William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Greenpeace is shocked–shocked–to discover lobbying going on

There is a belief among certain paranormal researchers—these are the guys who study mind reading, clairvoyance, etc.—that is used to explain why psychic experiments haven’t seen positive results. It is called the sheep-goat theory.

Those gifted with psychic powers, such as the ability to bend kitchen cutlery without using muscles, are sheep. Those who disbelieve in these powers are goats. It seems that, via a mysterious mechanism, the goats are able to emit evil, anti-psychic rays that interfere with the sheep’s positive-psychic vibrations, and so cause negative results, i.e. findings of no effect (more about this here). The goats do this both intentionally and unconsciously. If it weren’t for the goats, the belief goes, psychics would be manifesting multiple miracles and the world would be a better, more enlightened place.

Greenpeace, and other “activist” groups, believe something like the same thing is happening among Washington lobbyists. Activists are, of course, the sheep. Oil company-funded lobbyists are the goats, and it is these goats who have thus far prevented politicians from implementing a host of laws to modify our behavior, have stopped a large segment of the world’s population from deeply caring, and, worst of all, have corrupted and forced some scientists to publish research contradictory to the consensus.

The editors at Climate Resistance have written an interesting article about the “Well funded ‘Well-funded-Denial-Machine’ Denial Machine”, which details Greenpeace’s chagrin on finding that other organizations are lobbying as vigorously as they are, and that these counter-lobbyists actually have funding! For example, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think tank “advancing the principles of free enterprise and limited government”, got, Greenpeace claims, about 2 million dollars from Exxon Mobil from 1998 to 2005. The CEI has used some of this money to argue that punitive greenhouse laws aren’t needed. Greenpeace sees this oil money as ill-gotten and say that it taints all that touch it. But Greenpeace fails to point out that, over the same period, they got about 2 billion dollars! (Was any of that from Exxon, Greenpeace?)

So even though Greenpeace got 1000 times more than the CEI got, it helped CEI to effectively stop enlightenment and “was enough to stall worldwide action on climate change.” These “goats” have power!

Greenpeace’s caterwauling is just silly, of course. What is pernicious, and what gets my goat, are comments like those of James Wang of Environmental Defense, who says that scientists who publish results against the consensus are “mostly in the pocket of oil companies”; and those of the, yes, United Kingdom’s Royal Society that say that there “are some individuals and organisations, some of which are funded by the US oil industry, that seek to undermine the science of climate change and the work of the IPCC” (bottom of p. 3).

Forget that it is often pointed out that it is a logical fallacy that, just because a group funds a study, it follows that the results from that study are false; forget, too, the implication that oil companies are evil because they are oil companies, and instead concentrate on the psychology behind these statements. There is a desire that lies beneath them to believe that the results from non-consensus studies must be false, and so must have been produced by nefarious means. Therefore, these studies can be ignored and dispersions can be heaped upon their authors.

My friends, academic science cannot be conducted toward a pre-defined conclusion. We have already lost many of our humanities departments to this philosophy. Do not let it also happen to the quantitative sciences, and try to keep an open mind. The best test for an open mind is this question, which I always ask of my acquaintances who follow the paranormal, “What evidence would convince you that what you believe is false?” If you find you have no answer, your mind is closed.

Incidentally, to disclose everything, all of the climate (and meteorological) science that I have done over the past 10 years has been funded out of my own pocket. My day job is as a biostatistician and private statistical consultant (I’m still willing to accept money here!). Though I was offered three different university jobs over the past two years so that I could do climate and weather statistics full time, I turned them all down. I did sample one job, and tried a visiting professorship in the Fall of 2007, but it wasn’t for me. Why I turned them down and left academia is a story for another day.

7 Comments

  1. Excellent commentary. Keep up the good work!

  2. Great food for thought for us free thinkers.

  3. Some of that $2 billion (a few million dollars) was from Ken Lay’s Enron.

    What’s more interesting is the amazing ability of oil funding to taint anyone with a bizarre series of “associated with” connections, while at the same time, oil money going to Greenpeace washes magically green.

    It’s truly a paranormal event.

  4. DR. Jim Kingsley

    January 13, 2008 at 12:01 am

    http://junkscience.com/blog/2008/01/12/processing-33-years-of-ir-longwave-data/

    Please run a “counter check” on this data and the conclusions.

    It is my premise that although the linear curve fit gives about a
    0.86 Watt/M^2 increase in IR output in 33 years, with a 1 watt
    per meter squared S.D. this is not significant.

    Also, Hansen predicts about a 0.9 watt/m^2 DECREASE in IR out due to CO2.

    Thanks for your help!

    Dr. K.

  5. Alan D. McIntire

    January 13, 2008 at 1:17 am

    Another problem with tarring oil companies as evil.
    Are they evil because they provide cheap energy to everyone, including poor people, thus aggravating the global warming effect, or are they evil because they charge exorbitant prices, thus reducing oil consumption and CO2 production?

  6. Francisco Sousa

    January 17, 2008 at 7:02 am

    There was also an interesting article from a couple of years ago (i must have in in my unorganized hard-disk somewhere…) attributing part of the “French Heat Wave Calamity” responsibility to the NGOs that forced a change in the Energy pricing the year before. In desperate need for “energy saving”, the prices were changed so that above a certain threshold energy prices shot up tremendously. That made air conditioning unavailable to many poor old people (many actually sold them), and made ground for the disaster known. So can it be that heat waves are dangerous because of the way we deal with them rather than the heat itself?

  7. There’s something else that bothers me.

    The implication is that the sceptic research achieves its results solely upon the orders of big-oil. The parallel offered is the research performed to defend tobacco companies. In both cases we are to assume that the sceptic scientist really knows the truth but is swayed by avarice. The sponsors too are assumed to know the “truth”.

    However there is a big difference. A scientist defending tobacco could nevertheless take personal precautions to protect themselves, such as not taking up smoking. However the AGW case is of a completely different order of threat. The consequences of taking no action are supposed to be devastating to the planet. There is no way a false sceptic could avoid the consequences (certainly not their descendants).

    It’s as if Greenpeace assume we all agree that we are aboard a train heading towards a precipice but that some passengers knowing this still maintain that the train does not need to stop because other passengers on the train offer money.

    This isn’t credible

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