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London Guardian: Prison Planet In ‘Out and Out’ Denial Of Global Warming

Leo Hickman
London Guardian
Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Professor Judith Curry, who currently chairs the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, has embarked on what she’s describing as a “blogospheric experiment”. Having written a lengthy essay entitled Losing the Public’s Trust which will be published later today, she decided to alert many bloggers across the climate change debate in “the hope of demonstrating the collective power of the blogosphere to generate ideas and debate them”. She has asked the likes of Anthony Watts, Andrew Revkin, Roger Pielke Jr, among many others, to pitch in with their own thoughts about her essay with the goal of “bringing some sanity to this whole situation surrounding the politicization of climate science and rebuilding trust with the public”. I genuinely hope she achieves her aims.

Up to this point I strongly agree with Curry’s sentiments, but I think she is a little complacent in her assessment of the “changing nature of scepticism about global warming”. She correctly identifies that climate scepticism is a multi-headed and ever-shifting beast. There are as many flavours to the sceptics as there are to environmentalists. To label them all as flat-earthers and big oil deniers is just as ill-judged and lacking in subtlety as labelling all environmentalists as “eco-Nazis intent on taking us all back to the caves”. Genuine climate science sceptics such as Climate Audit’s Steven McIntyre are a world apart from the out-and-out denial pumped out by the likes of Prison Planet’s Alex Jones. Somewhere in between are the likes of Anthony Watts who risks polluting his legitimate scepticism about the scientific processes and methodologies underpinning climate science with his accompanying politicised commentary. But Curry bags them up together and describes Watts and McIntyre both as “climate auditors”:

They are technically educated people, mostly outside of academia. Several individuals have developed substantial expertise in aspects of climate science, although they mainly audit rather than produce original scientific research. They tend to be watchdogs rather than deniers; many of them classify themselves as “lukewarmers”. They are independent of oil industry influence. They have found a collective voice in the blogosphere and their posts are often picked up by the mainstream media. They are demanding greater accountability and transparency of climate research and assessment reports… So how did this group of bloggers succeed in bringing the climate establishment to its knees (whether or not the climate establishment realizes yet that this has happened)? Again, trust plays a big role; it was pretty easy to follow the money trail associated with the “denial machine”. On the other hand, the climate auditors have no apparent political agenda, are doing this work for free, and have been playing a watchdog role, which has engendered the trust of a large segment of the population.

I think Curry has misjudged this point a tad. If the “climate auditors” were exactly as billed above I would agree they are a most welcome addition to the debate. But to claim these blogs have no political agenda is naïve, I feel. Granted, both McIntyre and Watts do make regular efforts to tone down some of the very worst off-topic comments that follow their posts, but it doesn’t take much analysis to know where the political heartbeat of these blogs lies. For right or wrong, they have attracted a particular crowd of followers – predominantly right-wingers in favour of the free-market and libertarianism – and it must be a difficult horse for McIntyre and Watts to ride at times without playing to the crowd.

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