Skeptics for Exxon: Oil Funds Climate of Criticism

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The Carbon Brief (TCB) has a nice analysis on the not-very-startling coincidence that at least nine of the top 10 “skeptical” “scientists” who are publishing on climate change have direct links to Exxon.

This is interesting, as well, in that it doesn’t account for the increasing amounts of money being invested invested by funders (such as the Koch brothers) who have been taking a less transparent approach than Exxon in acknowledging their links.

In a second instalment, TCB also took a closer look at both the quality and content of the purported “900+” science papers identified by the Global Warming Policy Foundation as somehow skeptical of the science of climate change. The news, for the skeptics as for the climate, turns out to be all bad.

First, only a small number of the papers actually appeared in reputable publications (eg., 34 in Nature, 33 in Science), and many of those either don’t address the climate question directly or do NOT come to the conclusion that the GWPF attributes. For example, as Professor Peter deMenocal, of the Earth Institute, Columbia University, told the Carbon Brief:

 “No, this is not an accurate representation of my work and I’ve said so many times to them and in print. I’ve asked Dennis Avery of the Heartland Institute (A GWPF collaborator) to take my name off [another similar] list four times and I’ve never had a response. There are 15 other Columbia colleagues on there as well … and all want their names removed.”

So, the list isn’t accurate or generated from a particularly reputable cross section of publications: who would come up with such shoddy work?

Well, the anthropologist and GWPF Director Benny Peiser has extensive experience fabricating lists like this in the past. And, as TCB confirms in a third instalment of their analysis, the largest proportion of these so-called skeptical papers emerge from a widely disregarded publication called Energy and Environment, which (coincidentially!?) is co-edited by Benny Pieser.

TCB notes that regard in the scientific community is measured by how frequently your papers are cited by other scientists. Over a four-year period, this is calculated as an “impact factor,” and for comparison, the scientific standard-bearer Nature’s impact factor is 30. The Journal of Climate, a much smaller but still very credible publication carries an impact factor of 3.57, while Pieser’s E&E comes up with a disappointing (one might even say risible) 0.42. That is, the papers published therein are attracting considerably less than one citation every four years.

One final note on GWPF, which set the TCB analysis in motion by trying to promote the list of 900 in the first place. It’s a project of the former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer – and climate denying hobbyist – Nigel Lawson, an effort, according to Lawson’s own manifesto, to convince the “media to become more balanced in its coverage of climate change” (which presumably means that they should deny the science at least half the time).

Have a look, though, at the GWPF’s Academic Advisory Council and see what’s missing (Hint: climate scientists). Among 27 advisors, only Richard Lindzen has a strong claim to being an actual climate scientist. The rest are economists, physicists, anthropologists, journalists and sundry other scientific or political activists who appear to have no qualms about participating in the climate conversation, regardless of their lack of relevant qualifications.

Of course, one might reasonably say that the GWPF’s work should be judged on its merit, rather than on the credentials of its advisors. In which case, one should return to the TCB analysis which reveals, well, no quality work whatsoever.

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