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Climate Alarmism Bullying: L’affaire Schmidt (new) … L’affaire Wigley (old)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- February 6, 2009

Chris Horner’s Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud, and Deception to Keep You Misinformed (Regnery, 2008) documents a number of instances of questionable, peculiar, and even reprehensible behavior by climate alarmists toward their critics.

And the problem continues.

L’affaire Gavin

Roger Pielke Jr., blogging at Prometheus, recently told the story of how James Hansen’s NASA/GISS colleague, Gavin Schmidt, who is a principal blogger at RealClimate, got caught stealing an idea from a rival, climate skeptic Steve McIntyre (you can read the story at Climate Audit), and then denying it.

But rather than make amends and put it behind him, Dr. Schmidt took the unusual step of writing to Pielke’s superiors at the University of Colorado demanding that Pielke remove his post and apologize.

“When will these guys learn that bullying and bluster is not going to win them any respect or friends?” Pielke blogged in response to Schmidt’s action.

Indeed. Pielke is a straight shooter who is very respected by the open-minded middle of the climate debate. The alarmists are showing desperation when they can least afford it.

L’affaire Wigley

This incident reminds me of a spat that I had back in 1999 with Dr. Tom T.M. Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

As director of public policy analysis at Enron, I had engaged about a dozen climate scientists to try to ferret out the middle ground between the “alarmists” and the “skeptics.” I had great cooperation from both sides. The alarmists liked me because of Enron’s “progressive” views; the skeptics liked me because of my affiliation with Cato and other free-market groups.

Dr. Wigley was the most alarmist of the bunch that I engaged. He was quite unimpressed with my arguments that the enhanced greenhouse effect was not the peril oft-described.  Before long he likened me to a “terrier yapping and snapping around my feet.” 

So, after warning him about wanting a little peer review (yes, I have that email still), I distributed our exchange to the scientists and asked them for a grade: How well did I do against Tom?

Shortly thereafter, Enron chairman Ken Lay received a a scathing communication from Dr. Wigley dated August 26, 1999. It complained about my “appalling behavior” in distributing our lengthy exchange. The letter read in part:

I would like to bring to your attention the behavior of one of your employees, Mr. Rob Bradley, which I consider to be highly unethical and deeply disturbing to me personally…. [U]sing his Enron email address … he appears to be acting as a representative of Enron…. From my knowledge of your company’s open-minded, balanced, and, indeed, innovative stance on this issue, I judge Mr. Bradley as being singularly misrepresentative of the Enron position.

(Indeed, ex-Greenpeace official Jeremy Leggett identified Enron as “the company most responsible for sparking off the greenhouse civil war in the hydrocarbon business” [The Carbon War, Penguin, 1999, p. 204])

The letter, which hinted at legal action, closed:

I consider this to be an extremely serious matter. Mr. Bradley is acting like a “loose cannon,” and he may further damage both my personal and your company’s reputation if he continues in this way. It would not be adequate for Mr. Bradley simply to issue an apology. The damage has been done, and it cannot be redressed by mere words.

Well, how does the story end? I showed Lay a copy of the email I wrote Tom telling him of the peer review to come. I also shared some examples of Wigley’s less-than-stellar reputation among his peers. One comment was from Dr. Jerry North, head of the Meteorology Department at Texas A&M, who had this to say about Wigley in a different context:

We sent [our paper] to Journal of Climate. I sent out about 10 copies–one to Wigley. But I requested that he not be used as a referee “because of an inexplicable hostility towards us (and possibly everyone else).”

The last of it was when I sent Dr. Wigley an email on September 24, 1999, telling him I was sorry about his distress, adding,

I am most surprised about your concern over your reputation from the distribution. I assumed you were happy with your answers to my questions–at least your criticisms of my positions (and me personally) had a very confident and emphatic tone…. As for me, I am still happy with my analysis and opinions ….

I ended the communication by asking him some more hard questions about climate alarmism and warned:

But as before, expect peer review given that I am a nonspecialist working with many other scientists whom I also respect.

I never received a response, so that was the end of L’affaire Wigley.


  1. theoldhogger  

    Wow! Good story! The ‘can of worms’ is finally opening, perhaps too late (Obama et al).


  2. The Politicization of Business Prudence — MasterResource  

    […] Mortgage-lending regulation is certainly the (sub)prime example in regard to the present financial crisis–coupled with the Fed’s easy-money policy sparking an artificial boom. But my essay also brings attention to  the most politically motivated company in the history of the energy industry–Enron. In its prime, this company was considered "innovative" and "progressive" on energy and environmental issues such as renewables and climate-change. […]


  3. Hoi Polloi  

    Interesting, you mention that you were director of public policy analysis at ENRON and your affiliation with CATO

    Are you familiar with this article written by Patrick J Michaels from the CATO insitute?


    “But what’s not run-of -the-sty is a 1998 letter, signed by Enron’s then-CEO Ken Lay (and a few other bigwigs), asking President Clinton, in essence, to harm the reputations and credibility of scientists who argued that global warming was an overblown issue. Apparently they were standing in Enron’s way.”

    Were you aware of this?


  4. Hoi Polloi  

    I guess you chose to ignore my question….


  5. rbradley  

    Hoi Polloi:

    Sorry–I did not mean to ignore it.

    It is a good question.

    It is an exaggeration to say that what is quoted in the Cato piece was an official Enron study. It was me. If it was not for me, there would have been no attention to the science but just a rush to profit centers on the climate issue.

    I guess I was the “conscience” of Enron in this regard.


  6. Enron and Waxman-Markey: Response to Joe Romm — MasterResource  

    […] on this later, but one incident regarding NCAR scientist Tom Wigley in that effort is described here.) Externally, I challenged climate alarmism via the Institute for Energy Research (IER), which I […]


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