By Brad Waite
We have all seen news reports or read articles claiming climate change is not happening. Some say it is an intentional hoax. Others say if it is real, humans are not the primary cause.
For example, you can find plenty of recent survey results on this question online. About 60% of respondents agree climate change is happening and humans are the primary cause. However, a different story emerges when you break that 60% total down between Republicans and Democrats. Only one-third of Republicans agree, while more than 90% of Democrats do. This is very interesting. Ninety-seven percent (97%) of climate scientists agree about climate change and human activities.
Here I should note the 97% figure is not a guess. Authors of seven climate consensus studies co-authored a paper concluding this. The authors looked at more than 12,000 climate study papers. They found between 90% and 100% of the published climate scientists agree humans are responsible for climate change. Further, the greater the climate expertise among those surveyed, the higher the consensus on human-caused global warming.
To be clear, those seven authors each did their own study of the published studies, and then they compared results. The composite result found a 97% consensus among published climate scientists.
So if 97% of climate scientists agree, why would only 30-some percent of Republicans agree? Surely a lot more than 30% of Republicans must believe in science. Especially since the Trump Administration published in early 2018 the 4th U.S. National Climate Assessment, which supports the consensus view.
Merchants of Doubt
What’s going on here? Naomi Oreskes, one of the seven authors, supplied the answer. Ms. Oreskes wrote a book titled, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. The book is now a documentary.
In the book/movie, historians Oreskes and Erik Conway explain how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists, with extensive political connections, ran effective campaigns to intentionally mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades.
In the 1950s, Big Tobacco developed a disinformation campaign playbook to debunk growing concerns over cigaret smoking. It used the playbook for decades, while millions died from smoking related illnesses. Since then, other industries used the playbook to debunk the dangers of acid rain, the ozone hole and DDT. Now they are being used in the climate change debate.
I’ll confess I have not read the book but have seen the documentary twice and highly recommend everyone do so. In it, the players admit what they are doing, how and why. And it still occurs today.
A Little Doubt Goes a Long Way
The Brennan Center for Justice reports the oil and gas industry spent $1.4 billion in the past decade telling the federal government climate change didn’t/doesn’t exist. The Brennan Center is a nonpartisan law and policy institute at the NYU School of Law. On the surface $1.4 billion seems like a lot of money. Yet, it’s a small cost for the oil and gas industry. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports net income for 43 U.S. oil producers totaled $28 billion in 2018 alone.
Just like they did for big tobacco, they didn’t need to or try to convince everyone. They just needed to sow enough doubt to delay action being taken against their product as long as they could, in this case literally decades. And when this is coupled with the huge political contributions made to key politicians, the results were/are very effective.
Our best method to counteract this is to speak loudly and authoritatively to everyone who we can get to listen, especially our elected officials. Watch this column for future articles on specific actions you can take and consider attending the monthly Sustainable Rossmoor meetings.
Courtesy of Rossmoor News, July 31, 2019. Email Brad Waite at firstname.lastname@example.org