College Students Calling out Climate Denial Machine That’s Older Than They Are

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Youth join climate protest in New York in 2014

This is a guest post by ClimateDenierRoundup.

DeSmog published a story this week from the Climate Investigations Center that touches on an interesting angle that’s emerging in the climate world as kids lead the way.

The article describes a conference last month at Brown University that featured a 90-minute panel built around a recent study in Nature Climate Change showing how decades of concerted misinformation played a key role in the current climate of climate denial. The event was convened by Brown’s Climate Development Lab. Brown students at the lab recently compiled and published a report giving the backstory on a dozen climate denial coalitions.

Some are long gone, like the Global Climate Coalition, others are still very much alive, like the Cooler Heads Coalition, which counts Trump advisors Myron Ebell and Steve Milloy among its members.

But even some of the ones that are no longer operational, like the Information Council on the Environment, which was funded by the Western Fuels Association and the Edison Electric Institute, still impact the current discourse.

For example, ICE’s Pat Michaels and Sherwood Idso have both gone on to a long and lucrative fossil-fuel-funded denial career. ICE’s initial PR campaign goal to “reposition global warming as theory (not fact)” is at the core of President Trump’s ongoing attempts to attack climate science with a “red team” of deniers drawn from these sorts of coalitions.

Then there was the Alliance for Climate Strategies, which rose from the ashes of the Global Climate Coalition after it shed many of its industry funders in 2000. While ACS, which was sponsored by the Edison Electric Institute, American Petroleum Institute and others, only lasted until 2007, you can see its echoes in current policy. One of its key goals was to push the “principle that voluntary actions are an effective means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” This idea is perhaps reflected in an EPA memo from last year pointing to “voluntary self-audits” as a new method for controlling pollution.

Likewise, the influence of the Coalition for Vehicle Choice, formed in 1991 and defunct since the early 2000s, also carries on. The auto industry advocacy group, which included ALEC as a member, ran a series of ads “aimed at raising public awareness of the importance of preserving vehicle choice and highway safety.”

While the idea of vehicle choice has largely been supplanted by a new narrative of subsidizing the rich among the fossil fuel propagandist set, the idea that fuel efficiency requirements would reduce safety was key to the Trump administration’s justification in rolling back CAFE standards. (A lie that even the EPA acknowledged in its declaration that the rollback would increase highway deaths.)

As pundits and deniers increasingly chide children for daring to speak out about the state of our planet, remember that these kids are speaking out against a misinformation machine that’s older than they are. For the students who put together this report, the fact that there’s a well-funded, widespread propaganda effort to protect polluters at the public expense isn’t some new revelation–it’s simply a fact of life.

Just like how no one born since February 1985 has ever experienced a month in which the global temperature has dipped below the 20th century average, this report shows that no one under 30 has lived in a world free from the fossil fuel industry’s misinformation campaign.

Main image: On September 21, 2014, students from the University of Maine joined hundreds of thousands of protesters in Central Park West in New York, demanding “system change, not climate change.” Credit: Crop of photo by Thomas Altfather GoodCC BY-SA 3.0

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