At CDN we are reluctant to take vacations for fear that everything will fall apart in our absence proving we should not have gone or, worse, nobody will miss us proving we should not have come back. This time it was the former: While we were away the BBC unmasked the great conspiracy to deny climate change of which hostile commentators frequently claim we are a well-paid part. And what really stands out isn’t the breathless tone of “The audacious PR plot that seeded doubt about climate change” but the feebleness of their claim that somehow a minor group with a tiny budget that folded two decades ago deviously out-argued the united voice and billions in funding from governments worldwide backed by a supposedly authoritative “settled science” consensus to boot. As with the claim that the climate itself is so fragile that some minor perturbation will send it spiraling downward to catastrophe, it shows that the alarmist case is so feeble that many of them retreat into comforting conspiracy theories rather than confront their own lapses in logic and evidence.
What the BBC supposedly blew the lid off was an outfit called the Global Climate Coalition that had a budget of roughly $500,000 and dissolved amid infighting and bad publicity back in 2001. To the rational, it’s clear that their influence on the debate was minimal. But to the paranoid, of course, the capacity of this small group of plotters with minimal resources to continue confounding the literally tens of billions of dollars governments spend promoting climate alarmism every year from well beyond the grave just proves how clever they are.
Thus some Dan Brown wannabe at the BBC breathlessly details “a bold plan… cooked up to spread doubt and persuade the public that climate change was not a problem” in a “little-known meeting – between some of America’s biggest industrial players and a PR genius” that “forged a devastatingly successful strategy that endured for years, and the consequences of which are all around us.” Apparently the GCC was founded in 1989 by a cabal of corporate malefactors that represented “oil, coal, auto, utilities, steel, and rail industries”, like some Monopoly game gone bad. But for three years it did little or nothing even though, to hear alarmists tell it, the corporations knew way back then that they were setting the planet on fire while they and their kids and grandkids were sitting on it, but didn’t care because they were as stupid as they were evil.
Then we got Rio and Al Gore as Veep, so the GCC hired a PR consultant the Joker might have approved of, one who had previously “worked for the chemical industry discrediting research on the toxicity of pesticides; for the tobacco industry, and had recently run a campaign against tougher emissions standards for the big car makers”. And somehow this person ran circles around all the committed idealists and giant outfits like Greenpeace; as one “environmental campaigner” whined, “The Global Climate Coalition is seeding doubt everywhere, fogging the air… And environmentalists really don’t know what’s hitting them. What the geniuses of the PR firms who work for these big fossil fuel companies know is that truth has nothing to do with who wins the argument. If you say something enough times, people will begin to believe it.”
So much for free speech and an open society, then. Although we might point out that if you say all the polar bears and coral reefs are dead or dying enough times, people will stop believing it if it turns out to be wrong. And indeed those claims have been repeated ad nauseam, far more often, more loudly and with more lavish funding than the GCC’s arguments or our own. And yet many people don’t believe either. Why not? Because they’re not true.
It doesn’t help that the BBC also quoted the aforementioned Al Gore that “I think it’s the moral equivalent of a war crime. I think it is, in many ways, the most serious crime of the post-World War Two era, anywhere in the world. The consequences of what they’ve done [the oil companies] are just almost unimaginable.” Yet for some reason it didn’t mention that in 2012 Gore sold his Current TV to Qatar oil-sheik-funded Al Jazeera for about $100 million, 200 times the GCC budget, cashing in on the war crime with a satisfied smile. Or tell readers that the GCC dissolved in a welter of bad publicity in 2001. Or analyze the failure of all those idealists out there with all that money and the settled science on their side to outargue a sinister petroleum-smeared lying denialist corpse. They must be pretty incompetent.
P.S. One lesson we should take from this story is that, when you have the facts on your side, a small investment in getting the message out has enormous payoffs in changing minds, even in the face of seemingly infinite resources on the other side. So please keep making support pledges and we’ll keep making videos and newsletters, and maybe in 20 years the BBC will make a video lamenting you and all the other CDN supporters who were in on the sinister evil genius plot.
P.P.S. Speaking of settled science, a leading French physicist really did just admit that his much-retweeted vivid photo of the star Proxima Centauri was actually a slice of chorizo. He did it to demonstrate that we should “learn to be wary of the arguments from positions of authority as much as the spontaneous eloquence of certain images.” Which apparently irritated rather than enlightening people.