Is BP's Attempted Climategate Strategy To Attack Scientists Ethical?

In late 2009, climate change deniers thought they had found the Holy Grail in terms of climate denial – a collection of more than 3,000 hacked emails that they took out of context to “prove” that scientists were lying about human-driven climate change. This so-called scandal became known as “Climategate.” And even though the full context of the emails revealed that the scientists involved undoubtedly agreed that climate change was real and that the science proved so, climate deniers today still use those false, cherry-picked emails to sell their conspiracy theory to the American public. Reputations were destroyed, the truth was kept hidden, and the public was left confused and annoyed as a result of the entire fiasco.

With Climategate still weighing heavily on the minds of climate scientists and the entire scientific community, it's no surprise that these professionals would want their private communications to remain exactly that, for fear that anything they’ve said could be taken grossly out of context, or completely re-worded to fit a biased agenda. If information is pertinent and relevant to public discourse, they have been more than happy to oblige requests, but anything beyond that is clearly a violation of their privacy.

So why then is BP trying to obtain every piece of email correspondence from scientists who researched the Gulf of Mexico oil geyser?

That’s a question that numerous scientists have tried to figure out in recent weeks. The oil giant has subpoenaed emails from scientists who studied the oil and its impact on coastal and marine environments to use in the numerous civil and federal lawsuits against the company.

What makes this a problem is that scientists have already turned over the relevant data to the company and the federal government, but BP wants access to the private correspondence between the scientists as well, hoping for another “Climategate”-type email chain that can be used to discredit the scientists.

The State Of The Gulf Two Years After Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Today marks the two-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 rig workers and subsequently caused an oil geyser in the Gulf of Mexico that leaked hundreds of millions of gallons of crude oil into the water. The mainstream press will provide coverage over the next few days, reminding the world that the Gulf Coast is still reeling from the effects of the disaster. But for those of us that call the coast home, we’re reminded of what’s happened everyday.

A lot has happened in the two years since the rig explosion – federal inquiries, scientific testing, corporate investigations. These actions have told us two very important things: The first being that the explosion and oil leak could have easily been prevented had the companies involved not cut corners. The second is that the oil is proving to be much more harmful to the ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico than most people realize.

The most recent developments in the ongoing saga include rig owner Transocean once again attempted to thwart a thorough investigation into their role in the disaster.

Who’s Afraid of Kerry Emanuel? Why Republicans Are Attacking a Republican Climate Scientist

Last week, MIT climate scientist and hurricane specialist Kerry Emanuel received email threats for his view on climate change. These were quickly and appropriately condemned by the progressive and environmental blogosphere—as they are condemned by me–but I want to go a bit further and contemplate why Emanuel’s views in particular appear so menacing to some elements of the conservative base today.

The answer may seem deceptively simple on the surface: Unlike most climate researchers, Kerry Emanuel describes himself as a long time Republican. And he’s been speaking out lately. The precise catalyst leading to the emails was a video posted by Climate Desk, capturing Emanuel at an event in New Hampshire organized by maverick Republicans who actually accept global warming and don’t like the way their party is headed. They want to turn it around (hey, good luck with that).

So Emanuel is presumably seen as a turncoat by some Republicans and conservatives—and you might just leave it at that. But I think it is deeper. It is the kind of Republicanism that Emanuel represents—merged with his identity as a scientist, and a premiere one at that—that really presents the biggest challenge.

You see, Emanuel is what you might call an “Enlightenment Republican.”

"Doubt" Video On Fossil Fuel Industry's Tobacco PR Tactics To Undermine Science

Doubt is our product

In case you didn't manage to catch all 24 hours of the Climate Reality Project (I mean, what the heck else were you doing?), I wanted to flag this one video for you, as it's particularly germane to the ongoing coverage here at DeSmogBlog.

It's called “Doubt,” and it's about how the fossil fuel industry took the tobacco industry's playbook (didn't just borrow a play, but really the whole playbook) to confuse the public on the science of climate change. Not by disproving the facts – because that's impossible – but just by creating enough doubt to make a busy public dismiss it.

DOUBT from The Climate Reality Project on Vimeo.

John Stossel Tells EPA To Pack Up Shop

Fox News host John Stossel says that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has passed its prime, and is no longer useful. After the Obama Administration last week overruled the EPA’s smog regulations, Stossel took to the airwaves on the Fox Business Channel to tell us that the EPA is no longer a worthwhile organization. Stossel told us: “Thank goodness for the EPA…The air and water are cleaner than they use to be. But they passed those rules. It’s diminishing returns. They have done a wonderful job, stop already. Stick a fork in it, it’s done.”

Raw Story has video of Stossel’s segment:

Climate Sceptic Group Reveals Strategy Document to Win Hearts and Minds

International Climate Science Coalition

In December 2009 at a gathering of climate change deniers in Copenhagen, Dr Tom Harris** was shimmering with enthusiasm for his latest project.

Dr Mr. Harris, executive director of the Ottawa-based sceptic group the International Climate Science Coalition, explained how he had managed to gather “hundreds” of signatures from “climate experts” who wanted to challenge “supporters of the hypothesis of dangerous human-caused climate change” to provide evidence.

Not only that, but it had taken him just “two weeks” to gather the signatures, which he then explained numbered 150 (so much for hundreds).

“This list is growing quickly,” he said, “and we are going to maintain it as something called the register. We expect it eventually to be thousands.”

With such a surge in supporters, how is the global register going a full 18 months on?

Heritage Foundation Wastes No Time Spinning Court Ruling On Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against plaintiffs yesterday in a lawsuit (American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut) brought by six states against several utility companies and the government-owned Tennessee Valley Authority. The states (California, Connecticut, Iowa, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) were attempting to force the utility companies to cut their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the grounds that the emissions were a “public nuisance.” The Court unanimously declared that the judiciary should stay out of the matter because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) already has the authority to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act.

President Obama previously stated that he stood with the utility companies in this suit, as well as in a similar suit being decided in a lower court. The utility companies in the suit included Duke Energy, American Electric Power, Southern Co, Excel Energy, and the aforementioned Tennessee Valley Authority.

The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation wasted no time yesterday in claiming that the Court’s ruling was a major blow to environmentalists, and managed to take a cheap shot at some of the liberal members of the court:

Science article recognizes John Mashey

Updated: With complete list of Mashey Papers

Computer scientist, entrepreneur, periodic DeSmogBlog contributor and “one of the good guys” John Mashey is the subject of an extremely favorable profile this week in Science

Science writer Eli Kintisch looks back over the last couple of years at the research and reports that Mashey has produced. Calling Mashey “an amateur” (which, on the question of climate science, he freely admits to being), Kintisch then looks for some journalistic “balance,” interviewing one person who is defensive and critical in the face of Mashey’s work (the confused and compromised physicist Will Happer) and one who is reassured and delighted (“hockey stick” co-author and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State, Michael Mann).

“Both sides can agree on one thing, however: Mashey has become one of the most visible of a new generation of climate warriors.”

Emails Reveal BP Attempted To Manipulate Oil Spill Studies

Emails obtained by Greenpeace last Friday have revealed that BP was actively trying to manipulate studies designed to assess the damage from last year’s oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. In the wake of the disaster, BP created a $500 million fund to study the effects of the oil on the environment, and the emails obtained by Greenpeace show that the company was trying to control which scientists worked on the project, attempting to cherry-pick those who would downplay the effects of the oil.

The Guardian reports:

Russell Putt, a BP environmental expert, wrote in an email to colleagues on 24 June 2010: “Can we ‘direct’ GRI [Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative] funding to a specific study (as we now see the governor’s offices trying to do)? What influence do we have over the vessels/equipment driving the studies vs the questions?”.

The Guardian has the full emails available here.  But the new emails are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to BP’s efforts to manipulate science. Last summer, a report by the Mobile Press-Register revealed that BP was offering large sums of cash to any scientist willing to join their camp. The oil giant had been meeting with scientists from universities in the South since the early days of the oil leak, offering to pay $250 an hour to scientists in exchange for their silence on the oil disaster.

Memo to Fox News: Science and Politics Don’t Mix

This piece was co-written by Ryan Koronowski, Alliance for Climate Protection Research Director and Josh Nelson, Alliance for Climate Protection Director of Online Communications and New Media.

Former oil and energy trader Eric Bolling, a financial news personality on Fox News, often gets on television to talk about climate change. On Tuesday, Media Matters published research on Bolling’s program and uncovered a history of claims that are demonstrably false:

Bolling Hosted Skeptic To Claim “There Is No Global Warming.” Bolling hosted Brian Sussman, radio host and author of Climategate: A Veteran Meteorologist Exposes The Global Warming Scam, who asserted that “there is no global warming.” Sussman claimed that the “hottest decade in history was the 1930s.”

Bolling: “I think We Warm And We Cool. It’s The Globe.” Discussing a Rasmussen poll asking respondents “how likely is it that some scientists have falsified research data,” Bolling stated: “Listen, you know where I stand on this. I’m not – I think we warm and we cool. It’s the globe.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 12/4/09]

Bolling Falsely Suggested Snow Disproves Global Warming. On Fox & Friends, referring to the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Bolling stated: “I think, a couple of years ago, they were in Washington. It was snowed out. The global warming issue wasn’t, I guess, a factor there. But they solved that problem going to Cancun.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 12/9/09]


Subscribe to Science