Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dealing in Doubt: The Climate Denial Industry and Climate Science

The Lorax
Dr. Seuss
I am the Lorax
I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees,
for the trees have no tongues.
(Parts 1, 2, 3)
According to Wikipedia, "Maurice Noble (May 1, 1911–May 18, 2001) was an American animation background artist and layout designer whose contributions to the industry spanned more than 60 years." Noble worked with the children's author Dr. Seuss on the 1972 animated film The Lorax, which is based on Seuss' 1971 book by the same name.
Wikipedia observes:
The book is commonly recognized as a fable concerning industrialized society, using the literary element of personification to give life to industry as the Once-ler (whose face is never shown in any of the story's illustrations or in the television special) and to the environment as the Lorax. It has become a popular metaphor for those concerned about the environment.
Greenpeace has published an article titled "Dealing in Doubt: The Climate Denial Industry and climate Science." Greenpeace describes the paper as "A Brief History of Attacks on Climate Science, Climate Scientists and the IPCC."
The global warming denialists on the blogs remind me of the villain in The Lorax called the Once-ler, who never shown throughout the book except for his arms, legs, and eyes. (Watch The Lorax, Parts 1, 2, 3)
"Dealing in Doubt" (p. 4) notes that the denialist lobby has affiliations with coal, oil, and car companies, as well as with foreign governments:
In the early 1990s a number of lobby groups were set up to stave off the prospect of political action to prevent climate change. These included the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), the Climate Council and the Information Council on the Environment (ICE).
The GCC called itself an ‘organisation of business trade associations and private companies established in 1989 to coordinate business participation in the scientific and policy debate on global climate change’ (6).
Its membership was a list of the largest coal, oil and car companies in the US.
The Climate Council worked with lobbyist heavyweight Don Pearlman, who became the right hand man of the Saudi, Kuwait and Russian governments (7).
ICE was formed by a group of utility and coal companies: the National Coal Association, Western Fuels and the Edison Electric Institute (8). In 1991, according to journalist Ross Gelbspan, ICE ‘launched a blatantly misleading campaign on climate change that had been designed by a public relations firm…[that] clearly stated that the aim of the campaign was to ‘reposition global warming as theory rather than fact’. Its plan specified that three of the so-called greenhouse sceptics – Robert Balling, Pat Michaels and S Fred Singer – should be placed in broadcast appearances, op-ed pages and newspaper interviews.’ (9)
This report describes 20 years of organised attacks on climate science, scientists and the IPCC. It sets out some of the key moments in this campaign of denial started by the fossil fuel industry, and traces them to their sources.
The tobacco industry’s misinformation and PR campaign against regulation reached a peak just as laws controlling it were about to be introduced. Similarly, the campaign against climate science has intensified as global action on climate change has become more likely.
This time, though, there is a difference. In recent years the corporate PR campaign has gone viral, spawning a denial movement that is distributed, decentralised and largely immune to reasoned response.
For example, prominent UK sceptic Lord Christopher Monckton (3) is not known to be funded by big business. He is not a scientist, yet, as a key denier, his challenges to climate science have made him the darling of the industry-funded, US based conservative think tanks such as the Heartland Institute. He has challenged Al Gore to debates, turned up at climate negotiations in Bali, Poznan and Copenhagen, and more recently, conducted a paid speaking tour of Australia. There are many more like him who repeat the denier message for no other reason than because they believe it.
The hysteria that greeted the release of the hacked emails from the University of East Anglia on the eve of the Copenhagen Climate Summit showed the depth of this movement and the willingness of the media to facilitate it, despite its lack of evidence or scientific support. The last peak in the climate denial campaign was in 1997 following the IPCC’s Second Assessment Report (SAR). At the time it was accompanied by none of the populist venom that emerged in late 2009, perhaps because the internet was still in its infancy.
Still, the majority of the conservative front groups or conservative think tanks running campaigns against climate science continue to receive funding from big oil and energy interests – not just ExxonMobil, but a raft of other companies and foundations whose profits are driven by the products that cause global warming. [Read the full text.]


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