The climate change Denialosphere is all a twitter over their latest fraud.
It seems Carlin co-authored an internal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) climate change / global warming report with John Davidson that was suppressed and censored until the courageous Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) blew the whistle on the EPA.
- it’s Alan Carlin, not George,
- it’s not an EPA report,
- it was never suppressed,
- there was no cover up,
- CEI is just another PR firm pretending to be a think tank,
and all Carlin (the principle author) does in his personal (NOT agency) rant is regurgitate the standard Denier nonsense known to be scientific gibberish, (but he’s still funny).
Most aspects of this story have been ably handled elsewhere, so I will focus on i) certain media deliberately perpetuating Denierism even though it requires knowingly publishing flagrant lies, and ii) a couple of lessons learned in watching the debacle.
Before getting to that I will do an outline of events for those not familiar with the story, and refer you to the more detailed coverage elsewhere.
- Climate Skeptic: “I Was Hoping People At EPA Would Pay Attention” To My Work | TPMMuckraker
- Scientists Call it Peer Review, Conservatives Call it “Suppression” « The Long Goodbye
- Big stink at EPA’s NCEE?
The “story” originated with a news release from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) Global Warming Study Censored by EPA.
Carlin is an EPA employee who wanted his comments and opinions on
basic climate science included in a report on climate economics – clearly inappropriate even if what he had to say was perfectly accurate.
His “study” was not an internal EPA study, it was his own pet project that he was putting together for himself.
No one asked him for it … why would they? It’s not his field (he is an economist) nor his job, and as he went on to demonstrate, he is obviously not competent.
And if you read his “report” (warning, large file) it’s an embarrassing collection of falsified studies, contradictions, and debunked nonsense … it even includes the “climate change has ended” stupidity.
Brad Johnson nicely summarized Carlin’s paper as “a hodgepodge of widely discredited pseudoscience.” Carlin’s “science”, such as it is, has been exposed by Real Climate. See also the comments thread; very knowledgeable people hang out at Real Climate and often you get as much in the comments as you do in the excellent articles.
There are numerous contradictions in the ‘report’, but the one I like best relates to CO2.
They argue that:
- temperatures are declining despite rising CO2, demonstrating that CO2 has no significant role in climate change, and
- ocean cycles and solar activity, not CO2, are responsible for any changes we have seen, and
- since Green House Gas emissions have declined relative to IPCC “assumptions” (false), the IPCC projections are therefore no longer relevant
Huh? If you are claiming to show that GHG emissions have little or nothing to do with climate change, why on Earth would it matter whether they are increasing, decreasing, or asphyxiating Schroedinger’s Cat? How could that possibly be relevant to the case he is supposedly making?
It just underscores Carlin’s pathetic desperation to toss in any idiocy at hand, as long as it purported to undermine climate science.
Not only that, but a lot of the ‘report’ is badly plagarized from the Denialosphere, particularly from Patrick Michaels (documented at Deep Climate EPA’s Alan Carlin channels Pat Michaels and the Friends of Science, “Suppressed” Carlin report based on Pat Michaels attack on EPA, Climate Progress and DeSmogBlog “Supressed” Climate Report Cribbed From Patrick Michaels?)
In climate circles Michaels is a well known industry shill:
No wonder the EPA didn’t want their name on this nonsense. The thing is a joke – they would have lost all scientific credibility.
The CEI claim of censorship and suppression stems from an email exchange between Al McGartland, Office Director of EPA’s National Center for Environmental Economics and Carlin, which CEI claims “indicate that a significant internal critique … was essentially put under wraps and concealed.”
Of the emails Michael Searcy said “A review finds that, not only was this opposition not suppressed, it was given multiple platforms for expression and what was supposedly a cover-up is anything but.” (EPA Exposed in Non Cover-up). Sorry, The EPA Isn’t Censoring Staffers Who Think Global Warming Is A Hoax, and “Scant evidence for charge that EPA ‘suppressed’ dissent” need no explanation.
In short, Carlin’s work and/or comments were not included with the EPA report because they were
- i) blithering nonsense, and
- ii) irrelevant to the report in question “I have stressed in previous emails that this is not a criteria document for climate change and greenhouse gases.” (email exchange)
The entire “Story” is some clown wanted to include his own off-topic rant in an official report where it would have been irrelevant even if it weren’t complete nonsense, and as politely and gracefully as possible his boss was telling him that he was an idiot and that it wasn’t going to happen.
In other words, a complete non-story about nothing.
Needless to say the Denialosphere went beserk; ‘ as of today over 50,000 google hits for ‘suppressed EPA report climate’, including the John Birch Society. Joseph Romm notes 92 blog responses at technorati.
Naturally the orgy of error and idiocy included all of the standard sources of climate disinformation, frauds and fiction, such as Roger Pielke Jr.’s Blog and Anthony Watts (and here). It also included a more widely read font of ignorance that assured broad contagion, Michelle Malkin.
Now CEI is well known as corporate sponsored and prone to such frauds, so naturally when they issued a press release several media did absolutely no fact checking and brainlessly repeated the claims more or less verbatim like the good little stenographers that they are.
No, wait … that can’t be right.
No, it’s not ‘right’, but sadly it is accurate.
That Fox News? not merely repeated the story, but sought to expand it is no surprise.
Their blatant anti-science/reality bias is so overt and extreme I am surprised they haven’t tried to hire Christopher Booker.
Much the same may be said for the The Wall Street Journal. Their typical coverage of climate issues may not sink to the depths that Fox does, but the difference is academic.
More surprising was the CBS and the New York Times pieces. In his follow up post Hiskies noted EPA ‘suppression’ story grows, despite shoddy science in report. All that remained to complete the circus was another clown to join Glenn Beck … enter James Inhofe.
Inhofe is the US Senator who abuses his position to author hoaxes and spread lies and disinformation about climate science. Never one to miss championing a blatant fraud, Inhofe has jumped on this one.
Other Republicans followed suit Rep. Barton: Obama Should Be Worried About “Carbongate” | TPMMuckraker to try and politicize the issue. It is clear they hope to use this fraud to delay any action on climate.
It seems that facts, science and reality, never mind integrity, remain areas where they still have “room to grow.”
The uproar has subsided for the moment, so let’s see what we have we learned so far.
Of the CBS coverage Media Matters said
“CBS suppressed actual climate science.”
While Daily Kos accuses CBS of deliberate lying.
“There are plenty of instances in the traditional media of honest mistakes or just plain sloppy journalism when it comes to science reporting. Then there are times when the only explanation is naked complicity in spreading disinformation. CBS has clearly crossed the line into the latter” CBS Jumps a Whale Shark
I am inclined to agree; for CBS, The New York Times, and naturally Fox and The Wall Street Journal (but as noted before the latter two are no surprise). Consider what occurred.
They received a press release fom CEI, well known as an industry propaganda organ
Source of such nonsense are the “Thank you for emitting” and “Dear Mr President:
Known for misrepresenting climate science
With no other information than the source, any journalist had sufficient reason to fact check thoroughly. Minimal fact checking (like a phone call or two) would naturally have revealed what an utter non-story this is, but then non-stories don’t sell (or in the case of Fox News and the WSJ, don’t push the political agenda you pretend that you don’t have).
However, even assuming a totally naive journalist and editor, the text of the ‘damning’ emails make it quite clear that the story is nothing more than a supervisor telling a subordinate that their comments are irrelevant to the report in question. The instructions to Carlin not to seek other outlets to disseminate his opinions may seem somewhat odd, but if any thought so they could have investigated.
If you make that phone call then you have to kill the story because it can be shown that you knew the facts and deliberately withheld them … so you don’t make that call. It’s a standard tactic for when you want to publish lies and not be held accountable for it.
Also note how none of the media coverage discusses the emails in detail or quote the sections that put them in the proper context. Indeed no one reports on the facts per se, all of it is done so as to make the suppression charge as plausible as possible. Further, the coverage is done such that it is left to CEI and Carlin to tell the actual lies.
Which would also explain why they obviously didn’t trouble themselves with the difficult and expensive task of doing a simple internet search, or if they did, certainly made no reference to what they would have found.
Indeed the journalists have been so careful to leave themselves the excuse of “plausible deniability” that there really can be no doubt that they knew perfectly well that the story is nonsense.
They were lying. They knew perfectly well that they were lying. They did it anyway.
Fair enough, but I though the advantage of a diverse, independent Press was so they could hold one another accountable? So where are the other media stories exposing the frauds of these charlatans. Where is the thoughtful critique of the media by the media?
Right. I think I’ll wait for the Easter bunny while I’m at it.
There is another interesting twist to this story though.
It is true that McGartland’s email instruction “Please do not have any direct communication with anyone outside of (our group) on endangerment. There should be no meetings, e-mails, written statements, phone calls, etc.” does sound somewhat heavy handed and suspicious, notwithstanding that it is standard policy in every agency and business.
It is possible that McGartland may have been concerned that some media would irresponsibly run the story without any fact checking, and then every gullible nutcase with a website would spread it. But really, how likely was that?
In the interest of transparency and damage control perhaps governments need to have a freely accessible internet dumping ground where they can release “documents that are beyond stupid” along with the evidence of the reasons for a particular work’s being deserving of this recognition. Certainly Carlin’s work was, and it would undercut both the documents alleged credibility and any charge of suppression or censorship.
However, even if such a place existed McGartland was caught in a bind. Since Carlin’s rant was not an actual EPA document McGartland had no authority to suppress it, or publicize it, or do anything whatsoever with it.
The most he could do was deny or agree to Carlin’s request to have the report included in whole or in part with the real EPA report, and/or give Carlin himself instructions with regard to communications relating to the real EPA report. Alternatively, the way to have authority over the document would be to make the fatal error of adopting it as an official document. Catch 22.
However, any justified disciplinary action will only serve to make him a martyr in the eyes of the Deniers, and drag out his 15 minutes of undeserved fame even further.
Probably the most fitting punishment would be to grant him a huge private contract, payable upon delivery, for a document that reconciles his stupidities with the scientific realities. Then send him home to waste away in well deserved oblivion working on that ridiculous, impossible task.
There will always be hostile media stories
No matter how laughably idiotic or blatantly false a particular story is, some of the mainstream media will pick it up and treat it as credible. The motivation will vary; pandering, cheap sensationalism personal ideology, misguided notions of muckraking, or simply because the journalist/editor in question are dumb as rocks, but the stories will be with us always.
That is not to say attempting to educate and influence media is not worth doing. Merely that it will not stop them entirely, and we need to be able to anticipate, respond and redefine the stories as they occur.
One reason popularization of frauds will remain common is
One of the interesting things about this story was how Fox and Friends was able to introduce it as “the report debunked the science behind global warming.”
Are the public really so uninformed and gullible that they would actually believe that a single report from a lone author would overturn all of climate science? The metaphoric equivalent of a lone nine year old defeating the Green Bay Packers 65:0? Is the level of understanding really that low?
In a society where half the population is not aware that it takes one year for the earth to orbit the sun (Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog) we are not going to sufficiently educate the population such that they don’t find such stories credible. Particularly as so many of them desperately want to believe these fables.
The most we can hope for is that the level of public reaction to climate Denier stories reaches the point that they have with tobacco. The media no longer treats tobacco denial as credible because the public largely rejects such stories as false, not because the media themselves know the stories are nonsense.
Then and only then will we see climate denial as legitimate stories disappear from the mass media, and only because of the public reaction to them.
Watch the ad hominems
Far too many stories attempting to correct the record began by noting that Carlin is an economist, not a climate scientist. As a result a companion meme to the Carlin saga is that his ‘work’ is being rejected because of his lack of credential ie ad hominem fallacy).
Some stories were careful to note that his credentials or lack thereof in no way disqualifies him from commenting knowledgeably on climate science (eg Real Climate), but they still led with it. I feel that even that is a mistake.
It is certainly true that much of the Denier spam tried to portray Carlin as a legitimate climate researcher without actually saying so. Understandably one wishes to address this “Appeal to Authority” fallacy by pointing out that he has no such authority. I would like to suggest that the issue of credential is fair game, but it needs to be handled with care. Specifically:
- address credential only after the facts and logic have been exposed as nonsense;
- explicitly cite the Appeal to Authority fallacy, noting that a) it is false regardless, and b) the only thing that matters is content, which has been dealt with, and c) there is no such authority to erroneously appeal to;
- if desired, place it in a context such as ‘the question naturally arises how could a ‘report’ be this freaking ridiculous?” Then the explanation is offered that perhaps it is because the author is not actually a climate scientist …
Indeed it is one of the kinder explanations one could offer since many non-scientists are able to talk rationally and accurately about climate science. The other, undoubtedly more accurate, explanations are not nearly as generous.
UPDATES: Ones I shouldn’t have missed.
- On the Public Dime, A Very Public Whine … on a very false note
- Dude, Where’s My War on Science? | The Intersection | Discover Magazine
- EPA “Suppressed Dissent Scandal” Promoted by Embattled and Bitter Senator Inhofe is the Greatest Hoax Ever Perpetrated on Mankind…
- Did the EPA really silence a dissenting report on global warming? » Mind of Dan
“[Update, July 8: In another astonishing twist, I have just discovered that Marlo Lewis, the National Review columnist whose piece Carlin lifted as discussed below, is - wait for it - a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which just happens to be the right-wing think tank that has been touting the so-called "suppression" of Alan Carlin's report. I'll have more on this soon.]“
Probably the most complete account of the whole debacle. “Denialist attack on EPA handling of Carlin global warming contrarian documen”t:
Of course like all Urban Legends, jsut because it’s been shown beyond all doubt to be idiotic nonsense doesn’t actually stop the mainstream media from reporting it as fact:
UDATE Aug 5th
Creepy at the EPA
The latest Climate Denial Crock of the Week is up with Sinclair taking on the EPA censorship hoax.
We give our consent every moment that we do not resist.
Denier “Challenge” aka Deathwatch Update: Day 253 … still no evidence.