I'm sure you'll want to hear about my meeting with Congressman Nadler, and that's coming. But for today, I wanted to give you a little background on the denial of global warming by the oil and coal industries and the huge amount of money they've pumped out to deliberately confuse the American public.
Big oil and coal want, of course, to delay action on climate change as long as possible, since any action will mean burning less of their products and falling profits for them. The result of their efforts is that many well-meaning Americans are confused about climate change.
I didn't want anybody to have to take my word for it. Here are some tidbits from "The Truth About Denial," an article by Sharon Begley in the August 13, 2007 issue of Newsweek:
"Since the late 1980s, this well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change. Through advertisements, op-eds, lobbying and media attention, greenhouse doubters (they hate being called deniers) argued first that the world is not warming; measurements indicating otherwise are flawed, they said. Then they claimed that any warming is natural, not caused by human activities. Now they contend that the looming warming will be minuscule and harmless. 'They patterned what they did after the tobacco industry,' says former senator Tim Wirth, who spearheaded environmental issues as an under secretary of State in the Clinton administration. 'Both figured, sow enough doubt, call the science uncertain and in dispute. That's had a huge impact on both the public and Congress.'
"'As soon as the scientific community began to come together on the science of climate change, the pushback began,' says historian Naomi Oreskes of the University of California, San Diego. Individual companies and industry associations—representing petroleum, steel, autos and utilities, for instance—formed lobbying groups with names like the Global Climate Coalition and the Information Council on the Environment. ICE's game plan called for enlisting greenhouse doubters to 'reposition global warming as theory rather than fact,' and to sow doubt about climate research just as cigarette makers had about smoking research."
"Groups that opposed greenhouse curbs... 'settled on the 'science isn't there' argument because they didn't believe they'd be able to convince the public to do nothing if climate change were real,' says David Goldston, who served as Republican chief of staff for the House of Representatives science committee until 2006."
"Following the playbook laid out at the 1998 meeting at the American Petroleum Institute, officials made sure that every report and speech cast climate science as dodgy, uncertain, controversial—and therefore no basis for making policy. Ex-oil lobbyist Philip Cooney, working for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, edited a 2002 report on climate science by sprinkling it with phrases such as 'lack of understanding' and 'considerable uncertainty.' A short section on climate in another report was cut entirely. The White House 'directed us to remove all mentions of it,' says Piltz, who resigned in protest. An oil lobbyist faxed Cooney, 'You are doing a great job.'"
"To some extent, greenhouse denial is now running on automatic pilot. 'Some members of Congress have completely internalized this,' says Pew's Roy, and therefore need no coaching from the think tanks and contrarian scientists who for 20 years kept them stoked with arguments. At a hearing last month on the Kyoto treaty, GOP Congressman Dana Rohrabacher asked whether "changes in the Earth's temperature in the past—all of these glaciers moving back and forth—and the changes that we see now" might be "a natural occurrence." (Hundreds of studies have ruled that out.) 'I think it's a bit grandiose for us to believe ... that [human activities are] going to change some major climate cycle that's going on.' Inhofe has told allies he will filibuster any climate bill that mandates greenhouse cuts."
Some good links:
- Desmogblog's Slamming the Climate Skeptic Scam
- George Monbiot's Guardian article The Denial Industry
- Greenpeace's Exxon Secrets
- Joe Romm often writes about deniers at Climate Progress
You can watch a CBC documentary about climate change denial and it's links to the tobacco industry's denial of of the health effects of smoking here.
Or you can watch a short Canadian news piece about it below: