Sunday, October 25, 2015

Spencer Weart and Physics Today tweak the noses of science deniers from the Heartland Institute

Sou | 1:54 PM Go to the first of 12 comments. Add a comment
WUWT is shaping up to be the last bastion of climate science deniers. Anthony Watts will post almost any article, no matter how ridiculous, as long as it rejects science. Today he's got a whiny missive from a bunch of people from the Heartland Institute (archived here). They are complaining that the flagship publication of the American Institute of Physics (AIP), Physics Today, won't accept a comment they wrote.

Anthony posted the article under a misleading headline. His headline says that Physics Today wouldn't acknowledge their comment: "NIPCC’s reply to Physics Today (that they won’t even acknowledge)". However in the opening paragraph of the article, he admits that there was an email exchange and that their comment was acknowledged, but rejected.

The reason for the rejection is obvious. It wasn't a "rebuttal", it was a whine that Spencer Weart mentioned their denial efforts and dismissed them out of hand, as he should.

Spencer Weart at Physics Today - committees of experts

Anyway, what the WUWT article highlights is an article by science historian Spencer Weart. It's a fairly short and very readable article about the development of climate science from the early days to the world-wide efforts of recent decades. He wrote about how the breadth, impacts and risks posed by climate change are so large, that it developed in a way that's different from many other science disciplines. It wasn't shaped just by individual scientists or small teams doing research. The problems posed by global warming were so vast, and so interconnected, that it involved groups of experts coming together to explore all the different facets and work out what global warming will mean for the world. He describes how there were important discussions at conferences and within expert committees, attempting to scope the nature and extent of the problems. And the mammoth scientific effort of bringing together people from multiple disciplines continues today through organisations like the IPCC.

Noses out of joint: whines and misrepresentations

Judith Curry has already mischievously misrepresented the article, cherry-picking it and twisting its meaning. So predictable. Now there's a shady mob from the shady Heartland Institute, whining that their shonky "publication" was dismissed as "CO2 is plant food" - which is about right.

The comment at WUWT was signed by:
  • Joseph L. Bast who is President and CEO of the right wing lobby group the Heartland Institute
  • Australian denier Robert M. Carter, who is on the Heartland Institute payroll, and who has described his affiliation as the right wing lobby group the Institute of Public Affairs
  • Laurence I. Gould, Past Chair (2004) New England Section of the American Physical Society; 
  • Craig D. Idso, who is associated with the denier group the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, which is funded via the Heartland Institute;
  • Fred S. Singer, University of Virginia (Emeritus), Fellow of APS; who is wheeled out by science deniers at every opportunity; and 
  • Willie Soon, who now describes himself as "Independent Scientist".

Their biggest complaint wasn't that the following reference by Spencer Weart was wrong when he wrote about their Gish gallop:
Others emphasized, as a Heartland Institute publication declared, that “more carbon dioxide in the air would lead to more luxuriant crop growth and greater crop yields” while taking no account of the likely heat waves and droughts.12 No careful study or hard analysis backed up such statements. Our mainstream history, the history of expert committees, stands aside from all that.

No. What got their noses out of joint was something different. Their main complaint seems to be that he didn't acknowledge just how many tedious pages of text it took them to cherry pick the literature to write how CO2 is plant food, while ignoring the impact of heat waves and droughts.

Boring. (At least they didn't go on about how CO2 is animal food.)


Spencer Weart cited the following paper, when he mentioned the science denying groups:

McCright, Aaron M., and Riley E. Dunlap. "Challenging global warming as a social problem: An analysis of the conservative movement's counter-claims." Social problems 47, no. 4 (2000): 499-522. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3097132 (pdf here)


  1. Sou,

    Thanks for the article link, it is a very easy and good read.

    As to the usual 'flatline' suspects, really what can one say, except ...

    We should be throwing stadium sized wake parties when each one 'flatlines' ...

  2. I am currently researching an article I am going to submit to Heartland to go in their newsletter to tell them how they have got climate science wrong. So far I have got "Dear Heartland Institute followers, the Heartland Institute has got it wrong on climate science and CO2."

    Do you think they will print it? I have a list of references and can quote some people.

    1. Heartland prefer a 'certain style' of argument. How about working a photo of the Unabomber in there somehow?

  3. Well, good news and bad news. Good news, a Weart article gives me an opportunity to promote his excellent ebook 'The discovery of global warming', essential reading for anyone interested in the topic, and free … https://www.aip.org/history/climate/index.htm

    Bad news, Fred Singer is still promoting the myth that Roger Revelle was the author of an article promoting caution about the risks of climate change in the magazine Cosmos, a piece used against Al Gore, who was a pupil of Revelle's, when in fact Singer was the author and he engaged in browbeating an elderly and ill Revelle into adding his name to the draft.

    Here's the real story

    Or start with Eli Rabettls concise summary http://rabett.blogspot.co.uk/2007/04/if-richard-lindzen-shows-up-at-your.html

  4. Glad you mentioned Judith Curry. In the post immediately following her selective (mis)quote of Spencer Weart, she attacks Shaun Lovejoy's opinion piece in EOS demonstrating that there is only a 0.1% chance that the last century's warming arose though unforced natural variation. She reserved particular fury for Lovejoy's use of 'denialists' and the AGU for letting it remain in the published article.

    Off this particular topic but related to the tiny number of contrarians scientists repeatedly used by fossil fuel interests, InsideClimate News has uncovered documents showing that in 2001 Exxon lobbied the newly-installed Bush administration to put John Christy and Richard Linden in charge of the US submissions to the IPCC.

    1. A couple of typos in the above thanks to writing it on my mobile, so Lindzen, not Linden.

      The InsideClimate News article: Exxon Sowed Doubt About Climate Science for Decades by Stressing Uncertainty

      The Lovejoy EOS article: Climate Closure

    2. Some of the ICN material is new, some goes way back, well earlier than when I saw that in 2010 Crescnedo to Clioamtegate Cacophony, p.147:

      "Randol, Arthur G. “Randy”
      Activities: GCSCT; HOCKXX(?), US.CONG
      Organizations: ExxonMobil
      People: many
      Christy and Lindzen were Randol‘s suggestions to replace Bierbaum and MacCracken (IPCC).
      www.nrdc.org/media/docs/020403.pdf p.5.
      He also lobbied to replace IPCC head Watson (with Pachauri.) See A.9.3 for email reference."

    3. Thanks John, and apologies to those involved. I should have taken more care with my wording and/or looked at some of the previous work delving into ExxonMobil's lobbying activities.

  5. Looking at those signatories is like falling into a time-warp. The denier world is shrinking back to its roots. The closest it has to new blood is poor Judy. No wonder they're reduced to mumbling re-heated pap and whining about the lack of respect these days. You have to laugh.

  6. The comments under Weart's article are very depressing to read. Lots of denialist tripe.

  7. By the way, Laurence Gould actually taught a course Climate Alarm...
    See RateMyProfessors.
    One must always take those with a grain of salt, but there is a pattern here.


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