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How Climate Trickery Infiltrated The American Geophysical Union

How Climate Trickery Infiltrated The American Geophysical Union

I’ve been writing about a far-fetched climate fairy tale that was repackaged and repositioned – with the result that it now gets taken seriously by supposedly serious scientists (see here and here).

How did this happen? First, billionaire climate activists hired consultants to produce a brand new climate analysis. Because, you know, the world doesn’t have enough climate research, what with governments spending billions on it every year.

This custom research was conducted by a team of noticeably young people. One is still working on his doctorate. Two others were doctoral students at the time.

The lead scientist had earned his geobiologyPh.D. seven years earlier. The lead economist had earned his degree in sustainable development a mere three years earlier.

This team produced a 2014 report titled Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States. It features a graphic that wildly misrepresents the scientific literature.

Six months after that report appeared, fully 11 presentations based on it were delivered at the world’s largest annual gathering of earth scientists – the American Geophysical Union’s December 2014 conference.

click for source

The first presenter was Kate Gordon. But she isn’t an earth scientist. She’s a lawyer. And a trained community activist. And the Risky Business Project’s founding director. Who’s considered “a leader in the national ‘green jobs’ movement.”

At the time she delivered her AGU presentation, she was employed by The Next Generation, which describes itself as a “political consulting and issue advocacy firm, specializing in progressive and environmental candidates and causes.”

So a professional activist was invited to give a talk to earth scientists. That talk, according to its abstract, told people the Risky Business Project had conducted “groundbreaking new analysis.” After employing “methodological innovations,” she said, it had arrived at “novel insights.”

The thing about lawyers is they can make even a dumpster of stinky trash sound sublime.

Risky Business lead scientist Robert Kopp; click for source

Presentations #2, #8, #9 and #10 were delivered by Risky Business lead scientist Robert Kopp. He was then associate director of Rutgers University’s Institute of Earth, Ocean & Atmospheric Sciences. Which sounds eminently respectable.

So why does the abstract of his first AGU talktell people that…

Projected sea-level rise for 2100 under RCP 8.5 would likely place $80-$160 billion of current property in New York below the high tide line…it would likely increase average annual storm damage by $2.6-$5.2 billion… [bold added]

…without mentioning the salient point that the hypothetical climate scenario known as RCP8.5 represents an implausible vision of the future?

Why does the abstract for Kopp’s second presentation mischaracterize RCP8.5 as a “moderately-high business-as-usual emissions scenario”? (italics mine)

Risky Business economist Amir Jina; click for source

Presentations #3, #6, and #11 were delivered by Amir Jina, an economist who earned his Ph.D. in sustainable developmentthat same year.

Presenting at the AGU’s premiere event, his talks relied on a background document he himself had coauthored with Kopp and other members of the Risky Business squad.

The background document runs to 206 pages – and mentions RCP8.5 approximately once a page – for a total of 196 times. Outrageously, it declares:

RCP 8.5 is a reasonable representation of a world where fossil fuels continue to power relatively robust global economic growth, and is often considered closest to the most likely “business-as-usual” scenarioabsent new climate policy by major emitting countries. [bold added; see page numbered 14 (p. 18 of the PDF)]

Say, what? Remember how I’ve described RCP8.5 recently? An implausible hallucination predicated on:

  1. the burning of more coal than some people think even exists
  2. the abrupt reversal of longstanding population trends

  3. a slowdown in technological innovation (which has, instead, been accelerating for decades)

Yeah, that all sounds realistic.

Please observe what has happened here: Private, agenda-driven money (akabillionaire climate activists Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg, and others) hired consultants who hired a handful of young researchers keen to make a name for themselves.

Those researchers produced a new, hefty, custom climate analysis. Which was privately published (rather than appearing in its entirety in a peer-reviewed scientific journal).

This research took the absurd seriously. It insisted an outlier climate scenario was reasonable. Neglecting to say by whom, it claimed RCP8.5 was often considered to be closest to the most likely scenario.

The hope was that other people would fall for this sleight of hand. The hope was that other people would join the parade and promulgate this fiction.

In the words of climate analyst Roger Pielke Jr.:

There is no hidden conspiracy, all of this is taking place in plain sight and in public…We have a well-funded effort to fundamentally change how climate science is characterized…This effort has been phenomenally successful.

The AGU helped make this happen. When it extended invitations to a professional activist, an individual employed by a consultancy being paid by climate activists, and doctoral students funded by those same climate activists, it legitimized this corruption of science.

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