Is climate ‘misinformation’ criminal negligence?

Wants to apply criminal sanctions to scientific argument

Torcello – criminal sanctions to scientific argument

An assistant professor of philosophy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Lawrence Torcello, claims that climate ‘misinformation’ should be treated as criminal negligence.

Writing at the taxpayer-funded, and invariably Left-wing, Conversation site, Torcello compares the dissemination of climate ‘misinformation’ with the liability of scientists in relation to the L’Aquila earthquake in 2009:

The earthquake that rocked L’Aquila Italy in 2009 provides an interesting case study of botched communication. This natural disaster left more than 300 people dead and nearly 66,000 people homeless. In a strange turn of events six Italian scientists and a local defence minister were subsequently sentenced to six years in prison.

The ruling is popularly thought to have convicted scientists for failing to predict an earthquake. On the contrary, as risk assessment expert David Ropeik pointed out, the trial was actually about the failure of scientists to clearly communicate risks to the public. The convicted parties were accused of providing “inexact, incomplete and contradictory information”. As one citizen stated:

We all know that the earthquake could not be predicted, and that evacuation was not an option. All we wanted was clearer information on risks in order to make our choices.

Torcello links to the inevitable ‘97% of climate scientists believe…’ myth and continutes:

We have good reason to consider the funding of climate denial to be criminally and morally negligent. The charge of criminal and moral negligence ought to extend to all activities of the climate deniers who receive funding as part of a sustained campaign to undermine the public’s understanding of scientific consensus.

Criminal negligence is normally understood to result from failures to avoid reasonably foreseeable harms, or the threat of harms to public safety, consequent of certain activities. Those funding climate denial campaigns can reasonably predict the public’s diminished ability to respond to climate change as a result of their behaviour. Indeed, public uncertainty regarding climate science, and the resulting failure to respond to climate change, is the intentional aim of politically and financially motivated denialists. (source)

But as with all those overcome with such totalitarian instincts, the arguments could quite easily be turned around. For example, the 97% figure Torcello cites is itself a blatant example of climate misinformation. It may be that 97% of scientists accept that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and that an increase in the proportion of that molecule in the atmosphere will increase warming. But to claim that 97% of scientists subscribe to the alarmism of catastrophic AGW vastly overstates the certainty of the science.

As a result of that overconfidence in the apocalyptic projections of climate models, many of the poorest in society will be denied access to cheap electricity as a result of harsh emissions reduction measures, and will be prevented from enjoying the economic growth from which others have benefitted. If those emission reduction measures are eventually shown to be unnecessary, and that many have suffered as a result, should those responsible for the 97% figure be held criminally negligent as well?

Or perhaps these too:

  • Those who intentionally play down any natural influence on the climate (e.g. casually ignoring or dismissing solar effects), with the same end result? Should they also be held criminally negligent?
  • All those environmental activists who have ensured that piles of grey literature have been incorporated into the IPCC reports, to ensure that the worst possible scenarios are always communicated to the public? Them too?
  • The IPCC scientists themselves, perhaps, for intentionally offering up ‘scary scenarios‘ in order to capture the public’s attention and force governments to take action? That’s pretty shocking.
  • Those who engaged in blatant scientific misconduct, as evidenced by the Climategate emails? Hiding the decline sounds like intentional misrepresentation to me. That’s not just negligent, it’s wilful.
  • Those who use climate change as a Trojan horse for their own political ends, e.g. advocating a return to socialism, or to force through social justice reform? Surely that is climate misrepresentation as well?
  • The Greens, who shamelessly exaggerate the risks of climate change for their own political advantage?
  • Even the governments that have relied on so-called ‘independent’ climate advisers, such as David Karoly and Clive Hamilton (no, don’t laugh), on their climate panels, such as the Australian government’s Climate Change Authority? Ditto?

I could go on…

Once again, we see the double standards that are applied to the consensus and those that challenge it. The moral here is that those in glass houses should not throw stones.

MUST LISTEN: Lord Oxburgh speaks on climate and Climategate

Lord Ron Oxburgh

Lord Oxburgh is in Queensland for the 34th International Geological Congress and granted a 20 minute audience to ABC host Steve Austin. Oxburgh’s inquiry into the Climategate affair was superficial and failed to ask the right questions of the right people. It was also hopelessly biased, and allowed the “accused” to select the “evidence” on which the inquiry was based.

Andrew Montford’s review of the inquiries (PDF here) concluded:

The Scientific Assessment Panel headed by Lord Oxburgh was chosen so that only a minority of members could be expected to look at the evidence with ‘questioning objectivity’. Despite their claim to the contrary, the research papers the panel examined were not selected “on the advice of the Royal Society.” They were, in reality, selected by UEA itself and were apparently approved by its director, Professor Phil Jones. The papers examined avoided most of the key criticisms of CRU scientists’ published work and all of the criticisms relating to their involvement in IPCC report. No records were kept of interviews and important papers have been destroyed.

Oxburgh himself was compromised from the outset, being president of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association and chairman of a company involved in construction and operation of windfarms. This obvious conflict of interest didn’t trouble Oxburgh clearly. I wonder if the same blind eye would have been turned if he was chairman of a fossil fuel company.

That said, he had some interesting things to say on a variety of subjects and I highly recommend listening to the whole interview here. I have transcribed some key sections below.

On Climategate:

“Most of the allegations that had been made basically by bloggers and others against the UEA, certainly against their honesty and reputation, were really unfounded.”

“[Scientists] were like rabbits in the headlights and they did some stupid things, but they weren’t dishonest and really anything that happened then didn’t reflect on the fundamental science of climate change.”

On climate in general:

Austin: You are very worried about climate change – tell me why.

Oxburgh: Well the science is pretty clear, that the things that human beings are doing are likely to be having a big effect on the climate.”

“Doing things about climate change now is equivalent to taking out fire insurance on your house. You hope it’s not going to burn down but it’s smart to be provident.”

On climate models:

“As a modeller myself, the models are only as good as the numbers and the assumptions that you put into them. It isn’t as if there is just one set of models, there are a very very large number of models and they all point in the same direction… is a very strong indicator that they are right.”

Oxburgh and Shell:

Austin: Here you are, the former head of a major oil company and you’re one of the people most worried about climate change.

Oxburgh: Correct.”

On shale gas:

“Gas is the big new kid on the block. You have it in Queensland as coal-bed methane, other parts have it as shale gas. [...] The attraction of gas is that it is far less environmentally damaging than coal.”

On fracking:

“Like almost any job it can be done badly or it can be done well and if it’s done badly it can have poor local environmental consequences, but I think done responsibly and sensibly it should be just fine.”

On carbon sequestration:

“There is no doubt that it will work. I can say that categorically. It can be done. [...] All of the elements of the process have been established. What hasn’t been done, but which should not present a major problem, is doing these in sequence as a single coherent process. [...] The doubts and the questions arise over cost. I think that what you’ve been doing here in Australia with the CCS Institute is a real lesson to the world.”

“Where we really want to see this deployed is in China and India because these are the big burners of coal and we’re talking about the global commons here, doing something for our grandchildren and their children and so on and we need to get the CCS process at a cost which can be afforded in these relatively poor countries.”

On China:

“I think China has as part of its strategy to become the clean tech capital of the world. China is a country with a lot of problems, a third of its population not on mains electricity and extreme poverty, so China is building power stations, dirty power stations by anyone’s standards, because they see this as the path to internal stability.

What they’re doing in parallel, they have the biggest wind turbine industry in the world, they have more wind turbines set up in China, perhaps not all connected to the grid, than any country in the world, obviously they’ve got the solar panel business and I think that they are really pushing to become the clean tech capital of the world. [...]

They realise that if everything that the climate scientists predict happens, China will be one of the really big losers and they don’t want that.”

On Peak Oil:

“We’ve got oil around $100 a barrel at the moment, spiking up, spiking down and so on, but I think that the price of oil is likely to rise somewhat, but if the price of oil gets significantly above $100 and looks as if it’s going to stay there, other ways of making oil are going to cut in. For example, you can take natural gas, which is your coal seam gas or gas from any source, and you can actually make a very nice clean liquid from it. The economics of that are quite good – the implications for climate change are not good because it’s a fairly carbon intensive process. [...] You may see synthetic oils coming in from other sources as well.


It looks as if we are going to run out [of oil] gradually, and I say ‘run out’, but perhaps your listeners should appreciate, when an oil company abandons an oil field, in many cases there can be 40 or 50% of the oil still there in place, because it wasn’t worth getting out for the price that they thought they would get for it, so if we become desperate for oil and we can’t find an alternative there are many places you can go back in and actually pull some more out, at enormous cost, but it’s there.”

On biodiesel:

Biodiesel is of local significance and where it’s sensible to produce it locally by all means use it. Crop fuels are not likely to be a global solution simply because plants are very inefficient at the way they use sunlight – about 2% efficiency – and really for this to be a global solution, to transport fuels would just be too area intensive – you just can’t spare the land.”

On ethanol:

It depends how you make ethanol. I said that plants have about 2% efficiency use of sunlight. Sugar cane has 8% and the Brazilians make ethanol from sugar cane and probably you can justify that on environmental grounds, but if you look at the other big source of ethanol, which is for example the United States, where it tends to be made from corn, and where farming subsidies have been used to do this and we have seen corn diverted from human consumption to the production of liquid fuels, I don’t think it makes common sense or environmental sense.”


Michael Mann threatens legal action over Steyn comment

Climategate to be judicially considered?

If this goes the distance, it will certainly be worth following very closely.

Mark Steyn, writing at the National Review (backup WebCite link here), made a number of comments about Michael Mann regarding the Hockey Stick, and Mann has responded with a three-page lawyers’ letter threatening defamation proceedings (see here: page 1, page 2, page 3 – originally published on Mann’s Facebook page, reproduced here for ease of reference).

The interesting point here is that much of the letter focusses on the various investigations into Climategate as evidence that there was no wrongdoing, which inevitably means that if this matter were ever to reach court, not only would the investigations come under close scrutiny, but also the Climategate emails themselves. This would therefore be the first opportunity for an examination of the materials in a proper judicial environment.

Andrew Montford’s report (at the UK GWPF – PDF) into four of those investigations found that to a greater or lesser degree, they were “rushed, cursory and largely unpersuasive”.

In respect of the University of East Anglia investigations, Mann’s letter states that the Oxburgh enquiry (the Scientific Assessment Panel) found:

“No evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit”

and in respect of the second UEA investigation (the Independent Climate Change Email Review), that

“the scientists’ rigour and honesty are not in doubt.”

Montford, on the other hand, claims in respect of the UEA reports that they:

“avoided key questions and failed to probe some of the most serious allegations. Terms of reference were either vague or non-existent. Insufficient consideration in the choice of panel members led to a failure to ensure balance and independence.”

In respect of the UK Parliamentary Inquiry, Mann claims:

“criticisms of the Climatic Research Unit were misplaced and that its actions ‘were in line with common practice in the climate science community’.”

Montford, on the other hand, states:

“The half-day hearing by the Science and Technology Select Committee was curtailed by the impending election. Key allegations were not examined and CRU staff were cleared of some allegations without evidence. The main CRU critics were not invited to give oral evidence and much of their written evidence was not taken into consideration.”

In respect of the Penn State inquiry, Mann states that it found:

“there is no substance to the allegations against Dr Michael E Mann.”

Montford, on the other hand, quotes from an article in The Atlantic (worth reading in full) which looked in detail at the investigation:

“The [Penn State] report…says, in effect, that Mann is a distinguished scholar, a successful raiser of research funding, a man admired by his peers – so any allegation of academic impropriety must be false…

Mann is asked if the allegations (well, one them) are true, and says no. His record is swooned over. Verdict: case dismissed with apologies that Mann has been put to such trouble.”

The other three inquiries cited (by the US Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Commerce and National Science Foundation) all reached similar conclusions. How rigorously were those inquiries carried out? At this stage, we don’t know.

But it’s hardly confidence inspiring. Perhaps the only way we will ever see allegations properly tested will be in front of a court of law, which may, thanks to Mann’s threat, actually happen.

I wonder if this has been fully thought through? Commentators are raising the point that a requirement to produce documents arising from legal proceedings would be far harder to avoid than simple FOI requests, and the disclosure obligations would mean that many more documents may become public as a result. It may also confirm some of the suspicions raised in Montford’s report, namely that the inquiries were superficial at best.

It looks like opening a can of worms…


Warmist headbangers go ape over Heartland finance leak

Seems fair, right?

UPDATE 3: See my latest post on this here.

UPDATE 2: Hilarious comment on MeDog’sGlob:

Hank_ – Tue, 2012-02-14 19:00

Could you guys write just one more article about this exposé? Somehow 4 articles in a row just doesn’t seem like enough. thanks…….

UPDATE: The only mainstream media outlet to even cover this non-story so far is The Guardian (natch). The others are the usual rancid Lefty/alarmist blogs, Puff Ho, StinkProgress, Climate Crocks, MeDog’sGlob - get the picture? Although you can bet that Fairfax and the ABC will lap it up if they get wind of it.

Hilarious to watch the ecotards wet themselves because some trivial documents have been released that show an organisation has not been funding alarmists! Shame on them.

The deluded fools think this is some kind of equivalent to Climategate (v1 and v2), which demonstrated widespread scientific fraud, manipulation of data, destruction of emails and avoidance of FOI requests on the part of the consensus boys.

The Cause has sucked up around $70 billion (that’s billion with a “b”) since the global warming gravy train set off about 20 years ago, but despite the obvious hypocrisy, the warm-mongers are outraged, outraged I tell you, that some “deniers” are getting, er, some small change.

Un-Skeptical Pseudo-Science attempts to coin the phrase “Denialgate”… LOL.

Headbanger site DeSmogBlog goes feral:

Internal Heartland Institute strategy and funding documents obtained by DeSmogBlog expose the heart of the climate denial machine – its current plans, many of its funders, and details that confirm what DeSmogBlog and others have reported for years. The heart of the climate denial machine relies on huge corporate and foundation funding from U.S. businesses including Microsoft, Koch Industries, Altria (parent company of Philip Morris) RJR Tobacco and more.

We are releasing the entire trove of documents now to allow crowd-sourcing of the material. Here are a few quick highlights, stay tuned for much more.

Ooh, you little tease! I can’t wait that long!

-Confirmation of exact amounts flowing to certain key climate contrarians.

“funding for high-profile individuals who regularly and publicly counter the alarmist AGW message. At the moment, this funding goes primarily to Craig Idso ($11,600 per month), Fred Singer ($5,000 per month, plus expenses), Robert Carter ($1,667 per month), and a number of other individuals, but we will consider expanding it, if funding can be found.” (link – Webcite)

Wow, $1,667 a month for Bob Carter. Totally outrageous! That’s less than the minimum wage (around $2,500 per month), and maybe pays for his electricity bill. Tom Nelson hits the nail on the head with this headline:

Gore launches $300 million campaign

Former Vice President Al Gore is launching a $300 million, bipartisan campaign to try to push climate change higher on the nation’s political agenda.

The three-year campaign by the Alliance for Climate Protection will begin Wednesday with network television advertising that will include “American Idol” and other non-traditional shows that reach a non-news audience. (source)

Naturally, the hypocrisy of this is totally lost on their addled brains, and the headbangers’ totalitarian mindset dictates that only those who agree with them should be funded, even if it’s a ludicrously tiny amount as revealed here.

Where’s my Big Oil cheque, that’s what I want to know.

By the way, interesting background on MeDog’sGlob here.

Mann's "dirty laundry" – first official email release from UVA

Dirty laundry finally being aired in public

If you have been reading the full collection of 5000+ Climategate 1 and 2 emails, not much of this will be new, however, the fact that an organisation has succeeded in obtaining the release of a selection of these emails through an FOI process must bode well for the release of the remainder.

From the press release:

The selected emails include graphic descriptions of the contempt a small circle of largely taxpayer-funded alarmists held for anyone who followed scientific principles and ended up disagreeing with them. For example, in the fifteenth Petitioners’ Exemplar (PE-15), Mann encourages a boycott of one climate journal and a direct appeal to his friends on the editorial board to have one of the journal’s editors fired for accepting papers that were carefully peer-reviewed and recommended for publication on the basis that the papers dispute Mann’s own work. In PE-38, he states that another well respected journal is “being run by the baddies,” calling them “shills for industry.” In PE-39 Mann calls U.S. Congressmen concerned about how he spent taxpayer money “thugs”.

PE-18, 20 & 27 illustrate the typical fashion with which Mann used a UVa email account to accuse co-authors and other respected scientists of incompetence, berating them in emails copied to colleagues living throughout the world. UVA claims this is somehow exempt from VFOIA as scientific research.

In PE-22, Mann alludes to his “dirty laundry” which cannot come out, requesting his correspondent to not pass the email or the data attached to it to anyone else (UVa has claimed no attachments to any emails were preserved on their system). In this email, Mann admits he has failed to follow the most basic tenet of science, to keep a record of exactly what he did in his research, and thus himself could not reproduce his own results.

PE-24 & 25 characterize the efforts of this small group of academics to hide what they are doing and to avoid their work being held up to inspection under the Freedom of Information Act. In PE-26, Mann goes so far as to ask a federal employee — impossibly, as he send it to an email account subject to the federal FOIA — to “treat this email as confidential” though all the email does is complain about a Wall Street Journal author’s efforts to report the science impeaching Mann’s early work. PE-26, like many other emails UVA wishes to keep secret, is subject to release under the federal FOIA.

These emails, if honestly representative of the entire collection, do not make Virginians proud of having paid Mann’s salary.

“ATI, like Greenpeace and its peers, as well as the media, is committed to using transparency laws to make science and government policy open to the citizens who underwrite it, to the exclusion of properly exempt information such as proprietary material,” said Chris Horner, ATI’s Director of Litigation. “Universities are routinely asked to produce emails under FOIA, and most do so quickly. This has recently been proved true at another Virginia university when the media sought emails of a Mann critic. Why UVA wishes to boast of such outlier status within the academic community makes one ask, ‘what is it they are trying to hide?’” (source, where you can also download the emails)

What indeed. It looks increasingly likely that we will eventually find out.

"Marooned!" from Climategate 1.0

I thought I’d repost this image from Climategate 1.0, as it shows what the consensus boys (or, as we should now call them, “the cause”) get up to in their spare time. The filename is “marooned.jpg”. If their climate modelling is anywhere near as awful as their Photoshop skills, it would explain a lot…

Disappointed there's no sequel in CG 2.0

Who can name them all?

University forced to hand over temperature data

Avoided releasing data

The university at the centre of the Climategate scandal has been force to hand over its raw temperature data by the Information Commissioner in the UK. The University of East Anglia has repeatedly refused access to the data using various methods to thwart FOI requests. Why would they do that?

Here we have a body which is responsible for one of the main temperature data sets on which the global warming scare is built (CRUTEM3), and yet they refuse to hand over the data so third parties can check it. There’s transparency for you.

As The Guardian reports:

Critics of the UEA’s scientists say an independent analysis of the temperature data may reveal that Phil Jones and his colleagues have misinterpreted the evidence of global warming. They may have failed to allow for local temperature influences, such as the growth of cities close to many of the thermometers.

Jonathan Jones, who is not a climate scientist, said he thought “the most significant features of this decision are the precedents that have been set”. The commissioner is likely to rule more generally in favour of public access to scientific data.

Under the 2000 Freedom of Information Act, public bodies such as universities have to share their data unless there are good reasons not to. But when Jonathan Jones and others asked for the data in the summer of 2009, the UEA said legal exemptions applied. It said variously that the temperature data were the property of foreign meteorological offices; were intellectual property that might be valuable if sold to other researchers; and were in any case often publicly available.

But in a damning verdict, [Information Commissioner Christopher] Graham said suggestions that international relations could be upset by disclosure were “highly speculative”, and “it is not clear how UEA might have planned to commercially exploit the information requested.”

Jonathan Jones said this week that he took up the cause of data freedom after Steve McIntyre, a Canadian mathematician, had requests for the data turned down. He thought this was an unreasonable response when Phil Jones had already shared the data with academic collaborators, including Prof Peter Webster of the Georgia Institute of Technology in the US. He asked to be given the data already sent to Webster, and was also turned down. So he appealed to the information commissioner.

“I am extremely concerned about the apparent pattern of secrecy and evasion,” he said. “My sole aim [in pursuing the case] is to help restore climate science to something more closely resembling scientific norms.

The UEA said: “We have nothing to fear from scrutiny; we are committed to openness and transparency in our research… and we fully intend to make all data publicly available as soon as possible.” (source)

Yeah, right. They wouldn’t have done anything of the sort if this kind of application hadn’t been made and prosecuted vigorously. Well done Jonathan.

The Commissioner’s ruling is here (PDF).


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