Global warming skepticism is fueled by public relations, author says
In the book 'Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming,' James Hoggan says the campaign to create skepticism about climate change is 'by far and away the biggest public relations campaign that I've ever seen.'
There's a new book on the public relations aspect of human-induced climate change that's well worth the read. It's called "Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming."Skip to next paragraph
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Author James Hoggan, cofounder of the DeSmogBlog.com, has been in the public relations business since 1972. His experience gives him a unique perspective on what he labeled, in a phone conversation, "by far and away the biggest public relations campaign that I've ever seen."
In 17 chapters, he details the campaign's methods and techniques, from astroturfing and media manipulation to "swift boat"-like campaigns to discredit scientists. And he tells the story with a PR professional's understanding of how to steer — or hijack, as the case may be — a conversation.
Mr. Hoggan also shores up his assertions with facts. He traces the money trails connecting various individuals and organizations with fossil fuel interests. And he provides resources for laypeople to continue their own fact-checking.
Want to know which "think tanks" Exxon, the world's largest corporation, is funding, and how certain frequently-quoted climate skeptics are affiliated with them? Take a look at exxonsecrets.org, a database of these relationships maintained by Greenpeace.
The campaign Hoggan describes has been remarkably successful at sowing doubt and confusion on an issue about which, scientifically speaking, there is next to none. Even as scientists have become ever more certain of humanity's impact on the climate, the public's confusion over climate change — what to do about it and whether we should do anything at all — has only grown more acute.
Indeed, If the issue of climate weren't so important, the campaign's success might be studied in PR classes everywhere as a shining example of a well-planned, well-executed — and, at two decades long, sustained public relations campaign.
Unfortunately, climate change is among the greatest challenges humankind has ever faced, and arguably the greatest challenge. As such, Hoggan's account is chilling.
The good news is, despite the huge amount of disinformation echoing throughout cyberspace — and despite the fact that very little was actually achieved at COP15 — the world did meet in Copenhagen this month. Despite much confusion on the issue among laypeople, world leaders are taking climate change seriously, says Hoggan.
And yet, in democracies where leaders are subject to a vote, the public's understanding of an issue does matter.
On that front, Hoggan offers some sound advice on how to approach the various claims on the issue of human-induced climate change. He urges that journalists and laypeople alike ensure that "experts" are actually experts. See what, if anything, they've published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and on what topics. Check where they get their funding.
Also, remember that true scientific debates happen in peer-reviewed scientific journals, not on blogs or even, necessarily, newspapers. That's where scientists discuss science in a meaningful way.