A recent post by a Gather contributor linked readers to a recent deeply-flawed publication by Friends of Science (FOS), an anti-science, Canadian denialist PR organization funded heavily by the oilmen of Alberta. The FOS publication cobbles together and summarizes a handful of reports all of which were debunked and dismissed by credible sources over the past few years. But to a denialist group like FOS, rebuttals that debunk their findings are much less important than news reports that mention the "new" information and promote the illusion that settled climate science is still "up in the air."
In part, the FOS report attempts to counter recent studies that show that up to 97% of climate science papers confirm the importance of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) through increased CO₂ concentrations in the atmosphere. The numerous flaws in the report include the use of arbitrary and narrow (self-serving) definitions of what constitutes "consensus"; the analysis of only the abstracts of papers and not their full text; eliminating many papers as having "no position" on AGW through specious means; and failure to acknowledge and take into account procedures used by the authors of the original "consensus" papers to control for bias in the assessment of "agreement," including polling the authors of the underlying papers for their own assessment (in the case of the Cook paper).
From the award-winning site DeSmogBlog:
Unscrupulous PR people ... years ago ... started to create organizations that look spontaneous and economically disinterested, but are, in fact, industry stooges. … In 2002, APCO Worldwide [a PR firm previously engaged by Phillip Morris deny the truth about the dangers of tobacco use] introduced another organization to the world: the so-called "Friends of Science (FOS)" … There is no evidence that FOS has created a single piece of new scientific research … . It has also been demonstrated, by the Globe and Mail, that while Dr. Ball [see below] and others have been denying their corporate connections, the oil and gas industry was pouring in money, and FOS was going out of the way to conceal that connection. … We have "scientists" who publish almost nothing in the peer-reviewed press, but who contribute frequently to the nation's opinion pages and who conduct barnstorming tours of the country, urging everyone from newspaper editors to groups of retirees to fight against good climate change policy.
In the Gather comment stream of the aforementioned post, a commenter provided a list of denialist quotes by climate scientists of various repute, including a name that caught my eye, Dr. Chris de Freitas, Associate Professor of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Auckland. de Freitas, through his prominent connection to Friends of Science, provides further insight into the kind of organization represented by FOS.
Aussie Chris de Freitas has a curious connection to the Alberta, CA-based Friends of Science, through his brother, Tim de Freitas. Tim, who worked for Imperial Oil (ExxonMobil’s Canadian subsidiary) and then Talisman Energy, was editor of the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin. In June 2002, Tim de Freitas published a controversial paper by brother Chris entitled Are observed changes in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere really dangerous? … Tim de Freitas had recused himself from consideration of the paper, but had it reviewed by two prominent denialists, Willie Soon and Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen. That same year, 2002, the PR firm APCO Worldwide began working for the nascent FOS, after previously having done work for Phillip Morris to deny the health effects of smoking. And Chris De Freitas became one of four initial Friends of Science "professional contacts"—and is to this day named first on the FOS website as a member of their "Scientific Advisory Board."
Back in 1997, Chris de Freitas had obtained the position of editor of the previously-respected journal Climate Research. What happened to the journal over the following six years is instructive both of the risks to the scientific community of a failed peer review process and of the tactics of denialist researchers who attempt to publish sometimes deeply flawed papers. To be clear, the papers were not "flawed" because they took a denialist position. They were published because they took a denialist position, despite their sometimes egregious flaws. DeSmogBlog.com summarizes de Freitas' time at Climate Research this way.
[As editor at Climate Research], de Freitas was involved in a controversy surrounding a research article … co-authored by Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon. The article reviewed previous scientific papers and came to the conclusion that the climate hasn't changed in the last 2000 years. …
But 13 of the authors that had been cited in the paper by Baliunas and Soon refuted the interpretation of their work.
Among the sharp criticisms of the Climate Research paper was one from Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University. When von Storch, then the journal’s editor, read Mann's critique, he said he realized his journal should never have accepted the study: "If it would have been properly reviewed, it would have been rejected on the basis of methodological flaws." Shortly after, Von Storch, along with two other members of the Climate Research editorial board resigned in protest—"they submitted flawed research," Von Stroch stated at the time. …
"And at least three scientists who were on the journal's peer-review panel--Wolfgang Cramer, Tom Wigley and Danny Harvey--have complained that de Freitas has published papers they have deemed unacceptable without notifying them." …
After the controversy a more extensive version of the research was published in Energy and Environment, operated by Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen. Senator James Inhofe used the article as proof that climate change is caused by natural variability rather than human activity.
…de Freitas opened the door for papers, some quite dubious, by a set of people … [who had] never published in CR before he arrived and … essentially disappeared after von Storch resigned.
A 2011 paper by John R. Mashey titled "Pal Review at Climate Research, 1997-2003" goes into detail about 14 denialist "pals" of de Freitas and their sometimes deeply flawed papers that were allowed by de Freitas to be published in Climate Research through subversion of the peer review process.
So much for Chris de Freitas, premiere member of the Scientific Advisory Board at Friends of Science.
One other name related to FOS that should be mentioned is its principle spokesman, Tim Ball, who doesn't even have a degree in climatology (it's in historical geography). Before joining the rubber chicken circuit, Ball taught for a fairly brief eight years at the University of Winnipeg, where he apparently conducted no research on climate and atmosphere. Just the pitchman needed by the oilmen of Alberta.
Postscript: after I began posting the truth about Friends of Science and its carnival barkers, the OP on the referenced post removed key comments of mine and closed the post (and then made it "friends only.") The closed ranks of the denialists both in the anti-scientific community and in the anything-goes blogosphere reveal their timidity to be exposed to the truth and genuine discourse.
Edited 9-Apr-2014 to change commenting options.