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The climate change industry

Written By: - Date published: 11:58 am, March 7th, 2010 - 15 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags: , , ,

Climate change deniers frequently claim that there is a climate change or global warming “industry” – that scientists are being paid to come up with results that show warming. This is a typical example:

Global warming industry becomes too big to fail

So the warming crowd, these e-mails show us, suffers from the same conflicts of interest and profit motives that are frequently attributed to skeptics. When Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” came out, Gore charged that global warming deniers were trying to protect profits. Gore quoted fabled muckraker Upton Sinclair, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon him not understanding it.” Climate scientists derive both their sense of purpose and their paychecks from a perceived climate crisis. We shouldn’t be surprised, then, to see them putting their pet cause ahead of scientific standards. …

This conspiracy theory is well overblown. The IPCC for example, which produces the occasional reports which have lately been at the centre of the debate, consists of no more than 10 to 20 full time staff at any given time. The scientific work is done by thousands of scientists all over the world, who all volunteer their time.

There is a climate change industry however. It is the denier industry. It is described here:

A report from the Union of Concerned Scientists offers the most comprehensive documentation to date of how ExxonMobil has adopted the tobacco industry’s disinformation tactics, as well as some of the same organizations and personnel, to cloud the scientific understanding of climate change and delay action on the issue. According to the report, ExxonMobil has funneled nearly $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to a network of 43 advocacy organizations that seek to confuse the public on global warming science.

The report begins:

In an effort to deceive the public about the reality of global warming, ExxonMobil has under-written the most sophisticated and most successful disinformation campaign since the tobacco industry misled the public about the scientific evidence linking smoking to lung cancer and heart disease. As this report documents, the two disinformation campaigns are strikingly similar. ExxonMobil has drawn upon the tactics and even some of the organizations and actors involved in the callous disinformation campaign the tobacco industry waged for 40 years. Like the tobacco industry, ExxonMobil has:

  • Manufactured uncertainty by raising doubts about even the most indisputable scientific evidence.
  • Adopted a strategy of information laundering by using seemingly independent front organizations to publicly further its desired message and thereby confuse the public.
  • Promoted scientific spokespeople who misrepresent peer-reviewed scientific findings or cherry-pick facts in their attempts to persuade the media and the public that there is still serious debate among scientists that burning fossil fuels has contributed to global warming and that human-caused warming will have serious consequences.
  • Attempted to shift the focus away from meaningful action on global warming with misleading charges about the need for ‘sound science.’
  • Used its extraordinary access to the Bush administration to block federal policies and shape government communications on global warming.

So yes, there is a climate change industry. The industry to deny, bought and paid for by Big Oil. You climate change deniers out and about in the blogs, whether you know it or not, are their foot-soldiers.

15 comments on “The climate change industry ”

  1. lprent 1

    The climate change denial industry are pretty freaky to watch. Ignore any evidence and seek to bamboozle the gullible who prefer not to change. They do this by pointing to trivial mistakes in a major body of evidence and science and appealing to prejudices.

    Personally I’m getting really interested in hauling some of the people from these lobby groups into a court for outright fraud. It was what eventually happened with the tobacco industry. It is what I think will eventually happen here as well. It would be preferable to deal with this type of self-interested lobbying in a legal manner than the possible alternatives.

  2. Bill 2

    When ‘you’ realised that tobacco caused cancer and whatever else, ‘you’ didn’t cut down your smoking. ‘You’ kicked the smoking habit in all it’s forms.
    The industry of denial went into overdrive hoping fewer others would act like ‘you’..
    You continued to not smoke.
    After a number of decades, legislation passed that stopped remaining smokers from smoking wherever and whenever…’you’ won.

    When ‘you’ realised that CO2 emissions would wipe away seasons and lead to widespread extinctions and whatever else, ‘you’ didn’t decrease your CO2 emissions. ‘You’ kicked all the CO2 habits.
    Oh, hang on… no ‘you’ didn’t.
    So now the denial industry went into overdrive hoping more people would continue to act just like ‘you’.
    And ‘you’ continued on.
    After a number of decades, climatic and ecological fundamentals went to shit and no legislation had been passed….but then, everyone has to die some day so what the hey.

  3. Cnr Joe 3

    Thank you for this. Invaluable. Here in Gisborne we have a committed lobby of deniers that regularly need chipping at. So sad – even our local environmental reporter is captured.

    • r0b 3.1

      Glad to be of use CJ – that’s why we’re all here, to spread the word!

      Good luck in your struggles with the state of Gisborne…

  4. Bill 4

    On a different tact.

    Maybe it is worth exploring the relationship between government and tobacco and comparing and contrasting with oil and government.

    Outside of the USA, I’d guess that tobacco money in the form of lobbying was way less effective in swaying governments than within the USA. Which might have left enough space for a political will to develop that led to advertising bans and eventually to the situations we have today with regards smoking bans etc.

    But I don’t think, for obvious reasons, that there is the same space with regards oil and government.

    Can you honestly imagine an environment where car adverts are banned?
    Where petroleum products attract crippling levels of taxation simply in order to discourage consumption because consumption is understood to be deleterious?
    Where research is undertaken to explore the links between petrol/diesel combustion and health problems like asthma and lung cancer?
    Where ( dependent upon the results of such research) the burning of petroleum products is banned in public spaces?

    Away from the individual level, can you imagine our governments imposing draconian, industrial level sanctions and penalties on the (mis)use of oil and its derivatives?

    Not happening, is it? Not going to happen either. Not at a government level and definitely not through any voluntary or enlightened industry initiative.

    Which leaves the ball in our park and just one question to be answered.

    You playing?

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      Away from the individual level, can you imagine our governments imposing draconian, industrial level sanctions and penalties on the (mis)use of oil and its derivatives?

      And destroy the economy? Nah, not happening and that’s also the reason why NACTMPs’ ETS rewards polluters rather than encouraging them to find other solutions/options.

  5. RedLogix 5

    Tamino at Open Mind is my first ‘goto’ source for readable, skilled analysis on climate data and how to meaningfully interpet it. Over the last few years I’ve learnt one hell of a lot just keeping up with his posts.

    Over the last few weeks he’s been processing GHCN raw data to repudiate Anthony Watts recent claim that ‘dropped stations’ have been selectively chosen to create a false warming trend. The analysis is interesting and really worth following…. False Claims. Others have replicated the results.

    Watts response to date has been feeble and evasive. In the end Tamino has insisted on accountability. The deniers have gotten away with lies and obfuscation for far too long, and will keep doing so as long as they are allowed to get away with it cost-free.

  6. Gareth 6

    Naomi Oreskes has a new book due out in May — Merchants of doubt, covering the carefully concocted campaign to deny the need for action on emissions. There’s a video of a recent lecture of hers on Deltoid here. Well worth watching.

    • zelda 6.1

      Naomi ?
      So will she be at it again, using her students to conduct literature reviews, writing it up as letter not a peer reviewed article and of course it gets into a journal is a pet project of the editor.

  7. Zak Creedo 7

    What I don’t get is the constant referral to denialists as worthy of blogging about. It kind of freebies the mass of creeps among skeptics.

    Suggest you find a language (code) of your own. Like a buddy of mine did over at sciblogs the other day. Noah. So what did Noah make.? And more importantly for this kind of thing to happen, when did he make it.? The answer’s so very simple, and the metaphor made.

    Metaphors make for refreshing pointedness on climate science’s serious plane..

  8. Bomber 8

    Excellent post and it gets so much worse than that…


    … why don’t people know more about the Frank Luntz memo to the Republicans when it comes to climate denial?

  9. zelda 9

    Trust R0B to highlight a straw man argument. Oil companies funding a variety of conservative think tanks who amoung other issues are ‘deniers’ Yawn
    That sort of money wouldnt even pay for the fuel for Exxons fleet of corporate jets over the same period.
    Of course the leaked emails showed Shell was talking to CRU at UEA about ways to sprinkle their money around and CRU was wetting themselves in anticipation. At lest Exxon have some principles , being an oil company, while it seems Shell have none.

    But back to the Tobacco companies, there tactics were outrageous of course. Smoking does kill people. The risk factor for say lung cancer and smoking isnt a measley double or even fives times that of non smokers its way up in the thirties .
    Meanwhile The British Met Office gives the likely hood of global warming ( yes , it is happening) being human caused is ‘almost certain’ . So lets be kind at put that at 0.99.
    So we have smoking and lung cancer at 30+ risk factor and human caused global warming at 0.99.

    As well UK Met have decided they cant be giving seasonal predictions as they arent sure of their accuracy so are sticking to monthly temperature forecasts. . Not sure how long they will stick to the monthly predictions but dont hold your breath

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