May 26th, 2020

Climate denial: a new strategy

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on November 30, 2019.

What a surprise! The annual emissions report by the United Nations is now out, and greenhouse gas emissions are still going up 30 years after we first realized there was a problem with the climate. In fact, they have gone up 15 per cent in the past 10 years. So much for the promises of “early and deep cuts” in emissions to avoid catastrophic heating.

Governments have been making these promises since the early 1990s, and they are never kept because the political pressures are far stronger from those who profit in the present – the fossil-fuel industries and the automobile, shipping and aviation industries – than from those who are merely frightened for their children’s future.

The industries are well organized, have lots of money to spend, and focus tightly on stopping changes that threaten their business model. Private citizens are less organized, have far fewer resources, and have many competing demands on their attention. Inevitably, the industries succeed in sabotaging most attempts to cut emissions.

For a long time, the main strategy of the industries was denial. At first they denied outright that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions were changing the climate. Never mind the science: just listen to this other guy in a white coat who says that it isn’t happening.

That worked for a while, and the initial rapid response to the climate change threat lost speed through the later ’90s. Flat denial became increasingly untenable in the early 21st century, however, and the emphasis of the deniers shifted to spreading doubt. The climate is always changing; lots of scientists don’t believe that the warming is caused by human activities; the jury is still out.

Those lies worked for another 15 years, but gradually the real scientists realized that they had to organize, too. There is now no government in the world (except the United States) that still goes along with the denialism. Every major international body has accepted the evidence that climate change is actually happening and that we are the cause.

Time for another change of strategy by the fossil fuel industries and their allies, then. If they can no longer hope to discredit the science or confuse the public about the evidence, maybe they can at least deflect and divert the pressure for effective action on climate change on to targets that do not directly threaten the sales of their products.

That’s where we are now, and it was Dr. Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Pennsylvania State University and director of the Earth System Science Center, who first spotted the new strategy of the fossil-fuel industry’s shills.

“There is an attempt being made by them to deflect attention away from finding policy solutions for global warming towards promoting individual behaviour changes that affect people’s diets, travel choices and other personal behaviour,” he told The Observer newspaper early this month. “This is a deflection campaign, and a lot of well-meaning people have been taken in by it.”

What gives the deflectors credibility is that they seem to be on the side of the angels. They’re not denying that climate change is real; they just want you to use your bike more, eat less meat, and recycle your waste. What could be wrong with that?

Nothing, of course. You should be doing all those things: it’s a necessary part of the solution. But they want you to do that INSTEAD of campaigning (or at least voting) for action that directly targets fossil-fuel use. If you feel that you’re already doing your bit in the climate emergency by changing your personal behaviour, then the pressure is off them.

They also encourage “doomism”: the notion that it’s too late in the game to do anything useful about climate change. “This leads people down a path of despair and hopelessness and finally inaction, which actually leads us to the same place as outright climate-change denialism,” said Mann.

It really is quite late in the game. We would have to cut global emissions by seven per cent a year (instead of increasing them by 1.5 per cent annually) to avoid breaching the never-exceed limit of two degrees C higher average global temperature. That’s far beyond what we have ever done before, so there is considerable justification for pessimism.

However, pessimism is a luxury we cannot afford. We have to keep working away at the task, because every cut we make in emissions, however inadequate, gives us a little more time to deal with the rest of the problem.

The “deflect, divert, distract” campaign is often hard to distinguish from genuine attempts to change people’s lifestyles in positive ways, and frankly there’s no point in trying. Just do what they’re advocating (bikes, meat, recycling, etc.) and remember to do the hard political and legal work of eliminating fossil fuel use too.

Simple to say, hard to do.

Gwynne Dyer’s new book is “Growing Pains: The Future of Democracy (and Work).”

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13 Responses to “Climate denial: a new strategy”

  1. George McCrea says:

    An opinion offered with an attitude usually means a weak factual base. And when the true believers start calling out “heretic, unnclean and denier” it’s a sign that the end is near. These cults are always craziest right before they collapse completely.

  2. Dr. Dyer makes his living selling stories to the mainstream media. Climate catastrophe seems to be what the media buys and sells. When will humanity look up from the propaganda, check the science, and realize the modest increase in atmospheric CO2 from fossil fuels is having little, if any, discernible effect on climate? Hopefully the end of nonsensical climate news is nigh, as George senses.

  3. Fescue says:

    Pssst, boys, I think he’s talking about you.

    Deny, deflect, divert, distract – anything but d’ science, pleeeez!

  4. Pete says:

    Right on Fescue!

  5. Homepage says:

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  6. semantics99 says: Learn the Truth about the Climate Change Lie

  7. diplomacy works says:

    Proof positive the editors at Lethbridge Herald have a sense of humour.

    Publishing Gwynne Dyer’s excellent column right beside Mr. Alvin W. Shier’s climate denial-ism.

    Say, is Alvin related to that other Conservative Scheer?

  8. Resolute says:

    So Mr Dyer sold his soul to the socialist powers pushing the green conspiracy theory as a means to enslave the masses. Surprise! Yes, I hear our chicken little media and UN leaders bowing down to the rants of a troubled girl child. Our elected politicians and unelected bureaucracy self-proclaiming to be climate scientists – to burn our tax dollars by funding politically correct but unscientific “climate research” and to attack everyone expecting real data, critical thinking and accountability. Stigmatizing, protesting, obstructing and funding illegal campaigns that to date have destroyed, just in Canada, hundreds of thousands of jobs in the coal, oil, gas, power, construction, agriculture, engineering, geoscience, transportation, medical and education fields. And taken away initiatives to bring power, clean water and medical support to African nations and other developing areas. I see them wasting carbon-based resources in unprecedented quantities to fly multitudes of bureaucrats and self-important celebrities to anti-human eco-fests in hi-dollar Paris, Montreal venues. All the participants proving their espoused eco conservation intents to be bald lies as they do not walk the talk. Do not drink his 2nd hand koolaid. Free yourself by thinking for yourself. Expect hard scientific evidence. Science based on honest repeatable tests, not guilt shaming derived consensus. What you do is important. Your principles and intelligence must direct your actions. Choose not to be a zombie.

    • Fescue says:

      Keep fiddling, Nero.

    • McKnight says:

      I did choose to not be a Zombie.
      Which is why when folks like you post a rambling manifesto with no actual facts to back up your conspiracy theories…I immediately go looking for people that actually use their brains.
      Gwynne Dyer never sold out by the way: I have been reading his work from the beginning.
      His work has EVOLVED. Why? Becauase his area of study is based both in Science and critical observation (Sorry: That’s part of Science as well) .
      Since before he first published WAR, he’s been telling the honest truth about the effects that our stupidity in multiple areas (Economics, Environment, Social dynamics) have had, and will have.
      The worst part for people like Resolute?
      Mr. Dyer’s information has proved prescient.
      And I thank the Herald for printing his information.

  9. grinandbearit says:

    Interesting that nearly all climate change models from the 1970s have accurately predicted the current global warming phenomena.

    • Fescue says:

      I wonder where they are going to bury all of the radioactive detritus from the failed experiment in nuclear power …