Keeping the public in the dark about climate change

January 16, 2012

If enough people were well informed about the reality and likely consequences of climate change the political changes required to bring this problem under control would surely be happening a lot quicker than they are. An important question then is why this problem is still insufficiently appreciated.

There are a number of well-known and documented causal factors contributing to public ignorance about climate change. In the first place, according to this recent study by the Daily Climate organization, media coverage of climate change is actually decreasing at the very time (2010, 2011) that it should be increasing. Here is a graphic look at their findings.


Additionally, several years ago Chris Mooney wrote this very enlightening article for Mother Jones magazine in which documented the massive amounts of money that the oil industry (in particular Exxon Mobil) was putting into the public relations machinery (think tanks, public policy groups, media organizations) to promote doubt and skepticism regarding climate change. Here is a list of the groups specifically funded by Exxon Mobil (a total of over $8 million) between 2000 and 2003 to promote climate skepticism.

But in addition to these relatively well-known reasons for public ignorance about the reality of climate change, there is another, lesser known cause: intimidation and threats against those who attempt to spread the news. According to recent reports, prominent MIT researcher Kerry Emanuel has been receiving an unprecedented frenzy of hate mail after a video containing an interview with him was published by Climate Desk. The video is worth watching because it in it Emanuel identifies himself as a Republican.  As he and other Republicans come out of the closet to speak up about climate change they find themselves outsiders within the party; for instance, Rep. Bob Inglis (R) of South Carolina claims that he was removed from Congress mainly because he admitted that climate change was real. And those who can’t be removed from their jobs or positions of influence for acknowledging the reality of climate change, like Kerry Emanuel, are instead subjected to hate mail and threats. So many tools and strategies, including brute force or threats of forces, are being used to keep the public in the dark.


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