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Chasing Shadows

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJune 14, 2012 6:34 PM


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Last week, I noted that the findings of this Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) report were parroted by all mainstream media journalists. Except this one, who actually vetted the report. Well, turns out that Ron Bailey at Reason magazine is the reason why UCS has now issued a clarification about one of its claims. The Guardian (which I pointed to as one of those publications that didn't scrutinize the report) covers the UCS screwup:

The Union of Concerned Scientists has revised a report accusing major US companies of distorting the public conversation about climate change, saying it made a mistake counting donations from General Electric to thinktanks.

When the original report was released, numerous journalists and bloggers gobbled it up uncritically. I suspect that is because it neatly accorded with a meme that even Chris Mooney now admits is outdated:

Despite my praise for [Michael] Mann and his book"”and I even gave it a cover blurb"”I do have some differences with him. For instance, I think that here and in his public comments, Mann tends to focus too heavily on the idea that resistance to climate science, and his research, is corporate driven. Or as he puts it in the book: "well organized, well-funded, and orchestrated." In contrast, I have increasingly come to think it is primarily ideological"”driven by libertarian individualism, and those who embrace this view and its associated emotions"”and the corporate connection is secondary (though often real). I thus think that focusing on it too much misleads us as to the nature of the opposition, which has grown so ideological at this point"”and so driven by gut emotion"”that it does the traditionally pragmatic business community no favors. If anything, it is out of synch with its own presumptive allies.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, along with others who are still eager to cast big corporations as public enemy number one, might want to ask themselves if their own ideological obsessions have them chasing after shadows.

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