Despite the overwhelming evidence that climate change exists and that it is fueled largely by human activity, denial persists. Its partisans may represent a minority but the percentage of denialists shrinks too slowly.
Just a few reminders: glaciers shrink at an alarming rate; arctic ice disappears and polar bears suffer; extreme weather events occur more frequently and with greater intensity (floods, droughts, hurricanes and immense wildfires); oceans acidify, causing the loss of coral and associated species; world temperatures steadily increase, setting records locally as well.
So much for the reality of climate change. As to human involvement, we can cite a telling statistic. Since 1751, when records of industrial carbon emissions have been kept, nearly half of the greenhouse gases involved in global warming have been spewed into the atmosphere.
Recently James Hansen, renowned American climatologist, has warned that the world may be closer to the “tipping point” of warming than had been thought. Then, planetary and human survival may face irreversible changes.
With all this evidence, why does denial persist? We may look no further than the volume 14, summer 2015 issue of the “Catalyst,” a publication of the Union of Concerned Scientists, for an answer. An article there by Elliott Negin is titled “Documenting fossil fuel companies’ climate deception: leaked internal memos reveal a coordinated, decades-long disinformation campaign.”
To summarize, climate scientists and the fossil fuel industry were well aware of the role that CO2 and other greenhouse gases played in global warming and resulting climate change by 1970. At that time, UCS reported that an ExxonMobil-funded scientist in one of 40 of their thinktanks found that increased solar activity was responsible for climate change, a claim that is now thoroughly discredited.
Since then, ExxonMobil has been joined by BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Shell, Peabody Coal, The American Petroleum Institute and allies, Charles Koch, utility giant Southern Company and the Heartland Institute in using compliant think tanks and their media to sow doubt about climate change and its human component.
Remarkably, several scientific studies on climate change commissioned by the fossil “fusileers” reported to their patrons that climate change was real and that humans played a leading role in its causation, but the dance of deception continued unabated.
Fortunately, through leaked documents, lawsuits and material obtained through a Freedom of Information Act, Greenpeace, the Climate Investigations Center and a nearly yearlong review of the material by UCS researchers themselves, a much larger story emerges from a new report, “The Climate Deception Dossier.” These include seven dossiers, 85 documents and an amazing 340 pages representing decades of employing such tactics as forged letters, secret funding to supposedly “independent scientists" as well as the front group employed for their nefarious activities.
With all this deception, is it any wonder that climate change denial persist?
Fortunately, UCS is making all this material available online at www.ucsusa.org/decadesofdeception.
A broader look at corporate deception can be gleamed from a recent book, “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, produced by Participant Media in 2015.
What can be done to bring the culprits to account? In our corporate-dominated economy, accountability for misdeeds has a rough go, especially when the really big players are involved.
But widespread distribution of the “Catalyst’s” revelations should make a difference. Why, even our own deniers, U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, might be moved now that they have heard Pope Francis make his case for planetary survival.