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You CAN Argue with the Facts: The Denial of Global Warming Naomi Oreskes and Milton Saier Professors of (1)History and Science Studies and (2) Biological Sciences University of California, San Diego Question: DO YOU BELIEVE IN CONSPIRACY THEORY? DO YOU THINK THIS PROFESSOR BELIEVES IN CONSPIRACY THEORY? (If so, how shocking!) What? A conspiracy? Oh no; how upsetting! Are we Americans the targets of a conspiracy? Are American governmental policies determined by conspiracies? Does American foreign policy reflect these conspiracies? IF THERE IS A CONSPIRACY, Who are the conspirators, and what are their goals? Most Americans now accept the “fact” of global warming Yale Project on Climate Change / Gallup / Clear Vision Institute 72 % of Americans are completely or mostly convinced that global warming is happening. Many Americans also think scientists do not A strange result… • On one hand, “facts” by definition imply generality of acceptance, and detachment from the source. • One wouldn’t expect the average person to know much about the sources. • However, abundant evidence (Anthony Leiserowitz, Jon Krosnick) shows that public opinion is formed based on many sources; the scientific evidence may be the least salient. On other hand… If the evidence of global warming is scientific evidence (analysis of temperature records, simulation models, ice cores, CO2 measurements), and if scientists are still arguing about it, then how can it be factual? • What kind of a fact do lay people think it is if not scientific fact? • Why do people think scientists are still arguing about it? Scientists are not arguing… • The scientific consensus on the reality of the anthropogenic effect on global warming was established by the mid 1990s. “The scientific evidence forcefully points to a need for a truly international effort. Make no mistake, we have to act now. And the longer we procrastinate, the more difficult the task of tackling climate change becomes.” Robert May, “Scientists Demand Action on Climate,” The Scientist 19 (July 2005): 47. Natural Variability? “The observed widespread warming of the atmosphere and oceans, together with ice mass loss, supports the conclusion that it is extremely likely that global climate change of the past fifty years WAS DUE TO HUMAN ACTIVITIES.” IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, 2007, Summary for Policymakers, p. 10 Why do Americans think scientists are still arguing? Where have the press gotten their “sources” for the “other side”? A Brief History of Climate Science • Various scientific reports in the 60s and 70s, from the US, Japan and Europe, already suggested that warming would occur from increased atmospheric CO2 due to the burning of fossil fuels. • 1988: The IPCC was established to evaluate the climate scientific data and suggest policy action on global warming. • The big question was: “WHEN WILL THE 1988 Things Heat Up • In 1988, NASA climate modeler James Hansen declared to the U.S. Congress that he was “99%” certain that anthropogenic change was already occurring. U.N. Framework Convention of Climate Change (1992) called on world leaders to translate the written document into "concrete action to protect the planet." Almost immediately, various individuals and organizations in the United States began to challenge the scientific basis for climate change. In the decade that followed, these organizations included: • George C. Marshall Institute • http://www.marshall.org/subcategory.php?id=9 • CATO Institute • http://www.cato.org/subtopic_display_new.php?topic_id=27 &ra_id=4 • Competitive Enterprise Institute • http://www.cei.org/sections/subsection.cfm?section=3 • Heartland Institute • http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=10488 All were conservative, libertarian groups promoting corporate interests. They were committed to laissez-faire economics, opposing regulation or ‘excessive’ government interference in the private sector. They were all libertarians with corporate backing who firmly believed that government should stay out of business, and they were willing to intentionally lie and distort scientific evidence to mislead the public as a means to achieve their libertarian goals. “The tobacco strategy” For decades, the tobacco industry challenged the scientific evidence of the adverse health effects of tobacco and supported libertarian groups that argued the same. These same groups similarly argued against the evidence concerning ozone depletion and then the burning of fossil fuels - to keep the govt out of free The tobacco road to global warming As a result, legislation to protect citizens from the actions of corporations was IN EACH CASE delayed several decades. They thus achieved their libertarian Arguments over evidence of climate change followed several strategies • “No proof” strategy: science is uncertain. • Argue over the significance of facts. ie, we can adapt. • Argue against the credibility of environmentalists: – Hysterical (Chicken Little) – Communists (“Watermelons”, George Will: “Green outside but red inside”) – Anti-Christian: Let the people of the world multipy! • Argue whether facts are facts. Western Fuels Association In the 1990s, they initiated a massive propaganda campaign to challenge the scientific knowledge regarding global warming. They decided to challenge whether the scientific facts were facts. In doing so, they choose to “reposition global warming as theory not fact”. It’s “just a theory…” They supplied alternative “facts” to support the suggestion that global warming would be good. They claimed that CO2 would enhance agricultural productivity and create a greener Earth. Who comprise the Western Fuels Association? WFA is a cooperative of western coal producers, mostly in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana. They supply coal to the electrical utilities. Article in Range Magazine, Fall 2000 (“The Cowboy Spirit on America’s outback) General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Fred Palmer were “…determined to defend the coal-fired power plants from an assault launched by professional environmental-ists, the United Nations, our own government, and the nation’s economic competitors.” Their real goals were: To protect the interests of western coal producers by challenging the fears and negative feedback about global warming by claiming that the presumption that warming was bad was wrong. Mass Media Campaign • 1991, the WFA provided funding for organizing the “Information Council for the Environment” (ICE) • The stated mission: “…to develop an effective national communications program to help ensure that action by the Administration and/or Congress on the issue of global warming is based on scientific evidence.” • The real goal was, however: “to determine the best way to influence public opinion, by testing different approaches in different markets, and evaluating the results.” Documents preserved in files of the American Meteorological Society… • They provided a budget of $510,000 for a “test market” project in February - August 1991. • The goal: to spread the message in selected radio and print media environments to evaluate the potential for “attitude change” in their listeners. • Four cities were chosen: Chattanooga TN, Champaign, IL, Flagstaff, AZ, Fargo, ND Objectives 1) “To demonstrate that a ‘consumer-based media awareness program’ can positively change the opinions of a selected population regarding the validity of global warming”; 2) “To begin to develop a message and strategy for shaping public opinion on a national scale”; 3) “To lay the ground work for a unified national electric industry voice on global warming.” Three criteria were selected for chosen markets a) “The market derives a majority of its electricity from coal”; b) “The market is home to a member of the [U.S.] House Energy & Commerce Committee or the House Ways and Means Committee”; c) “The market [has low] media costs.” “Program Goals” • To find a receptive population and pre-test the strategies • To use focus groups to test the ICE name and the “creative concepts” • “If successful, to implement the program nationwide” Potential Program Names • Information Council for the Environment • Informed Citizens for the Environment • Intelligent Concern for the Environment • Informed Choices for the Environment Details of the “Creative strategy” • “The radio creative will directly attack the proponents of global warming by relating ‘irrefutable’ evidence to the contrary, delivered by a believable spokesperson …” • “The print creative will attack proponents through comparison of global warming to historical or mythical instances of gloom and doom. Each ad will invite the listener/reader to call or write for further information, thus creating a data base.” Conclusions from the test campaign (1) Audiences trusted “technical sources” most, activists and government officials less, and industry the least. (2) ICE needed to use scientists to serve as spokesmen. (3) “Information Council on Environment” was the best name, because it positioned ICE as a “technical source”. (4) The study identified two particularly susceptible target audiences: Target 1: “Older, less educated males” They are receptive to propaganda targeting “the motivations and vested interests of people currently making pronouncements on global warming--for example, the statement that some members of the media scare the public about global warming to increase their audience and their influence….” (ICE report, AMS archives, p. 4) Target 2: Younger, lower-income, less well educated women These women are more receptive to propaganda “concerning the evidence for global warming. They are likely to be “green” consumers, to believe the earth is warming, and to think the problem is serious. However, they are also likely to soften their support for federal legislation after hearing new information… “ (ICE report, AMS archives, p. 4) Attitude change The study concluded, overall, that: • People were receptive to attitude change. • Many different types of people were supportive of more research (and less supportive of legislation) after hearing materials presented by an interviewer. • It was important that the materials be presented by technical spokespersons. These conclusions were incorporated into a video produced by WFA the following year as part of their national effort. 1992: “The Greening of Planet Earth: The Effects of Carbon Dioxide on the Biosphere” Released under the name of the Greening Earth Society, but funded by WFA. The Greening of Planet Earth: The Effects of Carbon Dioxide on the Biosphere “Is carbon dioxide a harmful air pollutant, or is it an amazingly effective aerial fertilizer? Explore the positive side of the issue in this half-hour documentary -- The Greening of Planet Earth - yours free today with a qualifying tax deductible donation of $12 plus shipping and handling.” The bulk of the remainder of the video presents “technical experts”, mostly an appointed group from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who argue, sometimes with meager or incomplete evidence, but often with none at all, that global warming is not a problem. Statements were carefully tested and used ONLY if the association believed (and later demonstrated) that they would confuse the lay person and cause him/her to question the available scientific evidence. They made technical claims, with abundant reference to poorly tested, misleading experimental data. CLAIMS: – Crop plants will produce “30-40% more than they are currently producing. – Cotton “yields will be 60% greater”. – There will be decreased water demands, as crops will grow more efficiently. • They showed pictures of greenhouses with – “Controlled environment chambers” – C3 plants respond “quite nicely”--up to 30-40% increased yields in response to doubled CO2. • They filmed computer terminals to suggest that – Computer models simulate increases in soy bean “dry matter accumulation and seed yield” in response to 660 ppm CO2. • They presented maps and charts to illustrate “the greener world”. Were the “facts” presented actually FACTS (scientifically tested and confirmed), or were they lies and partial truths designed to mislead the audience? Most of the “technical claims” clearly went beyond the experimental evidence… • Bruce Kimball asserts that a CO2 enhanced world is “one that plants will enjoy… a lot more. They have been, in effect, eating the CO2 out of the air for a long time and they’re rather starved for CO2….” • “The increase in atmospheric CO2 is a benefit that will occur around the globe, regardless of where you are located.” Some of their claims were not entirely false. Some C3 plants do grow more abundantly in CO2 enhanced environments, at least initially, but only when all other nutrients are optimally available. The same observation is not applicably to any other type of plant including all major agriculturally important crops. Another approach: Refutation by distraction Focus on something true, but that does not refute the central claims of climate science. (Cf. Tobacco: other causes of cancer) Tied together by rhetorical sleight of hand, the narrator describes the greenhouse effect as “a phenomenon in which CO2 plus harmful greenhouse gases trap the heat escaping into the atmosphere and send it back to Earth.” Gerd-Rainer Weber (meteorologist) “…Our world will be a much better one.” Widely distributed to libraries What effect does the burning of fossil fuels and the resulting emission of carbon dioxide have on the earth's biosphere? This question is posed to a number of leading scientists in The Greening of Planet Earth, an enlightening documentary that examines one of the most misunderstood environmental phenomena of the modern age. --http://osulibrary.oregonstate.edu/video/met4.html Other campaigns… • Press releases • Legal challenges to local environmental laws • Public speeches to sympathetic audiences – Taking scientific evidence out of context. – Misrepresenting the scientific evidence. – Impugning motivations of environmentalists and scientists (to scare you, to get more money for research). – Accusing environmentalists of being anti-American, anti-Christian, etc. Effect? Yale/Gallup Poll, 2007 • 50% of Americans worried “a great deal” or “a fair amount”. – But what about the other 50%? • Approximately 80% supported legislation of some kind to address the problem. – But legislation on greenhouse gases has been pending in the US Congress since the late 1970s… • The US federal government continues to oppose international action, and many citizen consider inaction justified. While most people accept global warming as a fact, Many (unconsciously, perhaps) don’t accept its origins in scientific consensus. Many also think that climate scientists are still uncertain and are arguing about it. They think that environmentalists may be a suspicious lot with ulterior motives. This shows that resistance campaigns were effective in creating a lasting impression of scientific disagreement, discord, and dissent. They achieved the goal of postponing governmental action aimed at addressing climate change. What is the definition of CONSPIRACY THEORY? “An explanatory proposition that accuses a group or organization of having caused or covered up a phenomenon of great social, political or economic impact.” Was and is this a conspiracy? • Was/is it: an agreement between two or more people to perform a wrongful act? • Was/is it: a secret covenant to carry out a harmful act, with political or economic motivation? • Was/is it: an association between officials to further their own ends? • Was/is it: an agreement between persons to deceive, mislead or defraud others? How should we deal with these evil conspirators? Should such activities be illegal? Should laws be in place to criminalize and allow prosecution of such liars? What punishment would be appropriate for these ass holes? What kinds of torture would you consider appropriate? Guantanamo? Solitary confinement? For life? NOW DO YOU BELIEVE IN CONSPIRACY THEORY? DOES AN ONGOING CONSPIRACY EXPLAIN WHY AMERICANS STILL QUESTION GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE? DOES IT EXPLAIN WHY THE U.S. IS THE ONLY DEVELOPED COUNTRY NOT TO HAVE JOINED THE KYOTO PROTOCOL? WHAT DO YOU THINK? ARE OTHER CONSPIRACIES OPERATIVE THAT SHAPE OUR THOUGHTS AND VALUES? WHAT ADS SAY “REDUCE CONSUMPTION, REUSE WHAT YOU CAN, RECYCLE WHAT YOU CAN’T?” INSTEAD, ADS TELL US TO BUY AND USE RESOUCES WE DON’T NEED OR EVEN WANT. IS OUR CAPITALISTIC SYSTEM A CONSPIRACY? "In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual." --Galileo “Galileo evidently was too good-natured to ask whether that single humble individual was being funded by petroleum money.” --Craig Callender References • Yale Project on Climate Change/ Gallup / Clear Vision Institute, 2007 • Ross Gelbspan, Boiling Point, 51-52 and Heat is On, Appendix, A Scientific Critique of Greenhouse Skeptics • John Perry 1981, Energy and Climate: Today’s problem, Not Tomorrow’s Climate Change 3: 223225. • Archives of the American Meteorological Society Can you answer these questions? 1. What approaches did libertarian organizations such as the Marshall Institute and the Western Fuels Association (WFA) use to mislead the American population regarding the scientific evidence bearing on Climate Change? Can you list at least four distinct approaches that proved successful in fooling the public? Is this still going on? 2. Although the US contains ~5% of the world’s population, about how much of the total world energy do they consume? 3. Can you describe three or more facts that reveal how humans are responsible for global warming? 4. What expenditures consume most of the US federal budget? Approximately how much has been spent to date on the Iraq War? What are the estimated costs overall for the Iraq war? In the US, what institution/organization uses the most fossil fuels? The NRC Committee, headed by economist Thomas Schelling, had concluded that the biggest problem was large uncertainties and hoped that we could “learn faster than the problem could develop.” Perry concluded: “The problem is already upon us: we must learn very quickly indeed.” Perry,1981 “Energy and Climate: Today’s problem, Not Tomorrow’s” Climate Change 3: 223-225. On p 225.