Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming

Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming

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Talk of global warming is nearly inescapable these days — but there are some who believe the concept of climate change is an elaborate hoax. Despite the input of the world’s leading climate scientists, the urgings of politicians, and the outcry of many grassroots activists, many Americans continue to ignore the warning signs of severe climate shifts. How did this happen? Climate Cover-up seeks to answer this question, describing the pollsters and public faces who have crafted careful language

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5 Responses to “Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming”

  • John Mashey says:

    Review by John Mashey for Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming
    Rating:
    ANTI-SCIENCE AND WHO DOES IT

    Anti-science (or agnotology), seeks to cover-up or obscure science considered inconvenient, or at least create doubt in the minds of public and decision-makers. It seeks to replace knowledge with ignorance, and has no resemblance to normal arguments within science, by scientists.

    Modern anti-science is most skillfully executed by a relatively small subset of lobbyists and PR agencies. Some of the most effective are actually “thinktanks”. They have public identities distinct from their (often-unidentified) funders, and can often be labeled “non-profit”, thus avoiding the expense of taxes. They often seek funding in the same way as lobbyist/PR agencies, as is well-documented in the Tobacco Archives.

    Such entities have played successful roles in activities like fending off tobacco regulation, fighting CFC regulation (“ozone hole”), fighting mercury regulation, etc. For some, their top priority has changed to obfuscating climate science. Anyone who can help keep children getting addicted to tobacco should find it easy to create confusion about climate.

    So, if you wonder how and why so many people, especially in North America, are confused about the current state of climate science, this is an excellent introduction to the key players and tactics.

    SAMPLE CHAPTERS AND TOPICS

    four: THE AGE OF ASTROTURFING

    People respond better to “grass-roots” efforts than to PR from business. If no grass-roots efforts exist, then one can set up fake ones … astroturf.

    eight DENIAL BY THE POUND

    Within science, the only things that really count are:

    - publication in credible, peer-reviewed journals, a relatively low bar that mostly means “Not obviously wrong and might be worth reading.”

    - and surviving the high bar: widespread review by scientists in the field, to see if the results stand the test of time. Many don’t. A few don’t survive more than a few days.

    But, if people cannot even get something over the low bar, they can try “petition science”, in which large numbers of names are collected, sometimes including people who object violently to their inclusion as misrepresentation.

    This tactic is popular, but absurd:

    If you have heart problems, and 10 of the world’s top cardiologists agree that you need a quad-bypass operation, do you listen to them? Suppose 10 brain surgeons sign a petition saying cardiologists know nothing about hearts. Do you believe *that* instead? Maybe the problem can be ignored?

    How about a petition with 10,000 signatures … of brain surgeons, engineers, epidemiologists, economists, politicians, chemists, nuclear physicists, and maybe a handful of (mostly-retired or not very successful) cardiologists? Are 10,000 non-experts more believable than 10 non-experts? Are they more believable than 10 experts?

    nine JUNK SCIENTISTS

    The same people who were often helped the tobacco industry now help others, using well-honed tactics and claims of non-existent expertise.

    fourteen WHITEWASHING COAL

    “Clean coal” isn’t. I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, and used to work summers at the US Bureau of Mines, which tried to regulate the industry. Homes still collapse due to mine subsidence, although the coal companies departed long ago.

    One topic that I hope will get more attention in any later editions is the role of certain wealthy family foundations in funding anti-science, as corporations are not the only funders. of course, this can be hard to track, given the complex web of funding that rather resembles money-laundering.

    —- Added 9/24/09

    Corporate funding for climate anti-science is rather concentrated in a few sectors, but corporations generally need not support anti-science. For example, on 9/22/09, the large California utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, announced its withdrawal from the US Chamber of Commerce over the latter’s climate policies. The article “Irreconcilable Differences” at PG&E’s website Next100 quoted PG&E CEO Peter Darbee’s strong, succinct statement:

    “We find it dismaying that the Chamber neglects the indisputable fact that a decisive majority of experts have said the data on global warming are compelling and point to a threat that cannot be ignored. In our opinion, an intellectually honest argument over the best policy response to the challenges of climate change is one thing; disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality of these challenges are quite another.”

    —-

    SUMMARY

    Those new to this topic will learn quite a bit of what goes on behind the scenes. Even those familiar with the topic will discover new connections – I certainly did.

    Some Canadian references might be unfamiliar to Americans, but are useful, because they offer both similarities and contrasts. Also, Canada has many parallels with Australia (oil or coal exports), so Australians may find this instructive as well. Australian blogger Tim Lambert gets plaudits for his sleuth work. New Zealand cases are mentioned, and the UK is well-represented. Climate anti-science knows no borders.

    This is an excellent introduction to an important topic. An informed citizen should not only understand a little climate science, but really needs to recognize the machinery of climate anti-science, which really does not want informed citizens.

  • Personne says:

    Review by Personne for Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming
    Rating:
    The chasm between the practice of science and the public’s perception is enormous. Any body of knowledge that may require a change in public policy rapidly becomes prey to ideology. One need look no farther than the reviews posted about this very book. A large portion of the public does not understand how to understand science and tends to look for voices of authority. It’s no surprise that those they trust to form their political views may also end up framing their views about science. This is true no matter where a person sits along the political spectrum. It’s a pity, because ideology has no place in understanding this important topic.

    I believe there are still many people who would like to know what the fuss is about. They don’t like to have their opinions dictated to them by someone else. They may be vaguely suspicious that there’s more than impartiality going on. This book is an imperfect step for readers who may fit that description. There is too much of the author’s own opinion where a simple statement of facts is more than sufficient. The book steers a little too uncertainly between polemic and journalism.

    I found the preface and initial chapters somewhat off-putting. The author spends some time on the case of Freeman Dyson, a scientist with a respected opinion in many areas. Dyson has moved strongly into the camp of ‘deniers’ (a term I promise not to use again). Author Hoggan makes quite a spectacle of Dyson’s lack of credentials in this area. This is a dangerous approach for many reasons. There are certainly cases of scientists displaying remarkable ignorance outside their fields. One need look no further than William Shockley to understand that. But there are also many uncredentialed scientists who’ve done spectacular work. For example, the much-respected paleontologist Jack Horner never finished his bachelor’s degree. Most importantly, James Hoggan isn’t a scientist at all. It’s not about the credentials. It’s about the work. The author demonstrates this well at many later points in the book, but he may well lose many potential readers before he gets to the good stuff.

    If one finds the opening pages unattractive, I might suggested jumping ahead to chapter six, “Mangling the Language”. Hoggan’s own work in public relations makes him more than qualified to speak on this topic. What you learn in this chapter can prove useful far beyond the scope of the book itself. Other good chapters follow, focusing on trade groups and the spokesmen they employ. If anything, Hoggan should have been even more critical of the press. Most news organizations are arms of a larger corporation. They employ hordes of people to cover Hollywood but no one qualified to cover science. With a few welcome exceptions press coverage of science is abysmal, and has left the public ill-prepared to discuss topics as serious as climate change.

    I wish that Hoggan had injected a little less of himself in this book. Much of the reportage is quite persuasive and doesn’t need to be shouted. For readers whose views are not hardened, there’s much to appreciate.

  • Bernard S. Clark says:

    Review by Bernard S. Clark for Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming
    Rating:
    Climate Cover-up is a book that is long overdue. For too long we have been subjected to the disinformation campaigns of many vested interests whose sole intent is to stop any meaningful action on the biggest problem facing us today. Global warming is real, we are the ones causing it and the consequences of this change will be very bad. While the media, encouraged by the biggest industrial players in energy today (big coal and big oil), has made it seem like there is doubt and confusion about global warming, the people who should know, whose jobs it is to know (such as the American National Academy of Science, which Abraham Lincoln founded to be the “supreme court” of science in America), are not confused at all. The biggest, most prestigious scientific bodies in the world all agree with the reality of global warming: it is real, we are the ones, it will be bad for us. We must stop warming up. We must stop burning coal and oil.

    Why don’t people today all know that we are taking a terrible risk that we should not be taking? We don’t all know because there are too many active vested interests trying to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD). They are using the same tactics that big Tobacco used quite successfully to delay for decades significant action in reducing the number of smokers in America. Their actions are short term and short sighted, for they too will have to live in a world where the consequences of our continuing to burn fossil fuels will damage and change our civilization forever. Climate Cover-up does an excellent job of removing the wool that has been pulled over our eyes.

    Our democracy has been high-jacked by these vested interests. Climate Cover-up describes for us the many dirty tricks that are being used to deceive our politicians, to confuse our citizens and to stall any meaning action. Knowing how these vested interests work is an essential step in protecting our democracy. We need to be able to see through the facades and outright lies that some industry players use, not only to help us realize what is really happening to our climate, but to be alert to these same tactics when they are used by other industries, public relations companies and think-tanks for other issues, like health care.

    Beyond learning how the climate debate has been firstly created (there is no debate in the highest scientific organizations of the world) and then shaped by the vested interests, Climate Cover-up also provides fascinating looks into the history of the “dark side” of public relations (and the author runs a PR company, so is in a great position to understand this industry) and the use of “astroturfing,” which is a pseudo-grass roots movement, designed by big oil and big coal to make it appear to our politicians that there is a real grass-roots support for not taking action on global warming, when there is no such movement. These fake grass-roots movements are called astroturfing and are used more and more frequently by industry to mislead our leaders.

    There are many valuable insights found in this book but one other needs highlighting: Climate Cover-up also names names. There are many fake experts proclaiming that climate change is not happening; or if it is, it is not us doing it; and if we are, the consequences will be minor; and if they aren’t, industry and/or the market will fix it. By learning who these fake experts are (politely called sceptics or deniers) we can be on our guard against their dissemination of FUD.

    The changes happening today because of global warming need to be known, not disguised. Our attention needs to be focused on the real issues, not diverted. Our leaders need to know the truth about what is happening and the consequences, not to be deceived. Climate Cover-up takes us in the right direction. It helps to clear away the FUD surrounding global warming. It is a very important book. Buy it. Read it. Pass it along to a friend and make sure they too read it, and pass it along.

  • Charles M. Nobles says:

    Review by Charles M. Nobles for Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming
    Rating:
    This is an informative, timely effort to identify the causes behind the public’s failure to believe that global warming is a real threat to the world’s environmental future. It is the story of how two major industries, coal and oil, with some help from their friends, planned and financed a public relations campaign of disinformation that has been successful beyond their wildest hopes and dreams.

    Hoggan, a public relations expert in his own right, documents how PR techniques have obscured scientific facts and created doubt in the public mind about the dangers of global warming when there is almost unanimous scientific findings that such global warming exists and unchecked will cause major environmental and economic problems in the near future. He names names and gives details about the efforts, mostly successful, of pollsters, lobbyists, think tank experts, and the usual political suspects that tend to place economic considerations ahead of the public good. To read this book is to have faith in the old adage that if you want to find out the basic reasons for the actions of an individual or organization, just “follow the money.”

    I was a bit disappointed in that the author does not make any mention of what the Pulitzer Prize winning author Barton Gellman, in his 2008 book “Angler; The Cheney Vice Presidency,” documents was the beginning of a governmental campaing beginning in March of 2001 by Cheney to create disinformation and confusion in both the media and public areas on the subject of global warming. Hoggan is silent on this revelation and does not mention Cheney at all in the book. If, as Gellman claims, Cheney was the architect of the global warming disinformation campaing, you would think Hoggan would have at least mentioned it. I think this is a critical ommision and it causes me to at least wonder about what else has been left out or overlooked.

    This book is a good start for anyone seeking some of the reasons behind the current global warming controversy but it is not the final word for those looking for an exhaustive treatment of the subject.

  • Russ Finley says:

    Review by Russ Finley for Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming
    Rating:
    This review follows on the heels of what the media has dubbed climtategate–a textbook example of how to make a mountain out of a mole hill. A few weeks prior to that brouhaha, the media was awash with reports that the world is actually cooling, which upon closer inspection also amounted to nothing. Sticking with mole analogies, correcting the disinformation perpetuated by those who seek to discredit climate research has become a perpetual game of Whac-A-Mole.

    The book does a very thorough job of documenting the history of sometimes despicable attempts by various vested interests and contrarians to discredit climate science. There is no doubt which side holds the science high-ground on this issue and after reading this book there should be little doubt which side holds the moral high-ground.

    It gets off to a slow start but hang in there. It gets better, ending with a bang. It is not a neutral perspective of the pros and cons of the global warming debate. This is a detailed, no holds barred account of the people who work to discredit climate science and the methods they use to do it.

    The authors begin with a critique of octogenarian Freeman Dyson, the world’s most notable global warming skeptic. Dyson is in a class of his own and does not deserve to be lumped in with the usual ignoramuses, cranks, and conspiracy theorists. I suspect his mention at the front of the book was one of those last minute edit jobs in response to a NYT article about Dyson’s skepticism just prior to the book’s release. Climategate, the latest global cooling farce, and Dyson’s skepticism are all examples suggesting that an updated version of this book a year from now might be twice as long.

    Dyson is an icon in the world of science and scientists don’t like it when anyone takes a pot shot at one of their heroes. Dyson is by all accounts a genius. He probably thinks people who use calculators are sissies. Back in the seventies, Dyson published a paper which calculated that we could stabilize carbon in the atmosphere by simply planting a trillion or so fast growing trees.

    Intellectually speaking, I am but a speck of dirt on the bottom of one of Dyson’s shoes, but people who once proved brilliant in their field of expertise rarely prove to be quite so brilliant in unrelated fields, like climatology. Michael Jordon comes to mind.

    Some climate models suggest that planting trees in the upper latitudes would have a warming effect because they would reduce reflectivity of snow on the ground. If true, this is an example of how humanity has already reached some points of no return. Out of curiosity, I just fired up a spreadsheet to calculate how much land mass a trillion trees would cover spaced at five foot intervals. Dyson could probably do this in his head. Maybe I have a decimal point in the wrong place but according to my calculations they would cover the Earth’s landmass dozens of times over.

    The following was found in a publication describing a lecture Dyson gave in 2006:

    “He had useful advice for his home planet, but he also puts most of his hope in the colonization of space and a future beyond our atmosphere. In outer space, he believes, there will again be speciation in the Darwinian sense.”

    Following are some quotes from a NYT article:

    “Forty years ago it was fashionable to worry about the coming ice age. Better to attack the real problems like the extinction of species and overfishing. There are so many practical measures we could take”

    “I’m still perfectly happy if you buy me a Prius!” Imme [his wife] said.

    “It’s toys for the rich,” her husband smiled, and then they were arguing about windmills.”

    1) The ice age hypothesis was short lived, not widely accepted, and blown out of proportion by a lay media looking for sensationalist headlines, as always.

    2) If we attacked all of the world’s problems (like overfishing and species extinction) linearly (one at a time) instead of in parallel, the sun would go dead before we got to the end of the list.

    3) A Prius is not a toy for the rich.

    Dyson is also a big proponent of solar power, so, go figure.

    Skepticism is one of the keystones of science and anyone who wasn’t skeptical when they first heard about global warming should contact me so I can sell them some land in Florida. Likewise, the word skeptic might be appropriate for those who have been living in caves for the last decade and have just caught wind of the concept, but what do you call someone who refuses to move to the next stage regardless of the evidence?

    The word denier was used 36 times in this book. Denial is also the first stage listed in Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’ book, “On Death and Dying.” (see the Wikipedia article on the Kubler-Ross model). Denial is the overarching reason for a belief in an afterlife. Acceptance of the results of decades of global warming research is not by any means tantamount to accepting one’s eventual demise, but the potential ramifications of global warming appear to be enough to send many people scurrying for their ostrich holes.

    Much of the denial we see is probably related to the potential ravages of global warming. If the research results were suggesting that global warming has little potential and would have little impact, I doubt there would be any debate at all.

    Few of us will live an entire life without facing situations that we find so threatening that we deny they are true, at least at first. Coping mechanisms help us deal with unpleasant realities until we can gather ourselves and face them, or not. But some people have become very adept, maybe too adept, at capturing the anxiety relief denial can provide especially when doing so will not have a negative impact on their daily lives. They have a hair-trigger reality switch that has been honed to a shine by repeated use, and few people who do it are consciously aware that they do it because awareness would deactivate the switch.

    We of course pick and choose our denials. You could deny that walking in front of a speeding bus is dangerous but you would also be taking a big personal risk. Unlike some forms of denial, denying the potential ramifications of global warming entails no physical danger to the denier, only anxiety relief. It is custom-made for using denial as a coping mechanism. However, a prolonged and collective denial by enough people may have an impact on our children’s and grandchildren’s lives by radically altering the world they will live on. Collective, self-reinforcing denial may have been what brought the Easter Island civilization down.

    There are plenty of other reasons not to accept the findings of decades of global warming science. You may just be ignorant or misinformed, or have a contrarian personality disorder that is not constrained by logic and evidence (conspiracy theorists fall into this group), but whatever reasons you have, they are not backed by science, regardless of what you may have told yourself to the contrary.

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