Climate Cover-Up

Climate Cover-UpI’m sure most of you are familiar with the long-standing deception campaign against global warming.  Although, you may think it’s over–just as Ross Gelbspan did in 2005 and Gwynne Dyer in 2008–but James Hoggan and Richard Littlemore’s Climate Cover-Up tells us it’s now going stronger than ever (at least in terms of funding).  Hoggan is a partner in a Canadian PR firm and, as a co-founder of the Desmogblog.com, he has been digging up dirt on climate deniers since 2005.

Although, I had some understanding of of this “climate cover-up” I liked to think of it as mostly over, too.  It was sobering and frustrating to learn more details about this ongoing campaign and its success in the minds of a majority of the public.  I think as someone fighting for bold climate action it is really helpful to better understand folks fighting against you and how they are organized.  I would definitely recommend the book, especially if you, like me and many others, felt like the climate denial campaign was mostly over.  Read on for more details about the book, my thoughts and links to recent related news.

The writers remind us that “no one seemed to be confused about climate change in 1988,” and in the same year, while running for president, George H. W. Bush said “we will talk about global warming and we will act.”  This, of course, was because oil and other denier funders didn’t start funding their campaign of deception until the mid-1990s.  The book lays out in great detail their campaign plans and tracks the groups that are created including the funding sources, of which Exxon has been one of the main funders.

The authors point out that there is a code of conduct for the PR industry and good PR means first doing the right thing and then being seen doing the right thing, which it sounds like they do in their work.  However, they note that most likely because of the climate and other PR dis-information campaigns, about 80% of the public believe that “PR experts help deceive the public by making environmental performance of companies appear better than it really is.”

They investigate connections between tobacco industry deniers (of the health impacts of tobacco) and the climate deniers.  Some of the people are even the same, such as Steven Milloy of junkscience.com, whose name appears multiple times–click here for more on an event with Milloy at the Heritage Foundation earlier this year.

There is discussion of denier court cases against scientists and leaders including the denier’s court case against Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth in Britain, which was funded by a gravel-pit magnate and was lost, except that the judge added that explanations of 9 points which may have been exaggerated were needed with the showing of the film in schools.  Then the deniers turned this loss into a victory focusing on the 9 points.  Just this weekend, a denier was at it again, getting Al Gore and his denier film in the news because of a question he asked Gore at the Society of Environmental Journalists’ Conference.

In conclusion, they encourage everyone to be critical and to think about the credibility of sources including: where are they getting funding, what is there degree in, and what have they published peer-reviewed papers on?  Find out more about the book and how to purchase it here.

The book doesn’t discuss the nuclear energy industry, which makes sense because they acknowledge global warming and claim that nuclear power is “the solution.”  However, I think it’s important to note that the nuclear industry has a similar history of using PR campaigns to cover-up many of the problems with nuclear industry, and they have even been chastised by the Better Business Bureau and Federal Trade Commission for false claims about the environmental cleanliness of nuclear power.  Even if nuclear energy wasn’t so dirty, dangerous and expensive, just like so-called “clean coal” the timeline for implementation is at least  ten years away, which is much too long.  Nuclear energy has just made it into the Senate Climate Bill.  Help stop these guarantees in the current climate bill.

2 Responses to “Climate Cover-Up”


  1. 1 R Margolis Oct 14th, 2009 at 8:32 am

    Do I read the above correctly that we need to change the grid to low carbon power in less than ten years? We still need practical large scale energy storage in addition to substantial changes to transmission infrastructure. I have not read of any technology that can be constructed so quickly and on such a mass scale. The natural gas boom of the 90s saw a total of 200 GW in about 10 years. Even with efficiency, we would need to replace about 800 GW. I think a 20 year timeframe is doable and that also provides for more options.

    As for nuclear, I am waiting for the FTC and BBB to say similar of the PR for natural gas as they talk the clean green script as well. I have always maintained that nuclear is safer and cleaner than fossil fuels while still providing 24/7 power. That is why I advocate its use.

  2. 2 Media Books Aug 24th, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    I think this book is a good read for anyone interested in the role of public relations firms in redefining the debate on climate change. After reading this book I spotted some of the people mentioned in subsequent ‘news’ stories on tv.

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About Liz


Liz is a North Carolina native who first became involved in college organizing around clean energy.  She cofounded the Energy Action Coalition (EAC) in 2004 and was involved in the youth climate movement through 2008 including helping to start the international youth climate blog: www.itsgettinghotinhere.org and co-chairing of the EAC Steering Committee from 2006-2008.  She directed the Southern Energy Network, a founding member of EAC, from 2006-09. She has collaborated with a number of community, state, regional and national organizations on fighting new dirty energy facilities and promoting cleaner energy alternatives.  Through her work she became more interested in broader social justice issues, and her involvement with social justice in Knoxville connected her with the Highlander Research and Education Center, where she has been a board member since 2008 (www.highlandercenter.org). Currently, she is pursuing a masters degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon, but she hopes to soon return to the South. During the summer of 2013, she co-taught the Cycle the Rockies course with the Wild Rockies Field Institute (http://www.wrfi.net).

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