By AF Keck
BUCKING THE TREND FOR TRENDY BUCKS
The Lucrative Science of Climate Change Denial
‘THIS IS JUST CONTRADICTION! ’ – ‘NO IT ISN’T!’
An e-mail from the desk of Dubya, 4 February 2004: ”When dealing with the tricky subject of global warming – deny, and deny aggressively.” This was sent to the press secretaries of all Republican congressmen advising them what to say when questioned on the environment in the run-up to that year’s presidential election. It elaborates: “Tell them everything’s rosy, tell them global warming has not been proved, air quality is ‘getting better’, the world’s forests are spreading, not deadening, oil reserves are ‘increasing, not decreasing’, and the ‘world’s water is cleaner and reaching more people’.
“We can’t stress enough that extremists are screaming ’Doomsday!’ when, in fact, the environment is actually seeing a new and better day.”
Among the memo’s other assertions are such gems as “links between air quality and asthma in children remain cloudy”, and “the US Environmental Protection Agency is exaggerating when it says that at least 40 % of streams, rivers and lakes are too polluted for drinking, fishing or swimming.”
It gives a list of alleged facts taken from contentious sources. For instance, to back its claim that air quality is improving, it cites a report from one Pacific Research Institute, an organisation that has received $130,000 from Exxon Mobil since 1998. Indeed, being a ‘contrarian’ when it comes to climate change has become big business. There are sixty organisations identified in America alone which receive money from the fossil fuel industry to debunk climate change science and to campaign against any action taken to curb the burning of coal or oil. Europe and Australia have their lot as well, again most sponsored directly by the CO2 industry.
Exxon-Mobil, the world’s largest energy company, has alone funded up to $18 million since 1998 to organisations which oppose the Kyoto protocol.
HEY C’MON, IT’S A GOOD THING REALLY!
The fossil fuel lobby’s first attempts at rubbishing climate change science was original to say the least. An individual by the name of Fred Palmer, then head of Western fuels (the world’s largest coal producer) conducted a campaign in 1990s to triple the amount of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere. An accompanying film by the aspiring director called ‘The Greening of Planet Earth’ proposed that this man-induced CO2 increase would boost crop production from 30-60%. Hunger would therefore be abolished and the Earth could then bask in the golden sunshine of an eternal summer.
This view is widely rejected by scientists. They attest while Canada, Alaska and Siberia might demonstrate a mild biomass increase, parts of Europe will probably see a decrease due to shifts of the Gulf Stream. The heavily populated tropical belt on the Earth’s equator is expected to be rendered a scorching desert, with Sahara expansion into the southern Mediterranean region, and the engulfment of China by the Gobi.
Not to mention problems with a rising sea level…
SMOKE AND MIRRORS
Undaunted, the well funded ‘alternative’ climate change brigade includes The Cooler Heads Coalition, formed “to dispel the myths of global warming by exposing flaws in economic, scientific and risk assessment data”;
The Alliance for Climate Strategies, which includes the American Petroleum Institute as a key member; and The Centre for the study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, formed “to disseminate factual reports and sound commentary on new developments in the world-wide scientific quest to determine the climatic and biological consequences of the ongoing rise in the air’s CO2 content”.
The afore-mentioned Center’s magazine and website ‘CO2 Science’ includes articles both questioning the existence of climate change as well as touting the benefits to the biosphere from CO2 enrichment. All aspects of climate change and its predicted effects – from melting ice caps to species extinction, to more severe weather – are criticised by the Center and either refuted or presented as beneficial. Fred Palmer (that rascal from Western Fuels again) says: “The Center’s viewpoint is a needed antidote to the misleading and usually erroneous scientific claims emanating from the Federal scientific establishment and adopted by leading politicians, such as Vice President Al Gore”.
The Center has since tried to distance itself from the Western Fuels Association, however it does happen to be run by the Idso brothers Keith and Craig along with their father, Sherwood. All of them have been on the Western Fuels payroll at one time or another.
The Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change has received $90,000 from Exxon-Mobil since 1998.
VESTED INTEREST, MOI?
Exxon-Mobil, of course, deny any bias, yet the fact remains that it is the world’s third largest corporation with annual profits of about $17 billion. Does it come as any surprise that the company would use some of those profits to confuse the public discussion of global climate change with so much profit at stake?
That is what it’s all about, isn’t it?
“How long can men thrive between walls of brick, walking on asphalt pavements, breathing the fumes of coal and of oil, growing, working, dying, with hardly a thought of wind, and sky, and fields of grain, seeing only machine-made beauty, the mineral-like quality of life?” — Charles A. Lindbergh, Reader’s Digest, November 1939
“We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap.” — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr
“What will the creature made all of sea drift do on the dry sand of daylight; what will the mind do, each morning, waking?” — Usula K Le Guin