ppi.005-RACHEL’S WEEKLY: Global Warming & Disinformation


Richard Moore

      ppi.005-RACHEL'S WEEKLY: Global Warming & Disinformation
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From: "Carolyn Ballard" <•••@••.•••>
To: <•••@••.•••>
Date: Tue, 5 May 1998

From: Peter Montague <•••@••.•••>
To: •••@••.•••
Date: Tuesday, May 05, 1998 5:02 PM

=======================Electronic Edition========================
.                                                               .
.           RACHEL'S ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH WEEKLY #596           .
.                     ---April 30, 1998---                      .
.                          HEADLINES:                           .
.                 A NEW DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN                 .
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A new study concludes that this has been the warmest century in
600 years, and that the hottest years during this century have
been 1990, 1995, and 1997.[1,2]  This is further evidence that
global warming is upon us, and that humans are contributing to it
by burning coal and oil. (See REHW #430, #466.) "Our conclusion
was that the warming of the past few decades appears to be
closely tied to emission of greenhouse gases by humans and not
[by] any of the natural factors," say Michael E. Mann, principal
author of the new study.[1]

The global temperature varies as time passes because of natural
changes in sunlight reaching the Earth, dust from volcanoes
(which reflects sunlight back into space), and changing amounts
of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

So-called greenhouse gases (mainly carbon dioxide [CO2], but also
methane and a few others that are less important) allow sunlight
to strike the Earth but don't allow heat to escape back into
space as readily, thus trapping heat near the surface, just as
the glass roof on a greenhouse does.  Scientists have recognized
the existence of this "greenhouse effect" for about 100 years and
they know that, sooner or later, increasing the amount of
"greenhouse gases" in the atmosphere must warm the planet.  Thus
scientists don't debate whether greenhouse gases will cause
global warming.  They debate when it will be noticeable, how big
the warming will be, and what its consequences might be.

During the past 100 years, humans burning coal and oil have
increased the atmosphere's concentration of carbon dioxide [CO2]
--the main greenhouse gas --by 25%, and the concentration is
still rising.

Actual temperature measurements only go back about 150 years, so
temperatures earlier than that must be inferred from tree rings,
corals and fossils in the oceans, deposits left by glaciers, the
chemical composition of ancient ice at the poles, and fossilized
pollen found in lake sediments.  The new study, published in the
British journal NATURE, uses many of these techniques to
reconstruct the Earth's temperature back to the year 1400 A.D.[2]

The new study bolsters the consensus reached in 1996 by an
overwhelming majority of the world's climatologists, that (a)
global warming is probably noticeable now; and (b) human
activities are probably contributing to the rise in the planet's
average temperature.  That consensus conclusion was published in
the second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC),[3] which is an office of the United
Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological

For their part, the coal and oil corporations are not taking this
scientific consensus lying down.  They are fighting back with a
multi-million dollar public relations plan that was recently
leaked to the NEW YORK TIMES.[4]  These corporations stand to
lose by the global climate-change agreement reached last December
11 in Kyoto, Japan.  The Kyoto agreement binds the U.S. to reduce
its carbon dioxide emissions to 7% below 1990 levels by the
period 2008-2012.  For a country like the U.S., which has
steadily rising emissions, the Kyoto agreement will require cuts
as great as 30% to 35% below where emissions would otherwise be
by the year 2012. (See REHW #577.)

In an attempt to undermine the Kyoto agreement, the energy
corporations plan "to recruit a cadre of scientists who share the
industry's views of climate science and to train them in public
relations so they can help convince journalists, politicians, and
the public that the risk of global warming is too uncertain to
justify controls on greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that
trap the sun's heat near Earth."[4]  The plan is being
spearheaded by Joe Walker, a public relations representative of
the American Petroleum Institute.

The scientific talent for the public relations campaign is being
recruited by Frederick Seitz, who is a physicist, not a
climatologist, but who has an impressive scientific resume as
former president of the American Physical Society, former
president of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and
president emeritus of Rockefeller University. Dr. Seitz is also
distinguished by being one of the last remaining scientists who
insist that humans have not altered the stratospheric ozone
layer, despite an overwhelming body of evidence to the contrary.
He is currently associated with two libertarian think tanks, the
George C. Marshall Institute and the Advancement of Sound Science
Coalition (see www.marshall.org, www.tassc.org, and

Dr. Seitz injected himself into the climate debate forcefully by
attacking the IPCC just days after publication of the IPCC's
consensus conclusion that humans were probably contributing to
global warming. Writing in the WALL STREET JOURNAL June 12, 1996,
Dr. Seitz called the IPCC report a "major deception on global
warming." He accused IPCC scientists of the most "disturbing
corruption of the peer-review process" that he had ever
witnessed. And he accused one particular scientist, Benjamin
Santer, of having made "unauthorized changes" to the IPCC report
for political purposes. It turned out that Seitz had not attended
any of the IPCC meetings, and he had not contacted Santer to find
out whether the changes to the IPCC document were "authorized" or
not. It also turned out that all of Seitz's charges were wrong
--the IPCC report had been peer-reviewed by roughly one thousand
qualified scientists and all of the writing in the final report
was fully authorized.[5]

Dr. Seitz and his associates at the George C. Marshall Institute
are now preparing to release a petition that they reportedly sent
to "virtually every scientist in every field" in the U.S.[6]
There are 10 million people with undergraduate degrees in science
in the U.S., and half a million with science Ph.D.s.  Of these,
15,000 science graduates and 6000 with Ph.D. degrees have
reportedly signed the petition, which rejects the Kyoto agreement
and argues that increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere will benefit the planet.  The mass mailing to
scientists included a copy of an article formatted to look as if
it had been published in the prestigious, peer-reviewed journal
The article, which had been neither peer-reviewed nor published,
argued that the release of more carbon dioxide "will help to
maintain and improve the health, longevity, prosperity, and
productivity of all people."  The Union of Concerned Scientists
(www.ucsusa.org) has branded the exercise "a deliberate attempt
to deceive the scientific community with misinformation on the
subject of climate change."

According to the NEW YORK TIMES, the energy corporations plan to
spend $5 million over the next two years to "maximize the impact
of scientific views consistent with ours on Congress, the media,
and other key audiences."  Their plan calls for spending $600,000
(not including costs of advertising) on a media campaign to
influence science writers, editors, columnists, and TV network
correspondents using as many as 20 "respected climate scientists"
recruited specifically "to inject credible science and scientific
accountability into the climate science debate, thereby raising
questions about and undercutting the 'prevailing scientific
wisdom.'"  The energy corporations say they intend to provide "a
one-stop resource for members of Congress, the media industry,
and all others concerned."

This latest plan to "educate" Americans about global warming will
be paid for by Exxon, Chevron, and other supporters of the
American Petroleum Institute.  Previous similar attempts in
recent years have been funded by Exxon, Shell Oil, Unocal, ARCO,
the British Coal Corporation, the German Coal Mining Association,
and Cyprus Minerals, a western mining company that is the single
biggest funder of the so-called Wise Use anti-environmental
movement in the U.S.[7]

Who knows?  With enough money, it may be possible to convince
Congress and the media that global warming is not happening,
despite the evidence, which is considerable (see REHW #430, #466):

** Average global air temperatures have risen this century.

** The oceans have warmed this century;

** The level of the oceans has been rising this century because
water expands as it warms;

** Many glaciers have shrunk this century in response to warming;

** Plants are moving upward on mountainsides as temperatures rise;

** Rainfall --particularly torrential rainfall --has been
increasing this century as global warming has put more water
vapor into the air;

** Floods are increasing because of more rainfall;

** In England, where climatic records reach back several hundred
years, spring has been arriving earlier in recent decades;

** The IPCC and the World Health Organization say that global
warming is expanding the range of mosquitoes that carry malaria,
yellow fever, and dengue fever, a trend that will put millions of
additional humans at risk from these diseases. (See REHW #466.)

** Computer models predict that global warming will be
accompanied by more storms and more intense storms, and, in fact,
this has been happening. To protect itself the U.S. insurance
industry in 1996 stopped insuring certain storm-prone areas on
the eastern seaboard and along the Gulf coast.[8]

Already severe storms are hurting people in California, Alabama,
the upper midwest, and New England, to mention only U.S.
locations where extreme weather events have struck in recent
months.  Real people are suffering.  Affected individuals, and
all taxpayers, are paying large costs.  If the world scientific
consensus is correct, this will continue until our use of coal
and oil is cut by 60% or 70% and the atmosphere can stabilize
again.  At present there is no possibility --none--of achieving
such drastic cuts because the oil and coal companies are too

Global warming is the most important problem we face because it
has the potential to disrupt every part of the global ecosystem.
It is also the most important because it promises to reveal the
fundamental flaws in the permissive way we treat corporations:
(1) we give them the free-speech protections of the Bill of
Rights, allowing them to spend millions on disinformation
campaigns aimed at maintaining a harmful status quo.  And (2) we
allow them to manipulate our most basic democratic institutions
by pumping millions of dollars into election campaigns.  It seems
clear that if we are to solve the global warming problem, these
two practices will have to change.
                                                --Peter Montague
                (National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)

[1] William K. Stevens, "New Evidence Finds This is the Warmest
Century in 600 years," NEW YORK TIMES April 28, 1998, pg. C3.

[2] Michael E. Mann and others, "Global-scale temperature
patterns and climate forcing over the past six centuries," NATURE
Vol. 392 (April 23, 1998), pgs. 779-787.  See also, Gabriele
Hegerl, "The past as a guide to the future," NATURE Vol. 392
(April 23, 1998), pgs. 758-759.

[3] J.J. Houghton and others, editors, CLIMATE CHANGE 1995: THE
SCIENCE OF CLIMATE CHANGE (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University
Press, 1996).

[4] John H. Cushman, Jr., "Industrial Group Plans to Battle
Climate Treaty," NEW YORK TIMES April 26, 1998, pgs. A1, A24.

[5] Paul N. Edwards and Stephen H. Schneider, "The 1995 IPCC
Report: Broad Consensus or 'Scientific Cleansing,'
ECOFABLES/ECOSCIENCE No. 1 (Fall 1997), pgs. 3-9.
ECOFABLES/ECOSCIENCE is published by the Center for Conservation
Biology, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University,
Stanford, CA  94305-5020.  E-mail: •••@••.•••;
telephone (415) 723-5924; fax: (415) 723-5920.

[6] Colin Macilwain, "Petition strengthens hand of global warming
skeptics," NATURE Vol. 392 (April 16, 1998), pg. 639.

[7] Ross Gelbspan, "Hot Air on Global Warming; Science and
Academia in the Service of the Fossil Fuel Industry,"
MULTINATIONAL MONITOR Vol. 18, No. 11 (November 1997), pgs. 14-17.

[8] Joseph B. Treaster, "Insurer Curbing Sales of Policies in
Storm Areas," NEW YORK TIMES October 10, 1996, pgs. A1, D6.

Descriptor terms:  global warming; greenhouse effect;
corporations; kyoto; insurance industry; libertarians; think
tanks; ipcc;

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                  "Seeking an Effective Democratic
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