Environment in Crisis

Global Warming Debate
Global Warming

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Corporations and their front groups have utilised a handful of dissident scientists to cast doubt on the likelihood of adverse impacts arising from global warming. These scientists who oppose the general scientific consensus on global warming have had their voices greatly amplified by fossil fuel interests. Gelbspan (1995) notes that "Through their frequent pronouncements in the press and on radio and television, they have helped to create the illusion that the question is hopelessly mired in unknowns. Most damaging has been their influence on decision makers..."
Such scientists do not disclose their funding sources when talking to the media or before government hearings. An example is Patrick Michaels, who is generally described in the media as being from the University of Virginia. Michaels edits the World Climate Report, which is funded by the Greening Earth Society which was created by Western Fuels Association (a consortium of coal interests) and associated companies. Additionally Michaels has received funding for his research from Western Fuels Association, Cyprus Minerals Company, the Edison Electric Institute and the German Coal Mining Association. Michaels is a senior fellow of the Cato Institute, on the advisory board of several anti-environmental groups including the American Council on Science and Health, Consumer Alert, The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC) and the Greening Earth Society was at one time on the advisory board of the Information Council on the Environment.

Michaels was featured in New Scientist in July 1997 as "a climatologist at the University of Virginia" and one of the "world's top scientists." (Pearce 1997) Michael's criticisms of global warming models are cited in the article without any mention of his funding sources. Michaels in turn cites the New Scientist article as supporting his views without mentioning the article was based on an interview with him.

Michaels told an Australian business audience that global warming would lead to milder winters, longer agricultural seasons in cold climates and little extra heat in warmer climates. He was referred to in the Sydney Morning Herald as "a leading American climatologist" from the University of Virginia. The paper quoted him as saying "You'd have a very hard time saying it was a net negative.... I find it very hard to believe that the folks in the Pacific Islands won't adapt to a 30 centimetres sea level rise."

Other scientists involved in the campaign to discredit greenhouse emission reduction targets include Dr Richard Lindzen, Dr Robert Balling, and Dr S. Fred Singer. Lindzen, who was also featured in the New Scientist article and in the Australian Institution of Engineers' Engineering World as an independent scientist is a consultant to the fossil fuel industry, charging $2500 a day for his services.

Robet Balling is also heavily funded by fossil fuel interests. Balling is reported in The Arizona Republic as saying that he had "received more like $700,000 over the past five years" from coal and oil interests in Great Britain, Germany and the US in the previous six years. A report by Ozone Action also details how Balling received research money from the Kuwait Government. His book, The Heated Debate, was commissioned by the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, a think tank opposed to environmental regulation. Balling was also on the advisory council for the Information Council on the Environment and the Greening Earth Society contributes to the World Climate Report.

Fred Singer is executive director of the think tank, the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP). This project was originally set up in 1990 with the help of the Washington Institute for Values in Public Policy (funded by the Rev Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church) which provided it with free office space. (SEPP is no longer affiliated with Moon and receives its funding from various foundations.)

SEPP argues that global warming, ozone depletion and acid rain are not real but rather are scare tactics used by environmentalists. Singer, speaks and writes prolifically on these subjects and is in demand by anti-environment groups. He is on the advisory board of The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC). Two of the leading Australian conservative think tanks have sponsored him to tour Australia, putting his views on global warming. Most recently he toured Austria in November 1997, prior to the Kyoto conference, and presented a speech to the Austrian parliament. He has worked for companies such as Exxon, Shell, and Arco. According to the Environmental Research Foundation:

For years, Singer was a professor at the University of Virginia where he was funded by energy companies to pump out glossy pamphlets pooh-poohing climate change. Singer hasn't published original research on climate change in 20 years and is now an 'independent' consultant, who spends his time writing letters to the editor, and testifying before Congress, claiming that ozone-depletion and global warming aren't real problems. (Montague 1995)

In 1998 the New York Times reported on internal American Petroleum Institute (API) documents showing that fossil fuel interests intended to raise $5 million over two years to establish a Global Climate Science Data Center as a non-profit educational foundation to help with their goal of ensuring that the media and the public recognise the uncertainties in climate science. The documents state that victory will be achieved when climate change becomes a non-issue and those promoting the Kyoto treaty using existing science appear "to be out of touch with reality".

The documents reveal a new plan to "Identify, recruit and train a team of five independent scientists to participate in media outreach... this team will consist of new faces who will add their voices to those recognized scientists who are already vocal."

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Additional Material:

Patrick Michaels

Anon., 1997, 'Global warming not all bad news, says climatologist', Sydney Morning Herald, 23rd August.

Michaels, Patrick J. 1997, 'The Search for an Explanation of the Apparent Lack of Dramatic and Damaging Global Warming' Paper presented at the Countdown to Kyoto, Canberra, 18-21 August.

Patrick Michaels information in Ozone Action, Ties that Blind: Industry Influence on Public Policy and Our Environment, Ozone Action, Washington D.C., 1996.

Pearce, Fred, 1997, 'Greenhouse Wars', New Scientist, 19 July, pp. 38-43.

Robert Balling

Robert Balling information in Ozone Action, Ties that Blind: Industry Influence on Public Policy and Our Environment, Ozone Action, Washington D.C., 1996.

Fred Singer

Fred Singer and the Leipzig Declaration

Montague, Peter, 1995, 'Ignorance is Strength', Rachel's Environment & Health Weekly, No. 467.

Singer, S. Fred, 1997, Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming's Unfinished Debate, Independent Institute, Oakland, California.

Singer, S. Fred, 1997, The Scientific Case Against the Global Climate Treaty, SEPP.

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© 2003 Sharon Beder