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On Twisting Words and Dodging Responsibility

Two items have come up in the DeSmogBlog recently that deserve further analysis. The first is the conversion of Republican pollster and strategist Frank Luntz who, until very recently, has been directing governments in the U.S. and Canada on how to communicate about climate change. For example, in a 2002 strategy memo to the Republican Party, Luntz wrote:

The Scientific Debate Remains Open. Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to scientists and other experts in the field.

To give Luntz the benefit of the doubt, maybe he really believed in 2002 that the debate over climate change science was legitimate and not the result of a concerted energy-industry campaign to confuse the public. He says now that he believes the advice was fair when he gave it and we would like to take him at his word.

That being the case, however, you would have expected that his recent conversion from “climate change skepticism” would have come with an apology, or perhaps a messaging update. Instead, when asked about the continuing Republican denial of the science, Luntz said:

That's up to the [them]. I'm not the administration. What they want to do is their business. And it's nothing to do with what I write. And it's nothing to do with what I believe.

The language is a powerful tool and Frank Luntz has a real gift in wielding that tool. With such a gift should come some sense of responsibility. Instead, Luntz offers a total abdication: “What they want to do is their business.”

Given the degree to which Luntz's advice has defined the Bush administration's position on climate change science, that response is analagous to saying, 'I just sold them the guns, officer. I had no idea what they planned to do with them.' Not good enough.

Oil Companies Funding Friends of Science, Tim Ball takes the brunt

A Globe and Mail feature article by Charles Montgomery today  has delivered what should be a death blow for the climate change denial and anti-Kyoto attack group, the Friends of Science.

The G&M says that FOS has taken undisclosed sums from Alberta oil and gas interests. The money was funneled through the Calgary Foundation, to the University of Calgary and on to the FOS though something called the “Science Education Fund.”

All this appears to be orchestrated by Stephen Harper’s long-time political confidante and fishing buddy, U. Calgary Prof Dr. Barry Cooper. It seems the FOS has taken a page right out of the US climate change attack group’s playbook: funnel money through foundations and third party groups to “wipe the oil” off the dollars they receive.

This comes as no surprise considering the FOS has been linked to some of the most notorious oil money-backed scientists in the US, including Drs. S. Fred Singer, Sallie Baliunas, Sherwood Idso, Willie Soon, Robert C. Balling and Pat Michaels.

Philidelphia Inquirer: get on with it America!

Yesterday's editorial in the Philidelphia Inquirer couldn't have made the point any clearer:

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The world cannot tackle global warming without the United States' proactive involvement. Sulking on the sidelines of this effort makes no sense.

Milloy's National Post Spin is Textbook PR Manipulation

Pure junkThe column that Junk Scientist Steven J. Milloy wrote in the National Post Aug. 2, 2006 is a textbook example - a really reprehensible example - of the kind of PR spin that is perverting the global climate change conversation.

Milloy is rising in defence of General Motors, DaimlerChrysler Corp. and the Association of Automobile Manufacturers, all of whom are suing the State if California for trying to strengthen its emissions legislation. In its own defence, in a pretrial discovery motion, California had asked for information on how much these companies were paying a group of “scientists” who are the most outspoken climate change skeptics in the United States.

ExxonSecrets and the Slick 60 Climate Change Denial Gang

DeSmogBlog reader Patrick Arnell very kindly spent a great deal of time connecting 20 of the more infamous signatories to Canadian climate change denial petition to the institutes and funding agencies that pay for their opinions. The resulting map is available here. Just “skip intro” and you'll be taken to the map, which shows pretty clearly what a complex web we're dealing with!

Thanks to Patrick and, as always, to Exxonsecrets.org for this excellent resource.

When "Balanced" Journalism is Anything But Balanced

Here's a marvellous attack on climate change science, scientists and media types who might take those scientists seriously. It's also a perfect example of a PR tactic that is being used to pervert the climate change conversation.

The writer, one Dick Little, complains that in a recent Discovery Channel feature on climate change, host Tom Brokaw failed to present the contrarian case. Little says, “… the fact is the program did not show anyone with proper scientific credentials to express an opposing viewpoint. That's not balance. That's propaganda.”

The Art and Motivation of Editorializing Science

Let's see if the the Washington Times will actually print this:

Dear Editor,

In a recent Washington Times opinion piece, Dr. Pat Michaels again triDr. Pat Michaelses to confuse the science of climate change and create the perception that there are a significant number of climate change scientists who disagree that global warming is happening and is caused by humans. I am not a scientist, but I do know that in science, much like any other profession, it helps to know the background of the information source.

No apology is owed Dr. S. Fred Singer, and none will be forthcoming

On Sunday, June 18, the DeSmogBlog received an email from Dr. S. Fred Singer, in which he says, “Yr (sic) June 16 blog contains the false statement that I sold my services to tobacco lobbyists.”

Dr. Singer goes on to “demand a full retraction and apology from the blog,” and he asks that we publish the following statement: “Dr. Singer and SEPP (Science & Environmental Policy Project) have no connection whatsoever with the tobacco industry, now or in the past. As a matter of policy, SEPP does not solicit funds or other kinds of support from any industry or from government, but relies on tax-deductible donations from foundations and individuals in many countries. Further, Dr. Singer serves on the Advisory Board of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), an organization that has a strong anti-smoking position.”

We have no comment on the ACSH, but Dr. Singer’s main point – that he has “no connection whatsoever with the tobacco industry, now or in the past” – strains credulity.

Hawking's Hyperbole Not Helpful

As much as we despise the deceptive comments and PR trickery of the industry-funded automatons bent on denying climate change, we are equally offended by muddle-headed environmentalists who skew the conversation through intentional or emotional overstatment.

Huge GHG Reductions Possible Without Hardship

Greenhouse gas reductions of up to 60 per cent by 2050 are possible - and advisable - in Canada using existing technology, says the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy (NTREE).

In a report that puts to rest scare stories about the Kyoto accord ruining the Canadian economy, the NTREE, an independent federal agency comprising industry representatives and and non-profit organizations, says that responding decisively “will promote (Canada's) national interest, increasing productivity and competitiveness, improving air quality and meeting the energy needs of our growing economy.”

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