Some years ago I asked an old friend, who is a stockbroker and then in his forties, whether he was nervous about the expected onset of a bear market: one in which share prices fall over a long period? This was at the end of a very long bull market with steadily rising prices.

Yes, he said, he was pretty worried. Although there was no problem in managing funds successfully in these less favourable conditions, the city had recently gone through one of its periodic convulsions, with finance houses amalgamating, the upper echelons of management being ruthlessly culled, and new, younger, and more energetic blood being brought in.

He did not feel that there was anything wrong with this of course, but he saw problems ahead; in the short term at least.  Although the new kids were bright and capable, they had learned their trade when the going was good and had experienced nothing other than relatively easy trading conditions. In his opinion, when the downturn came they just weren’t going to know what had hit them, and that could be a big problem for markets.

It would seem likely that a large proportion of the AGW activist movement are finding themselves in the same kind of situation at the moment. The eNGOs have grown rapidly over the last decade with a high intake of young graduates straight out of university.

So far, these keen young idealists have been pushing at an open door. Politicians, the mainstream media and, to a great extent, the general public too, have been sympathetic to their cause. No press release has been too absurd to find some journalist who will write it up. No scheme too fanciful or ill conceived to be turned down for funding. And all the time there has been an ever more vocal groundswell of public opinion urging them onwards.

There must have been periods of frustration for them of course, when progress was slower than they would have liked. But these clean cut knights in green armour had signed up to be campaigners after all, and few of them can have doubted that the triumph would be theirs eventually. All that was needed was to continually turn up the pressure with ever more extreme scare stories for the rest of the world to conform to their alarmist viewpoint.

They have become used to being hailed as the infallible fountainheads of wisdom on all matters to do with the climate, the arbiters of correct political opinion on environmental problems, and the conduit through which, provided sufficient legislation could be enacted and funding made available, the planet could be saved. The only opposition they have faced has been from a despised minority of sceptics who have persistently asked whether we can be sure that the planet really is in danger. These voices have been  easy to marginalise and ignore.  The forces of environmentalism have effortlessly occupied the moral high ground to such an extent that the merest hint of criticism of their views or actions has become tantamount to blasphemy.

What a difference the last two-and-a-half months have made. First Climategate, then Copenhagen, and now the seemingly endless revelations about IPCC incompetence and worse which is fast spreading suspicion that those who have been trusted to explain what is happening to the climate may have feet of clay.

If anyone expects that environmental activists, and the climate scientists who are becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish from them, will be able  to mount a swift and decisive counter offensive  that will win the day, they are likely to be disappointed. To do so would require them to react swiftly and with great skill to a situation that they have never faced before. These are folk who are facing the PR equivalent of shock and awe: terrifying, disorientating, and presenting a challenges for which nothing in their past experience has prepared them. Defending their beliefs is not something that they have had to plan for.

Recovery will require different skills, a new mindset, and a totally restructured strategy. This will not happen over night, and in the meantime, the panic-stricken desire to do something to do anything   to stem the growing forces of scepticism will be irresistible. But deploying the tactics that worked so well for them  in the good times is likely to have precisely the opposite effect to what they intend.

Last week, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband, declared war on sceptics, and presumably he did so after consultation with those who have so successfully shaped public opinion on climate change.

Such a high profile campaign might have worked in October, or even early November, before  the Climategate scandal broke , but now that even the Guardian is publishing stories that sound as though they have been lifted verbatim from the most sceptical blogs, his vituperation just sounds like a  hopeless act of desperation.

At the moment, any attack on sceptics suggests that the person making it is unable to come to terms with the enormity of the Climategate revelations, or with the abject failure at Copenhagen and what that means for the balance of global economic power, or with the implications that continuing revelations about the IPCC will have for any future attempts to convince the world that AGW should be taken seriously. Mr Milibands declaration of war is more likely to encourage scepticism than vanquish it because it shows that he does not understand what is happening.

This morning the Sunday papers carry stories accusing the sceptics of launching a well-coordinated campaign funded by big oil. There is no convincing evidence to back this up of course, and as a sceptical blogger I know it is untrue. At one time or another I have been in touch with most of the high profile sceptics whose names have been appearing in the media recently. One of the things that troubles us all is that we are so totally and utterly uncoordinated and disorganised in the face of politicians and environmentalists who have vast manpower and financial resources to back PR campaigns run by experts whose calling  is to manipulate the media.

Over the last few weeks, baffled MSM journalists have been desperately seeking out sceptics looking for guidance and background on breaking news stories of a kind that they never expected to see.  That would not happen if there was any coordinated campaign, they would know exactly who to go to for the answers.

It is the sceptics who have brought the antics of the IPCC to their attention. They have been able to ‘stand up’  these stories, to use  journalistic parlance, and produce powerful headlines. As one reporter said to me last week, ‘I don’t think we’ve heard the last of the Himalayas story yet by a very long  way. Do you?’. The MSM know that this new slant on climate change ‘has legs’, and that it will run and run.

Attention is likely to focus on further shortcomings in the IPCC process, and those of us who read the sceptical blogs know that there is far more to come out. No doubt the cheer leaders for the warmist cause will be able to place the odd derogatory story about bloggers in the pages of the usual suspects The Guardian, The Observer and The Independent which is based on nothing more than bile and innuendo, but the public cannot fail to recognise that the questions that are being asked about the global warming message and the science on which it is based are well founded.

Once you know that there is a worm in the apple, who is eager to eat the rest? And if someone else has drawn the wriggling and writhing invertebrate to your attention, then you are likely to feel gratitude towards them, not suspicion about their motives.

123 Responses to “The warmists just don’t know what hit them”

  1. As Geoff noted in #92:

    none I think which follow up TonyN’s perceptive prediction that the young warmists, unused to opposition, will find it difficult to mount a counterattack to the sceptical tide,

    There is an interesting quote in an article in today’s Guardian:

    People in the latter group, which includes campaign groups such as UK Youth Climate Coalition and the umbrella group tck tck tck, are devastated. As Gemma Bone, one of UKYCC’s members puts it; “I didn’t expect that there would be a final agreement, but I did think that we would make some kind of progress, and that this year would be all about finalising details. Now it’s not clear how the UN process will even go forward. It’s absolutely knocked me for six.”

    I can recall in the sixties that we all had great ideas how things would be different. We too eventually became disillusioned with politics. So maybe Geoff is right and we oldies can be of some use in explaining how things work in the real world. Monbiot tried to marginalize us a few months back by noting that people over 60 were frequently his climate change “enemies”. Maybe he will change his tune on that too.

  2. Potentilla #101
    What I found interesting in the Guardian article is the total lack of any mention of Climategate or the various official and media reactions to it. The journalist – Bibi van der Zee – posted twenty articles from Copenhagen, but since then she’s been concentrating on electric cars and herbal medicine. She’s the author of a protestor’s handbook, so I suppose protest takes precedence over the thing you’re protesting against.
    On our own dear, misspent youth; I don’t for a minute regret having demonstrated against apartheid or atomic weapons. They really existed, after all. Bibi’s article seems to exist only as a coded warning (to Miliband? to Cameron?) that she and her friends might get nasty. If I’d had any idea in the sixties of taking direct action against nuclear bases, I don’t think I’d have announced the fact beforehand, and I’m sure the Guardian wouldn’t have given me space to do so.

  3. If the Guardian article signals a revival of agit-prop then the timing would seem to be remarkably inept.

    The period of financial recovery during the 1980s saw the virtual death of extreme radical politics in the UK and this was not the work of the Thatcher government but because in a time of austerity it was completely at odds with the public mood.

  4. On Monday, WUWT posted an article about an Oxfam-sponsored study of the “interconnections” between climate-related blogs etc. It referred to the blog Left Foot Forward that, it seems, “scooped” the story (about a “network map” [hopelessly inaccurate BTW] – the only part of the 120 page study published so far) drawn up by the PR agency Profero. The study was commissioned, it seems, so as to understand how the Climategate incident became so prominent and damaging to the alarmist cause and to design a PR approach to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Left Foot Forward’s article is here and I strongly recommend HS contributors to read it. It presents a remarkable insight into how alarmists perceive sceptics and, in so doing, shows how they totally misunderstand what is happening and why scepticism about dangerous AGW is growing.

    I think Richard North has accurately identified here how alarmists have failed to come to terms with the true nature of the so-called sceptic network. He says: “The links exist not so much between the different blogs as between the blogs and their readers – it is the readers who form the “community”, bouncing between blogs and MSM. They also created an invisible network of e-mail correspondence – which was at least as important in disseminating information.” That seems to me to describe exactly how, for example, this blog works.

    A personal comment: third world poverty is a desperately serious problem. There are, for example, millions of starving, neglected children in the world who need food and education. In Africa, this is getting worse. Oxfam used to focus on helping such people. So why are they now funding absurd “research” such as this? It’s very depressing.

    PS to TonyN: too bad HS isn’t seen as important enough to appear on the diagram. You really must try harder.

  5. Robin:

    I wonder what the BBC’s reaction will be when they see that they occupy an equivalent pivotal position on the Supporters Network side of the diagram to Climate Audit on the Sceptical Network Side?

    Harmless Sky was obviously considered too dangerous even to mention.

    [Whoops! Should have been Climate Depot, not Climate Audit]

  6. As an example of warmists who don’t know what’s hit them, try this:
    http://www.leftfootforward.org/2010/03/combating-the-growing-influence-of-climate-sceptics/
    The comments thread of this pathetic warmist Labour Party / Oxfam love-in is suddenly invaded by Steve Mosher and Jeff Id, two arch-conservative American Republicans, heroes of the Climategate saga. The result is Laurel and Hardy at the State Opening of Parliament. I’m a Labour Party supporter (or was) but the sheer style of Mosher had me in stitches. Brute, the way things are going, you can sign me up for membership of the Republican Party.

  7. Re my #52, I see WUWT has an update (here) on its story. I particularly liked a comment by anopheles:

    The groups which want to tell you what to think have had it easy. All they need to do is generate a press release, and the uncritical media will run their story. A whole lot of newspaper work is filling the spaces between the ads. The ads generate the real revenue, but you have to fill the space to sell the papaer and convince the advertizers you have a readership. Most of the creatures we idly refer to as journalists do no more (no more at all) than to paraphrase those press releases. (Ever wonder why they all run the same story on the same day?)

    Then along comes the web. The opportunity for anybody to publish something which can be accessed by the whole world, if you can grab its attention. No need to sell space, no need to rely on a press release, plenty of incentive to fisk the press releases for truth, accuracy and agenda. The world changed, and the MSM were waiting for the press release to tell them what to write about it.

  8. Robin Guenier has a comment on another thread that is very relevant to this one:

    This, from the Greenpeace website, is an absurd misjudgement of recent “climate change” developments. Its closing paragraphs:

    If you’re one of those who have spent their lives undermining progressive climate legislation, bankrolling junk science, fueling spurious debates around false solutions, and cattle-prodding democratically-elected governments into submission, then hear this:

    We know who you are. We know where you live. We know where you work.

    And we be many, but you be few.

    Gulp, that’s pretty scary: we’d better mend our ways.

    The best part is the comments section (interestingly now closed).

    http://ccgi.newbery1.plus.com/blog/?p=274&cp=2#comment-51463

    If an organisation of Greenpeace’s stature is prepared to publish such spine-chilling drivel on their website in an apparent attempt to regain it’s supremacy in the climate date then there is probably no need for sceptics to do anything at all. They can just wait for the warmist movement to self destruct.

  9. I’m not going to defend the Greenpeace blog, but please note that the author is Indian, so, though his English is excellent, he may not have been aware of the emotional content of his words. They are addressed to fantasy characters of his own invention – oil moguls out to destroy the planet for their own evil ends.
    I feel this may be symptomatic of a weakness I’ve often noticed in the warmist camp – a desire to disguise the essentially white Anglo-Saxon nature of the movement by giving prominence at every opportunity to third world participants – marketing environmentalism like Coca Cola, as a muti-ethnic international youth movement. The most obvious example of this is the appointment of an Indian railway engineer as the (unpaid) head of the IPCC.
    I’ve been on several sites to discover who is behind various alarmist reports, and it’s surprising how often they play up the third world element. The MIT Center for Global Change Science, who produced a scare report warning of 8°C temperature rises, lists all their personnel in alphabetical order – students, academic staff and foreign associates – giving a nice United Nations feel to their campaign. In the photo accompanying the scare story you see that it’s the work of balding white men in suits, as you’d expect. Dalberg Associates, the Green PR firm which wrote the ridiculous “100,000 deaths a year” report fronted by Kofi Annan, similarly lists their staff in alphabetical order, starting with their African branch. A recent UNEP report issued from Mombasa, and it took a bit of searching to discover that it was written by a couple of Canadian postgrads.
    Of course, that doesn’t excuse the Greenpeace post, but it may help to explain a peculiarity of the warmist movement, and show up the fact that it is essentially a marketing campaign.

  10. When The National Domestic Extremism Team has wrapped up the Climategate case, I wonder if they will turn their attention to Greenpeace? Should someone make an official complaint that they now feel threatened by this organisation?
    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/1/8/statement-from-norfolk-police.html

  11. Geoff, I think a good example of the point you are making is the Greenpeace leadership itself, passing from the very Teutonic Gert Leipold to the anti-apartheid activist Kumi Naidoo last year (Leipold’s background is in physics and meteorology, Naidoo’s background is in politics and activism.)

    Gene Hashmi is now Communications Director for Greenpeace in India but has a background in advertising, apparently (for which he is now working off karmic guilt.) If you look at his page on Twitter, he seems rather – young (putting that as non-judgementally as I can, to avoid my own karmic guilt.) I shall be consuming a Kit Kat in his honour tomorrow at work, along with my afternoon tea.

  12. Tony, I’m wondering whether someone from Koch Industries will indeed do that, and would not be surprised.

    What I am surprised about is not the fact that Gene Hashmi wrote and posted what he did (fervent anti-capitalism is his forte after all, it seems, not maturity or circumspection) but that Greenpeace’s Andrew Davies, Juliette Leblanc or Brian Fitzgerald (Greenpeace Head of Digital Communications) appear to have completely failed to anticipated the impact it would have.

  13. geoffchambers

    The Oxfam/Profero study, “Combating the growing influence of climate skeptics”, which you cited (106) states:

    Profero’s study then looked at the character of the online climate sceptic networks that permitted this information flow. It discovered that the sceptic community is extraordinarily well-networked and interwoven, with sites like Climate Audit and Climate Depot acting as hubs for a wide range of other individual pundits and bloggers. (And no, I’m not going to give these sites free publicity by linking to them.) Of the top five most linked-to climate commentators, four are climate sceptics.

    The article then laments

    It’s not that there we don’t have the numbers: it’s more than we’re not using our numbers effectively.

    The study misses a key point. The AGW movement was much more strongly “networked and interwoven” than the loose community of skeptics (as the IPCC report itself and later Climategate demonstrated). In addition, the MSM were much more closely tuned into the AGW message than to that of the skeptics, regardless of what Profero claims.

    The “top five” climate sites on the blogosphere may be predominantly skeptical of the AGW premise simply because most people who give serious thought to climate issues are skeptical of the premise. The “pro-AGW” climate sites certainly exist in even greater number, but they are apparently just not very popular. [One can draw whatever conclusion one wants to from this.]

    But it appears true that there has been a real shift representing a sea change starting in mid-2009, which may have had many causes:
    · Atmospheric warming (surface and troposphere) had stopped, and it was actually cooling significantly after 2000, despite record increase in CO2
    · The upper ocean was also cooling since the more reliable Argo measurement devices were installed in 2003
    · There was a very cold and snowy winter throughout the northern hemisphere
    · “Climategate” itself, followed by the many other ongoing revelations of sloppy science resulting in exaggerated claims in the latest IPCC report
    · The public reaction of denial by IPCC leadership
    · The Copenhagen fiasco
    · The BBC/Jones interview, which undermined many of the IPCC claims

    Does the AGW movement “have the numbers” as the article claims?

    Among “climatologists” I believe the answer is clearly “yes”. Most of these “climatologists” are dependent on the AGW movement for taxpayer funded research grants and their gainful employment [no need to quote Mandy Rice-Davies here].

    Among politicians the numbers are clearly divided, but a majority may still support AGW, which they see as a possible source of multi-billion dollar tax revenues (direct or indirect).

    Among those corporations, hedge fund managers, organizations or individuals who stand to gain from the AGW movement, the “numbers” are still there; yet there are also those who stand to lose (or gain nothing), and their numbers could be greater.

    Among the media I would have my doubts. Supporting AGW is still perceived by some to be the “politically correct” stand, but it appears that this perception has begun to crumble in light of the many revelations and the resulting shift of public opinion.

    But among the general public (where most of the “numbers” are), I would say that AGW clearly no longer “has the numbers”, as many recent polls have shown. This is in part due to the causes mentioned above, but also because many have become aware what “cap and tax” would eventually cost them personally.

    The report is a sad commentary of those who have seen a major sea change against their “holy grail” and are now desperately looking for ways to reverse the tide.

    Max

  14. Alex:

    What surprises me about Greenpeace is how Andrew Davies, Juliette Leblanc and Brian Fitzgerald, instead of stifling this PR disaster at birth with an early apology for any “misunderstanding”, seem determined to dig themselves in yet deeper. The article has now attracted over 500 comments (overwhelmingly critical) and Google shows 175,000 hits. Once a Greenpeace supporter, I expected more professionalism from them than this. An extraordinary misjudgement.

  15. STOP PRESS:

    There’s a statement from Aranth, the International Programme Director, on the Greenpeace website announcing that they’ve taken the offending post down. He says:

    We got this one wrong, no doubt about it. I’m holding up my hands on behalf of the organisation and saying sorry for that. Peaceful action is at the very core of what we do, so any language that even comes close to suggesting that’s not the case is something we cannot support.

    Of course the anti-science brigade on the web has seized on the line in Gene’s post and run with it (and will run and run and run), taken it out of context and run with it some more – it’s what the climate contrarians exist to do.

    So – it’s “the anti-science brgiade” that really got it wrong.

  16. Robin, well that’s something, although a little like closing the barn door after the horse is gone. And yes, it is a pity about the “anti-science” snark – they really can’t help themselves. Did anyone respond to your comments on that thread, by the way?

    My impression is that the Greenpeace administrators yesterday appeared dangerously naive in the manner that students can be, i.e., earnest and intelligent, as far as that goes, but not quite living in the real world, where punters might – just might – identify more with ordinary workers and managers at Koch Industries (who have homes and children and to whom “we know where you live” sounds unequivocably like a threat to said homes and children) rather than with a hard-line idealogue and firebrand like Mr Hashmi.

  17. Alex:

    Well, it does rather look as though a grown-up (albeit a limited one) has rather belatedly come to do what he can to clear up the mess. My comments seem to have been carefully ignored – including a more recent one (it’s interesting that comments are still allowed and continue to be uniformly critical) about the article in today’s Times referred to here. That last comment was, BTW, specifically addressed to Aranth – but that bit seems to have been carefully excised.

  18. Alex: I got that wrong – my comment to Aranth has been posted. No answer though.

  19. Hmm – even the Guardian has a view about the Greenpeace debacle:

    It’s a car crash. There’s simply no other way to view it.

  20. Some masterly understatement from Leo Hickman: “A visit to his Twitter page reveals that he is someone who likes to play it fast and loose with his phrasings – not always an admirable trait for a communications director.”

    Back on the Greenpeace thread and looking through the comments, I find this from Andrew, the Greenpeace web producer (possibly from yesterday): “I feel it would be wrong to take the post down. Gene said what he said. And if you read it carefully, he didn’t say anything wrong. True, some people are taking it the wrong way. This is not good.”

    Most interesting quote from Andrew, though, I think was this: “It’s possible the violence is in your mind.”

  21. Robin

    It’s a car crash. There’s simply no other way to view it.

    How about “train wreck”?

    Even better than the original outburst are the rationalizations from Greenpeace.

    Shooting yourself in the foot once because of a hyperemotional local officer is one thing, trying to rationalize it away with “he really didn’t mean anything wrong” shows stupid persistency but continuing to fire repeatedly at both feet afterward reveals persistent stupidity.

    Oh well. I never thought these guys were too bright, anyway.

    Max

  22. The comments on the Greenpeace site are still coming in – nearly 580 in just a few days and almost all critical. That “they just don’t know what hit them” is particularly appropriate. Do you think it’s provided any pause for thought?

  23. “Greenpeace threats we know who you are” gets 690,000 hits on Google.

    But maybe it still has “growth potential”.

    “Climategate” gets 15,700,000.

    Max

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