- Key concepts:
- Lysenkoism, political purges of scientists, New Scientist, lustration, truth and reconciliation, future public show trials for crimes against climate stability, Exxon-Mobil, allies
- Attention Conservation Notice:
- It's a notion that may seem a little improbable at first glance, but it's much less improbable than tornadoes in London and a lost war for oil.
The eco-chic Yves Behar "Leaf Light." Wow, that
would make an ideal desk lamp for vengeful lawyers
dismantling Exxon-Mobil and their fellow
(((The Purge at work:)))
Climate change special: State of denial
04 November 2006
NewScientist.com news service
KEVIN TRENBERTH reckons he is a marked man. He has argued that last year's devastating Atlantic hurricane season, which spawned hurricane Katrina, was linked to global warming.
For the many politicians and minority of scientists who insist there is no evidence for any such link, Trenberth's views are unacceptable and some have called for him step down from an international panel studying climate change.
"The attacks on me are clearly designed to get me fired or to resign," says Trenberth.
The attacks fit a familiar pattern. Sceptics have also set their sights on scientists who have spoken out about the accelerating meltdown of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica and the thawing of the planet's permafrost. These concerns will be addressed in the next report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global organisation created by the UN in 1988 to assess the risks of human-induced climate change.
Every time one of these assessments is released, about once every five years, some of the American scientists who have played a part in producing it become the targets of concerted attacks apparently designed to bring down their reputations and careers.
At stake is the credibility of scientists who fear our planet is hurtling towards disaster and want to warn the public in the US and beyond. (((Not to mention that the planet itself is at stake, but the science press is always far more interested in scientists than they are in the low-IQ hoi-polloi with which scientists share the planet.)))
So when the next IPCC report is released in February 2007, who will be the targets and why? (((Sounds like a great premise for an Internet betting-site.)))
When New Scientist spoke to researchers on both sides of the climate divide it became clear that they are ready for a showdown. (...)
One of those who knows only too well what it is like to come under attack from climate change sceptics is Ben Santer of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California. The lead author of a chapter in the 1995 IPCC report that talked for the first time about the "discernible human influence on global climate", he was savaged by sceptics and accused of introducing this wording without consulting colleagues who had helped write the chapter.
One sceptic called it the "most disturbing corruption of the peer-review process in 60 years". Another accused him of "scientific cleansing" – at a time when the phrase "ethnic cleansing" was synonymous with genocide in Bosnia.
Another scientist to suffer the ire of the sceptics was Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University in University Park. He was attacked after the IPCC assessment in 2001 (...) The sceptics accused Mann of cherry-picking his data and criticised him for refusing to disclose his statistical methods (...).
Last year, Texas Republican Congressman Joe Barton, chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, ordered Mann to provide the committee with voluminous details of his working procedures, computer programs and past funding. Barton's demands were widely condemned by fellow scientists and on Capitol Hill.
"There are people who believe that if they bring down Mike Mann, they can bring down the IPCC," said Santer at the time. Mann's findings, which will be endorsed in the new IPCC report, have since been replicated by other studies.
Santer says, however, that he expects attacks to continue on other fronts.
"There is a strategy to single out individuals, tarnish them and try to bring the whole of the science into disrepute," he says. "And Kevin [Trenberth] is a likely target." Mann agrees that the scientists behind the upcoming IPCC report are in for a rough ride.
"There is already an orchestrated campaign against the IPCC by climate change contrarians," he says.
The "contrarians" include scientists and politicians who are sceptical of the scientific evidence for climate change. Some of those who spoke to New Scientist insist that they are not planning character assassinations (...) (((They're not "skeptics", either. They're Lysenkoist political operatives in the pay of polluters.)))
Many of the IPCC's authors, some of whom asked not to be named, say this is a smokescreen. They claim there is an extensive network of lobby groups and scientists involved in making the case against the IPCC and its reports.
Automobile, coal and oil companies have coordinated and funded past attacks on them, the scientists say. Sometimes this has been done through Washington lobby groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), whose officers include Myron Ebell, a former climate negotiator for George W. Bush's administration. Recently, the CEI made television advertisements arguing against climate change, one of which ended with the words: "Carbon dioxide, they call it pollution, we call it life." (...)
The money trail
Some sceptical scientists are funded directly by industry. In July, The Washington Post published a leaked letter from the Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA), an energy company based in Colorado, that exhorted power companies to support the work of the prominent sceptic Pat Michaels of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.
So what is this money buying? For one, an ability to coordinate responses to the IPCC reports. (...)
In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, and with a US administration that has a record of hostility to concerns about climate change, Trenberth's statements are political dynamite. (...)
Trenberth himself fears the worst. "I would not be surprised if the hurricane aspect of the report is targeted, along with my own role," he says. "But I am proud of what we have achieved."
(...) Another sensitive area is the concern that existing models of ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica massively underestimate future melting and consequent sea-level rise. "Our understanding of the dynamics of ice-sheet destruction has completely changed in the last five years," says Richard Alley of Penn State University, a lead author of the chapter on ice sheets who expects to find himself in the firing line over this issue.
"We used to think it would take 10,000 years for melting to penetrate to the bottom of the ice sheet. But now we know it can take just 10 seconds," he says.
Michaels dismisses the idea of more rapid loss as "hysteria"(...)
Some insiders suggest that the IPCC may be more cautious in its upcoming report than it has been in the past, but this is unlikely to placate climate- change sceptics. (...) Here too Trenberth may find himself caught in the headlights. The US Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee under its chairman James Inhofe has begun investigating NCAR, Trenberth's employer.
Inhofe has repeatedly written to NCAR and other agencies demanding details about financial and contractual arrangements with their employees and with federal funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Inhofe has a record of hostility to the idea of climate change, having asked on the Senate floor in July 2003: "Could it be that man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? It sure sounds like it."
NCAR is not commenting on Inhofe's investigation, but many climate scientists contacted by New Scientist regard it as a tactic designed to intimidate those working on the IPCC report. (...)
Out of 168 scientists listed as lead authors or reviewers involved in assessing the science of climate change, 38 are from the US – more than twice as many as the second-largest national grouping, the British.
IPCC scientists who spoke to New Scientist insist they are not trying to turn science into politics or to shut down genuine debate. They do, however, worry that their conclusions might be drowned out by some politically motivated and industry-funded sceptics.
"I'd hate to see hundreds of people putting years of their lives into producing a report that is then trashed by these people for political ends," says Santer. "That is what happened in my case, and I felt very bad about it."
(Looks pretty bad, eh? Yeah. But not for the purgees. They may have been cherry-picked for neocon assault by denialists, but at least they didn't risk jail.)))
(((Consider the fate of Viridian contestee, Enron.
Most everybody at Enron was cheerily drinking their own
champagne bathwater and making merry on the carcass
of the public interest. Jeff Skilling was not the
worst of them, but Jeff was the one who didnít ritually
repent and come clean. They dropped an anvil on this
guy. Jeff ought to be an object lesson to energy
executives. Him, and Ken, who's dead.)))
Lee Raymond took his Exxon pile and split, but the top guys at Exxon still dearly love those smoke-and- mirrors. Look at 'em shimmy and backpedal and sidestep here.
"While our scientific understanding of climate change continues to improve, (((No thanks to us))) it nonetheless remains today an extraordinarily complex area of scientific study. (((No it doesn't.))) Having said that, the potential risks to society could prove to be significant, (((the potential risks to us; "society", as St Margaret said, doesn't exist))) so despite the areas of uncertainties that do exist, ((no they don't))) it is prudent to develop and implement strategies that address the potential risks. ((("Develop strategies," donít carry them out. Waffle and equivocate. Name a single thing Exxon's done in the past 20 years that is "prudent." Nothing. They bet the Texan farm, just like Bush II, just like Enron. They didn't really do that much: purge scientists, sabotage IPCC, logjam the US Senate – but the consequences are calamitous, and they have no one to blame but themselves.)))
"In my view, this means we should continue to fund
ongoing scientific research without conditions or
preconceived outcomes (((we mean fund denialists
more than any actual scientists))) to increase our
understanding of all of the forcings which are part
of this very elegant, but very complex climate
systems in which we live (((Nature is pretty, but
only oil folks are fit to deal with it))) –
includingongoing study of not only the possible
forcing effects resulting from mankindís socioeconomic
activity, (((nice "socio" there, Mr Free Market)))
but equally if not more important understanding of
the natural forcing elements that are and have
been apart of the climate system since the dawn of
(((The takeaway? "Blame anybody or anything for the climate mayhem we've been creating and obscuring for years, but don't blame us. At least, not now. Blame nature. Blame lesbians. Blame the Chinese, blame anybody, but not us, not during our lifetime. We never thought, we never dreamed that the bill would come due this fast. That was never supposed to happen in a time-frame where we could be held to account." They haven't learned a damned thing. They're too stupid to live. Exxon threw a climate-war for oil, and not only are they losing the oil, they're going to lose the climate.))) http://www.exxonmobil.com/Corporate/Newsroom/SpchsIntvws/Corp_NR_SpchIntrvw_RWT_301106.asp
Exxon's actual, years-long, entirely consistent policy of funding logjammers, reputation assassins and Beltway bandits. Basically this composes a list of likely future indictees for crimes against humanity. Everybody in the world is going to want a piece of these people. Except for a few blinkered Australians, whose stricken nation is in spectacular flames as we speak, these American malefactors are the biggest global-climate patsies around. Everyone's responsible for climate change, but the one thing every player can surely agree on without demur is that these guys are the worst and must culpable. Everyone else can pretend to be all caught unawares and shocked, shocked by a climate crisis: these people are without any question its deliberate aiders and abettors.
There aren't, in fact, many of them. Their budgets have always been quite small. Their chances of defending themselves from a worldwide outcry are slim. If Jeff and Ken couldn't save themselves after buying a President, these guys are in ten times deeper.
I don't doubt that Exxon-Mobil's hasty new clean-air
PR campaign, meant to ingratiate themselves with
the new Democratic Congress, costs five times
as much as they've ever spent on these minor
organizations. But: they did fund them,
and in some cases simply invented them. And when
their empty pretense that the climate is fine and
dandy is proved as utterly hollow as the bold
pretense that Enron makes money and Iraq loves
freedom, someone is going to have to take the
fall. And it's a huge, huge fall. And it's all
theirs. Who else is there? They're finished.
Wait and see.
Who would actually go and get them? Rich people.
ANGRY, PANICKY, VENGEFUL, RUTHLESS rich people.
"Alpine communities have coped with warm winter
weather before, but this year there is a sense that
it could be the beginning of the end of the European
skiing experience." That must be a lot of fun for
well-to-do Esso investors.
ASEAN summit politicians flee an Asian typhoon. Makes you wonder what the Davos Forum will look like when there's no Swiss snow. Hey, 'world leaders,' you will be brought to the climate or the climate will be brought to you. You can run, but you can't hide. Who do you plan to blame for this -- for the way climate change makes you flee like rabbits? How do you sleep with that kind of humiliation? It's going to happen time and time again. http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/asiapcf/12/08/asean.summit.ap/
Tornado in London. Not actually in 10 Downing Street, but, well, not too far. Wait till next time. http://www.guardian.co.uk/weather/Story/0,,1966688,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=1
"Exxon: facing the toughest energy challenges." The toughest of all? Avoiding the melancholy southern-Gothic fates of Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling.
I know my premise here seems a tad farfetched, but here on Viridian List, we're getting used to things we discussed ten years ago emerging into broad daylight like a horde of Morlocks. So Exxon, let me level with you a little. You're always bragging about how many "thousands of scientists" you employ, and how you have a cast-iron Texan hammerlock on geopolitical realism – but did you ever imagine it would get this bad, this fast? Do you know what melancholy Texan figure you Houstonians most resemble at this point? No, not Skilling. Not even Bush. Not Tom DeLay, either. You look like General Santa Anna.
You know: slaughter a few stubborn scientists in the Alamo, then march on to inevitable victory. You've still got the flags up and the trumpet sound of the deguello in your ears, but that strategy stank. You are reaping the whirlwind. You could blow off the occasional corrupt meeting with Cheney, but the climate problem? That can only get worse and worse. And worse. And fast. For years. And who, in the world, is there, in the world, available to blame for that? At a bottom line, politically, realistically, who else but you? You bet your all, everything, on keeping the oil flowing and sustaining the Texo-American Dream – but when rich people, not poor ignorant people but rich ones, see their prospects and their fortunes wrecked because of your malfeasance, you will collapse. You will have brought utter shame and discredit on everything you ever held dear. Where will you hide from the sky? Where's your safe haven?
"The vast U.S. energy industry might be the ripest
target for a corruption investigation. When Vice
President Dick Cheney's energy task force was meeting
in early 2001 – meetings whose secrecy Cheney has
managed to protect against legal challenge – the
goal of U.S. energy independence was barely an
afterthought. Now, with the United States mired in
the affairs of petro-dictatorships in the Middle East,
even the president has emphasized the need to cure
our addiction to oil.
"Studied inaction on this front stems from the coziness between the administration and big oil. Investigations into that relationship are a sure win for the Democrats. Just lining up oil company executives under the hot lights – much like the seven tobacco company chief executives were lined up in 1994, looking like gray-suited deer – creates the image, if not necessarily the fact, of activist government. (Suggested witnesses: Lee Raymond, chief executive of Exxon Mobil until this year; Spencer Abraham, former energy secretary; Cheney; and David Addington, Cheney's deputy on many energy matters.)"
(((Of course you can duck that one, buy yourself a new Senate, but your problems are BIGGER than that. Your troubles are just starting. What's the true extent of your bad judgment?)))
(((Well, just for fun, let's frankly confront the absolute worst-case scenario. That would be climate crisis as the Queen of Spades, the Big Sister of Nuclear Armageddon, instead of its dirty little sister... Suppose that plankton, as these scientists now publicly speculate, really does die off because the oceans got too suddenly warm and too acidic.
(((What gives, in that case? You would die. You, your bankers, your lawyers, your pet Senators, everybody on the Board of Directors, all the employees, the public-relations firms... The entire Bush Clan... the scientists who made the grim assessment.... every jackrabbit on the plains of Texas... Actually, if the plankton dies, pretty much every living thing above the level of a slime mold would die. Die like poisoned rats in a cellar.
(((Not that anybody worldwide would seek to blame you
much for this... Why bother? Instead of merely wrecking
civilization in your febrile quest for subterranean
goo, you'd have accomplished something unbelievable
and grand, unleashing an awesome smoke-genie
Fossil Gotterdammerung that exterminated all
known intelligent life in the Universe. Quite a feat
for an oil company and a handful of hired right-wing
cranks. There'd be a sense-of-wonder sci-fi grandeur
to that, if there were any sci-fi writers left
to type that up.)))
So that's the worst-case scenario. I don't expect it. I think a likelier one is Hague-style show-trials. I mean, not THE Hague, not the "International Court of Justice" – that one had a Bush regime spoke thrust through its wheels early on. That was a street-smart, deeply cynical move, but at the scale of the mayhem you're wreaking, the Hague Court wasn't near big enough for you anyway. The Hague didn't matter. Nobody who counts really cares all that much about "war crimes." As long as crimes occur in Sudan, or Afghanistan, Congo, "Non-Integrating Gap" locales that fail to affect the flow of commerce, these misdeeds don't compel attention. Yours do. Civil-rights NGOs are basically hobbyists; they're persistent but they're feeble. Whereas YOU, the mayhem YOU have publicly chained to your own wrists and ankles, the scale of the misdeeds YOU have cheerily brought to pass while lining your pockets at the cost of every power-player, the extent of the public penance that YOU require...
Wow. It boggles the mind! Think that over! It'll have to be some kind of long, ritualized, endless counterpurge, something like the Germans coming clean for 60 long years, with lots of ritual apology and self-abasement... Something like the Czech lustration process and the South African Truth and Reconciliation hearings, only bigger. Bigger, and in the full and horrible light of a smoggy planetary dawn. And with no end. Because the seas keep rising and the storms keep getting darker. For decades. There's no exit strategy for a firm that's the bride of climate change.
Imagine yourselves 'fessing up in the dock. "Fast Andy" Fastow had to do it; you, too, eh? "Yeah, we did dark, and secret, and terrible things to science and politics, and those seemed like a sensible, hardheaded, businesslike things to do at the time... if I'd known that it meant that I had to spend the next 20 years of my life looking into the hollow, drowned, dead eyes of little Jimmy there and his family of nine..."
I mean, there's that prospect, the de-Stalinization process; the "Transition" – I've seen that done. It's doable. People get over it. It's just, you know, the faster you move and the quicker you point the finger at the past's 'regrettable excesses' -- well, the less that hurts, and the more chance you have of oozing back into power later, but with a different lapel button and an utterly transformed infrastructure. You know, the BP way. The Shell way. You didn't do that. Because you were aggressive, cocksure morons. Just like Bush and Enron.
Then there's the Skilling option, which is to deny the existence of the giant black tornado even after it demolishes the employee retirement funds. I know you're aching to do this. It's very Alamo. You'll be going to jail if you choose that option, and given that climate change harms everybody on the planet including lunatics packing suicide bombs and weird KGB-ites with polonium in test tubes, you'll be lucky if you even manage to reach the safety of jail, rather than perishing in some particularly gruesome and exemplary fashion.
I know, this all sounds a little far out. So what's a sensible first step? Something you might do tomorrow. Something that wouldn't cost much.
Well, the first and most sensible step for you would be the public rehabilitation of the many purge victims you've already piled up. Kind of a Krushchev Thaw gambit. If you want to get anything like a fair legal shake from the hurt you've piled up for yourself, you'd better look to the fate of these scientists. See how you pestered the, sidelined them, made them non-persons? That effort cost you maybe 15 million and, also, your good-will, credibility and brand-name.
For a lot less than 15 million dollars, you could probably re-fund them, re-hire them, and put them all back in the schools and labs. And instead of carrying out a guerilla war against the IPCC, you could underwrite big, fancy, Houston penthouse parties for the IPCC. Shell and BP would do that. In a second.
You chose a Lysenkoist campaign, based in your Houston HQ but carried on on a global scale. That was basically a minor act of petrocratic tyranny. Not too entirely divorced from the mainstream of the Texan political tradition. But: the scale's gotten much bigger now, you were utterly and totally wrong in your assessment of what was happening and how that would enrich you, and, frankly, you are much bigger than your victims ever were. So your end will be much messier. Your fate will be theirs, only big-time. The victims of a counterpurge commonly catch just what the original purgees did, only louder and in technicolor.
Instead of a little geek-fight in the science world, you're going to see these sinister tactics adapted worldwide and brought against your own org. Your "politics of personal destruction" don't have all that much traction in the world of science -- geeks lose some funding and prestige, they get fired, they get shut up -- but in the corporate world? The political world? Where there's actual harm done -- real money? Oh my gosh.
So have a look at what you wrote on the wall. Does it take a prophet to interpret what's waiting there for you and yours? No, I didnít think so, either.