By David L. Brown
We’ve railed for several years about the support of anti-global warming activists by self-interested corporations. Now, according to an article on Scientific American’s web site, here, there’s a new champion handing out money to shills for the energy companies that want to keep the Earth on the greenhouse gas merry-go-round.
The new villain in this tragedy is Koch Industries of Wichita, KS, which has surpassed even the mighty ExxonMobil as a source of funding for climate change deniers. The source of the news story is a report produced by the environmental organization Greenpeace. According to SciAm:
Koch subsidiaries own refineries, oil pipelines, fertilizer facilities, coal and cement transportation systems, and other industrial operations. The company also has several foundations through which it gave $24.9 million to conservative groups between 2005 and 2008, the report says.
“The combination of foundation-funded front-groups, big lobbying budgets, [political action committee] donations, and direct campaign contributions makes Koch Industries and the Koch brothers among the most formidable obstacles to advancing clean energy and climate policy in the U.S.,” Greenpeace says.
The energy conglomerate, which is 84 percent owned by brothers Charles and David Koch, helps support activities by individual purveyors of “junk science” and such conservative think tanks as the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute.
Anti-climate change is an insidious endeavor that attempts to spread misinformation by picking at small details, many of them of no consequence or even non-existent, as illustrated here:
Climate scientists are ill-prepared to defend their work against this kind of attack. They work through a system of peer review, which means their ideas and data are evaluated by experts in their field, rather than by public opinion. Unfortunately, the press and the general public are pretty much unaware of how science works, and it seems perfectly natural to the average Joe Sixpack that any talking head on TV or even just some guy in a bar can have a say in the evaluation of scientific work. In fact, as I pointed out in my essay “Science, Propaganda and Climate Change,” here, the anti-climate change activities are classic examples of the kind of deliberate misleading of the public that was practiced by the regimes of Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Lenin, and Mao Zedong.
The parallel with anti-evolutionary activity such as so-called “intelligent design” is apparent, but in that case the efforts to discredit science are based on the mistaken religious belief that evolution somehow invalidates their perception of a supernatural power. (Doesn’t it ever occur to them that if there were an all-powerful deity, evolution would logically be the method through which that deity works?)
No, the program of anti-climate change agitation is clearly based not on faith but on personal or corporate greed. In the case of those who work and spend millions to confuse the issue of greenhouse gas warming, the only apparent motivation is to allow themselves to continue to profit from the “development” and use of fossil fuels. Take away the profit, and there would be no incentive to make up stories and spread lies to muddle the issue.
The Koch Brothers obviously have every profit incentive to prevent the world from reducing emissions of greenhouse gas, and they are putting their money where their interests lie. According to the SciAm report, Koch Industries has supported misinformation campaigns purporting to prove that polar bears are not threatened; encouraged suspicions that climate scientists cherry-pick data and suppress findings that don’t suggest global warming is taking place; and financed studies that “misinform the public on renewable energy benefits.”
I find it ironic that the deniers, whose motivation is to make money from continued fossil fuel use, criticize those who push for alternative sources such as wind and solar power as greedy profiteers. This is a classic tactic well-known to Nicolai Machiavelli, Joseph Goebbels, and Saul Alinsky. There is an old saying about pots and kettles, but in this case perhaps the kettle isn’t even black, only the pot.
Will the confusion about global warming ever come to an end? Yes, it will, for nothing can go on forever. Unfortunately, this mess will probably come to a conclusion either when there is no more money to be made from exploiting fossil fuels, or when the Earth can no longer support industrial civilization. These two conditions are not mutually exclusive, and the final scenario could include both factors.
As to the odds in favor of dramatic action by governments around the world to turn the tide against global warming, I can only suggest that the power of greed is mighty and the love of money and power is a sickness more terrible than any mere disease.