William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

The Protocols Of The Elders Of Big Oil

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean...Oh, heck. You get it.

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean…Oh, heck. You get it.

Before you’re used to it, it can be both fascinating and amusing to listen to the ravings of a lunatic. The way they can weave tales of persecution and nefarious woe out of wildly disparate strands of evidence is wondrous to hear. The sheer inventiveness! The tightness of argument! The unsinkable, wild-eyed conviction that everybody is in on it!

That’s before you’re used to it. After you’ve witnessed the antics a dozen times, the whole thing becomes tedious.

Take the peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change, an organ ostensibly devoted to the science of climate, but really a newsletter for those who are convinced occult forces are out to destroy the world and that they, the readers, are the only ones who know about it.

Just as a for instance, in December 2013 they published the peer-reviewed article “Conservative Protestantism and skepticism of scientists studying climate change” by John Evans and Justin Feng. They discovered “that conservative Protestantism does lead to being less likely to want environmental scientists to influence the public policy debate about what to do about climate change.”

What does this have to do with climate change? Nothing. What to do about global warming when it strikes—soon, soon—is not a matter we should expect people who have devoted a lifetime to studying the hydrostatic equation to have any expertise in. The opinion of a radiative transfer specialists should carry no more, and probably a great deal less, weight in political matters than, well, conservative Protestant politicians.

But never mind. The real juice of the locoweed is found in Robert Brulle’s “Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations“. Now Brulle himself is not a climatologist and probably could not tell the difference between a parameterization and an approximation. He is, however, one of a legion of fellow travelers who don’t understand the hard physics but are sure the predictions of climate catastrophe must be right—else why would scientists make them?

Wait. Brulle is convinced of the apocalypse because scientists told him so, but unconvinced that all is well even though other scientists say, “Hey, don’t worry so much.” Since he doesn’t have the physics chops to see who is right, how is he picking sides? Bias always happens to the other guy, right Bobby?

Anyway, turns out there is secret cabal of billionaires funding a climate change “counter-movement.” Brulle figured that out using a technique called “field frame analysis”, which has to be right because it sounds so cool. The technique told him to list every organization worldwide which he, Brulle, distrusted and to sum up their budgets, regardless of how the money in those organizations was spent. The organizations and governments which he trusted he ignored.

Turns out that organizations Brulle distrusted had a total budget of such-and-such, which must surely be dwarfed by the budget sum of the organizations and governments Brulle liked. Brulle assumed the monies of groups he liked must be put to good purpose because he liked them, while the monies from groups he disliked must have contributed to the “counter-movement.”

I’m not kidding: this is the paper. Made the press; people oohed and aahed over it.

He’s got some charts in the paper that resemble bullet trajectory diagrams cherished by Kennedy assassination conspiracy theorists. Goodness! The Competitive Enterprise Institute has a line right to the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program. Think of it! Why that line is almost as liney as the line between the American Council for Capital Formation Center for Policy Research and the Searle Freedom Trust. Maybe even more mysterious!

“Dude,” you might think of telling Brulle, “You’ve just ‘discovered’ that right-wing foundations give to right-wing think tanks. Much like left-wing foundations give to left-wing think tanks.” I imagine it’s at this point Brulle’s eyes, like the eyes of the subscribers to Climatic Change, would go googly. He emphasize how all these lines form a pattern—a non-coincidental pattern! And do you know where you find patterns? Conspiracies!

But since the sources of funding aren’t secret—how else could Brulle have discovered them?—it’s not much of a conspiracy.

Still, gotta have somebody has to be Goldstein, somebody has to be responsible for all that is wrong, somebody has to take the blame. Might as well be Big Oil.

13 Comments

  1. A few thoughts:

    -Since I do not have the requisite reasoning skills to address any of the points brought forth in this blog post so I will merely ask you this: who funds you? Where do you get your funding? Is it Koch money?

    -I am unable to understand people’s actual arguments, only my intuitive interpretation of what their intentions are.

    -Every human being in their natural state are liberals like me. Only after being manipulated by powerful money-masters could anyone be otherwise. It’s called false-concsiousness.

  2. Rats! I have been found out.

  3. Ron White Put it Thusly:

    “You can’t fix stupid.”

    Not even with duct tape.

  4. Ken,

    But duct tape will fix anything, the Mythbusters have proven that.

  5. Let’s see: Al Gore received half a billion dollars from an oil country. Shell, Chevron, and many other oil companies have wind turbines and solar divisions. They also own land that they recieve rental on if turbines go in. Except BP, who apparently had the good sense to try and divest those divisions, though it couldn’t sell of the wind plants here in the US, so hung on to them. T Boone Pickens–the darling of wind, lost his shirt (among other things) on wind. He went back to oil (apparently this is about money–businesses don’t like throwing money down a black hole. Imagine that) Oil companies LOVE wind and solar because every time a wind or solar plant goes in, so does fossil fuel back up, be it a natural gas plant in the US or diesel generators in England. (If we want to discuss how nasty it is for oil to play into a scheme that produces useless, “on it’s own time” energy, that’s a different matter.) Add to that cold winters require more oil and gas, and the oil companies really don’t care about climate change rhetoric. Cold people buy the fuel that heats their house, that being oil and gas.

    As noted, there is nothing unusual about conservatives donating to conservative ideas and organinzations. My question to people who bring things like “funding” up is “So does Harry Reid donate to the NRA? When that happens, get back to me.” Everyone donates to what they believe in–or else they’re really, really “not bright”.

  6. @Warmist
    “Every human being in their natural state are liberals like me. Only after being manipulated by powerful money-masters could anyone be otherwise.” Code words for “robbed at gunpoint” or “over-taxed” — take your pick.

  7. Matt,

    RE: “…duct tape will fix anything, the Mythbusters have proven that.”

    I suppose one could tape the idiot’s mouth shut, secure their hands so they can’t communicate…that might count as a “fix”…but it seems more like mere neutralization; a stop-gap solution…

    K

  8. Can someone tell me where this secret cabal of billionaires funding a climate change “counter-movement is located? I want my cut of the money. Oops, I mean I want to apply for a grant.

  9. Brandon Shollenberger

    January 3, 2014 at 11:34 pm

    I don’t disagree with anything in this post, but I think it could stand to be a bit more informative. For example, the claim Brulle used a list of groups he “liked” and another he “disliked” is an important one. That makes it sound like his lists were completely arbitrary. I think that merits an explanation.

    Personally, I think Brulle’s lists were worse than arbitrary. Brulle used a specific definition that would label James Hansen a denier. However, because he intentionally examined only skeptical groups, he managed to ignore the problems his definition creates.

    For an explanation, you can see my post here.

  10. Brandon–I read your posts. They made some excellent points. Currently, in climate science, especially the parts dealing with attitudes and beliefs, there are absolutely no scientific studies done. The studies are at best marketing surveys and at worst, propaganda pieces. This long ago stopped being about science and facts and dove headlong into politics and control. We can continue to point this out, but until we can somehow get people to understand the scientific method is not “The sacred texts of the annointed experts say…”, we’re stuck with the propaganda war.

  11. Possibly off topic; I are an engineer. I have a paper to prove it. I design things, make things, and fix stuff.

    What does a scientist do? Inquiring minds and all that stuff….

  12. Anthony has picked up on this. After forcing myself to wade through the paper (again!) I can only wonder if Drexel University is not a dyslexic rendering of El Drex U, Where can I go to sign up for the CCCM?

  13. Briggs

    January 7, 2014 at 7:03 am

    DAV,

    I’m not sure your contention about the college is correct, but I can confirm “Drexel University” is an anagram for “Evil, sexy intruder.”

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