Oct 172010

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

@George

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)

@Monbiot

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)

Hamelt4: [sic]

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)

scunnered52:

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 :

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2009/may/19/vaclav-klaus

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.

144 Responses to “My Affair with George Monbiot: part 1”

  1. Can anyone imagine even a tabloid journalist making constant personal accusations against an individual reader that he is a denier and an astroturfer, that he works for an oil company ? Monbiot is a thug journalist. He is a thug interviewer too.

    The Guardian stopped his interview series. It was nasty and vicious. One of the last ones was with a friend of his from Campaign to Protect Rural England. It was obvious by the friendly manner and smiles that he knew Monbiot.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/video/2008/dec/18/monbiot-cpre-wind-coal

    Monbiot went for his throat. The guy was shocked and the Guardian gave him a blog on cif to reply to his savaging.

  2. George Monbiot (in our time – 2000)

    “When we turn our kettle on in Birmingham, we are helping to flood Bangladesh”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00546l7

    Is that journalism or is it screaming hysterical propaganda ?

  3. George Monbiot endorsed the actions of protesters who sabotaged Scottish mine equipment and encouraged future similar action.

    But while the government undermines its own targets, some people in Scotland are putting its climate change policy into effect. The Scottish camp for climate action has declared war on opencast coal mining. Yesterday people associated with it did what the government should have done years ago, and cut the conveyor belt used to carry coal from the Glentaggart pit in Lanarkshire to the local rail terminal. Now they propose to take on other pits, as well as Scotland’s biggest coal-burning power stations. They have chosen the right targets. Coal is the dirty word that threatens to destroy attempts at Copenhagen in December to prevent climate breakdown. If governments won’t take it on, we must.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2009/aug/07/monbiot-scotland-climate-policy

  4. E Smith:

    Please see the snips on your previous comments and read the blog rules before commenting again. As you are new to this site I have been less stringent than I might have been otherwise. We try to do things rather differently to places like RealClimate and Jo Romm. If you make allegation you need to be able to back them up, preferably with references, and ad hominem attacks are never acceptable.

  5. Conclusion

    Monbiot is not a journalist, but a very aggressive propagandist for his extreme right wing political views. Made even more insidious by the fact that readers assume he is left wing because he is anti capitalist and anti globalisation (as were the Nazis).

    Jewish American Guardian and New York Times journalist Jonathan Freedland recognises eco fascism when he sees it.

    It came apart again when it emerged that Zac Goldsmith, a Green & Blacks organic chocolate bar in human form, had been a non-dom,

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/mar/09/smoothies-party-rich-tories-brand?showallcomments=true#end-of-comments

  6. TonyN

    I have literally no idea who you are. I stumbled here from a link.

    You will presumably know that Monbiot makes extreme, unfounded accusations against individuals and groups , even specific readers. I am doing the same to him. It is partly humour ([snip]), something Monbiot knows nothing about.

    [TonyN: If you want to comment here, then you must abide by the rules. If you think that Monbiot’s behaviour is unacceptable, then I am at a loss to know why you think that it is acceptable to mimic it on my blog.]

  7. Here Monbiot lays out his fundamental belief that the enemy is progess itself, celebrating pagan cyclical beliefs and contrasting them with the dangers [snip]

    [TonyN: Sorry, if you are going to summarise or quote Monbiot then it should be an accurate summary and not a quotation that is taken out of context.]

    http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2005/03/22/god-of-the-soil/

    “When people attempt to rebel against the iron logic of nature, they come into conflict with the very same principles to which they owe their existence as human beings. Their actions against nature must lead to their own downfall.”

    Adolf Hitler – Mein Kampf

  8. TonyN

    You have to understand the article before you make decisions about context. Have you read it ? Perhaps you would like to give us a little summary of its meaning yourself.

    Here is the larger context. The part that is relevant.

    God of the Soil

    Thereafter, God’s relationship to the city becomes more equivocal. In Kings I we discover that the ark of the covenant is housed in “the city of David, which is Zion”.(6) By Nehemiah’s time, Jerusalem has become “the holy city”.(7) But to Ezekiel it is a place of “lewdness” and “whoredoms”.(8) “Woe to the bloody city! I will even make the pile for fire great … that the scum of it may be consumed.”(9) This tension survives into the New Testament. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus speaks of his flock as a city on a hill.(10) But even then the wilderness – the uncultivated pasture of the nomads – remained the realm of terrestrial purity, the haunt of John the Baptist and the retreat of Christ.

    What happened between the time of Abraham and the time of Christ was that the nomads, having seized the fertile soils where the farmers dwelt, settled down. While they still looked back with longing upon the lives of their ancestors, their theology shifted to match their circumstances.

    With this shift came something new: a belief in progress. The philosopher John Gray has pointed out that, while pagans typically see history as a cyclical process, Judaism, Christianity and Islam all claim to be working towards a denouement: “salvation is the culmination of history”.(11) The followers of these religions see life not as an endless cycle of hubris and nemesis, but as a journey towards a moment of transformation.

    The peculiarities of the Abrahamic religions – their astonishing success in colonising the world and their dangerous notion of progress (now inherited by secular society) – result from a marriage between the universal god of the nomads and the conditions which permitted cities to develop. The dominant beliefs of the past 2000 years are the result of an ancient migration from soils such as xerepts and xeralfs to soils such as fluvents and rendolls.

    At Easter, the Christian belief in a permanent resurrection is mixed up with the pagan belief in a perpetual cycle of temporary resurrection and death. In church we worship the Christian notion of progress, which has now filtered into every aspect of our lives. But, amid the cracking of easter eggs and the murmur of prayer, there can still be heard the small, faint voice which reminds us that our ecological hubris must eventually be greeted by nemesis.

    http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2005/03/22/god-of-the-soil/

    TonyN: The first paragraph of the section of Monbiots article that you quoted in #132 begins, “My untested hypothesis is as follows”, which you omitted. And I don’t really want large chunks of Monbiot’s polemics cluttering up this blog. Just use a link.]

  9. TonyN, geoffchambers and E Smith

    I cannot add anything definitive to your discussion on Monbiot – i.e. whether his writings are more like those of a Nazi or a Communist.

    And I don’t know that it really makes much of a difference (the two seem rather similar to me, as a Swiss, who has been fortunate enough never to have been exposed directly to either form of totalitarian repression).

    Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, believes that the movement espousing AGW hysteria is an anti-democratic one, which is using flawed pseudo-science as propaganda to increase the power of non-elected (in other words, non-democratic) international bureaucrats and politicians.

    Klaus (unlike most of us bloggers here) has spent most of his life under a totalitarian rule, so he may have a somewhat better feel for this than we all do.

    Here is a link to a recent opening speech by Klaus at the Global Warming Policy Foundation, from the Bishop Hill site.
    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/10/29/vaclav-klaus-video.html

    Klaus cites a Nobel Prize winning physicist, Robert B. Laughlin, who tells us

    Climate change… is something that the Earth routinely does on its own without asking anyone’s permission – far from being responsible for damaging the Earth’s climate, civilization might not be able to forestall any of these changes, once the Earth has decided to make them.

    Climate is beyond our power to control.

    Klaus points out that the global warming hysteria is based on faulty pseudo-science, citing the discredited Mann hockey stick, which purported to show that recent warming was unusual and which was used as an icon for the AGW hypothesis in the Third Assessment Report of the IPCC, as an example.

    Klaus quotes John Dawson on the hockey stick:

    It was the product of a pseudo-scientific mindset, faulty data selection, erroneous data identification, dubious statistical methodology, flawed mathematics, a perverted peer-review process, a frenzied propaganda campaign and unscrupulous defence mechanisms.

    (Here is a link to the complete article by John Dawson on the hockey stick.)
    http://www.quadrant.org.au/magazine/issue/2010/7-8/the-tree-ring-circus

    Klaus ends his speech with this prescient statement:

    We should be prepared to adapt ourselves to all kinds of future climate changes, including cooling, but we should never accept losing our freedom.

    This is strong stuff from a political and intellectual heavyweight, who knows what the loss of freedom really means, and which directly refutes the ramblings of the intellectual lightweight, George Monbiot.

    Just my opinion, guys.

    Max

  10. manacker

    Ther difference is that Nazism was an ultra conservative environmental philosophy opposed to technological progress as a fundamental principle. That is exactly what Monbiot wrote in the article.

    Over 60 million people who knew the difference between communism and nazism died in WWI.

    [TonyN: You are confusing Monbiot’s article with the one by Musser that you mentioned in an earlier comment. Your line of argument is going nowhere and if you persist then I will snip your comments]

    The same philosophy was expounded by Batman’s

  11. Sorry

    An extreme version of the same philosophy was expounded by Batman’s enemy Ra’s al Ghul and seen in the film Batman Begins.

    Ra’s al Ghul viewed the human race as a virus that had to be destroyed before it destroyed nature.

  12. TonyN

    “My untested hypothesis is as follows”, does not change the fact that is his point of view, and it was not misleading to omit it. It was confusing clutter at the start of the passage.

    The fundamental opposition to progress is clear in this article and the vast majority of Monbiot’s Guardian blogs. I have put him on my ecofascist page tonight. He wasn’t there before. I don’t have anything personal against him or any other public figure.

    It would be good to know who you were and some background on your interest in the subject.

    [TonyN: Then take some time to read the 200 or so posts on this blog]

    Many people are confused about the difference between left and right wing politics and AGW has mistakenly portrayed as a left wing cause. Most of the genuine (non corporate) left wing material I have seen is anti AGW.

    Most opposition comes from the libertarian, capitalist right which is confusing, especially to Americans. I like to know if the person I am dealing with is right wing.

  13. TonyN

    [TonyN: You are confusing Monbiot’s article with the one by Musser that you mentioned in an earlier comment. Your line of argument is going nowhere and if you persist then I will snip your comments]

    I was saying that Monbiot agreed with the Nazi philosophy, you f* dimwit.

    Let me guess Tony. You weren’t the top of the class at school and you never made it to university. You don’t understand the Monbiot article. Why don’t you just admit it. The Musser article is more your level. Hitler was a bad man, the type your mummy told you to avoid.

    [Then take some time to read the 200 or so posts on this blog]

    I didn’t even read this one and that’s the truth !! It degenerated into confusing drivel almost immediately. Why didn’t you just write a summary ?

    These people are making morons out of you because they are lying through their teeth. Not too difficult a task mind you.

    [TonyN: That’s your last comment on this blog.]

  14. Manacker #134

    I read the Klaus speech, and I thought it very good. He’s a favourite hate figure of the European Greens, because of his opposition to further European integration, as well as to global warming.
    Monbiot is neither communist nor fascist. He’s a radical, anti-authoritarian journalist in a long English tradition. You don’t need to be an intellectual heavyweight to do his job, you just need to be independent of all ideologies.
    Since he, and the entire centre-left press, have adopted global warming as their central policy, there is a serious lack of a radical critical voice in British politics.
    Read the comments on any Guardian article (not just global warming) and you’ll see the readers crying out for a radical left-wing critique of contemporary politics which isn’t wedded to the absurd anti-scientific creed of environmentalism.

  15. geoffchambers

    Regarding your 31 October post, sorry for delay in responding.

    It appears, from what you write, that the AGW hysterics have kidnapped not only the real environmental movement, but also the “radical critical voice in British politics”.

    Too bad.

    Max

  16. Manacker
    I imagine your “too bad for the radical critical voice in British politics” message was ironic. Let me explain.
    Both the Independent and the Guardian are in financial difficulties and may disappear, leaving Britain with no centre-left newspaper comparable to le Monde, La Repubblica, or the Suddeutsche Zeitung. The scandal rag Private Eye has traditionally been a source of news considered untouchable by the mainstream. All these three journals are wholly committed to the global warming story. It is perfectly conceivable that the pseudo-science might be demolished, Mann and Hansen disgraced, and a large part of the British population would remain in the dark (literally, with their wind-powered generators).
    In these circumstances, the action of independent-minded critical journalists is critical for informing the public. This is the origin of my somewht obsessional interest in the Guardian Environment Site and it’s figurehead journalist George Monbiot.

  17. Geoff I understand where you are coming from. I am a firm believer in checks and balances, something we don’t have in either our current press or in our politics. Whatever my own beliefs,I can divorce them from the fact that we need debate on a whole range of subjects that currently just don’t get aired.

  18. Geoff

    You are a complete simpleton. There is no such thing as an independent journalist these days.

  19. I’ve moved some comments about Mensa’s bright idea from this thread to the New Statesman thread here:

    http://ccgi.newbery1.plus.com/blog/?p=274&cp=18#comment-102095

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