Spencer, Exxon, etc
This is in response to Alan Wilkinson 6th January 2008 04:24 GMT entitled "Einstein had it right!" -- but specifically on the subjects of Spencer, Exxon funding, and the separation of science and religion. More than enough for one post.
Alan Wilkinson wrote, "Spencer refuted the false accusations you repeated about his funding in one of the links I gave."
Feel free to look up his refutation. But this is your assignment, not mine. However, as far as I can see, what I have given are simply well-established facts.
I stated, "Looking him up, I find that he is a member of four contrarian organisations, three of which are well-funded by Exxon to the tune of $1,601,500 since 1998 (contributing writer - Heartland Institute - $791,500, author - George C. Marshall Institute - $715,000, science roundtable member - Tech Central - $95,000)."
I gave the roles that he plays in those organisations and the funding they receive from Exxon, and I provided a link:
If you left-click on the icons representing Spencer and the individual organisations themselves you can get more details, if you wish. For example, they list the funding for each year and how it was obtained. Picking one at random, for the Heartland Institute for the year 2000, you have $115,000 ExxonMobil Foundation, Climate Change, Source: ExxonMobil Foundation 2000 IRS 990.
If you follow the link given there, it will bring you to a PDF of the IRS 990-PF -- which lists "charitable contributions" to a variety of organisations, including the Heartland Institute in the amounts of $15,000, $25,000 and $75,000 for that year. Similarly, sources are given for the roles that he plays in those organisations.
Alan Wilkinson wrote, "Spencer refuted the false accusations you repeated about his funding in one of the links I gave. He has religious beliefs that I don't share. So did my PhD supervising Professor. That didn't affect his science or our relationship at all."
Alan, I often have a great deal of respect for an individual's religious beliefs, and I even believe that an individual's religious beliefs can help make them a better scientist -- if they know how to distinguish between the two. But it would seem that Spencer has difficulty distinguishing between science and religion -- he supported intelligent design, for example, which seeks to mix the two, and which in my view would be destructive of both.
Furthermore, he belongs to the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance which apparently views the Bible (as it chooses to interpret the Bible) as some sort of authority in the realm of science, staking out the position that global warming in the twentieth century was "mostly natural" when mainstream science has concluded otherwise. He was one of the coauthors of their statement.
At the same time, I must admit that I do not know what the exact relationship between the funding, Spencer's religious beliefs and contrarianism are.
But the funding is part of a pattern -- where ExxonMobil is trying to distort the conclusions of science just as the tobacco industries tried to in the past -- through well-funded contrarian organisations which attempt to create the appearance of scientific disagreement where no actual scientific disagreement exists.
"ExxonMobil has manufactured uncertainty about the human causes of global warming just as tobacco companies denied their product caused lung cancer," said Alden Meyer, the Union of Concerned Scientists' Director of Strategy & Policy. "A modest but effective investment has allowed the oil giant to fuel doubt about global warming to delay government action just as Big Tobacco did for over 40 years."
January 3, 2007, Scientists' Report Documents ExxonMobil’s Tobacco-like Disinformation Campaign on Global Warming Science
Oil Company Spent Nearly $16 Million to Fund Skeptic Groups, Create Confusion
There is a link to the lengthy report by the Union of Concerned Scientists at that webpage above.
Likewise, through the American Enterprise Institute (an advocacy organisation they have been funding which has taken up tobacco industry causes in the past) they have been offering "honoraria" of $10,000 and other incentives to scientists would be willing to write articles criticising the IPCC's most recent report.
Here is a quote from an article on the program:
"Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.
"Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)."
Scientists offered cash to dispute climate study
Ian Sample, science correspondent The Guardian, Friday February 2 2007
Here is a factsheet on the American Enterprise Institute:
SourceWatch: American Enterprise Institute
And as for the letters offering such inducements...
From one letter - the first paragraph:
"The American Enterprise Institute is launching a major project to produce a review and policy critique of the forthcoming Fourth Assessment Report (FAR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), due for release in the spring of 2007. We are looking to commission a series of review essays from a broad panel of experts to be published with the release of the FAR, and we wat to invite you to be one of the authors."
... and the last paragraph:
"If you and Prof. XXX are agreeable to being authors, AEI will offer an honoraria of $10,000. The essay should be in the range of 7,500 to 10,000 words, though it can be longer. The deadline for a complete draft will be December 15, 2007. We intend to hold a series of small conferences and seminars in Washington and elsewhere to coincide with the release of both the FAR and our assessment in the spring or summer of 2007, for which we can provide travel expenses and additional honoraria if you are able to participate."
A copy of one of the letters is available here:
Bush allies offer scientists $10,000 to attack UN climate report
Friday, 2 February 2007
Alan Wilkinson wrote, "His comment about the self-correcting nature of our weather was plainly a speculation but surely a reasonable one, ..."
I have already pointed out that the sort of mechanism which Spencer vaguely alludes to would be just as effective against warming due to increased solar insulation as it would be to increased longwave backradiation. You have put forward a vague ad hoc hypothesis that sunspots or cosmic rays might be involved which would some how save his ad hoc hypothesis. I have pointed out that you cannot explain late twentieth century warming by reference to solar variability or cosmic rays because the trends with respect to both have been essentially flat.
Alan Wilkinson wrote, "... given that our climate has supported life for so long. It is hard to argue that that could have resulted had not negative controlling feedback systems predominated over positive runaway ones."
We aren't talking about runaway feedbacks, not something which would result in our planet becoming like Venus. The feedback is limited. Best estimates, a doubling of CO2 with all the feedbacks (negative and positive) leads to an increase in the global average temperature of 3 C -- based upon current and paleoclimate evidence.
However, while our planet has supported life for a very long time, there have been many major extinction events in the history of our planet, and four out of the five greatest extinctions appear to have been driven by the release of carbon dioxide in large quantities into the atmosphere by flood-basalt supervolcanoes.
And as I have pointed out, the greatest of these, the Permian/Triassic Extinction occured 251 million years ago, wiping out 90 percent of all marine-based species and 70 percent of all land-based species. Fortunately we don't look like we are headed for anything quite like that -- but given our current trajectory, what we are headed towards looks like it will be quite devastating.
Given the Permian/Triassic Extinction and other such events in the Earth's history, how can you claim that the negative feedbacks predominate over the positive feedbacks? That feedback from the hydrological cycle isn't primarily positive? How can he?
The speculation which you speak of and find "reasonable" flies in the face of the paleoclimate record. And the evidence that we have seen in the twentieth century is for a climate sensitivity which is nearly the same as it has been for the past 460,000 years. Roughly 3 C -- although we can't really rule out significantly higher climate sensitivities.
However, at some point, depending upon how far this goes, the positive feedback that we are currently seeing from the weakening major carbon sinks could very well turn into net emissions. At that point climate change will begin to take on a life of its own, independently of us.