Understanding Climate Risk

Science, policy and decision-making

McLean follow up

with 4 comments

Elaine McKewon book-ended my letter to the editors of Fairfax papers The Age and Sydney Morning Herald regarding the publishing of John McLean’s error-ridden piece on the IPCC (the editors, by the way, have not responded) with a terrific take down of McLean in Crikey.

She questioned McLean’s byline on the original article, to whit:

John McLean is the author of three peer-reviewed papers on climate and an expert reviewer for the latest IPCC report. He is also a climate data analyst and a member of the International Climate Science Coalition.”

asking “But is that accurate? Who is John McLean? What qualifications entitle him to speak as an expert on climate science? What is the ICSC, and which groups, interests and agendas do McLean and the ICSC represent? What exactly does it mean to be an “expert reviewer” of IPCC reports?”

She skewers his three peer reviewed articles; one in Energy and Environment, a platform for peer-reviewed climate denial; the second in the Journal of Geophysical Research that was promptly  comprehensively demolished; and the third in the International Journal of Geosciences, of Scientific Research Publishing (scirp) named as a predatory publisher by Beall’s list. I have tried to download this to have a laff, but have been hit three times by a network error (edit 15-1: have downloaded the paper – quite interesting – and will do a brief post shortly.

And goes on to say that being an expert reviewer for the IPCC means ticking a box that says one has the expertise. Actually, expert reviews are conducted after the zero order draft of each report but John has never received any such invitation.

She also showed that the ICSC follows the classic environmental astroturfing model:

Despite its name, the ICSC does not conduct scientific research. It is funded by the Heartland Institute, an American right-wing think tank historically bankrolled by Exxon to promote climate denial. Executive director Tom Harris is a former APCO public relations executive  — APCO being most memorable for launching the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (or TASSC), a lobby group and crisis management vehicle bankrolled by Big Tobacco in the United States to discredit scientific studies linking second-hand smoke to cancer, while achieving legislative outcomes favourable to the tobacco industry. APCO’s media strategy to launch TASSC included establishing the lobby group as a credible source for journalists, building a grassroots social movement that encouraged the general public to “fight” the science, and targeting sympathetic journalists who would run with the TASSC message unchallenged.

So being an ICSC fellow might be a bit, ummm, compromising? Not at all. Crikey being Crikey, McLean has an opportunity to respond (Scroll down in the article to see McLean’s response).

He objects to being called a denier then goes the full Godwin with a double twist and pike: In the bigger picture she seems to either want to inflate a scientific disagreement to being on par with the systematic state-sponsored murder of over 6 million Jews, or to devalue those murders to make them equivalent to a scientific disagreement about the magnitude of the influence of carbon dioxide in the open atmosphere.

But that’s not what she said, is it? She says that ICSC’s promotion of denial includes discrediting authoritative science on climate change, opposing regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and “educating” the public on the “dangerous impacts” involved in trying to replace fossil fuels with cleaner energy sources such as wind and solar power.

McLean seems to think that publishing three peer-reviewed papers provides sufficient credibility; not the quality of the journal, the paper or any other criteria. He complains that the JGR never published their response to the scientific rebuttal of their original article but fails to add that it was rejected on scientific grounds. Their paper was pretty much the statistical equivalent of stripping a car of its motor and saying it didn’t go because it was painted yellow.

McLean also complains that McKewon did not rebut the points he made about the IPCC, but I took care of that.

The rumour is that John Spooner, cartoonist and culture warrior, promoted McLean’s original op-ed within The Age. It seems that while the adults are on holiday at Fairfax, the mad uncles are running the place.

4 Responses

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  1. Elaine’s attacks on ICSC are completely uninformed and without merit. I have offered to write an OpEd response to her but Crikey refused it, saying I could comment at the end of the piece (which they know would have no impact) or send a letter which they would consider. They also know a letter would not undo the damage the orginal smear by Elaine caused so I am exploring other avenues outside the publication for a solution. Suggestions welcome.

    Tom Harris

    January 15, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    • On the contrary, Tom, Elaine’s attacks on the ICSC are based on the facts of history – and do not require the vast majority of climate scientists to be involved in a conspiracy to foist environmental alarmism upon a credulous World. You may well ask what is this history to which I allude? In which case, I would refer you to any or all of the following:
      ‘Betrayal of Science and Reason’ (1996) by Paul and Anne Ehrlich.
      ‘Environmental Skepticism’ (2009) by Peter Jacques.
      ‘Requiem for a Species’ (2010) by Clive Hamilton.
      ‘Merchants of Doubt’ (2010) by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway.
      See my ‘I have decided to take the red pill’ (4 January 2014) for more detail.

      As I have now said many times (e.g. here): “There is simply no evidence for your left-wing conspiracy to over-tax and over-regulate people (so as to make everyone poorer). Whereas, there is a great deal of evidence for a right-wing conspiracy to under-tax and under-regulate industry (so as to make a few people richer). Therefore, the question is, whose side should you be on?”

      Martin Lack

      January 15, 2014 at 10:28 pm

  2. Well Tom, you might argue with the way Elaine portrayed you, but there is no doubt that what you are doing is not science. That, to me, dwarfs any objections you might have about details. You may think that McLean’s membership of the ICSC enhances his reputation, but let’s have readers make up their minds.

    Write your response to Crikey. McLean did and I’ve commented on that here.

    Roger Jones

    January 15, 2014 at 8:55 pm

  3. Roger: FYI p.34 of the PDF @ Fakery 2 has the Heartland side of some grants to ICSC and NZSC, with more on p.66-67, plus a lot of money going to places unknonw, although one might guess some went to Jo Nova for The Skeptics handbook, given that Heartland gave out many copies.

    John Mashey

    April 22, 2014 at 2:24 pm


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