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Attack of the climate spam?

(Page 2 of 3)



Here's another comment that shows up in several places verbatim, followed by a bulleted list, also verbatim, of "global warming is not happening" talking points:

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The main cause of global warming appears to be change in solar activity and change in the earth’s orbit and tilt. Recent reductions in sunspots on the solar surface suggest that we may be entering into a cooling period.

So what to make of any of this? Are these commenters using news organizations' discussion space for free advertising? Or are they simply individuals who are quoting here – and in many other places – an argument they find particularly well-formulated?

Perhaps it's not a single commenter but many — a coincidence. Perhaps many different people across the Web all happened to very much like and quote, verbatim, the same block of text. Or maybe it's one person with a point to make, but who finds it easier to take the copy-and-paste approach.

Impossible to say. And yet, one might reasonably conclude that whatever the motives of these commenters, real discussion between real people — a primary purpose of these comment forums — is not primary among them.

And there's some history here.

It's been fairly well-documented that, when it comes to the public discussion around climate, a strategy of those opposed to action on climate matters has been to inject as much doubt into public discourse as possible.

In a memo leaked in 2003 [PDF], Republican strategist Frank Luntz lays it out — uncertainty as a political tactic:

Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community.... Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to scientists and other experts in the field.

He also says: "The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science."

In a box called "words that work" he outlines what's become a central "global warming can't be happening" talking point:

You can't look back a million years and say that proves we're heating the globe now hotter than it's ever been. After all, just 20 years ago scientists were worried about a new Ice Age.

See the Bright Green Blog's post – Were they really predicting an ice age in the 1970s? – on that, by the way.

Mr. Luntz has since said that he thinks humans are probably changing Earth's climate. But the strategies he put forth continue to be employed en force.

The bloggers over at RealClimate – they're also real scientists — call it the "deniosphere." In 2007, Newsweek's Sharon Begley called it the "denial machine."

An academic at Stanford University coined a term to describe the "cultural production of ignorance" — agnatology. And agnatology as a political strategy begins long before the current era of worry over global warming. Big Tobacco quite successfully "agnatologized" during its more than 40 years battling against regulation.

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