International Journal of Inactivism (now supplanted by Decoding SwiftHack)


Ode to a theory unsung and conspiratorial

cite as: F. Bi. 2008. Ode to a theory unsung and conspiratorial. Intl. J. Inact., 1:101–104

This isn’t very new, but from one Professor Denis G. Rancourt comes a climate conspiracy theory which even the self-proclaimed ‘non-mainstream dissenters of the orthodoxy’ will see as non-mainstream — the fringe of the fringe. Well, let’s just say it’s a conspiracy theory from a left-anarchist point of view:

Global warming is often presented as the greatest potential threat to humankind and as the greatest environmental and ecological threat on the planet. It is also presented as a problem that could be solved or contained by determined international collaboration – by political will if it were present.

[…] I argue that by far the most destructive force on the planet is power-driven financiers and profit-driven corporations and their cartels backed by military might; and that the global warming myth is a red herring that contributes to hiding this truth. In my opinion, activists who, using any justification, feed the global warming myth have effectively been co-opted, or at best neutralized.

Um yeah, The Truth Is Out There, as they say in The X-Files, and who better to expose the Plain Truth than an individualist leftist anti-government Bakuninist who, well, knows the Truth?

The Truth… the Truth…

Except, nowhere does le professeur name the specific “corporations” which are complicit in this enormous global warming ‘scam’. Is ExxonMobil part of this plot, seeing that it’s been dishing out money to global warming deniers? Perhaps Blackwater is also involved? Is Toys Я Us in it too?

And while there’s an impressive list of about 100 “Selected Supporting References” at the end, he doesn’t actually (!) refer to them in his main text.1 No matter: in any case, he proceeds to dismiss all the scientific papers with a broad stroke of the brush:

Environmental scientists and government agencies get funding to study and monitor problems that do not threaten corporate and financial interests.

Wow, now that’s really rigorous, my good prof…

Déjà vu

Rancourt’s entire essay, in fact, is an entire string of such vague just-so statements, with no specific citations whatsoever. Out of the numerous vague claims, there was a slightly less vague claim which caught my eye:

The most recent thermometer measurements have their own special problems, not the least of which is urban warming, due to urban sprawl, which locally affects weather station mean temperatures and wind patterns: Temperatures locally change because local surroundings change. Most weather monitoring stations are located, for example, near airports which, in turn, are near expanding cities.

Now this ‘fact’ sounds awfully familiar (to those of us watching the global warming ‘debates’, anyway). Indeed, it’s straight out of inactivist Anthony Watts’s playbook! Watts has been working on a project called ostensibly dedicated to ‘exposing’ the ‘bias’ towards the global warming theory produced by ‘bad’ temperature measurements. The project home page shows a nice beautiful picture of a “well maintained and well sited USHCN [US Historical Climatology Network] station” at Orland, CA and a “not-so-well maintained or well sited USHCN station” at Marysville, CA; and it tries to ‘show’, using two graphs, how the difference ‘affects’ the surface temperature trends:

Now that’s very shocking indeed — well-sited stations show cooling, and poorly-sited stations show warming! Except that Watts doesn’t mention that the above graphs are for the temperature records before homogeneity adjustments (to account for e.g. changes in thermometers). After adjustments, it turns out the temperature trends don’t look so different:

Curiously enough, Rancourt’s list of ‘selected references’ mentions neither Watts, nor, nor the poem by “Horatio Algeranon” commemorating this issue (heh). (Well, it’s after all just a list of ‘selected’ references, not all references…)

So, what’s up with Rancourt’s conspiracy theory? Did the professor simply lap up some ‘facts’ from random sources espousing the ‘greenism is crypto-communism’ line, and reinterpret the ‘facts’ according to his own ideology? Who knows. Anyway, there’s a lot more of such silliness in Rancourt’s essay; those who are brave enough are invited to read the whole thing…


  1. Jeez, he’s a professor, surely he should know that the whole point of having a list of references is to allow people to check the source of each of his claims. The list isn’t just there to look pretty.


  1. Unfortunately, the left has to wear some of the blame for starting off this po-mo, ‘reality is whatever we say it is’ shit, that the right have recently and successfully co-opted.

    There are idiots right across the political spectrum.

    Comment by Just Me — 2008/07/13 @ 23:27 | Reply

  2. Just Me:

    I don’t know if Rancourt is into this po-mo stuff. What is certain, is that he’s a fan of Bakunin…

    Comment by frankbi — 2008/07/14 @ 07:02 | Reply

  3. The graph on the website is from the old data set. The graphs you have below showing additional data farther back is from the newer data used by GISS. You can find the exact dates of the change in datasets on the GISS web page

    Comment by Mike C — 2008/07/19 @ 17:38 | Reply

  4. Mike C:

    Now that’ll be mightily interesting, and I guess I stand corrected then (on my claim elsewhere that Watts was removing pre-1900 data).

    Anyway, according to’s gallery, the Marysville graph without the pre-1990 data was put up on 28 May 2007.

    Between then and now, there was this change on the GISTEMP data set:

    September 10, 2007: The year 2000 version of USHCN data was replaced by the current version (with data through 2005). In this newer version, NOAA removed or corrected a number of station records before year 2000. Since these changes included most of the records that failed our quality control checks, we no longer remove any USHCN records. The effect of station removal on analyzed global temperature is very small, as shown by graphs and maps available here.”

    This might be responsible for the additional pre-1900 data that appeared in the Marysville record…

    Comment by frankbi — 2008/07/19 @ 18:15 | Reply

  5. Just to try and head off a bit of smear/guilt by association here: his odd little conspiracy theory certainly isn’t representative of any sort of anarchist ‘consensus’ on the matter any more than it’s representative of the views of physics professors.

    Climate denial is far more the stock in trade of the vulgar libertarians, randroids, and other worshippers at the alter of wal*mammon.

    Comment by Bunty — 2008/07/31 @ 08:41 | Reply

  6. Bunty:

    Thanks, indeed that’s worth clarifying.

    Comment by frankbi — 2008/07/31 @ 09:48 | Reply

  7. Personally, I do believe climate change is a very important issue, and while I believe their may be some legitimate debate on the true source of climate change, it is not something we can ignore and suggest is a non-issue: climate change IS happening, whatever its source, and this will reshape the face of the whole planet. We do not have the luxury of ignoring the possibility of our being the source of this change merely because there is contention in the data, or it doesn’t suit our idealogies.

    THAT SAID, he makes a strong argument, in my mind: the mess we’re in is not simply about whether we can maintain the status quo as much as possible in our current society, while dealing with our environmental impacts, that may provide blowback to our own personal standards of living, the conveniences we expect. It’s about the sickness in the soul of humanity; about how we mistreat each other; how the takers take, and the have’s are content to keep their share from the have nots, regardless what this means from a human perspective.

    What if humanity came together, and with EFFECTIVE*1 policies, was able to avert a climate catastrophe? Some people suggest we could do this with nuclear power, for instance. Making sure the third world is never able to become industrialized is another way – there is concern about ‘China’ becoming an industrial power, like North America…
    But when you mine uranium, and poison the earth and waters, who is able to afford clean water, and who has to live in a toxic dump?

    The root of many of these problems, and perhaps climate change itself, if it is in fact human driven, is our need to consume, to have, to live extravagantly. There is power and wealth distribution issues of a very fundamental nature, which, if not addressed, will persist into this ‘new world order’ of ‘climate stability’. Who will we choose to make ‘pay’ for our climate future?

    We can’t sustain our culture as it is (in North America, Europe, etc) without raping the rest of the world: capitalism requires a lower class to exploit, in order to reactively try and keep building its ‘jenga-tower’ of constant growth with limited means and resources. Are we ‘ok’ with taking from others, so that we can have what we want? Are we willing to make personal sacrifices to make a world where everyone can prosper? Are we willing to stand up for the oppressed and the marginalized even when our own ‘personal’ life wealth and happiness aren’t threatened? Or will we turn tail and run, when we face issues, unlike the environment, where someone can fight back, where people will be uncomfortable and perhaps hostile at the idea of giving up things they want, for the greater good, for the sake of others, who are just as important and worthwhile…and human.

    Without a spirit of egalitarianism… the soul of compassion for each other… without an ethics and idealogy with heart … it will be a constant threat that the forces with power in this world will co-opt such (or any) a global movement, as the climate one, for their own aims; to basically keep the goods for themselves, and make someone else pay the cost for them living their dreams [secret of NIMH – why they are moving]
    [annie – it’s a hard knock life].

    If we keep thinking this is -just- a fight for our lives – and not the future of humanity, our relations, our collective soul – we will constantly be bickering about data sets among ourselves, while the ‘takers’ keep the wool over our eyes, keep the public pacified in self-interest and apathy, and sell our children’s future for material comforts they don’t need, and their ego’s pride.

    Important in this is to remember, it is not ‘US’ and ‘THEM’; we are also them, and they are us: and whenever we think we can solve our problems, without first starting with ourselves, we are becoming ‘them’. But we can’t end with ourselves; we have to stand up for each other, oppressors and oppressed alike. Not with Hate, and Rage, and Violence; but with Love, and Patience, and gentleness. [fifth element – protect life]

    We have profitted in a material age of knowlege; but it is time for the East and West to reunite: to return to the source: and to transform our knowledge into wisdom: to begin to live consciously what we know and believe to be true deep in our hearts.
    To live not just with (material) purpose, but (spiritual) meaning; not dependence on one another, but interdependence.
    Not the intolerance to judge one another; but with commitment to the truth and good, to share of ourselves honestly, and sincerely.

    What’s a revolution, without singing and dancing and joy? But its time to share it with everyone.

    Comment by Michael — 2008/08/11 @ 05:57 | Reply

  8. Michael:

    I think there’s no argument among the proponents of the global warming theory, that the kind of “laissez-faire capitalism” that allows Big Oil and Coal to continually spew CO2 is simply not the way to go.

    Also I’ll say that, outside of the obvious oil and coal interests, the idea of wealth redistribution is really quite orthogonal to the idea of climate change mitigation (although right-wingers tend to oppose both of them). Although I sense that that might be the point you were trying to make.

    Comment by frankbi — 2008/08/11 @ 06:25 | Reply

  9. …after a quick skiim, u may want to look over the essay A Corporate Climate Coup (also on Denis’ blog) by David Noble. This is where the corporations involved in the conspiracy are named:

    Comment by David — 2008/08/11 @ 16:17 | Reply

  10. David:

    Wow, thanks — I’ve archived the relevant blog entry. So Noble’s talking about the usual suspects: Gore’s GIM, the USCAP, and so on. It seems to me that Noble is criticizing these companies, not because they’re wrong about climate change, but because they aren’t left-anarchist enough.

    Comment by frankbi — 2008/08/11 @ 16:38 | Reply

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