News & Media Opinion Pieces The Greenpeace Report on Climate Change Denial

The Greenpeace Report on Climate Change Denial

Dealing in Doubt: The Climate Denial Industry and Climate Science is an excellent report from Greenpeace.(article here) The analysis chronicles climate change denial over 20 years funded with $23m from Exxon Mobil in the past 12 years.
 Funds from the coal, oil and car industries were channeled through think tanks such the Heartland Institute, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). The fundamental aim was to discredit the work of the IPCC based initially on the science of global warming and moving more recently to direct attack on contributing IPCC scientists. Names and mechanisms are detailed.

The medical profession will understand these findings from their experience with the tobacco denial industry over many decades but nevertheless the depth and reach of the climate denial industry will shock. Indeed the Greenpeace report commences with a quote from Tobacco Company Brown and Williamson internal document in 1969

    Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ [linking smoking with disease] that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy…

The Greenpeace report continues

The tobacco industry’s misinformation and PR campaign against regulation reached a peak just as laws controlling it were about to be introduced. Similarly, the campaign against climate science has intensified as global action on climate change has become more likely. This time, though, there is a difference. In recent years the corporate PR campaign has gone viral, spawning a denial movement that is distributed, decentralised and largely immune to reasoned response.

The section of the report The mid 90s- a new front ‘down under’, which is closely referenced in the original text, will be of great interest to DEA readers

With a massive coal and mining industry backing him, Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s government was the perfect breeding ground for climate denial. This was recognised by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) in 1996, which began strategising to develop the Australian arm of their campaign.In November 1996 a strategy meeting was held at the CEI in Washington that would begin to cement the cross-pollination of people and ideas between Australia and the US. At the meeting, RJ Smith from the CEI argued that it was clear that ‘Australia if possible would be a key player in this’, so the CEI decided to hold a conference.

Green peace states that in 1997 when Tim Wirth of the US State Department announced they were going to call for mandatory controls in Kyoto, RJ Smith of the CEI met a senior figure in Australia’s Western Mining Corporation (WMC), and the planning began.

They held a conference in Washington 1997, and several key deniers were in attendance, along with the Australians. According to PR Watch it ‘offered blanket dismissals of the scientific evidence for climate change and predicted staggering economic costs for any policies aimed at restricting emissions. Australian Embassy Chief of Mission Paul O’Sullivan, gave the address. In August 1997, the CEI and the Frontiers of Freedom front group sponsored another conference, this time in Canberra, Australia, along with the Australian and New Zealand Chambers of Commerce and the WMC. Ray Evans and WMC’s Managing Director Hugh Morgan played a significant role at the conference, and attendees included the Australian Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer and Environment Minister Robert Hill. Fisher claimed that tough emission reduction targets could put 90,000 jobs at risk in Australia and cost more than $150 million.

According to RJ Smith from the CEI, the purpose of the Canberra conference was to ‘try and buck [Prime Minister John Howard] up a little more and let him know that there is support of the American people for his government’s obstructionist stance. The Australian denial movement, funded by the WMC and other big business groups, and led by the Institute of Public Affairs, has had a relationship with the US climate sceptics ever since.

The bulk of the Greenpeace report describes how the denial movement operates with fake science, fake reports and faked support (petitions), with personal attacks on scientists and with powerful political influence with the Bush White House and with the Republican Party, and with some parties and governments in other countries.

In conclusion we have to face the fact that the tobacco denial lobby was immensely successful over many decades and looking this public health hazard today we have to face the fact that the industry is still succeeding in subverting the resolve of governments both democratic and totalitarian. That we learned these lessons does not seem to have assisted us in combating the climate change denialists for we have to accept that their endevours may have delayed necessary action for a decade or more and this is time that can never be recouped in the alleviation of human suffering.

Articles on the DEA site have covered climate denialism on several previous occasions and we draw attention to
High & Dry: John Howard, climate change and the selling of Australia’s future by Guy Pearse 
and the recent article Climate Change, an Analysis of Advocacy and the Public Silence

David Shearman