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
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
"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
In 2006 the Intermountain Rural Electric Association (Irea) circulated a memo to electricity generators, transmitters and distributors. 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
But they didn't. Kevin Grandia of DeSmogBlog.com 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:
Dr David Sugden, professor of geography, University of Edinburgh
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
Dr Ming Cai, associate professor, department of meteorology, Florida State University
Dr Paul F Schuster, hydrologist, US Geological Survey
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."
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. 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?"
It went on to ask that the United States be represented at the panel's discussions by a Dr Harlan Watson. Both requests were met. One Watson was sacked, the other was appointed, and went on to wreak havoc at international climate meetings.
 Letter from Myron Ebell to Phil Cooney. Published in the May 2004 edition of Harper's magazine: White House Effect.
 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.