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Tyee Books

Big Oil's Big Buy: Climate Change Denial

James Hoggan's book documents how petro-money finances confusion with the planet at stake.

By Bill Tieleman 20 Oct 2009 |

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. Tieleman can be heard Mondays at 10 a.m. on the Bill Good Show on CKNW AM 980 or at E-mail him at or visit his blog.

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Learning Big Tobacco's lessons.

"Victory will be achieved when... media 'understands' (recognizes) uncertainties in climate science [and] media coverage reflects balance on climate science and recognition of the validity of viewpoints that challenge the current 'conventional wisdom.'" -- American Petroleum Institute, 1998

Imagine you have a product that will in the long-term prove fatal or at least terribly damaging to everyone who uses it.

You want to keep making the obscene profits associated with its sale but worry that when people learn how devastating it is, you'll be out of business.

Solution: spew out more contradictory information than a squid squirts ink while under attack and count on a befuddled, underfunded media to help sow confusion.

But how to sucker the media? Ah yes, write big cheques to "astroturf" organizations and "scientific experts" to question the conclusions of most scientists while hiding the corporate funding and connections as deep as possible.

Sound implausible? It worked for Big Tobacco for years -- and now Big Oil and other business sectors who don't want tough action on climate change are doing the same thing.

James Hoggan's new book Climate Cover-Up (Greystone Books) is a must-read for anyone concerned about the biggest, most pervasive effort ever at manipulating the media by some of the world's largest and most powerful corporations.

Follow the money

Why, I'd even recommend it highly to my 24 Hours colleague Alex Tsakumis, who has ripped Hoggan and CKNW AM 980 radio host Bill Good for two weeks straight about the issue for allegedly not providing "balance" on climate change.

(Disclosure -- Hoggan and Good are friends of mine and I appear on Bill's show every Monday -- but Alex is a friend too.)

Hoggan's book -- and website -- are really about how a vast conspiracy has been undertaken by the corporations most directly affected by any attempt to reduce greenhouse gases and pollution to influence the media and public that everything is just fine.

Hoggan and co-author Richard Littlemore provide reams of evidence from around the world about the conspiracy -- and it is not an understatement to call it that -- that provided tens of millions of dollars to shadowy organizations to fight climate change regulations.

For example, the Competitive Enterprise Institute twice sued the U.S. government trying to block release of its National Assessment of Climate Change.

Who got $2 million in funding from Exxon? Why, the CEI, which also got money for its climate change activities from -- wait for it -- Ford and General Motors.

'Balance' that stymies action

CEI actually produced TV commercials celebrating burning fossil fuels and producing carbon dioxide actually titled: "They call it pollution, we call it life"!

And Exxon spent over $20 million since 1998 fighting climate change with "balance."

But the cover-up strategy Hoggan reveals is sadly still working.

In Sunday's Province newspaper was an angry op-ed by retired professor Timothy Ball -- a front man for an astroturf group called "Friends of Science" about teachers "indoctrinating" students about climate change, not giving "balance."

Ball recently spoke to a luncheon in Calgary for Friends of Science -- a group which also brought Viscount Christopher Monckton of Brenchley from England to Vancouver earlier this month to explain why climate change is a hoax.

Speaking at the right-wing Fraser Institute think tank with a presentation titled, Apocalypse Cancelled; The Overheated Hype behind Global Warming, Monckton outlined who is behind the wrong-headed efforts to fight climate change and why:

"The Left have never liked democracy. They hate democracy," Monckton explained. "Every time they get the chance, they destroy it. They hate the West. They hate our prosperity. They hate our freedom." (Read more about Monckton's message in tomorrow's Tyee.)

'Whacked out'

Ironically, given Ball's appearance, it was Province columnist Ethan Baron who reported that Monckton says unsound climate change science threatens to send us "back to caves without even the right to light a fire." Yikes!

But Baron wryly asked why an apparently intelligent person would question the consensus of all but a few climate scientists and, having heard Monckton speak, concluded the reason was: "Whacked-out, far-right ideology, combined with an ego the size of the Antarctic ice sheet."

Fortunately there's a ready and verifiable antidote to corporate spin doctors who want you to be confused about climate change -- pick up a copy of Hoggan and Littlemore's Climate Cover-Up and check the facts for yourself about who's behind fighting common sense for corporate profits -- it's undeniable.

Support your library

Please join me and authors Caroline Adderson, Carellin Brooks, David Chariandy, Larissa Lai, Stan Persky and moderator Dan Gawthrop at Vancouver Public Library, Thursday Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m. for "Public Libraries -- Keep Them Local" -- an event supporting adequate funding.  [Tyee]

Read more: Environment

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