With Paris Agreement Now Official, a Look Back at Climate Deniers Who Said It Couldn’t Happen

Read time: 5 mins
Graffiti saying 'I don't believe in global warming' on a wall partly covered by appearance of water.

With recent ratifications by the European Union, India, and Canada, the Paris climate agreement is set to take effect November 4, just days before the start of COP22, the United Nations climate conference happening in mid-November in Marrakesh, Morocco. 

The agreement’s swift movement through the ratification process surprised many, from U.S. President Barack Obama to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who commented recently that “what once seemed impossible is now inevitable.” 

However, perhaps those most shocked — or at least dismayed — may be the climate deniers who have taken so many opportunities to cast doubt on the U.N. climate talks, the validity of Pres. Obama’s ratification of it, and, of course, climate science itself. Here’s a look back at a few of those efforts.

Paris Talks: “Nothing’s going to happen”

In December 2015, conservative think tank the Heartland Institute hosted a “counter-conference” outside of the Paris climate talks, with the stated goal of “telling the world the truth about the climate.”

In other words, derailing any kind of global agreement to actively address climate change in order to prolong dependence on fossil fuels.  Oh, and kicking out DeSmog journalists for the 'offense' of alerting other journalists that ExxonMobil has funded Heartland's attacks on climate science.

Watch Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) in a prerecorded video message to the attendees of this sparse COP21 side event held miles from the official proceedings.

These commitments the president has made in Paris aren’t going to happen. They’re just not going to happen…The COP21 summit is full of hot air…Past COPs have revealed that these meetings are not meant to produce anything substantive and I promise you the COP21 will follow suit. Nothing’s going to happen…”

Here’s the video clip of Sen. Inhofe predicting that Paris climate talks would amount to nothing:

As Pres. Obama was preparing to ratify the Paris Agreement, Sen. Inhofe reiterated these remarks in a statement September 1, 2016: “History already shows that this Paris Agreement will fail. This latest announcement is the president attempting to once again give the international community the appearance that he can go around Congress in order to achieve his unpopular and widely rejected climate agenda for his legacy.”

Sen. Inhofe’s ties to the fossil fuel industry are well documented. Collectively, he has received political donations amounting to more than $2 million from the oil and coal industries, according to Oil Change International.

Koch Industries, a noted funder of climate denial, has contributed $77,500 to Sen. Inhofe and ExxonMobil has given $35,000, both since 1999.

Paris Agreement: Death by Congress, Death by Brexit

Following the conclusion of the COP21 climate talks, which resulted in the historic Paris Agreement, climate denial groups were quick to claim that Pres. Obama could not lawfully ratify the Paris Agreement without Senate approval, which would assuredly not happen. 

But even before the talks began, the American Enterprise Institute, which takes a position that it’s “not clear why” the planet is warming, was making the same argument. It has received millions in funding from ExxonMobil and Koch foundations.

Steven Groves of conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation also made this argument in testimony before the House Committee of Science, Space, and Technology, deriding the agreement as “a bad deal for America.”

Since 1998, ExxonMobil has donated more than $780,000 to the Heritage Foundation, according to ExxonSecrets.org. Meanwhile, Koch family foundations have given the group more than $5.7 million between 1997 and 2014, according to Greenpeace.

In the weeks following news of Britain leaving the European Union, the Heartland Institute pointed out that “one of the casualties of the referendum could be the December 2015 Paris climate change agreement.”

ExxonMobil has contributed $676,500 to the Heartland Institute since 1998, according to ExxonSecrets.org.

Ironically, the European Union, sans Britain, turned out to give the final push to the Paris Agreement, allowing it to pass its dual thresholds and enter into force. 

No Time for Denial

Secretary-General Ki-Moon had a few words for climate deniers the day after the U.S. and China formally joined the Paris Agreement: “The debate over the climate phenomenon is over, scientifically and environmentally: it is affecting our daily lives.”

Last week, Pres. Obama took to task legislators “who scoff at climate change at the same time as they are saluting and wearing flag pins and extolling their patriotism.” 

Climate change is happening even faster than five years ago or 10 years ago,” Obama said at the White House’s South by South Lawn event with Leonardo DiCaprio and climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe. “We can’t put up with climate denial or obstructionist politics for very long, if we want to leave for the next generation beautiful days like today.”

In a rare break from the ranks, a handful of House Republican lawmakers have indicated that they agree with Pres. Obama and have begun pushing for action on climate change, which includes a bill to establish a bipartisan national climate commission.

Main image: Banksy is a climate change denier. Credit: Matt Brown (CC BY 2.0)

Get DeSmog News and Alerts