One of the best articles ever on the PR campaign to deny global warming. From the creators of Joe Camel.
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The Public Relations Debate About Global Warming Heats Up
The denial of man-made global warming is one of the greatest PR campaigns in history. With echoes of the industry-funded research from tobacco companies that denied links between smoking and lung cancer, the well-coordinated PR plan has delayed new regulations for coal and petroleum industries and influenced millions of Americans.
In simple terms, man-made global warming can be described as “the increase in Earth’s average surface temperature due to rising levels of greenhouse gases,” according to NASA. “The most popular explanation for global warming is the burning of fossil fuels, mainly petroleum and coal, which produces carbon dioxide as one of the by-products. As of 2010, the concentration of carbon dioxide is about 50% higher than it was before the start of the industrial revolution in the late 1800′s.”
The deniers have masterfully labeled themselves as “Pro-Business” and “Anti-Government” while painting their adversaries as meddling intellectuals and bureaucrats intent on imposing their unproven beliefs on everyone else.
It’s a well-funded group. Drexel University completed a study that concluded conservative foundations and others have bankrolled their case with $558 million between 2003 and 2010. “Money amplifies certain voices above others and, in effect, gives them a megaphone in the public square,” writes environmental scientist Robert J. Brulle, the study’s author. “Powerful funders are supporting the campaign to deny scientific findings about global warming and raise public doubts about the roots and remedies of this massive global threat,” the study noted.
The public relations tactics for the Deniers include:
- Attacking the science of global warming
- Attacking the motives of the scientists
- Claiming the rise in earth’s temperatures are “natural”
- Denying there is consensus among scientists
- Claiming cleaner power plants would kill jobs
- Making fun of former Vice President Al Gore, an expert on global warming
- Convincing the media into conducting debates on “both sides of the issue.”
The Los Angeles Times noted the campaigns for climate change denial and the dangers of tobacco contain many similarities. “One early campaign was launched by tobacco companies. Seeking to prevent government regulation of its product, the American cigarette industry created the Council for Tobacco Research to generate research disputing the work of mainstream scientists. ‘Doubt is our product,’ said a 1969 industry memo, ‘since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public.’ Fighting regulation meant creating doubt about the health effects of smoking. The strategy proved enormously successful, helping prevent most regulation of tobacco products until 2009, nearly six decades after the carcinogenic properties of tobacco were established.”
TIME magazine chimed in about the forces who fund the denial. “Fossil-fuel companies like Exxon and Peabody Energy — which obviously have a business interest in slowing any attempt to reduce carbon emissions — have combined with traditionally conservative corporate groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and conservative foundations like the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, to raise doubts about the basic validity of what is, essentially, a settled scientific truth. That message gets amplified by conservative think tanks — like the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute — and then picked up by conservative media outlets on the Internet and cable TV.”
The results of these campaigns by the “pro-business” crowd have been to block laws that would require them to retrofit or modify their facilities or to pay additional taxes on pollution while promoting a sense of doubt in the public’s mind. Think of the strategy like a jury trial; if one juror votes “not guilty,” the defendant is not convicted.
But there’s reason to believe the “Pro-Science” faction of the debate may have learned to argue their case more effectively. In 2014, five developments may have slowly melted the resistance to the prospect that man’s carbon pollution has accelerated global warming. It may be harder to claim a conspiracy after the developments below.
Coca-Cola and Nike Affected. Both corporations admitted to the New York Times that global warming not only exists, but it has significantly affected their business operations. “Coke reflects a growing view among American business leaders and mainstream economists who see global warming as a force that contributes to lower gross domestic products, higher food and commodity costs, broken supply chains and increased financial risk,” noted The Times.
“Increased droughts, more unpredictable variability, 100-year floods every two years,” said Jeffrey Seabright, Coke’s vice president for environment and water resources, listing the problems that he said were also disrupting the company’s supply of sugar cane and sugar beets, as well as citrus for its fruit juices. “When we look at our most essential ingredients, we see those events as threats.”
Nike also admitted to The Times that extreme weather has disrupted its supply chain in more than 700 factories, man in Southeast Asia. This has resulted in droughts for cotton-producing regions that are used as material for Nike clothing. “That puts less cotton on the market, the price goes up, and you have market volatility,” said Hannah Jones, the company’s vice president for sustainability and innovation. Nike has already reported the impact of climate change on water supplies on its financial risk disclosure forms to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Corporations Profiting. In a blockbuster book, “Windfall” from author McKenzie Funk, it detailed how corporations and entrepreneurs have started planning and profiting from global warming including Deutsche Bank and Shell Oil.
“Multinational businesses have a reputation for either denying or downplaying climate change,” notes Will Oremus in his review in Slate magazine. “In fact, Shell has been preparing for it for decades. The company’s business depends on being able to anticipate and respond quickly to seismic shifts in the energy market. So it employs a team of big-thinking futurists, called scenario planners, to keep it a step ahead. In 2008 the company released a fresh pair of scenarios for how the world might respond to climate change over the coming decades. Both were predicated on what the company called “three hard truths”: that global energy demand is rising, that the supply of conventional energy will not be able to keep up, and that climate change is both real and dangerous.”
Oremus noted the profits from a warming environment include:
- “Mining and agricultural companies in Greenland, where retreating glaciers are revealing vast deposits of precious minerals and warming temperatures have already lengthened the agricultural season by three weeks
- Israeli water-desalination companies, which are now selling snow to desperate ski resorts in the Alps
- The former CIA analyst-turned-“climate investor” who is buying up water rights in the American West and Australia and watching their value skyrocket.”
Deutsche Bank, which offers a Climate Change mutual fund, installed a Doomsday Clock near Madison Square Garden in New York that is known as the first “real time carbon emissions counter” that adds about 800 tons per second to the tally.
Conclusive U.N. Climate change report. In March the United Nations released a 29-page draft by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. National Public Radio noted “The effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans,” and the world is mostly “ill-prepared” for the risks that the sweeping changes present.” The report, which has been cited thousands of times in stories around the world, noted ”Human interference with the climate system is occurring.”
USA Today reported that the situation, left unchecked, predicts dire changes for the earth such as:
•Coastal flooding, which will devastate areas near the shore.
•Widespread hunger due to warming, drought and severe downpours.
•Damage to big cities because of inland flooding.
•Extreme weather and storms, damaging some of the things we take for granted, like electricity, running water and emergency services.
“We live in an era of man-made climate change,” said Vicente Barros, co-chair of the group that prepared the report. “In many cases, we are not prepared for the climate-related risks that we already face.”
Pentagon says Climate Change is Real. The 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review released by the Pentagon concludes the impacts of climate change as “threat multipliers” that “may increase the frequency, scale, and complexity of future missions,” and outlines “creative ways” to address them. Salon magazine reported that “Pentagon Warns that Climate Change Could Enable Terrorism.”
Climate change has the ability to “devastate homes, land, and infrastructure” and “may exacerbate water scarcity and lead to sharp increases in food costs.” Further, the QDR says the desperation that many people, particularly in poorer regions, will face due to climate change impacts could lead to “resource competition” and even “terrorist activity.” “The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world,” according to the report.
“These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”
99% Consensus. There’s a popular claim by the deniers that 97% of all scientists think there might be a link between man-made activities and global warming, but there’s no “real consensus” on this issue. Actually, the percentage of scientific agreement is closer to 99% and there is a consensus. The MIT-educated geologist James L. Powell, who served on the prestigious National Science Board at the urging of two Republican presidents, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, was profiled in the website All Gov.
“He’s also a believer in human-made global warming, and has spent considerable time reviewing scientific and academic papers on the subject,” notes All Gov. “In 2013 alone, Powell found 10,885 peer-reviewed articles that discussed global warming or climate change. But only two described as peer-reviewed denied the widely-held belief that the planet is warming up because of humans, he says, and one of the two turned out not to be peer-reviewed.”
Powell read 25,182 scientific articles about global warming. Only 26 concluded that man was not the cause.
“These 26 papers do not offer a common, rival theory to man-made global warming,” Powell says. ”Instead, they amount to “a hodgepodge of alternatives, none of which has caught on. The dissenting articles are rarely cited, even by other dissenters. A groundswell this is not. The 26 rejecting articles have had no discernible influence on science,” he wrote on his blog.
“He further states that “the so-called debate over global warming is an illusion, a hoax conjured up by a handful of apostate scientists and a misguided and sometimes colluding media, aided and abetted by funding from fossil fuel companies and right wing foundations.” After these five developments, those who still deny man-made global warming would have to conclude the following groups are colluding to fool them:
The United Nations
99% of the world’s scientists
Most other governments around the world.
If there really is a massive worldwide conspiracy, they will need an enormous stadium to house their next meeting. Thinking about this plot is enough to make you start smoking.