Global Warming Denial Case Notes

Global Warming Denial Case Notes

How the climate denial industry achieves its aims.

1 The public persuasion campaign

In 1991 the Western Fuels Association, National Coal Association and Edison Electric Institute set up a group called the Information Council for the Environment (Ice). Its founding documents were leaked. The text has been made available online by the scientist Naomi Oreskes. The strategy was spelt out in a document produced by the Western Fuels Association: to "reposition global warming as theory (not fact)".

Ice was given $510,000 to test its messages in key markets, all of which happened to be the homes of members of the energy and commerce or ways and means committees of the US House of Representatives. The purpose was to

...demonstrate that a consumer-based media awareness program can positively change the opinions of a selected population regarding the validity of global warming. If it worked, Ice would "implement program nationwide"....

It identified "two possible target audiences": "Target 1: Older, less educated males". These people, Ice said, would be receptive to "messages describing the motivations and vested interests of people currently making pronouncements on global warming – for example, the statement that some members of the media scare the public about global warming to increase their audience and their influence … "

"Target 2: younger, lower-income women" … "These women are more receptive ... to factual information concerning the evidence for global warming. They are likely to be "green" consumers, believe the earth is warming, and to think the problem is serious. However, they are also likely to soften their support for federal legislation after hearing new information …"

Ice discovered that

...members of the public feel more confident expressing opinions on others' motivations and tactics than they do expressing opinions of scientific issues. Here are some of the messages it tested:...

"Some say the earth is warming. Some also said the earth was flat."

"Who told you the earth was warming … Chicken Little?"

"How much are you willing to pay to solve a problem that may not exist?"*

These messages must have worked, because they were later used by Ice in a wider media campaign.

* James Hoggan and Richard Littlemore, 2009. Climate Cover-Up. Greystone Books, Vancouver.

2 Undisclosed interests

Dr Patrick Michaels is often used by the media on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the very few people who deny that manmade climate change is happening and who is also a practising climate scientist. Among many other outlets, he has written for the Guardian's website, which describes him as

...a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and author of Climate of Extremes: Global Warming Science They Don't Want You to Know. But there's something Michaels doesn't want you to know: as far as I can tell, he has never voluntarily disclosed the following information....

In 2006 the Intermountain Rural Electric Association (Irea) circulated a memo to electricity generators, transmitters and distributors[2]. The memo explained that most of the electricity its members provided is generated by coal plants, and Irea was intending to engineer a "considerable shifting from gas-fired generation" to coal. But the profits from this enterprise were now under threat. "A carbon tax or a mandatory market-based greenhouse gas regulatory system would erode most, if not all, of the benefits of the coal-fired generation."

In the hope of averting this disaster, Irea had "decided to support Dr Patrick Michaels and his group (New Hope Environmental Services Inc). Dr Michaels has been supported by electric co-operatives in the past and also receives financial support from other sources ... In February of this year Irea alone contributed $100,000 to Dr Michaels. In addition we have contacted all of the G&Ts [generators and transmitters of electricity] in the United States and as of the writing of this letter, we have obtained additional contributions and pledges for Dr Michaels' group. We will be following up with the remaining G&Ts over the next several weeks."

3 Science by petition

The Heartland Institute is a lobbying group which has received $676,000 from ExxonMobil. In 2007 it published a list of

...500 Scientists Whose Research Contradicts Man-Made Global Warming Scares (pdf). These people, it maintained, supported "the very important view that the Modern Warming is natural and no more dangerous than were the Medieval Warming, the Roman Warming and the Holocene Warming before it."...

But they didn't. Kevin Grandia of started contacting the people the Heartland Institute had listed. He asked them whether they endorsed the views the Heartland Institute said they held. Within 48 hours, 45 people responded, all outraged that they had been traduced. Here are some samples of their replies to Kevin and their messages to the author of the list, Dennis Avery:

...I am horrified to find my name on such a list. I have spent the last 20 years arguing the opposite....

Dr David Sugden, professor of geography, University of Edinburgh

...I have NO doubts ... the recent changes in global climate ARE man-induced. I insist that you immediately remove my name from this list since I did not give you permission to put it there....

Dr Gregory Cutter, professor, department of ocean, earth and atmospheric sciences, Old Dominion University

"Please remove my name. What you have done is totally unethical!!"

Dr Svante Bjorck, Geo Biosphere Science Centre, Lund University

...Because none of my research publications has ever indicated that the global warming is not as a consequence of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, I view that the inclusion of my name in such list without my permission or consensus has damaged my professional reputation as an atmospheric scientist....

Dr Ming Cai, associate professor, department of meteorology, Florida State University

...They have taken our ice core research in Wyoming and twisted it to meet their own agenda. This is not science....

Dr Paul F Schuster, hydrologist, US Geological Survey

...Please remove my name IMMEDIATELY from the following article and from the list which misrepresents my research....

Dr Mary Alice Coffroth, department of geology, State University of New York at Buffalo

None of these names have yet been removed from the institute's list.

4 The Inside Track

When George W Bush was president, White House staffers collaborated with the oil industry to fix government policies on climate change.

In 2004, Harper's magazine published a leaked memo from Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute to Phil Cooney, the chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The Competitive Enterprise Institute has been given more than $2m by Exxon. Ebell's memo showed that the White House and the institute had been working together to discredit a report on climate change produced by the Environmental Protection Agency, whose head at the time was Christine Todd Whitman.

Thanks for calling and asking for our help … As I said, we made the decision this morning to do as much as we could to deflect criticism by blaming EPA for freelancing. It seems to me that the folks at EPA are the obvious fall guys, and we would only hope that the fall guy (or gal) should be as high up as possible. I have done several interviews and have stressed that the President needs to get everyone rowing in the same direction. Perhaps tomorrow we will call for Whitman to be fired[1]."

The New York Times later discovered that Phil Cooney, who is a lawyer with no scientific training, had been imported into the White House from the American Petroleum Institute to control the presentation of climate science. He edited scientific reports, striking out evidence that glaciers were retreating and inserting phrases suggesting that there was serious scientific doubt about global warming. When the revelations were published he resigned and took up a post at Exxon.

The oil company also had direct access to the White House. On 6 February 2001, 17 days after George W Bush was sworn in, AG (Randy) Randol, ExxonMobil's senior environmental adviser, sent a fax to John Howard, an environmental official at the White House[3]. It began by discussing the role of Bob Watson, the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It suggested he had a "personal agenda" and asked: "Can Watson be replaced now at the request of the US?"[4]

It went on to ask that the United States be represented at the panel's discussions by a Dr Harlan Watson[8]. Both requests were met. One Watson was sacked, the other was appointed, and went on to wreak havoc at international climate meetings.

[1] Letter from Myron Ebell to Phil Cooney. Published in the May 2004 edition of Harper's magazine: White House Effect.

[2] AG (Randy) Randol III, Senior Environmental Adviser, ExxonMobil, 6 February 2001. Memo to John Howard. Bush Team for IPCC negotiations. Facsimile, sent from tel no. (202) 8620268.

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