Anyone who is even half-conscious half of the time in the United Stateds knows that there is a passionate debate taking place over global warming and the public’s perceptions of these environmental issues. Interesting, this debate is not taking place among scientists over global climate change, or global warming; it is about the manipulation of the public to political advantage. Several observers, including public relations professional James Hoggan, contend that a dedicated, well-organized, and lavishly financed campaign to call into question global warming has been successful in swaying public opinion.
At every turn neo-liberal intellectuals, well-funded conservative think tanks, business interests that stand to lose profits should measures be taken to reduce greenhouse emissions, contrarian scientists, dominionist evangelicals, and others have combined to assault the scientific findings that are irrefutable—that the Earth is warming and that human activity has been a singularly important engine of this process. At first, these interests denied that there was any global warming was taking place, then that the scientific community was undecided about it and that nothing should be done until a consensus emerged, then that the science is clear but that the cost of doing anything to mitigate the threat was too great, then that… Well, you get the picture.
Using the considerable financial resources of the energy lobby, the intellectual horsepower of the neo-liberal intelligentsia, the astroturf organizing principles of political action, some who act as shock troops committed to exploitation, the political intrigue of PACs and rhetoricians, and the tactics so well honed in the tobacco wars, those opposed to taking any action to beat back the rising global warming crisis sowed seeds of doubt about what was happening among the public. At no time did they engage in scientific studies to challenge the work of a global community of scientists that are measuring the alarming trends in the climate.
Those crusading to deny global warming have enjoyed remarkable success in the public sphere—and I must offer my grudging respect for how effectively that one side has made its case—with the result that society has lost a quarter century that might have been used to find and implement solutions.
James Hoggan suggests: “We also have seen an attack in the integrity of the scientific community and a disinformation campaign that was so well-funded and widely executed that the public is lost in confusion. Businesses, individuals, and governments in North America have, as of this writing, done nothing to even constrain the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, much less begin to meet agreed targets for deduction” (Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming (Greystone Books, 2009), pp. 216-17).
I’m disappointed that we as a collective society have been unable to unite in agreement to take the action necessary to preserve this planet for future generations and to come to reasonable solutions. I wonder what dent we might have been able to make in resolving this impending global crisis if we had applied the same amount of money and brainpower to the task of defeating global warming as we did in trying to deny that it was underway?