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Global warming skepticism is fueled by public relations, author says

In the book 'Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming,' James Hoggan says the campaign to create skepticism about climate change is 'by far and away the biggest public relations campaign that I've ever seen.'

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And finally, fact-check everything including, Hoggan urges, his book.

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Hoggan tells one story that's especially pertinent given the kerfuffle around Climategate. Much has been made of the attempts to quash dissent that those hacked e-mails purportedly reveal. In one, Penn State scientist Michael Mann writes: "Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal."

Hoggan, who was writing his book before the stolen e-mails came to light, tells the story behind the study in question, which was published in 2003. It was titled "Proxy Climatic and Environmental Changes of the Past 1000 years" and it concluded that recent climate change was no different than climate change in the past. It sparked an uproar in the climate science community, including among some editors at the journal Climate Research, where it was published. Three resigned in protest over the study's publication. (See this essay on the resignations at Scientists for Global Responsibility.)

Scientists whose work was cited in the study, meanwhile, reaffirmed elsewhere that they think recent climate change is real, that it's unusual, and that it's due to human activity. Here's an American Geophysical Union press release to that effect l. It names 13 scientists who took issue with how the Climate Research article interpreted their work.

Finally, Otto Kinne, the publisher of Climate Research, issued a statement [PDF]. He conceded that, with regards to this article, the process of quality control had failed: "CR [Climate Research] should have been more careful and insisted on solid evidence and cautious formulations before publication," he wrote.

Hoggan's telling of this story reminds us that "Climategate" increasingly seems an inaccurate moniker. What, exactly, was the scandal that deserves the "-gate" suffix? Besides a few unfortunate word choices by scientists in private e-mails, not much. Here's a recent AP story to that effect.

The only real malicious intent seems to be the hacking itself. And Hoggan's book reminds us to ask: Who pilfered the e-mails, and with what goal in mind?

Hoggan reserves some blame for the media. In pursuit of "fairness" and "balance," they quoted people who were not really experts in the field. In doing so, they inadvertently perpetuated and amplified the impression that there was a debate over human-induced climate change in scientific circles. (There isn't.)

Budget cuts and staff reductions across the media landscape didn't help. In essence, he argues, the media — like the public — were bamboozled by a sophisticated public relations campaign.

On Monday, we'll continue this topic with a Q and A session with author James Hoggan. Click here to read it.

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