By David L. Brown
We have discussed before the subject of how various entities may have colluded to distort the facts relating to climate change. In the past, NASA has been caught out attempting to muzzle its premiere climatologist, James Hansen. Recently we wrote about how ExxonMobil has spent millions of dollars supporting think tanks and so-called experts that have published documents of denial. There is a nasty smell of cover-up in the air.
Not long ago I met a man who has been deeply involved in the American black arts of espionage, one obviously well connected at a high level in the Pentagon and probably acting as one of myriads of tentacles in the CIA’s global octopus. He told me something that has stuck in my mind ever since, describing what he called “the three principles of cover and deception.” They are simple: 1. Illusion; 2. Misdirection; and 3. Ridicule.
“What does it mean to learn that those same techniques of counter-espionage and propaganda are now being used against the American people by our own government…“
These methods may seem familiar, because we have seen these very same tried-and-true tools of the counter-espionage community at work in the area of climate change. Now there is new evidence, and full damning it is. A new study described in the report Atmosphere of Pressure: Political Interference in Federal Climate Science, issued by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in conjunction with the Government Accountability Project (GAP), concludes that “political interference in climate science is no longer a series of isolated incidents but a system-wide epidemic.”
That statement was made by Dr. Francesca Grifo, director of the UCS Scientific Integrity Program. She added: “Tailoring scientific fact for political purposes has become a problem across many federal science agencies.”
According to a UCS news release (read it here), “The report, which includes a survey of hundreds of federal scientists at seven federal agencies and dozens of in-depth interviews, documents a high regard for climate change research but broad interference in communicating scientific results.”
For its part of the study UCS sent questionnaires to 1600 climate researchers inquiring about “the state of federal climate research.” The responses from scientists working in federal programs revealed numerous examples of bureaucratic meddling in the scientific process:
- Reports of experiences involving at least 435 occurrences of “political interference in their work” during the past five years;
- Nearly one-half (46 percent) of those responding “perceived or personally experienced pressure to eliminate the words ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming,’ or other similar terms from a variety of communications;”
- Forty-three percent reported they had seen or personally experienced “changes or edits during review of their work that changed the meaning of their scientific findings;”
- And, perhaps even more significant, nearly one-half of the scientists saw or personally experienced the enforcement of “new or unusual administrative requirements that impair climate-related work.
The news release adds: “In contrast, scientists at the independent but federally-funded National Center for Atmospheric Research, who are not federal employees, reported far fewer instances of interference.”
As the UCS conducted its survey, GAP produced a parallel set of data for the study based on in-depth interviews with 40 climate scientists and a review of 2,000 agency documents. GAP reached similar conclusions, reporting “that agency media policies often unnecessarily hinder scientists’ interaction with the media rather than facilitate public dissemination of their research,” according to the joint news release. “For instance, Dr. Drew Shindell, an ozone specialist and NASA climatologist, submitted a press release to announce the publication of a paper on climate change. Press officers significantly watered down language that described his findings, and the new research received little notice by the media.”
Commenting on the report, an editorial in New Scientist magazine called the apparent suppression of climate change by the U.S. government “dirty tricks,” a term that reminds me of the Watergate scandal that brought down the Nixon administration. In fact, the cover-up of the true climate change story may figure far more significantly in future histories, where I suspect the Watergate affair will fade into footnote obscurity. In this instance, possibly at stake is the very future of our civilization if cutting-edge climate scientists are correct.
To give you the flavor of the kind of interference that climate researchers have experienced, here is an example from the UCS report, as quoted in the New Scientist editorial:
In September 2004 Thomas Knutson, a climate modeler at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, published a paper suggesting that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide would lead to more intense hurricanes. Ten months later, when further research supported this link, Knutson was invited to comment by a TV station. Before he could appear, however, a NOAA press officer informed him that his slot had been canceled, because “the White House said no”. All further media inquiries were routed to a researcher who contested the link between hurricane intensity and global warming.
Commented the author of the New Scientist editorial:
Such tricks are reminiscent of those used by Big Tobacco to obfuscate the dangers of smoking, and of George Orwell’s Newspeak, the language he created in his novel 1984, which prevented anyone from discussing issues prohibited by the Ministry of Truth. They are not what you expect from a democratic government that spends $3 billion a year on climate change research. It poses the question, why spend the money in the first place?
We all know that governments take scientific findings and use them or ignore them according to their ideological goals. But what is happening here is different: the scientific findings themselves are being manipulated in a cynical attempt to perpetuate ignorance and misunderstanding. US policy makers and the public have a right to know what their scientists have discovered. Without that information, they cannot make realistic plans for a future that may well be radically altered by climate change.
What damage might this apparently deliberate and organized effort to suppress and distort information about climate change have wrought? It could be considerable. The editorial quoted above concluded with these words: “The Bush administration has made clear that it does not follow a “reality-based” agenda. Portraying a distorted view of climate change may have served it well in the short term. But the laws of physics and chemistry that govern climate change cannot be eluded for ever. They are ultimate arbiters of reality, and ignoring them will serve nobody well in the long term.”
Let’s return now to those three principles of cover and deception that I mentioned at the beginning of this essay. We see them all in play in what has been revealed to be an on-going program by members of our federal government to marginalize and misdirect public understanding of the challenges of climate change.
As a single example, hardly a day goes by that we don’t see an attempt to discredit the reality of global warming by the example of some unusual cold snap. This demonstrates the use of both Illusion and Misdirection, for it sets up the straw man assumption that “global warming” means that every place on the planet will be warmer, all the time. Of course, that is far from the truth, and in fact global warming instead results in changes in climate patterns. Some places grow warmer, some much warmer, as others become colder. And, a key point is that the temperature in a certain place on a certain day is totally irrelevant with no scientific meaning whatsoever.
Real climate changes are obvious should one wish to see them, things like the melting Arctic ice cap that is driving the polar bear to the brink of extinction…thawing tundra and flooding in Alaska where a total meltdown is imminent…the potential breakup of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets…increases in the numbers and severity of storms around the world…and record flooding in some areas as others experience devastating drought.
And almost everywhere we turn we also see that final element of cover and deception, Ridicule, in mindless editorial cartoons, ignorant wiseacre cracks by such self-anointed geniuses as Jay Leno and Jon Stewart, and unceasing scurrilous attacks on Al Gore that accuse him of everything from grandstanding to mental illness. Here is an example, the kind of thing you see every day in our media:
Cover and deception techniques were developed to help our nation against its enemies during previous wars, notably WWII and the Cold War, the histories of which contain many examples of the application of these methods. But what does it mean to learn that those same techniques of counter-espionage and propaganda are now being used against the American people by our own government, perhaps to the benefit of corporate entities such as ExxonMobil, the Big Three automakers, and polluting power plant operators? Similarly the developing ethanol and biofuels scandals (and if ever there was an example of Illusion this is it) is nothing more than a thinly disguised and ill considered handout to farmers and agri-business that flies in the face of responsible intentions to develop sustainable energy sources.
If Watergate was sufficient to bring down a President, this outrage should be enough to condemn not only the present Administration, but the whole teetering house of cards in our nation’s capital, including multiple levels of bureaucracy, Congress on both sides of the aisle and the mainstream media. If what is alleged by the UCS-GAP study is even remotely true, almost no individual in any of those fields should be exempt from a share of the blame, because those multitudes who have remained silent are as culpable as those who directly performed acts of illusion, misdirection and ridicule to keep Americans in a state of uncertainty and confusion about the scientific facts of climate change.
Stand up and take a bow, Al Gore, for you are the one shining example upon whom no blame shall be placed. And your lone voice is being heard, because despite all the efforts that big business and our government “leaders” and administrators have devoted to convincing Americans that there is nothing to worry about, a strong majority of us now believe that global warming is real. Driven by forces such as the UCS and GAP, independent scientists, and a growing cadre of ordinary people speaking out for the preservation of our planet, the momentum on climate change issues is moving in the right direction. Truly, Al, the “force” of scientific integrity is with you. Keep fighting the good fight, and never forget that tried and true maxim, “Illigetimi Non Carborundum.” Go Al, go. (And, Go George…please!)