Dollars for Deniers: Big Oil Funds Climate Science Denialism

It has become increasingly difficult to understand the motivation behind climate science denialism. The Earth’s climate is changing, mainly in the form of increased temperatures of the oceans and the atmosphere, because of the release of copious amounts of previously trapped Carbon through the burning of fossil fuels. There is no longer a question that this is happening, and every year, the various details that one might like to see worked out, regarding the mechanisms or effects of climate change, are increasingly known. To state, with a straight face, that the jury is still out, or that we can’t separate natural variation from human caused changes, or that the earth has stopped warming for the last decade, or any of the other things we constantly hear from climate change denialists is exactly the same thing as standing there with a big sign that reads “I am a moron.” Politicians, who by and large remain ignorant of all sorts of science, have become aware of this over recent years and many now couch their phraseology in cautious terms, if they happen to be running there campaigns, as many are, on the Oil Teat. Even more amazing, principled Libertarians have stopped denying the reality of climate change, taking a different tact to avoid any responsibility or action: Yes, the climate change we’ve been busy denying the reality of for the last 30 years is real, they agree, but it is too late to do anything about it now so let’s just move inland as the sea level rises and buy lighter jackets.

So why is climate change denialism still a thing at all? And it is a thing. There are individuals on the lecture circuit, bloggers, and a handful of scientists who continue to peddle what can only be understood as willfully ignorant or evasive, incomplete or cherry picked, or in some cases, just plain dishonest ‘analyses’ or interpretations of data suggesting that climate change is not real, or is not human caused if it is real. There is so much of this out there that some of it even gets published now and then. For example, a recent paper in a mid-level general science journal made a very good argument that “natural variation” explains about 40% of the putative warming in recent decades on this planet, as opposed to the release of fossil Carbon Dioxide by burning of fuels. Unfortunately, the “good argument” in that paper systematically ignored a rather impressive literature that had already addressed the same issues, found problems with an entire methodological approach and interpretation, leaving the just-published interpretation not only impossible, but actually rather embarrassing to others in the climate science community that someone would still be saying it. (You’ve not heard about this yet, but I guarantee it will be in the news and on the blogs over the next few weeks.) Most times, though, the science-denialism comes from a handful of very active blogs, from those charismatic lecture circuit denizens such as “Lord” Christopher Monkton, and a very large number of commenters and their probable sock puppets who show up at every on line newspaper and blog to spew the same exact lines again and again even though every single remark they make … without exception … has long ago been discredited with science and reason.

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As economies strain under the repair bill from the increasing number of cataclysmic weather events and the body count rises from their aftermath, the science-denialists lose their veil of authority.

As more people are directly and negatively impacted by climate change weather events, the science-denialists will lose supporters. At some point, "Lord" Christopher Monkton will be booed off stage. I don't think the body count will ever get high enough for him to fully retract his statements on climate change though. I think he is far too arrogant to take ownership of the damage he as done and continues to do to our World.

By Richard Chapman (not verified) on 26 Jan 2013 #permalink

Don't forget the huge (mostly Christian) religious component to science-denial. It's not just industrial apologists. Many Creationists insist that an invisible deity determines human fate, not the laws of nature. Evidence to them is trivial in a supernatural context.

People like James Inhofe and Rush Limbaugh have made statements to the effect that "God wouldn't let Man cause global warming." Whether or not they truly believe that is hard to gauge, since they seem to accept Man's role in other types of pollution, even if they don't want to do much about it either.

Jim C. what those Christians caught up with science denial will do when the fact of climate change becomes irrefutable, they will say it is "God's Will", that it is a sign of the "End Times" and they will expect to be Raptured up before it gets too bad.

The whole AGW denial industry is funded by fossil fuel interests. There are about 5x more tons of carbon in the ground as fossil fuels than can ever be burned. The actual value of those deposits is zero because there will be no one surviving to extract them. Right now, Wall Street is valuing them as if they can all be burned. That fictitious value is just as real as any other valuation that Wall Street speculators put on anything.

It needs to be made clear to Wall Street speculators that there will be no bailout of the owners of fossil fuel deposits when the value of those deposits goes to zero. There will be no bailout of those who loaned money to fossil fuel interests based on using fossil fuel deposits as collateral and no bailout of the owners of facilities that use fossil fuels.

The Fossil fuel industry is doing all they can to maintain the value of fossil fuels for as long as they can because the net present value of the deposits (and their value as collateral) depends on investors believing that those fossil fuel deposits can be extracted and burned. When investors understand that those deposits cannot be burned, the value will go to zero overnight. Many trillions of market capitalization will be wiped out.

By daedalus2u (not verified) on 28 Jan 2013 #permalink

IMO the problem is that both parties share the same fundamental flaw to varying degrees. That is, both are beholden to the “socially enabled capitalism” paradigm that allows, even encourages, the few to profit from the exploitation and pollution of the commons. You will only be allowed to profit as well if YOU accept that paradigm via investment in the fallacy, stocks, bonds, Wall Street, etc. Obviously this paradigm leads directly to the “haves” and “have not’s” who must continually fight for a piece of the action. All this as the the resources of the planet, and the life support systems that we all depend upon, are rapped and pillaged, leaving only destitution in the wake. The original “Tea Party” was the rebellion of taxation without representation. Today the “socially enabled capitalistic economy” is far worse. The hidden “Taxation” that supports the ecocide of the planet as witnessed by all who have the guts to look. (Tar sands, acidified oceans, disrupted climate, health care associated costs, etc.) A new paradigm is needed and it is one that has arisen from time to time in the past, usually in outlying cultures. However those cultures quickly become plundered by the more aggressive rapacious exploiters. The fallacy that those exploiters refuse to recognize is that exponential growth is not allowed in a closed system and Nature bats last. Add to that that “We the People” are tapped out and in debt as is, to the tune of trillions of $$$. Nature is at bat and she has a strong line up. She will prevail. Humanity cannot refill the coffers without serious investment in the Green Awakening Economy and clean renewable energy from the cosmos. Financing must follow the money, not those exploited already. Those that provided that wealth in the first place by a failed paradigm of profits from the pollution of the commons.

By Leif Knutsen (not verified) on 28 Jan 2013 #permalink