Hannity report on Russian climate “bombshell” misses the mark

On his Fox News show, host Sean Hannity falsely claimed that a “major Russian climate change organization dropped a bombshell” report claiming that “much of its climate data was tampered with by a leading British research center” and that “any of their data that could help disprove global warming was simply ignored.” In fact, the Moscow-based Institute of Economic Analysis (IEA) is not a “climate change organization”; it is an economic and social policy think tank headed by Andrei Illarionov, an economist, climate skeptic, and fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute; moreover, the report was not about “their” data -- it simply purported to analyze how the UK Met Office used data from Russian meteorological stations.

Hannity falsely suggests IEA is a “climate change organization” that produces climate “data”

From the December 17 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: And all this comes just as a major Russian climate change organization dropped a bombshell of its own. Now, the Institute of Economic Analysis now claims that much of its climate data was tampered with by a leading British research center. In fact, they say that any of their data that could help disprove global warming was simply ignored. Not exactly the news that all the alarmists in Copenhagen were now hoping for.

IEA is an economic think tank associated with climate change skeptic groups, not a “major climate change organization”

IEA is a nongovernmental organization “focused on mutual influence of economic growth, economic and political freedom.” According to the Global Development Network, IEA was founded in 1994 as an independent, nongovernmental, nonpolitical, and noncommercial organization. Global Development Network states that IEA's main objectives are:

  • fostering development of economic and social sciences
  • studying Russian and foreign experience of solving problems of economic policy, market economy and ecomnomic [sic] reform
  • hold consultations concerning economic and social policy with the Russian government bodies and NGOs
  • and publish economic research materials.

IEA associates with groups skeptical of climate change and emission policies. The IEA website links to and displays the logos of several organizations that promote skepticism of manmade global warming or policies to reduce emissions. For example, it links to:

  • The Cato Institute: The Cato Institute is currently selling a report called Climate of Extremes: Global Warming Science They Don't Want You to Know by senior fellow Patrick Michaels and Arizona State University geography professor Robert Balling Jr., which it describes as an “in-depth look at consistent, solid science on the other side of the gloom-and-doom global warming story that is rarely reported and pushed aside: that global warming is likely to be modest, and there is no apocalypse on the horizon.”
  • The Fraser Institute: In 2004, the institute issued a report called The Independent Summary for Policy Makers: IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, which questions the legitimacy of an assessment report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • International Policy Network: The organization issued a report in 2004 that questions the soundness of climate modeling in the IPCC report and “ask[s] whether climate change will create circumstances that are different in the future to those which have been experienced in the recent past, especially those which already result from weather and climate per se.”
  • The Mises Institute: The institute's commentary on climate change criticizes both climate change science and emissions policies. For example, on November 27, N. Joseph Potts wrote on the institute's economic blog: “Anthropogenic global warming has been a dubious proposition from the outset to anyone with the slightest understanding of social science as it pertains to coercive government, science 'science,' and the nexus of the two. Even if you didn't read about it elsewhere (and there were places where you could), you could (and should) have easily thought up the evil plot in the whole thing” [emphasis in original].

IEA's report was not about its own data, as Hannity claimed

IEA purported to analyze how British climate researchers used data from Russian meteorological stations. According to a post on the Cato Institute's blog, Cato @ Liberty, Illarionov wrote that IEA "issued a study (in Russian), 'How Warming Is Being Made: The Case of Russia.' The report, prepared by IEA director Natalya Pivovarova, suggests that the Hadley Center for Climate Change based at the headquarters of the British Meteorological Office in Exeter (Devon, England) and the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia (CRU) in Norwich (England) apparently cherry-picked Russian climate data." Illarionov wrote that the report “shows that Russian meteorological-station data in the last 130 years did not substantiate the rate of warming on Russian territory suggested by the Hadley Climate Research Unit Temperature (HadCRUT) database” because "[o]ver 40% of Russian territory was not included in their global temperature calculations even though there was no lack of meteorological stations and observations. The data of stations located in areas not listed in the HadCRUT survey often shows slight cooling or no substantial warming in the second part of the 20th century and the early 21st century." Steven McIntyre's climate skeptic blog ClimateAudit.com provides a translated version.

UK Met Office said data were a “fair representation” and that they “don't pick” which stations to use

UK Met Office: Stations are “a fair representation of changes in mean temperature.” A UK Daily Express article reported that in response to IEAs's allegations, “a spokesman for the Hadley Centre said its scientists did not choose which weather stations to collect its data from.” The article quoted the spokesman as saying, “The World Meteorological Organisation chooses a set of stations evenly distributed across the globe and provides a fair representation of changes in mean temperature on a global scale over land. We don't pick them so we can't be accused of fixing the data. We are confident in the accuracy of our report.”

Illarionov is a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute and long-time critic of global warming policies

Illarionov is a senior fellow at Cato. According to his profile, Illarionov “is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute's Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity” and was chief economic adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin and prime minister of the Russian Federation, Viktor Chernomyrdin:

Illarionov is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute's Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. From 2000 to December 2005 he was the chief economic adviser of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Illarionov also served as the president's personal representative (sherpa) in the G-8. He is one of Russia's most forceful and articulate advocates of an open society and democratic capitalism, and has been a long-time friend of the Cato Institute. Illarionov received his Ph.D. from St. Petersburg University in 1987. From 1993 to 1994 Illarionov served as chief economic adviser to the prime minister of the Russian Federation, Viktor Chernomyrdin. He resigned in February 1994 to protest changes in the government's economic policy. In July 1994 Illarionov founded the Institute of Economic Analysis and became its director. Illarionov has coauthored several economic programs for Russian governments and has written three books and more than 300 articles on Russian economic and social policies.

Illarionov was extremely critical of Kyoto Protocol and issued a controversial paper about its potential effect on the Russian economy. Illarionov issued a paper called “Economic Consequences of Possible Ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by the Russian Federation” in 2004 that argued against Russia ratifying the Kyoto Protocol because it “means that for the first time in the Russian history legal binding limits are put on absolute size of the Russian economy.” In a February 16, 2005, press conference (accessed via Nexis), Illarionov said the Kyoto Protocol “is destructive for the Russian economy, as well as the economy of an overwhelming number of countries. The Kyoto protocol is a discriminatory document, particularly with respect to Russia. In this particular case our moves, moves aimed at meeting the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol are moves that run counter to our national interests.” Illarionov also referred to the protocol as “sectarian.” From the press conference:

As regards the scientific foundation for Kyoto and the theory of global warming, like we have repeatedly said, and the materials that you have contain a lot of information although the actual amount of information available is much larger and it cannot be put into any single presentation or document. It runs into volumes and volumes of literature, the work of tens of thousands of scientists all over the world which shows that the theory is groundless. Nevertheless, as we well understand, this information is disseminated and the reason for this is what I would call sectarian activities of a group of individuals whose activities straddle science, politics and business.

It is deplorable, and I will repeat what I said, the very existence of sects in a democratic society does not mean that sects have no right to exist. Sects have the right to exist, even if these are sects in science. Sects have the right to meet, to exchange information, to publish their materials, to perform their rituals. The big problem is not the existence of sects as such, but the spread of sectarian views to government bodies. That's when representatives of government bodies become hostages to sectarian ideology and sectarian views, especially if it is a totalitarian sect. And the Kyoto sect is just that.

Economists criticized Illarionov's paper as having “serious methodological and technical errors.” A joint paper put forth by economists at Environmental Defense and the Center for Russian Environmental Policy stated that Illarionov's paper contained several “problems, along with serious methodological and technical errors” that “significantly discount the paper's value and raise concerns about the validity of its conclusions.”

Hannity guest Bennett compared climate science to “old alchemy and phrenology stuff”

Bennett: [T]his is reminiscent of, you know, the old alchemy and phrenology stuff. While discussing the IEA report with Hannity, radio host Bill Bennett said: It's amazing, you know, the power of ideology to blind people to reality. You've got this Russian report that you cited. You know, this thing is falling apart. You had the stuff out of East Anglia University. I mean, this is reminiscent of, you know, the old alchemy and phrenology stuff. I mean, this -- there's so much junk. There's so much corruption in this -- and the fact that we would fork over $100 billion." Bennett also compared climate science to “Soviet psychiatry under Stalin” and “medical 'science' under Hitler.”