William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Heartlandgate Versus Climategate

HeartlandThere are some key differences between Climategate 1.0 and 2.0, where emails from scientists and their hangers on were leaked, and Heartlandgate (am I the first to use this appallingly over-used extension?).

First, the Climategate emails were real, all too real. Heartland’s wee cache of documents included one ham-handed, too goofy-for-words, fake. The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle, a self-admitted really big fan of climatology’s star figures and no lover of Heartland, analyzed the “2012 Heartland Climate Strategy” document and concluded that “Basically, it reads like it was written from the secret villain lair in a Batman comic. By an intern.”

She added, “It’s more like [whomever faked the document] sat down at the computer and said, ‘What would I write IF I WERE AS CRAZY AS AGW SKEPTICS?’” She characterized other sections of that work of creative fiction as “sheer lunacy.”

Earlier, I suggested that Heartland should keep mum about prosecuting whomever it was that stole their files since focusing on that subject would take them “off message”, to coin a phrase. But I was wrong. Instead, because of this ludicrous forgery they should trumpet the news and show how desperate environmentalists have become. They are not, and have not been, willing to settle for the truth.

In contrast, the Climategate emails did not reveal any wide-spread, or even any small-spread, conspiracy of scientists to fake results and fool the public and funding agencies. But it did show how easy it is for single-minded scientists to fool themselves. To people like the ever-emotional Ben Santer and Don Kevin Trenberth, confirmation bias is something that happens to the other guy, never them.

The most explosive genuine news—where I use “explosive” in the sense of the noise those human-male-gamete carrier-shaped poppers kids in Chinatown throw at each other—from the Heartland documents is that this feared “anti-science” boogeyman had a budget bordering on the non-existent. Last year, their actual budget for everything, including the lights, breakroom coffee, and secretaries’ salaries was only four-and-a-half million. And not a penny of this came from Big Oil.

This figure is so low it doesn’t even count as round-off error when considering the total budgets of the “other side”—Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, NSF, NIH, NOAA, USDA, and on and on and on and, yes, on some more. This isn’t David versus Goliath, it’s the pimple on David’s neck versus an army of Goliaths.

It should scare bejesus out of people like my pal Gav Schmidt that an organization as poorly funded as Heartland is making such a big noise. That they are so influential in the face of this lop-sided competition, can only be that Heartland’s message is finding a receptive audience.

In fact it does twist is knickers, Gav’s I mean. In Salon, he said:

“I don’t think Heartland is either powerful or particularly well-funded,” he said. “They do channel money to these small number of skeptics who make a living being skeptics. But those people would exist without them. The politicization of this topic has come about because people perceive there are political consequences to this problem. What is surprising is that scientists who are just doing their job get pulled up and investigated just because somebody doesn’t want to agree with their results. And that has been driven to a large part by groups like Heartland.”

That Heartland is not well-funded is now known to all, but if they were not “powerful” then we would not be having this discussion. And who makes their living being skeptics? As I pointed out repeatedly, I for example have never received even cent one for my work showing how people like Gav are too sure of themselves. Skepticism does not pay.

Whereas I’d be willing to bet (it would have to be a gentleman’s wager, since I’m not as wealthy as he) that Gav was remunerated over the past decade to the tune of around a million smackeroos; that’s if you factor in the money given to him for his global-warming research, his lavish trips, dinners, environmental soirees, talks, and so forth.

If you say money influences, then money influences, and since you and your fellow climate activists receive orders-plural of magnitude more money than we skeptics, you must be influenced all the more.

The one big trouble with climatologists is that the most vocal among them (the “little guys” haven’t this failing) have forgotten to ask the one big question scientists should always ask: what if I’m wrong?

Update Dennis Ambler, via Marc Morano, reminds us of this drop in the bucket:

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/1121-04.htm

Thursday, November 21, 2002 by the New York Times

Exxon-Led Group Is Giving a Climate Grant to Stanford

by Andrew Revkin

Four big international companies, including the oil giant Exxon Mobil, said yesterday that they would give Stanford University $225 million over 10 years for research on ways to meet growing energy needs without worsening global warming.

And then there’s this pittance:

BP, FORD GIVE $20 MILLION FOR PRINCETON UNIVERSITY
EMISSIONS STUDY
Auto.com/Bloomberg News
October 26, 2000
Internet: [1]http://www.auto.com/industry/iwirc26_20001026.htm

LONDON — BP Amoco Plc, the world’s No. 3 publicly traded oil company, and Ford Motor Co. said they will give Princeton University $20 million over 10 years to study ways to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. BP said it will give $15 million. Ford, the world’s second-biggest automaker, is donating $5 million. The gift is part of a partnership between the companies aimed at addressing concerns about climate change. Carbon dioxide is the most common of the greenhouse gases believed to contribute to global warming.

London-based BP said it plans to give $85 million in the next decade to universities in the U.S. and U.K. to study environmental and energy issues. In the past two years, the company has pledged $40 million to Cambridge University, $20 million to the University of California at Berkeley and $10 million to the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The old jokes comes to mind: $225 million here, $85 million there and pretty soon, etc.

9 Comments

  1. Briggs

    18 February 2012 at 10:26 am

    Brady,

    Hurray for Judy!

    Also, cute site you have there.

  2. Besides not allowing any self-doubt, another failing of the big guys in asymmetrical battles is that they usually fail to appreciate the nature, characteristics, motivations, resources, and allies of their opponents. Also, a reason underdogs so often succeed is that on the growth path to bigness, the big guys become adapted to their environment and inertia makes them less able to handle changing conditions. The little guys, to survive, must be more nimble and they have less baggage to carry.

  3. Years ago I was involved with an amateur sporting organization for children. What I found out, much to my utter dismay (how naive I was), that the most vociferous accusations of cheating came from the most egregious of cheaters. I came to term this “Khan’s Lemma”.

    Since this sad little epiphany, I have empirically validated a generalization of Khan’s Lemma. Very frequently it turns out that: those who accuse others of racism do so as a smokescreen for their own; those who cry out for “social justice” profit from “social injustice”, those who insist that others be tolerant really mean “I won’t tolerate you!”.

    This model functioned very well: I quietly predicted quite some number of years ago that the “global warming” lobby would accuse those who insisted on rigor in the science of accepting large sums of money for doing so, and that it would be demonstrated in due course that, in fact, the financial interests of the warmists in promoting their scare story were vastly greater than that of the “deniers”.

    So now I “follow the noise”, but upstream.

  4. @ Big Mike.
    Khan’s Lemma. Have to remember that. Perfect example of the scientific process – observe, record, test, record, observe et al, – at work. Seems too simple. Gotta be a catch somewhere. I think I’ll check for the availability of a grant to disprove it. Has to be a career here.

  5. I think that people like Hansen really believe in their predictions so anybody that disagrees with them must be stupid or dishonest. Skeptics must be shills for big oil or the coal companies. Now, if AGW is wrong, Hansen has devoted his career to a big snip hunt so that idea is probably too awful to consider.

  6. The only thing a leftist climate hysteric hates more than being wrong is being ridiculed or dismissed. The general public looks upon climate hysterics as tin foil hat mad scientists pushing a ridiculous scenario in order to have another crack at socialism. Kinda what the reality is!

  7. I claim a third-point (cardinal 0.33 of a point, not the ordinal third of a dozen or so) in the 2012 real world short term predictions sweepstakes.

    The prediction:

    I predict other institutions (besides the University of East Anglica,
    Pennsylvania State University, and U of Virginia) will be challenged
    with Freedom-of-Information requests for climate emails and data
    dumps. …

    At least one such request will arise from “left” wing activists intending
    to establish the influence of “big oil” on the climate research industry.

    Anticipated quibbles: The Heartland isn’t an “institution” of the EAU, PSU variety, name notwithstanding.

    The con artistry theft of docs isn’t an FOI request.

    The docs in question aren’t either data or email.

    And, no prediction the released data would include FAKES.

    But still, I think this is pretty good for one month later.

    And shenanigans and reprisals are still to come.

  8. OT. But from a statistics point of view you and your readers might be interested in this…

    http://www.kfiam640.com/pages/Handel2.html?article=9775037

    The feds are thinking of turning off any distracting devices in peoples cars (including GPS) based on an estimated 3000/year fatalities due to distracted driving. I have not had a sufficient time to review, but here’s a few facts/conjectures based on what I know…

    In 2007, the total number of vehicle fatalities was 41,059 (http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/810999.pdf). Of these, 25,555 were unrelated to drunk driving. Drunk driving for levels between 0 and 0.08 was 2,388. Drunk driving of 0.08 and above was responsible for 12,988.

    One of the studies used to support the 3K per year was done by Wilson and Stimpson (University of North Texas Health Science Center) http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2010/0923/Texting-caused-total-distracted-driving-deaths-to-rise-study-finds/(page)/2 They claimed (I have not reviewed the paper):

    “Wilson and Stimpson combined data from the US Fatality Accident Reporting System database with cellphone usage statistics, adjusting for climate, state demographics, and other factors. Using this statistical modeling, they determined that if texting had not existed, the number of distracted driving fatalities would have actually declined from 4,611 to 1,925 per year from 2001 to 2007. As it is, distracted driving deaths increased to 5,870 in 2008, according to the US Department of Transportation.”

    Lets use the number that http://www.distraction.gov/ is using. 3000. What they are saying is that a significantly greater population (cell phone, GPS, and other electronic device users) are responsible for slightly greater than those who have consumed some alcohol (less than 0.08 bac), a total population which is probably significantly less than the electronically distracted drivers. The battle of making 0.08 bac and below drunk driving has been fought and lost by the safety nuts. But they are willing to ban electronic usage in vehicles.

    I want to look at some of the papers associated with this – unfortunately I don’t have my university access anymore, and haven’t had a chance to do any homework tonight while dealing with the rugrats. But I thought this would be a tasty morsel for the (admitted) non-driving Statistician to the Stars.

    FYI, DOT is now taking public comment with the eventual intent to create federal regs that would remove access to these devices – which would, of course, impact non-drivers as well. All hail our federal masters!

    To be continued….

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