Nefariousness (un)Proven?

One of the common memes in the global warming debate is people skeptical of global warming are conspiracy nuts who think it's all a hoax. I'm not going to talk about that today. Instead, I'd like to talk about the conspiracy global warming advocates claim exist - a massive disinformation campaign by oil companies.

There's a lot of material on that topic, and I won't attempt to cover it all in this post. Instead, I'm going to focus on a post written by Brandon Gates, who I recently praised for acknowledging he had been wrong on an issue. The post's central theme can be summarized:

Links in original, my emphasis. No consensus? Confused about what "consensus" means? Suck it Shollenberger. At least one oil company grokked it in the early 1980s. Wake up.
...
So They Knew and Even Published ... What's the Beef?
Because starting with James Hansen's 1988 congressional testimony, the worm began to turn. The very next year, Exxon began what would ultimately be a public swing in the exact opposite direction as a founding member of the Global Climate Coalition (GCC):

Exxon helped to found and lead the Global Climate Coalition, an alliance of some of the world's largest companies seeking to halt government efforts to curb fossil fuel emissions. Exxon used the American Petroleum Institute, right-wing think tanks, campaign contributions and its own lobbying to push a narrative that climate science was too uncertain to necessitate cuts in fossil fuel emissions.

As the international community moved in 1997 to take a first step in curbing emissions with the Kyoto Protocol, Exxon's chairman and CEO Lee Raymond argued to stop it.

In the past, I've tended not to get involved in discussions about things like this. The "Suck it Shollenberger" line caught my eye though, especially since by the time I saw it, Gates had recognized he was wrong on the issue that caused him to make the remark. That seemed funny, but it also seemed like a bit of a challenge.

If you make a remark like that in a discussion I have no involvement in, well first, it seems kind of weird. I don't know why you'd direct a remark at someone who hasn't had any involvement in the discussion. Second, you have to understand you're egging me on and are going to make me want to respond. So here we are. We're looking at documents from Exxon like this one from 1982 which opens with a basic summary of global warming which almost sounds like anything you'd hear now, 30+ years later. Consider:

Our best estimate is that doubling of the current concentration could increase average global temperature by about 1.3C to 3.1C. The increase would not be uniform over the earth's surface with the polar caps likely to see temperature increases on the order of 10C and the equator little, if any, increase.

Nowadays a more typical estimate for climate sensitivity might be something like 1.5C to 4.5C, but all in all, the document is a good overview given it is 30+ years old. Because of that, Gates quotes a piece saying:

Exxon's research laid the groundwork for a 1982 corporate primer on carbon dioxide and climate change prepared by its environmental affairs office. Marked "not to be distributed externally," it contained information that "has been given wide circulation to Exxon management." In it, the company recognized, despite the many lingering unknowns, that heading off global warming "would require major reductions in fossil fuel combustion."

Unless that happened, "there are some potentially catastrophic events that must be considered," the primer said, citing independent experts. "Once the effects are measurable, they might not be reversible."

This is where the problem begins. Let's look at the last quote first. To begin, it's not a genuine quote. While in the quote the first word is capitalized, as though the sentence began with the word "Once," that's not true. The actual quote is:

However, there is concern among some scientific groups that once the effects are measurable, they might not be reversible and little could be done to correct the situation in the short term.

This is not a statement of position by Exxon or the people writing the document. It's a statement of what some people believed at that time. By taking it out of context then misquoting it by capitalizing a word in the middle of the sentence to make it appear a full sentence was quoted, the meaning of this statement is distorted. Consider what comes immediately before that sentence:

The "greenhouse effect" is not likely to cause substantial climatic changes until the average global temperature rises at least 1C above today's levels. This could occur in the second to third quarter of the next century.

According to Exxon's stated position in this document, no substantial climatic changes would occur until at least 2050. So while the cited article portrays this primer as showing Exxon knew action needed to be taken to combat global warming ("would require major reductions in fossil fuel combustion"), the reality is the context makes it clear Exxon thought nothing of the sort:

Mitigation of the "greenhouse effect" would require major reductions in fossil fuel combustion.
...
Overall, the current outlook suggests potentially serious climate problems are not likely to occur until the late 21st century or perhaps beyond at the projected energy demand rates. This should provide time to resolve uncertainties regarding the overall carbon cycle...

As for the quote saying "there are some potentially catastrophic events that must be considered," it is part of a discussion of how Exxon viewed the probability of various outcomes and what sort of damages of such events might have. In other words, Exxon knew there were potential issues to consider.

But so what? Back in 1982, Exxon knew global warming might become a problem. It had a good grasp of what the scientific community thought about the subject, and it reported it accurately. So what's the beef? Above we saw it given as:

Exxon helped to found and lead the Global Climate Coalition, an alliance of some of the world's largest companies seeking to halt government efforts to curb fossil fuel emissions. Exxon used the American Petroleum Institute, right-wing think tanks, campaign contributions and its own lobbying to push a narrative that climate science was too uncertain to necessitate cuts in fossil fuel emissions.

But so what? That position is exactly what Exxon had said in the 1982 document. In addition to what I've quoted above, consider:

Making significant changes in energy consumption patterns now to deal with this potential problem amid all the scientific uncertainties would be premature in view of the severe impact such moves could have on the world's economies and societies.

So in 1982, Exxon said there was too much uncertainty over global warming to necessitate cuts in fossil fuel emissions. They then helped create a group which said the same thing and used lobbying to push the narrative there was too much uncertaintty over global warming to necessitate cuts in fossil fuel emissions. Whether or not one agrees they were right about the amount of uncertainty at any given time, their position was consistent. Gates tries to portray it as otherwise:

Most importantly, lobby groups should not stretch the truth. Or outright lie. Will never happen of course, but one can always hope ...

In December, 1992 GCC's executive director wrote in a letter to The New York Times: "...there is considerable debate on whether or not man-made greenhouse gases (produced primarily by burning fossil fuels) are triggering a dangerous 'global warming' trend."[42] GCC distributed a half-hour video entitled The Greening of Planet Earth, to hundreds of journalists, the White House, and several Middle Eastern oil-producing countries, which suggested that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide could boost crop yields and solve world hunger.[43][44]

... or not. More like "considerable manufactured debate", and they were a leading voice in concocting the faux narrative. As in they ginned it up from nothing. Conjured it literally out of thin air. You doubt me?

Yes Gates, I do doubt you. There is nothing in that quotation which suggests Exxon lied. Not only is there nothing in the 1982 primer suggesting Exxon believed, much less knew, greenhouse gases "are triggering a dangerous 'global warming' trend," there isn't even anything showing Exxon believed, much less knew, greenhouse gases were even triggering a warming trend at all. It says:

There is currently no unambiguous scientific evidence that the earth is warming. If the earth is on a warming trend, we're not likely to detect it before 1995.

Gates portrays Exxon as having lied because it knew greenhouse gases were triggering a dangerous warming trend, but according to the Exxon document he relies upon, Exxon wasn't even certain the planet was warming. It couldn't have known there was a dangerous warming if it didn't even know there was any warming at all.

The only people who have "ginned it up from nothing" are people like Gates who somehow ignore that this document explicitly says the opposite of what they claim it shows. The idea there's some contradiction here was literally conjured out of thin air.

Gates then quotes a Wikipedia article that says (in part):

In 1995, GCC assembled an advisory committee of scientific and technical experts to compile an internal-only, 17-page report on climate science entitled Predicting Future Climate Change: A Primer, which said: “The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied.”

According to The New York Times, the primer demonstrated that "even as the coalition worked to sway opinion, its own scientific and technical experts were advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming could not be refuted."

Again, let's try looking at the actual document and seeing what sorts of things it said rather than going off short quotes presented without any context. It turns out that quote is the answer to the first of four numbered questions:

1) Can human activities affect climate?
2) Can future climate be accurately predicted?
3) Have human activities over the last 120 years affected climate, i.e. has the change been greater than natural variability?
4) Are there alternate explanations for the climate change which has occurred over the last 120 years?

Each of these questions has a short answer, like the one quoted above, as well as a more lengthy section explaining the answer. Even without reading those answers though, we can see the portrayal given with that out=of-context quotation is misleading. Just look at question 3, which asks if humans have had any effect. That question wouldn't need to be asked if question 1 was about the issue Gates and others are quoting it in reference to.

To consider, look at what the answer actually says. It says the greenhouse effect and the potential for humans to affect the planet via it are indisputable. Note the word potential. Now look at the answer to question 3:

Given the limitations of climate models and other information on this question, current claims that a human impact on climate has already been detected, are unjustified.
However, assessment of whether human activities have already affected climate may be
possible when improved climate models are available. Alternatively, a large, short term change in climate consistent with model predictions could be taken as proof of a human component of climate change.

In 1995, 13 years after the previous document, Exxon was still saying that we can't even detect a human influence on the planet's climate. There's no contradiction unless you take quotes completely out of context, as Gates goes on to do. He says:

Demonstrated in the lab. Consensus defined as "essentially all of today's concern is about net warming." Not only "cannot be denied" but "should not be denied".

I'll provide the corresponding quote to each of these remarks in turn. "Demonstrated in the lab":

The science of the Greenhouse Effect is well established and can be demonstrated in the laboratory.

Exxon didn't deny the greenhouse effect. This statement was regarding the fact the basic mechanics of the greenhouse effect can be verified via experiments. Testing mechanics in a lab doesn't mean your results will be the same in the real world though. An effect found in the lab could fail to manifest in the real world due to different factors, or it could be counteracted by something that wasn't present in the lab, or it could just be the effect turns out to be very small when examined in the real world. That's why the document even said "in theory, human activities have the potential to result in net cooling..."

"Consensus defined as 'essentially all of today's concern is about net warming.'"

the current balance between greenhouse gas emissions and the emissions of particulates and particulate-formers is such that essentially all of today's concern is about net warming.

I have no idea where Gates gets this interpretation from. The Exxon document didn't say a word about this being the "consensus." There isn't even a position being stated. All this quotation says is people at that time were discussing global warming, not global cooling. That doesn't really tell us anything about what they were saying about global warming. It certainly doesn't define a consensus position.

"Not only 'cannot be denied' but 'should not be denied'.

These three factors create the potential for a human impact on climate. The potential for a human impact on climate is based on well-established scientific fact, and should not be denied.

Po-ten-tial. Agreeing there is a potential for humans to cause global warming no way endorses the idea there is a dangerous warming trend triggered by greenhouse gases.

There's plenty more to Gates's post, but I'm tired. I don't find this subject interesting. All that's going on is Gates and other people are taking quotes out of context to make it appear Exxon initially believed global warming was a dangerous threat that needed to be addressed then started telling the public otherwise in an act of deception. In reality, Exxon has consistently denied the idea there is any need to take immediate action to address global warming. The documents claimed to show otherwise consistently say things like:

Scientists also agree that atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases (such as C02) are increasing as a result of human activity. But scientists differ on whether the increase in the concentrations of these gases will cause an "enhanced greenhouse effect," or warming of the planet. because the role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood.

This is from the 1995 primer portrayed as proving Exxon knew there was a consensus on global warming. How does this contradict anything Exxon said or did afterward? It doesn't. None of the many quotations like this one get quoted even though they show Exxon's position on global warming was consistent all along.

The only way to portray these documents as proving Exxon lied is to ignore the vast majority of what the documents say and rely on a handful of short quotations taken out context. You won't find a single quotation in these documents that, in context, shows Exxon endorsed any "consensus" on global warming. You won't even find that they acknowledged humans had already caused the planet to warm.

But according to Gates and other people who are certain groups like Exxon are filled with nefarious intent, these documents prove Exxon lied. In light of that and the sort-of challenge Gates included to me in his post, I offer a simple and direct challenge to Brandon Gates:

Show a single quotation from any Exxon document prior to 1996 in which Exxon accepted humans had already caused warming or that there would (not just might) be dangerous warming in the future. If you cannot, admit you were wrong.

Again!

41 comments

  1. I didn't want the post to get too bogged down, but I want to at least include my favorite quotation from the post in a comment. While it's wrong in a number of ways, I just want to focus on one. It says:

    No Mr. Luntz, as early as 1980, Exxon -- whose interests you are perhaps unwittingly trying to protect -- very bluntly stated that the debate was already settled, and that it was just a matter of projecting to the best of our abilities what the future costs of non-mitigation would be.

    Here is a great quotation from the 1982 document Brandon Gates uses as his basis for this claim:

    There is currently no unambiguous scientific evidence that the earth is warming.

    Yes, Exxon "very bluntly stated that the debate was already settled" when it said there isn't even unambiguous evidence that the earth is warming. I know when I tell people the global warming debate is already settled, I make sure to inform them we don't even know if the planet is warming. Because things are so settled about global warming we don't even know if it's happening!

  2. Brandon S.,

    Show a single quotation from any Exxon document prior to 1996 in which Exxon accepted humans had already caused warming or that there would (not just might) be dangerous warming in the future. If you cannot, admit you were wrong.

    Again!

    I think I'll just repost my original summary and conclusions:

    Summary and Conclusions
    Based on the above documentation, I think it is fair to conclude that:

    1. Exxon was made aware by way of research that was self-funded and internally executed and distributed that global warming is a real phenomenon, human CO2 emissions are the main driver of it, and that it presented not only a risk to all of humanity but their own operations if not curtailed.

    2. Between Dr. Hansen's 1988 congressional testimony and the runup to Kyoto in 1998, they internally decided that CO2 mitigation was the greater risk to their own profitability than continued warming.

    3. On the basis of (2), they embarked on their own media campaign to undermine the scientific consensus they already acknowledged exists, and which their own prior research supported, and knowingly funded the GCC and GCS to do the same on their own behalf and other industry partners/competitors.

  3. Brandon R. Gates:

    I think I'll just repost my original summary and conclusions:

    Generally people don't respond to another person putting a not insignificant amount of effort into explaining how their argument is wrong and their evidence has been misrepresented by simply repeating their original conclusion while ignoring everything the other person said. It is still an option though. If you want to ignore everything I wrote, stick your fingers in your ears and go, "Nyah! Nyah! Nyah! I can't hear you!" you can. Doing so would be incredibly silly and rude, but it is an option.

  4. And yes, Mark, I know at least the basics of the history of this PR campaign to claim Exxon lied. I'm just trying to stay focused on one piece at a time. Brandon Gates has shown he is capable of admitting mistakes. I'm hoping he'll realize, "Portraying documents as saying the exact opposite of what they explicitly states" is such a mistake.

  5. Brandon S.,

    Generally people don't respond to another person putting a not insignificant amount of effort into explaining how their argument is wrong and their evidence has been misrepresented by simply repeating their original conclusion while ignoring everything the other person said.

    Oh I agree. And I typically do so when my interlocutor properly restates my argument before calling it wrong. Which you didn't . A work in progress, which I may or may not dig into more tomorrow, but it covers at least that much of the, um, issue here.

  6. I believe I've fixed the HTML in your comment, though I cannot fix the HTML in your post which is supposed to link to this one. Second, if you're going to claim a person did not properly restate your argument before calling it wrong, you really ought to state what your argument is and/or how that person has misrepresented it. You didn't. Even the post you link to doesn't say a single word indicating how I misrepresented anything you wrote.

    And to be blunt, that post of your is incredibly messed up. I can accept that I should have been more clear:

    I think it's fair to conclude he understand what "risk" means. Thus far it seems he and I have been reading the same 1982 Exxon primer on AGW from whence these quotes were taken. We're clearly not reading them the same way. Witness what he wrote just above that last text block:

    The "greenhouse effect" is not likely to cause substantial climatic changes until the average global temperature rises at least 1C above today's levels. This could occur in the second to third quarter of the next century.

    According to Exxon's stated position in this document, no substantial climatic changes would occur until at least 2050.

    Notice how statements of uncertainty ("is not likely to cause", "could occur") have been parlayed into a statement of certainty ("would occur").

    And perhaps said something like, Exxon's stated position is "no substantial climatic changes would be expected to occur until at least 2050." I don't know what difference writing "would be expected to occur" instead of "would occur" would make to my point, but it would be more accurate. That's about all that's right though. Your post then immediately goes on to say:

    Let me now deal with, "This is not a statement of position by Exxon or the people writing the document. It's a statement of what some people believed at that time. [...] In other words, Exxon knew there were potential issues to consider." Ok sure. Here's a Sept. 2, 1982 memo from Roger W. Cohen, then director of Exxon's Theoretical and Mathematical Sciences Laboratory to A. M. Natkin, then of Exxon's Office of Science and Technology:

    Which completely changes the subject from the 1982 primer you linked to to some other document you don't link to and didn't mention in the post I responded to. Rather than discuss the document you had cited and quoted, and were discussing in this very post, you bring up some entirely other document. What is this, discussion by ambush? Talk about one document, and when you're accused of misrepresenting it, refer to it and remark on it like you're going to discuss it but actually change the subject to an entirely different document?

    And as for your claim:

    Not only was Exxon not just distributing copypasta internally from the consensus literature of the time, they were actually contributing to it. It's really difficult to argue that the above memo doesn't represent a "statement of position" by Exxon.

    It isn't "difficult to argue that the above memo doesn't represent a 'statement of position' by Exxon" at all. You're talking about a single memo written by one person (I believe summarizing his views of the work of a research team). Exxon may well have not agreed with him. There may have been other people working for Exxon who found contradictory results. A single memo briefing a single person in a company does not reflect a statement of position by the entire company.

    I literally have to stop here. I am trying very hard not to be rude, and it's difficult. You specifically cited and quoted a document created for and disseminated to Exxon executives, and when I discussed how it was misrepresented, you changed the subject to an entirely different document which was merely a memo prepared for a single person, portraying that as the official position of Exxon.

    And that's nowhere near as bad as what comes later.

  7. Okay, I've taken a minute to try to get past my reaction at how absurd that post is. You see, I had been writing my last comment as I went, so I hadn't seen the entire post before I got to the point where I quit. That's why I had to stop when I saw Gates quote the comment I submitted to add to this post. I was responding to Gates having said:

    No Mr. Luntz, as early as 1980, Exxon -- whose interests you are perhaps unwittingly trying to protect -- very bluntly stated that the debate was already settled, and that it was just a matter of projecting to the best of our abilities what the future costs of non-mitigation would be.

    I mocked the idea Exxon had "very bluntly stated that the debate was already settled" by writing:

    Here is a great quotation from the 1982 document Brandon Gates uses as his basis for this claim:

    There is currently no unambiguous scientific evidence that the earth is warming.

    Because I thought it funny a document he cited as proof Exxon viewed the debate as settled stated that we couldn't even be sure the planet was warming. I continued my mockery by saying:

    Yes, Exxon "very bluntly stated that the debate was already settled" when it said there isn't even unambiguous evidence that the earth is warming. I know when I tell people the global warming debate is already settled, I make sure to inform them we don't even know if the planet is warming. Because things are so settled about global warming we don't even know if it's happening!

    I could not have been more sarcastic. I tried. I couldn't find a way to write it where my sarcastic mockery was more obvious. Apparently that was a problem because look at Gates's post:

    Yer stuck in the '80s, mate. Can't say I blame you much ... I mainly miss the hair bands myself. Alas, my ability to read a chart also exceeds your ability to keep the words "could" and "should" straight:
    ...
    Not good enough? Never is, is it. But I'm a determined mo-fo:
    ...
    What else is there? Oh, ah:
    ...
    I mean, who knows really. It's difficult for me to take the "we STILL can't tell if it's really warming" crowd seriously.

    !!!@!!!!@#!

    What kind of crack is he smoking? In what world could anyone take my sarcastic mockery of what he had written as me stating I don't believe we know the planet is warming? How could anyone read that comment of mine and think a sensible response is to write paragraphs and post three images to rebut the idea we cannot know the planet is warming? Dear god man!

    The best part is Gates writes in his post:

    I clearly don't have a ton of nice things to say about Shollenberger, but batshit crazy hasn't been on the list of taunts.

    And:

    Thus far it seems he and I have been reading the same 1982 Exxon primer on AGW from whence these quotes were taken. We're clearly not reading them the same way.

    I'd say you have to be "batshit crazy" to think my sarcastic mockery was a statement of my personal belief. It's no wonder he and I are "clearly not reading" things the same way. I don't read things that are ridiculously over-the-top, dripping with scornful sarcasm as being completely serious. Because I can actually read!

  8. I just need to point out it's been over 15 minutes, and I still can't stop laughing. I think I might die.

  9. Brandon S.,

    I believe I've fixed the HTML in your comment ...

    Thank you sir, most kind.

    ... though I cannot fix the HTML in your post which is supposed to link to this one.

    Blast! It's fixed, thanks.

    Second, if you're going to claim a person did not properly restate your argument before calling it wrong, you really ought to state what your argument is and/or how that person has misrepresented it.

    Your challenge to me here is:

    Show a single quotation from any Exxon document prior to 1996 in which Exxon accepted humans had already caused warming or that there would (not just might) be dangerous warming in the future. If you cannot, admit you were wrong.

    Since the Exxon dox say no such thing that I'm aware of, I made no such argument.

    Even the post you link to doesn't say a single word indicating how I misrepresented anything you wrote.

    I considered it self-evident that your challenge to me moved the goalposts by subbing in the words "would (not just might)" when my original formulation used the word "risk".

    And perhaps said something like, Exxon's stated position is "no substantial climatic changes would be expected to occur until at least 2050."

    Not something I care to argue due to the inherent vagueness of the word "substantial". Elsewhere in the 1982 primer memo they argue that they didn't expect changes to be detectable until about the year 2000. I'd have to check, but that may have been fairly consistent with mainstream literature of the time.

    I don't know what difference writing "would be expected to occur" instead of "would occur" would make to my point, but it would be more accurate.

    Perhaps more faithful to your own view of reality, but not at all consistent with how I clearly stated my argument in the summary and conclusions section of the original article, which for convenience I re-posted in comments above.

    Which completely changes the subject from the 1982 primer you linked to to some other document you don't link to and didn't mention in the post I responded to.

    The 1982 primer is only the tip of the iceberg. Cohen's 1981 internal memo to A. M. Natkin is entirely relevant to the topic at hand. I don't know how many total Exxon documents have been published, but there are a sufficient number of them that including all of them in a single blog article AND discussing them would be no mean feat. Since you bring it up, I may take the happy medium and dig up as many as I can find and publish them in a reference article with minimal discussion.

    Rather than discuss the document you had cited and quoted, and were discussing in this very post, you bring up some entirely other document.

    Bawwww.

    What is this, discussion by ambush?

    Going where the evidence leads. You are perhaps aware that entire e-books have been written doing just such a thing.

    You're talking about a single memo written by one person (I believe summarizing his views of the work of a research team).

    In the context of what appears to have been a major Exxon initiative to better understand climate risks to their own operations and society at large as shown in several other documents. A laudable goal I might add. By all appearances they did some rather good original science and are to be commended for it. What I think is lamentable is that they didn't stick with Cohen's stated position in 1981 that they had an ethical duty to publish their findings in primary literature. They apparently published a few papers in the early '80s and then stopped. This is something I need to explore further.

    Exxon may well have not agreed with him.

    As with any large corporation, I doubt that there was unanimity, especially in the beginning.

    There may have been other people working for Exxon who found contradictory results.

    A distinct possibility given the general state of knowledge of the time.

    A single memo briefing a single person in a company does not reflect a statement of position by the entire company.

    It therefore makes perfect sense to consider other internal memos, something which you are decidedly resistant to do. Curious, that.

    I literally have to stop here. I am trying very hard not to be rude, and it's difficult.

    Appreciated; however, I'd rather you speak your mind freely instead of feigning politeness you clearly don't feel. I like a stand-up fight, you see. Good grief, you don't mind calling me a moron on my own blog but here you're taciturn and apparently striving for diplomacy and tact? Pansy.

    But hey, do as you will.

    And that's nowhere near as bad as what comes later.

    Oooh, I love foreshadowing. I'm all tingly and aquiver.

  10. Brandon S.,

    I'd say you have to be "batshit crazy" to think my sarcastic mockery was a statement of my personal belief.

    Or simple fatigue combined with prejudice. I get the crack now, thanks for putting me straight.

  11. Brandon R. Gates, I'm afraid I don't have the energy to deal with this right now. Apparently Skeptical Science team members have been "informed" I illegally obtained and used a username/password to break into a database of theirs and steal redirection URLs. That's a total fabrication, and there isn't a shred of evidence to base such accusations on, but proving my innocence beyond any doubt (which is rather backwards if you think about it) is tiring. And as you can probably understand, it takes a higher priority than anything going on in this thread.

    So... yeah. I'm just going to have to put this on hold. Suffice to say your excuse:

    Or simple fatigue combined with prejudice. I get the crack now, thanks for putting me straight.

    Doesn't make me have much confidence in your ability to read things related to this issue in a fairminded way. I could not have been more obvious in my sarcasm as what I wrote wasn't even rational (how could the debate be settled if we don't know whether or not global warming is happening?). I don't have the energy to deal with that sort of thing right now.

    We can maybe try to pick this up later when the Skeptical Science group stops accusing me of committing felonies.

  12. Brandon S.,

    Doesn't make me have much confidence in your ability to read things related to this issue in a fairminded way.

    One wonders what continuing with the same criticism after your opponent has admitted to a mistake in no uncertain terms says about your own fair-mindedness. By all means, keep it up.

  13. Brandon Gates, the real problem for the narrative is that Exxon is somehow complicit in a multi-decadal effort to undermine climate change science, is that they did not know, and nobody on Earth at the time, whether the Earth was even on a warming trend that was outside of what was a natural variation from a previously cold period of climate.

    I believe that it wasn't generally accepted in the science community until the late 1990s that humans were playing a significant role in warming since 1970. Prior to 1970, it is generally agreed in the climate science community, that you need not invoke human activity. [*]

    If you look at the trend from 1970-1982, yes we see a short period of warming, but it's hardly a reason for Exxon to shut their doors over.

    Generally much of Exxon's document has turned out, in retrospect, to be fairly accurate. But I think you are making over-much of this document and its implications.

    I think we can fault Exxon's behavior for things that happened later, especially under the leadership of Lawrence Rawl (the chairman of Exxon from 1986-1993, when we saw some pretty questionable behavior IMO), but it's a bit of an over reaction to compare (as some have done) what is in fact a speculative, theoretically driven treatment of global warming (and who knows who actually read it or took it seriously) with the multiple decades of compelling data on tobacco smoke exposure.

    [*] It seems fashionable to extend this back to 1950 these days and say things like "the Earth's been warming since 1950 and humans are playing a major role. " In fact, there was no statistically significant warming from 1950-1970, so pushing it back to 1950 isn't just a stretch, in my opinion it's actually dishonest to include this interval.

  14. Brandon R. Gates:

    One wonders what continuing with the same criticism after your opponent has admitted to a mistake in no uncertain terms says about your own fair-mindedness. By all means, keep it up.

    Are you kidding? Making a serious mistake calls into question a person's judgment and credibility. It is perfectly appropriate to wonder if a person who reads something in an absurd way in order to paint his "opponent" as crazy is biased. I'm sure you would do the same. And I wouldn't be a whinebag about if you did. So please quit with the pettiness and attitude. You might notice every time you've been wrong about something in these exchanges, you were resorting to that.

    Incidentally, that might speak to your ability to be fair-minded about these things. I don't mind attitude or rudeness, but if it coincides with being drastically wrong, it's embarrassing. If I had been half as wrong about any of these things as you, I'd have apologized for my attitude because I'd have recognized I did wrong with it. That's because when you do something wrong, you should make amends.

  15. Carrick:

    Brandon Gates, the real problem for the narrative is that Exxon is somehow complicit in a multi-decadal effort to undermine climate change science, is that they did not know, and nobody on Earth at the time, whether the Earth was even on a warming trend that was outside of what was a natural variation from a previously cold period of climate.

    I believe that it wasn't generally accepted in the science community until the late 1990s that humans were playing a significant role in warming since 1970. Prior to 1970, it is generally agreed in the climate science community, that you need not invoke human activity.

    Indeed. For some reason though, he's painted Exxon as not only knowing the planet was warming, but that it was a serious threat back in the 80s. He even claims they knew the debate about that was settled... before the scientific community had even decided it was certain the planet was warming. It's nonsense. If there is any truth to this campaign against Exxon, people like him are ensuring it won't be noticed by burying it in piles of rubbish.

  16. Carrick,

    ... the real problem for the narrative is that Exxon is somehow complicit in a multi-decadal effort to undermine climate change science, is that they did not know, and nobody on Earth at the time, whether the Earth was even on a warming trend that was outside of what was a natural variation from a previously cold period of climate.

    Sure. In the early 1980s it's not at all clear to me that they knew anything more than the at-large scientific community did.

    I believe that it wasn't generally accepted in the science community until the late 1990s that humans were playing a significant role in warming since 1970.

    Yes, because as you allude, the trend from 1940-1980 was essentially flat.

    Prior to 1970, it is generally agreed in the climate science community, that you need not invoke human activity.

    I'm not clear whether you're talking about the state of the science prior to 1970, or what present literature says about temperature trends prior to 1970.

    Generally much of Exxon's document has turned out, in retrospect, to be fairly accurate.

    Indeed. From what I can tell, the were doing good science.

    But I think you are making over-much of this document and its implications.

    I've read more than one document. I cite several in my original post and add another one in my follow up. This is also somehow considered bad form on my part. What am I to do, read and cite more or fewer documents to support my arguments?

    I think we can fault Exxon's behavior for things that happened later, especially under the leadership of Lawrence Rawl (the chairman of Exxon from 1986-1993, when we saw some pretty questionable behavior IMO) ...

    Starting around 1989 is where the worm began to turn as I put it in my first article.

    ... but it's a bit of an over reaction to compare (as some have done) what is in fact a speculative, theoretically driven treatment of global warming (and who knows who actually read it or took it seriously) with the multiple decades of compelling data on tobacco smoke exposure.

    Not sure where you're going with this. I'm familiar with the tobacco/fossil fuel industry connection narrative (same people, same PR firms, same tactics, etc.) but none of that stuff was in my own articles because it was off point for what I intended to discuss.

    It seems fashionable to extend this back to 1950 these days and say things like "the Earth's been warming since 1950 and humans are playing a major role. " In fact, there was no statistically significant warming from 1950-1970, so pushing it back to 1950 isn't just a stretch, in my opinion it's actually dishonest to include this interval.

    Using HADCRUT4, the linear trend from 1950-2014 is 0.11 K/decade. 1970-2014 is 0.17 K/decade. Same for 1980-2014. 1850-2014 is 0.05 K/decade. So if dishonest is defined as overstating warming trend from present to x date in the past, the more "honest" answer seems to be going further back in time, not forward.

    The 1950-present interval is popular in IPCC attribution statements, which are calculated as percentage of all forcings and natural variability attributable to human causes. Both human and natural factors have warming and cooling influences, so extending further back in time would seem to give a better representation of all factors, not just human causes. As well, since the rate of CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere accelerated prior to 1950, a smaller interval like 1970-present or 1980-present would again seem to tend to overstate rather than understate human factors.

    I feel like I'm missing something.

  17. Brandon Gates,

    Using HADCRUT4, the linear trend from 1950-2014 is 0.11 K/decade. 1970-2014 is 0.17 K/decade. Same for 1980-2014. 1850-2014 is 0.05 K/decade. So if dishonest is defined as overstating warming trend from present to x date in the past, the more "honest" answer seems to be going further back in time, not forward.

    1950-1970 is only 0.008 °C/decade for HadCRUT, barely above the 1850-2014 number.

    It doesn't make any sense to include 1970-2014 (where you already know you have a strong temperature trend) to determine whether 1950-1970 has a statistically significant trend.

    If a period doesn't have a significant warming trend, it makes no sense to include that period with the interval that does.

    The 1950-present interval is popular in IPCC attribution statements,

    This must be a stream of conscious flow on your part, because you said previously

    I'm not clear whether you're talking about the state of the science prior to 1970, or what present literature says about temperature trends prior to 1970.

    Of course I was thinking the IPCC attribution statements. These are much more generous in AR5 than AR4, where they stopped when you could quit making statements about attribution (which is about 1970).

    I've read more than one document. I cite several in my original post and add another one in my follow up

    Exxon had access to no more, and probably less, empirical measurements than any scientific body of the day. It wasn't a generally accepted fact that the Earth was warming at a rate faster than could be explained naturally until the late 1990s.

    So no series of documents is going to change the fact that the empirical science just wasn't there in 1982. You can't fault people for knowing something that they can't have known.

    Not sure where you're going with this. I'm familiar with the tobacco/fossil fuel industry connection narrative (same people, same PR firms, same tactics, etc.) but none of that stuff was in my own articles because it was off point for what I intended to discuss.

    I didn't say you did or you didn't. What I said was:

    t's a bit of an over reaction to compare (as some have done) what is in fact a speculative, theoretically driven treatment of global warming (and who knows who actually read it or took it seriously) with the multiple decades of compelling data on tobacco smoke exposure.

    Drawing a connection to the tobacco industry is part of the narrative for many of activists and politicians looking to score cheap points. But it is not an appropriate comparison.

  18. Carrick,

    If a period doesn't have a significant warming trend, it makes no sense to include that period with the interval that does.

    The sense of it isn't the issue you raised, but rather the *dishonesty* of doing it. So, I assumed by "dishonest" you mean that overstating anthropogenic contribution to warming. If that is not your argument, I apologize for assuming wrongly, and would please like you clarify/describe what you meant by dishonest.

    So no series of documents is going to change the fact that the empirical science just wasn't there in 1982.

    I do NOT have a problem with what Exxon were doing in 1982. I applaud it.

    My beef begins around 1989 and goes from there. I thought I pretty clearly laid that out in my original article. How about we address the actual arguments I'm making instead of the ones you apparently want me to make?

    Drawing a connection to the tobacco industry is part of the narrative for many of activists and politicians looking to score cheap points. But it is not an appropriate comparison.

    Your opinion is noted. Why do you bring it up?

  19. Brandon R. Gates, responding to Carrick:

    "So no series of documents is going to change the fact that the empirical science just wasn't there in 1982."

    I do NOT have a problem with what Exxon were doing in 1982. I applaud it.

    This is a peculiar response given in his post Gates wrote:

    No Mr. Luntz, as early as 1980, Exxon -- whose interests you are perhaps unwittingly trying to protect -- very bluntly stated that the debate was already settled, and that it was just a matter of projecting to the best of our abilities what the future costs of non-mitigation would be.

    If "the empirical science just wasn't there in 1982," why did Gates write that as early as 1980 Exxon "very bluntly stated that the debate was already settled"? I think the reason might be because as Gates now admits:

    I'm just batshit crazy.

  20. This should go without saying, but given Brandon R. Gates's previous ridiculous misunderstanding of what I wrote, which he has chosen to leave unaltered on his site with content like:

    I clearly don't have a ton of nice things to say about Shollenberger, but batshit crazy hasn't been on the list of taunts.
    ...
    Yer stuck in the '80s, mate. Can't say I blame you much ... I mainly miss the hair bands myself. Alas, my ability to read a chart also exceeds your ability to keep the words "could" and "should" straight:
    ...
    I mean, who knows really. It's difficult for me to take the "we STILL can't tell if it's really warming" crowd seriously. If I'm feeling particularly masochistic tomorrow, I may attempt to wade through more of Shollenberger's re-parsings of my arguments...

    Even though he has known for days this entire commentary of his is complete garbage based upon nothing more than his abject failure to understand a very obvious point, I should point out that last remark was facetious. I don't think he has admitted he is "batshit crazy." I wouldn't even call him that under normal circumstances. The only reason I even used the phrase, which I used in quotation marks, is because it was amusing he portrayed me as such based upon nothing more than an insane interpretation of something I wrote.

    From his behavior, I get the impression Gates doesn't like me and feels I've treated him inappropriately. Maybe that's not the case. I don't know. What I do know is he is wrong if he feels that way. The way I've treated him pales in comparison to the way he has treated me, and perhaps more importantly, he's repeatedly been wrong. Consistently abusing a person while being wrong then feeling they've mistreated you when they tweak your nose a little would be silly. I don't know if that's how he actually feels, but I just wanted to get that out there.

    Well, that and to highlight the fact Gates still has that absurd post up painting me as "batshit crazy" even though he knows it's incredibly wrong, even though he has edited the post to fix an HTML problem he became aware of at the same time. He literally realized he had made two mistakes, a minor formatting one and one which completely alters the substance and tone of his post but chose to only fix the former. i think that's a little bizarre. I get it takes less time to fix a minor HTML problem, but come on! Ten minutes is more than enough time to add a one-sentence note to a post warning readers its highly negative portrayal or a person was entirely misplaced, but three days? Three days is more than enough time to write an entire new post if you want. There's no excuse for this.

  21. Brandon Gates:

    So, I assumed by "dishonest" you mean that overstating anthropogenic contribution to warming.

    The question of why there was a lack of warming from circa 1950-1970 has been a head-scratcher for a while. One explanation given, for example, is the positive warming influence from increases in CO2 are being offset by increases in aerosol SO2.

    To include a period like 1950-1970 that is well known to not have significant warming (and well studied because of that) is to overstate the period where we can attribute the warming to anthropogenic activity. If you know better, and you make that statement in spite of knowing better, that's dishonest.

    If you go back and read original my comment, you'll notice that I was specifying the period 1970+ as the period where anthropogenic activity has an unambiguous influence on climate change. The discussion about 1950-1970 was a actually footnote intended to explain why I didn't include in the attribution period the range 1950-1970, even though (as we both are aware) it is included in AR5.

    My beef begins around 1989 and goes from there. I thought I pretty clearly laid that out in my original article. How about we address the actual arguments I'm making instead of the ones you apparently want me to make?

    I don't want you to make any statement other than what you actually believe. But you do seem to fully contradict yourself at times (as both Brandon and I have noted in our responses), so I'm not always certain what you actually believe.

    At the least, as Brandon S has noted, you overstated the certainty of Exxon's beliefs about global warming originally.

    That is the issue that I was addressing, and which you seemed to be arguing with Brandon S. prior to my original short comment.

    Your opinion is noted. Why do you bring it up?

    Given the reaction to the discovery of the Exxon whitepaper includes the comparison between Exxon and the tobacco industry, I believe it is worth noting that the comparison is not apt.

    Since we've agreed pretty much on anything that we're going to be able to agree on, I'll move on at this point.

  22. Carrick,

    One explanation given, for example, is the positive warming influence from increases in CO2 are being offset by increases in aerosol SO2.

    Somewhat bolstered by rising temperatures after scrubber regulations were put into place. As you may be aware, all these external forcings are confounded by internal variability.

    To include a period like 1950-1970 that is well known to not have significant warming (and well studied because of that) is to overstate the period where we can attribute the warming to anthropogenic activity.

    Ok, that's what I thought you were arguing. In my first reply to you, I walked through why I think it's the exact opposite. The linear trend over the interval from 1950 is less than the trend from 1970 or 1980. So if anything, that would overstate the anthro influence of the cool portion from 1950-1970.

    If you know better, and you make that statement in spite of knowing better, that's dishonest.

    I agree with that in principle, but it's difficult for me to evaluate that until your accusation as stated makes sense to me. Which it doesn't.

    What might sort it for me is if you can show by way of some calculation that selecting a different interval materially affects the results presented in AR5.

    But you do seem to fully contradict yourself at times (as both Brandon and I have noted in our responses), so I'm not always certain what you actually believe.

    I typically respond better to requests for clarification than I do to twisting of my arguments followed by declarations that I self-contradicted.

    That said, this statement of mine ...

    No Mr. Luntz, as early as 1980, Exxon -- whose interests you are perhaps unwittingly trying to protect -- very bluntly stated that the debate was already settled, and that it was just a matter of projecting to the best of our abilities what the future costs of non-mitigation would be.

    ... warrants review, and probably a few others. I just haven't gotten to it yet.

    Given the reaction to the discovery of the Exxon whitepaper includes the comparison between Exxon and the tobacco industry, I believe it is worth noting that the comparison is not apt.

    Fair enough, I was just confused why you'd bring it up when none of my two articles on Exxon said anything about the tobacco industry. There was plenty relevant stuff to wade through already without adding to the research burden on a question I wasn't even attempting to discuss. 🙂

    Since we've agreed pretty much on anything that we're going to be able to agree on, I'll move on at this point.

    If you say so. Thanks for the chat, I enjoyed it.

  23. Brandon S.,

    From his behavior, I get the impression Gates doesn't like me and feels I've treated him inappropriately.

    True, I don't like you. False that I feel you've treated my *person* inappropriately. How you've abused my *arguments* in this post, different story.

  24. Brandon R. Gates, I don't really care if you like me, but to be clear, any and all hostility there has been in any of our exchanges began with you. You repeatedly insulted me before I word a single negative about you. Over at The Blackboard you say:

    And you’re not the only one here I think that of thus far. I’m usually nice when others are nice, but not always. When the gloves come off, I can be a right bastard.

    But if you hadn't been a "right bastard" from the start with me, there never would have been any hostility. As for your claim:

    I typically respond better to requests for clarification than I do to twisting of my arguments followed by declarations that I self-contradicted.

    Leaving aside you don't begin to offer this same courtesy to other people, there is nothing that needs to be clarified in your statements. You've clearly contradicted yourself. You clearly painted Exxon as having known, as far back as ~1982, things (discussed above) it later denied. Your entire narrative was based on that claim. When I challenged that narrative, you double-downed on it. Yet now you're claiming to have never gone with it.

    There's no lack of clarity here. What you said is simple and easy to understand. It's just not consistent. You can try to pass this off as me simply having "twisted" your arguments, but the reality is you said things that were very wrong, and when I pointed them out, you got rude and grossly misrepresented what I had said. You did this exact same thing with the Cook et al paper too. And in both cases, I've been far nicer than you.

    A fact clearly demonstrated by your continued dishonesty in not correcting your latest post. You know that post is wrong in a significant way, and you know that error creates a hugely derogatory light based upon nothing. You've known this day for days, and you've even had your attention brought directly to it. That you continue to run a post you know has a huge error which paints a person in a negative light is completely dishonest.

  25. Brandon S.,

    Back to your critique of my Exxon and AGU Funding article.

    1) The title of your article is "Nefariousness (un)Proven?". Other places in the body text you argue that I have not "proven" my case against Exxon; no more clearly than in your concluding remarks: But according to Gates and other people who are certain groups like Exxon are filled with nefarious intent, these documents prove Exxon lied.

    Yet, never once did I use the word "prove" in either article I've written about Exxon. I couched Exxon's position in the 1980s in terms of what their internal investigations considered to be the *risk* of putative *future* warming.

    2) You write that my central argument can be summarized as (in my own words): Links in original, my emphasis. No consensus? Confused about what "consensus" means? Suck it Shollenberger. At least one oil company grokked it in the early 1980s. Wake up. [1]

    The central argument of my article was to voice an opinion on whether the AGU (and UCS) should accept Exxon funding given the *allegations* that they made public statements about AGW science which were contrary to their self-funded internal research. The passage you quote was a major theme of my article in support of my central argument, but did not constitute its central question.

    3) You ended your article writing:

    [...] I offer a simple and direct challenge to Brandon Gates:

    Show a single quotation from any Exxon document prior to 1996 in which Exxon accepted humans had already caused warming or that there would (not just might) be dangerous warming in the future. If you cannot, admit you were wrong.

    I don't understand why what Exxon said prior to 1996 is an issue, and would like clarification on this point. It's abundantly clear to me that the 1980s documents took a consistent position that a human signal had not yet emerged from the "noise" of natural variability.

    I made no claims Exxon said there "would (not just might) be dangerous warming in the future". Here you are constraining me to qualifiers which I did not myself use.

    ***

    It is my *opinion* that Exxon did publicly downplay the legitimacy of mainstream AGW research contrary to their own internal, self-funded scientific research. And for that should be held to account. That's a matter for the courts and due process of law.

    My *main* conclusion is that I don't think the AGW (or UCS) should reject Exxon funding of their own operations on the basis of Exxon's *alleged* past duplicity, and I said as much in the introduction of the article:

    What I would ask the AGU to do is only continue to accept funding if Exxon publicly stated that their current position is in line with the consensus that observed CO2 rise is anthropogenic and is the major cause of observed warming since 1950.

    Due to pending litigation, I think it would be too much to ask Exxon to admit fault for past activities and disavow them.

    I hope that I have adequately explained my complaints about your article. What you do with it is entirely up to you -- your blog, your discretion.

    Cheers.

    ------------------

    [1] My statement as quoted here does contain an inaccuracy. At the time I was under the impression that your critique of Cook et al. (2013) also constituted a disbelief that there is a literature consensus broadly supportive of AGW. I have since learned that you do not necessarily believe that to be the case, hence I owe you an apology for implying otherwise.

  26. Brandon R. Gates:

    1) The title of your article is "Nefariousness (un)Proven?". Other places in the body text you argue that I have not "proven" my case against Exxon; no more clearly than in your concluding remarks: But according to Gates and other people who are certain groups like Exxon are filled with nefarious intent, these documents prove Exxon lied.

    Yet, never once did I use the word "prove" in either article I've written about Exxon. I couched Exxon's position in the 1980s in terms of what their internal investigations considered to be the *risk* of putative *future* warming.

    You repeatedly stated, as fact, that Exxon had contradicted itself and said things it knew to be false. Whether or not you used the word "prove" has nothing to do with you stating things as fact that not only did you fail to prove were true, but are actually not true.

    2) You write that my central argument can be summarized as (in my own words): Links in original, my emphasis. No consensus? Confused about what "consensus" means? Suck it Shollenberger. At least one oil company grokked it in the early 1980s. Wake up. [1]

    No, I did not. First, I said that was the central theme, not the central argument. The two need not be the same. Second, I excerpted four paragraphs as showing your central theme, not just one.

    The central argument of my article was to voice an opinion on whether the AGU (and UCS) should accept Exxon funding given the *allegations* that they made public statements about AGW science which were contrary to their self-funded internal research. The passage you quote was a major theme of my article in support of my central argument, but did not constitute its central question.

    Whatever your central argument may have been, you gave far more focus to the idea Exxon lied than anything else. You repeatedly stressed that idea, over and over. It shows up throughout the entire text of your post. The issue of whether or not AGU (and UCS) should accept Exxon funding does not. As such, I labeled the narrative point which was most prevalent as the central theme. Because that's how narratives work. A point or theme which shows up the most and underlies the entire text is the central theme.

    I don't understand why what Exxon said prior to 1996 is an issue, and would like clarification on this point. It's abundantly clear to me that the 1980s documents took a consistent position that a human signal had not yet emerged from the "noise" of natural variability.

    Well first, this seems to clearly contradict what you said in your post. Second, I said "prior to 1996" because I saw an Exxon document from 1996 which challenged the idea humans are causing global warming. I was trying to give you as much room as possible to show Exxon had in fact contradicted its private communications with its public statements by giving you as large a window as possible. Similarly, while you seem to have complained about this:

    I made no claims Exxon said there "would (not just might) be dangerous warming in the future". Here you are constraining me to qualifiers which I did not myself use.

    A lot, that part of my challenge was not tied to any position you advanced. It was a simple way you could have shown Exxon had contradicted itself. If up to 1996, Exxon was still privately saying it didn't know humans had caused any global warming and that there was no evidence showing humans would cause dangerous warming in the future, then statements like this by you:

    No Mr. Luntz, as early as 1980, Exxon -- whose interests you are perhaps unwittingly trying to protect -- very bluntly stated that the debate was already settled, and that it was just a matter of projecting to the best of our abilities what the future costs of non-mitigation would be.

    Could not possibly be true. In fact, this is so untrue I decided to propose a challenge with the broadest terms I could imagine. I expanded the timeframe from your 1980 all the way up to 1996, adding 16 years to the period you could use to show Exxon contradicted itself. I then proposed two ways Exxon could have contradicted itself, ones which involve the weakest statements imaginable by them:

    1) Humans have caused the planet to warm.
    2) There will be dangerous warming in the future.

    If Exxon hadn't said either of those things prior to 1996, then your:

    *opinion* that Exxon did publicly downplay the legitimacy of mainstream AGW research contrary to their own internal, self-funded scientific research. And for that should be held to account. That's a matter for the courts and due process of law.

    Seems wrong. If in 1996 Exxon's internal communication shows the company didn't even accept humans had caused the planet to warm or that there would be dangerous warming in the future, then it is absurd to claim they knew 16 years earlier "the debate was already settled." That's true even if you never claimed they said point 2.

  27. By the way, that response took longer than it should have because of a bar fight at the dart tournament I ran this weekend. I wasn't in it, but it started because the owner/manager of the place decided he wanted to fight me. It was bizarre. Leaving aside how ridiculous his behavior is, bars host tournaments like this (and even add money to their prize pool) because they make money off having people in their establishment for them. So of all the people in the bar to decide to try to pick a fight with, the owner/manager picked me, the guy who was there making him money. People are weird.

    Also, I want to stress what I said over at The Blackboard. I linked to this comment over on another post which led to the exchange just above. The most relevant part is:

    There are two separate options for what he could show here to meet the challenge:
    1) Exxon acknowledged humans had caused some amount of warming.
    2) Exxon acknowledged there would be dangerous warming in the future.
    His accusation I’m dishonest seems to be that he never said point 2 is true. I, of course, never said he had. I offered the second option of how he could demonstrate Exxon has been engaging in a disinformation campaign about global warming because in theory, even if Exxon hadn’t accepted humans had caused the planet to warm back in 1982, it could still have “known” global warming was a serious threat because it believed there would be dangerous global warming in the future.
    The point of the challenge was if in 1982 Exxon didn’t believe humans had already caused any global warming, and it didn’t believe there would be any dangerous warming in the future, then there was nothing for it to lie about. Its position back in 1982 wouldn’t have been stronger or more informative than its position in 1989 or later when Gates claims the disinformation campaign was underway.
    Assuming I’ve understood him correctly, I made a general challenge offering two options to prove Exxon had engaged in a disinformation campaign. I didn’t quote anything Gates had said when doing so. I didn’t claim the two options were claims he had made. I said they were two options one could take to prove Exxon had lied.
    I couldn’t think of any other options that would work to prove Exxon had lied, but if someone could have, they could have responded by saying something like, “Here’s a third option.” That would have been fine too. Challenges aren’t always fair or complete. If there was some error in mine, it would have been fine to say so. Alternatively, if Gates had just written, “I never claimed Exxon said that,” I would have responded, “Yes, but if you can show it did, it would prove your point.”
    Instead, it appears Gates felt because one of the two options I gave wasn’t something he himself had said, I must have been misrepresenting him and claiming he said something he had not.

    Assuming I've understood things correctly Gates, you misunderstood why I said what I said, got mad at me because you decided I had misrepresented you and got even more mad when I didn't change what I had written. That could have all been avoided if you had considered the possibility the negative interpretation you were assuming I meant wasn't the one I was actually intending.

    Personally, I think getting mad at people because you can choose to interpret what they write in a bad way isn't wise. It's particularly unwise if you want to have discussions with people as if you do it over and over and over, they'll probably stop wanting to respond to you. That is particularly true when you say things like:

    And in a good faith discussion shouldn't be necessary. An ... honest ... interlocutor would ask a clarifying question. I very often deliberately leave myself "open" because that not only gives me an opportunity to learn something from the response, but to also thwak the guy with the "I didn't say that, *you* did" retort.

    All you had to do was say something like, "That challenge isn't fair; I never claimed Exxon said that" or, "Why are you including X in your challenge when I never said that?" I would have responded, "I'm just trying to give you as much room as possible to show Exxon behaved in a dishonest manner." Simple, direct and it wouldn't have caused any problems. That's what can happen when people assume at least a modicum of good faith in other people.

  28. Brandon S.,

    Yes, there are a lot of things I could have done, and perhaps should have done (better). Having this conversation on Lucia's blog out of context of your rebuttal article was not high on the list. Still isn't. However, since you've gone to the trouble of linking comments from there to here, I'm more willing to deal with them.

    There are two separate options for what he could show here to meet the challenge:
    1) Exxon acknowledged humans had caused some amount of warming.
    2) Exxon acknowledged there would be dangerous warming in the future.

    My response to that is the same as it's always been. (1) and (2) are not arguments I made in my original post. (2) is particularly egregious because you sub in the word "would" when the documents I presented as evidence make it rather clear that while Exxon considered the possibility of *future* dangerous warming, they couched it in terms of "could" or "might".

    His accusation I’m dishonest seems to be that he never said point 2 is true. I, of course, never said he had.

    You ended your main article with this challenge: Show a single quotation from any Exxon document prior to 1996 in which Exxon accepted humans had already caused warming or that there would (not just might) be dangerous warming in the future. If you cannot, admit you were wrong.

    How can I be wrong about something I didn't even write?

    Hence, you moved my own goalposts for me. Is that clear enough for you yet?

  29. Brandon R. Gates, I struggle to see how you claim you didn't make point 1 in your post given you made a number of remarks like saying claimed Exxon knew the debate was settled all the way back in 1980. Regardless:

    How can I be wrong about something I didn't even write?

    You claimed Exxon said one thing in public and another in private. I said Exxon did not. I pointed to the only two examples of things Exxon could have contradicted itself (that I could think of). If you couldn't provide any evidence they contradicted themselves on those points (or perhaps argued my challenge was incomplete as they contradicted themselves on some other point), then you were wrong.

    Hence, you moved my own goalposts for me. Is that clear enough for you yet?

    Given you claim to not have said Exxon acknowledged humans had caused warming, I have to say it seems you are moving your own goalposts.

    (2) is particularly egregious because you sub in the word "would" when the documents I presented as evidence make it rather clear that while Exxon considered the possibility of *future* dangerous warming, they couched it in terms of "could" or "might".

    Which is meaningless without clarifying how probable they felt such possibilities might be. The reality is Exxon didn't deny it was possible there would be dangerous global warming in the future, but that's a position they've been consistent on all along. My point 2 was offered as a way you could show Exxon had actually contradicted itself. That what you actually referred to may not have been a contradiction doesn't change that. But again, you had said:

    No Mr. Luntz, as early as 1980, Exxon -- whose interests you are perhaps unwittingly trying to protect -- very bluntly stated that the debate was already settled, and that it was just a matter of projecting to the best of our abilities what the future costs of non-mitigation would be.

    This says Exxon acknowledged there would be "future costs of non-mitigation" which needed to be projected. It also says the "debate was already settled." To claim you didn't say either of the points requires:

    1) Exxon said the debate was settled but didn't acknowledge humans had caused any warming or that there would be any dangerous warming in the future.
    2) Exxon said we needed to project "the future costs of non-mitigation" even though it didn't acknowledge humans had caused ant warming or that there would be any dangerous warming in the future.

    Which I think strains interpretation beyond any reasonable limits. I feel both points are reasonable descriptions of what you said, but I didn't specifically attribute them to you because you were sufficiently vague in your accusations. Since you said things like the Exxon knew the "debate was already settled" without saying just what the settlement agreed upon, I didn't want to attribute a specific argument to you. Instead, I offered the only two ways I could see Exxon could have contradicted its private statements with its public ones by taking the central points of their public statements - that (up to 1996) Exxon felt we didn't know man has caused any warming or that there would be any dangerous warming in the future.

  30. Brandon S.,

    The reality is Exxon didn't deny it was possible there would be dangerous global warming in the future, but that's a position they've been consistent on all along.

    Internally perhaps, externally, I think not. That's my *opinion* having read documents dating from the 1980s through the 1990s. If there's a smoking gun in there, I haven't found it. I do think there's cause to go looking for more, which is probably why Exxon is being subpoenaed up out the wazoo right now.

    Which I think strains interpretation beyond any reasonable limits.

    My editorializing on the Luntz memo wrt Exxon is probably one I should take back. The "as early as 1980" is too early, it should be 1995. And the document is not Exxon's but the GCC's climate primer, which states, "The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied."

    Reasonable on strength of statement, wrong year, wrong attribution. That Exxon co-founded and funded the GCC is a link, but I probably should not say something about Exxon that they did not themselves directly write.

    The rest of your post again side-steps my main complaint, which is that your challenge to me:

    There are two separate options for what he could show here to meet the challenge:
    1) Exxon acknowledged humans had caused some amount of warming.
    2) Exxon acknowledged there would be dangerous warming in the future.

    ... asks me to answer to arguments that I did not make. You're not illiterate. Read what I wrote, quote it, and challenge me on it directly. You don't get to reinvent what I said, and then tell me that I'm wrong about it.

    Am I getting through yet?

  31. Brandon R. Gates, I'm afraid you're still seeming to misrepresent these documents. You say:

    My editorializing on the Luntz memo wrt Exxon is probably one I should take back. The "as early as 1980" is too early, it should be 1995. And the document is not Exxon's but the GCC's climate primer, which states, "The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied."

    Reasonable on strength of statement, wrong year, wrong attribution. That Exxon co-founded and funded the GCC is a link, but I probably should not say something about Exxon that they did not themselves directly write.

    The strength of your statement wasn't reasonable at all. First, the debate on global warming isn't just about whether or not the greenhouse effect is real or if man contributes to it. Second, that quote doesn't even acknowledge humans have had any effect (or even that they will have an effect). It says the potential impact of human emissions cannot be denied, but saying there is a potential for something is not saying you know it has happened/will happen.

    The rest of your post again side-steps my main complaint, which is that your challenge to me:
    ...
    ... asks me to answer to arguments that I did not make. You're not illiterate. Read what I wrote, quote it, and challenge me on it directly. You don't get to reinvent what I said, and then tell me that I'm wrong about it.

    I did not sidestep anything. I directly addressed what I said and why, offering an explanation for how you've misinterpreted what I wrote. Dismissing what I write by saying I side-step an issue may be fun or appealing, but it really just amounts to ignoring what I said.

    Am I getting through yet?

    No. Repeating yourself ad naueseum while making no effort to address what I actually say will not get through to me. It will just suggest you have no interest in being an honest interlocutor, instead preferring to intentionally misunderstand what people say. Oh, and just so you know:

    The reality is Exxon didn't deny it was possible there would be dangerous global warming in the future, but that's a position they've been consistent on all along.

    Internally perhaps, externally, I think not. That's my *opinion* having read documents dating from the 1980s through the 1990s. If there's a smoking gun in there, I haven't found it. I do think there's cause to go looking for more, which is probably why Exxon is being subpoenaed up out the wazoo right now.

    While I think this weak position flies in the face of the post you wrote and several subsequent comments of yours, the more relevant point is... no. That is not why Exxon is currently the subject of investigations and whatnot. The reason is purely political. People like you have misrepresented things so greatly it created a public pressure to investigate a supposed disinformation campaign that as never existed.

    Even if anything is found, it will not begin to approach the level you guys have argued exists. That's because this is purely a political witch hunt. The sad part is the very same people calling for Exxon's head on a stake will simultaneously promote rubbish like Cook et al's "consensus" paper despite things like this video recently created by John Cook:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEb49cZYnsE

    Knowing what you know about the Cook et al results, pay attention to the beginning of that video. It contains a number of quotes that completely misrepresent Cook et al's results, to the point of grossly exaggerating them. And those are used in a video John Cook created to promote his conclusions and worldview. How many people condemning Exxon do you think will speak up about John Cook's constant and obvious misrepresentations? My guess is 0-4 people.

  32. Brandon S.,

    The strength of your statement wasn't reasonable at all.

    And I've retracted it and replaced it with a statement of personal opinion which is not as strong.

    Repeating yourself ad naueseum while making no effort to address what I actually say will not get through to me.

    I know the feeling. Which bit could I better clarify for you?

    People like you have misrepresented things so greatly it created a public pressure to investigate a supposed disinformation campaign that as never existed.

    Your opinion is noted. When you've got a less sweeping statement backed by some evidence, I'll be more willing to consider it.

    Oh, and I fixed your blockquote tag.

    Fanks.

  33. PS,

    It says the potential impact of human emissions cannot be denied, but saying there is a potential for something is not saying you know it has happened/will happen.

    Yes I understand that. Your mission, should you be willing to accept it, is to point out where I made that argument to begin with. You don't get to critique something that I did not write, nor hold me to account for what you apparently want my argument to be. Period. Full stop, end of story.

  34. Brandon R. Gates:

    And I've retracted it and replaced it with a statement of personal opinion which is not as strong.

    I guess that's good? I'm at a bit of a loss though. Part of what you added is you saying, "Reasonable on strength of statement." That would seem to bely the idea you believe the strength of the statement was unjustified.

    I know the feeling. Which bit could I better clarify for you?

    Nothing. You chose not to respond to things I said. There is nothing to clarify about that. I say the parts you ignored completely rebut you say. You ignored them. That's all. There's nothing to clarify because you provided nothing which could be clarified. So while you can say:

    Yes I understand that. Your mission, should you be willing to accept it, is to point out where I made that argument to begin with. You don't get to critique something that I did not write, nor hold me to account for what you apparently want my argument to be. Period. Full stop, end of story.

    You're still just repeating yourself ad nauseum while ignoring things I've said multiple times. This response of yours is wrong, but there's no point in me explaining why it is wrong for the umpteenth time only to have you ignore what I say again.

    So no, there's nothing for you to clarify. You've made yourself quite clear. You're just wrong. I see no reason to think me explaining why you're wrong again and again while you keep saying the same wrong thing while ignoring what I say will accomplish anything.

    Your opinion is noted. When you've got a less sweeping statement backed by some evidence, I'll be more willing to consider it.

    I honestly find it difficult to believe this is true. Even if it were though, I wouldn't care. This topic doesn't interest me. The only reason I ever commented on it is you made a number of absurd remarks on a topic I had no involvement while telling me to "Suck it." You've now withdrawn the worst of the remarks, which I guess is a good thing, but I just don't care. I probably should since the campaign against Exxon is quite nasty and disreputable, threatening the right and protections of the entire population, but... I don't. It's boring.

    It's become abundantly clear political witch hunts are sanctioned in the United States. And while it is true conservatives are more often the victim, I imagine they would would be just as willing to engage in the behavior as liberals if they had the power to. When even the IRS getting in on it isn't a big deal, I don't see why I should waste my time on it. It's what the people want, so as much as I might oppose it on principle, there's nothing for me to do about it.

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