Organised denial targets Dáil climate committee

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA) has been in session over the last couple of weeks. It is tasked with reviewing the recommendations of last November’s Citizens’ Assembly section entitled: ‘Making Ireland a leader in tackling climate change’ and bringing proposals to government.

Already, the lobbyists (who were barred from addressing or influencing the deliberations of the 99 ordinary Irish citizens who comprised the Citizens’ Assembly) are swarming over the JOCCA. One of the more, let’s say, interesting submissions it received was from our old friends, the Irish Climate Science Forum (ICSF).

Regular readers will be familiar with this grouping of mainly long-retired engineers and weathermen which has set itself up, Canute-like, to try and hold back the ever rising tides of scientific and real-world evidence that climate change is real, it’s extremely dangerous, it’s here right now and it’s quickly getting worse.

Some people feel the ICSF are just a group of harmless science hobbyists with a lot of time on their hands engaged in the pleasant group delusion of having heroically unpicked a century and more of climate science and found it to be basically bunk. That the people who believe they have upscuttled the most powerful global consensus in any branch of the physical sciences are completely unqualified to do so (not a single atmospheric scientist/climatologist listed among the 10 signatories attached to their JOCCA submission) makes their plucky little band even more, well, remarkable.

I’m just not one of those people. This murky group includes some extremely well connected and no doubt influential individuals. The scope for this mischief-making to do real and lasting damage to climate action in Ireland is too real for them to be laughed off as harmless amateur science meddlers. Below, the report I filed for the investigative site, DeSmog.uk yesterday detailing their latest play:

CLIMATE DENIAL group the Irish Climate Science Forum (ICSF) has significantly escalated its lobbying campaign to prevent climate action.

The group’s main function until now has been to hold behind-closed-doors meetings with infamous climate science deniers as guest speakers. But it has now submitted a document to the Irish Parliament insisting climate change simply isn’t as bad as scientists make out, DeSmog UK has learned.

The group, which has no publicly accessible membership or officer list, has run a series of ‘invitation-only’ events in Dublin over the last 18 months allowing familiar faces from the world of climate denial, such as Richard Lindzen, William Happer, Henrik Svensmark and Nicola Scafetta to showcase their debunked arguments against taking action on climate change.

Its seventh talk, which once again bars media and NGOs, took place on Wednesday September 26 in Dublin, and featured William van Wijngaarden, who was expected to make his oft-repeated claim that the greenhouse gas influence of agricultural emissions are “significantly less than hitherto estimated by the IPCC”.

As a result of the strong recommendations arising from a Citizens’ Assembly report on climate change issued late last year, the Irish parliament recently convened a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA) to examine the Assembly’s findings and make recommendations for action to government.

Ireland is one of the worst performing countries in the EU in terms of meeting its mandated obligations on emissions reduction, largely due to the lobbying power of key interest groups, including the agri-industrial and transport sectors. Instead of meeting its 2020 EU obligation to achieve a 20 percent cut in emissions versus a benchmark of 2005, Ireland is currently on track to achieve “at most” a one percent emissions cut, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates.

Submission

The ICSF submission to the JOCCA, which has been seen by DeSmog UK, runs to 25 pages and includes almost 100 references. None of the people whose names accompany the ICSF submission have relevant qualifications or expertise in climate science. No scientific advisors are identified.

The document was submitted by the chairman of the ICSF, Jim O’Brien, a retired engineer. The submission was ‘supported’ by nine other named individuals, mainly retired engineers. They include Former Siemens and Science Foundation Ireland chairman Brian Sweeney and Dr Ed Walsh, former chair of the Irish Council for Science Technology and Innovation.

The submission, entitled ‘Latest Climate Science, Sept 2018’ is a mish mash of charts and graphics from a range of contrarian and denier sources, including the London-based Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) and its references section is a who’s who of climate science denial, including John Christsy, Richard Lindzen, Judith Curry, Roy Spencer, William Happer, Matt Ridley and Willie Soon.

Among its claims are that current global temperature trends continue below IPCC model predictions and that ‘recent research’ shows lower climate sensitivity than estimated by the IPCC. The main source for the latter is retired meteorologist, Ray Bates, founder of the ICSF. It also quotes papers by Lindzen and Yong-Sang Choi which have been thoroughly debunked.

According to John Sweeney, Emeritus Professor at the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Unit, Maynooth University, the ICSF submission: “cannot be taken seriously by any responsible atmospheric scientist”.

He added that it: “perpetuates long-debunked science, such as the non-existent temperature hiatus, the myth of discrepancies in thermometer observations and the spurious explanation of urban heat islands as the cause of higher temperatures on land”.

Also commenting on the ICSF submission, Green Party senator, Grace O’Sullivan told DeSmog UK: “it puts forward cherry picked data that does not represent either the consensus or the lived reality on any of these issues. They claim to be a sceptical group, checking the science. Yet every single conclusion on every single issue comes out against mitigation measures. Surely this is a bizarre and unlikely coincidence?”

Senator O’Sullivan added that she could not “begin to fathom the group’s true aims and motives, but these materials need to be viewed with the deepest ‘skepticism’ themselves”. She added that the work of the committee “is too important to be set off course with distractions and misrepresentations such as these”.

DeSmog UK made numerous efforts to contact ICSF chair, Jim O’Brien, to ask him about the submission, as well as the funding and ongoing lobbying activities of the Forum, but he did not respond to an invitation to comment.

Ireland’s Regulation of Lobbying Act requires all individuals and groups engaged in lobbying to register and verify their details on the Lobbying.ie website and make written returns every four months. Environmental groups such as the Stop Climate Chaos coalition and An Taisce publish details of their lobbying returns as required, but nothing has been filed on behalf of the ICSF at the time of writing.

Under current regulations, groups engaged in lobbying must register if they have at least one paid employee. As it does not disclose any operational details publicly and has declined to answer questions from DeSmog, it is unclear whether or not the ICSF has any paid employees and if so, if it is required to register its lobbying activities.

The ICSF has recently launched its website, where it sets out its contrarian agenda plainly, attempting to claim the IPCC ‘got it wrong’ on key issues. From there, it revisits debunked denier talking points, such as: “there are solar-related and other natural influences on earth’s climate… the relative magnitudes of these influences may be comparable to or possibly even greater than those of GHG.”

“ICSF members do not foresee a planetary climate emergency”, it continues. The organisation claims that its members are “characterized by an open and enquiring mind on climate science, driven by the imperative of objectivity without any vested interests”.

This open-mindedness does not extend to answering media questions, however. Its events have hand-picked attendees lists, the group has a secret membership and officer list, and there is no visible process for applying to join.

It has also yet to explain how it has funded seven meetings involving international guest speakers. It claims to be “modestly self-funded through member contributions only”.

The ICSF’s ‘Useful Links’ page gives an insight into its approach, in which legitimate sites such as the AMA and Climate Home are interspersed with denier blogs such as Watts Up With That and SEPP plus pseudoscience from Bjorn Lomborg. Tellingly, the ICSF chooses not to provide a link to the UN’s official advisor on climate science, the IPCC.

ThinkOrSwim is a blog focusing on the inter-related crises involving climate change, sustainability, resource depletion, energy and biodiversity loss
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