Union of Concerned Scientists Admits It Was Wrong


Balance sheets in the balance?

Last week, my column, Union of Concerned Scientists Cooks the Books, Media Swallow It, dissected the artful way in which UCS analysts had used corporate giving data to imply that General Electric executives were climate change hypocrites, by allegedly supporting think tanks that endorse the scientific consensus on man-made global warming and others that are skeptical. In the UCS study the Reason Foundation, the non-profit that publishes this website, was specifically cited as garnering GE corporate support and was also accused of "misrepresenting" climate change science 

Setting that accusation aside, going through the figures it turns out that the Union analysts were counting $325 in corporate matching funds for employee donations to Reason as damning evidence of corporate climate change hypocrisy. I called up Francesca Grifo, the UCS' scientific intergrity officer, to ask her if the report was seriously counting those donations? She replied yes. By the way, it turns out that GE executives and employees had contributed $497,744 to the non-skeptical think tanks. To get the rest of the story read my column.

Yesterday afternoon, Dr. Grifo sent an email correcting the record with regard to General Electric. The relevant portions are below:

I wanted to let you know that we've clarified one of the findings in our report, "A Climate of Corporate Control". 

As you pointed out, originally, we counted funds General Electric gave to several non-profit groups through an employee matching gift program. These matching gift programs allow individual employees to choose where their money (and GE's matching money) go. By contrast, funds from GE and its corporate foundation are directed by company executives. Our updated report removes the matching gifts, which affects our analysis of which climate-engaged groups GE ultimately gave to. We also reviewed the rest of the data related to non-profit group support and found no further need for clarification beyond GE.

We now conclude that GE has only funded non-profit groups that support climate science. Previously, we had concluded they were funding groups that misrepresent climate science, too. However, GE has still taken contradictory actions on climate change overall, including its support for Proposition 23 in California and its membership in and board service to various trade organizations that work against one another on climate change. …

We have alerted reporters who covered this aspect of our findings and provided them with updated information as well. We will post a blog with a fuller explanation of the update later today.

I have added this email as an update to the column and I say: Well done. The corrected UCS report can be found here.

However, I ended my original column with the observation….

…that the Union of Concerned Scientists asserts in this study that a hallmark of misrepresenting science is "emphasizing unknowns" while simultaneously "ignoring what is known." Yet this seems to be precisely the strategy that the UCS pursues in its campaign against biotech crops. Perhaps Dr. Grifo, as the Union's scientific integrity officer, could usefully spend some time getting the UCS to accept that scientific consensus.

So the question remains: What about getting the UCS to stop its denialism with to the scientific consensus with regard to biotech crops?

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  1. HaHAAAH! I GOT yo ass!

  2. Maybe their thinking of the other Reason Foundation. As I recall most of the climate change related postings from Bailey and others, the main points tend to be: 1. The earth is warming. 2. Man is probably contributing. All you are missing is: 3. Therefore, Al Gore’s proposals are so important, that any delay implementing them is putting us at grave risk.

    1. they’re not their. Grrrrr.

      1. You’re right, they’re not there.

    2. Indeed., though I always figured that was because he was aiming at a job at the Huffington Post

    3. They also publish quite a few articles questioning the scientific consensus on climate change.

  3. BoscoH: Points 1 and 2 are right. But with regard to 3, may I suggest that you read my article, Is Government Action Worse than Global Warming?

    1. I don’t think he was accusing you of taking that attitude, as he said, “All that is missing is…”, meaning point 3 would be all that is missing from your generic climate alarmist.

    2. At least that’s how I read it. Then again, I’m not a multi-millionaire jet-setting scientist/man-about-town, so you know, take my reading with a grain of salt.

      1. /Masseuse rapist?

    3. “Is Government Action Worse than Global Warming?”

      That is the first libertarian column on climate change I’ve read that isn’t an embarrassment to the human species.

      I do wonder, doesn’t libertarian ethics urge that the damages caused to, say, Bangladesh or farmers in Africa must be compensated for in the future, provided it becomes obvious that damaging weather is growing in frequency and it is clear that it isn’t solar variations, cosmic particles or other factors causing the damage?

      Let us decide that we cannot demand that economic actors factor in the future damage of carbon in pricing, because government control will not work (worked on acid rain, but OK).

      What’s the plan B, then, if people whose carbon emissions are minuscule start suffering decades from now because we decided government is worse than uncorrected externalities. What is the libertarian response to that? If there isn’t one, then libertarians lack ethical consistency.

      1. Crickets

  4. Hilarious attack on Jacob Sullum’s post much earlier this morning from a pot smoking future UofMich freshman

    1. If he smoked less pot, maybe he would have better reading comprehension.

      1. Nonsense.

        There are some things that must be read while high in order to be properly understood.

    2. He might’ve been referring to Reeve, the article Sullum’s post was about. Or maybe not.

      1. If he YOU smoked less pot, maybe he YOU would have better reading comprehension.


        The kid is too dumb and/or stoned to have clicked through to the Reeve Atlantic post (which has an entirely different tone).

        1. And if I… I’d have correctly typed the second strike tag!

  5. Sure would like to see someone copy edit that closing sentence.

  6. Concerned trolls are concerned.

    1. Back off, man…they’re scientists.

      1. “Nothing shocks me. I’m a scientist.”

      2. “That was your whole plan? You call that science?”

      3. “Tell’em about the Twinkie.”

      4. they’re scientists.

        No they aren’t.

      5. “Ray, for a moment, pretend that I don’t know anything about metallurgy, engineering, or physics, and just tell me what the hell is going on?”

  7. We now conclude that GE has only funded non-profit groups that support climate science. Previously, we had concluded they were funding groups that misrepresent climate science, too.

    Thank you for letting me know not to take you seriously.

    1. Exactly. It’s the “it isn’t science unless it fits our agenda” attitude that long ago (c 1970s) convinced me that UCS was a lot more concerned than it was scientific.

    2. Man, I thought I was the only one who caught that. Good to know Reasoners are on top of things. Good catch.

  8. Why does a union of *scientists* need a “scientific integrity officer”?

    1. To keep the proles in line.
      What are you suggesting? Do we need to send the scientific integrity officer?
      He has ways of keeping you in line, if you get my drift.

    2. I’d say “for things like this”, except she failed miserably.

    3. because there is no group that will sell out quicker for a donut, and a pretty salesgirl. Really, I worked at the NIH campus, and when vendors were shilling million dollar centrifuges, the criteria used to select one was the vendor with the best donuts and prettiest salesgirls.
      Its a scientific fact that Newton’s theory was first described in 2300BC, but Big Gravity suppressed it…with donuts

      1. Once I worked for a shitty business.

        Therefore capitalism doesn’t work.

  9. “We have alerted reporters who covered this aspect of our findings and provided them with updated information as well. We will post a blog with a fuller explanation of the update later today.”

    Left out:
    “Of course, they will ignore it, or maybe print a correction on page 27, under the fold.”

  10. Re: bio-tech crops:
    “Perhaps Dr. Grifo, as the Union’s scientific integrity officer, could usefully spend some time getting the UCS to accept that scientific consensus.”

    Are you serious?

  11. Conclusion:

    GE sees higher future margins in subsidized wind than carbon taxed thermal plants.

    1. GE sees higher future margins in subsidized wind than carbon taxed thermal plants.


  12. Mr. Bailey, I believe the final sentence of your post needs a bit of editing.

  13. I seem to recall from back in the 1970’s, a time when the union of Concerned “Scientists” circulated a petition or letter of concern including signatures of “scientists” that included Doctors of Dental Surgery.

    Not that dentists can’t be concerned, but it indicated to me a certain ecumenical color to the use of the term “scientists”.

    At the time, they were (as I recall) primarily an anti-nuke franchise.

  14. Union of Concerned Scientists

    It should be pointed out that they are not actually scientists.

    Anthony Watts signed his dog up to organization. Apparently all you need is a credit card.


    1. I would have to see the dog’s publications to judge his scientific credentials. Do you have any links…uh, to the articles. Not delicious sausage links that dogs would love to eat.

  15. Using the word “scientist” as a cudgel with which do beat down those with opposing views is extremely unscientific behavior.

    Scientists aren’t right or wrong because they are or are not “scientists.” They are right or wrong based on the facts and evidence available. A high school dropout with facts and evidence on his side can be right over a scientist who has neither.

    1. Nature is the ultimate meritocracy. Reality is not decided by referendum.

  16. As an actual scientist (not a DDS), I’m HIGHLY tempted to join “The Union of Scientists Who Don’t Give A Flying Fuck.”

    1. Union of Scientists who Don’t Tailor their Message to Funding. Let’s start it.

  17. So who is going to battle the Guild of Calamitous Intent now?

  18. Meaningless drivel. Like all religions.

  19. I thought the UOCS got hit by an SM-3 and would never be heared from again? Good thing they warned us about those star wars interceptors which will never work, except when they nearly always do.

  20. Sometimes you just have to throw your hands up in the air and shout, Whos your Daddy!


  21. Agreeing with the UCS is “supporting climate science” whereas being skeptical of the UCS’ claims is “misrepresenting client science”? Grifo is clueless about the scientific method.

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  23. 20 Year Study of Job Growth Living Standards Compares Conservative Texas to Liberal Massachusetts. Texas Trounces Massachusetts, Even During The High Tech Boom of the 1990’s.


  24. So, if you agree with the global warming alarmists, you “support climate science,” but if you do not agree with them, you “misrepresent climate science.”

    If the global warming question is already settled, then why are we still spending money to study it? Is this not the best possible case one could make against any further funding of so-called “climate science?”

  25. 20-Year Study Compares Job Growth Living Standards in Conservative Texas and Liberal Massachusetts. Texas trounces Massachusetts, even during the high tech boom of the 1990’s …


  26. Flaws in the Global Warming Hypothesis …

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