The Inconvenient Truth about Robert C. Balling

Thu, 2006-07-20 13:12Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

The Inconvenient Truth about Robert C. Balling

In a recent post in The Citizen.com, Dr. Robert C. Balling, director of the$8 million invested in skeptic movement Office of Climatology at Arizona State University, launches pseudo-scientific attack on Al Gore's move, An Inconvenient Truth.

As with a clutch of other industry-funded academics who quibble over climate change, Dr. Balling is happy to use his Ph.D. and his title to suggest expertise and to imply scientific objectivity. But readers might be better able to judge the quality of his input if they knew that he has been the eager recipient of funding from such philanthropic organizations as ExxonMobil, the British Coal Corporation, Cyprus Minerals and OPEC. Per the link above, Sourcewatch lists his take from these sources at a little over $400,000 in the last 10 years.

Comments

I gather you have no disagreement with what Dr. Balling actually wrote in the Citizen -- just the fact that SourceWatch claims he got $200,000 (that's what SourceWatch actually says Balling himself received, not $400,000 as you wrote) from industry?

Does it bother you at all to note that the SourceWatch information is footnoted exclusively by a nonexistent link?

That the comment "over the last decade" on SourceWatch was written in 2003, so your comment "the last 10 years" would -- if the information is accurate -- actually be more like "last 13 years"?

That the person who wrote the funding information cited only by a non-existent link refused to sign his real name to his (or her) writing?

By the way, how do you know Balling was "eager"? Just make it up?

Busted on the out-of-date SourceWatch info -- the last 13 years would be correct.

But if out-of-date references bug you, how, for example, do you feel about Balling treating a 13-year-old quot from Dr. Roger Revelle as if it is relevant today or reflects Revelle's current position (which it clearly does not)?

Balling also uses two other references to the last (five-year-old) report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, notwithstanding the widely publicized updates on questions such as the link between climate change and the intensity of recent hurricanes.

So, as you may gather, I have considerable disagreement with what Balling wrote, but quibbling through details of his argument only plays into his hands -- "proving" that there is a "debate" about the science of climate change.

As to whether Balling was "eager" and not just willing to accept money from big energy firms and then come up with "scientific" arguments that defend their interests, that was a clean kill; I was leaning on the language and your criticism is well taken.

But the fact remains, if you remove from the public "debate" everyone who is taking or has taken money directly from big energy, well, you'll find your debating partners disappear in droves.

Most of Singer's denial publications are 10 to 15 years old and were published in the Washington Times.

I respect what you wrote here. Most people would not have owned up to errors, esp. "leaning on language," a phrase worth remembering.

As to updates on the link between hurricanes and human activity, I agree there have been some, but would not agree they are conclusive, as you imply. Denials notwithstanding, there actually are many vibrant debates in climate science and related fields, and the degree of influence, if any, of human activity on hurricane frequency and intensity is definitely one of them. If all is known already, why would scientists devote their lives to studying these things?

Finally, your statement about Dr. Roger Revelle has me perplexed. It seems to me Balling was saying Gore cherrypicked among Revelle's views, and you're leveling a similar charge against Balling, implying Balling cherrypicked Revelle's old views against "Revelle's current position." Are there two Dr. Roger Revelles? Because if there are not, Balling couldn't cite "Revelle's current position" - he died in 1991.

Sorry about duplicate post - software said "page not found" the first time, so I tried it again.

Appreciate the intelligence about Revelle - gone but not forgotten.

I'm curious, though, about this notion that scientists are toeing the party line in order to ingratiate themselves with intrusive politicians who are champing at the bit to implement anti-social climate legislation. Last I checked, the Republicans had a death grip on the Executive and Legislative branches of the U.S. government -- and their policy is to challenge climate change science on every front.

It seems to me that if a no-account scientist was really keen to get unearned government support, said scientist would be producing work that took issue with climate change, thereby earning the approbation of the current president. Such a scientist might even bump the fiction-writing Michael Crichton from his position as George W. Bush's expert-of-choice.

I respect what you wrote here. Most people would not have owned up to errors, esp. "leaning on language," a phrase worth remembering.

As to updates on the link between hurricanes and human activity, I agree there have been some, but would not agree they are conclusive, as you imply. Denials notwithstanding, there actually are many vibrant debates in climate science and related fields, and the degree of influence, if any, of human activity on hurricane frequency and intensity is definitely one of them. If all is known already, why would scientists devote their lives to studying these things?

Finally, your statement about Dr. Roger Revelle has me perplexed. It seems to me Balling was saying Gore cherrypicked among Revelle's views, and you're leveling a similar charge against Balling, implying Balling cherrypicked Revelle's old views against "Revelle's current position." Are there two Dr. Roger Revelles? Because if there are not, Balling couldn't cite Revelle's current position" - he died in 1991.

Anyone perplexed by this Balling/Revelle/Gore story might want to examine the sworn testimony of one S. Fred Singer at the following site: http://home.att.net/~espi/Cosmos_myth.html

Balling didn't cherrypick Revelle's old views, because Revelle didn't write that Cosmos article to which Balling refers.  And Balling knows that Revells didn't write it, because Balling himself was a participant in S. Fred Singer's ploy to hoodwink Revelle shortly before Revelle's death.  It was a nasty, disgusting and secret business.  Its purpose was to undermine Gore.  It has been incredibly effective, as Singer, Michaels and Balling have successfully fed this story to a plethora of secondary bloggers who are happy to add their echo to the rant.

Crandall and Singer's chapter in the Hoover volume, published online is a mass of misinformation.  I encourage anyone interested to examine the primary evidence and draw their own conclusions.

coming from the relatively neutral standpoint of a young student (sorry for the corny introduction of myself), I would like to ask you where you attained the knowledge that Balling and Singer plotted against Revelle and Gore by forging an article of Revelle before the time of his death. I am not proposing any competitive implications, I simply enjoy checking sources. Thank you.

Alex, the source is directly from Fred Singer, in his sworn testimony. See: http://home.att.net/~espi/S-F-Singer_Deposition.pdf

This evidence is at the web site "The Cosmos Myth: The Real Truth about the Revelle-Gore Story". See in particular Singer's deposition at page 67 and page 125, where he acknowledges Balling's contribution to the drafting. Singer admits he cannot recall any contributions or feedback from Revelle during any of the drafting, but there were numerous contributions from Balling, Michaels, Lindzen, Ellsaesser and Nordhaus. Previous to this group act, it is documented that Singer, Balling and Michaels had meetings hosted by factions of the energy industry focused on "public relations", which was the cover for an intentional misinformation campaign to sway the views of the public, journalists and the U.S. Government. "Plotted" is your word, Alex. My impression is that the evidence may support such a characterization. JL

We'll stick with the consensus view on climate change that has the backing of every Science Academy of the G8 countries (and most every other developed nation) rather than the outlier conclusions of skeptics like Balling.

As far as the Sourcewatch link, we just like linking to them and raising awarness of the great work they are doing (FYI desmog readers, we will shortly be posting a great interview with John Stauber on the subject of PR and climate change).

The work and the words on our site are based on the in-house expertise of Ross Gelbspan, renowned author and journalist. Ross has spent more than a decade studying and writing on this movement that works to confuse the public on climate change. Check out his site: www.heatisonline.com for more on Balling and the other scientists that have received money from oil and coal interests.

What is pseudo-scientific about Robert C. Balling's issues with clearly deficient computer models?  Or his and others contention that much of global warming has occurred on a schedule inconsistent with the rise of human-generated greenhouse gases?   

Perhaps the real Inconvenient Truth is that there are many scientists like Robert Balling who have problems with the global warming scenario, and some of them have not received money from energy companies.  

In any case, money received for research from interested parties does not automatically justify condemning or ignoring their work.  They may have had few options for necessary research funds, or, more likely in Balling's case since he was a global warming critic years before the funding in question, money was offered for further research after he had already become associated with conclusions which coincided with an interest of a funding source. 

Put another way, do you think any pro-global warming scientists might have received money from environmental extremists?  If they did, would their conclusions be automatically so suspect they could be dismissed without even reading them?  So read what Balling has written and then decide!

In fact I believe it is absolutely vital that anyone who is moved to consider support for any local, state, national and/or global political action requiring people to significantly sacrifice as a preventative or corrective measure must in good conscience thoroughly explore both sides of the issue, and thoughtfully consider whether the evidence truly justifies the sacrifices.  Here's one place global warming believers can start: TCS Daily : Technology - Commerce - Society

Another Inconvenient Truth is that seeing a movie and reading a few articles on one side of the issue is not enough. 

 

I meant to use this link to the Science Roundtable for global warming enthusiasts who might like to read something on the other side of the issue. TCS Daily : Science Roundtable

And BTW, might it be possible that government scientists are interested parties insofar as they get paid by governments, some if not all of whom (the politicians, not the scientists) might be interested in the increases in government power which might result from panicky citizens accepting their authority to take more of their money and/or freedom to face that Great Global Warming Threat?

You might find this interesting.  It seems the global warming "deniers" (that was a real word in the Middle ages, but then it referred to French coins!) are not the only ones blowing public relations smoke!  Poor Justin Lancaster - another Gore casualty! The Revelle-Gore Story

Revelle has been dead for fifteen years, so he has no more recent opinion!  The thesis of his last work, which Gore tried to besmirch, that global warming was not likely to cause such severe consequences that it required immediate and drastic government actions, is still current among many climatologists. Therefore it is not outdated. 

 

You might find this interesting, actually, if you are curious to Balling's shenanigans behind the scenes.  http://home.att.net/~espi/Cosmos_myth.html

Balling once boasted to me in a hearing that his fancy suit was paid for by the energy industry.