceptics, who are passionate advocates of science are being mislead by the peddlers of misinformation and spin. Courtney is no scientist. Courtney is a PR hack. 

Message to the “ordinary” climate sceptics

My belief is that the trust of ordinary people is being abused. As I’ve noted, these people are not stupid. These people are passionately interested in science, and are struggling with mountains of conflicting evidence. Like all of us, they need trusted experts to help guide them through the debate. 

My advice, be a true sceptic

Question the authority of people like Richard S. Courtney. Ask about his educational qualifications. Demand that he provide a list of his publications and that he explain his links to think tanks and the coal industry. Put your faith to the test: is he, or is he not a scientist? 

The term denier is not intended to apply to all those questioning climate science, especially the ordinary individuals being mislead.  The term denier applies to those individuals such as Courtney who are paid public relations professionals lacking scientific qualifications whose job it is to muddy the debate and mislead. 

The not only deny, but mislead. Perhaps the correct name for them is “The Misleaders”.

Guest post: Snow Doesn’t Mean No Global Warming

Peter over at Citizen’s Challenge has a great article on how on people can often be confused by what’s straight in front them. In this case, the record snow falls in the US seem to have made many question the reality of global warming:

“What a tough winter. Every time I look at the news there’s another extreme weather event happening. Vicious arctic cold fronts playing crack-the-whip across portions of the northern latitudes, then massive East Coast snow storms. Now I have contrarian friends laughing at me saying: “See there, the Earth is cooling. Your talk about Anthropogenic Global Warming is a hoax.”

Peter lives in the US, and offers a great “on the ground” perspective of just how the battle to shape public perception has trickled down to every level of society.

The rest of his great essay then addresses how the deniers (contrarians as Peter calls them) dismiss every piece of evidence placed before them:

“Yet, instead of honestly examining such evidence, contrarians shamelessly ignore all that proves them wrong. They seem to forget that part of being skeptical means being able to admit to mistakes and to learn from new information…”

I recommend reading the essay in full, in fact I wish I’d written it. He sums up many of my thoughts and concerns. I first came across his essay on the Center for Inquiry’s forums, and asked if he minded I re-posted it on my blog – my personal thanks to him for allowing me to share this.

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