Climate Scientist Exposes Deceptions by Fossil Fuel Industry

Scientist Michael Mann has a four-point battle plan to fight climate change.

Today, fossil fuel companies are using disinformation and deceptive tactics to block actions against climate change – and keep their profits flowing – according to a leading climate scientist. They are harnessing the anti-science playbooks of the tobacco and gun industry playbooks.

Michael Mann, a Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State University, reveals that fossil fuel companies, right-wing partisans, and oil-funded governments have used “an array of powerful Ds: disinformation, deceit, divisiveness, deflection, delay, despair-mongering, and doomism.”

Meanwhile, “A clean energy revolution and climate stabilization are achievable with current technology,” Mann says. “All we require are policies to incentivize the needed shift.”

See Michael Mann speak at the Pima Democratic Party’s climate action fundraiser on July 17 at 5 pm. Democrats can buy tickets online or join Democrats of Greater Tucson in sponsoring the event.

Time is running out for Arizona. Temperatures have risen by almost two degrees in the past decades and are predicted to continue rising by three to five degrees by 2050. The changing climate will continue to threaten Arizona’s access to water and clean air, increase the prevalence and magnitude of wildfires, and put the state at risk of becoming uninhabitable. We need to step up before it is too late.

Mann’s new book, The New Climate War: The Fight To Take Back Our Planet, explains how to rebut climate change deceptions and lays out a Four-Point Battle Plan.

Denial. Companies like Exxon Mobil, joined by billionaire plutocrats like the Koch brothers and the Mercers, funneled billions of dollars into a disinformation campaign. In the late 1980s, it worked to discredit the science behind human-caused climate change and its link to fossil fuel burning.

“ExxonMobil’s own team of scientists concluded that the impacts of continued fossil fuel use could lead to ‘devastating climate change impacts,’ and the scientists were right. Decades later, thanks to that campaign, we are now witnessing the devastating effects of unchecked climate change,” Mann says.

He gave examples of fossil fuel company propaganda:

  Revealed: ExxonMobil’s lobbying war on climate change legislation
A senior ExxonMobil lobbyist was captured on camera confessing how the oil giant is using its power and influence to water down US climate legislation. Keith McCoy, a senior lobbyist at ExxonMobil says it has aggressively fought science to deny climate change to maximize profit. He reveals that ExxonMobil joined “shadow groups” to pursue climate change denial.

It’s Your Fault. This is a deflection tactic that blames climate change on consumers and diverts attention away from corporate responsibility. The bogus argument blames people for driving cars, flying in planes, and eating meat. It’s the same “guns don’t kill people” argument the NRA uses to divert attention away from the problem of easy access to assault weapons and blames mentally ill people.

For example, the “Crying Indian” commercial of the 1970s was sponsored by the beverage industry to blame the public rather than corporations for glass bottles and can litter.

Fossil Fuel Needs Subsidies. Conservative estimates put U.S. direct subsidies to the fossil fuel industry at roughly $20 billion per year — with 20 percent allocated to coal and 80 percent to natural gas and crude oil. Mann says fossil fuel companies have also sabotaged incentives for renewable energy with propaganda campaigns to discredit renewable energy as a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

Mann calls for “blocking pipeline construction, banning fracking, stopping mountain-top-removal coal mining, divesting in fossil fuel companies, and putting a halt to most new fossil fuel infrastructure.”

Non-Solution Solutions. Opponents of climate action promote “solutions” (natural gas, carbon capture, geoengineering) that aren’t real solutions at all. “Part of their strategy is using soothing words and terms – ‘bridge fuels,’ ‘clean coal,’ ‘adaptation,’ ‘resilience’ – that convey the illusion of action but, in context, are empty promises,” he writes.

Instead, Mann says the path forward includes energy efficiency, electrification, and decarbonization of the grid through renewable energy sources.

Doomism. This ploy argues that it’s too late to save the planet, and there is nothing we can do to stop climate change. “It’s just another way of legitimizing business as usual and a continued reliance on fossil fuels,” Mann says.

“We value what is most important to us. For me, it’s my family, my 15-year old daughter, and the world that she will inhabit, the world that her children and grandchildren will inhabit. It’s about this planet that we care about, the only planet that we know in the universe that supports complex life. How tragic it would be if our legacy were that we failed to act,” he says.

The Four-Point Battle Plan

Mann proposed four steps for climate activists to take.

Disregard the Doomsayers: The misguided belief that “it’s too late” to act has been co-opted by fossil fuel interests and those advocating for them, Mann argues. We must reject the overt doom and gloom that we increasingly encounter in today’s climate discourse.

A Child Shall Lead Them: Youths are fighting to save their planet, and there is a moral authority and clarity in their message that only the most jaded can disregard. Young people are the game-changers climate advocates have been waiting for, and their actions, methods, and idealism are models for all.

Educate, Educate, Educate: Most hard-core climate-change deniers are unmovable, with an ideology impervious to facts. Don’t waste time and effort trying to convince them. Instead, work with and help inform victims of climate change disinformation campaigns so they can join efforts to combat the climate challenge.

Changing the System Requires Systemic Change: Those responsible for fossil fuel disinformation engage in either-or arguments rather than address more significant systemic issues and consider incentives. Policies need to incentivize shifts away from fossil fuel burning toward a clean, green global economy, and those policies warrant the support of elected leaders.

Blog for Arizona
This article first appeared on the Blog for Arizona.

“We need to elect politicians who are willing to do something about the climate crisis, and we need to vote out those who won’t. The fact is that we can’t as individuals impose a price on carbon or subsidies for renewables or blocking new fossil fuel infrastructure. These are things that only our elected policymakers can do, and we need to hold them accountable,” he says.

For more information, watch the YouTube Video “Michael E. Mann book fair Leipzig: The new climate war.”

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