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« Right on schedule | Main | Citizen Jay »

Nov 13, 2007

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Fred Gregory

You know, Ed, sometimes I suspect that this POWERFUL Greensboro blog is like the NY Times . The Times gives discounts to MoveOn.org, whereas Anglico/NC Blue gets anything talking point it forwards to you posted for free.

anglico

Boy do I wish Ed would cover everything I write! I've generated more than 1400 posts over the past 20 months and I'd guess maybe ten have been referenced here. Not nearly enough to suit my tastes, but I'll take what I can get.

And for the record Greg Fredory, it's BlueNC.

John Hood

[Sigh] OK, Ed, I'll play.

First, some of your readers may not have been following the climate-change debate in Raleigh in recent weeks, so they wouldn't know what this "Six Degrees of Separation" game is really about. A legislative commission has just come out with a list of recommendations that would raise state subsidies, taxes, and energy prices substantially. The commission was advised by an out-of-state group, CCS, that has misrepresented its structure, ideology, and expertise. They and their allies in government have stonewalled, covered up, and refused to comply with public-records requests.

We've called them on all this. We've also demonstrated that, according to the alarmists' own admissions, the proposals recommended by the commission would have no impact whatsoever on the climate by 2100. If adopted nationally, they would have no impact whatsoever on the climate by 2100. If adopted worldwide, there would be an impact, but it would be so small (a fraction of 1 degree) that no rational person could conclude the benefits of the policy exceeded the costs.

Unable to answer serious questions about a government enterprise expending taxpayer dollars to push such a policy agenda, its advocates have tried to change the subject several times. This is one such time.

I don't much care what gets posted on the kook sites. The sillier they look, the better off we are at JLF. If they didn't exist as comic relief, we might be tempted to invent them just to serve as a useful foil. But Ed, I thought you had employed a better editorial filter.

What Sue wrote for the Institute for Southern Studies (funded by left-wing foundations and associated with the odious, Castro-apologist IPS in Washington) was largely a rehash of a hit piece she wrote two years ago for the Independent Weakly. In that case, she asked me a question about funding from oil companies, I answered it, then she retroactively rewrote the question and reported that I had evaded it. She then went on to construct an elaborate conspiracy theory involving a charitable foundation associated with Charles and David Koch, who are large funders of things libertarian, and other occasional grants from or partnerships with free-market groups. She never asked if any of these funds or projects had anything to do with JLF's work on global warming policy (they didn't).

Nor has she or anyone else made a logical argument here. Is the implication that if we weren't being funded by oil companies (routed through Kevin Bacon, I guess), we'd say something different about global warming? That would seem to clash with the allegation of free-market extremism. And if we were 100% funded by Exxon Mobil, the blood of baby seals still dripping from its ill-gotten cash, how would that change the substantive policy argument about facts, forecasts, and economic effects? Fallacies abound.

As to the anti-Christian bigotry, I see no reason for a lengthy rebuttal. Most Christians actually believe the teachings of their church. Paul Chesser was responding to attempts by some Christian activists to turn global warming into a moral crusade. His argument was neither odd nor extreme. It was to urge clergy and churches to focus their attention on moral and spiritual matters, and not to try to drag the Bible into debates about environmental science. In other words, his argument was the opposite of what Sue clumsily tried to suggest.

For more reading on the real debate going on here, I'll supply some links:

http://www.carolinajournal.com/exclusives/display_exclusive.html?id=4430
http://www.carolinajournal.com/exclusives/series.html?id=33
http://www.carolinajournal.com/exclusives/display_exclusive.html?id=4414

Ed Cone

It's anti-Christian bigotry to cite Chesser's science-free rebuke to Christians who take an interest in the environment? Please. Were the Christians he admonished also anti-Christian? If there's a refuge for scoundrels beyond patriotism, John, I think you've found it.

The rest of your reply is a mixed bag. You play the same funded-by-the-devil games you decry, but you also make what seem to be substantive points about the action in Raleigh. I'm a lot more interested in the latter. Why not just skip the histrionics and get to the point?

John Hood

I wasn't accusing you of bigotry, Ed. I was referring to Sue's post, a part of which was obviously intended to ridicule Paul's Christian faith.

As for the histrionics, you usually have a better sense of humor than that. The entire Southern Studies piece was an hysterical, histrionic attempt to change the subject. Just showing how easy it would be to play the same game.

Ed Cone

I also was referring to the original, John, and I don't think it was "anti-Christian bigotry" in the least -- it's a report on your colleague's role in an intra-faith squabble. Your smear of the Facing South writer seems way off base to me.

Here's the relevant passage:

So what does the John Locke Foundation feel should be done about climate change? Most of their work simply denies there's a serious problem. But they do offer a glimpse of what they think we should be worrying about instead in a February 2006 American Spectator opinion piece titled "Bible Bending Propaganda" by Paul Chesser, Locke's associate editor and a leading critic of the Center's work.

In the piece, Chesser goes after the Evangelical Climate Initiative, a Christian group favoring strong action to reduce global warming pollution. He blasts the Initiative for claiming Christ "for their own alarmist agenda" and its members for suffering from "Biblical illiteracy" and for being "Birkenstocked" "enviro-hippies."

But instead of calls for hard science, the Locke Foundation editor veers from the skeptics' usual playbook and quotes not a dissenting climatologist, but the biblical Book of Revelation. Scripture, Chesser notes, promises us that Jesus "does not dwell on the earth but instead will return to the New Jerusalem ... after God also establishes a new heaven and a new earth." Going on to cite a letter from Christ's apostle Peter describing a coming day of judgment and destruction of the "godless" in which the elements will be dissolved by fire, Chesser concludes:

And don't forget, God has some serious global warming of His own planned ... Christian leaders ought to be warning people about that rather than looking for ways to mitigate the questionable effects of the current heat wave.

John Hood

We don't seem to be reading the passage the same way, Ed.

Sue chose to suggest ridiculously that what the "John Locke Foundation feels" about climate-change policy can be deduced from Paul Chesser's comments about the Book of Revelation in a debate among Christians. JLF contains people of various religious convictions. She suggested that "they," meaning JLF, thinks people ought to ignore environmental issues and focus on personal salvation instead. That's not even what Paul said, much less a reasonable conclusion to draw about JLF. Whatever else one might say about us, it is undeniable that our analysis and policy prescriptions have been laid out in great detail. No need to guess or make things up.

You're a smart guy. You know full well that by quoting Paul's comments out of context, she was attempting to make JLF out to be something it is not, and to imply that we believe nothing should be done about global warming because the Rapture is imminent. She was playing to the kind of religious bigotry common within her audience.

Bottom line: we've been debating these issues for years on the substance. What usually comes back is personal attack and paranoid conspiracy theories. That's telling.

anglico

John, Paul Chesser works for you. As far as I can tell, he was writing in an official capacity when he injected an absurd linkage to his personal views of Christianity into this debate. Most CEOs would simply accept responsibility for an employee's inappropriate actions and be done with it.

And while it's tempting to want to generalize from Chesser's personal ideas to the entire JLF organization, no one is doing that besides you.

As to the "substance" of the underlying issue, JLF has taken a predictably extremist position from day one. The few interesting ideas you've offered about managing the consequences of climate change have been lost in a sea of denial about probable causes and likely effects. That anti-science (or perhaps more appropriately, selective science) bias of your organization makes it easy for observers to assume the worst.

I know you don't respond to commentary by kooks, which makes it all the more ironic that Chesser is still in your employ.

Good day.


Ed Cone

We read that passage differently, John.

Your larger point is a good one: the substance is more important than personal attacks or paranoia.

I detected a bit of the latter two elements in your initial response here.

The Facing South piece seemed to me to be tendentious but worth reading.

You know well that I view the personal vitriol against you at Blue NC as over the line. I cited Blue NC in this instance because of the theme of financial backing and its influence on message, which is a legit topic, and one they've pursued re JLF.

John Hood

Ed, my initial response was just that -- a response to something in particular. Its nature was paranoid and vitriolic. We're fine.

Oh, Angrico, honestly. I'd urge you to stop embarrassing yourself and actually read what has been written by Sue and others before making risible comments, but that wouldn't really be in my interest.

Your check is in the mail, drawn on the usual Swiss account.

Bill Regentry

This is not about religion or who funds who. Why can't we just point out that libertarians are as natural an enemy to the green party as republicans are to democrats.

Everyone who supports libertarians or greens will be of the same ilk, so what. It is the battle of ideologies.

Ed Cone

Libertarians may support market solutions over regulatory ones, Bill, but there's nothing about libertarianism that precludes a strong environmentalist bent or the pursuit of science over ideology or undue corporate influence.

anglico

I could have expected nothing less.

anglico

Forgot to mention, another Kook Site is intrigued by the Puppetshow donors.

Spag/The CA

Sorry, but I don't buy the backing off now that John has made his point, Ed. You wrote about JLF having more than "one master" and at the end addressed the issue of the second master:

"The kicker, about an article by a senior JLF official: "But instead of calls for hard science, the Locke Foundation editor veers from the skeptics' usual playbook and quotes not a dissenting climatologist, but the biblical Book of Revelation."

"The kicker". That is your characterization, Ed. Not Sue's or Anglico's. Once again, you find it okay to ridicule Christian beliefs of others regardless of how silly you may think they are, while nearly exploding in cries of anti-Semitism when someone mentions for context that the author of a Christian hit piece was Jewish.

You need to live by the rules you set for others or quit whining.

Ed Cone

Journalists commonly refer to the wrap-up paragraphs of an article as the "kicker," Sam. I use the term frequently at this blog. The kicker of the piece linked above is the citation of Chesser's work.

I don't see anyone ridiculing Christian beliefs in the citation of Chesser's work, or in this blog post, although Chesser does ridicule his Christian opponents.

The writer points to Chesser's attempt to circumvent a discussion about the appropriate response of Christians to environmental science.

Spag/The CA

But who decides the appropriate response?

Dave Ribar

Ed:

Chesser's claims of a lack of transparency in the NC commissions deliberations--over a set of recommendations (not laws, rules, or regulations but mere recommendations mind you--is preposterous. The commission held open and advertised meetings. Its meeting materials were (and are) available for public comment. I would invite readers to go to the commission's web-site at http://www.ncclimatechange.us/capag.cfm, look over the materials, and see if the commission is "empty-handed" as Chesser alleges.

Chesser is making two claims with respect to the lack of transparency. First, he has "requested data used to inform analysis conducted by the consultant, the Center for Climate Change Strategies." He has the consultants' analysis; he also has the materials that they provided to the commission. The commission has made available all of the deliverables that it received. Moreover, all of those materials were presented in open meetings.

Second, he is requesting an economic report that was to have been prepared by Appalachian State, along with background materials. It looks like ASU fell down on the job and did not get a written report to the commission in time for it to include the report in their draft recommendations. All ASU has provided so far is a powerpoint presentation. So the commission is being criticized for not providing a report that hasn't been written. Chesser has received all of the "written" materials that the commission has received.

It's really hard to see how smear-artists like Chesser sleep at night.

Sue Sturgis

(I've also posted a version of these comments at Facing South.)

Hood calls my story a "rehash" of a piece I wrote two years ago for the Durham, N.C.-based Independent Weekly. Actually, the earlier story I wrote -- "Turning the warming tide" -- focused on the effect climate change was expected to have on North Carolina if no effort were made to rein in human contributions to the problem. But it did examine the work of the John Locke Foundation as the most outspoken opponent of attempts to address greenhouse gas pollution in the state.

Since that earlier story was published, Hood has repeatedly misrepresented a question I asked him during our interview. He's done that again here.

I'd like to set the record straight.

While reporting the Independent story, I met with Hood to discuss his organization's scientifically unconventional ideas on climate change as well as its funding sources. On the latter topic, I asked him to let me look at his group's 990 Schedule Bs -- tax forms that disclose funding sources. As a nonprofit, the organization is legally obligated to share that information. But Hood refused, telling me, "We don't ever give that out. That's just not something we ever do." (He later blamed his gaffe on bad legal advice.)

I then asked him if his organization accepted money from outfits with ties to fossil-fuel interests. Hood disputes that, insisting I asked only if his group got money from oil interests. As he wrote above:

In that case, she asked me a question about funding from oil companies, I answered it, then she retroactively rewrote the question and reported that I had evaded it.
What Hood apparently did not count on in that interview was that I already had copies of his organization's tax forms showing it had taken money from Big Coal as well as Big Oil. Obviously I wasn't interested only in his organization's oil funding but in its funding from all interests with a financial stake in scuttling carbon regulations. I formulated my question accordingly.

But even if I had asked Hood only about his oil industry funding, he still prevaricated in telling me that he did not accept money from such interests. In fact, his organization has received a significant amount of money over the years from the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundations, one of the Koch family funds operated by David and Charles Koch of Koch Industries, the nation's largest privately held oil conglomerate.

So now Hood accuses me of "construct[ing] an elaborate conspiracy theory" by connecting the Kochs' financial interests with their charitable giving. But is it really an "elaborate conspiracy theory" to note that the Kochs' charity has founded and supported groups that have helped boost Koch wealth by denying the reality of climate change and fighting efforts to address it?

The fact is, there has been a concerted, corporate-funded effort to deny global warming and to fight efforts to regulate greenhouse pollution, as Greenpeace, the Union of Concerned Scientists and others have documented. And the John Locke Foundation and its allies in the attack on the Center for Climate Strategies have been part of that effort.

What especially concerns me is Locke's effort to thwart full disclosure, as evidenced by its past refusal to hand over its tax paperwork, its unwillingness to list institutional funders on its Web site (unlike we at the Institute for Southern Studies do), and its failure to reveal its own funding in its coverage of the Center for Climate Strategies while at the same time attacking that group for its own money sources. Then we have the effort by Locke and the Heartland Institute to hide their role behind the Climate Strategies Watch Web site by registering the site anonymously, initially leaving out any sponsorship information, and announcing the site on the Locke blog without disclosing the group's own role in creating it. That's no way to have an honest discussion about an important public policy issue.

In his comments, Hood raises a point he also made in my Independent story: that funding of the organizations participating in the public debate over climate change policy should not matter because we ought to be evaluating ideas on the basis of their validity, not who's bringing them to the table. Unfortunately, that idealistic vision of a public policy debate where all voices are listened to equally does not describe the reality of the state policy-making process, where money amplifies some voices above others. Given that reality, full disclosure of players' financial interests is crucial.

It made me chuckle when Hood accused me of engaging in "anti-Christian bigotry" for mentioning his editor's attack on the Evangelical Climate Initiative. My straight reporting of his editor's mean-spirited, name-calling rhetorical assault on a Christian group concerned about global warming is "anti-Christian bigotry"? That's rich.

In closing, I'd like to correct another error of fact Hood made. He wrongly stated that the Institute for Southern Studies is associated with "IPS in Washington," by which I assume he means the nonprofit Institute for Policy Studies. While it's true that some ISS board members were involved with IPS in the early 1970s, there has been no connection between the organizations since then.

That said, I must disagree with Hood's characterization of IPS as "odious" -- especially given the group's work documenting the social and environmental consequences of public lending for fossil-fuel projects. However, I can understand why a mouthpiece for the interests of Big Oil and Big Coal wouldn't appreciate that sort of thing.

Fred Gregory

Sue,

Are you willing to show some courage and take on Big Popcorn

Obscene Profits

As far as JLF's 990 all you need to do is file a IRS form 4506-A to obtain a copy. Myself I am more interested in all the millions George Soros is pouring into left wing causes and some of this lunatic algore stuff. Of course you wouldn't care about that, huh ?

And : " Who is John Galt ? "

Dissenter

Who is guilty by association (or degrees of separation) with whom, and who is telling the truth and hiding the truth?

The first volley starts with the Center for Climate Strategies, working with the State of North Carolina, portraying itself as a non-ideological technocratic group with expertise on global warming and potential remedies for state governments.

The Locke Foundation responded with a series of articles disclosing the Center for Climate Strategies funding from left of center sources and a consistent left of center agenda when it comes to the remedies it proposes. No one has questioned the factual accuracy of the Locke Foundation articles, and most will agree that the Center’s sources are liberal or left of center. Point to the Locke Foundation.

The Institute for Southern Studies then lobs one at the Locke Foundation, with a November 13, 2007 article, saying the Locke Foundation is the one that is biased on global warming, because it had “ties to the fossil-fuel industry between fiscal 2002 and 2005.”

John Hood hits the ball back, saying that the Institute for Southern Studies “special investigation” is a rehash of Sue Sturgis’ May 11, 2005 Weekly Independent article, and in fact the Locke Foundation has not accepted money from Big Oil or Big Coal. However, unlike the Center for Climate Strategies, the Locke Foundation does not hide it’s philosophy, which most all know is limited government and free market, and that it is not a neutral party in the global warming and remedies debate. Regardless, the articles should be considered on the merits, not on funding sources.

Well, when one reads the Sue Sturgis’s 2005 Weekly Independent article, and compares it to the November 13, 2007 Institute for Southern Studies article, they are virtually the same. Which explains why the Institute for Southern Studies information only goes up to 2005. Sturgis did not update it for the 2007 “special investigation.” Another point to John Hood.

What about Locke Foundation's funding from Big Oil, or Big Fossil Fuel or Big whatever. Well, Sturgis was more forthcoming in the May 11, 2005 Indy article, when she wrote “While Locke does not take money directly from Exxon, . . . .” She then goes on state in the 2005 article, and repeats in her 2007 “investigation,” that the Locke Foundation has “ties” to organizations that in turn are “fossil fuel tainted.” In short, Sturgis admits Hood is right, there are no direct contributions to the Locke Foundatoin from Bil Oil or fossil fuel companies, so she makes the “ties” indirectly, throuh funding given several years ago to organizations that in turn gave to the Locke Foundation several years ago. No attempt by Sturgis to tie even this indirect funding in the past to the Locke Foundatoin’s current articles about the Center for Climate Control, and the Center’s current funding. Point again to Hood, who said anyone can start playing the guilt by degrees of separation or association.

Well is Sturgis and the Institute for Southern Studies at least more up front by disclosing some of its funding sources, such as Z Smith Reynolds, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, that also funds the Center for Climate Control? Well, is a half-truth better than nothing? It seems Sturgis did not bother disclosing one of the other big name funders of the Institute for Southern Studies, which is George Soros’ Open Society Institute.

Soros is a far bigger contributor to the left of center groups, than the Koch Family’s Claude Lambe Foundation is to the right. And if one wants to tie the Claude Lambe Foundation to the Koch’s business which does indeed include oil, then is it not fair to tie the Open Society Institute to George Soro’s conviction for insider trading trading and currency speculation that practically bankrupted struggling third world countries? (See Wikepedia’s entry for Soros). I am afraid Sturgis' attempt to be more above board than thou went out of bounds.

Oh, and for real serious debate, what about Art Pope and his company paying gas tax, and therefore he also is tainted on enviromental issues? Well does not about all of us pay the gas tax? Does Ms. Sturgis have an all electric car charged by an alternative renewable energy generator? And the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, Strugis ackonwledges funds both the Climate for Center Change and the Institute for Southern Studies is far larger than the Pope Foundation. And yes, if we are really going to keep going down this road, Z. Smith Reynolds is funded by trusts that were funded by old Big Tobacco. And was not the Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s wealth generated by the original Big Oil company!

So there we have it. The left of center Institute for Southern Studies, tainted with contributions from insider trading, currency speculation, old Big Tobacco, and historic Big Oil, defends the Center for Climate Control which also has a left of center agenda and many of the same tainted funds, by attacking the Locke Foundation for being right of center (as if we did not already know that) and having “ties” with organizations funded by new Big Oil, and people who pay the gas tax.

And what were the merits of the subject being debated? Something about global warming, what remedies work, and don't work, the costs and benfits of those remedies, or of not taking any action? Can we get back to that?

Fred Gregory

Here is that busted link again.

Obscene Profits

Sue Sturgis

Dissenter, it's true that the Institute for Southern Studies is a left-of-center organization. We certainly don't try to hide our institutional funding sources; in fact, we list them on our Web site for all to see.

However, the issue here isn't "left-of-center" science vs. "right-of-center" science. It's prevailing science vs. the fringe science that the John Locke Foundation promotes, along with its allies in the corporate-supported think tank world.

The question arises: Why would Locke and these other groups reject mainstream science and promote these outlier theories? I don't think it's possible to answer that question without considering the well-funded effort that's been underway for quite a few years now to cast doubt on the scientific consensus and instead promote the fringe theories of fossil fuel industry-funded folks like Pat Michaels et al.

I'd also like to correct something you got wrong in your comments: My latest analysis of JLF funding was updated from the Independent article. If you check out the Independent piece, you'll see my financial analysis of Locke's funding only went up to 2003, the most recent year for which returns were available at that time. There's a time delay for the disclosure of those forms.

Spag/The CA

If it is mainstream science, then you shouldn't have a problem releasing the source data.

Daniel

I once spent three months trying to source the primary arguments in the global warming "debate," and the thing that became apparent from all that work was that, by the end of it, I still really didn't know anything about the science involved. I could talk about it, describe it, explain it, but I couldn't independently critique it.

However, I understood quite a bit about the intentionally misleading public rhetoric that had been used to undermine the science behind the theory in the mainstream media. And I understood that the bulk of the science, while pointing strongly in the direction of the environmentalist position, typically stopped short of making many bold statements.

Conclusion? Outside of the discussions that take place between climate scientists, and the writing that takes place in peer-reviewed journals, the rest of us are only pretending to be talking about global warming. We're talking about politics, and that's OK, but it should be labeled as such.

And most of the non-scientists who are questioning fundamental issues of global warming are doing so in one of two ways: They're either faith-based (as in "my understanding of human-nature and history suggests this is all bunk, and while I can't back that up with facts, my feeling is so strong that the data doesn't shake it") or they're intentionally sowing FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt).

Now: What's the best policy for dealing with global warming? Are we talking about stopping or mitigating? How much warming is acceptable? Unavoidable? What's the best energy policy? How does it relate to commerce? The economy? Employment? Great questions. And how much warming? At what rate? On what scale? How much can we plan for? What's the cost-benefit? And should we ultimately be planning for warming or cooling (thermohaline circulation is really poorly understood)? All great questions. And many of these are political questions, with relevant positions left and right.

But sowing doubt about the mainstream science for political reasons? That's a non-starter. And that's what the right has got to stop doing if they're going to have any credibility in the coming discussions.

Something is happening. If you can't agree on that, now, then you're self-marginalizing your political position for some very important decisions.

Fred Gregory

Here is some wall art for all you consensus, true believers. Prevailing science..in your pipe dreams.

5000 Years Of Temps

Ed Cone

Like Dan, I have no trouble admitting that I'm not a climate scientist, and that my understanding of the science is thus not profound.

But I do notice that science and scientists do tend to get a lot of stuff right, especially relatively basic stuff involving empirical data, history, math, etc.

Thus, when presented with a chart like Fred's, I'm distinctly underwhelmed. Wouldn't the kind of information available on the web be available to actual climate scientists? Wouldn't trained professionals consider such information when making their projections?

One sees this again and again: non-scientists presuming that a simple Gotcha! moment is the magic undoing of complex science. That is not, in my experience, the way things actually work.

The example you provide, Fred, seems to pull well-understood information from its larger context and posit that this information somehow stands alone. Even to this non-scientist, it looks like a pretty simplistic game.

Fred Gregory

Ed,

Se ya at the " Man Will Never Fly Society " convention.

Birds Fly, Men Drink

Roch101

In addition to the questions Ed has about Fred's chart, I'm also left wondering if it doesn't boldly contradict itself. It makes the claim that volcanic erruptions result in cooling, yet the chart contradicts that. Something is wrong there, either the charted data is incorrect or the author's assertions about the effects of volcanos is wrong.

Dave Dobson

Fred -

The preparers of your graph claim that volcanic dust creates cooling, which is observably true (e.g. Pinatubo, which they cite). However, the period from 1600-1900 actually suggests that volcanos cause warming.

Regardless of that, they provide no source or documentation I can find on the site for their temperatures. Their measurements contradict thermometer measurements for the last 300 years and most reconstructions of temperature based on coral, ice cores, tree rings, etc. If I've missed their sourcing, let me know where it is, but I don't see where their graph is coming from, particularly without labels on the Y-axis.

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