Humanosity says..the protests by Extinction rebellion are meant to make us take the issue of climate change seriously. Even though the underlying science for it’s impact has only been getting stronger, climate change denial is still a force to be reckoned with. This article reveals how vested interests have tried to turn the world against climate science..
In 1998 a public relations consultant called Joe Walker wrote to the American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade association representing major fossil fuel companies, with a proposed solution to a big problem.
In December the previous year, the UN had adopted the Kyoto protocol, an international treaty that committed signatory countries to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in order to avert catastrophic climate breakdown.
Reducing emissions represented a direct threat to the profits of fossil fuel companies and the API was working on an industry response.
“As promised, attached is the Global Climate Science Communications Plan that we developed during our workshop last Friday,” Walker wrote. The workshop had involved senior executives from fossil fuel companies, including the oil multinationals Exxon – later part of ExxonMobil – and Chevron, and the gas and coal utility Southern Company, and a handful of rightwing thinktanks.
Walker outlined a vision of a comprehensive, international campaign to change public opinion on the climate crisis by casting doubt on the scientific research, presenting it as unreliable when the overwhelming majority of scientists had reached consensus.
The communications plan involved finding sympathetic scientists, identifying thinktanks to fund that would produce helpful reports, and working through supposed grassroots groups to hold debates questioning the consensus on global heating, along with a constant flow of media briefings manufacturing uncertainty.
The plan sounded much like a 1960s PR campaign devised by the tobacco industry to delay controls by questioning the science showing that smoking killed. Some of the people involved were in fact tobacco campaign veterans.
The fossil fuel industry had been making use of its lobbying group, the Global Climate Coalition, since 1989 to stress the uncertainties of climate science. But by the late 1990s companies such as BP and Shell were beginning to withdraw from it as public doubt about the problem became increasingly untenable in the face of the evidence.
“Project goal: a majority of the American public, including industry leadership, recognises that significant uncertainties exist in climate science,” the 1998 Walker API memo began. A series of strategic goals was elaborated. It said “victory will be achieved when … recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the conventional wisdom” and “those promoting the Kyoto treaty on the basis of extant science appear to be out of touch with reality”…..