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Transcript
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.