Saturday, February 27, 2010

Attack of the Deniers


A few snowstorms bring out the climate change deniers in force, proudly displaying their ignorance in mistaking meterological events with long-term climate trends. The winter of 2009/2010 has given them an unexpected windfall of events to use as ammunition in their misinformation campaigns, which appear to be working: more and more Americans no longer believe climate change is a matter of importance.

A TomDispatch article by Bill McKibben, one of the first writers to sound the global warming alarm as scientific studies came to light, examines the phenomenon of the denier movement and considers their tactics and motivation.

The fact that the media gives the skeptics high-profile coverage is one reason behind the diminishing belief in climate change, despite overwhelming and growing body of scientific evidence.

The climate deniers come with a few built-in advantages. Thanks to Exxon Mobil and others with a vested interest in debunking climate-change research, their “think tanks” have plenty of money, none of which gets wasted doing actual research to disprove climate change. It’s also useful for a movement to have its own TV network, Fox, though even more crucial to the denial movement are a few rightwing British tabloids which validate each new “scandal” and put it into media play.

That these guys are geniuses at working the media was proved this February when even the New York Times ran a front page story, “Skeptics Find Fault With U.N. Climate Panel,” which recycled most of the accusations of the past few months. What made it such a glorious testament to their success was the chief source cited by the Times: one Christopher Monckton, or Lord Monckton as he prefers to be called since he is some kind of British viscount. He is also identified as a “former advisor to Margaret Thatcher,” and he did write a piece for the American Spectator during her term as prime minister offering his prescriptions for “the only way to stop AIDS”:

"...screen the entire population regularly and… quarantine all carriers of the disease for life. Every member of the population should be blood-tested every month... all those found to be infected with the virus, even if only as carriers, should be isolated compulsorily, immediately, and permanently.”

He speaks with equal gusto and good sense on matters climatic -- and now from above the fold in the paper of record.

While the fossil-fuel companies fight furiously to dispute climate science, McKibben notes that the Chinese are already taking advantage of American inaction.

Right now, China is gearing up to dominate the green energy market. They’re making the investments that mean future windmills and solar panels, even ones installed in this country, will be likely to arrive from factories in Chenzhou, not Chicago.

McKibben's upcoming book is Eaarth: Making a Life on as Tough New Planet.