Monday, May 2, 2016

Climate Feedback pounds the facts, Paul Driessen and CFACT pound the table at WUWT

Sou | 12:39 PM Go to the first of 8 comments. Add a comment
There's a saying that pops up from time to time when deniers moan how their denial falls on deaf ears. Caerbennog mentioned it a little while ago when he read about yet another denier boasting how he became afflicted with the Dunning-Kruger effect. The modern version** goes like this:
If you have the facts on your side, you pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, you pound the law. If you have neither on your side, you pound the table.

Climate Feedback pounds the facts

There have been a few things happening lately that brought to mind this lawyerly saying. They go to different parts of the advice. The first part, about "pounding the facts" has been put into practice in a coordinated fashion by a collaboration of scientists: Climate Feedback. They have been working together for some time and are now looking to crowd-funding to employ a Scientific Editor to help expand the effort.

The way they help is by using a browser add-on, Hypothes.is. It's a browser extension that allows comments on a web page. In the case of Climate Feedback the comments are from scientists with expertise in climate. Here's a snapshot of an article at Washington Post by Chris Mooney. I've blown up the top right hand corner, to show the browser add-on indicating there are six comments.  I've also pointed to where to click on the bar on the right to display the comments.

In this case, the article passed with flying colours.  You can see the annotated version here. If you scroll down the page you'll see sections highlighted. Click on any highlighted passage and you'll see the comments pop up to the right.

CFACT and WUWT pound the table

Instead of pounding the facts, deniers at WUWT pound the table. Today there's an article from Paul Driessen at CFACT (archived here), in which he pounds the table in frustration that mainstream media takes more notice of facts than disinformation from the anti-fact brigade. Paul Driessen and CFACT usually argue to roll back or stop environmental regulations. He agitates to bring back smog. Today he's writing a lot of nonsense about Inside Climate News, the multiple award-winning news organisation that is known for its investigative reporting on climate matters. This is the organisation that uncovered the history of Exxon in climate research and alleged funding of disinformation (which is currently being investigated further).

The disreputable CFACT doesn't publicise its own funding sources, but SourceWatch indicates that it has received funding from ExxonMobil and other sources. That's probably one of the reasons that Paul is acting all hurt and incensed. Perhaps Paul's funding is drying up, so he is feigning horror and shock that reputable organisations can attract funding from reputable sources.

Paul wrote how mainstream media takes notice of other news organisations that have received a Pulitzer Prize. He frames it as having "active partnerships" and writes:
ICN [Inside Climate News] has active partnerships with the LA Times, Associated Press, Weather Channel, Bloomberg News and other media organizations that help coordinate and disperse stories. The Times promotes the “dangerous manmade climate change” meme and refuses to print letters that reflect skeptical views.
I can't see that any reputable journalist would take any notice of a right wing group like CFACT, which lobbies against science and spouts disinformation. Why would they? Paul refers to news about science as "Astroturf activism" with a capital A.
They make it look like widespread public concern and spontaneous grassroots action – when in reality it is loud but small Astroturf activism, orchestrated by the ICN brigade and the foundations behind it.
Wikipedia defines astroturfing as:
... the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by a grassroots participant(s). It is a practice intended to give the statements or organizations credibility by withholding information about the source's financial connection. 

Thing is, that Inside Climate News doesn't hide the organisations that support it. It's CFACT that hides its donors and doesn't declare its major supporters. It's also strange that CFACT would oppose any discussions between non-government organisations and governments, when I doubt it opposes the activities of ALEC: corporations writing legislation.  Paul Driessen frames it as:
This collusion among activists, foundations and attorneys general seeks to silence, bankrupt and defund organizations that challenge their catechism of climate cataclysm. 
No, Paul. What people are opposed to is the despicable efforts of CFACT and similar groups to act on behalf of their silent funders to spread disinformation that harms our world. For example, just after writing how he won't let honest people get in the way of him spreading lies:
These conspirators want to deprive us of our constitutional rights to speak out on the exaggerated and fabricated science, the coordinated echo- chamber news stories, and the pressure group-driven policies that impair our livelihoods, living standards, health, welfare and environmental quality. We will not be intimidated or silenced.
Paul writes:
As CFACT’s new Climate Hustle film notes, man-made plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide has not replaced the powerful natural forces that have always driven Earth’s temperature, climate and weather. 
Since atmospheric CO2 has been the main control knob for billions of years, and has long been known as the "powerful natural force" driving our planet's climate, you could argue that what Paul wrote is correct. Except that he talks about "replacing" - which implies that he thinks that there are some other "powerful natural forces" which he doesn't list. The other main "powerful natural forces" are the sun, which hasn't changed much, and volcanic eruptions, which are dwarfed by the effect of CO2. So it's little wonder that Paul refuses to name his "powerful natural forces".

When a person like Paul Driessen of CFACT, who is employed to promote propaganda, twists out of all recognition the work of people investigating facts, you know that the fact investigators are doing something right.

The climate disinformation bubble

Paul Driessen and WUWT don't get out much. Their table pounding is mainly heard by other table pounders. Deniers mainly chat among themselves. In the real world, outside the denier bubble, people talk with a whole heap of other people. This was brought out quite forcefully in an analysis of Twitter exchanges about climate, which was mapped by Carbon Brief. Here are a couple of images of the analysis.

This first image shows how deniers are thin on the ground, and don't move much beyond their bubble, which they share with lizard-man, David Icke. Click to enlarge as always:

Contrast with a small section of the real world. Notice how dense the networks are (thickness of colour), and how many more people and organisations are involved:

You can see this more starkly when you look at the full image of the Twitter network, just for climate discussions:

It's a wonder that deniers can hear themselves think in their little echo chamber. People in the real world talk to a lot more people having a lot greater influence.  Despite this, governments are still slow to act on climate. We're getting there. The question is: are we moving quickly enough and reaching far enough in efforts to mitigate climate change?

From the WUWT comments

These "thoughts" were posted under Paul Driessen's article:

Rudd Istvan shows why normal people don't take much notice of conspiracy weirdos, who start a discussion by invoking Godwin's Law. ristvan wrote:
May 1, 2016 at 2:17 pm
Big Brother now has a face and a name. J. Goebbels would be proud. The psyops side of climate Lysenkoism.

Santa Baby thinks science and facts are a communist plot:
May 1, 2016 at 2:25 pm
Today’s environmentalism is a part of the new Marxism. 

LarryFine joins in with this unoriginal bit of denier-speak:
May 1, 2016 at 4:24 pm
Goebbels thanked American Progressives for teaching him propaganda. 
1saveenergy wants everyone to dance the denier jig with Marc Morano and do the climate hustle:
May 1, 2016 at 2:32 pm
If we seriously want to get the message out, Climate Hustle shouldn’t be a one-night-only showing in hundreds of theaters across the United States.
It should be available on line to thousands of millions of PC monitors in homes world wide !! 

Tom Halla hints at his conspiracy theory, framed as an alarmist nightmare:
May 1, 2016 at 2:40 pm
Big Green is a typical mass movement, with a certain number of zealots who actually believe in what they are pushing, and a much larger group of opportunists, rent-seekers, and politicians who find the zealots useful. One can get into an endless argument over whether Al Gore is a zealot or an opportunist, but ultimately it makes little difference.
I know enough of the history of fascism and communism to state that cutting off the political support is the only real counter to zealotry. I just hope it does not take several wars, several hundred million dead, and over seventy years to deal with this group of zealots. 

Contrast this thought from TA with the reality shown in the Twitter network diagram above:
May 1, 2016 at 2:49 pm
From the article: “They make it look like widespread public concern and spontaneous grassroots action – when in reality it is loud but small Astroturf activism, orchestrated by the ICN brigade and the foundations behind it.”
This is the basic strategy of the Left and the Liberal News Media on *any* issue. They want to present Loony Left ideas as being mainstream thought. A small group of people, making a lot of noise. 

oeman50 is relieved to discover that mainstream media is part of a heinous plot:
May 1, 2016 at 4:03 pm
A saw another one of those climate is getting worse stories in my Sunday paper this morning! It has an AP credit on it. Now I know.

Dan Pangburn thinks that global warming is really global cooling. That's despite the first time in probably thousands of years there have been six hottest ever months in a row, after two hottest years in a row, and four hottest decades in a row:
May 1, 2016 at 5:31 pm
Some government agencies are committing science malpractice in changing measured data to corroborate an agenda. It is unfortunate that so many are being deceived.
Mother Nature does not do politics and will eventually prevail. The ongoing average global temperature trend is down.
How will the MSM respond as the declining average global temperature trend becomes more widely recognized? 

The hard core deniers and disinformers won't ever admit their bubble burst long ago, they have invested far too much in rejecting science.

References and further reading

Climate Feedback website and its crowd-funding page to raise funds to employ a scientific editor

Inside Climate News - the multiple award-winning news organisation, including the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting

Mapped: The climate change conversation on Twitter - article at The Carbon Brief, 26 April 2016

From the HotWhopper archives

** A few years ago, someone on a usenet group of the American Dialect Society delved into the origins of this saying, and found a reference dating back to 1894, and it could have been in an earlier edition (archived for posterity). A search of Google Books shows that the saying was also in an 1863 edition of The Genesee Farmer and other documents from 1863. The sage advice went like this: 
"If you have a case where the law is clearly on your side, but the facts and justice seem to be against you," said an old lawyer to his son, who was about to begin the practice of the law, "urge upon the jury the vast importance of sustaining the law. On the other hand, if the law is against you, or doubtful, and the facts show that your case is founded in justice, insist that justice be done though the heavens fall." "But," said the young man, "how shall I manage a case where both the law and the facts are dead against me?" "In that case," replied the old lawyer, "talk around it."  
A later edition of the first reference (1911) had this part added: "and "the worse it is, the harder you pound the table," adds a modern commentator."


  1. Sou I think you are correct in regard to diminishing CFACT donors. The fossil fuel companies including Koch Industries have outgrown that unsophisticated RWNJ organisation.

    Fossil fuel companies are savvy. Charles Koch is sitting out the RNC in Cleveland and more



  2. "powerful natural forces"

    Natural forces powerful enough to affect the entire planet and yet invisible to science. Also known as climate elves. I can't imagine why msm are not willing to risk their reputation publishing stuff about climate elves.

    1. Millicent I'll take it as read that you do not subscribe to the WSJ or The Australian Murdoch staff daily risk their reputations simply by entering the building.

    2. The psychological projection among the denial crowd is simply beyond any believability that it is unconscious. They HAVE to consciously know they are simply imputing to scientists the very things they are doing.

      Or perhaps, as happened to Communist Russia towards the end--and to Rove in 2012--they've simply come to believe their own propaganda from repeating it with a straight face so many times.

      Anyway, astounding article Sou including the Twitterverse maps. I didn't know Goddard was still so central for one thing. Thanks.

    3. The CFACT piece does seem to be a classic of projection. I find it curious that projection seems so widespread when an intellectual position is factually dubious. You would think they would try to push the discussion away from incriminating themselves. Instead they write self refuting arguments.
      Hey it is true that humans are not particularly rational.

  3. Great visualisations of the Twitter Thing, Sou. Just got back from Carbon Brief after reading the full article. I have never seen a better illustration of an echo chamber in my life. An image that deserves the widest audience, IMO.

  4. Some data, from CFACT IRS Form 990s

    CFACT Form 990s … I’m not sure what this means, but it’s not exactly the profile of a thriving organization.
    Year Contribs Rucker Rothbard Morano
    2014 $1,573K $120K $126K $167K
    2013 $1,977K $115K $120K $163K
    2012 $5,501K $113K $118K $158K $3,743K spent on some big project, not sure what it was
    2011 $2,984K $104K $109K $150K
    2010 $2,825K

    Maybe Morano's CLimate Hustle will make a lot of $ for CFACT ...
    maybe not.

  5. I think Event Cinemas will receive most of the box office take but if CFACT attracts 200 people per cinema (unlikely) and the tickets are $10 (average for the US) That will get them a healthy take of $200,000.
    Because Event Cinemas is taking all the risk it will probably receive at least 50%. Still a good return for such a cheap product but CFACT's cut will not cover production costs.
    It's better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick but it will add zero air pressure to the Denier Bubble


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