Another thing that never ceases to amaze me is the ability of the climate activist community to make make spectacular tactical blunders in the game of Climateball.
The most recent of these is the call for a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) investigation of “corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change”. The letter is dated 1 September, addressed to President Obama and the Attorney General, and signed by 20 people who in the letter describe themselves as climate scientists.
The letter seems to have been first found around Sept 16th and was discussed by Judith Curry who called it “more insane U.S. climate politics”. (Curry and others had been the target of another insane political attack, the “Grijalva witch-hunt“, just a few months earlier, which seems to have backfired badly). The sceptic blogosphere has given the letter considerable attention, while climate scientists have kept very quiet about it.
The letter promotes the climate activist conspiracy theory of powerful, sinister fossil-fuel organisations knowingly misleading the public, and employs the familiar tobacco smear.
Those signing the letter included Jagadish Shukla, Ed Maibach and Barry Klinger. All three are at George Mason University. A painful irony here, as pointed out by Paul Driessen, is that George Mason was one of the creators of the US Bill of Rights!
As first noted by Roger Pielke, around 20 Sept, Shukla (left, the first name on the letter) seems to be doing rather well out of the climate change industry, as do members of his family. This was picked up by Bishop Hill on Sept 21 and then explored by Steve McIntyre on Sept 28th with his usual forensic detail. Shukla’s so-called “non-profit” organisation, IGES, pompously proclaiming itself as “in service of society”, was in fact paying him millions of dollars.
The second person to sign the letter is Ed Maibach (centre), whose research is in “Climate change communication, public health communication, social marketing”, and whose website says “His research currently focuses exclusively on how to mobilize populations to adopt behaviors and support public policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions…”. Yet the text of the letter says “as climate scientists we…”, so Maibach is misrepresenting his academic credentials by signing the letter – he is not, by any stretch, a climate scientist. This seems to be a fairly serious breach of professional integrity, in a letter to the President calling for prosecutions. It’s also curious that someone who is supposedly an expert in communication strategies should make such a communication blunder.
Also signing the letter is Barry Klinger (right). He attempted to defend the letter in a statement on his web page, repeating the oil and tobacco smears. He claimed that he did not recall any climate contrarians criticising Cuccinelli’s investigation of Mann. As pointed out by McIntyre, several did, and Klinger had absolutely no excuse for being unaware of this since the fact was even reported in the New York Times.
At this point the story might have gradually faded away. But it was kept alive by a continuing sequence of tactical blunders by the #Rico20 team.
On about 26 September (first noted in a comment at CA) the letter was removed from the IGES site. This was of course quite pointless, since the letter was available at the internet archive and elsewhere. This apparent admission of an error provoked considerable interest, see Donna Laframboise, Bishop Hill and WUWT.
Then on 29 Sept a new much shorter note appeared at the same URL where the original letter had been posted, saying:
“The letter that was inadvertently posted on this web site has been removed. It was decided more than two years ago that the Institute of Global Environment and Society (IGES) would be dissolved when the projects then undertaken by IGES would be completed. All research projects by IGES were completed in July 2015, and the IGES web site is in the process of being decommissioned.”
This raises further questions. How do you ‘inadvertently’ post a letter on a website? Was the research relating to all the money taken in 2014 really all completed by July 2015?
Also on 29 Sept, Klinger posted an update on his web page, in which he acknowledges his earlier error. He also says “My own ambivalence about the RICO letter…”. Why would you put your name to a letter to the President calling for prosecutions if you were ambivalent about it?
Oct 1: Lamar Smith, Chair of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee writes a letter to Shukla, regarding the funding of IGES, in particular “This letter raises serious concerns because IGES appears to be almost fully funded by taxpayer money while simultaneously participating in partisan political activity…”. Expressing concern about removal of documents from the IGES website, he asks them to preserve all electronic documents back to 2009 and provide a list of all employees. See press release and letter.
WUWT reports Pat Michaels saying this may be the “largest science scandal in US history”, which seems way over the top to me.
Oct 5: The story of both letters is reported in Science magazine: Climate scientist requesting federal investigation feels heat from House Republicans. The article includes a quote from Shukla showing the same pompous self-righteousness mentioned above: “We can not believe the viciousness of attacks because we signed a letter as our civic duty with the ultimate goal of repairing our planet”.
Oct 8: Inside Climate News have their spin on the story. “I signed this letter as a private citizen on personal time, urging action on climate change, and I have been shocked by the reaction,” Shukla told InsideClimate News. “Any allegations of inappropriate behavior are untrue.”
Oct 9: Shut Up—Or We’ll Shut You Down in the WSJ.
Oct 16: Watchdog.org reports that Lamar Smith has written to NASA, NOAA and NSF, requesting information regarding funding related to IGES. The article has links to the letters, and also includes a good summary of the history of the story.