A Post-modern ‘Nonsense’ Critique of NIPCC

Published January 17, 2018

Heartland friend Adam Wildavsky kindly sent a link to Academia.edu, which had an article about the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC).  This is the “peer reviewed” article it describes and links to: Nicholas S. Paliewicz & George F. (Guy) McHendry Jr., “When good arguments do not work: post-dialectics, argument assemblages, and the networks of climate skepticism,” Argumentation and Advocacy, 2017.

WARNING: Reading this bizarre piece of post-modern commentary may cause permanent brain damage. The language, vocabulary, and reasoning are so twisted and congested that you will grip you head and want to turn away after the first page. It is possible the article is a fake, another demonstration of the failure of peer review by obscure online journals created to pad the resumes of assistant professors at little state colleges, but I haven’t seen any reports admitting this yet.

The authors, assistant professors at colleges in Kentucky and Nebraska, advance the thesis that:

“… the NIPCC is an example of how private corporations build intransigent networks to forcefully compel public advocacy on issues already settled by established scientific communities of argument. As this paper will demonstrate, it is through these assemblages, not well-reasoned arguments, that skepticism serves as an impasse to climate policy.”

The wheels fall off this thesis by the second paragraph (!) of the article, when the authors incorrectly claim NIPCC has received funding from Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries. It has not. In fact, to my knowledge NIPCC has received no corporate funding whatsoever.

Exxon Mobil stopped funding The Heartland Institute and other conservative think tanks in 2006, before Heartland joined the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change and the Science and Environmental Policy Project to produce the first volume in the Climate Change Reconsidered series. Koch Industries has never funded Heartland or NIPCC. A Koch family foundation gave small grants to Heartland in the past but never for our work on climate change.

The rest of the article is therefore either nonsensical or comical. It is too poorly written to be comical. Still, I persevered and found a raisin in the oatmeal on page 14:

The NIPCC is undoubtedly the most forceful, and popular, assembled actor in the campaign for climate skepticism. Not only is this private organization spending the most time and money to upend the climate thesis, but it is also directly engaging with the IPCC’s argumentative style. … the NIPCC is perceived as an equally qualified body of experts on the topic of climate change that has met thresholds of doubt and uncertainty on the climate thesis years ago.

One page later, another raisin, as the authors accurately describe the impact of the first NIPCC report:

In sowing doubt about climate change, the NIPCC has helped block action on a host of climate change linked environmental policies by acting as a valid counterpart to IPCC conclusions. … The skeptical assemblage was integral to the defeat of the Waxman–Markey Bill.

Alas, these are the only accurate statements in this 24-page train wreck of postmodern nonsense.  We will put these quotations to good use in our fundraising letters and proposals this year, and for that, we thank the authors.