The Denial Machine
“The Denial Machine” was produced in 2006 but the denial machine behind the efforts to confuse the issue of human caused global warming started long before that. It’s seeds were planted as far back as 1957 when Dr. Roger Revelle from Scripps Institute of Oceanography produced substantial work showing the implications and increased CO2 in the atmosphere. As the ‘Keeling Curve’ went up, the denial machine grew larger and more manipulative, and still continues today.
The denial machine, generally, refers to a systematic method of coercion regarding the understanding of an issue. The first large scale experience the public had with the denial machine was with the tobacco industry. The industry relied on public relations firms to help market the message. Involved in the marketing campaign for the smoking debate was a company called APCO Worldwide. In the end the truth came out, cigarettes and second hand smoke cause cancer.
It is interesting to note that there are many similarities in the methods used to fuel the denial machine regarding the global warming debate. Dr. Fred Singer was one of the scientists involved in delivering the message promoted by APCO Worldwide, that message generally being that tobacco was not as dangerous as government and health organizations were claiming.
Dr. S. Fred Singer
APCO Worldwide also worked with the oil industry in helping arrange and promote climate conferences. Again, as with the smoking/cancer debate, Dr. Singer was involved. Dr. Singer said, “I didn’t know that APCO does this, but I’m not surprised, They’re a public relations firm”.
When questioned about the fact that he did not research who was paying him, Singer said, “I can’t do that all the time, no. That’s not my business. They supply useful information to me. They send me things in the Canadian press that I can’t get otherwise, that’s all I know. And they agree with me on the subject of global warming, that’s all I know”.
Dr. Timothy Ball
Dr. Timothy Ball appeared in the global warming argument in Canada pushing uncertainty about human caused global warming. Dr. Ball was also involved in an organization called ‘The Friends of Science‘, which was involved in a conference paid for by the Canadian subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, Esso, and promoted by APCO Worldwide.
Dr. Ball was very good at delivering disinformation in the name of science, but was what he stating correct? No, not when you understand the facts and context of the statements. Dr. Ball was generally, and often specifically, incorrect on the facts and their contextual relevance regarding human caused global warming.
“Notice you do not hear much about global warming anymore, it’s all the focus on climate change”.
Note: Likely a direct result of the confusion about the term global warming v. climate change connected to the Frank Luntz work (see below).
“Since 1998 the worlds been cooling down“.
Another misnomer, an unusually strong El Nino event riding on top of the warming trend. In other words a very hot year occurring within the natural variability on the new warming path.
“First of all, consensus is not a scientific fact. Back in the 1970’s as I’ll tell this audience, the consensus was we are heading into another ice age. Right. That was wrong too.”
Again wrong, there was nothing even close to a consensus that the earth was heading into another ice age. Essentially Dr. Ball’s statement is a gross misunderstanding of the 1975 National Academy of Sciences report “UNDERSTANDING CLIMATIC CHANGE“. Not only was there now large scale consensus the earth was cooling, the report itself basically reflected the current understanding as: ‘we can not predict climate yet, and we need more research’.
During the Bush Administration
President George W. Bush
Early in 2002 the message from the White House was locked in. George W. Bush had already pulled the U.S. out of the the Kyoto treaty. The talking points were in place and being delivered:
- We all want to be good stewards of the environment.
- The science is not conclusive and we want to be sure.
- It would cost us 400 billion dollars to address climate change.
- We will reduce our carbon intensity (not carbon output – intensity reduction allows increasing CO2 output).
- Economic responsibility.
- Climate change, not global warming.
- Conservation, not environmentalism.
Where did the talking points come from?
Republican Frank Luntz is an expert in analyzing how words evoke an emotional response for a given subject. He analyzed the message regarding human caused global warming in order to identify which words and talking points would be most effective in delivering the Bush administrations message. At the time he did the work, he himself believed that global warming was not as big a problem as people were making it out to be.
Rule #1 Never use the term Global Warming: “Global warming suggests something more cataclysmic, climate change suggests something more gradual, something that takes place over time. Global warming is more frightening, climate change is less so.”
Rule #2 Never call your self an environmentalist: “An environmentalist is a radical and a conservationist is a realist.”
Frank Luntz is still a Republican
But by 2006 when ‘The Denialist Machine’ was produced, Frank Luntz had changed his mind based on his review of the science.
“Conservatives should have made a much greater effort to talk about what is happening out there in the environment, and the liberals should have made a greater effort to acknowledge that there are serious economic consequences based on Kyoto”.
Frank Luntz says “not everything in life is about politics”. He correctly concludes that global warming is not a political issue, it is a climate issue, it is a global issue. He does not call it climate change anymore. He now calls it ‘Global Warming’.
“If you really care about global warming, if you do, and I say this to everyone watching, take it out of the political sphere. Take it out of trying to beat each other up over the head, and be honest, and do not yell, and focus on solutions that will actually make a difference.”
The Denial Machine – Nov. 15, 2006