Friday, February 02, 2007

No Credit from The Guardian

The UK-based Guardian newspaper has published a story stating that the American Enterprise Institute offered scientists $10,000 each to write articles critical of the new IPCC report on global warming.

The AEI hasn't denied offering the money, but claims it was for an honest report and didn't want it slanted to be skeptical of global warming. That's simply not credible, considering how the letter was worded. It was obviously aiming to get support for a conclusion it wanted. It asks for papers that: "thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs".

This kind of "research" by scientists-for-hire is common among think tanks and companies trying to buy support. As a reporter, I constantly see evidence of this financial manipulation of "science" to fool the public. Oil companies (and others) know they are not held in as high regard as ostensibly independent scientists, supposedly engaged in a pure search for truth. So these companies and the think tanks they fund try to downplay their role in favor of these supposedly independent "experts," who often are just shills. The public is not told that these scientists are not really functioning as scientists, but as PR guns. Not that there's anything wrong with PR. Openly conducted PR is honorable. It's the deception that's offensive and unethical. Perhaps the evidence for man-caused global warming is weaker than generally believed. That should be determined in open scientific debate, not by a PR campaign pretending to be scientific. Hint to AEI: Real scientific research isn't limited by preordained findings.

Now here's where the Guardian's journalism becomes suspect. The article didn't include the entire letter, although it is available. A blog called "DeSmogBlog" posted the letter and told pretty much the same story as the Guardian -- in November. Yet the blog is not credited. (DeSmogBlog, which posts an impressive amount of material I haven't yet had a chance to explore, says its goal is "to clear the PR pollution that is clouding the science on climate change.")

Did the Guardian find out about the letter by itself, without using DeSmogBlog as a source? I doubt it. The letter was sent to the same scientist the Guardian just happened to interview. And it was easily findable -- I got it in just 5 minutes of Googling. Any reasonably competent reporter could have done the same in researching the story. I'd certainly check to see if someone else had beaten me to the punch. And if so, I'd credit them.

Whether or not it saw the DeSmogBlog post, the Guardian ought to acknowledge it was not the first to report on this disturbing unethical behavior by the American Enterprise Institute.

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