Environmental activist Geoffrey Supran is up to his old tricks again, asking a left-wing website for data to support his next big project. One of Supran’s previous papers was a smear on ExxonMobil’s record on climate change, for which he and his coauthor were heavily criticized for using biased data. Those data were obtained from the environmental group Greenpeace.
This week Supran contacted Ryan Koronowski publicly on Twitter for access to a data spreadsheet entitled “federal climate deniers 2017.” The data were cited in an article by ThinkProgress, a self-proclaimed progressive news site and editorial project of the Center for American Progress (CAP), where Koronowski is a research director. CAP is also funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Rockefeller Family Fund, two major players in the current climate litigation campaign attempting to force energy companies to pay for global warming.
— Geoffrey Supran (@GeoffreySupran) September 20, 2018
In the climate change debate, ThinkProgress is a known commodity – and a controversial one at that. In 2016, WikiLeaks published several emails from the personal account of John Podesta, a CAP board member who was Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman at the time. One email in particular showed correspondence between Judd Legum, editor of ThinkProgress, and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer. Legum describes efforts to suppress the voice of University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke, Jr., on climate change issues. Pielke had written a piece for FiveThirtyEight that argued natural disasters were causing more damage not due to climate change, but rather because in a wealthier society, we simply have more to lose – a perspective that conflicted with what climate activist groups were arguing.
Pielke’s piece was followed by rebuttals from ThinkProgress and FiveThirtyEight. Pielke was forced to resign shortly thereafter. A year later, Pielke was the center of an investigation led by Democratic congressmen questioning whether he was receiving funding by the fossil-fuel industry for his work. In the exchange with Steyer, Legum boasted about ThinkProgress’ sister-site, ClimateProgress:
“I think it’s fair say that, without Climate Progress, Pielke would still be writing on climate change for 538.”
The recent #ExxonKnew and climate litigation campaigns have been broadly criticized as an attack on free speech and an attempt to suppress dissent. Supran’s outreach to ThinkProgress may only serve to confirm those fears.
History of Bad Data
Despite his Harvard credentials, Supran is developing a reputation for cutting corners by relying on activist groups to feed him biased data.
Supran, with co-author Naomi Oreskes, published a peer-reviewed paper last year accusing ExxonMobil of misleading the public on climate change. However, as Energy In Depth reported at the time, the two Harvard researchers not only used an incomplete and cherry-picked data set, but also one collected by the environmental activist group Greenpeace.
Energy In Depth wasn’t alone in critiquing Supran’s methods. Kimberly Neuendorf, Ph.D., the Cleveland State University professor who literally wrote the book on the method of content analysis that Supran claimed to have used, issued a scathing rebuttal to Supran’s paper. Neuendorf wrote that Supran’s data analysis is “unreliable, invalid, biased, not generalizable, and not replicable,” adding that there was “no scientific support” for his findings.
The anti-fossil fuel movement heralds Supran as one of its top climate experts. But it’s telling that climate activists are relying on someone who uses Greenpeace and other fringe groups to support his claims, and who publishes research that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.
Will his new research project – underpinned by data assembled by folks who celebrate the suppression of dissent on climate change issues – be any different? We aren’t holding our breath, but we’ll certainly be closely watching as the research progresses.