As the world’s rich and powerful gather in Davos for the World Economic Forum (WEF), the threats to the global economy caused by environmental disasters and climate...
Climate action advocates have underestimated the strength and sophistication of decades-long fossil fuel-funded misinformation campaigns and need a coordinated set of strategies to fight back, say leading academics.
Among those strategies, say the three researchers from Yale and Brown University, are promoting financial transparency, suing misinformers and their funders, and researching the vast networks of think tanks and front groups.
Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, Yale University's Professor Justin Farrell and Kathryn McConnell, together with Brown University’s Professor Robert Brulle, say people working on responses to climate change “cannot afford to underestimate the economic influence, institutional complexity, strategic sophistication, financial motivation, and societal impact of the networks” behind climate misinformation campaigns.
Brulle, who is also an academic at Drexel University, told DeSmog that after conversations with leaders of environment groups and foundations, he had concluded “there is virtually no understanding of the nature or extent of misinformation efforts and organized efforts to stop climate action.”
The Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C.'s favorite industry-funded “environmental think tank,” offered up a definitive article on climate change in July of this year.
The CEI began by saying: “Global warming is happening and man is responsible for at least some of it.”
You can click here and read the entire, tortured, outdated 2,913-word argument about how that's really okay – how facing the problem might cause economic dislocation among CEI's major funders – but we think we have excerpted the most important part of the paper in those opening 14 words.
An e-mail correspondent sent these questions (with answers appended).What was your motivation?
Annoyance. I have often stood up to criticize sleazy and misleading PR campaigns in the past. I find it irksome to see people getting away with spreading disinformation and refusing to take responsibility, and I think it reflects badly on my industry. That said; this is a bigger issue than any I have tackled previously, and a more public forum.
“One of my favourite questions when teaching PR ethics is to try and establish whether or not an ethical PR practitioner can represent the Flat Earth Society (I would argue that there is no easy answer to this question)? Jim Hoggan tackles a rather more serious version of the debate in this interesting post, Clearing the air on climate change (thanks, Trevor).
Say what you will about the United Nations, no one in the world produces acronyms with the same dedication and enthusiasm. At the conference in Montreal, everyone refers to the COP, the MOP, the UNFCCC – if you’re not in the club, there would be no hint that they were even talking about climate change.
So, here’s a very top-level look. The UNFCCC is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the underlying agreement negotiated in at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Parties to that agreement have reconvened regularly in Conferences of the Parties (COPs). The Kyoto accord was conceived in the third of these meetings, or COP 3. Now that Kyoto is in effect, but many parties (most abhorently the United States) are not signatories, the UN has decided to call this (COP 11) the Conference of the Parties serving as a meeting of the Parties, or COP/MOP. (You begin to understand why it takes everyone two weeks to disagree on issues of such obvious importance.)
Interface Inc. CEO Ray Anderson was the “inspirational speaker” at a Montreal business breakfast this morning (Dec. 6, 2005). organized by Claridge Investments Chair Stephen Bronfman and sponsored by the David Suzuki Foundation. In a break from tradition at these events, Anderson was, well, inspirational.
One of the world’s most successful carpet merchants, Anderson told the story of an environmental epiphany that led him to try to reduce the environmental footprint of his operation to zero. He also explained how his company cut greenhouse gas emissions by 52 per cent in the 10 years between 1994 and 2004 and made more money.
There’s always a problem in PR trying to reconcile what your client says with what people choose to hear. People’s attitudes are informed by their biases; their ability to listen is affected by their preconceptions.
So, let’s use this to our advantage. Have a look at this World News Australia link describing the oceanic inundation of the island nation of Vanuatu. Then, the next time a politician or business leader says “it’s too expensive to make even the slightest effort to forestall climate change,” you can hear, “and who cares about Vanuatu, anyway?”