Got no actual data-trail on “big-oil” dollars? That’s no reason not to run another name-calling smear article. A Yale group has spent countless months reading through the tea-leaves of old worn out climate themes and think they’ve discovered that the Kochs and Exxon carried the most influence.
What’s really remarkable is that the Yale group had so much funding they could trawl through 40,000 documents, track 4556 people and 164 “contrarian” organisations across 20 years and through 39 million words. Yet despite this, they found nothing. There’s no smoking gun, no proof that anyone was being dishonest, that the messages were wrong.
What the Yale team found was that “documents produced by lobbyists backed by two key corporate benefactors (Koch and Exxon) — proved to have been reproduced more often and with more “semantic similarity”. Justin Farrell (of Yale) thinks that means the Koch’s and Exxon are artificially skewing public opinion. Here’s another hypothesis — Exxon and the Kochs are smart businessmen. They spotted the leading skeptics in the 1990’s and gave them some help. The messages stuck with the public because they were good ones, not because they were “oil funded”. Farrell gets cause and effect confused.
Despite running down 40,000 rabbit holes, Farrell misses the numbers that matter when it comes to money and influence. If the Koch money has influence, the trainload of government money ought be 5000 times more influential. If, as Farrell says, only 14% of Americans think man-made climate change matters, either Koch and Exxon money is wildly effective, or just possibly, the government funded argument is a loser and 86% of Americans have figured that out.
Corporate dollars are skewing climate science in a taste of things to come as researchers become increasingly reliant on private funding.
Which private funds? The climate debate is the gold-plated government funded gravy train of scientific research. In 2014 Obama gave more than $2.6 billion to research climate science. That’s got to fund a few climate scientists. Now ask yourself how many private companies are building climate models to predict the climate in 2100. Zero? Could be.
An analysis by Yale University sociologist Justin Farrell has found the most influential climate deniers are those backed by key corporate donors. Their views are rehashed — sometimes word-perfect — by media and politicians. The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, helps explain why 44 per cent of Americans believe humans are warming the planet — and only 14 per cent believe it really matters.
So the Yale guys tracked those funds… er, not quite:
“Loosening restrictions on financing has made it difficult to track flows of money, creating a lack of transparency,” he said.
Instead they read tea-leaves called “computational text analysis”:
The analysis, one of a plethora of publications coinciding with the Paris climate change conference, used network science and computational text analysis to uncover the institutional structure of the “US climate change countermovement” and its influence on media and politicians.
Dr Farrell identified an institutional and social network of 4556 people and 164 organisations involved in promoting contrarian viewpoints and used tax data to examine their corporate funding.
If only John Ross, Higher Education reporter, at The Australian had had a real higher education himself, he might have been able to spot the poor research, confirmation bias, and philosophical vacuum in his story. Instead, he probably went to an Australian university. Poor him. Poor us.
h/t Peter for compiling the list of contrarian organisations.