By the 1950s, smoking’s cause of disease had risen to strong scientific consensus, but Big Tobacco needed an illusion of scientific controversy to keep the public in doubt. As seen in the new film Merchants of Doubt, they developed superb marketing tactics copied by others, including the fossil fuel industry and allies.
The scientific consensus on human causation of climate change is just as strong as that on smoking, so the same tactics are used against it, plus Internet-amplified harassment of scientists. Fred Singer recently tried to revive a nearly-forgotten 2007 attack on climate consensus, one of the silliest and least competent, entangled with plagiarism and falsification. A revisit of this episode may be instructive, as consensus (not unanimity) is important enough that people keep challenging it.
UC San Diego geoscientist and science historian Naomi Oreskes’ 2004 Science essay had examined 928 abstracts of peer-reviewed science papers and happened to find none that clearly rejected the consensus. She stated the well-known fact that real rejections would say so, whereas people rarely bother to reaffirm mainstream science in the limited text of abstracts.
The result had been ineptly attacked in 2005 by Benny Peiser. His claims of 34 contradictions were demolished by Tim Lambert and others in Peiser’s 34 abstracts, Peiser watch, Peiser admits to making a mistake and Peiser admits he was 97% wrong. Peiser used a slightly different database query, changed criteria and then misclassified many climate abstracts as rejects. It is easy for non-experts to misinterpret abstracts and assessing climate abstracts is a skill for which social (sports) anthropologists are rarely known. By March 2006 he entirely withdrew his complaint. Peiser’s attack was demonstrated inept at best, but not a barrier to his later job prospects at the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). He never apologized, but his “work” resurfaced in 2007, the main topic here.
A recent email chain again displayed the reality-disconnect of proven faker Fred Singer and his mostly male1 contacts, upset by the oncoming Merchants of Doubt. They had failed repeatedly since 2004 to discredit Oreskes, so they sought new ways to harass her and associates, including James Enstrom‘s ludicrous suggestion of complaining to her PhD(1990) school, Stanford. Singer then resurrected the failed 2007 attack, like “Climategate” a non-event amplified by well-oiled machinery into an Internet/PR storm. The Heartland Institute even ran ads for it in major newspapers. It had been strongly refuted, but perhaps like Frederick Seitz, it lived on in Singer’s mind:
“A few yrs ago, distinguished British surgeon SCHULTE filed a complaint with UCSD about N, Oreskes ‘consensus’ work.
A He faced a mostly feminist mafia; NO was promoted to be Provost of a new college in UCSD.”
Mr. Klaus-Martin Schulte was Monckton’s endocrine surgeon, long affiliated with King’s College, London, but now at the Australian National Unversity. He became Monckton’s front man in a conspiracy to attack Oreskes and the consensus. Although well-published in his own field, he exhibited serious incompetence in climate science and also was revealed as a plagiarist and falsifier, strong allegations, but clear.
In 2007, via the newly-created Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI)2 Lord Christopher Monckton, Robert Ferguson and Schulte ran a well-coordinated PR campaign to harass Oreskes. Unsurprisingly, Schulte was no more competent at assessing climate abstracts than Peiser. A 40-page Report attached to a 2008 DeSmogBlog post included detailed timelines and examples of plagiarism in the Letter below. It elicited an instructive comment by Monckton. The story has changed little, but an updated Report7.0A fixes broken URLs and adds a few annotations.
On 07/19/07, at SPPI, Monckton repeated Peiser’s attack,3 included Peiser’s 5 favored counter-examples, copying the text without attribution, i.e., plagiarized. Monckton simply ignored Peiser’s year-earlier withdrawal. In climate denialiasm, preferred but strongly-disproved stories are repeated endlessly.
Monckton included the exact text of ~40% of a not-yet-accepted Schulte paper, a strange publishing practice, but at least properly attributed. A few weeks later began an intense Internet PR campaign to claim Oreskes had been totally obsoleted and the consensus refuted. While preparing for a trip to Europe, she wrote a few comments posted at a friend’s blog.
Schulte then sent UCSD Chancellor and her an intimidating Letter (doc or PDF) on official letterhead starting as shown below. Ferguson quickly posted that at SPPI and followed with ‘Researcher Demands Apology for Professional Discourtesy from Essayist Who Claimed Climate “Consensus”’4 also posted at SPPI and distributed via Business Wire. Schulte complained that Oreskes commented on blogged excerpts, but refused to give her a copy of the paper that Monckton and others obviously possessed. This well-coordinated PR process bears zero resemblance to any normal academic dispute.
The Letter ends:
Monckton is known for frequent threats and Latin phrases. The Report demonstrates close cooperation between him and Schulte, belying Schulte’s claims of unauthorized use of draft papers. The Letter is dissected in pp.26-37 of the Report, but the plagiarism is now highlighted in a more obvious side-by-side form. Schulte lacked even minimal relevant competence for this work, shown by unfamiliarity with the field, false citations and plagiarism of errors from Peiser via Monckton. All claimed 5 contradictions to Oreskes, and all were 0 for 5. If plagiarizing, it is better to copy correct material, rather than error-ridden text that proves one knows nothing of the field. Perhaps Monckton was the Letter‘s silent coauthor, but the only named author was Schulte, who later was quoted writing an ominous, but vague threat, again in Monckton’s familiar style:
“Withdraw your unfounded personal allegations against me, with the expression of your apologies. Failure to do so within 14 days will oblige me to take appropriate measures to protect my position without further notice.”
While this was happening, Monckton (as “Chris”) was posting vague legal threats on various blogs. All this PR fuss was based on a paper that had not been accepted and Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen had written in ~09/20/07:
“For your information, I have informed Dr.Schulte that I am happy to publish his own research findings on the effect on patients of climate alamism/’Angst’.
His survey of papers critical of the consensus was a bit patchy and nothing new, as you point out. it was not what was of interest to me; nothing has been published.”
Fear of anthropogenic “global warming” can adversely affect patients’ well-being. Accordingly, the state of the scientific consensus about climate change was studied
There appears to be little evidence in the learned journals to justify the
climate-change alarm that now harms patients.” Zero evidence.
What fraction of Schulte’s patients were harmed by worrying about climate change? How did that compare with those nervous about potentially-serious endocrine surgery?
Skeptical Science covered the story, among other things showing that only 2 of Schulte’s 6 claimed Explicit Rejections actually were such, and explained why neither was particularly credible. At least, his 6-page article showed no obvious plagiarism, although ~40% had been published by Monckton at SPPI, without objection by Schulte.
The 03/24/08 DeSmogBlog post stirred Monckton to respond in a bizarre way:
‘”Dr.” John Mashey
Submitted by Monckton of Brenchley (not verified) on Tue, 2008-03-25 07:50.
“Dr.” Mashey says Mr. Schulte plagiarized my research. He did no such thing. It was he, not I, who conducted the research. “Dr.” Mashey was told this.
“Dr.” Mashey submitted his over-long complaint formally to Mr. Schulte’s academic institution, whose investigator rejected it on all counts.
“Dr.” Mashey is now himself under investigation for circulating his complaint publicly, in a form in which which inter alia he breaches doctor-patient confidentiality. For this reason, please remove all links to “Dr.” Mashey’s document.
One realizes that the news that the scientific “consensus” no longer believes in climate alarm (if it ever did) is unwelcome in certain political circles. But the science is the science.
Perhaps it would be better if “Dr.” Mashey were to write a peer-reviewed rebuttal of Mr. Schulte’s paper, rather than interfering in an unlawful manner on the blogosphere, which is not the best place for serious scientific discourse.’
My detailed reply to this silliness appeared later in that thread, fortunately archived before a change of comment systems. I had sent an earlier version of the Report to the UK in confidence, telling no one else. Since the paper was not then expected to be published, I did not pursue the issue further at the time. However, Monckton inadvertently confirmed the doctor-patient relationship with Schulte, as well as the close working relationship. Otherwise, how did he know about the complaint?
Schulte has remained silent about the obvious questions. The paper was an endocrine surgeon’s inept attempt to refute Oreskes in a field far from his own, using different rules and lacking necessary domain experience.
Oreskes has been repeatedly vindicated, by later, more extensive surveys of the literature, but of course, any such results incite furious, if incompetent attacks. Fred Singer must be thanked for exhuming this nearly-forgotten story and returning attention to Klaus-Martin Schulte. Had Schulte siimply done the analyis and presented it straightforwardly, few would have cared to read a shoddy paper in a low-ranked journal. But instead, he got closely involved in an anti-science PR campaign and baseless threats, but he also has never apologized.
Of course, attacks on the consensus continue to this day, as seen in 2013’s 97% global warming consensus meets resistance from scientific denialism. Oreskes and many of the authors of that work regularly attend American Geophysical Union meetings, listen to talks and often give some. The attackers in general do not attend, but then, the attacks on climate consensus have rarely been executed by people with relevant expertise, although the Schulte case was probably the silliest.
Just as Big Tobacco had to confuse the public about the strength of scientific consensus on smoking and disease, fossil fuel interests continue creating doubt about the consensus in real science about human-caused climate change.
1Women usually comprise only 5-10% of the most vocal climate anti-science advocates, as seen in the APS Petition(2009) p.14, Crescendo(2010) p.97,100, the NIPCC list in Fakery 2 (2012) p.36, Heartland Insitute environment “experts” or Heartland speakers. Old men are well represented, but even younger ones seem to denigrate women. Among Singer’s addressees lawyer Chris Horner labeled Oreskes “history instructor” in his The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism(2007) pp.91-94. Joseph Bast, non-degreed, wrote:
“It is a widely cited (but seldom examined) study by Naomi Oreskes, a history professor in the Department of Gender Studies at the University of California-San Diego.” The study was heavily examined and she was not in such a department, but then Bast has a long history of helping tobacco companies, so truth is not something to expect.
Perhaps women care more about people’s grandchildren than do misogynist old men, and therefore are less likely to be for active climate anti-science.
2SPPI has no separate real legal existence, but is a front for the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, see PDF at Fakery 2, pp.77-82. it is really a website and contact address of PO box in suburban UPS store within walking distance from Ferguson’s house, but the name sounds impressive.
3 Monckton mentioned Peiser 11 times, always as “Dr. Peiser,” and mentioned Oreskes 56 times, never with any title or affiliation. That might be more misogyny, but climate change deniers often inflate the credibility of allies and denigrate those of mainstream scientists. Monckton has often done so, but in this case, he had a huge credibility gap to close between Peiser and Oreskes.
Peiser was a Senior Lecturer in the School of Sport and Excercise Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University. LJMU seems a rising school and while League Tables ought not be over-interpreted, it is not among the higher-ranked UK schools. By contrast, Oreskes got her undergraduate degree at Imperial College, London and PhD at Stanford, both top universities I know well. She was then a Full Professor at UC San Diego, which ranks rather higher than LJMU, around #14 in the ARWU world ranking. She was also an Adjunct Professor of Geosciences at nearby Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a world-class institution. Of course, she later became Professor at Harvard, and has won many awards.
4Schulte was a researcher in a field totally irrelevant to climate science, and his incompetence was demonstrated, but Oreskes was deprecated as an “essayist.”
Image Credit: ResearchGate