Dad’s Army of climate deniers rallies in Dublin

My piece below, as published last Friday on the respected climate science website, Desmog.uk. As outlined below, I was tipped off about the meeting early last week, and wrote to the organiser, Jim O’Brien, who informed me I would not be allowed to attend. To use his exact phrase: “Please be advised that this is a strictly private event. We decided ab initio to exclude politicians, media and NGOs”.

Despite this setback, I decided to drop down to the event venue, the Sandymount Hotel in south Dublin, to see the lie of the land, if you’ll pardon the phrase. While denied admittance, I did manage to snap a shot of Lindzen (74) and his (almost entirely elderly, grey-haired, male) audience through the glass doors at the rear of the room.

Knowing how much fringe groups like this feed on fantasies of persecution by ‘climate zealots’ (you know who you are) I decided against attempting to doorstep any of the attendees for interview or comment. However, there were one or two people in the room underwhelmed by Lindzen’s brand of so-called skepticism who were prepared to give me a detailed run-down of his talk and the Q&A that followed.

Interestingly, the originally advertised venue for the event was the Institution of Engineers HQ on Clyde Road in Ballsbridge, but this was switched at the last minute to the hotel venue. We understand that EI may have developed cold feet at being seen to facilitate an anti-science forum like this. When I asked O’Brien to explain the sudden shift from the advertised venue, his reply: “no comment”.

We don’t know too much about the shadowy ICSF, except that in August 2016, O’Brien registered the a domain (www.icsf.ie) on the group’s behalf, so there has clearly been a plan of some kind afoot for some time. One can only speculate on how energised a contrarian grouping like this must have been with the installation last January of the the most anti-scientific US administration in history, with climate deniers and energy industry apparatchiks now swarming over key positions in critical federal agencies like the EPA and NASA.

Then there is a certain R. Lindzen calling on Trump to slash funding on climate research “by 80-90%”. Quite the inaugural guest speaker to choose for an organisation claiming an interest in ‘neutral, independent analysis of the latest climate research’ alright. Watch this space: we’ll be tracking the ICSF with interest.

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[4/5/2017] THE INAUGURAL meeting of a newly formed climate sceptic group, the Irish Climate Science Forum (ICSF), took place in Dublin on Thursday night, DeSmog UKcan reveal.

The organisers described the meeting as a “strictly private event” and barred access to “politicians, media and NGOs”, according to organiser, Jim O’Brien, an energy consultant. There were roughly 50-60 guests in attendance.

Guest speaker for the meeting was noted US climate science denier, Richard Lindzen, retired MIT professor, whose lecture was entitled “The Science and Politics of Climate Change”. Lindzen is also an academic adviser to the UK climate denial group the Global Warming Policy Foundation and works at the Koch-founded U.S. conservative think tank the Cato Institute.

The ICSF describes itself as “a voluntary group of Irish scientists, engineers and other professionals, currently in a formative stage”. It plans to carry out what it says is “neutral, independent analysis of the latest climate research with the purpose of better informing climate and energy policies in Ireland”.

Funding for ICSF

The ICSF claims to be only funded by “modest personal donations from its members and has no vested interests other than seeking the most sustainable future for Ireland and its citizens.”

There was no entry fee to the evening meeting on 4 May, nor were attendees asked to make any donations, so it is unclear what the source was for the significant funding required to fly in a high-profile climate science denier and host a meeting in an upmarket hotel.

In chairing the meeting, O’Brien, an engineer, stated that: “People think our organisation is funded by fossil fuel interests, but we have no donations from fossil fuel sources, only from private sources”.

Speaking to DeSmog UK, O’Brien said Lindzen didn’t charge to give the talk and that they only paid for his expenses (he didn’t clarify who the “they” were). O’Brien repeated his line that ICSF is all self-funded and told DeSmog UK that their total funds are “only around €5,000”.

Lindzen opened his talk on Thursday night by condemning the “narrative of hysteria” that he claims surrounds the science of climate change. Carbon dioxide, he told the audience, is a plant fertilizer, and the Earth was lush 600 million years ago when atmospheric CO2 levels were far higher than today. He described any climate change that has occurred to date as “miniscule”, calling it all for the good.

Lindzen insisted that the warming experienced in the last two decades fell within the range of “natural variability”, and repeated the long-debunked argument that climate sensitivity to a doubling of pre-industrial CO2 levels was limited to just 1ºC. To hedge his bets, Lindzen added that, in any event, “warming would actually benefit the Earth”.

Among those attending the event, which mostly consisted of engineers and meteorologists, were a number of senior Met Éireann staff, as well as Dr Rory O’Donnell, director of Ireland’s National Social & Economic Council, and Matt Dempsey, CEO of the Irish Farmers Journal, a newspaper owned by the powerful lobby group, the Irish Farmers Association.

Lindzen reacted angrily to a question from an audience member asking about his prior involvement as a tobacco lobbyist, stating any such suggestion was “libellous”.

That was the only brief note of discord from an otherwise hand-picked audience, almost exclusively male and with an estimated average age of 65–70. A “vote of thanks” for Lindzen was led by engineer and former Siemens and Science Foundation Ireland chairman Brian Sweeney.

Who Is Behind the New Group?

Retired UCD meteorologist Dr Ray Bates is understood to be a key mover behind the development of the ICSF. In recent years he has become an active lobbyist for climate inaction in defence of Ireland’s greenhouse gas–intensive beef and dairy sectors.

Speaking with DeSmog UK, O’Brien refused to name any other members of the ICSF. When asked whether Bates was behind the project, O’Brien replied “you may make that assumption”.

Why a meteorologist with no expertise in agriculture chooses to publicly lobby in this area has never been fully explained. And, like Lindzen, Bates has been an enthusiastic promoter of the debunked “global warming hiatus” theory.

Last night’s meeting concluded without any direction from the organisers as to the next steps. However, the web domain ICSF.ie has been registered on its behalf by O’Brien, so it is expected that the secretive group will, at some point, launch a website to support its stated aim of “better informing climate and energy policies in Ireland”.

Judging by the choice of speaker for last night’s inaugural meeting, the ICSF appears intent on attacking and discrediting mainstream science and providing cover for further inaction.

John Gibbons is a Dublin-based specialist writer and commentator on climate and environmental issues. He blogs at ThinkOrSwim.ie You can follow him on Twitter here.

ThinkOrSwim is a blog focusing on the inter-related crises involving climate change, sustainability, resource depletion, energy and biodiversity loss
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7 Responses to Dad’s Army of climate deniers rallies in Dublin

  1. hugh-aedh says:

    I sent this article in as an OpEd to daily newspaper in Bangor, Maine and thought it would be worth sharing:
    CLIMATE CHANGE IS HAPPENING
    Last week I invited the renowned climatologist, Paul Mayewski to speak on climate change at my “Peace Studies” class. He is the Director of the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine and over the years has conducted numerous field climate expeditions to the Arctic, Antarctic and the Himalayan regions.

    Using slides from his expeditions Professor Mayewski introduced us to views of melting glaciers in the Himalayan Mountains, an area with 5500 glaciers which are melting faster than any in Europe with the rate of melting doubling in the past ten years. Over two billion people are dependent upon the Himalayan glaciers which feed the major rivers of Asia, including the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Indus in India; the Mekong stretching the length of Vietnam, and the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers in China.

    Mayewski noted that in the fifty-five years given over to studying these glaciers increasing melting has seen a sharp increase. Even though humans have had an impact on the climate for 5000 years, the pace in recent times has accelerated 100 times faster than at any time in the past 400,000 years.

    Shifting his focus, Mayewski pointed out that with rapid melting in Siberia and the Arctic, there is a considerable release of methane gas (more potent than CO2) from permafrost. As grim as this scenario appears to be, Mayewski pointed out that environmental change has been legislated in the past to improve the health and well-being of Americans. In President Nixon’s administration the Clean Air Act was established in 1970 which created the “Environmental Protection Act” (EPA) and the “National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration”(NOAA) to oversee national emission standards. In 1972 the Clean Water Act was passed by Congress resulting in a rapid reduction of pollutants (including lead and cadmium) in the nation’s water.

    In his discussion of issues closer to home, Mayewski said that, unless changes are made to significantly reduce emissions, Maine will see a tripling of 95 degree days in the next few decades resulting in more such events as Lyme Disease. And as the Gulf of Maine’s waters warm higher temperature will result in lobsters migrating further north to cooler waters in Canada.

    When asked to explain how fast climate change is taking place, Professor Mayewski used Greenland as an example. He had drilled ice bores from 1989 to 1995 which showed a pollen history extending back over 100,000 years at a time when Greenland was ice free. At present vast quantities of ice on Greenland are melting at an annual rate of 270 billion tons, much of it through surface melting while about a third is by way of “glacier calving”.

    Paradoxically, warming in other parts of the world has resulted in desertification, which removes land from agricultural use and forces farmers to migrate into urban areas. This took place in Syria helping to precipitate the Civil War now wracking the country. Similar events are taking place in Yemen, Northeast Nigeria, South Sudan and Somalia forcing millions of people into serious risk of starvation.

    Mayewski completed his talk by noting that those who are engaged in denial or skepticism concerning human influenced climate change ignore all the evidence or refuse to believe the science. The public continues to be swayed by misinformation campaigns that fabricate controversies and sow seeds of doubt and confusion which deflects from the fact that there is a clear scientific consensus on human-caused climate change.

    We are one planet and one human species and desperately need to develop a more conscientious planetary consciousness, especially where climate change is concerned. Each year the U.S. is releasing 6.5 billion metric tons of carbon which precipitate rising seas, more intense storms and greater levels of flooding. In the Paris Agreement the U.S. committed to a significant reduction of emissions by 2025 and the process has gotten well underway. Next to China the U.S. is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. President Trump is apparently mulling over the possibility of withdrawing from this very important Agreement that was signed by 195 countries. It is imperative that the Paris Agreement be honored and every possible effort be made to reduce carbon emissions by any and all means possible.

    Hugh Curran teaches in Peace & Reconciliation Studies at the University of Maine.

  2. Coilin MacLochlainn says:

    Hi, John,

    I commend your excellent and speedy work in exposing this new climate change-sceptic group, which was obviously set up to lobby for the oil and coal sectors and their associated industries, including manufacturers of artificial farm fertilisers, regardless of the huge impact these industries are having on the liveability of the planet and their threat to the future of the human race and most other life forms on Earth.

    It is shocking to read about this new group of lobbyists who are prepared to spread lies and propanda to further the cause of the oil and coal industries at the expense of life on the planet and our very future.

    It is also shocking to read, and hear on the radio, Matt Dempsey, former editor of the Irish Farmers Journal, suggesting that methane, a gas released in massive quantities through farm livestock’s rear ends, and a twenty-five times more powerful and more dangerous greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, is not the threat to live on Earth that it is.

    Matt is obviously trying to defend the ‘business as usual’ scenario for the short-term benefit of big farmers, with total disregard for the future of life on Earth, the collapse of which is starting now within our lifetimes, and which will accelerate soon after, as a result of our ignoring the threat from methane, and from the continued mining and burning of fossil fuels.

    Certainly, if we don’t introduce massive transformative changes across the board this year, right across the globe, and continue with these changes for the next forty years or possibly indefinitely, children alive today will be grappling with the massive problems of uncontrollable climate change, which will result in billions of human beings dying across the globe, leaving perhaps only a few million to carry on the human species into the future, even if any survive.

    The planet is heading for a catastrophe unimaginable today when you look out the window and see sunny blue skies and green grass.

    I hope you will be able to find out who the members of this new group are, the self-styled “Irish Science Climate Forum,” though it seems highly improbable that this group of climate change deniers will deal in or even accept the scientific findings on climate change accepted by at least 99% of climate scientists across the globe.

    Like all climate change denier groups, they give themselves a plausible name that hides their ulterior motive, to throw a spanner in any works that look like saving us from irreversible climate change. Members of such groups either are unable to grasp the true implications of climate change and cannot believe them, or are wilfully ignoring the real dangers and now almost inevitable destruction of most life on Earth for the sake of the huge payoffs they will get from the oil and coal sectors in the short term for their efforts to convince governments like ours to do nothing about the gravest problem the human race has ever faced.

    Obviously Enda Kenny and his cabinet are only too willing to believe the lies and deceptions of a group like this so they can let the country’s big farmers continue and expand the highly destructive production of beef and dairy, the most polluting industries in the country and the most damaging to the atmosphere and world climate; the so-called Green Origin progamme, an Orwellian title if ever there was one.

    Enda and company must phase out beef and dairy as soon as possible and replace them with tillage, horticulture and cereals, not only to reduce the impact on the atmosphere and climate, but also to produce more food calories per acre. Far more people can survive on an acre given over to vegetables and cereals than to one with livestock on it, because each cow chews through enough food to support dozens of people while providing only a few steaks and pot roasts itself.

    Please profile the members of the new group individually so we know exactly who we are dealing with in this group of lobbyists who seem intent on derailing the government’s attempts to mitigate climate change, not that the government is actually doing anything about the situation; indeed it is doing as little as it can possibly get away with; but we cannot afford to have a new lobby group giving the government even more false excuses for doing nothing.

    Of all countries in Europe and member states of the EU, Ireland is amongst those at the bottom of the table, doing the least to stave off the existential crisis of climate change that will undoubtedly wipe out most of the human population on Earth unless radical action is taken immediately and continued for decades. And still we are trying to convince our European neighbours that we are clean and green, even as our farming practices destroy the ecological richness of the countryside, wiping out birds, butterflies and bees with untold consequences for the future viability of our farming industry, our soils and our very communities.

  3. John Gibbons says:

    @Mack If conspiracy theorising is your thing, good luck with that. Try not to be too surprised when it turns out reality is uncooperative.

  4. John Gibbons says:

    @coilin Where to begin? Groups like the ICSF are, I reckon, largely irrelevant, a bunch of (mostly retired) people finding a hobby of sorts with which to pass the time with like-minded people, and convince themselves they are still relevant. The real problem, IMO, is the inability of wider society to see this type of club for what it is; their chronic wishful/magical thinking starts becoming a problem in the real world when the likes of the Farmers Journal republish their paranoid tripe and pass it off as ‘a new look at the science’.

  5. Coilin MacLochlainn says:

    John, – Many thanks for your reply. Just a quick response: certainly, this new group, the ICSF, is a bunch of irrelevant old-timers living in the past and are indulging in wishful thinking. And as you point out, they are being used by the Irish Farmers Journal, and by default the Irish Farmers’ Association, to discredit concrete and credible science on climate change, to the advantage of climate-destroying farming enterprises in Ireland, notably beef and dairy as currently constituted.

    So, are they really irrelevant or, with a readership of a quarter of a million (as the IFJ claims), are they a dangerous bunch of liars we need to expose for their blatant and harmful propaganda? Yes they are, and we have to demand the abolition of this group.

    I think it is obvious: we need to force their abolition somehow, or to get the government to officially accept that it will ban this group, totally and forever, from lobbying them on climate change, as it should, if it has any self-respect.

  6. Mack says:

    @ Colin
    “……is a bunch of irrelevant old timers…..” “….are they a dangeous bunch of liars we need to expose for their blatant and harmful propaganda?. Yes, they are…..”
    As an old timer, here’s some blatant and harmful propaganda for you , Colin.
    (the link in this comment)
    http://jennifermarohasy.com/2016/09/13040/#comment-582401

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