For those of us who care about global warming, 2006 and 2007 felt like pretty good years. Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for An Inconvenient Truth, sharing it with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Media attention to the issue soared, and it was positive attention. Given all the buzz, I—and many others—figured the problem was all but solved.
The next steps appeared deceptively simple. Elect Barack Obama, pass cap-and-trade, go to Copenhagen in the snowy winter of 2009 and take it global—or so I advised in Scientific American. I didn’t expect “ClimateGate,” or the dramatic consequences that an overseas non-scandal (for so I perceived it to be) could have for U.S. climate policy.
Nor did I imagine that virtually the entire Republican Party, rather than just some part of it, would come to reject climate science on this flimsy basis. I expected out-and-out climate change deniers like Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe to be further marginalized, not mainstreamed.
Needless to say, I now look back on all this and shake my head. Clearly, I–and many other people who felt the same way–was missing something rather big. We were far too optimistic in thinking that our governmental and media institutions were up for dealing with this type of problem.
Recently, a new book has helped bring the nature of their failure–and particularly the media's failure–into sharp focus.
If you follow the cycle of anti-climate change talking points, you’ll notice a pattern that repeats itself every few years. In between spurts of outright denial, the anti-science crowd will occasionally revert back to a less-heard talking point: Climate change is actually a good thing.
Even as the year 2011 has ranked the 10th warmest year on record, the “climate change is good” talking point has crept back to center stage among conservative pundits and dirty energy apologists who can't help but to acknowledge that climate change is real, but suggest that we don’t need to worry about it.
This particular talking point gained a lot of steam in 2004, when the Cato Institute began hyping the idea that climate change was going to be a net benefit for mankind. From Cato:
Theory predicts and observations confirm that human-induced warming takes place primarily in winter, lengthening the growing season. Satellite measurements now show that the planet is greener than it was before it warmed. There are literally thousands of experiments reported in the scientific literature demonstrating that higher atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations – cause by human activity – dramatically increase food production. So why do we only hear one side about global warming?
When it comes to climate change denial, a new study shows that the folks at Fox News are leading the pack. Through politically-charged news segments and commentary, Fox News personalities are helping spread misinformation about climate change while convincing their viewers that scientists are torn on the issue.
National surveys reveal that many Americans do not believe that scientists are in agreement over this issue. More troubling, the number of Americans who believe that global warming is happening and that it is a result of human activities has declined in recent years: In April 2008, 71 percent of Americans perceived solid evidence for global warming, relative to only 57 percent in October 2009. And while President Obama has pledged that passing legis- lation to curb pollution that contributes to global warming is a priority of his admin- istration, in January 2009, Americans ranked global warming last in a list of twenty policy issues that they felt were important for the president and Congress to address. These surveys also point to stark partisan divides in global warming perceptions, with Democrats far more likely to accept the evidence for the human causes of global warming and to consider environmental protection a policy priority than Republicans.
The views that many Americans have towards climate change are clearly reflected in the cable news arena. Fox News, sadly, has the highest ratings of any other cable news organization, and the study shows that their viewers are for more likely to believe that manmade climate change isn’t happening. More from the study:
Of the three networks, Fox News was simultaneously the least likely to be accepting and the most likely to be dismissive of climate change. Nearly 60 percent of Fox News broadcasts were dismissive of climate change, whereas less than 20 percent were accepting of climate change. On the other hand, more than 70 percent of CNN and MSNBC broadcasts were accepting of climate change. Not a single MSNBC broadcast took a dismissive tone toward climate change and just 7 percent of CNN broadcasts did so.
The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.
Because the complexity of the climate makes accurate prediction difficult, the APS urges an enhanced effort to understand the effects of human activity on the Earth’s climate, and to provide the technological options for meeting the climate challenge in the near and longer terms. The APS also urges governments, universities, national laboratories and its membership to support policies and actions that will reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.
This is a fairly straightforward statement on global warming, and one that is in line with the overwhelming scientific consensus. One would think Giaever, a trained and renowned scientist himself, would agree with the statement himself.
The ongoing scandal continues to blaze at Solyndra. Solyndra Corporation, a San Francisco Bay area solar panel start-up company, is under fire in the immediate aftermath of its August 31 filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and laying off over 1,000 workers, which is roughly one-fourth of those who were employed by Solyndra at the time.
Critics, such as climate change denier and Republican Party Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, are referring to the deal as “crony capitalism” gone arwy. In an interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren, Bachmann stated, “This is what the American people don't want. They don't want crony capitalism. It infuriates them. We saw that with President Obama, when we saw over $500 million dollars go to Solyndra, who was a political donor of President Obama.”
The $500 million Bachmann is referring to is a loan guarantee that was given to Solyndra from the Obama Department of Energy in March 2009.
Fox News host John Stossel says that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has passed its prime, and is no longer useful. After the Obama Administration last week overruled the EPA’s smog regulations, Stossel took to the airwaves on the Fox Business Channel to tell us that the EPA is no longer a worthwhile organization. Stossel told us: “Thank goodness for the EPA…The air and water are cleaner than they use to be. But they passed those rules. It’s diminishing returns. They have done a wonderful job, stop already. Stick a fork in it, it’s done.”
Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow, or CFACT Campus, the student wing of Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, wrapped up its student climate and energy conference, the Truth 2 Power Conference. The Cable, Wisconsin conference was a direct response to the “dangerous agenda” of PowerShift2011. Apparently, finding solutions to effectively fight climate change and ensure a clean energy future are too much for CFACT’s big polluter interests and they had to fight back.
Truth 2 Power sought to teach participants about “the lies associated with the “Global Warming” agenda” and about “innovative and realistic solutions for tomorrows environmental challenges”.
The conference really represents a grab to ensure dirty energy industries stay entrenched.
As if this week’s Rupert Murdoch Phone-Hacking Scandal wasn’t enough, it now appears that the University of East Anglia CRU email hacking scandal (a.k.a. Climategate) might actually be the work of the same News Corp henchman who helped to feed insider information from a Scotland Yard police investigation directly to Murdoch’s News Corp.
Neil Wallis, one of the key figures in the hacking of the phones, voicemails and electronic communications of anywhere from 4,000 to over 12,000 people, was essentially a double agent working by day as Executive Director of News of the World, and simultaneously as a public relations consultant during the police investigation into the scandal. Wallis conveniently reported back to News Corp on Scotland Yard’s investigation.
While Murdoch’s henchmen were getting the skinny on the police investigation, the police were convincing other news organizations not to cover the story.
After the November 2009 hacking of the computer server at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, the victimized climate science unit sought public relations guidance to help fight back against allegations of scientific misconduct.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.