Lobbying: from Fiji Fools to Fossil Fuels

When the latest lobbying scandal broke in the UK last week, I must admit that I was somewhat surprised by the decision of Patrick Mercer MP to resign from the Conservative Party and announce he will leave Parliament in 2015. However, having now watched the BBC Panorama programme about this last night, I understand completely. Last week, I did not appreciate that Fiji had been expelled from the Commonwealth because it is currently being run by a cabal of Fijian Army officer who ousted a democratically elected government in 2006. Sadly, this is not the first time this has happened in Fiji. This is also not the first time that British MPs (and/or Members of the House of Lords) have been caught in Sting operations taking money from undercover journalists posing as Lobbyists. However, this is not the only reason why Patrick Mercer comes out of all this looking so greedy and foolish. Although Mercer admits (to the undercover journalist, Daniel Foggo) that he has never been to Fiji, he does not appear to be that bothered when Foggo explains (or reminds him of?) the recent history and circumstances of Fiji. Mercer also executes some wonderful intellectual acrobatics in order to dismiss a potential conflict of interest between sugar cane production in Fiji (currently suffering due to exclusion from Commonwealth markets) and sugar beet production in his Newark constituency (on which 900 local jobs rely). In the BBC Panorama programme, Foggo also manages to entice Lord Laird of Artigarvan (an experienced former professional lobbyist himself) into adding Fiji to what is probably a lengthy list of dubious causes he already promotes (such as the oil-rich nation of Azerbaijan). However, what has this to do with fossil fuels? Well, I was prompted to write this blog post by the contribution to the programme of Douglas Carswell MP, who is a prominent climate change ‘sceptic’ within the Conservative Party. Carswell’s contribution included some very self-righteous pronouncements implying that lobbying was a corruption of the democratic process. As an aside, this point was also made by someone in the audience of BBC’s Question Time programme last night; except that this astute member of the public chose to specify ‘professional’ lobbyists – those who make money out of getting politicians to do things for them. As numerous people have pointed out, the thing that corrupts the democratic process is not lobbying – it is money. There is no better example of money being used to influence the political process – and thus no greater corruption of democracy itself – than the work of the Fossil Fuel Lobby (e.g. here). Therefore, Carswell’s contribution to this programme was, at best, completely ironic, or, at worst, utterly hypocritical. There are two options here because it is not clear (to me at least) whether Carswell is deliberately misinforming others or simply misinformed himself. I will give you some examples of statements Carswell, a graduate in History, has made about climate science, and let you be the judge: Douglas Carswell is an outspoken backbench MP who was clearly so impressed by reading Ian Plimer’s book Heaven and Earth that he decided to blog about it (criticising Prof John Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for labelling Americans as being ‘ignorant about climate change’), as follows:

Perhaps we should send the Americans copies of Prof Ian Plimer’s book on the subject… to enlighten them? …If we did, those ‘climate illiterate’ Americans would learn how some scientists are of the view that: FACT 1: Global temperatures are not determined by the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. FACT 2: The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is largely determined by geology – and human activity has only a very marginal effect… But surely, good science is not about the weight of opinion, but about the weight of fact and evidence? …In the free market of ideas, expect a correction soon (Douglas Carswell’s Blog 29/09/2009).

A few days later, he began another post on his blog by saying, “The lunatic ‘consensus’ on man-made climate change is starting to break down” (ibid – 12/10/2009). Intriguingly, neither of these items appear to be viewable on his TalkCarswell blog today. However, he definitely said them because he has been quoted and criticised in numerous newspapers. Indeed, as a result of this latter comment, Carswell was criticised by many and got himself into his local newspaper, the Clacton Gazette, which quoted him as having said:

I have thought long and hard about it and in my view the climate is not changing because of human activity… We know that it was a lot warmer in the middle ages. In Essex, we know a variety of grapes were grown, it was that much warmer… I read a book this summer which details less than half of one percent of all CO2 in the atmosphere and surface of the earth is caused by man (as quoted in the Clacton Gazette newspaper on 23/10/2009).

The UK’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Edward Davey, has recently said this:

Of course there will always be uncertainties within climate science and the need for research to continue… We make progress by building on what we know, and questioning what we don’t. But some sections of the press are giving an uncritical campaigning platform to individuals and lobby groups who reject outright the fact that climate change is a result of human activity. Some who even deny the reality of climate change itself… By selectively misreading the evidence, they seek to suggest that climate change has stopped so we can all relax and burn all the dirty fuel we want without a care…

For an economist, Davey’s words are refreshingly blunt and consistent with history, science and reality. For more on this speech, see this post on the Think Progress website about it. Therefore, the question remains, which camp are people like Carswell in: Do they know what they are saying about climate science is rubbish or do they actually believe their own propaganda?

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About Rick Altman

Possibly just another 'Climate Cassandra' crying 'Wolf' in cyberspace. However, the moral of the old children's story is that the Wolf eventually turned up!
This entry was posted in Climate Science, Environment, Fossil Fuels, Politics, Scepticism and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Lobbying: from Fiji Fools to Fossil Fuels

  1. anotheralionel says:

    Ian Plimer, he of the GWPF and that flawed, and that is putting it kindly book ‘Heaven and Earth which has been described thus; The science is missing from Ian Plimer’s “Heaven and Earth”.. In a follow up debate this happened Plimer exposed as a fraud. Trying a simple search in the Deltoid search box using ‘Plimer’ returns other interesting results as dose a search on key phrases with, arguably, the world’s most used search engine. Perhaps Douglas Carswell should be acquainted with these methods and their findings. Perhaps Douglas Carswell is another who should be made to study climate and climate change until he grasps the truth. After all train drivers have to learn their trade before taking charge of passenger expresses where mistakes can cause fatalities and make no mistake Carswell’s mistakes are going to have an impact on climate casualty numbers in the years to come. Ignorance is no longer an excuse. Do we really want ‘fake pilots’ in control of government policy WRT energy and climate?

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    • Rick Altman says:

      Thanks Lionel. Sorry for delay in releasing this from moderation (went out for walk and never turned laptop back on afterwards). If you fo follow my link to Amazon you will find lots of people who have criticised Plimer’s book (including me). However, my favourite deconstruction of his book is that by Prof. Michael Ashley in The Australian newspaper of 9 May 2009.

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      • Lionel A says:

        Well yes, I have already been there and made comments myself in response to some of those who think Plimer is twenty-four carat gold. I mention the Deltoid posts not only to ensure you have seen them [1] but to inform the lurkers here. [1] I often raise these Deltoid posts, and others, and cannot always recall who has seen what. But no worries on the hiatus in my post’s appearance, I thought maybe my change of handle had confused your system.

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      • Rick Altman says:

        Yes, indeed, WordPress treated you as if you had never commented here before.

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  2. catweazle666 says:

    Rick, you might be interested in contrasting the words of Michael Fallon, Conservative Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change plus Minister of State for Business and Enterprise, with those of Ed Davey, Lib Dem Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change: Asked by Paul Waugh about his personal views on climate change, Michael Fallon was unusually coy. “You are getting me into theology now, I don’t deal with that,” he said in the House magazine interview.

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    • Rick Altman says:

      Michael Fallon’s “scepticism” is well known and, indeed, it was self-evident in his attempts to discredit Tim Yeo in the Parliamentary debate on Tuesday. However, in attempting to equate the scientific consensus regarding ACD with religious beliefs, Michael Fallon is, in effect, asserting the tired old fallacy that “sceptics” are like Galileo. However, given that Galileo based his views on evidence and was opposed by an ideological Establishment that did not want to look at the evidence, this is a complete inversion of reality: Science is still being opposed by an ideological establishment but, today, it is not the Catholic Church. http://scholarsandrogues.com/2013/06/03/introducing-climate-illogic-galileo-weak-analogy/

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      • catweazle666 says:

        “However, in attempting to equate the scientific consensus regarding ACD with religious beliefs…” Rick, are you aware that belief in Nicholson v Grainger plc Mr Justice Michael Burton said that “a belief in man-made climate change … is capable, if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Religion and Belief Regulations”? http://www.addleshawgoddard.com/view.asp?content_id=4564&parent_id=4561 So there is in fact legal precedent for Mr. Fallon’s assertion that “You are getting me into theology now”. [Repetition of previosuly debunked “global warming has stopped” meme has been deleted – ML] My own objection with the obsession with CO2 is that is is a serious distraction from measures that can be taken which really and uncontroversially improve the environment – the supply of clean drinking water to a substantial proportion of the World’s population comes to mind.

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      • Rick Altman says:

        Since you chose to repeat it, I trust you will not be too upset by my deletion of your willful misrepresentation of fact. Your personal beliefs, as stated in your final paragraph, can only be sustained by assuming that the climate science is a conspiracy. One that is now supported by the OECD, IMF, Pentagon and International Energy Agency – all of which have conceded that the longer we take to decarbonise our power generation systems the greater will be the ultimate cost (in both economic terms and human lives lost). In other words, if we ignore climate change, it will make all our other environmental problems harder to solve. Sticking you head in the sand and saying I can’t believe it, will not alter the extremely high probability that it is true.

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      • catweazle666 says:

        You can delete it to your heart’s content, Rick. But time will tell…

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      • Rick Altman says:

        It already has – you have just chosen not to listen. http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/hansen_17/

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      • Lionel A says:

        Well it looks like they (the Delayer-denier brigade and their press organs) are ignoring Ed Davey for now and have Tim Yeo in their sights. I think it worth quoting:

        “The Sunday Times has chosen to quote very selectively from a recording obtained clandestinely during a conversation of nearly an hour-and-a-half in a restaurant with two undercover reporters, who purported to be representing a client from South Korea,” he said. “The whole recording would show the context of the conversation and demonstrate clearly that at no stage did I agree or offer to work for the fictitious company these undercover reporters claimed to be representing, still less did I commit to doing so for a day a month as the article claims.”

        which is evidence for Murdoch pushing buttons over here in the UK for which his Faux News talking heads are engaged in the US and his lap dog Andrew Bolt in Australia. And catweazle666 Michael Fallon can equate the findings of climate related sciences to theology all he wants, but it will remain a false equivalence no matter how many times stated lawyerly judgement or no lawyerly judgement for most lawyers are not equipped with the knowledge for fair adjudication.

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      • Rick Altman says:

        Thanks Lionel. I saw this stuff about Tim Yeo on the News yesterday. I agree with you that this does look like a conspiratorial attempt to damage the reputation of someone who is trying to break the hypnotic power of the fossil fuel lobby. With regard to Catweazle, if you really want his attention, I think you may have to reply to him directly.

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    • That same Michael Fallon who supports homeopathy and blasphemy? Of course he’ll deny the science. Easy pickings. Another man who puts the idiot in ideology. http://skeptical-voter.org/wiki/index.php?title=Michael_Fallon

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      • Rick Altman says:

        Thanks John. I thought it was our health Minister, Jemermy Hunt, who believes in Homeopathy… Maybe an FOI request is needed to find out how many government ministers believe in Homeopathy, Astrology, etc.. and how many of them need to read Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science.

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      • Lionel A says:

        Simon Singh’s book ‘Trick or Treatment?: Alternative Medicine on Trial’ is also worth a look. I didn’t link to Wiki because the cover there is not representative of the current UK edition. Ben Godacre’s ‘Bad Pharma’ is also worth a look for the other side of the medicinal pill. But alternative medicine is still quackery. I had a heated discussion recently with family members who rounded on me for pointing out that acupuncture is no better than placebo including from one to who I had loaned both Goldacre and Singh. When I mentioned blind testing I was scoffed at with, ‘How can you blind test acupuncture?’ Which demonstrated that they had not read either book else they would have known of two possible methods.

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      • Rick Altman says:

        The placabo effect is indeed amazing. I seem to recall hearing about people undergoing major surgery without anaesthetic (because they thought they had been anaesthetised)…

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  3. Lionel A says:

    The placebo in place of anaesthetics whilst undergoing surgery issue was raised by Singh in his book. It turns out that it was concerning some claims by teams in China where later investigation showed that the patients had been given anaesthetics and pain killers before hand.

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