sack1.JPGThe story ripped through the ranks of the climate-change flat-earth crowd like a chainsaw through butter: Climate change scientifically debunked!

On 8 November many who would deny that human activity has anything to do with global warming were agog at news of a paper entitled "Carbon dioxide production by benthic bacteria: the death of manmade global warming theory?" by Daniel A. Klein of the Department of Climatology, University of Arizona and colleagues (Journal of Geoclimatic Studies, vol 23, p 273). It was just what they wanted to hear.

Its authors concluded thus: "We have been warned… that in bringing our findings to public attention we are not only likely to be deprived of all future sources of funding, but that we also jeopardise the funding of the departments for which we work… We deplore the aggressive responses we encountered before our findings were published, and fear the reaction this paper might provoke. But dangerous as these findings are, we feel we have no choice but to publish." How brave! An editorial similarly praising the underdog, though less temperately, appeared alongside the paper.

That’s the set-up. Now here’s the punchline:

According to bloggers, a well-known UK social anthropologist sent out an alert about the paper to a climate-sceptic email list – and withdrew it an hour or two later. Why? Because neither the authors nor their institutions nor the journal exist. A teensy clue might have been found in the inclusion of equations that are not only nonsensical but irreproducible here, due to their imaginative use of Thai and Serbian Cyrillic characters – alongside suspiciously perfect graphs. Then there was a list of other papers in the alleged journal – including, wonderfully, "Submarine lightning strikes in the Hadean Zone: an unacknowledged cause of fish mortality?"

None of this deterred US radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who spent the best part of a show ranting against conventional climate science on the back of the spoof. He has subsequently acknowledged that he was hoaxed.

The author of the spoof wishes to remain anonymous, but Feedback tracked him down. He says the spoof exposes the "credulity and scientific illiteracy" of many climate sceptics, who "will believe almost anything if it lends support to their position… From now on the ‘sceptics’ will have to do something they haven’t bothered with in the past: check their facts."

Would that this were true. As the case of Alexander Cockburn shows, climate-change deniers are singularly impervious to facts in context.

Notice that the name of well-known lying sack of dung Rush Limbaugh came up? He was also a prime transmitter of another bogosity to which the wingnuts are taking like ducks to water. From Rush’s own website for December 3, citing a NewsMax piece dated that same day:

RUSH: How many of you remember the name General Giap from the North Vietnamese army? General Giap, G-i-a-p is how you spell it, but pronounce it General Giap. He was a very famous, knowledgeable general in the North Vietnamese army. He’s published his memoirs and here’s a pull quote: "What we still don’t understand is why you Americans stopped the bombing of Hanoi. You had us on the ropes. If you had pressed us a little harder, just for another day or two, we were ready to surrender. It was the same at the battle of Tet. You defeated us. We knew it. We thought you knew it. But we were elated to notice that your media was definitely helping us. They were causing more disruption in America than we could in the battlefield. We were ready to surrender. You had won." He makes the point the Vietnam War was not lost in Vietnam; it was lost here. That’s why I keep telling everybody that the Drive-Bys were trying to do the same thing in Iraq that they did in Vietnam for a host of reasons, not the least of which among them was to reestablish their own ability to influence people into the United States losing a war that the media was opposed to. Scary, scary stuff.

Too bad that neither the quote nor the book actually exists, and that this lie was debunked when it first appeared nearly four years ago:

The suggestion that VVAW lengthened the war comes from convicted arms dealer, perjurer, and media personality Oliver North. In a cited quote from North (Greg Lewis, “Fellow Travelers, Useful Idiots, and Other Innocents”, Washington Dispatch, 2/19/2004), North alleges that Giap in a 1985 book stated that John Kerry and VVAW lengthened the war and insured the ultimate Vietnamese victory. Giap published no 1985 book. THERE IS NO SUCH QUOTE in either of General Giap’s two post-war publications (Vo Nguyen Giap, Unforgettable Months And Years, Southeast Asia Program, Dept. of Asian Studies, Cornell University, 1975 or How We Won the War (coauthored by Van Tien Dung) RECON Publications, 1976).

You might want to send this out to your wingnut rellies. You might not convince them, but it’ll be fun to hear their heads explode.