It doesn’t work for everyone, but it seems about half of the names on the list are entwined in some way with the giant network of groups like the Heartland Institute that receive funding from ExxonMobil and their ilk to downplay the dangers of climate change.
Now why would the oil industry do that?
A far better question is “why wouldn’t they”? The fossil fuel industry is worth between $8 and $9 trillion – about six times bigger than the next biggest global industrial sector, which happens to be cars. With that kind of money at stake, you can bet there will be some serious push-back around meaningful regulation of carbon dioxide.
When tobacco was threatened by pesky regulation aimed at curbing its dangerous product, they went and hired some phony scientists to conduct one of the most successful and heinous PR campaigns in history.
A now infamous internal memo leaked from tobacco giant Brown and Williamson stated coldly:
“Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ [linking smoking with disease] that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy…if we are successful in establishing a controversy at the public level, there is an opportunity to put across the real facts about smoking and health.”
Back to Big Oil. They simply borrowed the PR campaign pioneered so successfully by Big Tobacco and went and hired some phony scientists of their own to churn up climate change misinformation in the mainstream media.
The difference between oil and tobacco is size. The tobacco industry is worth a mere $300 billion annually. That is less than less than 4% the size of the behemoth that is the fossil fuel industry.
Big Oil has some big money to spread around in order to massage public opinion to their benefit, and they are of course not shy about doing whatever it takes to get their way.
Which brings us back to the Heartland Institute. Desmog blog readers might recall that it was also the Heartland Institute who bragged that they had a list of 500 scientists whose work contradicted that human-caused climate change was real.
We at DesmogBlog took the trouble of contacting many of these scientists who were surprised and appalled their research and reputations were being misrepresented by the likes of the climate deniers at Heartland. For my own enjoyment, I offer some of the more colorful quotes from the offended scientists:
I am horrified to find my name on such a list. I have spent the last 20 years arguing the opposite.”
– Dr. David Sugden. Professor of Geography, University of Edinburgh
“I have NO doubts ..the recent changes in global climate ARE man-induced. I insist that you immediately remove my name from this list since I did not give you permission to put it there.”
– Dr. Gregory Cutter, Professor, Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Old Dominion University
“I don’t believe any of my work can be used to support any of the statements listed in the article.”
– Dr. Robert Whittaker, Professor of Biogeography, University of Oxford
“Please remove my name. What you have done is totally unethical!!”
– Dr. Svante Bjorck, Geo Biosphere Science Centre, Lund University
“I’m outraged that they’ve included me as an “author” of this report. I do not share the views expressed in the summary.”
– Dr. John Clague, Shrum Research Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, Simon Fraser University
“They have taken our ice core research in Wyoming and twisted it to meet their own agenda. This is not science.”
– Dr. Paul F. Schuster, Hydrologist, US Geological Survey
“Please remove my name IMMEDIATELY from the following article and from the list which misrepresents my research.”
– Dr. Mary Alice Coffroth, Department of Geology, State University of New York at Buffalo
So when the Heartland folks again trot out another list of “climate experts” to back up Big Oil’s position on global warming, take it with a very large grain of salt.