07.20.2020

A Climate 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail': CO2 Coalition Challenges Vox Podcast

By Caleb Rossiter

July 15, 2020

Dear Vox Editors:

Let me start by adapting shamelessly the opening paragraph from my favorite piece of American prose, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail:

While confined here in Zoom jail, I came across your recent podcast calling my present analysis of mathematical combined models of the atmosphere, land, and oceans “bullshit” and “disinformation” paid for by the fossil fuel industry. Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my staff and I and the 55 climate scientists and energy economist who are our members would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and so would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are people of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

Returning to my voice, I am appealing to you to provide me the opportunity to refute the podcast’s claims on the air. I believe this is justified because I was asked to comment prior to the broadcast and promised by your staff that my comments would be read as part of it. That promise was broken.

Your piece was about the cancel culture, featuring interviews of people who argued that my group should be banned from Facebook. By refusing to read my comments, which defended a scientific position on the mathematical art of climate modeling, you became part of the cancel culture, enforcing your own ban on debate.

It is ironic that I had just spent the previous week defending a letter signed by your founder and now writer Matthew Yglesias that pointed out the dangers of the cancel culture for freedom of speech and productive dialogue. I hope you will approve my appeal, and arrange for me to speak on a podcast.

Below are the details of the request from Vox and my response, followed by what the podcaster read at the end of the piece. In addition to allowing me to read my comments, I trust that in the interests of accuracy you will allow me also to state that, much as I wish we were funded by fossil fuel companies to prepare and publicize our reports, we are not.

On July 8, 10:47 am, our office email received this message from a producer, with a title line of “Vox.com Podcast Request for comment. DEADLINE 7/9/20:”

1.) The Co2 Coalition wrote a letter to Mark Zuckerberg stating that the information in Washington Examiner article was true, that the article was being censored and that the fact-checkers themselves had a political bias against the Co2 Coalition.

2.) The Co2 Coalition plans to use Facebook’s “opinion” policy to its advantage, by continuing to use the platform as a means of reaching more people, as stated in E&E News article.

Our deadline is 7/9 at 12 pm EST. Please let me know if you have any questions and thanks for your attention to this.

Then later that day, at 3:45 pm, the producer wrote again to our main email:

We are also seeking Patrick Michaels for comment on this episode. We’d really like to include a statement or response to the points made in the email above and comment from Caleb and Patrick as the co-authors of the article discussed.

At 8:58 Thursday morning, our office manager, as always, checked the previous day’s office email account and forwarded those messages to Dr. Michaels and me.

At 10:09 I responded:

please call any time today except 2-3 pm. I miss teaching about mathematical models, and would love to talk with you! Thanks, Caleb

p.s. https://co2coalition.org/2020/06/23/ee-alarmist-article-on-facebooks-climate-model-fact-checking-needs-its-own-fact-checking/ explains the situation:

“About the only thing that is accurate in this opinion piece masquerading as news story is this statement: ‘climate models, which are the foundation used to craft many carbon regulations.’ Climate models indeed are the only thing justifying the array of mandates and subsidies for wind and solar power that are making energy prices four times as high as they should be.” (See The Social Cost of Carbon and Carbon Taxes).

Dr. Rossiter noted that the UN’s own reports show that there has been no statistically significant increase in rates of sea-level rise, hurricanes, droughts, and other extreme weather during the era since 1950, when industrial CO2 could first have affected global temperature (see Climate Statistics 101).

Said Rossiter, “Why do Facebook’s censors go after anything we write about climate models? These models are the weak link in the alarmist narrative. These rough estimates based on pre-programmed warming assumptions continue to run three times too hot compared to actual temperature data.” (see On Climate Sensitivity).

The producer then called me and said that the story was all finished, and would be closed off at noon, but that my comments would be read on the air at the end of it. I said that then she should just take material out of the excerpts I had already sent her in the postscript. She said she did not have time to pick out what to use, but would make sure that if I answered the two written questions, my answers would be read at the end of the podcast. So, I provided this response:

1.) The CO2 Coalition wrote a letter to Mark Zuckerberg stating that the information in Washington Examiner article was true, that the article was being censored and that the fact-checkers themselves had a political bias against the CO2 Coalition.

Comment by Caleb Rossiter:

We wrote Mr. Zuckerberg to explain that Facebook’s so-called fact-checkers at Climate Feedback were factually wrong in their claims about the accuracy of climate models’ projections of future temperatures. More importantly, we explained that models are all that the alarmist narrative has left, because UN data to date show no statistically significant increased in the carbon emissions era of the rates of sea-level rise, hurricanes, droughts,, floods, or wildfires.

But models are mathematical art, not physical science, and so interpretations of them is a matter of opinion, not fact.

Climate models, by their nature, are tools, not oracles. They run on mathematical estimates of the interactions of thousands of climate variables, including the crucial parameter of the effect of carbon dioxide on temperature. Modelers adjust, “tune,” these estimates to get a better fit with past temperature data. But, in reality, the relationships of these variables change all the time, so a past fit is no guarantee of a future fit. That’s why the UN’s terrifying projections of temperature rise don’t come true, but are simply extended, again and again.

Facebook did not rule on the accuracy of our analysis versus that of Eric Michelman’s alarmist project, Climate Feedback. Instead, it followed its long-held policy of not censoring opinion, and told Climate Feedback to uncensor the article.

We now know that Climate Feedback is not certified as unbiased by Facebook, but by the Poynter group that certifies “fact-checkers.” We will be sharing our information about Climate Feedback’s bias with Poynter in an attempt to get the group decertified.

2.) The Co2 Coalition plans to use Facebook’s “opinion” policy to its advantage, by continuing to use the platform as a means of reaching more people, as stated in E&E News article.

Comment by Caleb Rossiter:

This is a serious error in the E&E article. It is not the CO2 Coalition but Climate Feedback taking advantage of a loophole. Facebook’s policy bars Climate Feedback from censoring opinion, but Climate Feedback has decided that video expression of opinion, like Pat Michaels on the Life, Liberty and Levin show, is less protected from their censorship than written op-eds. Why is something spoken less an opinion that something written? The effort to close off debate on the climate catastrophe narrative was the dry run for today’s cancel culture. We will resist it.

Yet here is the verbatim comment from the podcast, including one sentence on a non-scientific issue and one sentence I didn’t say and certainly didn’t intend to be interpreted as meaning:

“Caleb Stewart Rossiter, of the CO2 Coalition and the other author of the article, wrote in an email to us that Facebook, quote, followed its long-held policy of not censoring opinion. He added that it’s incorrect to say that CO2 Coalition plans to take advantage of Facebook’s opinion loophole.”

On the matter of us being accused of being funded by the fossil fuel industry, the podcast contains this statement, which I hope you will agree alleges that we are funded by the industry and hence are doing its bidding:

“Disinformation has been the key strategy of the fossil fuel industry to prevent action on climate change for the last 30 to 40 years. That’s well-documented….As soon as fossil fuel companies found out that the earth was warming primarily because of their products and the consequences would mean that they would have to stop selling their products, their main strategy was, OK, let’s launch a campaign to sow doubt in the public’s mind about whether or not this is really happening, so we have the most time possible to make the most amount of money….Any opportunity that interests in the fossil fuel industry get to continue spreading misinformation and disinformation about climate science is part of that campaign to delay climate policy. (…) Climate change is an objective truth. The influence, power, and money of people who would like us to forget that is still very strong, and this is just one more way that it’s manifesting, and that’s how I see the story.”

Of course, we did not write about “climate change” in any of its many definitions, natural and manmade, short-term fluctuations and long-term trends. Our publications repeatedly provide scientific evidence that global average warming in the past century is an objective truth. What is not, and cannot by its nature, be an objective truth is a mathematical model’s prediction of what global average temperature will be in the future. That’s the topic that we wrote about.

While we would welcome financial support from fossil fuel companies, we have not received any in the two years that I have been executive director, and indeed in the three years before that. The Wall Street Journal acknowledged that fact last fall when correcting a similar claim about fossil fuel funding in a story about us and Facebook. Less than two tenths of one percent of our total funding since our founding in 2015 came from a fossil fuel company, and that was a single $5,000 grant in that year.

To borrow again, this time from Dr. King’s closing: I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith of free speech and dialogue. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an climate statistician or an affordable and reliable energy advocate, but as a fellow supporter of the media’s importance to our democracy and a cherished sister or brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of intolerance for others’ opinions will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and fellowship will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Sincerely,

Caleb Stewart Rossiter
Executive director,

On July 17, we received a response:

Dear Mr Rossiter,

My name is –– and I’m the executive producer of Reset.   –– forwarded your email on to me. I have read your letter in full, and cross-checked some of the points you raised with the content of the episode.

In response to those points –

  • It is our convention to use excerpts from comments sent in, and that is what we did with your comment;  –– also let you know that we’d be using an excerpt, in [the] email exchange with you. We also did this with Facebook’s comment.
  • In the course of the episode, we did not state that your organization was funded by the fossil fuel industry, nor that it should be banned from Facebook. Nor was this episode about ‘cancel culture’ – the focus of this episode was Facebook’s fact-checking process with regards to information about climate change.
  • It’s not our convention to have folks come on the show for rebuttal interviews I’m afraid, so I’m not in a position to offer this.

Best,

––

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