The Climate Denial Industry and why Environmentalism is Failing

We totally accept the science of the atom bomb, electricity, space travel and the science of sitting in our car, but people cannot accept the science of climate change. Why not?

Every single school child in western society at some time is faced with a science examination, the science forms the imperical evidence which guides all “progress” as a society, and whether we prosper or not.

A greenhouse effect causes temperatures to rise, water expands when heated, ice melts, the atmosphere has a fragile chemical composition. Basic scientific facts.

So why is an extremely powerful  industry being constructed around a group of
scientifically failed schoolchildren, acting from their own vested interests,  who deny the science of global warming ?

At the time when options are very limited, the biggest lobby ever assembled is waging war on all environmental legislation in America, paying lawyers to draft legislation which sees the environment  as a hindrance to the “free market” system.  Not only on what is proposed for the future, but on the proud history of environmental legislation since Rachel Carson.

All this based on the denial of climate change. So how do we respond to the denial industry when we confront it face to face?

Climate Science, where to find it.

The source of all data verifying the climate science (which is based on the principles taught in school) is contained within the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (I.P.C.C.) Reports which are produced every 7 years. This is the sum total of ALL the published and peer reviewed scientific reports from all over the world based on independent research. It informs every sovereign government in the world who have to act on climate change policy. The 2007 AR4 Reports are available to download at http://www.ipcc.ch/  It should be remembered that the data goes back to 2002/3 when that report was being prepared.

A simplification of the I.P.C.C. reports, with updates, informed by more recent research  can be found through the Australian Academy of Science at; http://www.science.org.au/policy/climatechange.html

The (non) “debate” centres entirely around dis-information, which had its origins with the Ozone/Tobacco “disinformation campaign”.  ALL the “sceptics claims that have been made have been “debunked” and not one change has been made to the “science” by way of “correction”. The science as Melbourne University’s Professor David Karoly says, “is in”.

There are websites that are provide “reliable”  information on climate science such as
“Skeptical Science”  They provide pages on Global Warming and Climate Change Myths at   http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

There is no “evidence” for “manmade” climate change.  Eg. The argument that the “climate has changed before” is answered in a basic way, “Climate reacts to whatever forces it to change”, there are then level’s of “deeper” science explanations which ultimately lead back to I.P.C.C. reports.

Other websites give rudimentary explanations of phenomena such as the “greenhouse effect” http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/08/10/286691/global-warming-graphic/

The “certainty” is based on research and expressed as “extremely likely”  (> 95% certain) http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch9s9-7.html the mathematics behind the “forcings”, and an understanding that the ecological limits of the atmosphere are impacted.

Deutsche Bank in partnership with Massachusetts Institute of Technology have carried out research into the “existing carbon content of the atmosphere” and now have a LED lit real time carbon clock opposite Grand Central Station in New York http://www.dbcca.com/dbcca/EN/  – a graphic demonstration of the level of “forcing” we are having.

Every second 800 metric tonnes of carbon are released into the global atmosphere, in
the time it took to write this sentence 120,000 metric tonnes almost have been emitted.         70,000,000 ( seventy million ) tonnes  a day.   25,500,000,000 (25 billion metric tonnes per year)  The total carbon ALREADY in the atmosphere is 3,685,744,680,300  (3.68 Trillion metric tonnes at the time of writing)
Stop reading this and see what it is now. These are not numbers that can be trivialised by saying our “contribution is only 1.3% of total global emissions.”

So we have a roof, roughly 12 miles above the earth/sea surface, which has a specific “volume” and chemical composition. Yes carbon is good for plants, but no one would want to stick their head into a bag with a supply of carbon from a car exhaust.
Thousands used to die every year from bronchitis in 1950’s and ‘60’s London “pea soup-ers”  before the clean air regulation was introduced. Have we already forgotten that ?

It should be noted that the I.P.C.C. 2007 reports are reviewed and updated every 7 years. The 2007 Reports project sea level rise from “thermal expansion” only, and contains NO estimates for ice melt sea level rise. Not enough research had been carried out. This has now started and will “inform” the 2014 reports. This is how the “science” evolves, slowly.

Understanding why numbers are important.

Even activists can be mislead by apparently small figures, Prof. Albert Bartlett explains the pitfalls in misinterpreting small numbers and uses the mathematical certainty to demonstrate that he is right. His basic discussions on “exponential growth” are crucial to dealing with  “spin”.

i.e.( Q).  “what does 3% annual growth mean?” (A) –  A doubling of the economy every 21 years

http://www.albartlett.org/presentations/arithmetic_population_energy.html

One common response to Australian climate activists is ;  “our ‘contribution’ to climate change is only 1.3% of the global total, we shouldn’t act alone”

This argument is a deliberate half-truth with no context based on “numbers”. China has just overtaken U.S. as the planet’s biggest polluter. Both emit approximately 25% of total emissions. The rest of the 180+ countries in the U.N. emit the rest, so every country is responsible for a small part of the problem including Australia.

The U.K. emits 1.4% of the global total, from 60+ million people, which is also a very small part of the world total. Just a cursory glance at Australia’s population of 20+ million, reminds us each person in Australia, per capita, emits as much carbon into the atmosphere as 3 people in the U.K.

It can now be shown that although 1.3% is a small number, it represents a massive “number” in reality i.e. almost 600,000,000 metric tonnes. (600 million).

The cement industry is responsible for 6% of world totals. When I built a renovation at my last home 30 tonnes of carbon were emitted from the production of the concrete foundations. Thousands and thousands of tonnes of concrete are used in a high rise building.

1 Tonne of concrete = 2.5 metric tonnes of emissions.

The “Failure” of Environmentalism.

This is not a new argument, and surfaced when  Schellenberger and Nordhaus’  published “The Death of Environmentalism”  in 2004.
http://thebreakthrough.org/PDF/Death_of_Environmentalism.pdf

If it was not obvious in 2004, the I.P.C.C. Reports in 2007 provided the scientific “evidence”  that the environment was is crisis, and yet for the last 4 years in Australia we have plummeted to a level of debate which is utterly facile.

It is relevant to point out that there would be no Climate Tax proposals in Australia if the Greens ( a third party) didn’t have the Senate balance of power, and we can look to America to see what conservative politics has in store for a 2 party system.

Clive Hamilton has re-addressed the issue in a call for a “new level” of participation through the direct action in Europe. At the Sustainable Living Festival in Feb and again in a speech in April 2011 he gives 3 reasons for the possible failure of environmentalism; which need discussion urgently.

First, like most Australians some environmentalists find it hard to accept what the climate scientists are really saying. They do not believe, in their hearts, that things can be as bad as the science indicates. Like all of us, they are prone to engage in wishful thinking and cling to false hopes.

Clive Hamilton’s speeches can be found at; http://www.clivehamilton.net.au/cms/index.php?page=speeches

Of course whilst the “false hopes” are “assuaged”, and the denial debate settled,  another 5 years has passed. We will then be left with the same science, with another 7 years research telling us how much worse things have become. Naomi Klein is currently researching a book on environmentalism and the reason for public disinterest as there has been a significant drop in public support.

This is shown by George Monbiot through his regular debunking of climate junk, with particular effect on David Bellamy who in 2000 stated that;  “55 of the 65 known glaciers in the world had increased in size”.

It has to be noted that Green groups are also guilty of “bad science/climate extremism” which impacts upon the “science” and I.P.C.C. when” claims” that,  “Mt Everest would be snow free by 2035” are included in the final I.P.C.C. report in 2007.

www.monbiot.com  has an archive full (including Bellamy) who have published denial claims and debunked them.  In his latest he states;

David Bellamy’s at it again, with even dafter claims about climate change. By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 9th December 2008

We all create our own reality, and shut out the voices we do not want to hear. But there is no issue we are less willing to entertain than manmade climate change. Here, three worlds seem to exist in virtual isolation. In the physical world, global warming appears to be spilling over into runaway feedback: the most dangerous situation humankind has ever encountered. In the political world – at the climate talks in Poznan for example – our governments seem to be responding to something quite different: a minor nuisance which can be addressed in due course. Only the Plane Stupid protesters who occupied part of Stansted airport yesterday appear to have understood the scale and speed of this crisis. In cyberspace, by contrast, the response spreading fastest and furthest is flat-out denial.

The most popular article on the Guardian’s website last week was the report showing that 2008 is likely to be the coolest year since 2000(1). As the Met Office predicted, global temperatures have been held down by the La Nina event in the Pacific Ocean. This news prompted a race on the Guardian’s comment thread to reach the outer limits of idiocy. Of the 440 responses posted by lunchtime yesterday, about 80% insisted that manmade climate change is a hoax. Here are some clips from this conversation:

“This is a scam to get your money. …The only people buying into “global warming” have no experience with any of the sciences”.

“If we spend ANY money or cost one person their job because of this fraud it would be a crime. When will one of our politicians stand up and call this for what it is, BULLSH1T!”

“What a set of jokers these professors are … I think I understand more about climate change than them and I don’t get paid a big fat salary with all the perks to go with it.”

And so on, and on and on. The new figures have prompted similar observations all over the web. Until now the “sceptics” have assured us that you can’t believe the temperature readings at all; that the scientists at the Met Office, who produced the latest figures, are all liars; and that even if it were true that temperatures have risen, it doesn’t mean anything. Now the temperature record (though only for 2008) can suddenly be trusted, and the widest possible inferences can be drawn from the latest figures, though not, of course, from the records of the preceding century. This is madness.

Scrambled up in these comment threads are the memes planted in the public mind by the professional deniers employed by fossil fuel companies. On the Guardian’s forums you’ll find endless claims that the hockeystick graph of global temperatures has been debunked; that sunspots are largely responsible for current temperature changes; that the world’s glaciers are advancing; that global warming theory depends entirely on computer models; that most climate scientists in the 1970s were predicting a new ice age. None of this is true, but it doesn’t matter. The professional deniers are paid not to win the argument but to cause as much confusion and delay as possible. To judge by the comment threads, they have succeeded magnificently.

Monbiot devoted  chapter 2 of his book “Heat” to the “denial industry”. He raises the issue of the vehemence displayed on climate blog responses, which are the typical for “middle media” outlets. Serious websites don’t allow the debate to generate to that low level, and it is very low. (see below)

The Media.

The scientific Peer review process takes weeks to analyse and publish, which inevitably happens, but all Australian environmental activists would be aware of the power of Andrew Bolt, News Ltd and most media outlets that rely on advertising for revenue.

E.g.  Forbes magazine article ; “Why hasn’t the world warmed in 15 years” –

http://blogs.forbes.com/patrickmichaels/2011/07/15/why-hasnt-the-earth-warmed-in-nearly-15-years/

Response to “Why the Earth hasn’t warmed in 15 years”.

http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/07/18/271664/sorry-deniers-the-planet-just-keeps-warming-thanks-to-humans/#more-271664

The article had 3 days until a response on the Huffington Post – I doubt the response made Fox News, but a wild guess would tell me the original denial material got hours of Fox airtime. An over -zealous and rabid attitude of presentation can lead some individuals to very dark extreme places, as was recently displayed in Melbourne.

Film clip of a hanging noose being displayed at a lecture given by the head of the Potsdam Institute, Dr Karl Schellnhuber (see also links to Viscount Monckton below)

http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/07/15/271037/climate-denier-brandishes-noose-to-scientist-at-climate conference/#more-271037  

It is a sad fact that the lies and deceit circulate for weeks months and years, until it/he can be discredited and revealed

The usual television “interviewer” standard, (level) of understanding of climate science is simply not good enough to respond to false figures, data or scientific papers they have never heard of. Kerry O’Brien,  generally considered the most “robust” interviewer on ABC, was easy meat for Dr Ian Plimer, who wrote a book, not a peer reviewed paper denying climate science.

Ali Moore on ABC “Lateline” interviewed Paul Gilding (author of the new book “The
Great Disruption”( http://paulgilding.com/ ) and Thomas Freidman, NYT columnist, and
author of a recent book “Hot Flat and Crowded” – both had recently published on the imminent collapse of the environmental and economic systems.

Ali Moore’s first question after intro; “If climate change is a car ride, are we there yet?”   The next 20 minutes was devoted to the guests giving a stark opinion of the future. Eventually Ali closed with;

“Well look, sadly we are out of time but I guess the message from you both is that we can get over this, the world is not doomed. At least you are both confident that we have the ability to take the action should we choose to.”

Ali Moore is a respected financial and political analyst but not really the person to pose questions regarding the environmental collapse of the world. Judge for yourselves, transcript at http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2011/s3247216.htm 

The media apathy;

A joint letter from the most respected Australian climate scientists of the day deploring the standard of media coverage, “The debate is over, let’s get on with it”;

http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/07/05/257919/the-false-the-confused-and-the-mendacious-how-the-media-gets-it-wrong-on-climate-change/

The Monckton factor.

Monckton uses media well, both in his personal delivery and the use of media philosophies of the Murdoch empire. He is confident he knows more than the journalist/interviewer and he knows of the general  lack of knowledge of the issue. It is a sad fact that environmentalists will have to get used to, that lies and deceit circulate for a long time, even after they have been refuted and revealed.   In the meantime, Monckton makes appearances at U.S. Senate enquiries into climate change, and on this spurious information decisions are made, or “not made” as turns out.  He was invited to Australia again by specific interest group for a specific purpose. He is currently the “go to” man  of the denial industry. Whole websites have been dedicated to “Monckton denial”  here are a couple ;

http://www.grist.org/article/debunking-lord-monckton-part-one  

http://thinkprogress.org/?s=monckton&x=5&y=6

The Denial Industry

Naomi Oreski’s film clip on YouTube explains how and when the “denial industry” began, Her work is now a standard reference and is now in book form.                            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2T4UF_Rmlio&feature=related.

Climate science doesn’t begin with Al Gore,  in 1965 Linden B Johnston was saying exactly what Al Gore is saying now.  It’s important to know that fact, because climate change isn’t some “melon” socialist plot, (“green” on the outside and “red” on the inside). Margaret Thatcher,  George Bush,  Malcolm Turnbull all good conservative stock.  Who all advance the issue.

The second half of Naomi Oreski’s talk – “where denial comes from”, is particularly important.

Misrepresentation

e.g.  the “scientists were telling us in the 70’s there would be an “ice age” etc.

http://www.grist.org/article/climate-denial-crock-of-the-weekclimate-deniers-love-the-70s-the-remix

Gives a specific answer to this. The Ozone layer debate had only just begun its 24 year battle to the Montreal Protocol  (1999). As science advances, it can answer previous “unknowns”. Prior to the clean air act in the U.S. and post war manufacturing boom times, coal plant sulphur particles which deflect the sun’s rays from earth are relevant as this graph shows, the decline in temperatures during the post war era. Environmental legislation stopped the London “pea soupers”.

http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/07/05/260177/study-hottest-decade-chinese-coal-plant-sulfr-pollution/

The Denial Process

The process begins with a “scientist” publishing a “research” paper, or book, denying the overwhelming scientific opinion, in any journal that will accept it. The authors then have their “scientific” work popularised, or in some cases seized upon, by the media, e.g.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700168231/Stick-to-the-actual-climate-scientists.html?pg=2

We’re supposed to believe that a recently released study by Roy Spencer and Danny Braswell calls the standard estimates of climate sensitivity into question, even though other climate scientists immediately released a barrage of criticisms of the study, and
Hicken notes that another reporter couldn’t find any climate scientists who believed the study.
  Barry Bickmore –  Associate Professor of geochemistry at Brigham Young University.

The study he was referring to is described at;

http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/07/06/261843/roy-spencer-job-minimize-the-role-of-government/#more-261843

If you notice the dates between this and the next link, there are over 3 weeks of “free” airtime this can fly. The “media machines” then take this information by a “scientist” and run with it. The media, as has recently been revealed through enquiries into News Ltd,  runs its own agenda far removed from reality.

Ultimately, AS HAS ALWAYS HAPPENED,  a scientific response debunks the original paper and it is published in the journal.

http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/07/29/282584/climate-scienists-debunk-latest-bunk-by-denier-roy-spencer/#more-282584

The refutation and debunking of the original paper rarely gets exposure, the damage has been done!

Promoting an interview with scientist and climate skeptic Roy Spencer, Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs claimed last week that Spencer’s “new findings throw the entire global warming theory into question.”

http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/08/08/290120/lou-dobbs-breaks-his-promise-to-debunk-climate-change/?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed

Where deniers get the funding.

This from Rachel Maddox,

http://www.grist.org/article/2010-04-01-rachel-maddow-takes-on-denial-funding-koch-industries

This from Ross Gelbspan, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, not an environmentalist, with 15 years research into denial funding.

Ross Gelbspans website http://www.heatisonline.org/disinformation.cfm is a mine of information for evidence of the corporate subsidies to denial, film clip at, http://www.heatisonline.org/video.cfm

As well as Ross Gelbspan there are 3 good stores of denial debunks;

http://www.grist.org/search/results?q=climate+denial&submit=go&page=1    and;

http://thinkprogress.org/tag/climate-change-deniers/

http://www.monbiot.com

Monbiot and Gelbspan and Maddox tell of the multi million dollar funding from the fossil fuel industry corporations, Exxon Mobil being the most long standing, the biggest profit generator in U.S. history through fossil fuel development. The ” Am Way” is eminently “exportable” to Australia and even though “industry lobbying” was exposed in 2006 by Clive Hamilton in his naming of “The Australian Climate Mafia”. They have not taken a back step since, pouring all the money and resources necessary to cast doubt on “the
science”.

A new low level of denial, -destruction

Koch Industries Tells Its 80,000 Employees: Global Warming Is A Hoax http://thinkprogress.org/green/2010/08/27/174784/koch-warming-hoax/

The U.S. “Tea Party” (funded by Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil et al) and United States Republicans are now undoing all the environmental progress and existing Environmental Laws in America since Rachel Carson, based entirely upon climate denial.

So strong is the belief now, that ALL regulation should be removed and have it left to the “markets” to decide best outcomes, that the extreme right in the denial movement, has captured the Republicans and a section of the Democrats.

Michele Bachmann Pledges to Have the EPA’s “Doors Locked and Lights Turned Off”

http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/08/08/290508/michele-bachmann-pledges-to-have-the-epa%e2%80%99s-%e2%80%9cdoors-locked-and-lights-turned-off%e2%80%9d/#more-290508

“We should be able to choose if we want to burn an inefficient lamp”.                  Michelle Backman

Remember Ali Moore and her closing line,    ”we can do something if we choose to”- this shows the complete disregard for the earth and the palpable hubris that came along with “freedom of choice”.

The Tea Party is actively pursuing the removal of every restriction on profit and is now dismantling the basis of all environmental achievements.  At present the President
has a veto, but this is new, more extreme.  Avoidance of action is one thing, removing
environmental standards is another.

These articles on recent anti-environmental moves.

http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/07/30/283648/the-most-anti-environment-house-in-history-how-is-your-representative-voting/#more-283648

http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/08/06/284325/stuff-white-people-like-denying-climate-change/#more-284325

http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/07/31/274666/the-gop-war-against-climate-adaptation/

http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/08/04/288287/the-top-five-policy-priorities-now-that-congress-is-set-to-slash-clean-energy-funding/

“The EPA: the Tea Party’s next target” http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/aug/03/epa-republicans-tea-party

House Republicans aim to defund the Environmental Protection Agency, rolling back 40 years’ progress on clean air and water

There are very interesting blogs on the “process” necessary to “accept” global warming and the prospect of dealing with denial,  websites publishing the “individual’s” necessary inner analysis to find a voice for the planet.

“Beyond Hope” by Derrick Jensen,    http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/170/

Not many of us are climate scientists, so we use varying ways to cope with a world in denial.  The  above links connect to many useful websites that in turn, in my opinion,
have links to other reputable information.

One final source I must mention is David Spratt’s news updates. He co-authored “Climate Code Red, the case for a Climate Emergency” , and has been presenting a science based newsletter with impeccable information sources for a very long time. carbonequityproject-subscribe@topica.com

9 thoughts on “The Climate Denial Industry and why Environmentalism is Failing

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