Category Archives: Current Affairs

War With Iran

I was just re-reading Seymour Hersh’s article from last April, on US planning for starting a war with Iran. It’s very interesting, even though events haven’t quite developed as per the plans he described (e.g. last year’s Israeli attempt to ‘take out’ Hezbollah prior to starting a war with Iran, to remove them as a factor in Iranian retaliation didn’t exactly come off as intended, despite the horrible spectacle of our slimy Prime Minister Mr Blair trying to prevent a cease-fire while the IDF bombed Lebanese civilians.)

An awful lot of it is very consistent with the stuff we’ve been seeing lately though and I found that re-reading it strongly confirmed my concerns that we’re seeing the build up to some sort of ‘double or nothing’ attempt to start a war with Iran while they still have the opportunity.

With regard to the possibility of a nuclear attack, I think it depends what they’re trying to do. If they’re actually trying to eliminate Iran’s nuclear capability, then it probably looks very tempting to use nukes. Especially if due to Bush’s current huge credibility problem, the Israelis are going to have to start the party before the US can find itself ‘forced’ to join in.

On the other hand, the motivation of the neo-cons may be less to do with Iran’s nuclear weapons programme (which even the CIA can’t find any evidence of and thinks they’re years away from having even if they’re somehow doing it invisibly) and more to do with competition for regional dominance. In which case the arguments for using nuclear weapons on Iran are far less persuasive because all you’re really trying to do is create a provocation that would allow the US to destroy Iran’s infrastructure with a massive bombing campaign and do a variety of other things intended to weaken the regime and to significantly reduce its capability as a regional competitor.

In that scenario all the talk of Iranian nuclear weapons and an immediate pressing need to destroy them functions rather more like all the talk of Saddam’s WMD did when the same people were trying (and sadly succeeding) to produce some big fat stinking lies scary enough to get enough of the public onside with the idea to go ahead with their proposed military adventures. I don’t think it’s by any means impossible that this is happening again, and if it is, all the talk of an imminent threat causing Israel to use nukes is probably just some more propaganda bullshit.

Here’s an article that makes a reasonably convincing argument that the possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons is merely a propaganda issue.

Just as the true reasons for the U.S.-British invasion of Iraq were not “weapons of mass destruction” or “links to Al Qaeda,” so too, the real reason for the present U.S.-Iran crisis is not about the ostensible “nuclear threat” posed by Iran. The Iranians are nowhere near to developing highly-enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. In fact, they appear to be far from even producing sufficient low-level enriched uranium to use in fuel rods for their Russian-built nuclear power plant. But, even if they were near to building a nuclear bomb, Iranian nukes would not, per se, be why Washington wants to remove the mullahs from power. Just this February Bush was very pleased to recognize India as a nuclear power—a country that has actually done what Washington is accusing Teheran of trying to do. He did this after India sided with the U.S. against Iran on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) critical report to the UN. So too, Bush hasn’t insisted that Pakistan, a country which admits to having proliferated nuclear weapons, and which has powerful Islamic fundamentalist movements, give up its illegally developed nuclear weapons—rather, he has called Pakistan a “close ally” of the U.S.

No, the true reason for the U.S. push against Iran’s nuclear program and for “regime change” is about maintaining U.S. hegemony in the oil-rich Persian Gulf region. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), about 60 percent of the world’s conventional oil reserves are located in essentially five countries in the Persian Gulf region. Whoever has predominant influence there has their hand on “the global oil spigot”—a prize that brings enormous power and leverage. Washington has worked since the 1979 Iranian Revolution to keep the Iran of the mullahs from once again becoming the oil-producing powerhouse it was under the Shah. Indeed, gradually, especially in the years just after the Iran-Iraq War, Washington came to an absolutely firm, bi-partisan consensus that, no matter what promises the mullahs might make, the mullahs simply cannot be trusted. Even when the mullahs have offered quite stunning compromises, Washington has rejected them. Its reasoning is that, if Iran’s production were allowed to rapidly climb (and indeed, it has the potential for significant growth), the mullah’s would become rich and powerful players and would use their position to undermine the U.S.-backed Saudi royals and the Kuwaiti emir—and thereby U.S regional hegemony.

source

You never quite know with fanatics like Bush, Blair and the paranoid loons running Israel though, so it’s at least worth examining the possibility that they really are that irresponsible.

Here’s some of the reasoning from Hersh’s sources on the need to use nuclear weapons to be sure of destroying hardened facilities. The discussion here is about US military options, but due to its rather weaker strike capability, it applies even more strongly to Israel (nominally) ‘going it alone’

One of the military’s initial option plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites. One target is Iran’s main centrifuge plant, at Natanz, nearly two hundred miles south of Tehran. Natanz, which is no longer under I.A.E.A. safeguards, reportedly has underground floor space to hold fifty thousand centrifuges, and laboratories and workspaces buried approximately seventy-five feet beneath the surface. That number of centrifuges could provide enough enriched uranium for about twenty nuclear warheads a year. (Iran has acknowledged that it initially kept the existence of its enrichment program hidden from I.A.E.A. inspectors, but claims that none of its current activity is barred by the Non-Proliferation Treaty.) The elimination of Natanz would be a major setback for Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but the conventional weapons in the American arsenal could not insure the destruction of facilities under seventy-five feet of earth and rock, especially if they are reinforced with concrete.

There is a Cold War precedent for targeting deep underground bunkers with nuclear weapons. In the early nineteen-eighties, the American intelligence community watched as the Soviet government began digging a huge underground complex outside Moscow. Analysts concluded that the underground facility was designed for “continuity of government”—for the political and military leadership to survive a nuclear war. (There are similar facilities, in Virginia and Pennsylvania, for the American leadership.) The Soviet facility still exists, and much of what the U.S. knows about it remains classified. “The ‘tell’ ”—the giveaway—“was the ventilator shafts, some of which were disguised,” the former senior intelligence official told me. At the time, he said, it was determined that “only nukes” could destroy the bunker. He added that some American intelligence analysts believe that the Russians helped the Iranians design their underground facility. “We see a similarity of design,” specifically in the ventilator shafts, he said.

A former high-level Defense Department official told me that, in his view, even limited bombing would allow the U.S. to “go in there and do enough damage to slow down the nuclear infrastructure—it’s feasible.”

But those who are familiar with the Soviet bunker, according to the former senior intelligence official, “say ‘No way.’ You’ve got to know what’s underneath—to know which ventilator feeds people, or diesel generators, or which are false. And there’s a lot that we don’t know.” The lack of reliable intelligence leaves military planners, given the goal of totally destroying the sites, little choice but to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons. “Every other option, in the view of the nuclear weaponeers, would leave a gap,” the former senior intelligence official said. “ ‘Decisive’ is the key word of the Air Force’s planning. It’s a tough decision. But we made it in Japan.”

He went on, “Nuclear planners go through extensive training and learn the technical details of damage and fallout—we’re talking about mushroom clouds, radiation, mass casualties, and contamination over years. This is not an underground nuclear test, where all you see is the earth raised a little bit. These politicians don’t have a clue, and whenever anybody tries to get it out”—remove the nuclear option—“they’re shouted down.”

Seymour Hersh: The Iran Plan

Here’s what I think might be about to happen. Bush is trying to mobilise additional troops, he’s already sent an additional carrier battle group and according to some sources, what sounds like one or more of their amphibious assault groups each carrying about a brigade of marines with their own armour, helicopters and so on.

Suppose the basic concept described in that Hersh article has changed slightly due to unplanned circumstances, but not all that much. Hersh talks about the US launching an all-out attack on both Iran’s nuclear facilities and at the same time, their various other capabilities, naval and Pasdaran bases and so on, in order to suppress their ability to retaliate. Suppose instead, that Israel will apparently unilaterally, attack the key Iranian nuclear facilities on its own. Israel certainly appears to have the capability to use nuclear weapons, so if we assume the intention really is to destroy Iran’s nuclear programme, then that’d be the only viable approach for them, for reasons explained in the long quote above. If as seems a bit more likely though, they’re just trying to start a war with Iran that’ll give Bush his excuse, then the nukes aren’t necessary.

The Iranians are likely to retaliate to any serious attack though whatever US/Israeli intetions are, and given that they’ve been preparing for war with ‘The Great Satan’ for almost three decades now, they’ve certainly got quite a range of options for doing so. Here’s what Professor Paul Rogers and his team from the Oxford Research Group have to say about this bright idea.

An air attack on Iran by Israeli or US forces would be aimed at setting back Iran’s nuclear programme by at least five years. A ground offensive by the United States to terminate the regime is not feasible given other commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and would not be attempted. An air attack would involve the systematic destruction of research, development, support and training centres for nuclear and missile programmes and the killing of as many technically competent people as possible. A US attack, which would be larger than anything Israel could mount, would also involve comprehensive destruction of Iranian air defence capabilities and attacks designed to pre-empt Iranian retaliation. This would require destruction of Iranian Revolutionary Guard facilities close to Iraq and of regular or irregular naval forces that could disrupt Gulf oil transit routes.

Although US or Israeli attacks would severely damage Iranian nuclear and missile programmes, Iran would have many methods of responding in the months and years that followed. These would include disruption of Gulf oil production and exports, in spite of US attempts at pre-emption, systematic support for insurgents in Iraq, and encouragement to associates in Southern Lebanon to stage attacks on Israel. There would be considerable national unity in Iran in the face of military action by the United States or Israel, including a revitalised Revolutionary Guard.

One key response from Iran would be a determination to reconstruct a nuclear programme and develop it rapidly into a nuclear weapons capability, with this accompanied by withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty. This would require further attacks. A military operation against Iran would not, therefore, be a short-term matter but would set in motion a complex and long-lasting confrontation. It follows that military action should be firmly ruled out and alternative strategies developed.

Oxford Research Group

However, the US has already reinforced its carrier presence and possibly also has positioned amphibious assault forces ready to e.g. try to deal with the very numerous Iranian missile sites along the Straits of Hormuz and sent has additional Patriot missile batteries according to some sources. They’ve also got a troop surge planned, if not authorised, to provide additional manpower in the fairly likely event of Iraqi Shiites kicking off.

So in this scenario, Israel to nobody’s surprise, does something mental and Bush doesn’t have to take any official responsibility for it, but when the Iranians start retaliating, he can call that provocation and use it as his casus belli for joining in the nice new war the Israel will have just started for him.

The Democrats just took control of Congress, are likely to use that to bury the Bush administration in subpoenas to drag the skeletons out of their closets with a view to taking the Presidency in 2008. Although the party leaders don’t want it, the Democrat grass-roots are baying for impeachment and may perhaps succeed in getting a state legislature to send up a bill to Congress. Cheney is due to testify under oath shortly in the Libby / Plame case and there is a strong possibility that he’ll get strangled by his own lies. In general, then, control is slowly but surely slipping away from them.

Appearing on TV the other night, smeared in blood and wearing a necklace made from babies heads, President Bush tried to his best to get the US all excited about a resurgent bloodbath in Iraq and the public reaction, aside from his hard-core of drool-case supporters, seemed to largely consist of angry contempt. Blair tried the same thing yesterday and got pretty much the same reaction from the British public, only perhaps more so.

So the lunatics in the White House may view this as their last chance to push their agenda to the next stage. Once they’ve actually started a war with Iran, perhaps with a bit of help from Israel, then whatever the Democrats might think that they’re going to do with control of Congress, they’ll be committed.

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Bush’s troop surge

How many more people must die for this weak man’s vanity?

Corporations to control Iraq’s Oil: so how is this meant to work exactly?

As you’ve probably heard by now, control of Iraq’s oil is to be handed over to certain corporations, under what are known as Production-Sharing Agreements (PSAs). These agreements are long term (decades long) deals which give the oil corporations the lion’s share of the profits, and which bind the Iraqis to terms agreed by their current government. Terms which a reasonable person might conclude are not exactly favourable to the Iraqi people.

Here’s the main article in which the story was broken in the English-speaking world, by yesterday’s Indepedent on Sunday.

And Iraq’s oil reserves, the third largest in the world, with an estimated 115 billion barrels waiting to be extracted, are a prize worth having. As Vice-President Dick Cheney noted in 1999, when he was still running Halliburton, an oil services company, the Middle East is the key to preventing the world running out of oil.

Now, unnoticed by most amid the furore over civil war in Iraq and the hanging of Saddam Hussein, the new oil law has quietly been going through several drafts, and is now on the point of being presented to the cabinet and then the parliament in Baghdad. Its provisions are a radical departure from the norm for developing countries: under a system known as “production-sharing agreements”, or PSAs, oil majors such as BP and Shell in Britain, and Exxon and Chevron in the US, would be able to sign deals of up to 30 years to extract Iraq’s oil.

PSAs allow a country to retain legal ownership of its oil, but gives a share of profits to the international companies that invest in infrastructure and operation of the wells, pipelines and refineries. Their introduction would be a first for a major Middle Eastern oil producer. Saudi Arabia and Iran, the world’s number one and two oil exporters, both tightly control their industries through state-owned companies with no appreciable foreign collaboration, as do most members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Opec.

Critics fear that given Iraq’s weak bargaining position, it could get locked in now to deals on bad terms for decades to come. “Iraq would end up with the worst possible outcome,” said Greg Muttitt of Platform, a human rights and environmental group that monitors the oil industry. He said the new legislation was drafted with the assistance of BearingPoint, an American consultancy firm hired by the US government, which had a representative working in the American embassy in Baghdad for several months.

“Three outside groups have had far more opportunity to scrutinise this legislation than most Iraqis,” said Mr Muttitt. “The draft went to the US government and major oil companies in July, and to the International Monetary Fund in September. Last month I met a group of 20 Iraqi MPs in Jordan, and I asked them how many had seen the legislation. Only one had.”

Blood and Oil

We haven’t yet seen the final bill, which is due to be rammed through this week, but the draft, familiar to the oil majors and the IMF, but not apparently to most Iraqi MPs, contains things which give rise to understandable concern. From the Independent, who have seen a copy of this quasi-secret draft:

“A Foreign Person may repatriate its exports proceeds [in accordance with the foreign exchange regulations in force at the time].” Shares in oil projects can also be sold to other foreign companies: “It may freely transfer shares pertaining to any non-Iraqi partners.” The final draft outlines general terms for production sharing agreements, including a standard 12.5 per cent royalty tax for companies.

It is also understood that once companies have recouped their costs from developing the oil field, they are allowed to keep 20 per cent of the profits, with the rest going to the government. According to analysts and oil company executives, this is because Iraq is so dangerous, but Dr Muhammad-Ali Zainy, a senior economist at the Centre for Global Energy Studies, said: “Twenty per cent of the profits in a production sharing agreement, once all the costs have been recouped, is a large amount.” In more stable countries, 10 per cent would be the norm.

While the costs are being recovered, companies will be able to recoup 60 to 70 per cent of revenue; 40 per cent is more usual. David Horgan, managing director of Petrel Resources, an Aim-listed oil company focused on Iraq, said: “They are reasonable rates of return, and take account of the bad security situation in Iraq. The government needs people, technology and capital to develop its oil reserves. It has got to come up with terms which are good enough to attract companies. The major companies tend to be conservative.”

Dr Zainy, an Iraqi who has recently visited the country, said: “It’s very dangerous … although the security situation is far better in the north.” Even taking that into account, however, he believed that “for a company to take 20 per cent of the profits in a production sharing agreement once all the costs have been recouped is large”.

Immediate Value

So, it appears that the bloody shambles the incompetents in Washington have made of Iraq is turning out to be advantageous for at least some, those oil companies who will obtain PSAs at extremely favourable terms, justified by the risks implied by the horrific security situation in Iraq.

PSAs in which shares are, you will notice, tradable and hence can become the subject of very profitable speculation before a barrel of oil is pumped under their terms. Consider for a moment the value to a speculator of a share in the long-term rights to exploit some of the largest and potentially most profitable reserves of oil left on the planet. These deals are very long term, so the security situation may improve, in which case such shares would become far more valuable as a result, and and a canny speculator can bet profitably against that possibility.

The enormous and rapidly growing (as we use up active reserves) potential value of these PSAs could potentially underwrite, if I’m not mistaken, a hugely valuable speculative market.

In addition, it’s very likely that large additional supplies exist in the relatively unexplored regions, regions which seem to have been of great interest to Cheney’s Energy Task Force. So the potential exists for proving out those fields and radically increasing the reserves controlled by the relevant oil majors (along with their share prices and executive stock options) Those parts of Iraq are lightly inhabited, so at least as far as exploration goes, if not production, the security issue isn’t too much of a worry.

Future Value

Of course, at some point, let’s say in a decade or so, the necessity of actually pumping that oil will start to become overwhelming. It’s the last really big pool of relatively unexploited, easy to access, high quality oil on the planet. There are plenty of places with a very great deal of heavy oil, Venezuela being one obvious example, but that costs so much more to turn into something useful.

Ultimately though, someone is going to want to pump that oil. So the question is, now that they’ve got these deals locked in for a few decades, or rather assuming all this gets rammed through the Iraqi parliament on schedule, just how are they going to actually lift the oil?

Presumably security is a key concern. From the point of view of the oil companies, the motivation is to secure pipelines and infrastructure, but not necessarily to do anything particularly positive about the overall Iraqi security situation unless it happens as a side effect of their primary concerns.

A couple of things now seem very obvious. The US may withdraw troops from the cities, but it’s certainly going to want to maintain large bases from which to deploy its high-tech super weapons in defence of all that precious oil. I also doubt that any of this comes as a surprise to James Baker’s ISG or to Dick Cheney, so perhaps the US debate about Iraq can usefully be interpreted in terms of the specific commercial problem of exploiting Iraq’s oil. An issue that seems to have faded from the mainstream discussions about Iraq, but which is no doubt foremost in the minds of at least some US leaders.

There’s a lot of room for speculation here, and I’d be very interested in any comments on how the oil companies might think this could be best achieved.

A cynical person might for example, look at what happened to the PSAs negotiated after the fall of the Soviet Union with a weak Russian government and which have recently been overturned by Putin’s government, which has just re-negotiated much more more favourable deals now that it’s strong enough to do so.

A cynical person might conclude that from the oil companies point of view, a weak and divided Iraqi government, terrified that if the US doesn’t protect them from their own citizens, they and their families will be tortured to death by angry zealots from a multitude of rival militias, gangs and whatnot, might actually be advantageous to the oil companies, who would therefore have no particular reason to want the overall security situation in Iraq resolved as long as they’re able to lift and ship ‘their’ oil. After all, while their cut remains at 70% of all those hundreds of billions of dollars worth of oil, they can afford to spend a bit on pipeline security and so on. Whereas if the Iraqi government ever became strong enough and the country stable enough to tell them to fuck off as Putin has done recently, they’d be making considerably less money on the deal.

Blair on Saddam’s execution

So Blair has finally made a statement, through his spokesweasels.

“He supports the inquiry by the Iraqi authorities. He does believe that the manner of execution was completely wrong, but this shouldn’t lead us to forget the crimes that Saddam committed, including the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.”

“As Tony sees it though, if you go around hanging people for killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, then you’d have to hang him and his mate GW, so he’s not really terribly keen on the idea.”

Source

(OK, I made up the second paragraph, but the first is apparently real)

Further thoughts on Bush’s proposed troop surge

What's around the corner?

Have you seen this jolly little bit of news in this morning’s Sunday Times?

“Israel plans to nuke Iran”

In the light of this, I see another possible explanation or two for the apparent confusion over the military objectives behind the planned ‘troop surge.’

Even if, as seems likely the ‘Israel to nuke Iran’ story is a deliberate ‘intelligence source’ leak via the Murdoch press intended as part of somebody or other’s media disinformation campaign, it’s still demonstrating just how deranged things are in that region, in no small part due to neo-conservative foreign policy adventures, which appear to still be ongoing and dedicated to the challenge of making things worse. The lack of any announcements of a coherent plan for the use of these troops makes me wonder if they’re actually being sent to deal with the expected backlash when the US and/or Israel attacks Iran. After all, the neo-cons handed Iran a massive strategic gain by making such a mess of Iraq that they had to let a bunch of pro-Iranian parties form a government. They can’t be at all happy about that, so I really wouldn’t assume they’ve finished causing disasters yet.

Another plausible provocation would be the attempt to privatise Iraq’s oil, another as-yet unrealised neo-con objective, that they’re apparently going to try to ram through in the next few weeks.

Blood and Oil: How the West will profit from Iraq’s most precious commodity

Perhaps this is why Bush intends to send extra troops but is being extremely vague about what they’re supposed to be doing? If he’s expecting massive unrest to kick off because of something he plans to do, e.g. this, or bombing Iran or something, then it would make sense to send more troops (plus the extra carrier battle group that just arrived) but he’d have a hard time explaining coherently exactly why he’s sending them, because it wouldn’t necessarily look to good to say ‘we’ll need the extra forces because we plan to annoy the Iraqis even more’

The neo-cons are going to be tied up pretty soon by subpoena-waving Democrats dragging all kinds of horrible mediapathic skeletons out of the White House’s closets in preparation for the 2008 elections, so if they want to privatise Iraq’s oil, start a war with Iran and so on in order to tick off the last few items on their ‘must do’ list of global foreign policy disasters, then this is probably their last chance at act. Once the US public has seen the traditional ‘Last helicopter taking off from the US Embassy roof’ scene played out in Baghdad’s Green Zone, which can’t be more than a couple of years away now, the chance of getting them onside with any new foreign policy adventures is likely to be over for another generation.

On those assumptions it’d make a lot of sense for them to try to get their last few acts of irresponsible craziness in fast and hence also to reinforce as far as possible before the shit really started to hit the fan. Once they’ve kicked it all off, it doesn’t really matter what the Democrats do, because they’ll be committed. As the Oxford Study Group point out, it’s a lot easier to start a war with Iran than to finish it.

Although US or Israeli attacks would severely damage Iranian nuclear and missile programmes, Iran would have many methods of responding in the months and years that followed. These would include disruption of Gulf oil production and exports, in spite of US attempts at pre-emption, systematic support for insurgents in Iraq, and encouragement to associates in Southern Lebanon to stage attacks on Israel. There would be considerable national unity in Iran in the face of military action by the United States or Israel, including a revitalised Revolutionary Guard.

Indeed for a variety of reasons, a war with Iran would possibly be saleable to the US public once they’d actually started it, despite them being totally fed up with the war in Iraq. For a start there is all that unpleasant holocaust denial stuff Ahmadinejad keeps coming out with. Then there’s the US Embassy hostages humiliation, which even liberal Americans seem to be quite angry about decades later and finally, something that’s almost an existential issue for the US. If the neo-cons did manage to start their war with Iran, most of the likely scenarios would put oil prices way up, which means intolerably high fuel costs.

Bush plans (another) fucking enormous bloodbath in Iraq

War Memorial

So, we’ve all been hearing about the impending ‘surge’

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 — President Bush’s new Iraq strategy calls for a rapid influx of forces that could add as many as 20,000 American combat troops to Baghdad, supplemented with a jobs program costing as much as $1 billion intended to employ Iraqis in projects including painting schools and cleaning streets, according to American officials who are piecing together the last parts of the initiative.

The American officials said that Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, formally agreed in a long teleconference on Thursday with Mr. Bush to match the American troop increase, made up of five combat brigades that would come in at a rate of roughly one a month, by sending three additional Iraqi brigades to Baghdad over the next month and a half.

Nonetheless, even in outlining the plan, some American officials acknowledged deep skepticism about whether the new Iraq plan could succeed.

They said two-thirds of the promised Iraqi force would consist of Kurdish pesh merga units to be sent from northern Iraq, and they said some doubts remained about whether they would show up in Baghdad and were truly committed to quelling sectarian fighting.

The call for an increase in troops would also put Mr. Bush in direct confrontation with the leaders of the new Democratic Congress, who said in a letter to the president on Friday that the United States should move instead toward a phased withdrawal of American troops, to begin in the next four months.

New York Times

Even the normally level-headed John Keegan appears to have joined the happy crowd shouting ‘More of that nice Kool-Aid if you please Reverend Jim!”

President George W. Bush is about to launch a final push in Iraq with a large reinforcement of American troops in the hope of crushing the insurgency before America embarks on a large-scale withdrawal of force from the country.

The size of the force is commonly set at about 40,000-50,000 troops. The aim of this surge will be to inflict severe damage and loss on the problem-making elements within Iraq, including both Shia and Sunni militias, and to increase training of the Iraqi security forces under American supervision.

The arguments against the surge are that it might exacerbate the violence without deterring the perpetrators from persisting in their attacks and that it might result in a sharp increase in American casualties with no observable gain. The arguments for trying a surge are that it is defeatist to concentrate on withdrawal from Iraq without attempting a final effort to make military force work.

Daily Telegraph

This line in particular is a corker, what sort of really powerful mind-altering drugs is John Keegan taking these days? Or does Blair’s PR office have his kids held hostage someplace?

The cost of such tactics is likely to be high but not unbearable if enough armoured vehicles are used to protect the attacking troops.

‘Cost’ for who John?

Doing a Fallujah in say Sadr City isn’t just going to kill active participants. Fighting in a built-up area full of grannies and little kids, the troops will have absolutely no way to tell whether their heavy weapons are hitting fighters or civilians. Using armour and air power is just going to kill all of them indiscriminately.

The idea seems to be that they’re going to repeat the Grozny-like success of their operation in Fallujah against either some other Sunni cities or more likely Sadr City. It doesn’t sound like they’re really too sure what they intend to achieve actually, it sounds like they’re thrashing around helplessly without any coherent plan at all other than ‘kill some more Iraqis to prove we aren’t sissies’ but whatever it is it’ll probably kill a lot of people for no particular reason. A second US carrier battle-group arrives in the region this week, so we can be fairly sure the bombs are going to rain down on some poor buggers in the near future.

These idiots are in dreamland. They appear to have mistaken their domestic political propaganda for reality somewhere along the line. They’re living in a myth. So much more comfortable than reality, but a lot more dangerous to those around them. Top 10 Myths about Iraq.

Doubtless our lying shitweasel of a Prime Minister the Reverend Tony Blair will be just as keen to support this murderous stupidity as he was to prevent a ceasefire in the Lebanon in order that the IDF could carry on doing Gods Work (TM) against the unfortunate Lebanese civilian population and vital infrastructure. Maybe he’ll even volunteer some UK troops to join in the fun, just by way of showing the increasingly angry and cynical population of the UK once again just who it is that he really works for. It certainly isn’t the majority of ordinary working people of the UK, who now have the blood of thousands of innocent strangers in the Middle East on their hands whether they like it or not (and almost all of us do not) and have the exciting challenge of wondering about whether we’re going to get suicide bombed on the way to work, for no reasons that make any sense to any of us, thanks to Blair’s puppy-like eagerness to be of faithful service to his neo-conservative masters.

After invading and occupying Iraq on the basis of of a bunch of big fat stinking lies, turning it into a sort of live-action Disneyland for wanna-be jihadis and letting them practice on US troops until they get to be really competent and dangerous jihadis, increasing the threat of domestic terrorism, getting a whole lot of mostly working class lads who joined the US and UK military killed, along with a couple of hundred times their number of Iraqis and all of it for no readily obvious reason, you’d think there would be some way to do something about these lunatics, but no. They’re still in power and still making the world a shittier place to live in for almost all of us.

The thought that all it’s achieved is to put a bunch of chanting, noose-waving, hooded death squad guys in power and generate fat revenue streams for KBR, Blackwater and Halliburton isn’t particularly convincing me that any of this was a smart move.

If there was some point to it, that might be different, but it’s pretty clear that the Iraqis overwhelmingly (81%) want occupation troops gone sometime pretty soon and without waiting around for ‘security to improve’, that they think, almost certainly correctly that the occupying troops are causing more violence than they’re preventing (78%) but that they don’t believe that they’re going to go away willingly (78%), which is why so many Iraqis (61%) now actually support attacks on US troops.

Poll data

If we’re supposed to be there for the Iraqis’ benefit, it’s pretty clear that hasn’t worked out, so it’s time to leave. If we’re actually there for some other reason that our government doesn’t want to admit to, let’s hear what it actually is and see whether we think it’s in our interests.

Stern Review (Continued): adaptation measures for the UK

Winter is Coming

What is any likely future UK government going to try to do?

One thing you could say for Stern is that his target of 550ppm CO2 equivalent is better than nothing at all and his approach has more chance of working, because it doesn’t conflict with capitalism, than any approach that could stabilise at 450ppm, which is what the scientists mostly reckon we need to be aiming at, but which Stern effectively dismisses as unrealistic due to the economics. There might be some doubt in the models about what happens around 550ppm but there is very little doubt (outside of the Scientific Aliiance and other PR front groups) that things will get pretty bad with unconstrained emissions, taking us to 750ppm plus before the end of this century.

If mitigation is going to fail or fall seriously short, probably because the three major emitters of the next century won’t come on board even with capital-friendly proposals like Stern’s, that leaves us only with adaptation. Adaptation to climate change, unlike mitigation to prevent it, is largely a local matter and very frequently has local benefits, such as improved food and energy security (ie lower bills) and less local environmental damage. If we’re going to follow that chain of thought though, the first step is to figure out what we’re adapting to exactly. Here are the basic headlines.

We’re in a globalised world right now, significant amounts of our food and basic commodities come from areas that are already having severe problems due to climate change and are likely to get a lot worse. So one immediate question that arises is the impact on our own food security, especially if mitigation fails or falls short and we’re into the worse scenarios, both from ecosystem collapses elsewhere and from severe weather effects in the UK. In the North and West we can expect much heavier rains and weather damage to crops, in the South and East drought.

Another implication is a 1930’s style economic depression. So we’d be likely to experience a severe fall in our standard of living by say 2050. Many people here will certainly still be alive to experience long-term unemployment, unreasonable costs for basic necessities and probably some fairly repressive government action to protect ruling class interests from angry poor people. Of course a small ruling class will still be fat and happy, just as they were during the Great Depression, but most of us will be in deep shit.

We’re also talking about some hundreds of million people from closer to the equator becoming refugees, probably quite pissed off because they’ll understand why they’re refugees. They’ll be refugees because their crops have failed due to drought, pest invasions, severe weather damage or desertification, or because their lands are being flooded or because nutters with guns are fighting over the leftover crumbs.

I am personally quite concerned that the adaptations we’ll see will be highly repressive and reactionary and I think stealth taxes are far from the worst of what we might see as the situation worsens over the next few decades, as capitalism frantically tries to keep getting a good return on investments.

I would want to see adapatation that makes us less dependent on the global economy, in order to both minimise the impact on the UK and to reduce the pressure that the UK’s need for economic growth and a healthy return on investments, puts onto the developing countries.

In the meantime, I think the nuLabour spin machine intends to present us with “Green Gordon: Eco-Saviour” and exploit this issue in order to push through a bunch of regressive policies of benefit mainly to fat-cats rather than ordinary people either here or in the developing world. Paul Wolfowitz, neo-con president of the World Bank has already said that he and his pal Gordon will be getting together next year to decide on a sustainable development investment framework for the developing world. Which may mean the IMF selling poor countries “climate change insurance.”

The other side of the media debate that I think we’ll have framed for us is a lot of scare stories and moaning from the Daily Mail et al about ‘Green Taxes’. This will be all the more plausible because undoubtedly these issues will be used as a rationale to impose taxes on individuals (in preference to businesses)

I strongly suspect that the tax issue is being used a bit like the ‘business as usual OR going back to the stone age’ media frame we so often see.

It’s being used by those who want to avoid any progress whatsoever on this issue to frame our choices as being EITHER higher tax OR complete inaction.

What should we be trying to do? (Whether the Government and the City want us to or not)

I would suggest that a very good thing to do would be to invest substantially in improving the energy efficiency of our housing stock and food systems and in the provision of effective public transport to get people out of their cars.

We’d probably get a lot more real security out of that, per pound spent, than out of paying the yanks tens of billions for the Trident replacement for example.

There are also obvious intrinsic benefits to the average punter in improving energy efficiency in those three key areas, Food, Transport and Housing.

If those things are more energy efficient, all other things being equal (which I agree they are not due to the needs of investors to turn a profit) then the cost of heating, eating and travelling should be reduced.

The main problem that I can see is the potential for conflict between energy efficiency and the needs of investors. For example, power companies make less money that way. The nuclear industry is salivating at the prospect of being paid out of our taxes to build more reactors. Train companies are now privatised so any public investment made in them goes to pay for ever more spectacular Branson ballooning expeditions and so on. Large landowners are doing very nicely thank you out of being subsidised to do energy-inefficient farming methods. Property developers interests conflict strongly with most of the things you’d have to do to spread the population out to improve food system efficiency and with tighter regulations on energy efficiency for new builds.

The fundamental problem with nuLabour or any government that is likely to be electable is that they are there to put those interests ahead of ours.

Stern says something I found quite revealing, to the effect that: “We recommend taxing undesirable outcomes rather than sponsoring desirable outcomes”

Most of what I would like to see comes down to redirecting existing subsidies for undesirable outcomes towards desirable ones. That is against the religion (neo-liberal economics) of our current rulers however. Whether more taxes need to be raised is a moot point while we are subsidising and regulating in favour of more climate change. Maybe additional taxes are required, but while current policy provides perverse incentives, it would seem to be sensible to fix that as a matter of urgency.

Making the UK more sustainable has impacts beyond global mitigation. It also, particularly if it’s done with this in mind, tends to reduce our vulnerability to the likely global impact. So we get local adaptation benefits whether or not it has any effect on global mitigation.

Concrete example, if a serious effort were made, either with or without government sponsorship (it’d be a lot easier with) to improve the sustainability of our food systems, then when food prices go up as the result of climate change damage elsewhere, the impact on the less well off in the UK is reduced.

In addition although the focus above is on UK sustainability, by removing the perverse incentives which make it more profitable to fly lettuces in from Africa, we also reduce the pressure in Africa to grow food for export instead of for feeding the locals. Which acts to improve local food security there. It acts to remove perverse incentives for destroying woodland which provides a much needed carbon sink and helps to mitigate soil erosion, drought etc. We also reduce the amount of carbon emitted flying lettuces halfway around the world when we can perfectly well grow our own lettuces right here.

Is the UK debate about energy being framed by nuclear industry PR to exclude sustainablity?

Rose Glow

For the last couple of years we’ve been hearing stories about the long-rumoured plans to build a number of new nuclear power stations in the UK.

One thing I don’t see any discussion of is reducing UK demand for grid power by improving our energy-efficiency and by integrated local energy schemes. I think it’s a great pity that demand reduction has been largely left off the media agenda and that the subject of new nuclear builds is being framed in terms of the need for extra grid capacity and excludes any discussion of reducing demand for unsustainable energy systems.

Spin: Nuclear Power will save us from Climate Change

The latest PR justification for scaling up nuclear power in the UK is that it helps to mitigate the effects of climate change and will reduce our dependence on e.g. Russian natural gas over the coming decades. This is not exactly a cut-and-dried argument however. There is currently some debate over whether nuclear energy does have a significant net effect on greenhouse emissions and whether it’s even a viable source of energy, if the costs are fully accounted and limits to the supplies of high-purity ores are considered.

Here’s a site with a great deal of detailed information making a strong case against nuclear power being able to live up to the promises being made for it.

The use of nuclear power causes, at the end of the road and under the most favourable conditions, approximately one-third as much CO2-emission as gas-fired electricity production. The rich uranium ores required to achieve this reduction are, however, so limited that if the entire present world electricity demand were to be provided by nuclear power, these ores would be exhausted within three years. Use of the remaining poorer ores in nuclear reactors would produce more CO2 emission than burning fossil fuels directly.

The arguments to this effect are presented at a technical level comparable to a popular science article in this article

There are other more technical documents available on the site for anyone who wants the heavy details, but that article I linked is pretty accessible.

There is clear evidence of a pro-nuclear industry PR campaign in the UK, which will explicitly try to leverage the climate change argument.

Regaining public acceptance of nuclear power will be one of the PR world’s biggest challenges according to PR guru, Dejan Vercic. Speaking at the 2004 AGM of the UK’s Institute of Public Relations, in June, he said that within 5-10 years PR agencies would have to win back the nuclear industry’s (and biotechnology’s) “licence to operate”.

As the articles I quoted above illustrate, the issues are already being framed in terms of meeting demand using nuclear, rather than reducing that demand. The media debate we’re being presented with currently frames the question about the UK building more nuclear plants, in such a way that improving efficiency of energy use and reducing demand is already excluded in advance. In fact, it appears that no serious consideration of this approach has been made at government level and it is not being discussed in the media now that the debate has reached the public sphere.

I’m suggesting that it should be on the agenda for public debate.

Simply saying “there is no alternative” doesn’t convince me one bit.

According to the Carbon Trust, who aren’t proposing any sort of radical measures, the average business can cut use by 10-30% cost-effectively. At the family level, something on the order of 46,000 kW/hr per household per annum of overall savings are forseeable, through better insulation, by rationalising transport and by evolving away from supermarket consumption of industrial agriculture products and towards sustainable local food systems

In addition, integrated community energy systems can usefully be employed to take a large chunk of the remaining demand away from the national grid.

None of these measures seem to be up for discussion in what passes for public debate on these matters.

Instead the debate is being framed as “Do you want Nuclear or Climate Change?” which seems like industy PR bullshit to me.

The problem I’m describing above seems to me to illustrate one of the key issues with privatizing public services, in this case energy services. When it’s a matter of maximising profitability, the firms in question deliberately distort the debate with the aid of PR companies and lobbyists in order to survive.

Whereas if we were maximising sustainability, a very different set of solutions which are potentially detrimental to the profitability of those firms would tend to emerge. These are precisely the kinds of solutions which are invisible in the public debate we’re now witnessing about the UK’s energy future.

I would frame the question differently. Instead of saying “Do you want nuclear or climate change?” let’s frame it as “Do you want an Enron-ised energy future or a sustainable one?” Markets and the state will never give us the latter of their own accord, so if we want to put real sustainability on the agenda we have to put it there ourselves.

It may perhaps be that nuclear is the only feasible alternative in the circumstances, but I don’t think it’s legitimate to act as though that were a given, without first showing how these other possibilities were considered and eliminated for reasons supported by proper evidence.

Alternatives

There are obviously a great many possibilities. The one I’m most interested in is community level autonomous action to reduce demand. The most effective measure overall, when you do the maths, is probably moving towards sustainable food systems, e.g. by urban agriculture, effective nutrient reclamation and ruralisation measures to reduce food system energy inputs.

In terms of grid electricity, it’s probably insulation and passive measures, followed by integrated community energy systems. (e.g. Combined Heat and Power, various kinds of solar, local storage etc.)

It’s worth considering though, just to get a baseline on this issue, that when the Soviet Union went out of business, Cuba had to adjust to losing, and that means losing virtually overnight, not just 70-odd% of its energy inputs but 70-odd% of its food imports, fertilisers and pesticides and 80-odd% of its raw material inputs. They had a really tough decade or so, but they managed to adapt

We’re talking about building a whole bunch of nuclear plants, a short-term measure at best given the global supply of high-quality ores, apparently in order to cover a much smaller shortfall, someone above said 20%. That seems rather odd unless you factor in the impact of nuclear industry lobbying.

Getting Sustainability onto the Agenda

I think autonomously doing something about it ourselves is an excellent way to help put it on the agenda, because it demonstrates in a concrete way that reducing demand and improving effciency is quite possible. If you can get a whole bunch of people moving in that direction together, its also a flat challenge to the corporate/state approach, and it forces the issue, especially when combined with well-established environmentalist campaigning methods for doing that stuff.

One straightfoward thing to do is start badgering the media and your MP and so on via a letter writing campaign for leaving this question off the agenda.

Where is the uncertainty in climate change?

Industrial Mordor

It occurs to me that it might be useful to summarise just where, to the best of my knowledge at least, the scientific uncertainty is, given that PR organisations being paid to misinform the public by large corporations and loony right-wing millionaires, often like to exploit it.

First thing to say is that some things are well established. The science predicting the ‘greenhouse effect’ has been around a long time and is not in doubt (I’m going to take the phrase ‘among qualified scientists writing in relevant and respected peer reviewed journals … ‘ etc. as read here to save repeating it every paragraph) That we humans have significantly changed the quantities of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere is not in doubt. We also understand pretty well the additional amount of solar energy these gasses (see this diagram ) trap in the climate system. We know that the Earth’s surface temperature has warmed significantly since we started burning fossil fuels and destroying forests etc.

When we put all these things together, by building mathematical models of what the science says should happen and what the data says did happen, they correspond closely enough that we can now conclude with reasonable certainty that the steady increase in average temperature is mainly due to greenhouse gases we caused to be emitted. Here are some graphs showing the predictions of the models against the data for real temperature changes.

In order to test this conclusion, more and more detailed models have been built and their more detailed predictions have been tested against real data.Increasingly, they show that the models accurately predict the data. So increasingly, science concludes that human-induced warming is for real. As we are continuing to increase the levels of greenhouse gasses to the point where the models predict very alarming things There are grounds for grave concern and hence increasingly strong calls from the scientific community for action.

Now if you follow that ‘very alarming’ link above, you’ll see the uncertainty ranges within the various different climate models shown as I-shaped bars. Each one shows the predictions for a different set of assumptions about the next 100 years. You can find details here basically they are different assumptions about how the global economy and population develop to 2100.

There are some consequences that are fairly straightforward to predict, for a given rise in temperature. For example, that 0.5-1.5m rise in sea level is pretty straightforward to predict and hence can be considered high-probability. Other changes are triggered at some hard to determine threshold though. For example the irreversable melting of major ice sheets and the switching off of the Atlantic Thermohaline Circulation are predicted to happen at some point if greenhouse gas levels continue to rise, but we’re not really sure a) what that point is and b) how much more emissions will rise given that we don’t yet know the outcome of the struggle between those who want to mitigate the effects now and those who want to keep emitting (and who are currently paying PR companies to lie about all this stuff so they can)

This brings us to the realm of value judgements, another area of uncertainty. In general, the PR people push some combination of three propaganda lines.

1) The science doesn’t prove this is happening (it does, see links above)
2) It’ll be fine anyway, we like warm weather (150million refugees is nice?)
3) It’ll be too expensive to fix (define “too expensive” you corporate leech)

The thing is, the science does prove this is happening, but it’s harder to show exactly what the effects will be. Some of them are regional for a start. So it’s not just a matter of uniform warming. It’s also a matter of changes in weather patterns and knock on effects like the extinction of species providing valuable ecosystem services or the wider spread of disease causing species.

So there is a sort of cascade of uncertainty. The basic climate models have some uncertainty in them but we pretty much understand how much. They can’t predict local weather in detail though, because limitations in computing power mean they have to work in units rather larger than Belgium and you need to model much smaller units to get an accurate idea of what effect a given mountain or forest has on local weather conditions. Once you get down to knock-on effects, like where and when crop failures will occur, or just when Wales becomes malarial, the uncertainty is also magnified by the inherent uncertainty of predicting behaviour in complex natural systems.

In addition, we have some potential problems with very grave impacts where the problem occurs at some undetermined threshold. One might use smoking as a metaphor here. We know it can cause cancer, but we can’t say with confidence just exactly how many cigarettes one needs to smoke to get it.

There are well established techniques for dealing with these kinds of uncertainty in science though, and they’ve been used as far as possible, but in the end, value judgements must be made and the uncertainty becomes polticial. The people you find regurgitating Exxon-sponsored disinformation online may be propaganda-spewing drones with damaged critical faculties, but it’s extremely unlikely that the CEO of Exxon is such a credulous dimwit.

Behind the PR, some calculations are being made and primarily I think, the last of the three points above is the one that counts. A value judgement has been made, by many political and business leaders that their interests will be better served by continuing economic growth and business as usual, no matter what the consequences for e.g. people in places like Bangladesh and especially, for people in Africa where the effects are likely to be severe even under some of the more moderate scenarios.

Mitigating action centres on limiting the concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Usually this is expressed as parts per million of CO2, the main greenhouse gas at present. In pre-industrial times, the level was stable in the range 180-300ppm, it’s now heading for 430ppm CO2 equivalent and rising fast.

One of the papers from the recent Met Office conference Parry (pdf!) suggests the following relationship between stabilisation levels and dangerous consequences.

Indications are:
– Stabilisation at 750ppm does not avoid most dangerous effects and very possibly triggers runaway climate change
– Stabilisation at 550ppm probably does avoid most, but at considerable human cost (this is the target suggested in the Stern Review)
– Stabilisation at 400ppm avoids dangerous effects.

The problem here is that we’re almost at 450ppm already and even the actions to stablise around 550ppm are being violently resisted by any number of wealthy interests. This is primarily because they imply significant costs (~1-3% of GDP) and distruption to the business models of some major companies. It’s also probably not unconnected to the high probability that the worst of the suffering associated with scenarios in the over-500ppm range are likely to be experienced by people in third-world countries who a) get the worst of the effects anyway in many cases and b) are much less able to mobilise economic and technical resources to mitigate the damage effects. (Although the Stern Report argues for using the IMF to make them accept adaptation on credit)

Between 550 and 750ppm though, the science increasingly strongly suggests that things start to get very bad for all of us. This is the level where the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and Greenland starting an irreversable disintegration and adding several metres to sea levels becomes a significant probability and numerous major cities are under threat from rising seas. Where billions experience water shortage (pdf!), food shortage (pdf!) and disease (pdf!) because weather effects, changes in rainfall patterns and so on are likely to get so extreme that they’re highly damaging to ecological systems on a global scale. This is the level where our remaining tropical forests are likely to become a net carbon source (pdf!) rather than a carbon sink and various other threshold effects and postive feedback loops may come into play leading to a significant likelihood of rapidly accelerating climate change, taking us into apocalyptic territory. Some of these effects, for example ~20m sea-level rises, even if emissions then stablised, are irreversable over thousands of years.

Even if we somehow stabilised at 450ppm right now, various other factors like population growth, soil erosion and so on are very likely to cause significant food shortages through much of the developing world this century. On the higher emission scenarios though, if business as usual (unconstrained CO2 emissions, unconstrained deforestation and so on, taking us beyond 750ppm) continues to 2100, we’re probably facing mass starvation for hundreds of millions in the third world and significant shortages even in much of the developed world, along with wars over water and hundreds of millions of starving refugees trying to escape to less damaged environments. As far as I can tell from the science, this is the world that corporate interests are foisting on us to protect their “prosperity”

The Heidelberg Appeal – A case study in climate change disinformation

Rock Ferry Oil Terminal

The Heidelberg Appeal was the brainchild of PR wizard Michel Salomon and was associated with his PR front-group the International Centre for Scientific Ecology An organisation which had the grand-daddy of all professional science deniers, Dr Fred Singer on its board. Salomon is now associated with SEPP, one of Singer’s other front groups (there is a fairly rapid turnover of these groups, as they get recognised for what they are, new ones need to be created to preserve the illusion) – a group part-funded by the Rev Sun Myung Moon.

The clever trick about the Heidelberg Appeal was to make it sufficiently vague and to include wording about ecology that many reasonable scientists endorsed, including the 49 of their 72 Nobel Laureates who also signed the World Scientists Warning to Humanity at approximately the same time. The nature of the second document makes it very doubtful that the 49 laureates who signed both would have had much respect for the uses to which the Heidelberg Appeal was then put by the PR people who originally circulated and promoted it. Here is a collection of documents demonstrating the agendas of the PR people behind the Heidelberg AppealDesigner Front Group is a particularly juicy specimen. Salomon appears to have been initially funded by the tobacco industry, who were early pioneers of many of these techniques while they were trying to dispute the science that showed their products were carcinogenic.

Salomon’s associate Fred Singer was also responsible for the Leipzig Declaration a similar use of the third party scam, which also succeded in the purpose of getting lots of favourable press and in misleading members of the general public into thinking that numerous qualified scientists had serious doubts about climate change. This document was produced several years after the Heidelberg Appeal and it appears that real scientists had become wary of PR scams by then, because its signatories are quite as dodgy as those who signed Seitz’s fake NAS petition

Seitz appears to have become involved in science denial in the late 70’s when he was paid to lend his scientific reputation (in electronics) to pioneering cancer disinformation campaigns run by major tobacco companies. Seitz, along with Singer and Balunias (one of the authors of that article attacking Mann’s research that caused the editors of Climate Science to resign) are also members of numerous similar industry funded PR front groups identified in this useful little page from the Union of Concerned Scientists. For example, Soon and Balunias are employed, along with Seitz by the Exxon funded Marshall Institute who are also currently involved in a UK campaign, with the Scientific Alliance PR front group, to cast doubts on climate science.

This then is the core of the anti-science propaganda technique, pioneered by cancer merchants but now adopted by the energy lobby. Get something superficially plausible into the popular press, endorsed by the same tiny group of PR-friendly scientists and media pundits associated with almost all of these PR front groups, which causes the public to believe incorrectly that there is significant doubt among qualified scientists about some science your clients find inconvenient. Then just keep doing it shamelessly whatever the vast majority of scientists, writing in peer-reviewed journals that the general public doesn’t read, are saying.

That way the public gets this vague sense that the science is unproven or somehow doubtful, unless they check what the vast majority of qualified scientists are saying in peer-reviewed journals. Which most of them probably don’t. They just vaguely remember hearing there were scientists who had doubts about climate change.

[Update] The Union of Concerned Scientists has just published a report which confirms the case I’m making above and adds a great deal of substantive detail on how this approach has been funded over the last few years, including tables showing how $16m of Exxon’s money has been disbursed to the same small group of professional climate change sceptics mentioned above.