On 20th May, 2009, Monbiot had an article at Guardian Environment entitled Price of doing nothing costs the earth with the sub heading
MIT scientists forecast a global temperature rise of 5.2o C by 2100 – but climate change deniers reject models devised by the world’s finest minds. So what do they suggest instead… seaweed?
Here are comments number 11 -15
Hamlet4 (20 May 2009 2:10PM
Thats not science – its a computer model trying and failing to describe a immensely complicated chaotic system. Please read up on the butterfly theory to find out HOW wrong such models can be over time. The 90 % confidence levels for forecasts over 90 years is simply absurd. Rubbish in – Rubbish out.
Hamlet4 (20 May 2009 2:18PM)
OK, all those of you who reject modelling, answer the question: what would you use instead?
nr 1 – How about using your brain, not your political belief system.
nr 2 – Try and build models that explain the present stagnation in temperature, sea-level rise and increase in ice-extent, instead of just pretending its not happening.
nr 3 – Emphasize the limitations of such models, instead of using them trying to create fear and thereby grants.
scunnered52 (20 May 2009 2:29PM)
George the only person you are scaring is your self. All climate model projections are currently in serious error because they over-estimate “climate sensitivity”; and that’s due in main to what the modellers don’t know. I would recommend you undertake to create your own climate model. Here is DIY course on how to do so…
geoffchambers (20 May 2009 2:38PM)
At the end of the article … is this:
“This work was supported in part by grants from … foundation sponsors of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change”.
And who are these industrial sponsors? Why, Exxon, BP, Shell, Total, among others. This is research funded by Big Oil money. Can this be right?
Monbiot (20 May 2009 2:44PM)
You appear to be suggesting that the MIT team is guided by political beliefs and is using this model to create fear and harvest grants. Perhaps you would care to provide some evidence?
Monbiot denied the accusation that the models were used to “create fear and thereby grants” but deflected Hamlet4′s demand to Monbiot to “us[e] your brain, not your political belief system” onto the MIT group, which Hamlet4 hadn’t mentioned (though I had). Clearly, Monbiot was rattled, because 11 minutes later, he was back with this comment:
Monbiot (20 May 2009 2:55PM)
Of all the posters on these threads, you are the one who looks to me most like an astroturfer: in other words someone posing as an independent citizen while being paid by organisations which have an interest in the outcome. Is my suspicion correct? How about providing a verifiable identity to lay this concern to rest?
Now look at scunnered52′s intelligent comment above and try to spot why Monbiot should accuse him of being an astroturfer. Odd, isn’t it?
Half an hour later, a puzzled Hamlet4 replied to Monbiot’s non sequitur of a question, with a comment that finished:
Try and THINK Monbiot – do you really believe that these models are producing accurate descriptions of our climate 90 years from now ???.
scunnered52 and Hamlet4 then disappeared, and I went off on another tack:
geoffchambers (20 May 2009 3:35PM)
George asks whether we should use computer models or seaweed for predicting future climate change. Research conducted by the International Institute of Forecasters on the accuracy of forecasting suggests that predictions made by the general public are usually more accurate than those made by experts. This is because the man in the street tends to believe things will probably continue much as they have in the past, while your expert tends to follow the spaghetti off the edge of his graphs into the wide blue yonder. So the correct answer is: seaweed.
I then came back to the subject of research financed by Big Oil:
geoffchambers (20 May 2009 4:36PM)
thesnufkin at 4.10pm complains we denialists are giving him nothing to get his teeth into. How about this? Monbiot’s new estimate for temperature rise in 2100 comes from what he describes as “the world’s most sophisticated models devised by the world’s finest minds”. And who are these world’s finest minds? They’re the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. Their site lists them all in democratic alphabetical order. Most of them are foreign exchange students in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Urban Planning, Engineering etc. Bright people Im sure, but when it comes to forecasting “the end of life as we know it”, (George’s expression) no more reliable than your average Jehovah’s Witness. And they are financed by Exxon, Shell, Total and BP – which is fine by me, but I wonder what George thinks about it?
geoffchambers (20 May 2009 10:28PM)
Filster at 10.04pm is still attacking the fossil fuel lobby, while Monbiot has moved on. The source for the alarmist prediction in this article is research financed by precisely the fossil fuel lobby which Monbiot so often decries. See the last paragraph of the MIT News article to which Monbiot links for special thanks to Exxon, Shell, BP and Total.
By next day the discussion had moved on to discussion of Mann and the attitude of the Chinese. Then gpwayne, (whose interventions have been retroactively graced with a “C for Contributor” since an article he recently wrote for the Guardian) joined in:
gpwayne (21 May 2009 5:59AM)
What fucking rubbish Geoff. You should be ashamed of yourself for writing such childish, stupid crap.
Apparently I was blogging under moderation at this time, because in my reply to gpwayne is this:
geoffchambers (21 May 2009 9:08AM
Hi. Nice to hear from you again. I’ve been away, under moderation for insulting Guardian readers, and sneaking in a couple of words in Chinese to a comment.
I’m surprised you didn’t know about Mann’s censored data file. It’s been much discussed by McIntyre and others, though possibly not on Guardian Environment.
I admire your reasoning: if the Chinese believe it, it must be true. I suppose the appeal to authority works best if the authorities you are appealing to are themselves authoritarian.
Don’t feel you have to reply. Blogging under moderation is like breakdancing with a ball and chain round your ankle, or arguing with a heavy stutter.
I tried to interest my interlocutors in Monbiot’s newfound enthusiasm for research financed by Big Oil, to no avail:
geoffchambers (21 May 2009 10:08AM)
thesnufkin at 9.37am asks what was in Mann’s file marked censored data. Peer reviewed tree-ring data, stalactite data, Finnish varves, I expect. But it wouldnt matter if it was full of old socks, would it? The point is he inadvertently handed a file named Censored Data to McIntyre. It’s not a conspiracy theory, simply an odd fact. Like the fact that Monbiot is expressing absolute faith in the results of research financed by Exxon.
geoffchambers (21 May 2009 10:57AM)
to gpwayne at 10.19am. You ask why China does this and that. How would I know? It all looks like perfectly sensible international diplomacy to me. You dont see the Chinese ambassador to the Vatican lecturing the Pope on dialectical materialism, but that doesnt mean that Beijing has gone Catholic.
And why ask me who censored Mann’s data? No-one. Its just the name on a file which Mann inadvertently sent to McIntyre. Read about it at ClimateAudit if youre interested.
While we are in rhetorical question mode, what do you think about Monbiot’s newfound faith in research funded by Exxon?
And just at this point, 20 hours after his last intervention, Monbiot turned up. So what did he think about China’s environmental policy, Mann’s censored file, or Exxon’s financing of his favourite alarmist climate model? Nothing.
Monbiot (21 May 2009 11:01AM)
Still no response from scunnered52. Interesting.
I got one decent response to my question though:
thesnufkin (21 May 2009 11:04AM)
If the work is sound it doesn’t matter who pays. The Renaissance was largely funded by the Borgias, but the art was still good.
I tried again:
geoffchambers (21 May 2009 11:43AM)
Since Monbiot has turned up, perhaps he would like to say how he feels about plugging data from research funded by Exxon?
But Monbiot was gone, never to be seen again on this thread. But the fun wasn’t over:
thesnufkin (21 May 2009 12:03PM)
scunnered52 has turned up!
And indeed, the blogger Monbiot had accused, without the slightest evidence, of being an astroturfer, had been busy at another part of Guardian environment, posting six times at :
The last five posts followed Monbiot’s accusation. Two have been deleted. Another two repeat, with different examples and links, the basic message of his first comment, which was posted before the comment which provoked Monbiot’s unfounded accusation:
scunnered52 (20 May 2009 10:22AM)
Who benefits from Cap-and-Trade? In the US it has been calculated that an economy-wide cap-and-trade program could generate up to $300 billion a year in PROFITS! With so much money at stake it is little wonder that those advocating eco-business attack sceptics. The Greens are just as greedy as you average oil billionaire.
Having spotted scunnered52′s reappearance on the Vaclav Klaus thread, thesnufkin piled in:
thesnufkin (21 May 2009 12:01PM)
scunnered52 Do you fancy replying to george monbiot’s allegation that you’re just an astroturfer? We’re all waiting.
scunnered52 (21 May 2009 1:01PM)
Did I actually get under old George’s skin that much … and I didn’t even know. LOL. Yes, my secret is out I am astroturfer – sponsored by Neeps&Tatties – a duplicitous grassroots organisation that acts as front for a secret group of empiricalists who have invested heavily in plastic macs and thermal long-johns. It is not in our interests to have people believe in global warming.
I’ve said too much already, but I trust you Snufkin not to pass this information on.
scunnered52′s next two comments have been deleted but he comes back one last time to denounce green greed.
scunnered52 (22 May 2009 9:30AM)
Climate Alarmism = BIG Profits. Knowing that relationship helps you understand the motives of Al Gore, Goldman Sachs, George Soros, Exxon, etc. Monbiot and company are just serving the vested interests of corporations. The Greens are just as greedy as your average billionaire.
So Monbiot, was accusing a sceptic commenter, who had already denounced the involvement of big business and oil billionaires in climate change policy, of being paid by big business.
Scunnered52 continued commenting wittily on climate matters until August 2009, when his comments stop. His user page is still up, indicating that he has not been banned.
Meanwhile, I had transferred my questioning of the morality of praising research funded by Big Oil to the Vaclav Klaus article, where Environment Editor John Vidal had been criticising Klaus’s sceptical book because it was financed by Exxon
geoffchambers (21 May 2009 5:10PM)
No answer to my question about big oil money, so I’ll rephrase it and try again:
Why is it ok for Vidal and Monbiot to quote approvingly from research funded by Exxon, but not ok for President Klaus to have his book sponsored by a think tank funded by Exxon?
No answer from Vidal, but thesnufkin replied, and I responded:
geoffchambers (21 May 2009 10:37PM)
to thesnufkin at 10.17pm
..which comes down to: “it’s ok for Exxon to fund good stuff, but not bad stuff”.
I can accept that, but the problem is, John Vidal can’t, because his whole article hinges on the argument: “if its funded by Exxon, it must be suspect”. Which is quite amusing, given that back in March he was praising the same Exxon-funded research which Monbiot attributes to the world’s finest minds…
Some other good sceptics joined in, including our own BobFJ, and the thread came to the usual unsatisfactory conclusion. Which is where the matter rested, until Monbiot reopened the debate on astroturfing a few months later with an article on the need for censorship at CiF.
At least this story demonstrates that Monbiot and Vidal don’t always have things their own way at CiF, and we commenters may sometimes influence policy at Guardian Environment.
The MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Climate Change were introduced to Guardian readers in March 2009 with three fanfare articles – one by themselves, one by Vidal, and one by Monbiot. They were described proudly as members of the Guardian Environment Network. They were next quoted in the May 2009 article analysed above. They haven’t been heard of since.