Who can you trust, if not your own advisers? That is the inconvenient question raised by NYT reporter Andrew C. Revkin in a newly published article that reveals the extent to which the coal and oil industries ignored the advice of their own scientists on the question of climate change.
The Global Climate Coalition (how's that for an Orwellian name?), an industry-funded group that spent years vehemently contesting any evidence linking anthropogenic activity to climate change, found itself in the uncomfortable position of rejecting its own experts’ recommendations when they reached the inevitable conclusion that the contribution of manmade greenhouse gas emissions to climate change “could not be refuted.”
That’s right: even the scientists that these companies had consistently trotted out to discredit the findings of the IPCC could no longer deny the truth when faced with the hard facts. They acknowledged as much in an internal report released in 1995 in which they stated unequivocably that: “The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied.”
The advisory committee that authored the 17-page report may have disagreed with the IPCC’s conclusion that anthropogenic activities were warming the climate, but that did not mean that it hewed to the skeptic line. Indeed, though it recognized that “the contrarian theories raise interesting questions about our total understanding of climate processes,” it dismissed them as unpersuasive at best – plainly stating that “they do not offer convincing arguments against the conventional model of greenhouse gas emission-induced climate change.”
When confronted with this frank assessment, the leadership of the Global Climate Coalition did the only reasonable thing: drop the offending passages and expunge the report’s existence from the public record. (What, you were expecting something else?) And, if that didn’t keep all the snooping reporters away, just play dumb – as William O’Keefe, the former head of the GCC, smartly demonstrates here:
“I have no idea why the section on the contrarians would have been deleted. One thing I’m absolutely certain of is that no member of the board of the Global Climate Coalition said, ‘We have to suppress this.’”
So despite being proven wrong from the get-go, the GCC proceeded along its merry way, sowing confusion and dooming the government to protracted inaction. As George Monbiot astutely points out, Big Oil and Big Coal did not need to win the argument in order to win the debate: all they had to do was show up with a larger megaphone (and deeper pockets).
This again points to the utter failure of the mainstream media, which, in its overwrought efforts to give both “sides” of the argument a fair shake, legitimized the skeptics’ views and helped sow doubt. Or, as Attytood’s Will Bunch put it: “What’s disturbing (although, again, not all that surprising) is the role that supposed “journalistic ethics” played in spreading this Big Lie, by cluelessly giving these charlatans equal play with the established science on the issue.”