Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Feb 2, 2007 in Science & Technology | 13 comments

Wanted: Scientists To Undermine UN Report On Global Warming

A major report of the world’s scientists has determined that global warming is “most likely” caused by humans — a finding that further weakens the contention by some that only tree-huggers, flaming liberals and those sympathetic to former Vice President Al Gore think it’s a real problem.

And now there are indications that this report has sparked a major response: A prominent conservative think tank that reportedly receives some oil company funding has reportedly let it be known that they’ll pay for $10,000 for scientists who come foward with information that undermines the report.

This offer isn’t on eBay yet (but the day is young).

First, the report. Time Magazine:

The world’s leading climate scientists said global warming has begun, is “very likely” caused by man, and will be unstoppable for centuries, according to a report obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

The scientists — using their strongest language yet on the issue — said now that the world has begun to warm, hotter temperatures and rises in sea level “would continue for centuries,” no matter how much humans control their pollution. The report also linked the warming to the recent increase in stronger hurricanes.

“The observed widespread warming of the atmosphere and ocean, together with ice-mass loss, support the conclusion that it is extremely unlikely that global climate change of the past 50 years can be explained without external forcing, and very likely that is not due to known natural causes alone,” said the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — a group of hundreds of scientists and representatives of 113 governments.

The phrase “very likely” translates to a more than 90 percent certainty that global warming is caused by man’s burning of fossil fuels. That was the strongest conclusion to date, making it nearly impossible to say natural forces are to blame.

If you’re at a radio today, just listen to how some talk show hosts will say: “Aha! It only says ‘very likely,’ which shows you this is a supposition, a manufactured issue that’s part of the liberal agenda. It’s not science — and look how wrong science has been anyway!”

But scientists say this isn’t quite on the same level as theories about Bigfoot:

What that means in simple language is “we have this nailed,” said top U.S. climate scientist Jerry Mahlman, who originated the percentage system.

Even the White House isn’t (so far) rejecting this report out of hand:

Sharon Hays, associate director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House, welcomed the strong language of the report.

“It’s a significant report. It will be valuable to policy makers,” she told The Associated Press in an interview in Paris, where hundreds of scientists and government officials were meeting to discuss global warming.

Hays stopped short of saying whether or how the report could bring about change in President Bush’s policy about greenhouse gas emissions.

The 20-page summary of the panel’s findings, due to be officially released later in the day, represents the most authoritative science on global warming.

The report may or may not affect the decision-maker’s stance (which then impacts the United States response which then impacts the global response).

But it has reportedly inspired the American Enterprise Institute to offer green stuff to scientists who can come up with information that’ll undermine the report, the Guardian reports:

Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world’s largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.

Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered….

…..The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI’s board of trustees.

The letters, sent to scientists in Britain, the US and elsewhere, attack the UN’s panel as “resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work” and ask for essays that “thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs”.

The latter is what’s going to doom the AEI’s (paid) findings when they come out. It’s specifically setting up a conclusion and offering to pay experts to fill it in so it can then be presented as an expert conclusion (in a report that will most likely not mention offered payments or travel expenses).

On the other hand, isn’t this the way consultants and experts hired by lawyers on one side of a trial to testify in favor of the side that hired them generally work? AND:

Climate scientists described the move yesterday as an attempt to cast doubt over the “overwhelming scientific evidence” on global warming. “It’s a desperate attempt by an organisation who wants to distort science for their own political aims,” said David Viner of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

“The IPCC process is probably the most thorough and open review undertaken in any discipline. This undermines the confidence of the public in the scientific community and the ability of governments to take on sound scientific advice,” he said.

The letters were sent by Kenneth Green, a visiting scholar at AEI, who confirmed that the organisation had approached scientists, economists and policy analysts to write articles for an independent review that would highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the IPCC report.

“Right now, the whole debate is polarised,” he said. “One group says that anyone with any doubts whatsoever are deniers and the other group is saying that anyone who wants to take action is alarmist. We don’t think that approach has a lot of utility for intelligent policy.”

It’s hard to find fault with Green’s quoted comments. He’s stressing the need for an independent review. But the quoted letter sent out suggests that isn’t what’s being sought. Rather, it suggests money is being offered at the outset to get information that can be used as ammunition against the report and its scientific framework’s legitimacy.

The apparent ideological set up and big bucks being offered means that any findings of the group will be dismissed by most as essentially ideological and corporate talking points.

They will get great play on Fox News, Sean and Rush’s show but most likely not impact the views of the vast majority of Americans or many citizens throughout the world. And it will perpetuate the prevailing perception that oil companies seemingly seek to squelch and discredit the whole idea of global warming not because of environmental or scientic doubts but because of the corporate bottom line. And the bottom line is indeed good for Exxon Mobil these days…

OTHER VIEWS ON THIS ISSUE: Bradford Plumer, Daily Pundit, Americablog,Democrats.Com,
Think Progress