The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

book jacketThe Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines by Michael E. Mann (2012)

I saw this author on Book TV I think. I didn’t understand the part about the “hockey stick” but it is a graph he put together “demonstrating that global temperatures have risen in conjunction with the increase in industrialization and the use of fossil fuels.” from the front jacket copy.

This book is an approachable, good read that has illustrations and extensive notes (pp. 365 to 371 small print) and a bibliography.

Climategate is something you may have heard about.  I kind of did, but did not recognize it for what it was, I thought it was just another story about a hack of some computers. The climate change skeptics, however, who were probably responsible for the multiple hacks (backed by Koch brothers’ money). I remember the ludicrous proposal they made that when they read the emails of the scientists, the deniers formed the assertion that the scientific communication constituted a conspiracy. Naturally the main stream media allowed the deniers framing of the incident to represent the “truth” and covered the story as if both sides were “equal” in any sense, but especially in the way the author was pilloried in original articles, but corrections came days later, small notices, and not necessarily linked to original reports and repeats.

In an amusing riff on the “making it” by being on the cover of the Rolling Stone magazine, on page 126 he talks about being on the cover of the Wall Street Journal in opposition to a denier, Stephen McIntyre. However, McIntyre didn’t make the cover of the Rolling Stone “five years later” [January 6, 2010] when they did an article featuring the “worst enemies” of the planet.” The list included the infamous idiot James Inhofe who brought a snowball into to show his Congressional colleagues thereby disproving climate change because it had snowed. He also is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on the Environment. He may have been behind the rule that no environmental scientist could testify before Congress on environmental issues because the would have an “obvious conflict of interest” or some such nonsense, while INDUSTRY INSIDERS would be permitted to speak because of course, no conflict of interest there!  Other “climate villains” included Marc Morano (he runs a denier web site), Fred Singer (a denier who also happens to be a professor emeritus of ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE!), and of course, the Koch brothers whose father invented fracking and who have at least 86 BILLION dollars each (I think) and they do not intend to share a penny with the IRS or for progressive or even humane causes as Birchers and libertarian leaning Republicans and general assholes, they think people should starve and die rather than get any assistance.

There are a few Mark Twain quotes at the start of several chapters, but I especially like this one:

Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.

Despite testimony of his own appointee of Christine Todd Whitman (Republican moderate) as head of the EPA before a Senate hearing where she affirmed that “global warming is a real phenomenon” she was ignored.

The forces of climate INACTION quickly stepped in, and Whitman’s advice was ignored. Vice President Dick Cheney formed an energy task force in early 2001 to draft a new national energy policy. The makeup of the task force WAS SECRET, but the list eventually leaked to the Washington Post. Among the most influential members, it turned out, were ExxonMobil vice president James J. Rouse and Enron head Kenneth L. Lay (who would later be convicted of securities fraud). Among the participants were numerous representatives of the country’s leading electrical utilities and mining and fossil fuel interests, including the American Petroleum  Institute, the largest fossil fuel industry trade group. According to the Washington Post, the list of participants bolstered ‘previous reports that the review leaned heavily on oil and gas companies and on trade groups — many of them big contributors to the Bush campaign and the Republican party.’ ” (p. 110)

The chapter goes on to detail many names and reports and language and people who were behind the actual conspiracy to thwart any efforts to curtail the fossil fuel industry. For example, the “Global Climate Coalition formed by the fossil fuel industry in the 1990s to oppose policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Exxon has now been revealed to have known about the adverse impact of emissions for decades and chose to attack the climate change scientists rather than be truthful and working to reduce or eliminate the problem. (p. 59)

Just to convey the idea of how impactful the fatal error of the Supreme Court was on climate change, remember that W won his first term by fiat of SCOTUS and not actual votes. Al Gore, he of climate change crusader fame, was his opponent and actually received more popular votes. We learned how fucked up the election process was at that time, but nothing much was done to actually fix the problem, partly because it is a state by state issue. Winner take all states of Ohio and Florida simply make the rest of the country’s votes irrelevant in the Electoral College.

Dick Cheney‘s profiteering yet to come from Halliburton and the Iraq War was still in the future but his “blind trust” was probably not very blind, but remained invested in fossil fuels, yet he got to pick the “task force” to make environmental policy.

I loved the Doonesbury cartoon reproduced on page 62 featuring the false equivalence position of contrarians as “teach the controversy” as if facts needed to compete with mere beliefs and/or outright deception. The start of chapter 5  (The Origins of Denial”) is great, made by an unnamed tobacco executive when they were still denying the link between tobacco and cancer (actually they probably still are denying it):

Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the “body of fact” that exists in the mind of the general public.

He credits the source of this quote to David Michaels’s book, Doubt Is their Product, on the corporate PR campaign to discredit  “adverse health effects” of tobacco. (He also mentions the fabulous satirical movie, Thank You for Smoking.)

In the chapter Fighting Back, he describes one more notable attack of the mad dogs of deniers, a new [2010-2014] Virginia attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli. Ha, as I suspected, when I read the Wikipedia link article I saw he had political ambitions. State attorney generals always seem to use that as a political jumping off spot by establishing their bona fides as being “tough on crime” or some such trope.

By spring 2010, climate change deniers had lost some ground. With the result of each new exculpatory climategate investigation report, their narrative of alleged scientific malfeasance had become increasingly untenable. Attempts by deniers to find yet more e-mails to mine proved fruitless. An attempt to break into the laboratory of prominent Canadian climate scientist Andrew Weaver at the University of Victoria in British Columbia in order to steal e-mails and other materials was foiled, for example. And none of the efforts by the Scaife-linked Southeastern Legal Foundation and Landmark Legal Foundation to  to obtain additional climate scientists e-mails, discussed in the previous chapter, yielded anything useful. Meanwhile the Massey West Virginia coal mine disaster in February and the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill disaster in April served as vivid reminders of the extreme hidden costs of dirty fossil fuel energy. The dominant media narrative was now shifting to the tactics of the climate change denial movement, its funding by big oil, and the harassment of climate scientists.  The denial machine needed a new distraction to try to regain control of the narrative. They got it — and perhaps far more than they bargained for — in the form of the newly elected Virginia attorney general named Ken Cuccinelli.

In the first few months as Virginia’s attorney general, Cuccinelli had pursued an EYEBROW-RAISING AGENDA that included questioning president Barack Obama’s citizenship, instructing state colleges to STOP protecting gay students from discrimination, issuing a legal challenge declaring federal health care reform as unconstitutional (which was lampooned on Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart Show [sic]), while attacking the U.S.EPA’s right to REGULATE greenhouse gas emissions, claiming the underlying science was fundamentally unsound. He had then sought to ALTER THE STATE SEAL of Virginia, designed by George Wythe, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, which had been adopted in 1776. The original seal showed the Roman goddess Virtus, holding a spear, with her left breast exposed. Cuccinelli had begun circulating among his staff a new “family-friendly” version of the seal with the offending body part covered by a breastplate. He dropped the plan abruptly when it was picked up by the media and brought him widespread ridicule.

Following up on his petition of the EPA, Cuccinelli decided to turn his attention a little closer to home. He demanded that the University of Virginia turn over every e-mail, record, or document it had that related to me from my time on the faculty there from 1999 to 2005. Cuccinelli used a relatively new legal maneuver available to the attorney general known as a civil investigative demand (CID). With a CID, the attorney general could seek to subpoena materials from ANY STATE AGENCY, including a university by claiming that fraud concerning state funds MIGHT BE involved. This must have seemed a clever way to seize materials that other groups, such as Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) had been unable to obtain using standard state FOIA laws. Initially, the University of Virginia indicated that it would comply; it perceived it had little choice, given state law. That would change, however, as Cuccinelli’s attack became increasingly recognized as an abuse of power that threatened the very bedrock principles of academic freedom that the University of Virginia was founded upon.

He notes that the underlying message of this behavior was directed to chill free inquiry by scientists who would pursue them until their careers were destroyed. And they have the money and backing of billionaires to do just that.

On the plus side, maybe his vendetta outed him enough so that, while he did receive the Republican nomination for governor, he did not win in the general election in 2013. Wikipedia also states that he had been a Virginia State Senator prior to becoming state attorney general. It also notes that he is a good Catholic boy, and has fathered 7 children.

The previous governor, also a Republican, was the infamous Bob McDonnell who was convicted of taking gifts (along with his wife) but the sucky Supreme Court, while unfortunately Scalia was still alive, vacated the corruption jail sentencing by stating that it was not an obvious enough quid pro quo, essentially legalizing bribery. He also opposed abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest. How sick is that!? He also became notorious for the promotion of the trans-vaginal ultrasound bill he supported before shamed to drop it. He also advocated drilling for oil off Virginia’s coast. Mercifully he was not eligible for a successive term, which is why Cuccinelli could run.

Reading further in the Wiki entry for Cuccinelli, trying to find out what became of such an awful human being, I saw that he is still active, alas, and that he was a advisor to Ted Cruz (of course, you know, God and a belief that women are incubators and he advocates for personhood for fetuses). Naturally, Republicans pitched him for Governor of Virginia for the 2016 election to start the term in 2017, but blessings from above, he declined to run in 2016. Instead, he decided to help state attorneys deny federal regulation via a position as attorney for the Orwellian FreedomWorks.

OMG I suspected this was another fake patriotic group, but it is worse than I thought. It was founded by the Koch brothers via one of their many named groups that create the illusion of multiplicity when it is really complicity. Read the Wiki linked material. More names of notorious people that any progressive would weep over their positions of power include Dick Armey, Jack Kemp, C. Boyden Gray, and Steve Forbes is on the board.

Hmm. FreedomWorks (after Dick Armey left) produced a controversial ad featuring “a panda fellating Hillary Clinton.” This makes no sense to me, unless they added a strap-on penis for her. Two female staffers did the performance. Tasteless, stupid, vile. I am still not sure what parts exactly prompted the notice by Wikipedia that the NEUTRALITY of the article is in dispute.

Oh my gosh, it is so fun to follow hyperlinks around in Wikipedia! It turns out that politicians never seem to quit being politicians and actually work for a living. McDonnell’s predecessor was Tim Kaine, who is now the vice presidential selection of Hillary Clinton, picked out of a list of old white men no one has ever heard of apparently. Ha ha ha, Tim Kaine was born in St. Paul, Minnesota (1958). Another oh my gosh — he was the chair of the DNC from 2009-2011. Get this — he was succeeded by the wicked witch Debbie Wasserman Schultz. and had been preceded by Howard Dean. OMG, now I will have to look up how many DNC chairs have become candidates for Veep or President and, gasp, does DWS think SHE might attain the Presidency!? What a thought. Vomiting a little.

And another connection, you know the other guy who ran early in the 2016 competition? Jim Webb was his name. Webb preceded Tim Kaine in the Senate. Another OMG – Webb was a classmate of Oliver North at the Naval Academy! On the down side, he was Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan, but resigned when he refused to reduce the size of the Navy. He wanted to increase it by 600 ships. On the plus side, he wrote an op-ed questioning the overthrow of Saddam and criticized the Operation Desert Shield plans as “lacking a coherent plan” and “warned against a permanent military presence in Iraq. On the down side, he wrote an article in 1979 titled “Women can’t Fight” and was criticized for it, but seriously, in 1979 that was not an unexpected view for a long time military man.

Back to the book. I will conclude by mentioning a fascinating anecdote starting Chapter 10 Say It Ain’t So, (Smokey) Joe! But first, the opening quote:

Continuous research by our best scientists. . . .may be made impossible by the creation of an atmosphere in which no man feels safe against the public airing of UNFOUNDED RUMORS, gossip, and vilification.

— President Harry S. Truman (September 13, 1948)

In The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan recounts an episode from the McCarthy era involving the distinguished American physicist Edward U. Condon. Condon had been a participant in the Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb; the director of the National Bureau of Standards; and the president of the American Physical Society. In 1948, he came under attack by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, chaired by Representative J. Parnell Thomas (R-NJ). During the course of the hearings, Thomas variously referred to Condon as “Dr. Condom,” the “weakest link” (i.e. for American security), and even the “missing link.” Most remarkable, though, was this accusation by an inquisitor at a later hearing: “Dr. Condon, it says here that you have been at the forefront of a REVOLUTIONARY movement in physics called [read slowly] ‘quantum mechanics.’ It strikes this hearing that if you could be at the forefront of one revolutionary movement, you could be at the forefront of another.” [ha ha ha ha] Harry Truman delivered the remarks quoted above standing at Condon’s side in an opening address to the 1948 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Condon, it might be added, was never found guilty of any wrongdoing; J. Parnell Thomas later served a term in DANBURY FEDERAL PRISON on an unrelated CONVICTION OF FRAUD. [ha ha ha ha]  (p. 146)

The “Smokey” Joe he refers to was (and remains the Chair Emeritus) the “powerful head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee” Joe Barton (R-TX). OMG he has been in Congress since 1985!!!! He received 60% of his $15 MILLION campaign funds from just four (4) donors. He is up for re-election in 2016! He is an advocate of the switch from analog to digital and auctioning off the public airwaves. (Wiki link) among other negative policy proposals. Barton told Al Gore, at a Senate hearing, that he was “totally wrong” about climate change. He’s the one that made the reference to the Flood in discussing the Keystone Pipeline and denying climate change was man-made.

Wiki also states that he “asserted that large-scale wind power projects could SLOW DOWN GOD’S METHODS FOR COOLING THE EARTH and possibly contribute to [nonexistent] global warming.” That is one Texas race I am going to be following closely!

Back to the book:

In April [2005], he had been honored by the Annapolis Center, a group supported by fossil fuel interests, for his work “supporting rational, science-based thinking and policy-making.” His hometown paper, the Dallas Morning News, had given him the nickname “Smokey Joe” for his efforts to exempt cement plants in his district from stricter antismog rules. One of the largest recipients of fossil fuel money in the U.S. House of Representative, he would be named on of Rolling Stone‘s seventeen most notorious climate change “polluters and deniers” five years later. He would also be accused of unethical conflicts of interest regarding his personal stake in natural gas wells. But it was his infamous apology to British Petroleum in June 2010 (over the Obama administration holding it accountable for its role in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico) that finally made Joe Barton a household name.

There are numerous cartoons about the apology, including one included in the book by artist Toles in the Washington Post.

Michael E. Mann ended up, I think, not getting tenure at the University of Virginia because of the attacks by Barton et al. It also seems that the rabid attacks and libelous remarks by deniers is dragging on in the courts. If you can’t reason with people, they can smear and overwhelm the hit counts of reality versus fakery and lies. Here is one sane site that actually seems to be objective and reality based. I am horrified at the sheer quantity of shit that turned up pumped out by the denier (I am going to deny a mention of his name on principle). This country needs to seriously review the Freedom of Speech rights regarding spreading lies and essentially calling “fire” in a crowded room by relentless lies, like The Donald has gotten away with this election season.

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