You might have heard that quote from outspoken American author Upton Sinclair, who once wrote: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
The quote is often used to illustrate how people’s allegiances can sometimes gum up their cognitive ability or just cause them to ignore truths inconvenient to their cause, or their customer’s cause.
TV presenter and science advocate Bill Nye “the Science Guy” dusted off Sinclair’s 1935 quote in a new video, in which he challenged climate science denialist and weatherman Joe Bastardi to two $10,000 bets. Nye bet Bastardi, a regular guest on conservative media, that 2016 would be one of the top ten hottest years on record.
He also bet Bastardi that the current decade would the hottest on record (Nye was responding to this November 2015 from Bastardi, published in the Patriot Post).
In a string of responses on Twitter, reported on EcoWatch, Bastardi dismissed Nye’s bets, saying that in any case “I don't have 20k”.
The bets are the same as those Nye offered to another climate science denier, Marc Morano, as revealed on DeSmog last week.
As I wrote on The Guardian, one study published in a Royal Society journal last year shows that Nye would be almost certain to win. Any bets placed in any year after about 1970 against that current decade being warmer than the previous one would have lost.
But what about the Upton Sinclair quote? Nye was pointing out that Bastardi was a regular guest speaker at fossil fuel industry events.
Directing a statement at Bastardi, Nye said: “Where you speak is your business, but it also seems to be your business, telling your audiences what they want to hear.”
Bastardi is chief forecaster at WeatherBELL Analytics, a commercial company that, among other things, offers for a fee customized weather services for the energy industry. Bastardi is a bit of a favorite as a speaker among some fossil fuel industry groups.
So what does Bastardi do at these events? It also turns out he does not restrict himself to talking about the weather, but also gets to tell the gatherings of fossil fuel industry people that burning fossil fuels is not causing dangerous climate change.
You have to wonder if Bastardi would be welcomed back so readily if he had told them that their products are causing dangerous climate change. I dunno.
In September 2013, the National Coal Transportation Association (NCTA) paid Bastardi to appear at its Fall Meeting in Denver, Colorado. According to notes from an NCTA directors meeting, obtained from a Google search, Bastardi would “discuss why hurricane season is not a result of CO2 emissions”.
At the actual meeting, according to a Google cache of his speech, Bastardi discussed a few other things too. He told the audience that human-caused climate change was a “scam”.
He described climate change as a “morphed political movement” full of, in Bastardi’s words, “Goebelinskyites”. These “Goebelinskyites”, Bastardi’s notes explain, were a group crossed between Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels and community organiser Saul Alinsky.
Bastardi has done several gigs at fossil fuel industry events. A few months before comparing climate change to a Nazi propagandist, he was speaking at the spring conference of the Nebraska Propane Gas Association.
In December 2014 in New York, Bastardi was a speaker at the 13th annual coal trading conference's luncheon event, which attracted a $2k sponsorship offer from the organizers.
In November 2015, Bastardi spoke at an LDC Gas Forum in Toronto, Canada, where the agenda says he would be “looking ahead to coming years and decades… based on overall climate cycles.”
According to photos on the official Flickr page, that event’s sponsors included the likes of Barclays, BP, Enbridge, Shell, Statoil and J.P.Morgan. Earlier this month, Bastardi was again a guest at an LDC Gas Forum, this time in Atlanta.
But let’s go back to Bastardi’s “Goebels” presentation to the National Coal Transportation Association.
According to his presentation notes, Bastardi told the audience: “Besides, let’s simply watch temperatures… lines are drawn in sand pretty clearly.”
Let’s do that.
According to the latest global temperature figures from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, February 2016 was the 10th consecutive time that a monthly global high temperature record had been broken, on a record going back 137 years.
That seems like a pretty clear line in the sand.