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Discussion > A question of PR

Picking up on Rhoda's thread "Is this what winning is like?" which attracted a lot of discussion in Feb and March, it strikes me that the key to "winning the battle" (for want of a better phrase – and I'm not even sure what "winning" constitutes... different things to different people) is not about the science or even about policy (initially) but about PR.

As far as I can tell the whole history of the climate change phenomenon has been about PR and nothing else. The subject of dodgy science is probably one of the most regularly discussed on Bishop Hill and other such blogs. The Marcott et al paper—which created the disired media the splash before being questioned—is only the latest chapter. And the point is that the first splash is always going to be biggest and any subsequent questioning will never attract the same degree of attention.

This is what the key figures appear to have done brilliantly again and again. To the point that the science doesn't really matter. It's far too complicated and convoluted for the layman to understand and the warmists have done a brilliant job at getting the public's and politicians' attention with simplistic headlines. (Perhaps they're helped by our insatiable appetite for apocalyptic news.)

Without an enormously conclusive and clearcut scientific breakthrough, it's going to come down to the weight of public opinion, which itself is dictated by the media—although energy prices may play a party too. As we know the MSM is so saturated with the AGW philosophy that it is now a given and it pops up everywhere, even when climate change isn't the focus: radio programmes of general sciencific topics, newspaper leaders on education, features on international development, agriculture etc etc. It's a throwaway addition to standfirsts in magazine articles on flooding that need filling out. You know the kind of thing: "Thanks to a history of poor planning decisions during the last 50 years, the UK has seen a huge increase in the level of flooding in the last decade. And with the onset of climate change, the situation is only going to get worse..."

The skeptics could probably learn a thing or two about PR from the alarmists, although it would be important not to adopt the more dubious tactics and to remain whiter than white.

I work for the consumer magazine of one of the British royal societies and recently tried to have a discussion with the publisher about presenting a variety of views on climate change in the magazine. He went very red in the face and shouted at me for 45 minutes. My point is that if those who are at the helm of the media aren't even aware of the significance of the contraditary evidence, there's an awfully long way to go.

Someone other than the Heartland Institute (toxic reputation) and the GWPF (not great rep. either) needs to work hard on the PR to gain some credibility with the MSM. If there is any money to be thrown at this, it should go to a very clever marketing company

Apr 3, 2013 at 4:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterE17

Remain whiter than white? Y'all better get scrubbing...

Apr 3, 2013 at 5:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

What yer got fer us BB?

Apr 3, 2013 at 9:15 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

BB, I'm whiter than white, I'm unaffiliated with any of the shadowy figures you alarmists are always bringing out to scare the stupid and gullible with. I run a small software company. I'm sure there are funded deniers etc, but I've never met one, they don't spend any time talking to me, here on BH or elsewhere. Maybe I'm an outlier, I don't like the GWPF or Heartland, they don't speak for me, I'm anti-political on this issue.

Can you just this once provide some sort of evidence that any of the major players are affliliated, funded or connected with big-oil, the Kochs, or any other interest group? You lot get a lot of mileage out of those assertions in the media, but i've never seen them proved or even evidence put forward. And you lot are REALLY trying, you have all the money, the investigative media, the law... and still can't find it. Remember that Mann email where he was asking about putting a private detective to uncover McIntyres shady links... do you think if they'd found any they wouldn't have paraded them in public?

For the majority of armchair skeptics, I don't believe for a second there are any links. I'd be the first to condemn such a link. Alluding to them by saying "Y'all better get scrubbing" is lazy. I have no scrubbing to do, whether AGW stands or falls, windmills are built or not, affects my income in no way. What about you BB? Do you benefit either way from AGW? Look at each person throwing accusations around, what they do for a living, how their personal career success would be affected if the outcome went against them. For me, it makes no difference.. for the Team? For journos who have nailed their reputations to the mast? For green tech investors and owners? For landowners? Follow the money.

Apr 4, 2013 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

E17,

I suggest you might find Dennis Ambler's "Global Warming: The Social Construction of a Quasi-Reality?"
interesting.

http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/reprint/social_construction.pdf

He posts on BH as DeniisA.

Apr 4, 2013 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

James, I only skimmed it, but I thought E17, in saying, "... important not to adopt the more dubious tactics and to remain whiter than white", he was referring to your tactics being whiter than white; nothing to do with funding.

But on funding, y'all like to make that claim: "I don't receive anything from the Kochs (etc)". That always sounds rather silly and trite to me. It is like me saying I receive nothing from warmists. I mean, I am nobody and without meaning to offend, so are you and all the other commenters here. If you doubt that the oil companies and other vested interests have and do invest money in promoting opposition to action to reduce the use of their product then you are taking scepticism to a whole new level: scepticism of the bl**ding obvious. I doubt you believe that as you'd have to be pretty stupid. It's much better to be deceptive and say ,"I don't get any money from Exxon". And such tactics are not, whatever you might say, "whiter than white". Get scrubbing!

Apr 4, 2013 at 1:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

I think you're missing the point BB. We ARE all nobodies, that is EXACTLY my point.

What you seem to believe that that these blog discussions aren't the real thing, we're all just nobody commentators looking at the debate from the outside. Meanwhile a shadowy well-funded cabal of "denialists" are doing shady things behind the scenes, funded by big oil, all to thwart tackling AGW.

I'm sorry BB, that is pure nonsense. You're falling into the Mannian trap of believing that since you are so great, powerful and righteous that only a foe of equal superpowers could possibly go against you. The idea that a ragbag of amateurs and bloggers with no power or money can argue your case down dents your ego.

For a start, even if it was true... what have they achieved? Is there a single piece of climate legislation they have stopped? Have they stopped the subsidy of their "rival" green tech? Do they control the media? What has this well-funded denialist conspiracy actually achgieved with all their money?

For a secret organization of denialists, they're pretty crap. Or perhaps that's just their plan....

Apr 4, 2013 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

And, although you seem to think I'd be "pretty stupid" to believe Big Oil aren't funding anti-AGW, you neatly avoided providing ANY proof or evidence of this whatsoever. I'll believe it when you show me. Instead I see Big Oil funding the CRU, biodiesels, green tech....

That's how science is supposed to work, isn't it? Facts, measurements, not just "it's obvious, duh"

And can you stop ya'lling me, unless you do actually hail from Texas.

Apr 4, 2013 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Bottom line - BB has nothing.

Apr 4, 2013 at 2:56 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

No success? Where's the serious US involvement in climate action talks or US legislation on reductions in CO2 etc? I'd say they have been very successful. You all (you collectively, you 'sceptics', dissentients, or y'all) cannot possibly be "whiter than white" as that would mean being honest about these things instead of dashing for your favourite bolt-hole of "show me the money", "prove it" or "your side is worse".

Being honest might mean saying, yes, oil companies donated $Xmillion to Republican candidates and "think tanks" etc. and a lot of this probably went to those sceptical of climate change and yes, this money has a clear effect on the actions of those senators and congressmen; the companies also gave $Ymillion dollars to Democrats and independents and that money too is intended to buy influence. But let's not forget the $Zmillion spent on climate science and research...

Being honest might mean accepting that temperatures might indeed be higher now than much of the last 11000 years as Marcott indicates and that the recent rise may indeed have been very fast but that according to your sceptically accepted principles, the rise wont go much further, certainly no more than 1 degree, and so is nothing to worry about, instead of <hyperbole>falling on the new study like a pack of blood-starved wolves, looking for any way to smear the paper or the authors</hyperbole> l. (BTW look at Tamino's recent analysis of the possibility that the last 11000 years have been peppered with similar up-ticks.)

Being honest (and it goes for all sides) means accepting some uncomfortable truths and rolling them convincingly into your collective story, not denying them outright. The latter is what "deniers" do, and you don't want to be called that, do you? Youall cannot be "whiter than white" without being honest.

Apr 4, 2013 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Time will tell which side has been more honest.

So, now you can't find the oil money you accuse us of, you're onto who funds political parties?

Weak. Very weak. But then we knew that.

All the other stuff about Marcott et al is smokescreen. Very lazy, BB, very lazy.

Apr 4, 2013 at 4:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

I'm dishonest because someone gave money to someone else.

Whoever gave Willie Soon money got the best bang for buck.

Apr 4, 2013 at 5:15 PM | Registered Commentershub

Also, BB-> pure, grade A troll

If you don't have constructive suggestions, why comment here in this thread?

Apr 4, 2013 at 5:17 PM | Registered Commentershub

Oil money goes to politicians and oil money goes to think-tanks but you won't admit that there is support for 'scepticism' unless someone can show you oil money going into WUWT or CA (or what?) bank account. It's like the tide going in and out but you wont believe the moon is the cause because you can't see the strings pulling it. Like I said, you (collectively, ie. so-called sceptics) are not capable of being whiter than white unless you can face presenting an honest argument. And you can't, you just demonstrated that.

And cut the "not me, guv", it is not even remotely about you.

Apr 4, 2013 at 5:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

I'm done with you BB, you can't substantiate what you are claiming, plain and simple.

You keep shifting the pea, to deflect from this, but I'm not deflected. When you couldn't prove we were
oil funded, then it's to do with funding of a US political party (pea move) now it's asking us to stop denying that political lobbying goes on (pea move) and that the Marcott paper wasn't as bad as painted (pea move) and etc etc.

Keep shuffling that pea, BB. You have nothing.

Back to my retirement.

Apr 4, 2013 at 6:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

I think BB is cracking up.

(BTW the check is in the mail)

Apr 4, 2013 at 7:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterBig Oil

I've talked with many people on BH, but there are few with whom I think I share so much common ground as James. There are many at BH who bristle at the label 'denier' and some who embrace it. Few in my mind qualify as well as James for the label 'sceptic'. So it is deeply ironic that faced with the obvious connection between opposition to AGW and the various vested interests, James resorts to outright denial.

It is not even clear to me what might be gained from a dirtying of hands in such denial and hence losing any hope of holding the "high ground". Any thinking person knows that turkeys don't vote for Christmas and that vested interests do their utmost to protect their position. If the arguments of 'sceptics' and oil-heads are so strong, namely that coal, oil and gas are of such importance that we jeopardise our whole way of life and indeed our civilization by curtailing their use, then why the reticence to embrace the fossil industries and exchange whatever mutual support possible? If it is that good an argument then why would you want to hide from it?

Apr 4, 2013 at 7:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

E17
Sorry to see your thread disrupted by irrelevances, because your question is an interesting one. While I agree with much of your analysis, I think your conclusion that what is needed is better marketing is contradicted by your experience with your publisher.
I’d guess his reaction is pretty typical of reactions among members of the Guardian-reading chattering classes, or what an American commentator (who?) has called the “opiniocracy” - that expanding part of the middle classes whose stock in trade is not making things but forming opinions - in the media, academia, advertising and marketing.
I wouldn’t put the success of the warmist message down to better PR. I’d argue that it’s a sociological phenomenon linked to the rapid expansion of the class I identified above. University education has expanded from covering less than 5% of the population to more than 20% in a few decades. A new social class requires an ideology to give it a sense of identity, and environmentalism, interpreted in its widest sense, provides it. Of course not all members of the university educated new élite vote for the Green Party, but a vague ethos of “caring for the planet” is a characteristic attitude of our times, uniting Cameron and Miliband, popsingers and oil company CEOs.
I don’t know what to do about it, except analyse it in the way I’ve sketched out above, in the hope of being able to counter it. Your publisher’s 45 minute rant might be an interesting place to start.

Apr 4, 2013 at 9:13 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Ah, but it is not irrelevant, just inconvenient if you really strive for whiter than white. It is illogical and even dishonest to claim that fossil fuels are fundamental to economic prosperity and at the same time to treat as scandalous any suggestion of a connection between yourselves and the companies that provide that vital life blood of the economy. Ironically, the only person here who can do that with any honesty is James, as he is uniquely in favour of a switch away from fossil fuels (unless I have missed others of the same view). The rest of you need to address that. If you claim that fossil fuels are so essential, you should have the honesty to defend and indeed praise the purveyors of those fuels and their actions in support of your mutual goal: an end to climate-change-related action.

Apr 5, 2013 at 1:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Geoff makes a valid and one I have expressed a few times.

CAGW is the perfect horse to hang anything on.

You can be middle class and still be morally superior. Moral superiority is what much of this is about. You can have all the trappings of a comfortable life and still feel above the rest. Socialism was often a armchair fad with these people. CAGW? It is perfect, it can be anything it wants to be. And still press the button on the George Clooney coffee machine in the tastefully fitted kitchen.

A Guardianistas wet dream? Socialism was always a risk because had they ever introduced it, history shows the liberal, university, well off elite, would have been first up against the wall. Socialism always devours its children quickly.

Tories? What better way to show you care? Become a Blairite with a green tie.

Guardian and Times readers can mix at dinner parties without having a brawl in the street. They have something in common and can feel accepted.

You can post your green message on your iPad without any sense of the contradiction of how that device came into being. You can drive your Prius to pick the kids up, without thinking of the technology it took to get there.

This "class" pervades the stratus of society where it has greatest damage.

And business is business. If business sniff a free ride they will. The Green Business Agenda is easy to push when you have largely arts based people, with a comfortable life, pushing your abuse of the free market without you having to pay for the trouble. I'll have some of that.

Big Oil? Green business, in free man hours, gets far more HIGH QUALITY exposure that any paid for big oil PR (just for arguments sake, assuming such Big Oil tactics exist.)

CAGW is a perfect horse to ride. It needs shooting, but the magic bullet does not exist yet.

Apr 5, 2013 at 8:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Excellennt post from the man from Wainwright Street. Global warming is an excellent substitute for eternal damnation in an increasingly secular society. There is no global warming conspiracy but a confluence of interests. It is a human trait to believe bad things are going to happen, so there are a core group who genuinely believe all the nonsense pumped out in the IPCC SPMs. Then there are those who want to believe it, environmentalists. Raising the fear of CAGW gives them an excellent opportunity to achieve something they yearn for but would never get throught he ballot box, control of every aspect of our lives. The politicians can raise taxes with impunity if it's to save the world, so they're up for it. Climate science has overflowing coffers as governments try to get more scare stories out, so the Slingos of this world (who may fall into the first category above) give them all the "evidence" they need speaking ex cathedra on future calamities.

As I see it the only thing standing between them and complete victory is our shredded democracy. No one in the classes referred to by Jiminy above will be bothered if energy prices double, as they surely will if we carry on with the objectives of the Climate Change Act, which I now understand to have been put together without the need of an irksome engineering feasibility study. I can say, with a certain amount of authority borne out of managing large engineering projects for a decade or so, that any project put together without a detailed engineering feasibility study will be wildly optimistic in terms of both costs and timescales. Having said that the troughers will begin to feel the heat when the deaths through human induced warming cold weather starts to kill greater numbers of the population than it does already. Once it dawns on them that their trotters may be pulled out of the trough because of these ridiculous, naive policies, they'll be back pedalling like it's going out of fashion.

So E17 it's not good PR we need, we'll never get it, it's the slow realisation by the electorate, which has been denied access to any discussion either on policy, or the science that the greenies are doubling our energy prices with pie-in-the-sky renewable technologies and CO2 targets.

TBYJ. I bid you a tearful goodbye last week as you announced your retirement from posting on this blog, and you haven't stopped posting since! Unless of course someone has taken over your identity! I'm not unhappy I generally like your posts anyway, but recommend that you don't engage with BB, there's nothing there to engage with. Nothng at all except inanities.

Apr 5, 2013 at 10:02 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Just as the human race gradually awakened from scientific ignorance and came to realise that mankind was not actually responsible for eclipses, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, comets and any number of natural phenomena, we will also eventually realise that we are not responsible for catastrophic climate change. This is inevitable because catastrophic climate change exists only in computer models – as we all know, there is no evidence for it in the real world.

But the doomsayers will no doubt continue with their dire predictions in the short term, and we will continue to "decarbonise" – i.e. wreck – our economy. I don't see any amount of PR changing this.

But there will be a slow realisation that man-made catastrophic climate change is nonsense, just as human–caused eclipses are nonsense.

And our grandchildren will curse us for our stupidity.

Apr 5, 2013 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterScottie

E17:
(I posted the following on another thread but maybe it is appropriate here too)

I don't think PR would have the slightest effect. So far as I can seen, the Great Delusion has long since gone critical in the sense of being self-perpetuating:

- The whole of the opinion forming classes, and the media they manage, being convinced of CAGW as an unquestionable reality.

- A politicised Administrative Senior Civil Service, where huge numbers of lucrative, pleasant and inflation-proof-pension careers depend on its continued existence.

- A politicised Scientific Civil Service, giving governments the advice they want to hear, rather than assessing reality, and with careers built on the perpetuation of the delusion.

- Scientific learned societies hijacked by True Believers and giving authority to "the science".

- New Climate Scientists™ being educated by existing Climate Scientists™ - more a sort of rote-learning so far as I can see, rather than critical enquiry.

- A generation of indoctrinated schoolteachers passing on their beliefs to their pupils.


The longer the Great Delusion lasts, the greater will be the cost and the suffering. I think its demise will only be triggered by apocalyptic events, maybe in combination:

- A succession of arctic winters
- The economic collapse of the UK
- Prolonged power blackouts

Apr 5, 2013 at 12:47 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Ah well, no discussion of honesty about vested interests. But silly Bucket, what did I expect?

Jiminy is interesting in implying that concern about CAGW is a middle class thing. Or is it that environmentalism is middle class? I'm not really sure what you are saying. Do the working classes not have opinions on these issues? Do you speak for them, represent them, perhaps? Have you even met them?

And then Martin, in his game of global warming poker, calls the CAGW side on their 'catastrophic' bid and raises them an 'apocalyptic'. Where will it end - we're running out of superlatives. Call it "peak superlative", perhaps.

Apr 5, 2013 at 2:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Bucket - if you have something to say, say it. Otherwise, better to keep quiet.

Apr 5, 2013 at 2:49 PM | Unregistered Commentersplitpin