The idea stated in the title of this blog post is not novel–far from it, in fact. We have known for a long time that the auto industry, the oil industry, and others with a vested interest have engaged in a long-running campaign of misinformation to discredit the science behind global warming. Manufacturing doubt is a common strategy employed by those whose agenda falls on the wrong side of scientific fact. This includes creationists, pseudoscientists, global warming denialists, HIV denialists, and, very notably, the tobacco industry’s notorious decades-long campaign to deny the link between smoking and cancer, despite the deniers’ own undeniable knowledge that such a link existed.
The reason I bring all of this up now, though, is that The New York Times has an article by Andrew Revkin about some particularly interesting documents recently acquired by the Times. The documents, from the Global Climate Coalition (an industry group), shed light on how the group suppressed its own scientists and demonstrate that the group was actively aware it was spreading misinformation:
For more than a decade the Global Climate Coalition, a group representing industries with profits tied to fossil fuels, led an aggressive lobbying and public relations campaign against the idea that emissions of heat-trapping gases could lead to global warming.
“The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood,” the coalition said in a scientific “backgrounder” provided to lawmakers and journalists through the early 1990s, adding that “scientists differ” on the issue.
But a document filed in a federal lawsuit demonstrates that even as the coalition worked to sway opinion, its own scientific and technical experts were advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming could not be refuted.
“The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied,” the experts wrote in an internal report compiled for the coalition in 1995.
The coalition was financed by fees from large corporations and trade groups representing the oil, coal and auto industries, among others. In 1997, the year an international climate agreement that came to be known as the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated, its budget totaled $1.68 million, according to tax records obtained by environmental groups.