This 16 January 2015 file photo shows pumpjacks operating at the Kern River Oil Field in Bakersfield, California. Photo: Jae C. Hong / AP

By Graham Readfearn
27 February 2015

(The Guardian) – In early 1998, some of the biggest fossil fuel companies in the world were hatching a plan to hijack the science of human-caused global warming.

Representatives from major fossil fuel corporations and industry groups had joined forces with operatives from major conservative think tanks and public relations experts to draft what they called their Global Climate Science Communications (GCSC) plan.

In a memo the plan boldly declared its goal would be to convince “a majority of the American public” that “significant uncertainties exist in climate science”.

Earlier this week it was revealed that major US coal utility Southern Company had paid scientist Dr Willie Soon, an aerospace engineer based at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, more than $400,000 in recent years for science research.

In total, Soon had received more than a million dollars from Southern Company, Exxon and the American Petroleum Institute in the last 14 years. These three key funders of Soon’s work were also involved in formulating the GCSC plan.

Soon is a popular and oft-cited scientist within climate science denialist circles and claims the sun is the key driver of climate change with fossil fuels playing a minimal role.

But climate scientists have repeatedly dismissed his views, which are at odds with science academies around the world. Soon has previously stated that his fossil fuel funding does not influence his scientific work.

One of Soon’s contacts at Southern Company was the now retired Robert Gehri, one of the original dozen people behind the plan.

The plan was developed during the early months of 1998, which went on to be declared the hottest on record by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

A study has found that in the scientific literature published in 1998 there were 96 papers on global warming that agreed that humans were the main cause, versus only three that disagreed.

The goals of the fossil fuel industry’s plan were clear, ambitious and well articulated. Gehri told the Guardian the plan was “never implemented” but analysis for this report suggests many of the suggested tactics were rolled out in subsequent years.

With an overall budget of $2m (£1.3m) the plan would look to reshape the view of climate change science among the public and policy makers in a way that would favour the industries that stood to lose the most from regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

The investigation published here, with support from DeSmogBlog and the Climate Investigations Center (CIC), finds many of those involved are still trying to convince politicians, legislators and the public that the science is faulty or can be largely ignored.

Kert Davies, a former Greenpeace researcher and founder of CIC, said: “We now have evidence through the Willie Soon documents that ExxonMobil, Southern Company, and the American Petroleum Institute, who were in the room in 1998, carried on with elements of the plan, even after it was leaked and on the front page of the New York Times.

“The 1998 plan is very detailed and talks about moving money to support this campaign through free-market anti-regulation NGOs like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It names multiple front groups and organisations which we know ExxonMobil and the Koch Foundations supported and still support.

“Impacting the voice of elected officials was a key target under the ‘Victory will be achieved’ section of the memo. Now in the US, about half our elected officials are climate deniers or are scared to even talk about the subject, so the impact of this 1998 campaign and subsequent misinformation campaigns around climate science is still clearly holding us back from climate policy solutions.”

So what of the 12 members of the team who wanted to reshape the world’s perception of the risks of human-caused climate change? [more]

What happened to the lobbyists who tried to reshape the US view of climate change?



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