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Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics re #Climate financing in @WashTimes

August 12th, 2015 · No Comments

When it comes to the use (and, more appropriately, misuse) of analysis, perhaps the most powerful phrase is “There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damn lies, and statistics“.

a phrase describing the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments

Today’s Washington Times provides an excellent example of this (ab)use of statistics in an effort to discredit efforts to address climate change by painting these efforts as a massive monetary scheme.

A heads up: in the business consulting world, when one tries to define ‘market’, generally this starts with extremely large definitions. The “Defense” market can include weaponry, construction of bases, information technology contracts to manage health care for dependents, day care provision at military bases, training programs for retiring personnel, etc … In terms of climate change “market” and business activity, this could range from things that ‘all’ consider directly related (such as research work on “climate change” science), things that are partially related but with wider benefit streams (investments in wind turbines which will put electricity into the grid at a lower price than any new fossil fuel power plant; insulating buildings; restorative efforts to Gulf of Mexico wetlands; …) to related but undertaken for other reasons as well (investments in resilience in electricity systems to reduce vulnerability to severe storms). “Market” is everything that you can potentially consider linked to the arena, sometimes with very tight linkage, sometimes very tenuous association.

Leveraging work done by a business consulting firm on the full extent of business opportunities related to “climate change” (note: this report is behind a (high-price) paywall and thus has not been examined for this post), the Times‘s article is entitled An inconvenient truth: ‘Climate change industry’ now a $1.5 trillion global business.


$1.5 trillion dedicated to Al Gore!

That is the intended — both overt and implied — take away.

The plaintive calls about global warming and loss of polar bear habitats, the stern warnings about rising seas and flooded coastlines – this is what the public hears about. Then there’s this pesky, inconvenient truth they don’t hear about: $1.5 trillion.

OMG!  $1.5 Trillion!!!!

No serious discussion, of course, of how much of this is the price of putting in wind turbines versus NOAA’s weather satellites versus insulating homes so that are more frugal in energy use and, well, more comfortable live in.

No, because, the real point is: OMG!!! $1.5 TRILLION!!!

The only market segment specifically discussed?

the talkers, creatives and handlers too.

E.g., the “consultants” …

“climate change consulting market … estimates at $1.9 billion worldwide and $890 million in the U.S.”

Of course, $1.9B sounds like (is?) a big number … and all of 1/10th of 1 percent of the headline number.   But, this is ‘look, look, look, these people are earning so much money …”

The Washington Times has provided raw meat for climate science denialist trolling rather than a meaningful contribution to understanding our economy.

This Washington Times article is, politely phrased, a perversion of a more reasoned discussion based on the business report over at Insurance Journal.  From that article, something quite interesting as to that consultant ‘class’: that the work has been moving from greenhouse gas (GHG) analysis toward work on sustainability, resiliency, and adaptation. And why?

credits Superstorm Sandy, along with Hurricane Irene, for jump-starting a new market for climate risk assessment and resiliency solutions in the Northeast and the Gulf Coast.

“I think Sandy definitely stimulated more adaptation planning work,” Ferrier said. “Many more municipalities were requesting climate adaptation study scenarios. (Sandy) was a bit of a shot over the bow of a lot of municipalities.”

Who, other than those municipalities, are clients for these resiliency consulting services?

Those who own large property portfolios, big retailers and giant food producers to name a few. In other words it’s anyone who fears losses from more frequent extreme weather events – whether they are climate change related or not is anyone’s guess and a contentious point for some – as well as those who fear business interruption.

In other words, businesses who are concerned about protecting their businesses are hiring “climate change” consultants to help assure their supply chains, reduce risks from major storms, better plan their long-term capital investments … E.g., those who think strategically recognize that spending on “climate consulting” has solid benefits for their bottom line.

Clearly, the Washington Times doesn’t care itself with fostering such strategic thinking.




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Tags: business practice · climate change · global warming deniers · journalism · media