Category Archives: FoI

Lewandowsky et.al versus the “We’re not conspiracy theorists but…” brigade (part 1)

Latest scandal to rock sceptic blogs brings out their best…

Without doubt the phrase “Here we go again…” comes to mind as the latest scandal de jour rocks the climate sceptic community on the interwebz.

Around the globe, grumpy sceptics have grabbed mugs of warm coco and thrown on their favorite terry-towel dressing gowns in an orgy of sugar fuelled rage, posting voluminous comments on nearly every sceptic and warmists blog a basic Google search can yield.

In a show of solidarity and commitment to the cause of climate scepticism many of them have stayed up well past bed time, missing their favorite reruns of 1970s classic Brit-TV. Yep, they’ve given up watching special screenings of The Two Ronnie’s for a much more important cause.

And the cause of this online militarism?

The recent paper by Lewandowsky et.al titled NASA faked the moon landing – Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax (full text) showing a link between conspiracy ideation and climate scepticism.

Without doubt this was bound to stir the demons of denial: especially when the paper started getting traction in the mainstream media.

The denial machine is hyper-sensitive to any and all forms of criticism. Dare to suggest that they are in error and sceptic bloggers and a swarm of angry, cantankerous wanna-be science experts will go into default attack mode. The entire movement is built on the perception they are a credible alternative to the world’s scientists: start to question that carefully cultivated veneer of false authority and expect them to go-in-hard.

This is exactly what they have done in response to the NASA paper.

This is exactly what every one expected.

I mean, is the only position of the denial community a reflexive and angry defensiveness?

No?

It’s a bit like that old guy sitting on the front porch, yelling at “Those damn kids!” to “Get the hell of my lawn!”

…and then drawing a 12 gauge pump-action shotgun and loose off a few shots for good measure.

Not only is it an overreaction, but disproportionate to the perceived slight.

WtD predictions on reaction to NASA paper

Now recall I made three tongue-in-cheek predictions as to how the denial machine would respond:

  • Prediction 1: expect the usual collection of climate sceptics to claim they’re not conspiracy theorists, and that scientists are involved in an orchestrated campaign to exclude them from the debate and smear their good names
  • Prediction 2: the sceptics and deniers will reject the research, cherry pick its arguments and refute it with their own amateur analysis – just like climate science
  • Prediction 3: I expect the likes of conspiracy theorist and climate sceptic Jo Nova to go ballistic, calling the research “witchcraft” or some such nonsense and a form of ad hominem attack.

So how’d they stack up?

Prediction 1 confirmed: we’re not conspiracy theorists! But it’s a conspiracy!

Just go here to see confirmation of that fact with deniers complaining about being called conspiracy theorists while proposing conspiracy theories to explain away Lewandowsky’s research.

I suspected that the comments section of which ever blog or media site feartuing the paper would be flooded with comments not only dismissive of the research, but claim it was part of an orchestrated campaign to besmirch the good name of climate sceptics:

“There is only one answer to the question – who profits most from what is looking every day more like a scam. Those who oppose the theory or those who support it…………cui bono……..always the answer to those questions which produce two sides in which there can never be agreement. So far there is clear indication that many politicians have personal financial interests in keeping the ‘debate’ going for as long as possible. Cui Bono………..”

The blogger over at Australian Climate Madness sees it as all part of a greater plot:

“I think they dreamed up their dramatic headline conclusion of “climate sceptics are nutters” and worked back from there.

Once they got headline exposure in a couple of major newspapers, their mission was accomplished…”

Mwah ha ha!

Foolish climate sceptics, you have no idea how much control we have over the worlds academies and media! And banks. And the UN. And the world’s military. And every government on the planet. They are all in our pockets, acting out our orders…

As the average conspiracy theorists likes to say: nothing is as it seems, all will be revealed…

Prediction 2 confirmed: they will reject the research, cherry pick its arguments

Throw the sceptic movement a piece of empirical research, and they will switch to motivated reasoning mode and search for the smallest of errors.

Bishop Hill and Jo Nova are leading that change, being cheered on by Anthony Watts.

The comments fields on these blogs are filled with the exact same misinformed reasoning and misinformation that accompanies most of the discussion on these sites.

Yawn.

However, they’ve also started a campaign of FOI requests and other tactics straight form the “lets-harass-the-scientists” play book (I’ll explore in next post).

Prediction 3 half confirmed: I expect the likes of conspiracy theorist and climate sceptic Jo Nova to go ballistic

Well I have so say I was a little disappointed with Jo.

I had the popcorn out and was waiting for some classic Nova/Evans “OMG it’s the international bankers coming to get my money arrrrrgh! Where’s my gold? Under the bed!?!?!?!”

I’d built my expectations on the last time Jo responded to research produced in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, one of the world’s foremost scientific journals. In her fury she redesigned the front cover of the journal:

 

Which I thought was just adorable.

The whole “It’s evil! Evil!” and “It burns! It burns!” shtick gave me a good giggle. I have sooooo many favorite Nova quotes, but the text that accompanied the above image is amongst her hyperbolic best:

Shame on you Schneider, traitor to science. Shame on the NAS editors who allowed this pathetic excuse for research into their publications. And shame on any member of the NAS who doesn’t shout in protest at this denigration of the good name that took decades to build.

R.I. P. The Scientific Method. Hello totalitarian government, where money buys you authority and authority passes for reason.

As predicted, Jo commented on the NASA paper.

But I was really hoping for some “Nova Gold” with claims about tyrannical government, bankers, the “death of civilisation as we know it” and all the chum she normally throws out to her readers.

Much more muted than I expected:

This could be the worst paper I have seen — an ad hom argument taken to its absurd extreme, rebadged as “science”.

Actually, anything that smacks of genuine scholarship, Jo will refer to as “the worst I’ve ever seen”… so as one can imagine, the list of what Nova doesn’t like is rather long.

Standard Nova reply, but hey – I’m still watching and waiting for the lulz. 

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Disclaimer: I was never formally asked to participate in the survey; however I did come across the survey on other blogs and directed readers of WtD to the survey if they were interested. As the comments section attests there is a large number of climate sceptics and “warmists” commenting here.

Coming up in the next post: how the sceptic movement resorts to claims of fraud, misuse of Freedom of Information Requests (FOI) and other bullying tactics…

The insiders: if climate change was a conspiracy, where are the whistleblowers?

“Human beings are not very good at keeping secrets; individual self-interest is not interchangeable with group interest and the two are often in conflict, most particularly among small groups of plotters…” – James Howard Kunstler, The Long Emergency

Jeffery Wigand is a hero.

As Vice President for Research and Development at the tobacco company Brown & Williamson he discovered the company was deliberating adding ingredients to make their product more addictive. He was fired from his role for this discovery.

However, in 1996 he stated this truth in a 60 Minutes interview that definitively proved to the public what many had been saying: the tobacco industry had not only been lying about the harm of their products, but actively working to make them more addictive.

Wigand appeared on television despite repeated death threats [1].

Peter Buxtun is another hero.

In 1972 he exposed the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. It was a horrific experiment overseen by the US Public Health Service in which the disease to run rampant amongst poor black men. The intent was to better understand the course of the disease if left untreated. The men thought they were receiving free medical treatment and financial benefits, while never told they had syphilis.

No secret – no matter how closely guarded its holders believe it to be – is safe.

It is human nature to confess, or disclose.

Disputes amongst like-minded conspirators will drive some to leak documents or crucial facts to the media. This is especially so in the age of Wikileaks, Twitter and 24 hour news.

Which is why we can say with absolute certainty climate change is not a conspiracy orchestrated by scientists or communists.

What is remarkable for a science that has been understood since the early 1800s is the lack of whistleblowers; there are no climate science equivalents like that of Wigand or Buxton.

There are no scientists coming forth and saying “Look, we faked this temperature data”.

Not a single environmentalist has stepped forward to showcase a treasure trove of documents demonstrating the workings of a cabal dedicated to taking over the world.

Indeed, we have the very opposite: there is increasing certainty about the science. Every national science academy in the world affirms and supports the work of thousands of scientists.

The work of 97% of those actively researching climate change supports the view human activities are changing the climate.

There are literally millions of scientists, engineers, software programmers, policy makers, activists, writers and members of the world’s military and business community working on climate change and related environmental issues. They have been toiling away on the research and policies for years.

And yet somehow we are expected to believe these millions have managed to maintain a vast conspiracy of silence over decades. Just how probable that is?

How could this enormous conspiracy, spanning the globe and generations, still exist without at least one conspirator breaking ranks and coming forth with the damning evidence? [2]

Perhaps we should follow the dictates of Occam’s Razor and look for the simplest, most rational answer: climate change is real.

 

[1] How familiar does this sound? How many scientists have received death threats?

[2] Climategate proved nothing. After nine separate inquires the science and the behaviour of scientist remains unblemished. It was a manufactured pseudo-scandal.

Climategate fallout: Sebastian Nokes, a fisher for scandals?

As we noted, the fallout of the Climategate “scandal” will not end with the various government reports. There is still the ongoing investigation by the UK’s National Domestic Extremism Team.

However, we have been digging for information on Sebastian Nokes, the individual at the centre of recent media reporting. Here are some pertinent facts in relation to Sebastian Nokes and the following:

  • His interest in Freedom of Information (FoI) laws
  • His apparent fetish for fishing for scandals using FoI laws

Let me state for the record, FoI is a valuble tool for keeping government agencies honest and improves transperency wihtin democracies.

The question is, can FoI be used for malacious purposes?

Sebastian Nokes: teaching people how to use the UK FoI laws

It would seem Nokes is very keen on using FoI to obtain data from public institutions. The UK Information of Freedom Blog (2003-present) provides additional details on Nokes interest in FoI laws. They reproduce his 2005 Financial Times letter in full:

FT.com 7th February – Demand information audit copy if FOI request is not being met

Letter from Sebastian Nokes, Partner, Aldersgate Partners – advises what steps should be taken by the public if freedom of information requests are not being met.

We recommend that anyone who is not getting a proper reply to their FOI request should submit a further request to the authority asking for a copy of its information audit. If the authority does not have one, or if it is incomplete, the inquirer will be able to show that it has not prepared properly for the act. If it does have one, the inquirer will be able to see where the information sought is likely to be held.”

A link is provided to the a text that gives you a step-by-step guide to using the UK’s FoI laws.

There is nothing sinister in people using FoI laws in order to get information from government agencies: it improves the democratic process by enhancing transparency. However there is a difference between legitimate usage of FoI and vexatious behaviour.

Nokes as an “expert author ” on FoI requests and project management

A search of Amazon reveals Mr. Nokes co-authored a book on the use of Freedom of Information laws, see book description:

The Freedom of Information Act requires all UK public authorities to carry our an information audit. This book describes the Melbourne information audit methodology, which was specially designed both to enable the simplest possible compliance with the UK’s FOI Act but also to provide a useful tool for day to day management of an organization. The Melbourne information audit has been tried and tested throughout 2004 with many UK public authorities – central government departments, Scottish Executive departments, local authorities, agencies and other public authorities. Besides being a practical guide the book also gives a practical description of the role information assets in the modern organization, to enable senior managers to use the output of the information audit, the information asset register, to make better policy decisions.

He is also the author on a number of other books on project management.

Nokes history with using FoI: fishing for scandals?

It would appear the CRU is not the only public agency Mr. Nokes has requested information from. A 2003 newsletter from his company, Aldersgate Partners reveals a history of using FoI to “dig” for scandals:

Sebastian Nokes, when not beavering away on FoI consulting, is writing a book on basic financial literacy, for those of us who have decided that we perhaps should not trust our IFAs or our insurance companies (don’t mention Equitable Life to him) or perhaps even our government quite as much in matters of personal finance as we used to…

…But somewhere there must be records. Sebastian did what many journalists and research-driven authors do in that situation. He turned to the most likely source of official records for the period. He contacted the Debt Management Office, an executive agency of HM Treasury, and two other public authorities, to request any information they might have on the subject. Although FoI is not yet in force, he asked these three bodies if they would treat it as an FoI request. The Debt Management Office shone. “If the way they manage FoI type requests is anything to go by,” said Sebastian “then we know that our national debt is being managed very well indeed.”

And the information given by the Debt Management Office? Well, it turns out that the whole thing wasn’t obviously such a massive scandal after all. A nice example of how revealing full and factual information reasonably promptly is one of the best antidotes to rumour and misunderstanding…”

What does this mean? Is Nokes a serial “fisher” for scandals?

Several things come to mind:

  • Nokes has been interested in this FoI for some time
  • It would appear that Mr. Nokes is very keen to “teach” people how to use the UK’s FoI laws
  • Mr. Nokes has a history of using FoI laws to “fish for scandals”
  • Mr. Nokes has an interest in the CRU’

What does this mean in relation to the “denial of service” attacks the large volume of FoI requests the CRU was reportedly flooded with?

Opinions differ on just how onerous the volume of FoI requests where, however Nokes did lodge a request with the CRU.

Using FoI is a known tactic of the denial movement used to int imitate and harass scientists working. Perhaps it means nothing the activities of Nokes outlined above mean nothing?

However, what we see seems to be evidence of an individual using FoI laws to look for “smoking guns” on a range of issues. Does Nokes have an inherent distrust of public institutions?

Of course, we can’t answer all these questions but further digging is required.

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