Watts Up With Conspiracy Ideation

Anthony WattsThe website Watts Up With That run by Anthony Watts always was a website that uses conspiracy theories to support their argument that global warming isn’t a cause for concern. They try to keep what they publish on the website somewhat scientific, but that’s just a thin layer. That they are a conspiracy theory website sometimes becomes very obvious.

Their take on the loss of Cuccinelli in the Virginia elections is a good example of this. The title of their blog post ‘The big green machine: McAuliffe, Mann, and Megadollars‘ (archived here) alone hints at what is to come:

From the irascible Joe Romm at Climate Progress:
But how did this happen? Follow the money. The Daily Caller has this story:

Big ‘green’ dollars propel McAuliffe to victory

Environmental activists poured millions of dollars into the Virginia gubernatorial campaign to help propel Democrat Terry McAuliffe to victory over Republican opponent Ken Cuccinelli.

Environmental groups put up $3.8 million to help McAuliffe defeat Cuccinelli, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. That’s about four times as much as fossil fuel interests gave Cuccinelli.  

Energy and environmental concerns became a major focus during the campaign, as McAuliffe planned to jump-start Virginia’s renewable energy production and bring green jobs into the state.

So it’s only a problem when green groups outspend other political factions in an election? Watts never has a problem when for example companies that are heavily invested in fossil fuels outspend their opponents or manage to run a better campaign for their preferred candidate. Then you don’t hear the line “follow the money” that conspiracy theorists are so fond of.

Of course, we all know about ‘green’ jobs. They tend to be subsidized, transient, and only available to a select group of people.

Green groups also spent millions on TV ad buys during the campaign. NextGen Climate Action, which was founded by San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, spent more than $2.4 million — the most spent on TV buys by any group.

The League of Conservation Voters was able to mobilize volunteers to knock on 100,000 doors in the Richmond area and 300,000 across the state, reports the Hill.

Environmentalists were successful at making global warming a central issue in the campaign, having former University of Virginia climate scientist and global warming activist Michael Mann stump for McAuliffe.

Again, this is Watts complaining about a well run political campaign. This even shows there was a lot of support among the population to help McAuliffe with his campaign. If there wasn’t support for him they wouldn’t have been able to muster 300,000 people (Virginia has a total population of 8.1 million). If Cuccinelli had won and the above applied to him, you wouldn’t hear Watts complain about it. Then it would be proof that people aren’t buying into ‘bad science’ any more.

That environmentalists, and scientists like Michael Mann, rallied against Cuccinelli isn’t surprising. For years Cuccinelli has shown that he doesn’t accept valid science and attacks scientists for their work.

One of the best examples of this is Cuccinelli thinking that the climategate emails showed scientific fraud (they didn’t). To further investigate it he issued a demand to the University of Virginia to turn over records relating to Michael Mann and his grants. The Judge dismissed this case on 30th of August in 2010, as Cuccinelli didn’t give any evidence that there might have been fraud involved.

Furthermore, 4 of the 5 grants couldn’t even be prosecuted under the 2003 Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act that he was using for this as they preceded its enactment. Cuccinelli then resubmitted his request, with just the one grant being mentioned, but basically with the same wording.

He did this despite the 8 investigations into the climategate emails. None of them found any evidence for scientific fraud in the hacked emails. Because of this, and that the university doesn’t count as a person under the act, the judge dismissed this case in 2010. Things like this is why environmentally aware voters aren’t voting for Cuccinelli.

Also the claim made by Watts that we all know that green jobs “tend to be subsidized, transient, and only available to a select group of people” is not true. World wide in 2011 fossil fuels received $523 billion in subsidies. This means that for every $1 spent to support renewable energy there are $6 going towards fossil fuel subsidies. The small amount of subsidies renewables get is to help them get a foothold in this type of market.

Despite this disadvantage the jobs created by renewable energy production aren’t transient. Those are real jobs, most of them are permanent, and they pay well because they need skilled labourers.

The stigma of political stink will always be over Michael Mann now, as he has transformed himself from scientist to political activist, much like Dr. James Hansen (formerly of NASA GISS) has.

If big environmental outfits can so easily spend millions buying an out-of-state candidate like Terry McAuliffe, then how hard is it to buy a climate scientist or two?

Is team climate science now the best science money can buy?

So there isn’t a “political stink” associated with CATO, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Heartland Institute, CFACT, and the scientists and experts they employ? Watts has no problem citing any of the scientists of experts who do most of their work for these organisations that promote a certain political ideology. He often gives them a platform on his website to attack valid science. But that’s probably because they spread a message he agrees with.

That Watts is a conspiracy theorist really showed when he said “how hard is it to buy a climate scientist or two?” Finding a few scientists that agree with you, and paying them so they can continue to attack valid science isn’t that hard. The organisations that I just mentioned do that often enough. This is a well known tactic that’s used by organisations that attack valid science. A tactic that was very successful to cast doubt on the health risks of smoking (some of the same organisations and scientists were involved in that campaign).

But at most this can cause confusion among the public; it’s impossible to fake a scientific consensus this way. You would need to fake almost every single data point, every single report, and scientific finding. And organise it all in such a way that it matches what is happening, with thousands of scientists and experts involved, and hundreds of organisations. With none of them spilling the beans, which is simply impossible. Just a couple of people knew about Watergate, and we all know how that ended.

Proposing a conspiracy is the only thing Watts can do as he has lost on the scientific evidence. When you look at what the literature says we see that 97% of publications say that we’re the cause of global warming. You see the same thing when you ask experts if we’re the cause. And when the experts don’t agree with you, then the only thing you can do is to attack those experts and propose conspiracy theories. Which means you don’t have a case and just admitted defeat.

Collin Maessen is the founder and editor of Real Skeptic and a proponent of scientific skepticism. For his content he uses the most up to date and best research as possible. Where necessary consulting or collaborating with scientists.