Career Move: Building a Brand with Climate Denial

February 15, 2023

Above, fyi the bold black line is actual, measured global surface temperatures over the last 50 years or so, while the colored or broken lines represent projections by various science teams over the decades, showing very close match between model predictions and real world physics.

Below, from a recently published study of Exxon Mobil’s climate research in the 1970s and 80s, showing how accurate even oil company scientists, (who used basically the same models as other groups) were with their global temperature predictions.

Just so we’re clear. Now dive in.

Media Matters:

On February 6, University of Alabama assistant professor Matthew Wielicki appeared in a short Fox News Digital clip discussing how “climate alarmism” is scaring children and young adults, accusing the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of spreading a “false narrative,” and painting a picture of himself as a noble crusader against dishonesty in science, claiming that he had committed “career suicide” in speaking out against the established consensus around climate change.

Wielicki, a geologist by training, was just a fringe Twitter user with several hundredfollowers in late 2022. He tweeted climate misinformation under the #climatescam hashtag, which is part of a larger increase in climate denial and disinformation being spread on Twitter since Elon Musk took over the platform at the end of October. 

On the surface, it’s fairly remarkable to see how he ballooned to nearly 60,000 Twitter followers in such a short period of time and was able to promote his climate views on the most-watched cable news network. However, a deeper look into his rising star shows just how easy it is to gain attention and credibility in right-wing media by attacking climate science and linking it more broadly to right-wing culture war issues.

When Wielicki had just several hundred Twitter followers in late November, he tweeted a passage from an old IPCC report alongside the #climatescam hashtag and implied that climate models are wrong.

Wielicki’s post was misleading, as he did not include the full context of the IPCC passage, and even the oldest climate models accurately predicted the rate of warming that scientists have actually observed. Despite this misinformation, his post was amplified by right-wing psychologist and commentator Jordan Peterson, a budding climate denierhimself who has nearly 4 million followers.
Peterson’s amplification likely helped Wielicki gain nearly 13,000 followers in one week.

Peterson also amplified a pro-fossil fuel tweet by Wielicki in early January, and another oneby Wielicki decrying Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) practices in academia. Wielicki’s follower count shot up by nearly 10,000 in the span of a week.

It was Wielicki’s railing against DEI that gave him another bump in followers — over 20,000 more — in late January. On January 23, he announced via Twitter that he was leaving the University of Alabama, partly citing “the rise of illiberalism in the name of DEI” at the school. He also noted “the earth science communities silence on the false ‘climate emergency’ narrative” among the reasons that academia “is no longer worthy of my efforts.” The first tweet in his thread received more than 2 million views.

On January 24, wrote an article about Wielicki’s resignation, focusing on his condemnation of DEI. He discussed his resignation (and climate change, briefly) in person on the January 25 edition of Fox & Friends First, claiming that “speaking up about things like climate and DEI was career suicide.” He also discussed his resignation from the University of Alabama on the January 26 edition of Fox Business’ The Bottom Line over a chyron that warned of a “Woke Tide.”

Wielicki again discussed his resignation and thoughts on climate change a bit more on the February 1 edition of far-right outlet One America News Network’s OAN News, in a segment about the debunked “World Climate Declaration,” which falsely claimed that “experts” agreed that there is no climate crisis. Wielicki, who was among the declaration’s signatories, admitted to OAN that “I don’t really work in climate science per se” and said that his background in geochemistry “would allow me to take an objective view” on the climate issue. He then stated that “if we take an objective look at the data, it’s very difficult to see any metric that would allow us to explain the state of the climate as an emergency or in a crisis.” Later in the interview, he also complained about being labeled a climate denier and compared it to being labeled a Holocaust denier.

Wielicki has been caught numerous times spreading falsehoods about climate-related data or documents to support his climate denial narrative. An excellent round-up of some of his worst offenses has been compiled by a climate scientist on Twitter:


2 Responses to “Career Move: Building a Brand with Climate Denial”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    One insidious problem with measuring “global” warming is that the public measurements are in terms of Earth’s surface and atmospheric temperatures, while most of the additional heat from the increase in greenhouse gases is in the ocean. The relative shifting of heat from the surface to the ocean and back (ENSO) gives a more erratic signal to mean surface temperatures than a measure of total added heat would give.

  2. redskylite Says:

    We have a (locally) famous denier in New Zealand, who used to exactly echo assistant professor Matthew Wielicki in voicing the “climate alarm-ism is scaring children and young adults” theme.

    Now after a ex-tropical catagory2 cyclone called “Gabrielle” has recently unloaded its wrath, wind and waters upon our little country over a few days, killing people, eroding cliffs, beaches and slopes, devastating land, crops, livestock and homes, people are rightly very scared for the future, the dissenters are muted, the majority of people now accept that climate change is real, the doubt is swept away, like so many poor livestock in the floodwaters.

    Deniers are no longer welcome here.

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