I won’t take up too much of your time, but I just wanted to point out a certain irony that finds its expression 46 minutes into Owen Sheers’ blockbusting ‘success’, the BBC’s massively vaunted and even more massively ignored docudrama, The Trick. It occurs in a disarmingly domestic scene in which a young PR consultant, representing the switched-on yoof, explains to the naïve elder (his father) how these things go down with Big Oil:

PR man: Some big players have had plans for ages, oil companies especially. They all want to stop the science getting out there. What’s so crazy is that they all knew more about it than anyone else. All through the eighties they had the best climate scientists – scenario planners – and these guys are telling them, the CEOs, the boards, increasing CO2 in the atmosphere is going to be a major problem for the whole world. Extreme weather, food shortages, mass migrations…”

PR’s dad: So what did they do?

PR man: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but they took all that, all that knowledge, which they had more of, in more detail, and earlier than anyone else – well they used it to get ahead of the curve, to come up with strategies to keep the public uncertain, unconcerned.

PR’s dad: What kinds of strategies?

PR man: Front organisations mostly, to produce alternative research that backed their message, and pushed it to the media.

Now, forgive me if I have got this wrong, but isn’t that a conspiracy theory? In fact, is it not essentially the same conspiracy theory that is supposed to lie behind the average climate change denier’s delusional state? Because do we not stand accused of believing that all the world’s best climate scientists were capable of discovering one thing, and yet turn a blind eye when the authorities in receipt of their research persuade the public of the opposite? As far as I can see, the only difference is that Owen and his Extinction Rebellion colleagues believe that all the world’s best climate scientists happened to be working for oil companies. Also, presumably, some of these ‘best climate scientists’ must have been providing the ‘alternative research’ that Owen despises so much. Or is Owen suggesting that the oil companies had to go outside their organisation to find any scientists that doubted and were prepared to misrepresent their ‘best’ scientists? I’m not sure that all the world’s best climate scientists would have been happy with that.

Not only is it highly unlikely that all the best climate scientists were working for the oil companies, one has to wonder how it came about that the best ones just happened to be so mercenary. Also, if all the best scientists were spoken for, it doesn’t say a lot for the calibre of all those inferior scientists who unfortunately missed out on the lucrative opportunity of having their life’s work ignored.

I’m not going to dwell too long on this strange nonsense, because it’s Saturday and we all have better things to do. But it does rather bring home the degree to which trickery, sleight of hand and lack of self-awareness play a central role in the debate.

25 Comments

  1. Strange that not one of those “best climate scientists” has been identified by name. Nor is it ever explained why big oil ever needed these stalwart fellows (and fellowesses) and what function they performed. I never met one in several research centres I visited so they must have been extremely well hidden. Finally when climate science became big in academia, why weren’t those stalwart people jumping ship to more secure and visibly prestigious jobs? So many questions, little to no proof for these people’s existence,

    Liked by 4 people

  2. John

    ..is it not essentially the same conspiracy theory that is supposed to lie behind the average climate change denier’s delusional state?

    It is indeed. The trick is to turn some of the banal facts of the Big Oil conspiracy theory:- innocent unnamed oil executives writing internal notes pointing out the well-known greenhouse effect; known scientists (Pat Michaels? Willie Soon?) being paid to write papers for conferences etc. – into sinister sounding plotting without running foul of the libel laws.

    The danger for the BBC is in how they they join the dots. They can make McIntyre sound sinister, and lie about the Big Oil conspiracy, but to try and link the two would be technically libellous.

    I still haven’t finished transcribing, and can’t bring myself to watch it without transcribing. It’s only by having my fists clamped to the keyboard that I can stop myself from tearing my hair out and punching the screen.

    An approach to countering this might be to extract the comments (many of hem loony and conspiratorial) attributed to real people like Edward Acton and Sir David King and to ask them whether they reflect their real opinions. Because the whole plot hinges on a conspiracy by these real people to hide the truth while claiming to protect, not just Jones and the reputation of the university, but the Truth (i.e. HADCRUT) and hence the human race.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Alan,

    Of course their scientists were extremely well hidden. They were all working in gulags that were off limits to visitors.

    The whole thing is, of course, errant nonsense. It is like an onion that reveals a further level of monumental drivel as one peels away its pretense of credibility. For example, if the truth of anthropogenic climate change was as obvious as Owen would claim, then even the crap scientists that failed the big oil interviews would still have been good enough to make discoveries that would render the oil company secrecy a waste of time.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. That is indeed a comical BBC conspiracy theory, that the oil companies somehow knew about the climate ’emergency’ before anyone else did.

    But I think I can trump that one (quite literally) with this quote from Gordon Corera’s conspiracy-theory-packed ‘Hack that Changed the World’:

    “It was a test run for what was deployed by Russia in the 2016 election that elected Donald Trump.”

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Projection is a libmob characteristic
    So yes they are the ones with conspiracy theories

    “Isn’t that a conspiracy theory”
    There is a difference between nothing ” a conspiracy theory”
    and “a conspiracy theory with EVIDENCE”
    There is no evidence of huge paid for astroturfing
    rather there is evidence that tiny coal lobby in The States was using fairly small money for anti-climate lobbying.

    Like

  6. Here’s the followup to the bit you quote:
    Dad: Ah, PR then. Marketing. Like what you do
    YPR man: No dad. At least with what I do you know who’s pitching to you. (above sleeping child) When I read the projections about what could happen if we don’t do anything, and when I see those dates, 2040, 2050, I can’t help thinking how old the girls will be. What their lives will be like.
    Dad: How do you know all this?
    YPR man: There’s a paper trail. If you know where to look.
    Dad: You think it’s the oil companies then? ?? us?
    YPRman: Jesus, I don’t know dad. It’s the internet. A dark place, filled with darker places. I just hope we’re doing the right thing.

    Well, we all hope that. But I don’t think many people did know that the person “pitching it to you” (i.e. the person who had coached Phil in what to say before the parliamentary committee) was the ex-editor of the News of the Screws.

    A big problem with the play so far is that everyone agrees with everyone else. Phil knows he’s telling the truth, (and having a nervous breakdown is just what you do when you’ve done nothing to be ashamed of and can explain everything in three minutes to the satisfaction of a gutter press editor.) Ed and Trevor know he’s telling the truth because the reputation of the university depends on it; the PR men know he’s telling the truth because they’ve been paid to prove it; the five or six persons of colour in the film so far know he’s telling the truth because, well, because (Young PR man now has two daughters, though only one is visible. My theory is that because the film was two years in the making, coloured daughter 1 got too old and had to be supplemented by another;) and the wives of Ed and Phil know he’s telling the truth because Stand By Your Man. You can stuff Briffa’s Yamal up Mike’s Stripbark all you like, but you can’t hide the decline in the quality of BBC drama.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. “That is indeed a comical BBC conspiracy theory, that the oil companies somehow knew about the climate ’emergency’ before anyone else did.”

    This theory was essentially the basis for the ill-fated Exxon Knew campaign, most notably led by the states of NY and Massachusetts. But because partway into legal proceedings it became obvious that Exxon had shared all its findings with the scientific community, so indeed only knew what they knew too, the two states pivoted their charge-sheet to accuse Exxon of misleading their investors regarding the future damages and future losses faced by the company because of what was known (by everyone) back then. But the New York case on this basis was dramatically defeated in every respect, see here:

    https://eidclimate.org/new-yorks-loss-against-exxon-casts-a-shadow-on-related-cases-filed-in-massachusetts-elsewhere/

    Somehow Massachusetts have kept their case alive, in part due to learning from the above and so pivoting again. I think the angle now is deceiving consumers under Massachusetts consumer protection law, which angle has staggered through three or four more bouts I think. But won or lost it is a faint shadow of the original charges that Exxon knew about planetary doom when no-one else did. And even assuming Exxon lost this would probably mean some minor consumer compensation for something or other, rather than obliteration of the dastardly company by confiscating its entire global fortune to combat climate-change doom. Given consumers in Massachusetts and everywhere benefitted hugely from Exxon’s products, I’m not sure what the angle focusses on; I haven’t really kept up with it since the NY verdict.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Good point well made. Thanks, John.

    “PR’s dad: What kinds of strategies?

    PR man: Front organisations mostly, to produce alternative research that backed their message, and pushed it to the media.”

    Well, at the risk of sounding as deranged as the PR man and the BBC, it does seem to me that there are plenty of “green” front organisations pushing climate change hysteria at the media, and a compliant media that’s only too happy to push it too. Indeed, one of the declines of journalistic standards that seems particularly problematic to me these days is that we have precious few truly independent investigative journalists, and the news media seem to run on “news by press release”. Read the Guardian online, or what laughingly passes for the “science & environment” section of the BBC website, and a huge proportion of the “news” stories there boil down to “green PR organisation sent us a press release and we turned it into a news story”. Many of the rest, after a hysterical headline, boil down to “X,Y & Z are going to happen and it’s terrible – study says”.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Thanks for the comments, everyone. Some very good points made. The additional transcript provided by Geoff was particularly useful because it shows how The Trick is a gift that just keeps on giving. The lack of self-awareness is staggering:

    “YPR man: No dad. At least with what I do you know who’s pitching to you.”

    Yeh, like the BBC made it clear in its introduction to the programme that it was written by an Extinction Rebellion man.

    “YPR man: There’s a paper trail. If you know where to look.”

    And yet the only item of documentary evidence the programme’s producers deigned to show us (the Climateaudit.org screen grab) was one they forged.

    The Trick is not just an onion of stupidity, it is an onion of lies.

    I’ve also just realised that it is an onion about leeks.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. John:

    Now, forgive me if I have got this wrong, but isn’t that a conspiracy theory? In fact, is it not essentially the same conspiracy theory that is supposed to lie behind the average climate change denier’s delusional state?

    The key phrase there being ‘supposed to lie’.

    Basically we say (as a total group, as Sceptics Inc.) that nobody understands climate anything like well enough in 2021, let alone when Big Oil was meant to know that terrible things were in store in 1980, say. A point I made on Twitter just before I left that blessed realm of angry little snaps

    Things are indeed being hidden.

    Whether that’s conspiracy or incompetence or confirmation bias – who cares.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Richard,

    That tweet that you responded to has an obvious typo:

    “A history of misinformation like the tabacco industry”

    Surely that should be ‘tabasco industry’:

    “With thousands of square miles of land already lost along the coast, Avery Island, home of the famed hot sauce, faces being marooned.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/27/climate-change-louisiana-tabasco-avery-island

    What’s so crazy about this is that the tabasco industry knew more about it than anyone else. All through the eighties they had the best climate scientists – scenario planners – and these guys were telling them, the CEOs, the boards, increasing CO2 in the atmosphere is going to be a major problem for the whole world.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I see the special treatment of the oil companies now extends to wanting to ban them from attending COPs:

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-59199484

    “There are more delegates at COP26 associated with the fossil fuel industry than from any single country, analysis shared with the BBC shows…These delegates are said to lobby for oil and gas industries, and campaigners say they should be banned.”

    In particular, concern is expressed over the attendance of the IETA:

    “One of the biggest groups they identified was the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) with 103 delegates in attendance, including three people from the oil and gas company BP. According to Global Witness, IETA is backed by many major oil companies who promote offsetting and carbon trading as a way of allowing them to continue extracting oil and gas. ‘This is an association that has an enormous number of fossil fuel company [sic] as its members. Its agenda is driven by fossil fuel companies and serves the interests of fossil fuel companies,’ Mr Worthy said.”

    It strikes me as odd that organisations that are amongst the biggest stakeholders in the transition risk and represent one of the key strategies for mitigating such risk should be banned from taking part in any risk management discussions. But there again, there is this:

    “’The fossil fuel industry has spent decades denying and delaying real action on the climate crisis, which is why this is such a huge problem,’ says Murray Worthy from Global Witness…Campaign groups argue that the World Health Organization didn’t get serious about banning tobacco until all the lobbyists for the industry were banned from WHO meetings. They want the same treatment for oil and gas companies at COP.”

    I’m afraid there are some people who are totally governed by this way of thinking.

    Like

  13. Murray Worthy:

    The fossil fuel industry has spent decades denying and delaying real action on the climate crisis

    Compare with Rupert Read’s statement at his recent trial for defacing Tufton Street, home of the GWPF (thanks Vinny):

    May I start with one point of law. I wish to dispute the claim by the Prosecution that our action does not meet the criterion of addressing an ‘imminent’ threat to life. It is well-established in English law that ‘imminence’ does not only mean ‘that very night’ or the like. The classic example is its being accepted that if Anne Frank had stolen a car to escape from Amsterdam under Nazi occupation, the law of this country would not have held her guilty of a crime, and in particular that if a prosecutor argued that she should have waited until the Gestapo came knocking at her door before resorting to crime, that would have been a dangerous and excessively narrow interpretation of ‘imminence’ allegedly entitling her only then to the defence of necessity.

    Our defence of necessity is that the Global Warming Policy Foundation represents an ongoing and ongoingly imminent threat to life in the same kind of way as Anne Frank faced. Every day that climate action is delayed by climate-delay and climate-denial multiplies the threat that climate breakdown hangs over us all, over our very lives, over the future itself.

    What’s the same? The “denying and delaying”.

    What’s different? The precise evildoers: the fossil fuel industry for Worthy and the GWPF for Read. And for the latter Read is making the case explicit that the GWPF is equivalent today to the Gestapo and the rest of the Nazi extermination state machinery in occupied Europe.

    What’s also different is that the GWPF is a tiny fraction in terms of the turnover and influence of fossil fuel interests. But they are single-minded and have been run by two Jewish fellows, Lord Lawson and Benny Peiser. Who, by the way, do the opposite of lying.

    What a truly nasty piece of work Rupert Read is to draw such an outrageous analogy, quite deliberately, as cover for the utter lack of ‘necessity’ in what he and his colleagues did as a stunt in the run-up to COP26.

    It strikes me as odd that organisations that are amongst the biggest stakeholders in the transition risk and represent one of the key strategies for mitigating such risk should be banned from taking part in any risk management discussions.

    An entirely fair point. But with the “denying and delaying” meme comes something truly disgusting that makes rationality of any kind impossible. We need to be totally realistic about that.

    Like

  14. Richard,

    I think we also need to be totally realistic about the ‘sincerity’ that lies behind the vilification handed out by the likes of Rupert Read. In drawing a comparison between the Nazi extermination machinery and the GWPF, Read intends a direct moral comparison. The oil industries, and by extension the GWPF, are accused of knowingly hastening the destruction of humanity through avaricious acts of denial and delay. This is, in effect, an act of pure evil and so the comparison is supposed to be fully deserved. However, it seems to me that Read and many like him have as their main objective some form of self-deification. They desperately need their opponents to be a personification of evil because that renders their own efforts truly heroic and pious. Or is his ilk just employing the Nazi technique of dehumanizing opposition so that its destruction may be seen as a simple purification?

    As you say, once the debate has been framed as a crusade against pure evil there is no hope of entering a rational debate.

    As for his legal argument regarding the concept of imminence, I think he is simply conflating the important with the urgent, as indeed did the IPCC once it realized that ‘important’ wasn’t cutting the mustard.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Given that XR, IB etc love to compare themselves to heroic people and organisations from the past (the suffragettes, Gandhi, MLK, even Churchill) and to compare their opponents to fascists, Rupert Read and co were never going to turn down an opportunity to compare themselves to Anne Frank, but they didn’t invent the ‘she steals a car to escape the Nazis’ argument. It was first used in 1998 at the trial of some Iraqis who had hijacked a plane in Khartoum and forced the pilots to fly it to Stansted. Their lawyers argued successfully that the hijackers’ lives were in imminent, if not immediate, danger in Sudan and that this imminence was enough to justify the hijacking.

    The same argument was used unsuccessfully in 2008 by lawyers defending climate protesters. Here’s District Judge Morris Cooper:

    52. The defendants have argued that they were responding to a peril that is both immediate and imminent (as interpreted by the Court of Appeal in R. v. Abdul Hussain). I have found as a fact, on the unchallenged scientific evidence that the impact of CO2 emissions from human activity has doubled the probability of an extreme weather event. Extreme weather events kill many thousands of people across the world at the present time and the threat is an increasing one. To that extent, therefore, there is a very substantial peril that is both immediate and imminent in the sense that it is hanging over us.

    53. Mr. Cunningham argued that the imminent peril of death or serious injury would have to emanate from the operation of Ratcliffe on Soar Power Station for the defendants actions to be justified. There is logic in the defendants’ argument, based on the evidence of Dr. [Simon] LEWIS, that any significant contribution to CO2 emissions will increase the probability of adverse effects resulting from the level of that gas in the atmosphere. However, that chain of reasoning does not, in my judgment, sufficiently establish that life would have been saved by preventing the operation of that particular power station for a limited period. Dr. LEWIS made it clear that it was not possible to attribute any particular extreme weather event to any particular human activity; it is all a question of probabilities.

    54. Any right thinking person would, I am sure, share the defendants’ concerns about global warming. Indeed, I believe that the majority of people who examined the scientific evidence in as much detail as has been put before this Court would share the defendant’ fears. In my judgment, however, the actions the defendants took were not legally justified.

    55. I am satisfied so that I am sure that each of the ten remaining defendants committed the offence charged. I am equally sure, on the evidence I have heard and the facts I have found, that the defendants’ offence was not justified under the law relating to the defence of necessity. Accordingly, I find each of the ten defendants guilty of the offence charged.

    Would spraying ‘Liars’ on an office have any more chance of saving lives than spraying ‘Gordon’ on a power station chimney? It seems unlikely.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Vinny,

    The two key words used in the summing up were ‘sufficiently’ and ‘necessity’. I agree with the verdict, and I even agree with the reference to ‘right thinking’, although harboring a concern is only a starting point.

    Like

  17. It is easy to see where this conspiracy theory came from, Mann’s 2012 book “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” is full of it. My local library got a copy. No doubt there are many other similar books, articles, and even academic research projects.

    To their great credit the library also got an Ian Plimer book, and one by Rupert Darwall.

    Like

  18. Some corrections:

    1. The ‘Anne Frank steals a car’ defence seems to have come from a judge (Lord Justice Rose) rather than from a defence lawyer and from an appeal rather than from the hijackers’ original trial. The hijackers were found guilty at that trial because Mr Justice Wright had (wrote Duncan Campbell – what’s he up to these days? – at the Graun) ‘ruled out the duress defence on the grounds there had to be a close connection in time between a feared threat of injury and any criminal act.’ The appeal ruling rejected that need for a *close* connection in time. Somewhat close was close enough.

    URL:www.theguardian.com/uk/1998/dec/18/duncancampbell

    (It was quite a nasty hijacking: bomb threats, people tied up and beaten, someone stabbed with a butcher’s knife, threats to open the doors and chuck people out. It was organised by a 39-year-old ‘student of the performing arts’ who had lived in the UK for ~10 years and, it was alleged, was chiefly motivated by a desire to ship his new fiancée to the UK.)

    2. ‘Gordon’ was sprayed on a chimney during a protest at a different power station (Kingsnorth). The Ratcliffe-on-Soar protesters whose Anne Frank defence failed in 2008 didn’t climb any chimneys. They just broke in and chained themselves to this and that at ground level.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Vinny & John

    when “District Judge Morris Cooper” says –

    “54. Any right thinking person would, I am sure, share the defendants’ concerns about global warming. Indeed, I believe that the majority of people who examined the scientific evidence in as much detail as has been put before this Court would share the defendant’ fears. In my judgment, however, the actions the defendants took were not legally justified.”

    wonder what “examined the scientific evidence” means in this case ? IPCC Reports ?

    please ignore if not relevant, because I am a “Wrong thinking person” & my fears are for the damage (with no affect on climate) nut**rs will do to the UK.

    Like

  20. John, sorry to have been offline for a while today.

    In drawing a comparison between the Nazi extermination machinery and the GWPF, Read intends a direct moral comparison. The oil industries, and by extension the GWPF, are accused of knowingly hastening the destruction of humanity through avaricious acts of denial and delay. This is, in effect, an act of pure evil and so the comparison is supposed to be fully deserved. However, it seems to me that Read and many like him have as their main objective some form of self-deification. They desperately need their opponents to be a personification of evil because that renders their own efforts truly heroic and pious. Or is his ilk just employing the Nazi technique of dehumanizing opposition so that its destruction may be seen as a simple purification?

    I strongly agree about the self-deification aspect. I think the last sentence could become true without being intentional at this stage. Which is pretty cold comfort. I also think there’s a difference in the demonisation of the two groups. Basically, the GWPF is the coward’s target. The use of that particular analogy is not only outrageous but cruel, and that I feel sure is intentional.

    Thanks to Vinny for further roots and corrections. And, dfhunter, what you raise is highly relevant. It’s just that we’re dealing with so many levels of absurdity. Some potentially lethal.

    Like

  21. Dfhunter,

    It depends what is to be understood by ‘share their concerns’. I do believe there is enough in the science to raise concern but I am certainly not concerned enough to resort to stupid stunts, vandalism, disruption of others’ lives, the advocation of economic chaos or any other action that amounts to net zero at any cost and to hell with democracy and common sense.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. This is a rather interesting set of interviews held with those involved in the making of The Trick, i.e. held with the writer and main actors:

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/mediapacks/the-trick

    The article was written before the programme was aired, and it’s obvious that they all had great hopes for it. The actors come across as decent, well-intended but ill-informed people. In particular, they all admitted to not having taken much notice of Climategate at the time and having known little or nothing about it until reading the Sheers script. However, the quote that really caught my eye was this one from George Mackay, who played the young PR man:

    “I was not aware of any of the events in the piece before being a part of the project; and when I read Owen’s script for the first time, I was completely taken in, as I hope viewers who were not aware of the events of the story will be too.”

    Ouch, George. You’re not supposed to be so candid.

    Liked by 3 people

  23. Casting around to see where Sheers got his conspiracy theory from, one very quickly finds this:

    “How the oil industry made us doubt climate change”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-53640382

    It is largely based upon the testimony of a scientist called Martin Hoffert, and it more or less reads like the screenplay from the Sheers play. For example:

    “At the time Exxon was spending millions of dollars on ground-breaking research. It wanted to lead the charge as scientists grappled with the emerging understanding that the warming planet could cause the climate to change in ways that could make life pretty difficult for humans.”

    “But he noticed a clash between Exxon’s own findings, and public statements made by company bosses…‘They were saying things that were contradicting their own world-class research groups,’ said Hoffert.”

    So, as far as this BBC article is concerned, the BBC’s drama, The Trick, got it right. But then there is this to be found:

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jul/02/scientists-climate-crisis-big-oil-climate-crimes

    This is a much better balanced article since the testimonies of three Big Oil scientists are provided. Interestingly, this time Dr Martin Hoffert states:

    “So I was invited to join a research group at Exxon and one of my conditions to join was that we would publish our scientific research in peer-reviewed journals…We had eight scientific papers published in peer-reviewed journals…”

    I fail to see how this accords with allegations of a corporate desire ‘to stop the science getting out there’.

    As for the other two scientists, one contradicts the BBC’s ‘millions spent on ground-breaking research’ by saying:

    “Climate research wasn’t a big deal for the company, at that time.”

    The other speaks of his time in a small technical group working for Exxon:

    “This was a technical group, and I have no idea whether they had any influence on Exxon’s senior management. There were a few engineers who were concerned about the issue of global warming. Whether they spoke up is another question.”

    Yes, another question indeed.

    I know that we often bad-mouth the Guardian, but at least they are still capable of putting the BBC to shame.

    Liked by 2 people

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