The Scientific Activist

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.

Check out the full article here and the original documents here.

Comments

  1. #1 larrydalooza
    April 24, 2009

    “greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied”

    This is like saying… “horrifically poisonous daddy longlegs spider” … because we know that the daddy longlegs has a potent venom… however in insignificant volume.

  2. #2 Dan
    April 24, 2009

    Nice post Nick, thanks for pointing this Revkin article. I’d have missed it.

    I also note that you already have a ‘looza’ troll-type visitor. Strange how these wackjobs think 100ppm CO2 increase is insignificant, when all of the data indicates otherwise. But I guess that it just goes to show that the well-established nature of greenhouse gases can and is still denied, albeit by the ignorant (willful or otherwise).

    Sad.

  3. #3 larrydalooza
    April 24, 2009

    Man’s contribution is 4ppm … why shroud the truth?

  4. #4 Dunc
    April 24, 2009

    “Man’s contribution is 4ppm”

    No it’s not, and I can’t imagine where you could have gotten that idea. Citation?

  5. #5 winnebago
    April 24, 2009

    Larry,

    You forgot to write “per year”.

  6. #6 ED
    April 24, 2009

    For the last 800,000 years natural fluctuations have taken CO2 in the atmosphere between 180ppm and 280ppm. Up and down and back up and so forth. Then came the industrial revolution. Since then it shot up to the current level of bout 386ppm. The timing is so perfect you wouldn’t need another smoking gun, but, there many other smoking guns even though we don’t need them. Like what? Like using isotope analysis (google for “isotopes” on realclimate.org) which proves that the extra CO2 in the atmosphere came from exactly where you’d think it came from: the extra CO2 came from fossil fuels.

    Another fact the global warming deniers don’t want to think about is that, temperatures aside, just the higher CO2 alone (even if temperatures were not going up, which they are), has already damaged the oceans with an increase of 30% since the industrial revolution, in acid concentration..google for Ocean Acidification.

  7. #7 naught101@gmail.com
    April 28, 2009

    HAHAHA. larrydalooza, you crack me up. When has anyone ever said that human contribution to CO2 levels in the atmosphere is large in proportion to the entire atmosphere?

    http://www.snopes.com/critters/wild/longlegs.asp

  8. #8 bi -- IJI
    April 28, 2009

    OK… now that we know about the Global Climate Coalition… what are we going to do about them?

    Nothing?

    There were the tobacco lawsuits, which ended with a settlement and the release of the Legacy Tobacco Documents. What happened to the ‘think-tank’ noise outlets spreading pro-tobacco misinformation? They’re still there, and still strong. And now they’re spreading global warming inactivism.

    When will the world finally get around to crushing these misinformation tanks as should have been done long ago?

    bi

  9. #9 Jason A.
    April 28, 2009

    larrydalooza:

    This is like saying… “horrifically poisonous daddy longlegs spider” … because we know that the daddy longlegs has a potent venom… however in insignificant volume.

    Analogy fail as well as climate science fail – the urban legend is that the daddy longlegs is extremely poisonous but it’s fangs are too small to bite. It has nothing to do with the amount of venom it carries.

  10. #10 Jerry Lowry
    April 28, 2009

    The current melt of the last glaciation began about 8,000 yrs ago and has continued at varying rates, while sea level came up, correspondingly, about 400 ft to its current level. The ice extended to Northern Kansas and has retreated to its current extent. Divide 400 ft by 8,000 yrs and you get roughly last year’s sea level rise – NOTHING IS NEW and sea level is rising just as it has for thousands of years, without media, politicians, and junk science. We are at the end of an ice age, and nothing is remarkable about that. CO2 is at levels right now, even with man’s recent increase, about 1/10th to 1/15th the highest levels that the Earth has experienced, without a problem. If man could only get over his complete and utter arrogance about being important in all of this, we could all relax and look around and see that the Earth is fine, the climate is fine, and there is no problem. The past 400 ft of rise, at the same rate of rise as today (in fact much faster at times), has not given this generation, or past generations much of a problem – we coped with it and will continue to do so. Yes, people are stupid and they do build homes below sea level, on beaches, etc., but that is just stupid and nothing else. Finally, notice that all of the junk science that has been conjured up to scare people, concludes with a TAX and a power transfer from people to government. That is the goal. Without that potential, the politicians would not be interested. Note that water vapor is MUCH more a “greenhouse gas” than CO2, but even the arrogant junk science crowd cannot figure out a way to scare us with water vapor. The key – get a frame of reference and common sense perspective.

  11. #11 Richard Eis
    April 29, 2009

    “Earth is fine, the climate is fine, and there is no problem”

    We don’t have an infrastructure that can deal with these changes. This is not a problem for the earth. It will happily trot along regardless. It is a problem for humans that we have helped create.

  12. #12 Nanahuatzin
    May 2, 2009

    Note that water vapor is MUCH more a “greenhouse gas” than CO2, but even the arrogant junk science crowd cannot figure out a way to scare us with water vapor.

    Just more half truths. The water vapor is an important greenhouse gas.. but.. it´s variability is nos as important as CO2…

    The climatic effects of water vapour
    Authors: Ahilleas Maurellis, Jonathan Tennyson
    Physics world.

    We should not pretend that the effects of carbon dioxide are unimportant in the greenhouse effect. While the atmosphere has always contained a significant amount of water vapour, it is the apparent increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide since the period of industrialization that is causing so much concern. It turns out that typical abundances of carbon dioxide are sufficient to make most of its absorption bands relatively opaque (see figure 3). Because the strong absorption bands are saturated, adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere increases its absorptions logarithmically rather than linearly – a fact that is recognized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    Ahilleas Maurellis is in the Earth-Oriented Sciences Division of the SRON National Institute for Space Research, Sorbonnelaan 2, 3584 CA Utrecht, the Netherlands, e-mail a.n.maurellis@sron.nl.

  13. #13 Chris Winter
    May 31, 2009

    Jerry Lowry wrote (in part: “The past 400 ft of rise, at the same rate of rise as today (in fact much faster at times), has not given this generation, or past generations much of a problem — we coped with it and will continue to do so.”

    Very probably we will cope with sea-level rise. How well we cope, and how much it will cost, are matters for debate. We coped with Hurricane Katrina’s effects on New Orleans, but few would argue that we coped well, or that the costs were minor.

    I’m not saying that Katrina is definitely related to sea-level rise, or to global warming. But it is a stark example of poor preparation, not just before, but years in advance of the storm surge. Everyone agrees, now, that the levees were inadequate, but somehow the funding to beef them up never came through — until after Katrina.

    Maybe with global warming we’ll remember Ben Franklin’s adage and put out the “ounce of prevention.”

  14. #14 Willium Henery
    November 2, 2009

    The reason tobacco companies continue to produce and sell cigarettes should not surprise anyone. They do so because it is a legal activity that people enjoy. Yes, it is dangerous and bad for you. So can many other things like alcohol, gambling, bacon double cheeseburgers, etc… The only people that would benefit from all the tobacco companies ceasing to produce and sell is the black market. For more information, visit at: Bolivar cigars.

  15. #15 Roger Halstead
    December 20, 2009

    Although I’m a bit late on this, I wanted to comment on the water vapor. Yes, water vapor is a very effective green house gas, BUT unlike the other green house gasses the amount of water vapor in the air has specific limits. The only way to get more water vapor is to increase the air temperature. Even then air will only hold a specific maximum amount for any given temperature. So it’s effect is limited by the laws of physics.

    As to CO2, in past cycles of heating, carbon forcing caused the oceans to give off the gas as the temperature rose. This time the CO2 rise is leading the temperature rise while the oceans are still soaking up vast quantities of the gas which is causing acidification.

  16. #16 osmanlı iksiri
    December 29, 2009

    The current melt of the last glaciation began about 8,000 yrs ago and has continued at varying rates, while sea level came up, correspondingly, about 400 ft to its current level. The ice extended to Northern Kansas and has retreated to its current extent. Divide 400 ft by 8,000 yrs and you get roughly last year’s sea level rise – NOTHING IS NEW and sea level is rising just as it has for thousands of years, without media, politicians, and junk science.

  17. I also note that you already have a ‘looza’ troll-type visitor. Strange how these wackjobs think 100ppm CO2 increase is insignificant, when all of the data indicates otherwise. But I guess that it just goes to show that the well-established nature of greenhouse gases can and is still denied, albeit by the ignorant (willful or otherwise).

  18. #18 Robert Fallon Jr
    February 2, 2010

    PLEASE—QUIT IT WITH THE GLOBAL WARMING BS!!

    GIVE IT A REST!!

    IT IS A LIE!!

    THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS MAN-MADE GLOBAL WARMING!!

    WHAT—– SHOULD WE ALL HOLD OUR BREATH FOR A MINUTE TO REDUCE CO2 GASES!!!

    AHHHH….DONT PLANTS SURVIVE AS A RESULT OF CO2 AND AHHHHH DONT THEY GIVE OFF OXYGEN TO HELP CREATE A BETTER BREATHING ENVIRONMENT!! LIBERAL JACKASSES ALWAYS CONTRADICTING YOURSELVES!!! I GUESS WE SHOULD CHOP TREES DOWN THEN TO PREVENT CO2!!!

    THE DATA WAS FUDGED BY PAID OFF CROOKED SCIENTISTS TO SUPPORT A FAULTY CLAIM!! THEY CODED THE SOFTWARE TO SUPPORT THEIR CLAIM…A CARDINAL SIN IN THE TECH WORLD….!!

    GIVE IT A REST!!!

  19. #19 Dominic W.
    March 4, 2010

    I find it so strange that at the same time we are worrying about the sea level rising, we are also worried about our great lakes and rivers drying up. My goodness!! A water deficit AND surplus?? Well! The world MUST be ending.

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