Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Virgins need not apply....

This post is a series of comments on an important article by Andrew Dessler and Dave Roberts on the AEI's high school essay prize for writing on climate change. While agreeing with their bottom line

What they do not acknowledge is that the conservative movement has squandered its credibility on the subject of climate change. After years of efforts to deny or obfuscate mainstream climate science -- driven by ideology, fossil-fuel funding, or some unknowable mix of the two -- conservatives simply are not trusted on the issue.
important things necessary to understand the controversy have been swept under the rug through AEI's PR campaign. Sad to say, Dessler and Roberts have also been distracted (IEHO of course, speaking in the third small animal, and yes, the opinion of the house mice also count). Go read Dessler and Roberts first.

1. There were two letters. Andrew Dessler saw and made public the first one which was a specific approach to Schroeder and North of Texas A&M for a science article and made an UNCONDITIONAL offer of $10K$. No other copies of this letter have been seen. No one has come forward to say they received one. That letter was sent by Green who had previously written an article with Schroeder and Tim Ball (interesting that yes?) A reasonable Rabett would assume that Green was trying for a repeat performance and had gotten approval from the AEI to do this by pointing at the success, such as it was, of his previous collaborations with Schroeder.

There are interesting follow ups to be done here. For example, did Schroeder know that Ball was a co-author? Schroeder had also worked with Green when he was at the Reason Institute on an article about reducing global warming through agricultural practices. Why did Schroeder imply that he didn't interact much with Green at the Fraser Institute. Green was there between 2002 and 2005 and their joint article appeared July 2004 in a Fraser Institute publication, with Green identified as being at Fraser.

2. The idea that Schroeder was not afraid of the AEI distorting what he said is being supported by a quote from the Feb. 5 Washington Post, after the storm had started to gather
Schroeder, who has worked with Green in the past and has questioned some aspects of traditional climate modeling, said in an interview that he did not think AEI would have skewed his results. But he added that he worried his contribution might have been published alongside "off-the-wall ideas" questioning the existence of global warming.
but he was specifically worried about people in the AEI distorting what he wrote, in a February 2 interview with the CBC
Well, I basically decided not to participate partly by talking to Gerald North, he got the same offer, he has worked with the same person before also and he was the one who mainly expressed to me that he felt that even if we could produce an objective report even if the contents weren't changed that it was likely to be misused by people either in the AEI or outside it
3. The rubber really hits the road with the second letter in which (as the bunny pointed out) the $10K offer is conditional AND an upper limit. This is the letter that Green and Hayward are referring to. The first letter is (mostly) the one that Dessler and other bloggers point to.


The second letter is conditional
Above all we want to have a diverse collection of pre-eminent thinkers on this subject, which is why we are keen to include you in the project. AEI is willing to offer honoraria of up to $10,000 for participating authors, for essays in the range of 7,500 to 10,000 words, to be completed by September 1, and we are keen to work with you to refine an appropriate topic.
In other words give us what we want or we won't pay you is clearly in that paragraph with the usual nod to implausible deniability. The AEI's position on climate change is no secret. Suffice it to say somewhat to the right of Ethon's snack which, is itself to the no climate change here and if there were all we can do is adapt side of the policy controversy. There is no statement as to how the payment would be determined, which leaves it up to the reader to read between the obvious lines.

We do not have a clue as to whom the second letter was sent. Green, in his CBC interview says that it was sent mostly to policy makers and economists, with a few scientists. The replies were to come September 1, 2006. Now, Eli is a quiet little domestic valentine bunny but this fairly shouts:


There is a lot of good reporting still to be done.

UPDATE: Andrew Dessler in the comments points out an ambiguity that Eli left. While unsaid, it is probable that the two letters were sent at different times.


Andrew Dessler said...


I'm not sure I agree with your interpretation of the 2nd letter. There is clearly scope for some negotiation, including the honoraria, but I don't see that they are holding the authors hostage any more than in the first letter.

I guess that I'm sick of people accusing me of fraud, so I'm hesitant to do that to others. My dealings with Hayward and Green have been somewhat mixed, but the balance of evidence supports a discernible acceptance of the IPCC.


EliRabett said...

Hi Andrew. I am not saying that the second letter held prospective authors hostage. What I am saying is that the second letter is not an unconditional offer. Further the line about being keen to work with prospecitive authors to refine the scope of their contributions is more than a little suggestive from an organization with well known policy preferences. I doubt anyone would go forward without talking with them in detail given that last sentence.

This is all secondary. What I am really interested in is whether anyone bit and who the letter was sent to. Given that it is what, five months + since the deadline and we have not seen anything, I really wonder what happened.

EliRabett said...

Eli owes Andrew something additional. In a case like this you don't expect people to lie (although they will do that and you have to RTFR) but you do have to listen carefully for what they are not saying that you would expect them to say and how they are saying what they are saying.

Green clearly thinks his credibility is at serious risk. AEI is reacting much too strongly and quickly, both on Gristmill and elsewhere.

If I had to speculate there is something you or someone knows or AEI thinks is known, that is very damaging but has not been recognized. The longer this goes on the more likely that it will emerge. The fact that several news organizations were poking about is a hint.

This is all very meta, and we must await developments. Pass the popcorn.

Anonymous said...

I think its very basic, not meta.

Ken Green has written for TCS (propaganda arm of AEI/CEI) for years. His record of purveying FUD is clear.

Second, I'm an ecosystem guy, and there are top-down and bottom-up controls to every natural system.

IMHO, The Internets is a bottom-up control where people can communicate and then organize around a galvanizing moment [the only way true social change happens].

IOW, this sh*t don't fly no more because thinking folk can organize.



Andrew Dessler said...


You give the impression that AEI's 2 letters were sent out simultaneously. I don't think that's the case. The 2nd letter emerged only after AEI scrapped the first effort. And I think that was relatively recently.

I think that they're keeping the list of who they sent it to close to the vest. And my sense is that they have not yet heard from the recipients.


EliRabett said...

Hi Andrew,

I certainly did not mean to say they were sent out at the same time and regret if the post gives that impression. I'll put a caveat up. What I think more likely was the letter to North and Schroeder was sent first, and that AEI thought it was such a good idea that they broadened the project and sent the second.

OTOH, I wonder if they heard from ANY of the recipients....(there is a deeper and more paranoid thought there too, but never mattter).

Anonymous said...

Of course they will hear from plenty of policy and economist types, with a sprinkling of the usual suspects like Lindzen, Christy and RP Sr. (although even the latter may hesitate given the sort of company they'd be likely to find themselves in). I completely agree with Steve Schroeder's take that it really wouldn't make any difference what his essay said given the package it would be part of and how that package would be promoted.

TokyoTom said...

Brer Rabett, I understand your mistrust of the AEI given the Bush administration, but they have published good bi-partisan things on climate change in the past.

I think you've overanalyzed the second letter, which seems to take the IPCC - AR/4 science as a given and focusses specifically on POLICY responses.

But they set themselves up for this suspicion and were aware that they might be in for some, as is evidenced by the need for a second letter and their express statement that "Above all we want to have a diverse collection of pre-eminent thinkers on this subject" - which shows they were expecting people to blow them off.

Ken Green's reflexive allegations of a "UN/Enviro-left crusade to take control of the world's energy economies" and pity-party references to a "climate inquisition" certainly tend to paint him as a partisan and to undercut any argument that AEI is seeking to openly discuss policy options.

But I do agree with him that there are no easy options here.

Anonymous said...

Tokyo Tom said: "they [AEI] have published good bi-partisan things on climate change in the past."

When it comes to science, it matters not whether either party likes what one publishes.

What matters is whether it accurately represents nature.

Nature cares not one iota for "bi-partisanship".