This is the first in a three part series on the climate change denial industry. I’m trying to understand why there is such a powerful, well-funded, and ideologically solid body of opposition to a body of scientific evidence that even the scientists employed by one of the chief denier lobby groups called “undeniable” (in a report that their employers, naturally, suppressed). We don’t find this kind of denial of any other science, with the exception of evolution. What is it about climate change that leads to such a large lobby turning a blind eye to undeniable science?
As with almost all human affairs, the first question to ask is ‘who makes a buck out of it?’
There are very wealthy companies that make a lot of money out of releasing greenhouse gases. In fact, greenhouse gas emitting activities, especially burning oil, form the lynch-pin of the global economy – the companies that do it have a lot of money to spend on being allowed to continue their activities. So they fund front organisations with respectable names (eg ‘Greenhouse Policy Coalition’, rather than ‘Solid Energy, Fonterra, Methanex, Rio Tinto and the Coal Association’s Obstructionist Front Group’). The task of these groups is to a) attempt to cast doubt on the science of climate change b) oppose any significant policy to counter climate change so that the polluters can keep on making money by polluting.
All the pseudo-science, all the reports saying that we ought to focus on other issues, and all the op-eds that say whatever climate change policy is proposed is too expensive and will hurt the economy come from these front groups for polluters.
That’s an important point, so I’ll say it twice: everything official-sounding that comes out against tackling climate change has been funded by people who are making a profit off activities that are causing climate change. And he who pays the piper calls the tune.
In New Zealand, you’ve got the Greenhouse Policy Coalition, funded by the country’s biggest polluters, the Centre for Independent Studies, which is more circumspect about its funding, big-business shills ‘The New Zealand Institute and NZIER, and the industry bodies like Federated Farmers. For foreign lobby groups with polluter backing check this list. In each case, these groups exist solely to preserve the profitability of their funders, which increasingly means opposing action on climate change .
That means obstructing any action to tackle climate change and perpetuating mis-inform among the population. But they don’t care if they’re lying to people or dooming us to the devastation of runaway climate change. This is capitalism – companies don’t try to create positive results for society, they’re not even concerned about the long-term viability of the economy or their own business, as long as they can make a buck today. The doctrine of present value, on which modern capitalism is based, means any cost, no matter how big, becomes irrelevant if it is more than a decade or so in the future.
It’s not even that the people controlling these corporates and lobby groups don’t know that climate change is a serious issue. They just put profits first and to continue to be allowed to ruin our climate to make money, they need a population of useful idiots who ardently deny the science, so they work to misinform and obstruct.
Next time you see some official sounding report or whatever denying climate change or opposing action on it, check who’s paying the piper. I bet you the writers were paid by polluters to protect their profits at our cost.