Join 3,557 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Energy is an eternal delight
April 19, 2005 8:42 AM   Subscribe

Big Oil fosters skepticism about climate change, years after the vast majority of scientists agree that it's happening. From 2000 to 2003, ExxonMobil spent more than eight million dollars funding some forty think tanks and organizations, whose pundits dutifully propagate the idea that today's man-made C02-emissions aren't really a threat to the future.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket (37 comments total)

 
Meanwhile, the Alaskan pipeline continues to sink into the rapidly thawing permafrost.

But, hey, long as Mr. Joe SixPack bites down on the lie then the lie becomes "reality."
posted by nofundy at 8:48 AM on April 19, 2005


*sigh*

I love the idea that science HAS to give voice to all viewpoints, despite whatever the data say. Global warming either is or is not happening. Science pretty much says "Yup, it is." Then to go on and say "hold on, not so fast" without a full, robust theory that better fits the data...that's just irresponsible.

However, most people believe that even if another theory is wrong, we should still listen to it, because isn't that what we should always do?

Science is not a democratic discourse. It is, by design, meritocratic. I wish people didn't hate that so.
posted by redbeard at 8:55 AM on April 19, 2005


In other news, Kellog funds research to show that fiber is good for you, Gatorade funds research to show that their product is effective, and Monsanto funds research to show that their crops don't destroy the earth.

Incidentally, it's CO2, not "C02" (it's not a zero, it's an "oh" for oxygen).

Is it "good"? Probably, in that it does fund basic research.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 9:02 AM on April 19, 2005


To clarify - biased science is not good. More science is good. It's a balance, but it probably tips slightly in favor of good (in my book).
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 9:03 AM on April 19, 2005


I think I'm becoming psychic. I can immediately predict what comments particular mefi members are going to make with only a glance at the topic of the post.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:12 AM on April 19, 2005


paging shepd!
posted by mcsweetie at 9:14 AM on April 19, 2005


Actually, biased science isn't science at all.
posted by bshort at 9:15 AM on April 19, 2005


thedevildancedlightly, that doesn't make any sense. How is science that is specifically designed to mislead and propagate a political agenda "good"? It would be "more science" if it was indeed science in which case most scientists wouldn't hesitate to debate its merits. This is something completely different that you can't brush aside so easily. This is political propaganda that explicitly seeks to mislead others and implicitly seeks to discredit real science. So again, how exactly is this good?
posted by nixerman at 9:24 AM on April 19, 2005


This is political propaganda that explicitly seeks to mislead others and implicitly seeks to discredit real science.

I have never worked at Exxon so I can't tell you for certain. But I suspect that there are scientists there who really do believe that global warming is not a threat, just as there are researchers at EarthFirst who believe that oil is evil.

Scientists on both sides of the issue are trying to prove their points, it balances out.

The scientific process (publishing data, fixed methodology, repeatable results) allows very easy validation of what is "good science" and what is "junk science". If they really are turning out pure propaganda then it's easy enough to dismiss. If they are turning out something that's got a perspective but has legitimate data behind it then it can make a contribution to public knowledge.

The fact that so many people get their panties all in a twist at this issue encourages more people to become actively involved in the scientific process and the debate.

Further, $8 million is a drop in the bucket. It's hardly worth our time to even be talking about it.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 9:30 AM on April 19, 2005


Actually, Shell's CEO has lectured Bush that global warming is a fact. and BP has also stated that global warming is real. Not all big oil hates the planet.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:38 AM on April 19, 2005


To be clear, I think CO2-based warming is a huge threat and I'm all for trying to solve the problem. It's just a matter of balancing this issue with others (development, massive economic change, etc).
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 9:41 AM on April 19, 2005


I have never worked at Exxon so I can't tell you for certain. But I suspect that there are scientists there who really do believe that global warming is not a threat

Just to clarify, thedevildancedlightly, this is not in the main a case of Exxon scientists working diligently on scientifically valid counter-theories. This is a case of Exxon's corporate chiefs pumping millions of dollars into thinktanks and bogus "public interest" groups (often referred to as "astroturf" groups) to give undue publicity to a handful of unscrupulous scientists - and at least one bestselling novelist - making dubious and/or unfounded claims about climate change.

If you read that first link, for example, you'll note that the American Enterprise Institute, funded in part by ExxonMobil, invites said novelist, Michael Crichton, to speak to a high-profile crowd as an expert in climatology:

When asked about the event, the center’s executive director, Robert Hahn—who’s a fellow with the AEI—defended it, saying, “Climate science is a field in which reasonable experts can disagree.”

Need I point out the obvious fact that Crichton is in no way, shape or form a "reasonable expert" in "climate science"? Talk to actual climatologists, and they'll explain - often at exasperated length - that there is essentially no remaining scientific debate about the basics of climate change. It's happening, CO2 emissions contributed significantly to it, it's very very likely to fuck shit up to an enormous degree in our lifetimes. Actual reasonable experts disagree - or rather discuss using the latest evidence, enormously complex computer models, etc. - the fine details. And then asshats like Crichton come along spouting utter bullshit and get more press.

If the issue at hand were something ultimately sort of trivial - Bush's idiotic Social Security reform, for example, which I as a Canadian couldn't care less about - then no big deal. But alas this is something that affects you, me, my family, your family, and even dipshits like Crichton, and having ExxonMobil money used to muddy the water on it is deeply harmful. It is morally equivalent to publicizing arguments in favour of genocide. It is worth our time in talking about it, if only to combine enough voices into a chorus that can drown out the megaphones given to know-nothings like Michael fucking Crichton.

On preview: moot points, tddl. The massive economic change and rejigging of the course of development will happen anyway (is already happening anyway). The question is whether we prepare for it and try to reduce the impact or just wait until the insurance companies default on trillions of dollars in claims and try to mop up the mess then.
posted by gompa at 9:52 AM on April 19, 2005


Further, $8 million is a drop in the bucket. It's hardly worth our time to even be talking about it.

Yeah, talk about a poor ROI. All that $8M for hot air from pundits will do is increase global warming.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:57 AM on April 19, 2005


They're not funding scientific research. They're not producing science that can be argued/disproved. They're funding public opinion forums that support their short term economic interests. Reminds me of the "citizens' rights groups" set up by the tobacco industry to pester call-in shows and the letters columns of local newspapers.
posted by carter at 10:07 AM on April 19, 2005


The real tragedy: No matter who's right, no matter who has the better science, no matter who makes the most noise, nothing will ever be done about it until it's too late.

Better to spend your time building an ark, at this point.
posted by fungible at 11:02 AM on April 19, 2005


nothing will ever be done about it until it's too late.

One could argue that we've already passed the point of "too late" since even Kyoto levels are well beyond what many think is the carrying capacity of the earth's natural carbon sinks. So maybe an ark isn't a bad idea (that, or some solution other than "stop burning fossil fuels entirely" since that's simply not going to happen until we run out).

Then again, we said the same thing about population growth 15 years ago and now it looks like under-population could be a bigger threat to world stability (too many old people being supported by not enough young people since China's single-child policy is having a huge effect combined with AIDS throughout Africa and lower-than-replacement levels in industrialized nations). Who knows, but maybe there will be some innovative solution to this problem. We can only hope.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 11:17 AM on April 19, 2005


In other news, Kellog funds research to show that fiber is good for you, Gatorade funds research to show that their product is effective

So, what threat does fiber pose for people living in, say, New York or LA? or Gatorade, for that matter? Please, feel free to educate us!
posted by clevershark at 12:54 PM on April 19, 2005


fungible : Better to spend your time building an ark, at this point.

Arks aren't required, just move to someplace that's more than a few metres above sea level. Places like much of Florida are bad bets.
posted by Mitheral at 1:55 PM on April 19, 2005


Actually, Shell's CEO has lectured Bush that global warming is a fact. and BP has also stated that global warming is real. Not all big oil hates the planet.

Those are European companies, not Texas companies.
posted by caddis at 2:20 PM on April 19, 2005


I have never worked at Exxon so I can't tell you for certain. But I suspect that there are scientists there who really do believe that global warming is not a threat, just as there are researchers at EarthFirst who believe that oil is evil.

Scientists on both sides of the issue are trying to prove their points, it balances out.


This at first may seem reasonable, but in fact it's a very dangerous attitude to take.

Step 1: Find some fact that science has long known and which you would dearly like to harm.

Step 2: Find some people who will say things for money, to dispute that fact by whatever means.

Step 3: Watch with glee as the general public, who doesn't know enough to make informed decisions on the matter, average the two out based on how much of their mindspace is consumed by each side.

There's a popular perception that the truth must naturally lie in between the people involved in a hotly-debated argument. Most people seek to be reasonable and conciliatory about issues they don't care strongly about, and it is that reasonability that is being exploited by the oil companies here, allowing them to move the "center" of the argument in a manner eerily reminiscent of the way the religious right is dragging US politics in their direction.
posted by JHarris at 3:09 PM on April 19, 2005


Actually, acording to a a recent journal article in Science (or was it nature...hrm - off campus, so no access to abstracts from either) it already IS too late - too much inertia in the process so far. All we're doing right now is setting how bad it's going to be in the end.

Which, to some, might mean, screw it. If we can't stop it, just make hay while the sun is still shining!
posted by redbeard at 3:13 PM on April 19, 2005


The real tragedy: No matter who's right, no matter who has the better science, no matter who makes the most noise, nothing will ever be done about it until it's too late.

Better to spend your time building an ark, at this point.
i agree with you, and the saddest part to me is that this is the circle of human history learning lessons to late.
posted by nola at 3:19 PM on April 19, 2005


thedevildancedlightly, now you're just being dishonest. Scientists who "believe" oil is evil? What does a scientist's belief have to do with anything? "If" they're turning out propaganda? Have you looked at the literature that's generated? What exactly is your point? Yeah they're lying and misleading people--but they're only doing it with $8 million?
posted by nixerman at 3:23 PM on April 19, 2005


Nixerman - I think that people can disagree about what the impact of CO2 emissions on the earth's climate will be. Now you and I obviously share a view about what that will be (ie, pretty bad). However, I do think that it is possible for a human being to have a different view. I'm pretty sure that I'm right, but I think that there are people who can sincerely believe that carbon will have less of an impact on climate, or that climate change won't cause as much harm as you and I think.

Therefore they aren't "lying", they're "wrong." Or, more accurately, "probably wrong" since science can't rule anything out for certain until it's already happened. To say that they are "lying" is to not be a scientist yourself.

Scientists who "believe" oil is evil? What does a scientist's belief have to do with anything?

Well, the poster was implying that any output of a scientist or researcher funded by ExxonMobil must be thrown out because it's clearly biased. I suggest that there can be closed-minded "scientists" on the other side who start with a conclusion (the earth is going to warm) and then look for data to back it up. If you start with a conclusion (oil is bad) then your result (oil will cause warming) is suspect. Just the same as if you start with "Exxon is good" and end with "oil won't impact climate."

Some of the literature that you cite presents the reasonable viewpoint that higher energy costs will have signficant costs (including impacting the poor [pdf] disproportionately). That doesn't sound like hysterical propaganda to me. It sounds like opinion.

Now, I happen to disagree with their opinion (I think the poor will be much worse served by climate change than taking steps now), but I respect their right to a different belief. I mean, Galileo had a pretty unpopular opinion at the time, but he turned out to have a pretty good point. I doubt that these guys are right, but who knows. Being open-minded is in the nature of being a scientist. To assume your conclusion and dismiss anybody else as "propaganda and lies" is to not be a scientist.

My point is basically "so what?" to the poster. In other words, "who cares that Exxon is funding this - if they're wrong with science then they'll be disproved with science." If your concern is that they are putting out opinion about what the costs and benefits of stopping global warming would be then more power to them for fueling (so to speak) the debate. You and I share an opinion (global warming sucks), Exxon has a different one, and we'll never know for sure who is right until all is said and done.

God forbid that anybody on this site have an opinion other than "GREEDY REPUBLICAN CORPORATE PIG-DOGS ARE TEH SUCKXOR!" I happen to think that Exxon is wrong, but more power to them for speaking freely.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 3:39 PM on April 19, 2005


Therefore they aren't "lying", they're "wrong." Or, more accurately, "probably wrong" since science can't rule anything out for certain until it's already happened. To say that they are "lying" is to not be a scientist yourself.

I dunno. When Michael Crichton accepts money to speak as an expert on climatology, I think calling it "lying" is a tad too polite. I'd prefer to refer to that as "leaking bullshit faster than an Olestra test subject."

TDDL, your arguments here show everyone that either 1) you didn't RTFA or 2) you're just throwing out straw men intentionally. I'd say that you DID read the article, just as selectively as usual.
posted by mek at 4:51 PM on April 19, 2005


When Michael Crichton accepts money to speak as an expert on climatology, I think calling it "lying" is a tad too polite. I'd prefer to refer to that as "leaking bullshit faster than an Olestra test subject."

If you read some of Chrichton's speeches he doesn't say "I'm an expert in climatology" or even "the climnatologists are wrong." Rather he says "before we embark on a mission to radically change the way we generate and consume energy let's be really sure that we have hard data and not just faith in the truth of our hypotheses." His exact words are "I can tell you that the evidence for global warming is far weaker than its proponents would ever admit." Now, that doesn't say that anybody is wrong, rather it questions the strength of the conclusion. It doesn't say "I'm Michael Crichton and I think the Earth is getting colder." It says "look, the evidence doesn't say everything that it claims to."

Now I don't have the full text of the quoted speech in Mother Jones, but the Commonwealth Club speech seems like it was in the same genre as the above. If you have full-text then I'd love to see it.

Mek, I know this is hard for you, but there are shades of gray. If you claim that Michael Chrichton doesn't have standing to talk about evidence then you don't have standing to talk about his qualifications. It's a bit of a catch-22 in your argument.

The sneaky part is when Mother Jones magazine (incidentally, since when was a link to one Mother Jones article a good FPP?) intersperses quotes from Chrichton with assertions about the conclusions of others and people who receive money from ExxonMobil (strangely enough, they list the National Black Chamber of Commerce as an anti-environmental organization... if you want to talk about lying or stretching then calling the NBCC anti-environmental is quite a stretch).

I think Exxon is wrong. You think Chrichton is wrong. We're probably both partially wrong. Welcome to the world.

I'd say that you DID read the article, just as selectively as usual.

You're right. I don't accept Mother Jones as the gospel truth. Nor do I accept DailyKos, FoxNews, or any other media outlet as gospel truth. When you get to college you'll learn to read critically. It's an important skill. And, yes, it does mean that you don't accept everything as gospel just because it came from the most bleeding-heart liberal magazine written on recycled paper in soy ink.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 5:49 PM on April 19, 2005


There's a popular perception that the truth must naturally lie in between the people involved in a hotly-debated argument. Most people seek to be reasonable and conciliatory about issues they don't care strongly about, and it is that reasonability that is being exploited by the oil companies here, allowing them to move the "center" of the argument in a manner eerily reminiscent of the way the religious right is dragging US politics in their direction.
posted by JHarris at 3:09 PM PST on April 19 [!]
posted by mek at 6:04 PM on April 19, 2005


If you claim that Michael Chrichton doesn't have standing to talk about evidence then you don't have standing to talk about his qualifications.

This is such an absurd statement - don't expect any more baited responses after this post. Seriously, you don't believe this shit, do you? Qualifications are PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE. I don't need certification to be able to READ A DEGREE. (*If* he had one in climatology or atmospheric science or something vaguely relevant, which he doesn't.) Oh also, Crichton isn't "talking about" evidence, he's interpreting without proper qualifications to do so. And accepting money for it, which is unethical in itself.

It's amazing that you can type and type and type and never address the science in "question." As others (qualified others) have noted, that avenue of argument is a dead end, so why not just cast vague aspersions over the entire project and insist on "shades of gray?" It might convince the idle reader you're at least partially right. Oddly enough, this is exactly what the oil companies are doing too. At least their arguments have content, though.

The funniest part of the whole project is not all of the oil companies are sociopathic enough to engage in this sort of propaganda, so Exxon looks really bad next to Shell and others.
posted by mek at 6:16 PM on April 19, 2005


You can find the IPCC climate change report commissioned by the UN. It was written by a couple dozen scientists who reviewed pretty much all available climate research, synthesized it, and wrote up what they found. It was reviewed by people that opposed the global warming change, and still comes out strongly supporting the existance of global warming as a whole.

It isn't the most clearly-written or interesting report in the world, but graphics like this are really rather stunning.
posted by lorimt at 6:55 PM on April 19, 2005


(confused) Er, did I post twice or something?
posted by JHarris at 6:58 PM on April 19, 2005


I'm pretty sure that I'm right, but I think that there are people who can sincerely believe that carbon will have less of an impact on climate, or that climate change won't cause as much harm as you and I think.

. . .and there are people who can sincerely believe that the earth is only 15,000 years old, or even that the Earth is flat, or that the constitution of the United States does not provide for an income tax, that the government has installed thought sensors in everyone's brain, that Sponge Bob is real or that their dog told them to shoot the president. These people are loony.
posted by caddis at 7:13 PM on April 19, 2005


RealClimate has a good set of discussions by real climate experts of the current thinking on Global Warming

http://www.realclimate.org/
posted by meddeviceengineer at 7:59 PM on April 19, 2005


Who here has themselves actually looked at the raw temperature data? Im not talking about some sexed up graph that uses bright right coloring to emphasize warming, but the actual raw data points. I have, and I have to say the case for global warming is very very slight. Given that measurements done in the past are not very accurate or trustworthy or are not direct, the fact that ice ages come and go, and that climate theory has had no long term predictive successes, I think its ok to not believe in global warming.
posted by Osmanthus at 9:09 PM on April 19, 2005


Osmanthus, I've seen it come away with the exact opposite conclusion you have. Of course, I'm not a expert in the field, so my opinion means nothing. How about yours?
posted by stbalbach at 9:18 PM on April 19, 2005


don't expect any more baited responses after this post

Thank god. You know that I'm going to hold you to that.

And accepting money for it, which is unethical in itself.

Where does it say Michael Crichton accepted money from ExxonMobil? Find me the quote. He was speaking at AEI, but nowhere does it say that he accepted anything other than his normal speaking fee. The fact that AEI may have recieved money is irrelevant - you're accusing Michael Chrichton of having taken money from ExxonMobil. The article lists a whole bunch of other connections, but none of them are to Chrichton. Your accusation is without support. Using your own words that's "lying".

(I'll make it easy for you, here's the Google cache with "Chrichton" highlighted)

He's an author. He is paid through book sales. Like every other author in the history of mankind he is on tour to promote his book. He spoke before a controversial audience and Mother Jones is trying to imply that he was paid off. I linked previously to a copy of a speech he gave in 2003, so it's not like this line of thought is new to him.

and never address the science in "question."

Why? Honestly. People already have their opinions and it's been hashed out a million times before on MeFi. This post isn't about the science, it's about who is funding the science and trying to draw some dirty connections. If you want to discuss the science then please feel free to make your first post on MeFi about global warming science. Just don't say that I didn't warn you that it'd turn into a flamewar.

Anyway, if I tried to address the "science in question" then you would accuse me of not having a climatology degree. Apparently that's a requirement for discussing science these days.

And before you start claiming a Vast Right-Wing conspiracy, you'll be happy to know that Michael Chrichton is a regular donor to democratic poltical campaigns.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 9:33 PM on April 19, 2005


So what ? Crichton is advocating a massively ignorant position, don't dance lightly around that - O devil.

You're arguing for a sophistic position - sketched out by the Greek skeptics thousands of years ago - that nothing is knowable.

Just come out with that, please.

[ below : excerpted from Metafilter 30532, in which I refer to Crichton's infamously embarassing recent Caltech lecture disputing Global Warming ]


The basics of Global Warming are quite simple, and I have a hard time imagining that Critchton is so completely ignorant of these. Perhaps his ignorance is willful? But why?



_______________________________________________



Here it is in a nutshell. Global Warming made simple : the Earth is always absorbing heat - in the form of sunlight - and also radiating that heat back out into space. Earth's atmosphere has the net effect of keeping the Earth, on average, about 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it would otherwise be.



The Greenhouse Effect is what makes the Earth habitable for human life - and the most severe extinction events known of in the Earth's past have resulted, in fact, from a runaway feedback loop by which increased snow and ice cover reflects more heat back into space - and that, in turn, leads (up tp a point) in increased snow and ice cover. This is the now famous (among climatologists) "Snowball Earth" scenario.



So it is a very good thing, this Greenhouse Effect!.....up to a point.



Now what really is at issue is the "enhanced Greenhouse Effect" which is resulting from the human release of carbon, into the atmosphere, to boost atmospheric carbon to levels not seen in several hundred thousands of years (at least).



[ About volcanoes - Volcanoes spew carbon when they erupt, of course. But vulcanism is sporadic, while the human "volcano" erupts day in, day out, year after year. And in the short term, volcanoes also have a cooling influence for the soot and sulfur dioxide they launch into the atmosphere - which both blocks sunlight from getting to the Earth's surface (the soot) and reflects sunlight back into space (the sulfuric acid which results from the breakdown of sulfur dioxide). This sulfuric acid and soot precipitates out of the atmosphere fairly quickly - in several years. ]



But let's be clear on this - the Greenhouse effect of carbon (and other Greenhouse gasses such as methane) has been known for at least a hundred years.



Molecules of "Greenhouse" gasses trap escaping heat momentarily before they re-emit that heat energy. So these gasses have an insulating effect.



The physics of this have never been in question - they are extremely basic.



So the ONLY way that these Greenhouse gasses would NOT have the net effect of raising the earth's temperature would be if they triggered atmospheric mechanisms which counteracted that warming effect.



Increased cloud cover is the mechanism most often cited, but few specific mechanisms for this possible counteracting effect - you could call it the "Global Warming Self-quenching Effect" - have been proposed. One such theory has, however, been advanced by Jerry Lindzen, of MIT (a respected researcher in the field of climatology - meaning that he publishes peer-reviewed research in the field). But there is one major objection to the "Self-Quenching" hypothesis :



It is known, from reconstruction of the Earth's past temperatures, that the earth has been both warmer - at times, and cooler - at other times than the current average temperature of today. Sometimes, in fact, temperature shifts are rather rapid. So this throws the "self-quenching" mechanisms into doubt, to some extent.



So that's about it. Computer generated predictions of how much the Earth will warm in the next century are speculative, of course. Climatic interactions - between clouds, land and sea, snow and ice, animals and plants, and so on - are fantastically complex. Climate modelling is at an early stage, yes. So the current climate model predictions are provisional, of course. But - barring potential nonlinear mechanisms which Global Warming could trigger, and which most likely would be bad to catastrophic for industrial civilization - there is little doubt about the direction the Earth's climate is currently headed in. Warming.



_______________________________________________



OK now - having said all that - Critchton's basic assertion, that the science behind Global Warming is insufficiently supported, is never actually substantiated in his lecture. It is a straw man argument - as two on this thread have already noted.



Critchton makes some objections to computer climate models (known as "GCM's" ) which are quite embarrassing, in that they seem to betray a basic confusion over the distinction between Weather (the short term, day to day changes we call "weather") and Climate (the long range average). If climate were as variable and unpredictable as the weather - well, we'd been in serious trouble. In fact, it is very unlikely that the emergence of current human civilization, during the unusually stable period of the last 10,000 years - known as the Holocene - was by chance. We live in a period which is unusually balmy and stable. For now.



Critchton enters a different realm when he asserts that the Science of Global warming has become perverted by self interest, through the persecution of critics. He enters the realm of the propagandist. Left me quote this paragraph in it's entirety : "And so, in this elastic anything-goes world where science-or non-science-is the hand maiden of questionable public policy, we arrive at last at global warming. It is not my purpose here to rehash the details of this most magnificent of the demons haunting the world. I would just remind you of the now-familiar pattern by which these things are established. Evidentiary uncertainties are glossed over in the unseemly rush for an overarching policy, and for grants to support the policy by delivering findings that are desired by the patron. Next, the isolation of those scientists who won't get with the program, and the characterization of those scientists as outsiders and "skeptics" in quotation marks-suspect individuals with suspect motives, industry flunkies, reactionaries, or simply anti-environmental nutcases. In short order, debate ends, even though prominent scientists are uncomfortable about how things are being done.



When did "skeptic" become a dirty word in science? When did a skeptic require quotation marks around it? "




For a contrast to this picture Critchton paints, it is instructive to return to the "Global Warming Wars" of the 1990's (still ongoing, in fact). I posted a number of links to material about the campaign - by the petrochemical, coal, and auto industries to raise doubts about Global Warming science, to smear scientists prominent in the field, and to sow confusion and skepticism - in the public mind - about the issue - here (scroll down for links) and here (scroll down for links).



This PR Watch article on the issue is superbly informative. "Global Climate Coalition - The GCC has been the most outspoken and confrontational industry group in the United States battling reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Prior to its disbanding in early 2002, it collaborated extensively with a network that included industry trade associations, "property rights" groups affiliated with the anti-environmental Wise Use movement, and fringe groups such as Sovereignty International, which believes that global warming is a plot to enslave the world under a United Nations-led "world government.



For PR and lobbying, the GCC has employed "Junkman" Steven Milloy's former employer, the EOP Group, as well as the E. Bruce Harrison Company, a subsidiary of the giant Ruder Finn PR firm. Within the public relations industry, Harrison is an almost legendary figure who is ironically considered "the founder of green PR" because of his work for the pesticide industry in the 1960s, when he helped lead the attack on author Rachel Carson and her environmental classic Silent Spring.



GCC activities have included publication of glossy reports, aggressive lobbying at international climate negotiation meetings, and raising concern about unemployment that it claims would result from emissions regulations. It distributed a video to hundreds of journalists claiming that increased levels of carbon dioxide will increase crop production and help feed the hungry people of the world. In the lead up to the Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the GCC and other industry interests successfully lobbied the US government to avoid mandatory emissions controls.



In 1997, the GCC responded to international global warming treaty negotiations in Kyoto, Japan by launching an advertising campaign in the US against any agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions internationally. This was run through an organization called the Global Climate Information Project (GCIP), which was sponsored by the GCC and the American Association of Automobile Manufacturers, among others. The GCIP was represented by Richard Pollock, a former director of Ralph Nader's group, Critical Mass, who switched sides to become a senior vice president for Shandwick Public Affairs, the second-largest PR firm in the United States. (Recent Shandwick clients include Browning-Ferris Industries, Central Maine Power, Georgia-Pacific Corp., Monsanto Chemical Co., New York State Electric and Gas Co., Ciba-Geigy, Ford Motor Company, Hydro-Quebec, Pfizer, and Procter & Gamble.)



GCIP's ads were produced by Goddard*Claussen/First Tuesday, a California-based PR firm whose clients include the Chlorine Chemistry Council, the Chemical Manufacturers Association, DuPont Merck Pharmaceuticals, and the Vinyl Siding Institute. Goddard*Claussen is notorious for its "Harry and Louise" advertisement that helped derail President Clinton's 1993 health reform proposal. Its anti-Kyoto advertisements falsely claimed, "It's Not Global and It Won't Work." They also claimed that "Americans will pay the price. . . 50 cents more for every gallon of gasoline." Ironically, there was no treaty at that point, and no government proposals, then or now, have suggested a "50 cent" gallon gas tax.



By 1997, however, the growing scientific and public consensus regarding global warming forced a number of GCC supporters to reconsider the negative PR implications of their involvement in a group that was increasingly recognized as a self-serving anti-environmental front group. BP/Amoco withdrew from GCC after BP's chairman admitted that "the time to consider the policy dimensions of climate change is not when the link between greenhouse gases and climate change is conclusively proven, but when the possibility cannot be discounted and is taken seriously by the society of which we are part. We in BP have reached that point." Other prominent companies that have publicly abandoned GCC include American Electric Power, Dow, Dupont, Royal Dutch Shell, Ford, Daimler Chrysler, Southern Company, Texaco and General Motors." "




In light of this recent history - bear in mind that the "Global Climate Coalition" was only one part of this industry campaign, which also included (and still does) a profusion of disinformation on the internet and a welter of "Astroturfed" fake citizen's groups managed by PR firms.



Is Crichton so utterly unaware of all of this?



I wonder how it was that he was chosen for this lecture. I'm sure he can speak authoritatively on some subjects, but he has embarassed himself here.



Critchton perfectly inverts this reality - It is, in fact, the belief in extra-terrestrials which is of a piece with disbelief in Global Warming. Public confusion about how science works contributes to this disbelief - and Critchton betrays his own confusion about the process, in his depiction of the field of Global Warming research as driven by some sort of mass-hysteria.



As I have noted, the basic process of Global Warming is what makes the earth habitable. Too much warming can be a problem of course, and that is what is at issue. But in casting belief in Global Warming as some sort of crazed cult faith akin to a belief in aliens, Critchton is unwittingly stating that he rejects much of the foundation on which the last century of modern science is based.



That's unfortunate, coming from a science fiction writer.

posted by troutfishing at 8:26 PM on April 20, 2005


BTW - the "$8 million" assertion at the core of this post is certainly incorrect by at least a factor of 10 : some would say by a factor of 100 even.

The PR Watch article below, which I posted almost in it's entirety to emphasize that your "conspiracy" charge is slanderous - is the best material here. I have lots more material tucked away but I'm kind of busy now and so I hope this will suffice (though - somehow - I doubt it will)



"Exxon Backs Groups That Question Global Warming" (may 29, 2003)



Here is a blow by blow of the smear campaign to discredit one leading IPCC scientist



"The Global Climate Coalition, a powerful coalition of oil, power, and auto companies has followed the lead of tobacco companies by denying the harm they cause. They have spent millions of dollars trying to discredit the scientific consensus of the IPCC and slow steps to combat global warming. The public has not fallen for their deception, but the Global Climate Coalition appears to have had some impact on members of Congress.



Among the members of the Global Climate Coalition are: American Electric Power Service Corporation, American Petroleum Institute, Amoco, Chevron, Chemical Manufacturers Association, Chrysler Corporation, Dow Chemical Company, Duke Power Company, Edison Electric Institute, Exxon, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Illinois Power Company, Mobil Corporation, National Association of Manufacturers, National Mining Association, Texaco, Union Carbide, Union Electric Company, and Western Fuels Association."
From US PIRG (People's Interest research group) website



PR Watch (article below) takes great pains to get it's facts right



PR Watch "The GCC has been the most outspoken and confrontational industry group in the United States battling reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Prior to its disbanding in early 2002, it collaborated extensively with a network that included industry trade associations, "property rights" groups affiliated with the anti-environmental Wise Use movement, and fringe groups such as Sovereignty International, which believes that global warming is a plot to enslave the world under a United Nations-led "world government..... 

Global Climate Coalition



The GCC has been the most outspoken and confrontational industry group in the United States battling reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Prior to its disbanding in early 2002, it collaborated extensively with a network that included industry trade associations, "property rights" groups affiliated with the anti-environmental Wise Use movement, and fringe groups such as Sovereignty International, which believes that global warming is a plot to enslave the world under a United Nations-led "world government."





Personnel



* Glenn Kelly, Executive Director

* Gail McDonald, President

* William O'Keefe, Chairman, is an executive for the American Petroleum Institute

* Frank Maisano, Media Contact, is a member of the Potomac Communications Group, Inc., whose other clients include Con Edison, the Edison Electric Institute, the Nuclear Energy Institute, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency





History



In 1989, the United Nations created the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of some 2,500 climatologists from throughout the world, to evaluate the evidence linking industrial greenhouse gas emissions to global warming. The Global Climate Coalition was created in 1989, shortly after the IPCC's first meeting.



The GCC operated until 1997 out of the offices of the National Association of Manufacturers. Its early members included Amoco, the American Forest & Paper Association, American Petroleum Institute, Chevron, Chrysler, Cyprus AMAX Minerals, Exxon, Ford, General Motors, Shell Oil, Texaco, and the United States Chamber of Commerce.



For PR and lobbying, the GCC has employed "Junkman" Steven Milloy's former employer, the EOP Group, as well as the E. Bruce Harrison Company, a subsidiary of the giant Ruder Finn PR firm. Within the public relations industry, Harrison is an almost legendary figure who is ironically considered "the founder of green PR" because of his work for the pesticide industry in the 1960s, when he helped lead the attack on author Rachel Carson and her environmental classic Silent Spring.



GCC activities have included publication of glossy reports, aggressive lobbying at international climate negotiation meetings, and raising concern about unemployment that it claims would result from emissions regulations. It distributed a video to hundreds of journalists claiming that increased levels of carbon dioxide will increase crop production and help feed the hungry people of the world. In the lead up to the Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the GCC and other industry interests successfully lobbied the US government to avoid mandatory emissions controls.



In 1997, the GCC responded to international global warming treaty negotiations in Kyoto, Japan by launching an advertising campaign in the US against any agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions internationally. This was run through an organization called the Global Climate Information Project (GCIP), which was sponsored by the GCC and the American Association of Automobile Manufacturers, among others. The GCIP was represented by Richard Pollock, a former director of Ralph Nader's group, Critical Mass, who switched sides to become a senior vice president for Shandwick Public Affairs, the second-largest PR firm in the United States. (Recent Shandwick clients include Browning-Ferris Industries, Central Maine Power, Georgia-Pacific Corp., Monsanto Chemical Co., New York State Electric and Gas Co., Ciba-Geigy, Ford Motor Company, Hydro-Quebec, Pfizer, and Procter & Gamble.)



GCIP's ads were produced by Goddard*Claussen/First Tuesday, a California-based PR firm whose clients include the Chlorine Chemistry Council, the Chemical Manufacturers Association, DuPont Merck Pharmaceuticals, and the Vinyl Siding Institute. Goddard*Claussen is notorious for its "Harry and Louise" advertisement that helped derail President Clinton's 1993 health reform proposal. Its anti-Kyoto advertisements falsely claimed, "It's Not Global and It Won't Work." They also claimed that "Americans will pay the price. . . 50 cents more for every gallon of gasoline." Ironically, there was no treaty at that point, and no government proposals, then or now, have suggested a "50 cent" gallon gas tax.



By 1997, however, the growing scientific and public consensus regarding global warming forced a number of GCC supporters to reconsider the negative PR implications of their involvement in a group that was increasingly recognized as a self-serving anti-environmental front group. BP/Amoco withdrew from GCC after BP's chairman admitted that "the time to consider the policy dimensions of climate change is not when the link between greenhouse gases and climate change is conclusively proven, but when the possibility cannot be discounted and is taken seriously by the society of which we are part. We in BP have reached that point." Other prominent companies that have publicly abandoned GCC include American Electric Power, Dow, Dupont, Royal Dutch Shell, Ford, Daimler Chrysler, Southern Company, Texaco and General Motors.



In March 2000, GCC announced a "strategic restructuring" designed to "bring the focus of the climate debate back to the real issues." Under the restructuring, individual companies were no longer asked to join the GCC. Instead, membership would be limited to "only trade associations" and "other like-minded organizations." By seeking support from trade associations instead of individual companies, GCC hoped to create a layer of deniability so that affected industries could continue to support its campaign of global warming denial while avoiding boycotts and other public campaigns against individual companies.



The GCC disbanded in early 2002, explaining that it "has served its purpose by contributing to a new national approach to global warming. The Bush administration will soon announce a climate policy that is expected to rely on the development of new technologies to reduce greenhouse emissions, a concept strongly supported by the GCC." After years spent denying that greenhouse emissions were a serious environmental problem, the organization's parting shot at history combined a tacit admission that it had been wrong all along, along with an endorsement of the Bush admistration's proposal for ineffective "voluntary" industry measures to address the problem.



Funding



The GCC website was decorated with numerous photos of happy children playing in idyllic farm fields, but was not been able to find space to provide any information about its budget or where its money comes from. GCC was not registered as a nonprofit organization and was not required to make public disclosures of its IRS tax filings, so it is difficult to obtain even basic information about its finances. However, the information that is publicly available shows that the GCC has spent tens of millions of dollars on the global warming issue.



According to the Los Angeles Times (December 7, 1997) the GCC spent $13 million on its 1997 anti-Kyoto ad campaign, an amount roughly equivalent to Greenpeace’s entire annual budget.







Common Cause has documented more than $63 million in contributions to politicians from members of the Global Climate Coalition from 1989-1999.



GCC's efforts were coordinated with separate campaigns by many of its members, such as the National Coal Association, which spent more than $700,000 on the global climate issue in 1992 and 1993, and the American Petroleum Institute, which paid the Burson-Marsteller PR firm $1.8 million in 1993 for a successful computer-driven "grassroots" letter and phone-in campaign to stop a proposed tax on fossil fuels.



GCC's members and supporters included the following companies and trade associations:





* Air Transport Association

* Allegheny Power

* Aluminum Association, Inc.

* American Automobile Manufacturers Association

* American Commercial Barge Line Co.

* American Farm Bureau Federation

* American Forest & Paper Association

* American Highway Users Alliance

* American Iron and Steel Institute

* American Petroleum Institute

* American Portland Cement Alliance

* Amoco

* Association of American Railroads

* Association of International Automobile Manufacturers

* Atlantic Richfield Coal Company

* Baker Refineries

* Bethlehem Steel

* BHP Minerals

* Chamber of Shipping of America

* Chemical Manufacturers Association

* Chevron

* Chrysler Corporation

* Cinergy

* CONRAIL

* Consumers Energy

* Council of Industrial Boiler Owners

* CSX Transportation, Inc.

* Cyprus-Amax

* Dow Chemical Company

* Drummond Company

* Duke Power Company

* DuPont

* Eastman Chemical

* Edison Electric Institute

* ELCON

* ExxonMobil

* Fertilizer Institute

* Ford Motor Company

* General Motors

* Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

* Greencool

* Hoechst Celanese Chemical Group

* Illinois Power Company

* Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corp.

* McDonnell-Douglas

* Mobil Corporation

* National Association of Manufacturers

* National Lime Association

* National Mining Association

* National Ocean Industries Association

* National Petrochemical and Refiners Association

* Natural Rural Electric Cooperative Association

* Norfolk Southern

* Northern Indiana Public Serv. Co.

* Ohio Edison

* Parker Drilling Company

* Process Gas Consumers

* Shell

* Society of the Plastic Industry

* Southern Company

* Steel Manufacturers Association

* TECO Energy Inc.

* Texaco

* U.S. Chamber of Commerce

* USX Corporation

* Union Carbide

* Union Pacific

* Virginia Power

* Western Fuels Association





Case Study: Accu-Weather's Science for Hire







The GCC claimed that "science must serve as the foundation for overall global climate policy decisions and enhanced scientific research must be the first priority. A bedrock principle addressing global climate change issues is that science -- not emotional or political reactions -- must serve as the foundation for global climate policy decisions." In direct contradiction to these lofty goals, the GCC and individual members provided public platforms for the handful of scientists who are skeptical of the consensus that there is a human influence on the global climate. These scientists generally do not participate in the accepted process of publishing research in refereed journals in order to test hypotheses and conclusions. The also generally do not have expertise in the topic. Moreover, the GCC has gone even further than just providing public relations services for these skeptic scientists. They have also attacked credible and preeminent scientists who are experts in the field.



An example of GCC's own sloppy approach to science occurred in early 1995........
"



This PR watch article continues in this vein and provides extensive documentation.



Good night.
posted by troutfishing at 8:37 PM on April 20, 2005


« Older How America Works...  |  Free Scoop Night.... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments