Book Review: Climate Cover-Up — The Crusade to Deny Global Warming

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Book: Climate Cover-Up “This is a story of betrayal, a story of selfishness, greed, and irresponsibility on an epic scale.” That’s how James Hoggan opens his newly published book Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming.

Hoggan initially thought there was a fierce  scientific controversy about climate change. Sensibly he did a lot of reading, only to find to his surprise that there was no such controversy. How did the public confusion arise?  There was nothing accidental about it. As a public relations specialist, Hoggan observed with gathering horror a campaign at work.

“To a trained eye the unsavoury public relations tactics and techniques and the strategic media manipulation became obvious. The more I thought about it, the more deeply offended I became.”

DeSmogBlog was born to research the misinformation campaigns and share the information widely. This book pulls together some of that research in an organised narrative. Richard Littlemore has assisted Hoggan in the writing.

Climate scientists are sometimes blamed for not communicating their message clearly enough to the public. If they tried to match the efforts of the denial campaigners as detailed by Hoggan they wouldn’t have any time to do their science. Those who vociferously claim that anthropogenic global warming is still uncertain and doubtful certainly don’t spend time and money on any science.

That is not what they are interested in. As far back as 1991 a group of coal-related organisations set out, in their own words, “to reposition global warming as a theory (not fact)” and “supply alternative facts to support the suggestion that global warming will be good.” This was the pattern of the work done in succeeding years by a variety of corporations and industry associations who devoted considerable financial resources to influence the public conversation.

climate change scientist They used slogans and messages they had tested for effectiveness but not accuracy.  They hired scientists prepared to say in public things they could not get printed in the peer-reviewed scientific press.

They took advantage of mainstream journalists’ interest in featuring contrarian and controversial science stories. They planned “grassroots” groups to give the  impression that they were not an industry-driven lobby. New Zealand’s Climate “Science” Coalition and the International Coalition it helped to found fit this purpose nicely.

Hoggan describes the work of many individuals and organisations who are available for spreading the doctrine of doubt. Conservative think tanks such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) have played a major part in the task in the new millenium. Their donors are well disguised, but in the case of CEI have certainly in the past included ExxonMobil and probably GM and Ford. Their advocacy, such as the infamous TV commercials portraying the benefits of carbon dioxide, obviously involves heavy expenditure.

Lists of scientists reportedly expressing dissent over anthropogenic global warming have become a staple of the denial crusade. Hoggan discusses some of these lists and comments:

“The beauty of this tactic as a method of keeping the debate alive is that none of these ‘scientists’ ever have to conduct any actual research or put their views forward to be tested in the scientific peer-review process. They don’t even have to be experts in a related field. And they certainly don’t have to win the argument. As long as groups of scientists are seen to be disagreeing, the public continues to assume that the science is uncertain.”

Apparent throughout Hoggan’s book is the lack of substance to the denial campaign. According to them, the Mann hockey stick is a “notorious intellectual swindle”. The impression is sedulously fostered that statistical investigation has shown the graph to be false.

But Hoggan points out that the ideologists are uncurious about whether Mann’s work has been tested by other scientists or confirmed or falsified by the use of other methods or other proxy data sources. He dryly comments that the reason is that the other climate-reconstruction graphs published since Mann produce enough hockey sticks to outfit a whole team and then some.

ice A significant movement in the campaign in more recent times has been a change of emphasis from denial that anthropogenic warming is occurring to claims that there is no need to rush into measures to mitigate it.

Bjorn Lomborg argues with apparent passion that he also cares about climate change, but that careful economic analysis shows that more pressing problems like AIDS, malnutrition, and the provision of fresh water to people in the developing world are more important matters and unfortunately don’t at this stage leave enough money for climate change mitigation. Frank Maisano specialises in media communication.

He supplies thousands of reporters and important people in industry and politics with useful material on energy issues.  Underlying it though is a consistent argument that climate change, though real, is either impossible or too expensive to fix.

In his chapter on the manipulated media Hoggan acknowledges the complexity issue in relation to global warming. Indeed he extends a lot of understanding to reporters and editors.  They are under pressure and the science takes some understanding. The temptation to fall back on balance has been strong. However he notices that increasingly the balance model is being abandoned, and is insistent that it’s past time for people in the media to check their facts and start sharing them ethically and responsibly with the public.

Hoggan’s book is a thoughtful and sustained exposure of  a movement which has done great harm. I read it with close interest and shared his dismay. I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand how denial has had such a charmed run. His presentation is painstaking and reasonable. There’s nothing shrill about it, and his justifiable anger is relatively muted.

elephant He urges his readers not to take him at face value but to do some checking of his material and satisfy themselves that it is reliable. Nevertheless the activity he describes is rightly characterised as betrayal, selfishness, greed and irresponsibility. The people who have launched the highly successful campaign of denial and delay are not attending to the work of a body of outstanding scientists although that work is of utmost import for human life.

They have turned what should have been a public policy dialogue driven by science into a theatre for a cynical public relations exercise of the most dishonest kind. Instead of looking at the seriousness of the warnings they have sensed a threat to their business profitability and made that their motivating factor. They have spread a false complacency and the result has been a twenty year delay in addressing an issue of high urgency.

Hoggan thought at first that David Suzuki was a bit over the top when he wondered out loud whether there was a legal way of throwing Canada’s so-called leaders into jail for criminal action (or inaction) in relation to climate change. But then he recognised Suzuki was right, in the sense that it will indeed be a crime if we do not demand of our leaders that they start fixing this problem, beginning today.

“And the punishment will be visited on our children and on their children through a world that is unrecognisable, perhaps uninhabitable.”

Article by Bryan Walker appearing courtesy of Celsias; originally posted on Hot Topic

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

18 Comments

  1. All this ruckus is made with the tax money you gave…

    Indeed, it is estimated that $300 billion (200€ billion) are given each year in subsidies around the world to fossil fuel companies.

    As I noted earlier this year the UNEP believes that cutting the subsidies given to big oil and coal companies would cut by up to six percent per year global greenhouse gases emissions.

    In America “Subsidies to fossil fuels, a mature, developed industry that has enjoyed government support for many years, totaled approximately $72 billion” (from 2002 to 2008)

    Giving all this money to cleantech companies or any project in solar, wind or nuclear would enable America and other countries to cut massively their emissions by 2020.

    It’s high time we do such a thing… Meanwhile, keep up the good work !

    • wilbert robichaud on

      “We’re going to see a worldwide market, and carbon will unambiguously be the largest non-financial commodity in the world.” He predicted trades eventually will total $10 trillion a year.” Richard L. Sandor, chairman and chief executive officer of Climate Exchange Plc, which owns the world’s biggest carbon dioxide exchange in London ….of course it is Big oil right?

  2. wilbert robichaud on

    The US government has provided over $79 billion (US only)since 1989 on policies related to climate change, including science and technology research, foreign aid, and tax breaks.Exxon-Mobil Corp is repeatedly attacked for paying a grand total of $23 million to skeptics. less than a thousandth of what the US government has put in, and less than one five-thousandth of the value of carbon trading in just the single year of 2008.”JN

    ” In America “Subsidies to fossil fuels, a mature, developed industry that has enjoyed government support for many years, totaled approximately $72 billion” (from 2002 to 2008)” JH

    weird how the 2 figures are so close together?

    I was reading about Exxon’s 225 millions to Standford University to study how to improve Emissions for internal combustion engines..Baaaad Exxon.

    I have not read J Hoggan’s book but did he mention who he is?

    who is James Hoggan? He’s a public relations man, based in Vancouver. His firm, James Hoggan and Associates, is positioned as a feel-good local operation with clients in all the “right” public and private sectors. He also sits on the board of the David Suzuki Foundation.

    One of his side efforts is a blog operated out of Hoggan and Associates. Funded by retired Internet bubble king John Lefebvre,( the money launderer) the blog has one full-time and three part-time staff. They spend their time tracking down and maliciously attacking all who have doubts about climate change and painting them as corporate pawns.

    James Hoggan’s client list. They include or have included the National Hydrogen Association, Fuel Cells Canada, hydrogen producer QuestAir, Naikun Wind Energy and Ballard Fuel Cells. Mr. Hoggan, in other words, benefits from regulatory policy based on climate change science.

    But it is as a climate commentator that Mr. Hoggan gets carried away. On The Denial Machine, Mr. Hoggan is allowed to go on at some length about how climate skeptics are not true scientists, are not qualified, or have no expertise.

    That takes some gall. Here’s a totally unqualified small-town PR guy making disparaging comments about scientists he says are unqualified while he lectures the rest of us on the science.The David Suzuki Foundation also received donations from EnCana Corporation, a world leader in natural gas production and oil sands development, ATCO Gas, Alberta’s principle distributor of natural gas, and a number of pension funds including the OPG (Ontario Power Generation) Employees’ and Pensioners ‘ Charity Trust. OPG is one of the largest suppliers of electricity in the world operating 5 fossil fuel-burning generation plants and 3 nuclear plants. So Mr Hoggan being the chairman of the DSF and taking money from the Big bad oil lobby is ok with that?

    • Only the people bought out by the oil and gas lobby should be trusted, then? All those thousands of scientists involved in a plot to fabricate science.

      I hear the scientists all vacation at various glaciers, just standing there with hair dryers melting them away.

  3. Douglas Barnes on

    Let me just repeat the most important think Wilbert said: “I have not read J Hoggan’s book…” Again, just to be sure: “I have not read J Hoggan’s book…”

    So you give us a drawn out poison-the-well fallacy about a book you haven’t even read. Oh boy! Just what the world needed!

  4. I think it is time for the government to subsidize new companies that are developing alternative energies. If that is already happening, I would like to hear the details and compare it to the subsidy dollar figure the fossil fuel companies are receiving.

    There are so many negative health effects on people and animals beyond the climate change debate. Why do we have to prove climate change to get money for change? The higher percentage of people/children with cancer asthhma, allergies, mystery diseases, reproductive problems etc should be enough proof that we are playing with fire. Let’s get on to creating a clean healthy earth so we have healthy people that can continue to propagate otherwise I think the cockroaches will be taking over. Ans we will be done with our debate.

  5. The “lack of substance” is on the part of the IPCC and the politicians inventing taxes for a “problem” that doesn’t even exist. The climate changes of its own accord. Whatever the cause, it is NOT transport. The Mediaeval warming period _ended_ five hundred years BEFORE the internal combustion engine was even invented!

      • ” New temperature reconstruction from Indo-Pacific warm pool”

        A new 2,000-year-long reconstruction of sea surface temperatures (SST) from the Indo-Pacific warm pool (IPWP) suggests that temperatures in the region may have been as warm during the Medieval Warm Period as they are today..last time I check the pacific was not in the Northern hemisphere.

  6. I think this book is a good read for anyone interested in the role of public relations firms in redefining the debate on climate change. After reading this book I spotted some of the people mentioned in subsequent ‘news’ stories on tv.

  7. Pingback: Climate Cover-Up: Why I Downloaded It « Green4u’s Weblog

  8. My impression is that global warming isn’t the real concern anymore. It was mostly just an excuse to add taxes onto global populations without really addressing greenhouse gas emissions. The real issue is peak oil but nobody seems to want to talk about that. Making bio-fuels from crops that should be going to feed populaces is a poor solution to an impending problem.

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