Really, Benny Peiser, really?

I notice that Benny Peiser, Director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, has been interviewed for the Express. This gives me an opportunity to add to my collection of posts titled helpful hints for the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). Previous editions included, A quick science lesson for Lord Lawson, Come on, Andrew, you can get this, and Matt Ridley, you seem a little too certain.

I’m going to try and keep this short, as I do have better things to do. The article says,

This week saw the 18th anniversary since the Earth’s temperature last rose – something that Dr Benny Peiser, from the Global Warming Policy Forum, says experts are struggling to understand.

Firstly, the only way one can claim that its been 18 years since the Earth’s temperature rose is to consider one dataset (RSS) and to ignore all the others that indicate that temperatures have risen (GISTEMP, NOAA, HadCRUT4, HadCRUT4 from Cowtan & Way, BEST, UAH). You can check the Skeptical Science Trend Calculator yourself. Of course, you could try to argue that because the 2σ confidence interval includes zero, that it means it hasn’t warmed, but then you’d be making the same kind of mistake that Ross McKitrick recently made. This no warming for 18 years also ignores that the Earth’s ice mass continues to decrease, and that the ocean heat content continues to rise. Also, scientists may be puzzled by the slowdown in surface warming, but there are plausible explanations and these kind of puzzles are what makes science interesting and challenging.

Benny Peiser then apparently comments that

He explains that we are now in the midst of a “crisis of credibility” because the global warming – and accompanied ‘Doomsday’ effects – that we were once warned about has not happened.

As explained above, global warming is still happening, but the Doomsday effect comment is a particularly bad strawman. Not only does noone credible use the term Doomsday, noone credible has suggested that anything particularly severe should have happened by now. In fact, noone credible suggests that severe/catastrophic outcomes are guaranteed to actually happen. The impact of climate change depends entirely on what we choose to do in the coming decades. There’s the possibility of severe outcomes if we choose to continue increasing our emissions, but the choice is ours as to whether we risk these outcomes or not.

So, it’s odd that someone with a PhD could make such elementary mistakes. You’d think that the Director of a Policy Foundation would want their preferred policy options to be based on a good understanding of the actual evidence, not on things that they’ve just made up. It’s almost as if he doesn’t even bother speaking with his Academic Advisors. Oh, wait……

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48 Responses to Really, Benny Peiser, really?

  1. I don’t think Benny Peiser is really that bothered what people like us think of his carefully-crafted sound bites. He’s only bothered that they’re disseminated to as many uninformed people as possible, who will be impressed by the words of a doctor, no less, who represents such an important-and-knowledgeable-sounding organisation as ‘The GWPF’.

    You can see exactly what was going through their minds when Nigel Lawson and his cronies thought up that sciency title.

  2. john,
    I have no doubt that Benny isn’t really bothered. The only other option is that he is particularly stupid, and that just seems unlikely.

  3. anoilman says:

    Anders…. Or the GWPF is just doing the PR snow job they are paid to do.

  4. Exercising their free-market right to just make stuff up? Yup, that seems plausible.

  5. Given that list of worthies, he just might have talked with his advisory board!

  6. Rattus,
    Indeed, that’s what the “Oh wait….” at the end was intended to imply 🙂

  7. Doug Bostrom says:

    The only other option is that he is particularly stupid, and that just seems unlikely.

    Give the man some credit. Threading a decent, self-respecting intelligence through a small and tortuous aperture of contrived ignorance can’t be easy.

  8. dana1981 says:

    It’s also worth noting how the article identifies Peiser:

    “Dr Peiser is a leading expert on global warming”

    In stark contrast to this:

    Peiser acknowledges that he is “not a climate scientist” and has “never claimed to be one.”

    I think that says all that needs to be said about the credibility and accuracy of this interview.

  9. Dana,
    Indeed, strange how they never really seem to clarify these misconceptions.

  10. John Mashey says:

    1) Google Scholar BJ Peiser”.

    2) He was at Liverpool John Moore University, which non-Brits might not have heard of.

    3) See Wikipedia for background.
    “Peiser studied political science, English, and sports science at Frankfurt University, receiving a doctorate in cultural studies (Kulturwissenschaften) from that institution in 1993, for an examination of the history, archaeology and natural history of Greek problems at the time of the ancient Olympic Games.[” I..e, he might plausibly be called a sports anthropologist.

    He has long seemed fascinated by catastrophes, and perhaps he thought that any potential problems on climate change competed with his preferred disasters like asteroid hits.

    4) He attacked Naomi Oreskes consensus essay in Science, and eventually had to admit he had nothing. See this, especially pp.7-8.

    [Mod: Sentence removed; disrespectful]

  11. anoilman says:

    I’m not sure if you guys know this, but Desmogblog has opened a UK branch. Most of its articles deal with Libertarianism in the UK, and how it spread, the GWPF, and the upcoming elections. Consequently its already been infested by the Scottish Skeptic.

    I have found the articles quite interesting.

    http://www.desmog.uk/

  12. Nick Stokes says:

    I have a plot here which shows how much of an outlier MSU-RSS is. Oddly, the warm side leader is UAH. But for all but MSU, periods of negative trend to present are rapidly shrinking, and sometime this year will be nothing substantial left, if the present warmth continues.

  13. Joshua says:

    ==> “He explains that we are now in the midst of a “crisis of credibility” because the global warming – and accompanied ‘Doomsday’ effects – that we were once warned about has not happened.”

    Judith, also, has spoken of a “crisis” in climate science – among the public.

    I have challenged her many times to give evidence of this “crisis.” How does she measure this “crisis?” How has she measured this longitudinal change over time? And how does she scientifically determine attribution for this supposed “crisis?” I’ve explained that it seems to me that since she is a scientist, she should know a thing or two about proving conclusions (and specifically causality) with evidence.

    Needless to say, crickets have ensued.

    It is my impression that Judith sees such a “crisis” because she, herself, disagrees with the scientific conclusions of some other scientists and projects her thinking outward to characterize views of the general public. Such a fundamentally unscientific process of reasoning is quite striking, IMO, coming from scientists, particularly if they claim that their own analytical process is somehow untainted by partisanship – as Judith often claims.

  14. Joshua,
    Yes, I’ve noticed the same. It does seem common, sometimes, to make such claims as if they’re obviously true.

    Nick,
    Thanks, interesting.

  15. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Wotts
    Note that Peiser was interviewed in his capacity as the director of the Global Policy Warming Forum rather than the Global Policy Warming Foundation.

  16. Richard,
    I know, hence my last paragraph. Surely a policy foundation would still like to base it’s view on a correct interpretation of the scientific evidence? Do you disagree? You must be quite embarrassed to be associated with an organisation, the director of which makes such elementary mistakes.

  17. Elementary mistakes like baselessly claiming the existence of an extra ~300 abstracts rejecting the fact that humans caused most of the global warming since 1950?

    That ship’s sailed. Only people who can entertain the possibility that they might not always be right can be embarrassed. #FreeTheTol300

  18. jsam says:

    @Wotts,
    Note that Peiser was interviewed in his capacity as Tweedledum rather than Tweedledee.

  19. verytallguy says:

    The GWPF* is dead. 

    Long live the GWPF**

    What is really important in the world of doublespeak is the ability to lie, whether knowingly or unconsciously, and to get away with it; and the ability to use lies and choose and shape facts selectively, blocking out those that don’t fit an agenda or program.***

    Edward S. Herman

    *An educational foundation with entirely apolitical aims

    **A political organisation dedicated to truth in global warming politics

    ***A quotation obviously not directly relevant to the GWPF or any of its officers but rather from the VeryTall Foundation’s**** collection of ad hoc thoughts to improve blogospheric discourse

    **** An educational charity, naturally

  20. Yes, the distinction between the GWPF and GWPF is meaningless, except from a legal perspective. The word ‘forum’ was surely chosen to confuse the general public. Let’s face it ‘confusion’ is the currency of that organisation: just like the smoking industry lobby groups on which it appears to be modelled.

  21. Actually, I missed the distinction in Richard’s comment. I’d forgotten that they’d created an offshoot – I thought that Richard was referring to the word “policy”. So, Richard is arguing that it’s okay for the Forum to make stuff up, but not for the Foundation? Personally, I’m finding it hard to see the distinction, given that what Benny Peiser said as Director of the Forum doesn’t seem wildly different to what’s been said on behalf of the Foundation.

    I also keep forgetting about Richard’s expertise in quantum mechanics. I guess we should acknowledge that there is a chance that our wavefunction could collapse into a state in which Richard’s (and the GWPF’s) policy preferences actually make sense and are actually based on a reasonable understanding of the available evidence. Seems extremely unlikely, but not necessarily impossible. #FreeTheTol300

  22. jsam says:

    I’ve been thinking of creating the GWFP – Gravity Will Fail Programme. Its aim is to separate gullible billionaires from their cash allowing us to claim science is whatever we want ti to be.

  23. Harry Twinotter says:

    Speaking of the hiatus and RSS temperature data, Carl Mears said this in his September 2014 blog which I found interesting. I admire his candour BTW. He was referring to measurement errors:

    “A similar, but stronger case can be made using surface temperature datasets, which I consider to be more reliable than satellite datasets (they certainly agree with each other better than the various satellite datasets do!).”

    http://www.remss.com/blog/recent-slowing-rise-global-temperatures

  24. Harry,
    I’m sure Victor Venema would agree. I also think that the RSS data is from a satellite that has a decaying orbit and so the data might have become unreliable. Admittedly, I got some of that from Roy Spencer’s blog, so I should probably treat it with caution.

  25. Eli Rabett says:

    All satellites have decaying orbits. Jsam’s GWPF is dedicated to solving that problem so that we will not have to continually launch new ones.

    Richard might tell us WHY the GWPF became the GWPF. It turns out that a friend of his drove the change.

  26. John Mashey says:

    Well, GWPF(s) may have learned from their friends in USA
    501(c)(3) = public charity,non-profit, supposed to do education and other work in public interest, donors get tax breaks, lobbying limited and various rules about what can’t be done

    501(c)(4) = non-profit, but does not get tax breaks, can do more lobbying

    Important: Private foundations can give money to (3) but not (4). Niether are required to say where their money comes from, unlike SuperPACs, which is why (4)s have become increasingly popular for that.

    Sometimes an organization has one of each, and they might be:
    a) Relatively separate, with (mostly) different boards, organizations, careful separation of activities (i.e., this is legal, if done carefully)

    on the other hand
    b) they may have same staff, in same small office, with same or highly-overlapped boards

    In such cases, as Eli might say, there is room for doubt about what’s going on.

    A few notable cases are:
    1) Americans for Prosperity (3) and Americans for Prosperity Foundation
    Tim Phllips is President of both
    AFP Board:(2012) AFPF
    Art Pope Chair David Koch Chair, Art Pope Vice-Chair
    (This is one of the two sparkplugs that fostered the Tea Party)

    2) Americans for Tax Reform (Foundation)
    Grover Norquist President (both)
    Peter Balkin VP both
    Steve Masty Secty, both
    Christopher Butler, Chief of Staff, both

    SO, GWPF is following a well-trodden road.
    For those willing to wade through IRS Form 990s, that these must file, try this search engine.

  27. Mal Adapted says:

    Richard S.J. Tol:

    Note that Peiser was interviewed in his capacity as the director of the Global Policy Warming Forum rather than the Global Policy Warming Foundation.

    Wait, it’s about the warming of policy, not the policy of warming? (yes, I am the duly-appointed pointer-out of typos).

  28. Monty says:

    A brief look at Peiser’s Google Scholar profile suggests that he has an h-index of 7. Which is rubbish!

  29. Dan says:

    Eli, the reason for the change and development of another arm of the GWPF relates to their failure to remain a charity as they did not fulfill the requirements for the production of education material for the public benefit, given they just made things up. They get around this by developing a seperate lobbying arm. More info can be found at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/lord-lawson-and-his-climate-change-sceptics-broke-charity-bias-rules-9765908.html

  30. Andrew Dodds says:

    jsam –

    It’s an interesting thought..

    The real bit of interest is, though, that once you have a few million – say £10 million – additional money makes very little difference. And this is even more true once you get to the billionaire’s club. The worst thing that could possibly happen for any of these people is a systematic breakdown – a situation (war, complete economic collapse, societal breakdown) in which the whole structure of money, property and ownership broke down. Because unless they are genuinely stupid, that’s the only way they can become poor or die.

    Yet by funding these foundations and centers – anti-government, global-warming-denial, anti-tax, anti-collective-action, anti-security (for the little people), funded by billionaires – they make this outcome more likely. It make make them slightly richer in the short to medium term.. but it’s taking a huge risk.

  31. Willard says:

    Here’s Benny as the head of the Foundation:

    I am not advocating political inaction. Far from it. While I reject economically damaging and, for that reason, politically unattainable climate policies, I am in favour of adapting to a changing climate and making our societies more resilient, as mankind has throughout its existence. Today’s and tomorrow’s high technologies enable us to do that more effectively than ever before. What is more, better monitoring technologies it will provide us with more reliable data about the extent and dynamics of climate change.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/feb/07/robin-mckie-benny-peiser-climate

    But who will pay for this?

  32. Willard,
    That’s very clearly done by Benny Peiser. Make sweeping statements convincingly and with authority, but provide no actual evidence. Then get a little indignant when the other person responds in a way that makes it clear that they think you’re just making stuff up. That gives you an apparent moral high ground as you’ve not said anything like that with regards to what the other person has said. Who said debates don’t work?

  33. Willard says:

    > Make sweeping statements convincingly and with authority, but provide no actual evidence.

    There’s no need to provide any evidence for Benny to pay lips service to the Iron Law with his “politically unattainable”, AT. All he needs is to beg his inference with a well felt “therefore”, begging a question that may not even be empirical. If it was an empirical question, Benny would substantiate his ” economically damaging”.

    Then he’d have to meet the challenge of providing an estimate the risks of climate weirding which makes it in the same ballpark as an asteroid impact. This may not work so well. His position is based on having no burden of proof whatsoever.

    All that being said, we should be more welcoming to empty generalizations:

    Richard Tol from Sussex University and Benny Peiser – director of the climate-skeptic Global Warming Policy Foundation – both welcomed Walport’s call to action. If we fail to fully and completely debate the fundamentals of climate change, identifying and publicly acknowledging all of the problems in this field over the past number of decades, then science is lost. To whitewash the undeniable core flaws in climate change science and just move on to policies founded on the flawed analyses is itself an actual War on Science.

    http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2014/06/climate_hysteria_in_the_uk_ramps_up_another_notch.html

    Did the Thinker mention Benny’s proper hat? It seems to refer to the Foundation.

  34. Wow, that’s quite a remarkable twist that Tol and Peiser put on what Walport is saying. He appear to be saying “let’s consider the evidence and have a proper debate about what to do, given the evidence” and they’ve (claimed to) interpret it as “yes, let’s debate the evidence as there are clearly problems with this evidence and we mustn’t do anything until these problems are acknowledged and resolved”.

  35. Willard says:

    The twist was brought courtesy of GREMLINS (inc). Let jsam think of a way to fill up the acronym.

    It seems that I was mistaken when I was referring to hats, earlier:

    “While the Foundation will continue to publish our reports and videos, the Forum will campaign in a way that will make our work even more effective,” said Dr Peiser, the Director of both arms of the GWPF.

    Lord Lawson, the chairman of both GWPF arms said: “This reorganisation will enable us to build on the progress of the past five years and make substantial further progress over the next five – years which may well be decisive in the evolution of climate change policy.”

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/09/02/global-warming-policy-foundation-launches-campaigning-arm/

    Having two arms provides an evolutionary asset.

    But why have a chairman and a Director?

  36. anoilman says:

    Anders… Willard… its along the lines of “Either you’re with us, or you’re against us.”

    However, what I really here is something like this;

  37. Willard says:

    You should mind your tone, Oil Man:

    > Unfortunately, those expecting the IPCC’s Working Group II’s report to effect a new note of realism in global economic policy on climate change may be disappointed. That’s because the Summary for Policymakers (the only part of the IPCC’s reports that policymakers tend to read) will – as usual – strike a much more alarmist tone than the contents of the more detailed report actually justify. “Basically, it has been Pachaurisised,” says Benny Peiser of the independent think tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation. –James Delingpole, Breitbart London, 26 March 2014

    http://paradigmsanddemographics.blogspot.com/2014/03/from-benny-peisers-climate-change.html

    Or else Benny may tell it has been pachaurisised.

  38. Steve Bloom says:

    Do not ask for whom Benny Tols, he Tols for thee.

  39. Eli Rabett says:

    Shocking lack of self awareness

  40. Eli,
    I don’t know if it is a lack of self-awareness. I assume that Richard thinks the answer is no.

  41. Bill DeMott says:

    I don’t know all of the people on the GWPF group. But I am amazed that anyone with thinks that credible science and not just a title is important would serve on a board with Ian Pilmer and even mention the title of his bizarre book.. He’s the who said that volcanoes account for more green house gases than burning fossil fuels.

  42. Steve Bloom says:

    Bill, at root I think what those people share is a sense that nothing bad can happen. As a consequence they believe anyone thinking otherwise is delusional or a fraud and then, because of what they see as the negative economic implications of policies needed to avoid dangerous climate change, conclude that any tactic or view opposing such policies is acceptable.

    A caveat is that there’s a subset of quite evil actors (psychopaths, essentially) who simply don’t care what happens beyond their lifetimes, and behave accordingly. This POV is AFAICT fairly common, but rarely discussed since people who hold it are generally politically aware enough to realize it makes for a very poor selling point. There’s research demonstrating that such self-aware psychopaths do very well in our society.

  43. Steve Bloom says:

    Further on that last: With mounting evidence over time, we will see more of those self-aware psychopaths on our side as they become convinced that they may be personally negatively affected by climate change.

  44. BBD says:

    Steve

    With mounting evidence over time, we will see more of those self-aware psychopaths on our side as they become convinced that they may be personally negatively affected by climate change.

    An interesting thought. Perhaps they will go after the pseudosceptics with a ferocity and tenacity that would make current climate activists look away in horror.

  45. Agree with the idea but probably should consider the distinction between psychopaths versus sociopaths.
    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wicked-deeds/201401/how-tell-sociopath-psychopath

    The common traits are:

    A disregard for laws and social mores
    A disregard for the rights of others
    A failure to feel remorse or guilt
    A tendency to display violent behavior

    The thinking is that most CEOs of large corporations have these tendencies — apart from the last perhaps.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2011/06/14/why-some-psychopaths-make-great-ceos/

  46. Steve Bloom says:

    Interesting, Web, although I do seem to have used psychopath in a manner consistent with this guy’s thinking. Psychopaths are good planners, albeit largely from a self-interested perspective. And while I’m no psychologist, I expect psychopathy is a tendency with a sliding scale. Probably we all have some degree of it.

    An important part of this problem is how society has structured rewards. The success of corporate heads e.g. is measured entirely in the short term. If we changed that, their behavior would change.

  47. BBD says:

    Psychopath, sociopath… broadly similar outcomes.

    🙂

  48. Pingback: Some advice for the Global Warming Policy Foundation | …and Then There's Physics

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