The New York attorney general has begun an investigation of Exxon Mobil to determine whether the company lied to the public about the risks of climate change or to investors about how such risks might hurt the oil business.
According to people with knowledge of the investigation, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued a subpoena Wednesday evening to Exxon Mobil, demanding extensive financial records, emails and other documents.
The investigation focuses on whether statements the company made to investors about climate risks as recently as this year were consistent with the company’s own long-running scientific research.
The people said the inquiry would include a period of at least a decade during which Exxon Mobil funded outside groups that sought to undermine climate science, even as its in-house scientists were outlining the potential consequences — and uncertainties — to company executives.
In other words, the NY AG aims to penalize, or even criminalize, WrongThought. And, as if it wasn't already clear enough, the NYT's approach to reporting climate change has descended to the realm of agenda journalism.
Within a couple days, Timothy Egan, in the NYT Op Ed page, jumped on the bandwagon:
Well before one hottest-year-ever was followed by yet another record-breaker, before Arctic ice vanished in real time and Pope Francis made a plea to save our troubled home, the world’s largest private oil company discovered that its chief product could cause global havoc.
As an accidental public service, this deed was little known until recently, when a trove of documents unearthed by several news organizations showed What Exxon Knew and When It Knew It. And it was reported Thursday that the New York attorney general is starting an investigation to determine whether the company lied about the risks of climate change.
It’s not surprising, given its army of first-rate scientists and engineers, that Exxon was aware as far back as the 1970s that carbon dioxide from oil and gas burning could have dire effects on the earth. Nor is it surprising that Exxon would later try to cast doubt on what its experts knew to be true, to inject informational pollution into the river of knowledge about climate chang
A couple observations. Progressives love to trumpet how head over heels in love they are with The Science. So a couple correctives are in order. By "hottest year ever", Mr. Egan really meant to say "hottest year in the historical recored" which, at about 150 years — and that is speaking optimistically — is much, much, less than "ever". Arctic ice has not vanished, never mind "in real time". Also "could have" does not mean "know to be true".
But wait, there's more!
The Stone, "a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless", piles on with The Price of Denialism.
With the United Nations’ conference on climate change set to begin in Paris this month, and the presidential election only a year away, we are about to be steeped in political arguments on every conceivable issue, all carried out with the usual confusing mix of fact, opinion, opinion stated as fact and fact portrayed as opinion. How can we prepare ourselves to make sense of it?
A good first step would be to distinguish between skepticism and what has come to be known as denialism. In other words, we need to be able to tell when we believe or disbelieve in something based on high standards of evidence and when we are just engaging in a bit of motivated reasoning and letting our opinions take over. When we withhold belief because the evidence does not live up to the standards of science, we are skeptical. When we refuse to believe something, even in the face of what most others would take to be compelling evidence, we are engaging in denial. In most cases, we do this because at some level it upsets us to think that the theory is true.
In other words: "Disbelieving science isn't skepticism, it's a willful form of ignorance"
Unsurprisingly, attitudes to AGW cleave almost exactly along the divide between collectivists and individualists. Collectivism's raison d'être, having been rather rubbished by communism's ignominious collapse, finds itself reinvigorated by an existential problem for which collective action is the only response. Individualists, on the other hand, reflexively reject anything that requires the end of free markets.
Of course, objective reality cares not a whit about our ideological predispositions. Continuing to add CO2 to the atmosphere will have the effects that continuing to add CO2 will have, whatever they might be.
After all, it could well be that individual humans and free markets, with all the shortcomings they entail, could turn Earth into a scorching post apocalyptic hell hole. Or, if individual humans and collectivism are given free reign, humanity will needlessly enter an epoch of totalitarianism and poverty.
So, am I, taking myself as a representative example of an individualist that has little time for AGW, merely a pawn of my beliefs, or might there be some reasons for a non-expert to consider AGW a far less serious problem than the experts insist it is? I think it is the latter:
- Predictive failure. Whether sea level rise, the frequency of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and droughts, or the Arctic, reality has been decidedly cruel to Climatist predictions that whose due-date has passed.
- Lack of testable predictions. As a consequence of predictive failure, Climatism has pushed its parade of horrors far enough into the future that there is no chance of ascertaining their existence, or lack thereof in anything like the near term.
- Extreme Weather Events. Or, when weather isn't climate, unless it is. When global temperature records declined to carry their appointed load, Climatists resorted to the sciencey-sounding EWE's. This is, perhaps, the apex of Climatism as religion. Presumably, the lack of EWE's would be required to disprove Climatism; unfortunately, the lack of EWEs would, itself be extreme.
- Ahistorical Claims. Climatists claim that recent climate changes are unprecedented in their magnitude and rate. Dr. Mann's hockey stick is the inflammatory prototype. However, there is, in fact, ancient climate information that doesn't rely on proxies of whatever stripe. In the first volume of Gibbon's Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, there are a couple pages discussing significant climate change in Europe. How did he know? There were extensive primary sources. Climatists can't have no explanation for what they have wished away.
- Complete absence of deductive consequences. Hypotheses are tentative ordering of observed phenomena. Theories are those hypotheses that have been found to usefully explain observed phenomena. What is true of all theories is that they have deductive consequences: if the theory is useful, then there it has consequences that follow from the theory. If they are not true, then the theory cannot be true. Evolutionary theory has many such consequences. Climatism? None.
- Appeals to Authority. Never mind a philosopher of science, who, along with Bill Nye the Science Guy, might very well know less about climatology than many in his target audience, we now have the tiresome spectacle of The 97% Consensus. Unfortunately, the number is a fraud. Even more problematic, such consensus as there is has no object. That is, precisely what is the consensus about? Try asking the question about something specific. What is the consensus values for Transient Climate Response, or Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity?
- Climatism is post hoc. Climate models are tested against reality through hindcasting: they are given known initial conditions at some point in time, then run to compare their results against climate records. Then the models are adjusted as required to maintain their concordance with the historical record. Being able to mimic, say, 100 years of known climate, they are therefore able to predict the next 100 years. That is a perfect example of post hoc reasoning; it doesn't work for stock markets either.
- Climatism violates its own claims. Climatists insisted that, through their models, they knew enough of the climate to confidently predict the consequences of continued increases in CO2. The hiatus has gone on for so long that even Climatists have had to take notice. Ah Hah! It was the ocean that stole all the heat! Fine, let's take that as read. However, that must mean that Climatists did not know enough about the climate in the first place in order to make their claims.
Yet a warning should occur when these stars align and we find ourselves feeling self-righteous about a belief that apparently means more to us than the preservation of good standards of evidence. Whether they are willing to admit it or not — perhaps even to themselves — Climatists often know in advance what they would like to be true. But where does that leave the rest of us who think that our own beliefs are simply the result of sound reasoning?
Okay, he didn't exactly. But he could have. The fact that he didn't even consider the possibility strongly suggests he is in love with something he doesn't understand.
And the NY AG is proving that where there is collectivism, fascism is standing right there.