Big Green’s laundry gets an airing

Ever since I decided to step onto the battlefield of the climate wars, I – along with many far more deserving bloggers (not the least of whom are Donna Laframboise, Andrew Montford, aka Bishop Hill, Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre) – have been waiting for my cheque from “Big Oil”.

But I’m beginning to understand why it might never arrive (notwithstanding the oft-repeated and never-substantiated assertions of the likes of Michael Mann et al). You see, while Michael Mann has been busy resurrecting his infamous Hockey Stick (for the umpteenth time) at no less a prestigious institution than Mount Holyoke College, Dr. Matthew C. Nisbet – “Associate Professor of Communication and Affiliate Associate Professor of Environmental Science at American University in Washington, D.C. […] and author of more than 35 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters” – has succeeded in invoking the wrath of ranting Joe Romm.

Nisbet has written a report (99 page .pdf is available here and more easily navigable web version begins here), Climate Shift in which he examines [p. iii – all citations and page numbers below are from the .pdf version]:

• the financial resources and spending of environmental groups and their opponents;
• the planning efforts and investment strategies of major foundations;
• the patterns in news attention and media portrayals of climate change;
• the factors shaping the recent decline in public concern and belief in climate change;
• the factors influencing how scientists and environmentalists interpret and make sense of climate change politics.

Never known for being particularly courteous, Romm jumped the gun by firing off his “critique” during a pre-publication/release embargo. Nisbet has very calmly addressed these criticisms both on his own site and via correspondence with the NYT’s Andy Revkin

Romm has garnered little sympathy (except from the radical movers and shakers beloved by Big Green activists); in fact, even TIME magazine’s Bryan Walsh has observed:

It’s one thing to criticize Nisbet’s numbers on campaign spending—as Nisbet himself makes clear in the body of the report, calculating lobbying money is difficult, in part because companies and foundations aren’t required to detail exactly how they’re spending those funds. There’s plenty of room for argument there. But it’s impossible to view the full-court press critics like Romm applied to the report—before it was even out publicly—as anything other than an attempt to, as [Keith] Kloor put it in a post, “kneecap” Nisbet

Nisbet’s numbers will come as no surprise to those of us on the “dark side”. He provides a comparison (p. 15) of:

[T]he spending of climate action opponents and advocates. As the figure displays, the combined program spending of environmental organizations ($1.4 billion) is almost twice as much as the combined program spending of conservative organizations and industry associations ($787 million). Specific to climate change and energy policy, environmental groups outspent conservative groups and their industry association allies $335 million to $259 million. Spending figures, however, are only approximate. As reviewed, the figures under-count the resources devoted by environmental groups and over-count the resources devoted to the issue by the conservative-industry association alliance [emphasis added -hro].

This is, well, graphically illustrated on p. 16:

FIGURE 1.1 SPENDING BY CLIMATE ACTION ADVOCATES AND OPPONENTS

Nisbet has quite rightly concluded (although he doesn’t explicitly say so) that Al Gore has not done the environmental activists any favours – but notes that he has contributed to the polarization of the debate. Much of Nisbet’s analysis centres on the still-born “cap and trade” legislation in the US. He notes (p. 22):

Data compiled by Maplight.org estimates that in the two years leading up to the June 2009 House cap and trade vote, donations to elected members of Congress from interest groups supporting the bill outnumbered the donations from interest groups opposed to the bill nearly 9 to 1 ($35 million to $4 million). Similarly, on the Senate bill, in the two years leading up to its August 2010 failure, donations to Senators from interest groups supporting the bill outnumbered those from groups opposed by 5 to 1 ($6.4 million to $1.2 million.)59
[…]
59 Analyses and data provided by Maplight.org. For data specific to the House Waxman-Markey bill, see: www.maplt.org/ed0YNY. For data specific to the Senate bill, see: www.maplt.org/fRXfs5.

As I had mentioned in a comment I had made on Revkin’s post:

“[S]pending and lobbying aside – there are some other factors that warrant consideration for the Climate Shift”:

Joseph Alcamo’s [prescient] October 2009:

“as policymakers and the public begin to grasp the multi-billion dollar price tag for mitigating and adapting to climate change, we should expect a sharper questioning of the science behind climate policy.”

“It is also worth noting – in the context of the mythical “false balance” in the media [another alarmist canard which Nisbet debunks quite thoroughly in Chapter 3] and all the recent hand-wringing about “communication” – Dr. Judith Curry’s observation of a few months ago:

“Climate scientists got lazy and thought communicating that there was a consensus among the scientists was sufficient to convince the public. Now they seem annoyed that this didn’t work and are blaming the journalists.”

“If one adds to this mix the inadequate “enquiries” pursuant to Climategate and the high enviro-advocacy presence amongst the in-crowd of the IPCC – not to mention indications that some of those charged with drafting recommendations for change to the IPCC’s procedures (pursuant to the Review by the InterAcademy Council) just don’t seem to get it – my guess would be that no amount of spending/lobbying could overcome these obstacles.

“And let us not forget the elephant in the climate change room: Where can one find the good old-fashioned pre-post-normal empirical evidence (as opposed to computer-generated “projections”) that human-generated CO2 is the primary cause of global warming aka climate change (and, of course, all its purported concommittant “dangers” to the future of the planet and mankind)?”

Btw, the sub-title of Nisbet’s Climate Shift report is sure to cause considerable grief to those who like to claim that the debate is over … “Clear vision for the next decade of public debate”. Roger Pielke, Jr. – one of Nisbet’s expert review panel – has a two part analysis [part I and part II] that is considerably more measured (and convincing) than Romm’s rant ;-)

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