Dirty Money Fuels Climate Change Denial

The news stories in 2011 should have put an end to climate change skepticism once and for all. Data from 2010 found that the year tied for the warmest year on record and that unexpectedly high amounts of greenhouse gasses were being spewed into the atmosphere. Former climate change skeptic Richard Muller announced that his research confirmed that earth’s surface temperatures are rising. A U.N. panel reported that climate change is responsible for some of the worldwide droughts and high temperatures. These events should have ended the public debate about climate change and served as a call to action.

So why are the climate change deniers louder than ever? Because oil and coal industries, which create greenhouse emissions, have a well-financed propaganda machine aimed at casting doubt on the overwhelming scientific consensus about man-made climate change.  

A 2006 article in The Guardian pointed out that oil companies—especially Exxon—used the same tactics the tobacco industry used to create public doubt about the dangers of smoking:

There are clear similarities between the language used and the approaches adopted by Philip Morris and by the organisations funded by Exxon. The two lobbies use the same terms, which appear to have been invented by Philip Morris's consultants. "Junk science" meant peer-reviewed studies showing that smoking was linked to cancer and other diseases. "Sound science" meant studies sponsored by the tobacco industry suggesting that the link was inconclusive. Both lobbies recognised that their best chance of avoiding regulation was to challenge the scientific consensus. As a memo from the tobacco company Brown and Williamson noted, "Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy." Both industries also sought to distance themselves from their own campaigns, creating the impression that they were spontaneous movements of professionals or ordinary citizens: the "grassroots".

More recently, The Guardian reported that one of the world's most prominent climate change skeptics has admitted to being paid more than $1 million U.S. oil and coal companies:

Dr Willie Soon, an astrophysicist at the Solar, Stellar and Planetary Sciences Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, is known for his view that global warming and the melting of the arctic sea ice is caused by solar variation rather than human-caused CO2 emissions, and that polar bears are not primarily threatened by climate change.

But according to a Greenpeace US investigation, he has been heavily funded by coal and oil industry interests since 2001, receiving money from ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute and Koch Industries along with Southern, one of the world's largest coal-burning utility companies. Since 2002, it is alleged, every new grant he has received has been from either oil or coal interests.

Instead of funding research to make oil and coal use cleaner, or to develop clean alternative fuels, the oil and coal industries are fund research they hope will confuse the public debate. By financing and publicizing the tiny (and shrinking) minority of scientists who disagree with the consensus that man-made climate change is a real and imminent threat, companies that profit from pollution hope to create the illusion that there is scientific controversy. As with the tobacco industry, the ultimate price of this disinformation campaign will be human death and suffering.

2011 News
2010 Tied for Warmest Year on Record
2010 Saw Record Increase in Greenhouse Gasses

Links Between Energy Industry and Denial Propaganda
The Denial Industry
Who Funds Contrariness on Climate Change?
9 of 10 Climate Denying Scientists Have Ties to Exxon-Mobil Money
Climate-Science Contrarian Roy Spencer's Oil-Industry Ties
Climate Sceptic Willie Soon Received $1m from Oil Companies, Papers Show

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