Will Climate Denial be as Persistent as Racism?
January 7, 2016
Like racism, climate denial is likely to be with us for a long time – Miami shows us that, even as the water laps up around climate denier’s ankles, they continue to find reasons to look away. Humans are just like that.
Is organised climate science denial finished?
After global heat records were continually broken over the last decade, and as sea levels rose and scientists reported the accelerated melting of polar ice sheets, you might be forgiven for thinking the debate over climate change had shifted.
No more arguing over the science? It’s more about the policy now, right?
Well, wrong. At least according to a new study that has looked at 15 years worth of output from 19 conservative “thinktanks” in the United States.
“We find little support for the claim that ‘the era of science denial is over’ – instead, discussion of climate science has generally increased over the sample period,” the study concludes.
The conservative thinktanks under the microscope are the main cog in the machinery of climate science denial across the globe, pushing a constant stream of material into the public domain.
The study, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, analysed more than 16,000 documents published online between 1998 and 2013 by mainly US groups like the Heartland Institute, the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute.
Contrary to some commentators, the study found attacks on science had increased in later years. At the same time, the thinktanks were focusing less on policy issues.
These findings are supported by recent investigative news reports, which show that since the 1970s, top executives and scientists in the fossil fuel industry have been well aware of the evidence that their products amplified climate-warming emissions. They conducted their own extensive research on the topic and participated in ongoing scientific discussions. The American Petroleum Institute, an industry trade group, even circulated the results to its members. By 1978, a senior executive at ExxonMobil proposed creating a worldwide “CO2 in the Atmosphere” research and development program to determine an appropriate response.
Unfortunately, that path wasn’t taken. Instead, in 1989, a group of fossil fuel corporations, utilities and automobile manufacturers banded together to form the Global Climate Coalition. This group worked to ensure that the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions, was not adopted by the United States. In public statements, the Global Climate Coalition continued to deny that global warming was occurring and emphasized the uncertainty of climate science.
The spreading of misinformation continued. In 1998, API, Exxon, Chevron, Southern Co. and various conservative think tanks initiated a public relations campaign, the goal of which was to ensure that the “recognition of uncertainties (of climate science) becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’”
While that coalition disbanded in 2001, ExxonMobil reportedly continued to quietly funnel climate misinformation through “skeptic” think tanks, such as the Heartland Institute, until 2006, when its funding was exposed. The company — the nation’s largest and wealthiest — continues to work with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a so-called public-private partnership of corporations and conservative legislators, to block climate change policies.
For years, ExxonMobil had been a participant in public efforts to sow doubt about climate change. Yet at at the same time, the corporation was at the leading edge of climate science and its executives were well informed regarding the scientific consensus on climate change. This allegedly deceitful conduct has generated public outrage and recently led New York’s attorney general to initiate an investigation into whether ExxonMobil has misled the public and investors about the risks of climate change.
It turns out that a lot of Americans still don’t know much of anything at all about climate change, but the majority do know something. That’s according to a poll reported by WUWT (and probably some other climate conspiracy blogs), as well as various media outlets. The poll was conducted by Monmouth University. (Climate denial blogger)Anthony Watts has a guest article by David Middleton. The headline reads:
Poll: 73% of Americans reject so-called AGW consensus (but you wouldn’t know it from the headline)
Now what that shows is that David Middleton, unusually for a science denier, understands that since around the middle of last century, the scientific consensus is that probably all the warming we’ve had is because of human activity. What has shocked him is that the media reports it differently. He’s appalled at a headline that reads:Poll: 70 percent believe in climate change
So am I, but for different reasons. From where I sit (in Australia) it should read: “Poll: 70 per cent believe in climate change” or better yet: “61% in the USA know that humans are contributing to climate change”.
David wants people to read the results differently. He would prefer that the headline showed that 22% don’t think climate change is happening and 8% don’t know whether it is or not.
No, that’s not quite it.
What he wants people to understand is that only 27% of respondents know that humans are primarily responsible for climate change. (He pushed the point that the scientific consensus is with the 27%, which might explain the “thoughts”. )
There are a lot of Americans (34% judging by the responses) who think that climate change is about half and half from human activity and natural causes. Add that to the 27% and you get 61% who think that humans have caused at least half the warming or more. That’s not too bad, given we’re talking about America, where people suffer disinformation from Fox News and denier politicians. It’s not good either.