Category: Critical thinking
Who would think that the omission of the word "sea" in one sentence of a Greenpeace news story would kick off such an almighty ruckus? Anyone who follows the climate change debate, that's who.
The climate change sceptics - and the blogs on which they mass - have been cock-a-hoop with unbridled joy in the past few days with the belief that they have snared the Big One. During a BBC Hardtalk interview with Stephen Sackur, the executive director of Greenpeace, Gerd Leipold. admitted that a July news story which said that "we are looking at ice-free summers in the Arctic as early as 2030" was a "mistake".
Leipold then went on to say: "As a pressure group, we have to emotionalise issues and we're not ashamed of emotionalising issues."
This is the offending text of the original Greenpeace news story (Sackur mistakenly refers to it as a "press release"), written to highlight the work of the crew of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise which was, at the time, in Greenland:
Ice free Arctic
Bad news is coming from other sources as well. A recent NASA study has shown that the ice cap is not only getting smaller, it's getting thinner and younger. Sea ice has dramatically thinned between 2004 and 2008. Old ice (over 2 years old) takes longer to melt, and is also much harder to replace. As permanent ice decreases, we are looking at ice-free summers in the Arctic as early as 2030. They say you can't be too thin or too young, but this unfortunately doesn't apply to the Arctic sea ice. Polar bears are the first to suffer from it, but many other species could be affected as well.
Yes, it certainly should have been phrased more carefully and accurately, but it should be obvious to most readers that the story is referring to sea -ice free summers in the Arctic as early as 2030, as opposed to the whole ice cap melting by this date, as Sackur kept on pressing in his questioning.
But a mistake it was, and it has given Greenpeace's critics enough rope to let them believe they can hang their arch-nemesis.
Yesterday, Greenpeace issued a spirited defence of Leipold's response to Sackur's questioning:
Sackur claimed that we were predicting that all the ice in the Arctic - including the massive Greenland ice sheet, which is on land, would be gone by 2030. That's NOT what we said. When we talk about "ice-free summers" in the Arctic, we're using the term the same way that NASA and climate scientists the world over use the term: to describe an Arctic free of sea-ice. And Sackur, or his researcher, would have known that if they read the entire article, including the next sentence: "They say you can't be too thin or too young, but this unfortunately doesn't apply to the Arctic sea ice."…
As a climate scientist himself, (Dr.) Gerd Leipold rightly knows that no scenario currently predicts the collapse of the entire land-based ice sheet as early as 2030, nor have we ever made that claim. Now, it's fair to say we could have been more precise. We could have inserted three letters into the offending sentence: S-E-A, to make it crystal clear to the casual reader. But the term "ice-free" to refer to an absence of ice on the ocean came straight from the NASA report we were citing. and is the common description you'll find in scientific publications as well as among journalists. If you Google "ice free summers" and "arctic" you get about 230,000 hits. Oh, and gosh, look what the first article is: a story from the BBC itself talking about the retreat of SEA ice, but what's the headline? "Arctic summers ice-free by 2013"
Is the BBC scaremongering and suggesting the collapse of the Greenland ice sheet? Or are they reporting the facts?
Now HardTalk is all about difficult questions. We have no problem with difficult questions or a fair fight. Because in a fair fight, our arguments generally win. Gerd handled the rest of the interview with his customary flare.
But this wasn't a fair fight. This was Gerd being asked to defend a distortion of what our web story said. Bottom line: there's nothing to repudiate -- just something to clarify.
The climate skeptics are trying to turn this into a victory, undercut our reputation for accuracy, and further their 'flat earth' position of climate denial.
I am broadly sympathetic with Greenpeace on this one, but it has learned a hard lesson about the need to be super accurate when entering the climate change cage fight. Perhaps the greater "crime" was Leipold's admission that "we're not ashamed of emotionalising issues". The avalanche of evidence that now underpins climate change predictions should stir any right-minded person to take them seriously. Admitting that you don't mind emotionalising issues immediately gives ammunition to your critics that they will then use to say you are prone to exaggerating the facts.
Some senior climatologists have rightly come out and urged their colleagues, as well as the media and environmentalists, not to use exaggeration as a tool to win over the doubters. In February, Dr Vicky Pope. head of climate change advice at the Met Office Hadley Centre, said:
Overplaying natural variations in the weather as climate change is just as much a distortion of the science as underplaying them to claim that climate change has stopped or is not happening. Both undermine the basic facts that the implications of climate change are profound and will be severe if greenhouse gas emissions are not cut drastically and swiftly over the coming decades.
Professor Mike Hulme, formerly a director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, has repeatedly called for over-emotive terms such as "catastrophic" and "terrifying" to be avoided. "Campaigners, media and some scientists seem to be appealing to fear in order to generate a sense of urgency," he said in 2007. "If they want to engage the public in responding to climate change, this is unreliable at best and counterproductive at worst."
This is all sensible advice, especially given there's simply no need to exaggerate. The facts are scary enough, without having to resort to artificially magnifying them. Greenpeace will be bruised by this furore, but it should also see it as an instructive exercise in how best to engage with its critics.
In February of 2012, it was discovered that Heartland Institute, a strong climate change denier think tank, was receiving large anonymous donations. After conducting a sting operation, Greenpeace found that Donors Trust, a non-profit donor-advised fund that promotes libertarian and conservative ideals, was the group funneling these donations to climate change denial groups. 
According to their website, Greenpeace is an “independent campaigning organization, which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to force the solutions which are essential to a green and peaceful future. Greenpeace's goal is to ensure the ability of the earth to nurture life in all its diversity.”  On the other hand, Donors Trust main objective is to “ensure the intent of donors who are dedicated to the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise.”  These two groups have very different agendas. What happens when the political difference between such groups begins seeping into the agendas of professionals?
Greenpeace revealed that Donors Trust is channeling millions of dollars from wealthy groups, who want to remain anonymous, to climate change deniers. “Climate denial” groups are those who advocate that the scientific consensus concerning climate change is inaccurate and advocate that the climate is not changing or that humans are not affecting the increase in greenhouse gases. Greenpeace has been tracking funding for climate denial research from large oil companies who have large monetary stakes in the controversy. While doing so, Greenpeace researchers noticed that public funding from these companies to denial groups decreased while anonymous donations increased.  While conducting a sting operation on professors hired to advocate climate denial for money, Greenpeace discovered that Donors Trust was created so that the climate denial support could increase and the funders could remain anonymous.  This had much larger implications, because not only was this money going to climate denial groups, but was also going towards professors being paid to advocate that the climate change consensus is wrong.
The sting operation found that two prominent figures in academia could be hired to write reports that advocate climate change denial. Greenpeace posed as fossil-fuel companies and asked the two professors at Princeton and Penn State to not only write reports discount most climate change research, but to offer suggestions on how to obscure the funding. The first professor was William Happer, a professor of physics at Princeton University.  Greenpeace pretended to be a Middle Eastern oil company and asked him, in exchange for money, to write a report about the benefits of rising carbon emissions.  Happer eagerly agreed and asked for the money to be donated to the C02 Coalition, a prominent climate denial group. When asked how to make the donation anonymous, he recommended using Donors Trust.
Happer, who is currently one of the most well known climate change deniers in academia, recognized that his report would not suffice in the peer review process. In order for the report to pass the peer review quickly, he recommended that his work be given to selected reviewers who would quickly give it the green light. Although many might not admit that this process would count as peer review, he said in an email “I think it would be fine to call it peer review." 
Greenpeace, posing as an Indonesian Energy Consultant company, approached Frank Clemente, a retired professor sociology professor at Pennsylvania State University. They asked him to write a report advocating the use of coal energy and discounting reports indicating that coal is linked to early death for coal miners.  He asked for approximately $15,000 for an eight-to-10 page paper. He also recommended using Donors Trust to obscure the funding and had no issue being cited as a professor at Penn State, saying, “there is no requirement to declare source funding in the US. My research and writing has been supported by government agencies, trade associations, the university and private companies and all has been published under the rubric of me as an independent scholar – which I am.” 
This investigation revealed how big energy companies, such as ExxonMobil or Koch, can fund reports advocating climate change denial. Groups such as Donors Trust that obscures this type of funding makes many people believe that members of the science and academic world are writing reports without monetary motivation and are more likely to trust their work. This begs two questions. First, should donations of such a magnitude to academia and science be anonymous? Second, can professionals be paid to take a stance on political issues? This case offers an example of how such questions are hard to answer in a United States society that holds freedom supreme.
63 years of climate change by NASA
The primary debate in climate change is not whether climate change exists but whether the change is due to human causes. The participants can be loosely divided into two groups: the climate change movement and the climate change countermovement.Climate Change Movement Edit
The climate change movement is based on the majority of scientific consensus that significant climate change is attributable to human-related causes.  These participants are proponents of action on climate change, whether legislative or conscientious. The climate change movement rests much of its validity in climate change scientists, which constitute approximately 97% on scientists doing research on climate change.  Their agendas are led by their intellectual ideas as their data overwhelmingly supports climate change as a anthropogenic cause.  Further, government organizations, such as EPA and WHO. tend to side with the climate change movement. Influenced by social values and intellectual ideas, they propose policies that side ideologically with the scientific data. As the scientific data supports human-caused climate change, these organizations attempt to curb its effects to improve sustainability and human welfare. Greenpeace is a significant organization in the climate change movement, bringing climate change to the forefront of public discussion. Their mission statement demonstrates that their agenda is primarily governed by their social values in addition to their intellectual ideas. They are criticized by many on the side of the climate change countermovement as radical due to their methods of direct action such as this undercover sting.Climate Change Countermovement Edit
2012 peer-reviewed climate articles
The Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund is at the center of this case. At first glance, they can be seen as somewhat neutral, however, the mission statement of the Donors Trust is as follows:
"[To] ensure the intent of donors who are dedicated to the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise. As such, Donors Trust provides an innovative charitable vehicle for donors who wish to safeguard their charitable intent to fund organizations that undergird America’s founding principles." 
Because their social values call for limited government, they have aligned themselves against the climate change movement to limit government regulation. Between 2002 and 2013, the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund funded 102 climate-denial organizations.  Other groups such as the Exxon and Koch Foundations which make up big oil have material interests in the climate change countermovement thus funded many of these climate change deniers by funneling their money through the Donors Trust. By preventing policy changes that would result from the climate change movement, they restrict further emission regulations that would negatively impact their companies' futures. Namely, Charles Koch controls the anti-climate change movement from behind-the-scenes by sponsoring secret political strategy conferences for the countermovement, donating $8 million through the Donors Trust, and inviting the Donors Trust Executive Director to his invite-only strategy and fundraising meetings.  Further, the recipients of the donation used their money to fund climate change denial. American Enterprise Institute was a large institute that is closely connected to the Republican party which received over $1.6 million by the Donors Trust. They offered $10,000 to economists and scientists to dispute a climate change study.  The Donors Capital Fund Board Member and Treasurer, Steven Hayward penned a letter with a $10,000 incentive to scientists willing to write about the limitations of climate change.  These parties used the finances they received to influence the intellectual ideas of the scientists and economists to justify their own agendas.
Conclusions in Ethics and Professionalism Edit Peer-Review and Card-Stacking Edit
Peer-review is the process for reviewing scholarly articles.  In the case of scientific research, peer reviews aims to weed out research with unsound science.  During Greenpeace's investigation, Happer said that instead of submitting his paper for peer-review, he would select similarly-minded individuals to review his work.  He says that while others might not agree, he thinks it would be fine to call his paper peer-reviewed. 
Happer's suggestion to attach a false peer-review tag onto his paper is an attempt to card-stack. Card-stacking is a propaganda technique which seeks to hide the beliefs of opposition in order to strengthen one's views in the eyes of others.  Happer foresaw by following the true peer-review process that changes to his paper would be necessary; changes that reduced the effectiveness of his argument. Instead he represses the changes by showing his paper to individuals he knows will agree with his work, stacking the cards in his favor.Anonymity Edit
In this case, anonymity amplifies the occurrence of unethical conduct. Greenepeace noticed an increase in anonymous donations to climate denial organizations alongside a decrease in transparent donations to them.  Not only did donations become more anonymous than transparent, they also increased overall.  These anonymous donations allow interest groups to fund anti-climate change research without scrutiny from the public.
Dr. Robert Brulle, a Drexel University sociologist warns of the dangers of anonymous donations, saying "There is no attribution, no responsibility for the actions of these foundations to the public.” He agrees that anonymity is a tool for donors, saying "By becoming anonymous, they remove a political target. They can plausibly claim that they are not giving to these organizations, and there is no way to prove otherwise." Responsibility of Researchers Edit
While it is easy to lay all of the blame on anonymous donors and the organization that facilities their donations, researchers such as Happer and Clemente also must be held responsible. It is their duty as professionals to "follow truth wherever it may lead."  When researchers are told "this is the truth" and are paid to go along with that truth they remove their ability to uphold their professional duty.Legal vs Ethical Edit
The idea that something can be legal and yet unethical is prevalent in this case. It is not currently illegal  for Donors Trust to take donations and distribute them to groups anonymously. However, as Greenpeace's investigation uncovered, it does lead to unethical behavior such as the buying of climate denial research. Because Donors Trust has the ultimate decision of where the funds go, they are partially responsible for the resultant unethical behaviors of for-hire scientists.
More context can be read in our blog launching this investigation:Heartland Institute Sting Operation Triggers Greenpeace Investigations.COMPANIES ENDING HEARTLAND INSTITUTE FUNDING due to climate change denial campaigns:
Heartland's entire Finance, Insurance and Real Estate program (now the R Street Institute ), including:
Farmer's Insurance and Nationwide Insurance have also confirmed (E&E News ClimateWire ) they will not support the Heartland Institute. Microsoft has stated that "the Heartland Institute’s position on climate change is diametrically opposed to Microsoft’s position. And we completely disagree with the group’s inflammatory and distasteful advertising campaign."
SEE FORECAST THE FACTS FOR A FULL LOOK AT CORPORATE FUNDERS WHO HAVE LEFT OR STAYED WITH THE HEARTLAND INSTITUTE'S CLIMATE SCIENCE DENIALABOUT THE HEARTLAND INSTITUTE INVESTIGATIONS:
The urgency of the global warming crisis has never been greater. Even as Republican presidential candidates vie for the greatest policy flip flopper or denier of global warming, the planet is experiencing weather extremes at a staggering pace. The summer of 2011 set multiple U.S. heat records and thousands of monthly temperature, rainfall, drought, flooding and wildfire records were set in 2011. This reality has not stopped the Heartland Institute from politicizing and denying the science of climate change and muddying the policy process to address the crisis.
Internal documents published on DeSmogBlog prompted multiple Greenpeace investigations into the Heartland Institute's influence on our government, our universities, and our public opinion and what implications they have on our ability to stop global warming. Our investigations in response to leaked Heartland documents are cataloged below.Heartland Institute Investigations blogroll. (back to top ) Jump to investigation : INVESTIGATION #1:JOSEPH BAST’S CLIMATE CHANGE PHILOSOPHY FLIP FLOP (back to top )
Mr. Bast gave a bizarre interview in E&E News' ClimateWire wherein he predicted that the climate crisis would be “old news” within five to ten years. But Bast can’t seem to keep his story straight on the science in two interviews from one day to the next:
From a Wall Street Journal video interview the day before (Feb. 22, 2012):
WSJ. What is the Heartland Institute's position on global warming? [emphasis added ]
Bast. "We believe that climate has warmed in the second half of the 20th Century, we believe that there is probably a measurable human impact on climate but it's probably very small, we think that natural forces probably overwhelm any impact that human activity can have, that computer models are too unreliable to forecast what the future might hold for climate and finally that a modest amount of warming is probably going to be, on net, beneficial both to human beings and the ecosystem. We think that that's pretty much actually the consensus of working scientists in this area."
Fact check: Actual scientific consensus on global warming (from real scientists that research and publish scrutinized reports) is getting stronger.
Compare Bast’s recognition of a “measurable human impact” with another interview one day later from E&E News’ ClimateWire :
As president of the Heartland Institute, Bast has established a no-surrender strategy to challenge the scientific accord that humans are causing a rise in temperatures. He is a bearded Midwesterner with strong suspicions that a small group of politically connected climate scientists are influencing their community's behavior. The result, he thinks, is an outsized, but shrinking, agreement that man's activity is altering the climate.
"I'm confident that the scientific basis behind the threat has pretty much melted away. So I talk about the global warming. delusion and how it's gradually unwinding," "It's like any other apocalyptic movement. These things crest, and then they start to retreat, until the next apocalyptic movement comes along and gives us something to get all worried about."
In the same E&E ClimateWire interview, Bast criticized the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) as climate science capitulators who committed what he called "pre-emptive surrender" for admitting there is serious man made warming and engaging the policy arena. "You don't concede the science,” Bast said of AEI’s stance. Ironically, Bast conceded seven months earlier that Heartland's position doesn't match broad scientific consensus. In an interview with the scientific journal Nature. Bast explained, "We've won the public opinion debate, and we've won the political debate as well. But the scientific debate is a source of enormous frustration."
Why is this important? Because Heartland has spent the last decade pushing mythology about climate science, working to bend the public opinion needle back, attacking Al Gore and legitimate climate scientists including Peter Gleick and Michael Mann. The more any given scientist tries to bring their work out of the journals and into public warnings about real world impacts, the more they find themselves in Heartland’s crosshairs. Bast is very consistent with his inconsistencies on climate science, a clear indicator
PolluterWatch has aggregated Joseph Bast quotes demonstrating his shocking, inconsistent or blatantly incorrect statements.INVESTIGATION #2: HEARTLAND INSTITUTE PAYMENTS TO FEDERAL SCIENTISTS AND CAREER CLIMATE DENIERS (back to top )
Last month, Greenpeace sent letters (linked below ) of inquiry to the U.S. Departments of Energy and the Interior where individuals are receiving monthly checks from Heartland for services rendered. The Heartland Budget document details $300,000/year in payments to climate denier scientists such as Fred Singer, Craig Idso, Bob Carter and Willie Soon to confront the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and write contrarian critiques of published peer-reviewed climate science:
One of the scientists on the Heartland ledger is Indur Goklany, who is listed as working at the US Department of the Interior (DOI). We sent a letter to the DOI questioning Heartland’s payments to Indur Goklany. Triggered by our letter, Representative Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona called for a congressional hearing on Goklany’s financial ties to Heartland. After House Natural Resources committee chairman Doc Hastings denied Rep. Grijalva’s request, Grijalva succeeded in initiating an investigation over this potential conflict of interest through DOI’s Inspector General.
Talking Points Memo confirmed that “The Interior Department is “reviewing” whether a government climate change expert held over from the Bush administration received improper payments from an institution known for its opposition to environmental regulation, a spokesman tells TPM.”
Unfortunately we only have confirmation of 2012 payments on Heartland’s books. We don’t know how far back these payments go nor the total that Goklany or others have received from Heartland through the years.INVESTIGATION #3: PAYMENTS TO UNIVERSITY FACULTY FOR “CLIMATE CHANGE RECONSIDERED” ANTI-SCIENCE REPORTS (back to top )
Following the leak of internal Heartland Institute documents, six universities with faculty listed in Heartland's budget for work relating to denying the science or implications of global climate change received letters from Greenpeace asking for conflict of interest investigations (see the Chronicle of Higher Education 's coverage). Of those six, four have made some movement that open up a variety of unanswered questions:
Canadian schools Greenpeace wrote to have not responded, but are mentioned in this article by the Muse. Another school, Carleton University,
recently audited and discovered was recently subject to an audit discovering significant classroom bias against sound climate science in the case of Tom Harris, also affiliated with Heartland (see the Guardian ).
Unanswered questions among all these inquiries could indicate tense internal politics at Heartland if they were making up names in their budget for the sake of impressing the board, making plans look finalized for fundraising purposes, or given inaccurate information from major contractors like Craig Idso.INVESTIGATION #4: THE GLOBAL WARMING CURRICULUM PROJECT (back to top )
Greenpeace sent a letter to the Department of Energy (DOE) about a part time employee there who is also on Heartland’s 2012 books to write K-12 curriculum on a contrarian view of the climate science consensus:
In the Heartland fundraising plan states that the Anonymous Donor Barre Seid has pledged $100,000 for this project (100% of its committed financing) as it laments that “Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective.” To fight this, they hope to develop curriculum “modules” to insert doubt into climate science lessons:
In the recent Wall Street Journal interview however, Bast manages to reframe the K-12 climate curriculum project completely.
WSJ. What about the program for schools?
Bast. "What we want to do is bring real research and real science into the classroom. Teach kids about critical thinking, let them understand that to try to find the human fingerprint on climate is a big challenge."
We would love to see Mr. Bast answer some tough questions on global warming science and policy in front of a class at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, outside of Washington DC in Virginia, one of the top science high schools in the country.INVESTIGATIONS ARE ONGOING -- POLLUTERWATCH WILL CONTINUE TO UPDATE. About Polluter Watch
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