'Climategate' and the industry of denial

Forget it.

Forget that we're about to complete the hottest decade ever recorded and that 2009 is likely to be the fifth-hottest year ever recorded.

Forget that the largest iceberg seen in a century is now heading for Australia*.

Forget that University of Pennsylvania scientists just reported a rise in sea level on our own coast.

Forget that fishermen have gone to Washington to warn of massive "scary" changes in the oceans' acidity that are destroying sea creatures.

Forget that so-called 'permanent' Arctic ice is disappearing, not expanding as previously believed.

Forget all these and turn your attention instead to the all-consuming issue of scientists' emails revealing that they're capable of petty, vindictive behavior toward other scientists and scientist-wannabes.

Because in the logic of the climate-change denialists, that one potential fact somehow negates everything just mentioned above - as well as the thousands of studies done by climate scientists worldwide that incontrovertibly underscore the exact same changes and trends. Yes, "hide the decline" trickster Phil Jones not only had a hand in faking all of those studies, but also apparently controls the air and the seas!

As expected, important news out of Copenhagen has had to try to elbow its way through the manufactured fog of 'Climategate,' and that's hardly due to random coincidence. In fact, James Hoggan has chronicled how fossil-fueled PR campaigns for most of the last two decades succeed in deliberately polluting the public conversation on climate change, pumping out willful disinformation that requires "debate" - a junk-science version of swiftboating.

A longtime veteran of the world of corporate PR, Hoggan is well-qualified to identify and catalog the media strategies used to keep the smoke thick - and keep regulation at bay. His book with Richard Littlemore, Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming,  came out this fall, before the perfectly-timed release of the stolen emails, but it documents how the climate-change-denial movement was turned into a viable industry by self-interest groups. Confusion has been persistently and  intentionally sown in the public mind by well-organized efforts documented by Hoggan, efforts that mirror the current tempest in a teabag.

I talked to Hoggan, who has read al of them, about how the emails are being spun by a mob of bloggers and op-ed and how they've been fluffed up into "controversies." And of course he's not the least surprised by the stunt's timing, or by the speed with which the "revelations" in the emails spread. Here's the audio (MP3, 8 MB) of that conversation.

While the obvious goal of sabotaging Copenhagen may well be achieved, and has certainly already occurred in terms of mainstream press coverage, the facts continue to pile up day by day and, sadly, continue to bear out the scientific consensus. It's unquestionable that truth will prevail; the question is whether the public befuddlement so triumphantly wrought by the denial industry will last right up until it's too late.

UPDATE 12/14: An exhaustive review by The Associated Press finds that the contents of the stolen emails "don't support claims that the science of global warming was faked," in other words, there is "no evidence of falsification or fabrication of data." It's grimly humorous that the AP felt it necessary to do an exhaustive review, and even more so that this finding by objective journalists will mean nothing to the so-called skeptics. By their circular logic (to term it charitably), no journalist or scientist can be trusted, because they keep reporting the wrong facts. And the AP, in particular, is obviously part of the sinister global cabal (including almost every credentialed climate scientist on earth) that's trying to take away rich people's toys, since it was that selfsame journalistic organization that commissioned a blind study finding there was, in reality, no "decline" to "hide" after all.

* UPDATE 12/15: Helpful commenter "tr88" points us to this 2005 story from USA Today indicating that Popular Science misstated the Australian iceberg's relative size. A larger one was apparently seen in 1956, so this would only be the largest iceberg seen in half a century. Phew! Looks like everything's OK, then.



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