Merchants of Doubt

Fred Singer Recalls Silly Attack On Consensus And Naomi Oreskes By Klaus-Martin Schulte, Lord Monckton's Endocrinologist Front Man

By the 1950s, smoking's cause of disease had risen to strong scientific consensus, but Big Tobacco needed an illusion of scientific controversy to keep the public in doubt. As seen in the new film Merchants of Doubt,  they developed superb marketing tactics copied by others, including the fossil fuel industry and allies.

The scientific consensus on human causation of climate change is just as strong as that on smoking, so the same tactics are used against it, plus Internet-amplified harassment of scientists. Fred Singer recently tried to revive a nearly-forgotten 2007 attack on climate consensus, one of the silliest and least competent, entangled with plagiarism and falsification. A revisit of this episode may be instructive, as consensus (not unanimity) is important enough that people keep challenging it.

DeSmogCAST 13: Merchants of Doubt, the Race for the Arctic and Bomb Trains

DeSmogCAST 13

In this episode of the DesmogCAST, host Farron Cousins speaks with me, Kyla Mandel and Justin Mikulka to talk about the breakout documentary Merchants of Doubt and how climate science deniers are still manufacturing a fake debate about the clear consensus among bonafide climate experts.

Calls For Media To Accurately Label Climate Deniers Growing Louder

The public debate over how to address climate change has been hindered in no small part by the media’s refusal to properly identify climate deniers, according to an open letter penned by fellows of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry titled “Deniers are not Skeptics.”

Now, campaign group Forecast the Facts is making an open appeal to the media to accurately label climate deniers, enabling supporters of the CSI effort to co-sign the letter, which so far has garnered over 20,000 signatures.

The open letter, released last month, was signed by nearly 50 scientists and skeptics, including physicist Mark Boslough, science writer Ann Druyan, and Bill Nye the Science Guy, who say that public understanding of global warming science has been “confused” because of the misuse of the term “skeptic.”

“As scientific skeptics, we are well aware of political efforts to undermine climate science by those who deny reality but do not engage in scientific research or consider evidence that their deeply held opinions are wrong,” they wrote. “The most appropriate word to describe the behavior of those individuals is ‘denial.’ Not all individuals who call themselves climate change skeptics are deniers. But virtually all deniers have falsely branded themselves as skeptics. By perpetrating this misnomer, journalists have granted undeserved credibility to those who reject science and scientific inquiry.”

How To Spot A Fake Grassroots Movement

PERHAPS somebody should write a pocket guide book with the title: “How to spot you've been suckered by a fake grassroots movement”.

Once it's written, these guide books could be distributed free of charge to crowds at anti-carbon tax rallies, US Tea Party marches and pretty much any gathering of a “movement” telling you that you're freedom is being put at risk by big governments, nanny states, new world orders or communists disguised as climate scientists or public health professionals.

But why the sudden need for the guide?

There's now emerging evidence that if these really are “grassroots” movements, then many of the seeds and the fertilisers are being supplied by major corporations and “libertarian” billionaires. It turns out that the US Tea Party movement and its calls for “freedom” from government intervention wasn't some organic uprising of community concern after all.

A new academic study documents how the Tea Party was envisioned and planned by tobacco company executives in concert with Citizens for a Sound Economy, a group established by oil billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch.

As reported on DeSmogBlog, the study “‘To quarterback behind the scenes, third-party efforts’: the tobacco industry and the Tea Party” shows how the industry wanted to hide their profit motive and fear of the government regulating their deadly products behind a “movement to change the way that people think”, as R.J Reynolds Tobacco's head of national field operations Tim Hyde described it.

Smoke and Mirrors: Obama DOE Fracked Gas Export Study Contractor's Tobacco Industry Roots

At first, it was kept secret for months, cryptically referred to only as an “unidentified third-party contractor.”

Finally, in November 2012, Reuters revealed the name of the corporate consulting firm the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hired to produce a study on the prospective economic impacts of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.

LNG is the super-chilled final product of gas obtained - predominatly in today's context - via the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) process taking place within shale deposits located throughout the U.S. This “prize” is shipped from the multitude of domestic shale basins in pipelines to various coastal LNG terminals, and then sent on LNG tankers to the global market

The firm: National Economic Research Associates (NERA) Economic Consulting, has a long history of pushing for deregulation. Its claim to fame: the deregulation “studies” it publishes on behalf of the nuclear, coal, and oil/gas industry - and as it turns out, Big Tobacco, too.

Exclusive: Tea Party, Fracking Industry Launch Astroturf Campaign Against Mansfield, OH Community Bill of Rights Referendum

Ohio is referred to as a “battleground state” due to its status as a “swing state” in presidential elections. But another important battle is brewing in the Buckeye State, also set to be settled in the voting booth.

This battle centers around a “Community Bill of Rights” referendum in Mansfield, OH and will be voted on in a simple “yes/no” manner. Mansfield is a city with roughly 48,000 citizens located 80 miles southwest of Cleveland and 66 miles northeast of Columbus, right in the heart of the Utica Shale basin

Eric Belcastro, the Pennsylvania Organizer for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), explained the rationale behind the “Bill of Rights” push in a blog post:

Faced with the permitting of two 5,000 foot deep injection wells in Mansfield by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR)…[t]he amendment would drive a community Bill of Rights into Mansfield's charter and then prohibit the injection of fracking wastewater on grounds that such prohibition is necessary to secure and protect those community rights. The amendment also recognizes corporate “rights” as subordinate to the rights of the people of Mansfield, as well as recognizing the rights of residents, natural communities, and ecosystems to clean air and water.

The ODNR, in a study published in March 2012, linked the 12 earthquakes that have occured in Youngstown, Ohio to injection wells located in the city. 

Though the “Bill of Rights” has the full support of the City Council and the Law Director, as well as the city's newspaper, the Mansfield News Journal, one faction in particular isn't such a big fan of the Bill of Rights: the oil and gas industry. In response to the upcoming referrendum vote, the industry has launched an 11th hour astroturf campaign to “win hearts and minds” of those voters still on the fence as it pertains to the “Bill of Rights” in the week before the election. 

DeSmogBlog has obtained images of flyers distributed via a well-coordinated direct mail campaign conducted by the oil and gas industry in Mansfield, made public here for the first time in an exclusive investigation.

Romney Aide Andrea Saul Denied Climate Connection to Hurricane Katrina, Is Sandy Next?

Over half a decade ago, Andrea Saul, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's press secretary, denied any link between Hurricane Katrina and climate change.

Working as a hired gun on behalf of ExxonMobil at the Washington, DC PR firm DCI Group, Saul was listed as the contact person on a press release that denied that global warming is intensifying extreme weather events:

Coming off one of the most devastating hurricane seasons in recent memory, many are quick to blame the strength and frequency of these storms on global warming. Leading climate scientists, however, say there is no link between increased storm activity and a massive change in global climate.

The 2006 Saul/DCI press release quotes the Koch-funded Cato Institute's Patrick Michaels, who stated, “There are many more factors determining hurricane frequency and severity, some of which (such as westerly wind strength) should become LESS conducive to hurricanes as the planet warms.” 

Michaels is a notorious climate change denier who stated in August 2010 on CNN that 40 percent of his funding comes from the oil industry. As with Hurricane Katrina, Pat Michaels this week denied any connection between climate change and Hurricane Sandy.

Will Andrea Saul, speaking on behalf of team Romney/Ryan, be next to deny that global warming added the steroids that increased the devastation of Hurricane Sandy?

Merchants of Doubt Deny Climate Change Connection to Hurricane Sandy

Many serious, thought-provoking post-mortems have ensued in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which recently tore through the heart of the financial capital of the world. The disaster will cost the city roughly $60 billion to repair, according to an Associated Press report

Figures such as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, former President Bill Clinton, writer and activist Bill McKibben, environmental reporter Mark Hertsgaard, and numerous others all have connected the dots between the tragedy in New York City and its excerbation at the hands of climate change.  

On the other side of the spectrum, no matter how bad the tragedy, it seems, climate change denial will continue apace by the “merchants of doubt.” Hurricane Sandy was no exception this time around.

Patrick Michaels of the Koch-funded Cato Institute - who recently authored a report described by Greenpeace USA's Connor Gibson as a “Counterfeit Climate Report to Deceive Congress” - denied any connection between climate change and Sandy, going so far as to raise the specter of “global cooling.” 

Robert Manne: How Vested Interests Defeated Climate Science

Watch this thoughtful presentation by Professor Robert Manne at the University of Melbourne earlier this summer. It's a concise review of the whole climate change denial movement as chronicled in Merchants of Doubt, Climate Cover-up and elsewhere. It lasts just over an hour, so make some popcorn first.

Petroleum Broadcasting System's "Newshour" and the Merchants of Climate Doubt

There's an old German proverb that goes, “Whose bread I eat his song I sing.”

Enter a recent spate of reportage by the Public Broadcasting System's (PBS) ”Newshour.” In a September 17 story titled, “Climate Change Skeptic Says Global Warming Crowd Oversells Its Message” (with a URL titled, “Why the Global Warming Crowd Oversells its Message”) the Newshour “provided an unchecked platform for Anthony Watts, a virulent climate change denier funded by the Heartland Institute,” as described by Forecast the Facts.

Forecast the Facts created a petition demanding that the “PBS ombudsman…immediately investigate how this segment came to be aired,” stating that, “This is the kind of reporting we expect from Fox News, not PBS.”

Very true, this is exactly the type of reporting we've come to expect out of Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, a cable “news” network that provides a voice for right-wing propagandists on all policy issues, including climate change denial. But perhaps expectations are too high for PBS' “Newshour” and we should've expected exactly what we got: a friendly platform for the climate change denying merchants of doubt

What's at play here goes above and beyond a single bad story by “Newshour.” Rather, it's a small piece and the result of an aggressive campaign that's been going on for nearly two decades to destroy public television in the public interest.

Based on the shift in how the “Newshour” has funded itself over the years, it's evident that the once-esteemed ”MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” streamed on the Public Broadcasting System has transformed PBS into what investigative reporter Greg Palast calls the “Petroleum Broadcasting System.”

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