McCarthyism is Alive and Well

Last week Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Representative Henry Waxman  moderated an event hosted by the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change.

It featured panelists who make a career of attacking, sometimes viciously, industries that do not toe the environmentalist line on climate change.  One of the panelists asserted that industry attempted to cover up the health effects of lead exposure and distort the public debate.  His starting point was 1924.  That is hardly relevant history to today except that he and his other panelist Naomi Oreskes attempt to make the case that factual distortion and creating doubt are standard business tactics.  This is clearly a case a lawyer’s tactic knowing the answer that is want and combing data to build a case.

Oreskes and others like her engage in character assassination using Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. Some examples: “in war, the end justifies almost any means, if you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside, and pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.  For the last six years, Oreskes, who is now at Harvard, has been on a vendetta against a group of scientists who she claims were responsible as “merchants of doubt” for undermining action on climate change and other environmental actions.

Her book Merchants of Doubt has become the standard reference for climate advocacy groups and some in the media who routinely attack organizations like  the George C. Marshall Institute (Marshall Institute).  As CEO of the Marshall Institute, I have gone over her book in detail and responded to a large number of inquiries based on it.  The book is a compilation of factual distortion.  It has no redeeming value. And, it is a slanderous attack on three prominent scientists—Fred Seitz, Robert Jastrow, and William Nierenberg, who were the Institute’s founders and who are deceased are unable to defend their good names.  See the Institutes critique: George C. Marshall Institute Policy Outlook, June 2010,Clouding the Truth: A Critique of Merchants of Doubt.

As just one example, Fred Seitz, former president of Rockefeller University and the National Academy of Sciences is accused of trying to discount the risk from smoking because he oversaw a tobacco related research program funded by R.J. Reynolds.  Ms. Oreskes conveniently ignores the fact that organizations have a legal “experts duty to know” about their products.  The Rockefeller research was one part of meeting that duty.  Nowhere does Oreskes show that the research was biased and not conducted using sound principles of science.

What Oreskes has attempted to do to Seitz, Jastrow, and Nierenberg is reminiscent of the attacks by Senator McCarthy on decent Americans.  And, she deserves the retort that Joseph Welch, counsel for the US Army gave to the Senator when he accused an attorney of having communist ties: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. … “Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”

 According to reports on last week’s climate event, Oreskes claimed that “industry-funded think tanks like the George C. Marshall Institute have sowed seeds of doubt that have spurred debate over whether human activity is the primary driver of climate change.  Peer-reviewed studies indicate that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is real and man-made”.

On the topic of spurring debate over whether human activity is the primary drive of climate change, we plead guilty.  The 16 year pause in global warming is a strong piece of evidence undermining the allegation, as is the US temperature record since the end of the Little Ice Age.  The proponents of the climate orthodoxy conveniently dismiss the complexity of the climate system to wage their war against fossil energy using models that have been shown to be fatally flawed.

On the subject of Marshall being industry funded, she again is wrong.  The Institute’s position on climate change/global warming predates any funding from the energy industry.  And presently, the major source of funding is foundations not industry.  She would do well to take to heart, Ted Kopel’s admonition to Al Gore when he attempted the same kind of smear campaign—The measure of good science is neither the politics of the scientist nor the people with whom the scientist associates. It is the immersion of hypotheses into the acid of truth.  That is a principle that guides the Institute’s work.

Finally, we come to the claim that 97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is real and man-made. It is bogus.  The study that reached this conclusion was done by John Cook of the University of Queensland’s Climate Change Institute.  Reviews of this work demonstrate that is a case of cooking the books.  One critique was done by Richard Tol, a professor at the University of Sussex and an IPCC lead author.  Other critiques include the American Thinker, Debunking the 97% Consensus on Global Warming, February 4, 2014 and The New American, Global Warming “Consensus: Cooking the Books, May 21, 2013.  The fact that the climate change establishment clings to such a poor piece of scholarship is evidence of desperation because the climate is not conforming to the orthodoxy of doom.
This article appeared on the FuelFix weblog at

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