Saturday, July 2, 2016
The History of Climate Science Denial and Conservative Think Tanks
Reviewing NC-20 Burton's various claims and researching various strands of his web of deception I came across the following synopsis of a book, "Climate Change Denial Books and Conservative Think Tanks." It's a revealing one stop look at the history of the Right-Wing "Think Tanks" dirty tricks campaign of deception against rational constructive science and learning.
We The People have a Right to hear what scientists have to explain without the constant shrill onslaught of disinformation, lies and malicious slander. Here is a scholarly review of the story behind the erection of a faith-based echo-chamber of fantastical thinking that's become seemingly impervious to hearing anything others are trying to explain.
Currently in the US we are having the scariest elections yet, and I wonder how long will the rational liberal, science appreciating, Earth appreciating crowd continue allowing right wing fanaticism to direct our future? We all need to get out, get informed, get involved. Stand up and object to the right wing's willful disconnect from our planet's realities, and remember to vote in November.
(yeah, yeah, I don't think much of Clinton either but, keeping the Democratic party (which at least accepts serious science and rational dialogue) in the executive office matters most. I mean, think of the alternative, which will happen if more of us don't engage. Can you help?)
Climate Change Denial Books and Conservative Think Tanks
Exploring the Connection
Am Behav Sci. 2013 Jun; 57(6): 699–731.
The conservative movement and especially its think tanks play a critical role in denying the reality and significance of anthropogenic global warming (AGW), especially by manufacturing uncertainty over climate science. Books denying AGW are a crucial means of attacking climate science and scientists, and we examine the links between conservative think tanks (CTTs) and 108 climate change denial books published through 2010.
We find a strong link, albeit noticeably weaker for the growing number of self-published denial books. We also examine the national origins of the books and the academic backgrounds of their authors or editors, finding that with the help of American CTTs climate change denial has spread to several other nations and that an increasing portion of denial books are produced by individuals with no scientific training. It appears that at least 90% of denial books do not undergo peer review, allowing authors or editors to recycle scientifically unfounded claims that are then amplified by the conservative movement, media, and political elites.
Keywords: climate change denial, conservative movement, conservative think tanks, denial books
No sooner had anthropogenic global warming (AGW) been placed on the public agenda, perhaps most effectively by James Hansen’s 1988 congressional testimony, than an organized campaign to deny its reality and significance was launched. The early campaign was centered in corporate America, reflected by the Global Climate Coalition, but from the outset the conservative movement was heavily involved (McCright & Dunlap, 2000).
The formation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 and the emergence of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from the UN’s 1992 “Earth Summit” in Rio generated fears of international action to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels use, fears crystallized by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Consequently, corporate America (especially fossil fuels corporations worried about restrictions on their products) and the U.S. conservative movement (for which opposition to governmental regulations is foundational) joined forces in attacking the scientific evidence for AGW and thus the necessity of reducing carbon emissions—the goal of the Kyoto Protocol.
Both industry and the conservative movement learned during the Reagan administration that frontal attacks on environmental regulations could create a backlash among the public (Dunlap, 1987). Consequently, they gradually shifted to another strategy, promoting “environmental skepticism.” This strategy challenges the scientific evidence for environmental problems and therefore the need for regulations to protect environmental quality (Jacques, 2006; Jacques, Dunlap, & Freeman, 2008).
Their major tactic was and continues to be manufacturing uncertainty (Michaels, 2008; Oreskes & Conway, 2010), constantly asserting that the evidence is not sufficient to warrant regulatory action. Historically these efforts focused on specific problems such as secondhand smoke, acid rain, and ozone depletion, but in the case of AGW they have ballooned into a full-scale assault on the multifaceted field of climate science, the IPCC, scientific organizations endorsing AGW, and even individual scientists (Powell, 2011; Weart, 2011).
With scientific evidence for AGW growing stronger and public awareness of global warming mounting (Nisbet & Meyers, 2007), in the late 1990s portions of corporate America—including some fossil fuels corporations—expressed acceptance both of the reality of AGW and necessity of reducing carbon emissions. Several corporations withdrew from the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), gradually leading to its demise in 2002, and it appeared that industry-funded attacks on the scientific evidence supporting AGW were subsiding (Dunlap & McCright, 2011).
However, the conservative movement seemed dismayed by the corporate “sellout” and stepped up its already substantial efforts to deny the reality of climate change by attacking climate science and scientists (McCright & Dunlap, 2000, 2003). This transition is symbolized by the Cooler Heads Coalition, a coalition largely of conservative think tanks (CTTs) centered in the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), emerging to fill the void created by the GCC. Similarly, the Heartland Institute, a small regional think tank in the 1990s, emerged as a leading force in climate change denial in the past decade (Pooley, 2010).
It now appears that CTTs such as CEI, the Heartland Institute, the CATO Institute, and the Marshall Institute are playing an ever more important role in efforts to deny AGW by attacking climate science. However, it must be noted that besides helping fund these think tanks, many corporations maintain ambivalent positions concerning the necessity of reducing carbon emissions (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2012).
Furthermore, major corporate associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute continue to strongly oppose policies to reduce carbon emissions (Pooley, 2010). Still, although corporations can bring their enormous resources to bear in lobbying against legislation, the conservative movement (especially its think tanks) often takes the lead in manufacturing uncertainty over climate science. Indeed, CTTs offer the ideal vehicle for undermining the credibility of climate science and attacking climate scientists.
CTTs have long been recognized as the crucial organizational base of the conservative movement, functioning as core “social movement organizations” (Jacques et al., 2008). Typically treated by media as credible sources of objective information, CTTs have achieved the status of an “alternate academia,” and it is common to see their representatives interviewed along with or in lieu of leading academics and treated as independent experts on policy-relevant issues.
They employ both in-house and commissioned personnel to produce a vast array of print material (from op-eds to policy briefs to magazine articles to books) as well as make media appearances, provide congressional testimony, give speeches, and so on to promote conservative positions on a wide range of policy issues including environmental protection (McCright & Dunlap, 2000, 2003). CTTs have been credited with having a major impact on U.S. politics and policy making (e.g., Stefanic & Delgado, 1996), influencing such aspects of American life as the conservative tilt of our judicial system (Teles, 2007), tax policies resulting in escalating inequality (Hacker & Pierson, 2007), and the fundamental framing of political debate (Smith, 2007).
It is little wonder then that CTTs have become central actors in climate change policy debates, especially by promoting denial of the reality and significance of AGW and thus the necessity of carbon emission reductions (Dunlap & McCright, 2011; Hoggan, 2009; Lahsen, 2008; McCright & Dunlap, 2000, 2003; Oreskes & Conway, 2010; Powell, 2011). The purpose of this article is to examine in detail one key tool CTTs use to sow skepticism toward AGW throughout the larger society: sponsoring books espousing climate change denial, including those by the small number of contrarian scientists who challenge mainstream climate science.