Climate change is becoming more visible, and its impact is leaving increasing environmental, economic and social damage. It has become impossible to deny the increasingly visible consequences of climate change, such as extreme weather conditions, fires, floods, the inability to perform production activities and the like. In addition, due to the interest of individuals, tactics are being developed to misinform the public and divert attention from the problem.
Well-founded and proven scientific papers show that the application of renewable energy sources, without further technological innovations and with energy savings, can meet as much as 80% of global energy needs by 2030, and with the same conditions by 2050 even the entire energy need can be met. With increased energy efficiency, electrification of all sectors and decarbonization of the business sector, slowing down climate change and achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement is more than possible.
There is, however, one big problem along the way – in a scenario like this, the fossil fuel industry is losing interest!
What is the response of this industry and how does the denial of human influence on climate change evolve into different forms of inactivism?
When the truth does not fit the goals, denial begins
The first more concrete claims about the influence of burning fossil fuels on the warming of the planet were made by the Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius at the end of the 19th century. He was not the only scientist who at that time studied the gases we know today as greenhouse gases. The recently discovered internal documents of the oil giant ExxonMobil from the 1970s also show that the negative effects of increased fuel combustion were known to oil companies. They show the conclusions of internal expert James Black on the existence of a general scientific consensus on the impact of human combustion of fossil fuels on the deterioration of the global climate (more can be found at: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/16092015/exxons-own-research-confirmed-fossil-fuels-role-in-global-warming/). As is well known, nothing has been done to adequately address this problem and to prevent further acceleration of global climate change. The truth that the fossil fuel industry found out in these researches simply did not suit them. What has been done instead is to use an enormous amount of political and financial influence to undermine scientists and scientific facts about climate change, as well as to block climate-positive policies, to confuse and confront citizens and the like.
Thus, following the example of the campaigns used in the United States by the tobacco and beverage industries lobby, a campaign against the fight against climate change was launched in the 1980s. A special trigger for the intensified activities of the oil industry emerged when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988. Then, in parallel, the oil giants unite, and in order to further strengthen their influence, they establish institutes and think tanks that create a favorable public opinion for this type of industry.
In order to reduce activity in the fight against climate change, the denial of human impact on climate change is encouraged. Denialism works on the principle of interpreting evidence in a way that corresponds to the previously formed opinion. Denialism is also reflected in the fact that the interpretation of a phenomenon focuses exclusively on certain parts of the problem, while the whole picture is neglected. Although in reality 97% of the global scientific community agrees that accelerated climate change is due to human influence, it is enough for those who deny that only 3% of scientists do not agree with the claim to declare the whole thing untrue and driven by some hidden interests. Interestingly, many people, thinking that some “fake scientists and activists” there are spreading conspiracy theories, are not even aware of how much they themselves have fallen under the influence of the interests of the fossil fuel industry. Of course, there are also people who are paid to deny the facts…
The website Skeptical Science, which deals with explaining climate change and preventing denialism and misinformation about this phenomenon, lists as many as 198 "arguments" used by people who deny (humanly impacted) climate change. You can see all the myths about climate change and the answers to it using the following link: https://skepticalscience.com/argument.php
Climate change denial tactics change into “5D model”
As the effects of climate change become more frequent and severe, it is almost impossible to deny the existence of climate change. As climate scientist Michael E. Mann, in his new book, The New Climate War, argues, old tactics don’t work because people see there’s a problem. However, those whose interests are at stake have not given up – they are working intensively to stop policy-making and to discredit renewable energy sources. According to this author, in this dirty game, the following types of tactics crystallized (Mann calls them “forces of inactivism”):
- “Downplayers” – those who try to downplay something very important through misinformation, misinterpretation or selective interpretation of scientific facts.
- “Deflectors” – those who divert attention from something important, such as systemic changes in this case, the introduction of prices for carbon dioxide emissions, subsidies for RES and the like.
- “Dividers” – those who sow divisions in public, especially on the basis of personal life choices, because they know that these choices are related to personal identity.
- “Delayers” – those who delay the solution of an obvious problem. These are the people who will most likely say: “we don’t know enough about all the possible effects of climate change, it still needs to be explored“ “
- “Doomers” – those who think it’s too late to do anything. Doomers exist even among scientists, and when scientists are skeptical about the future, the general public is additionally paralyzed to launch any activity.
One of the main goals of using these tactics is to divide, above all, the scientific community, so that it would not act unanimously and under the same flag. Also, “dividers” affect citizens who share life habits (e.g. if you are not vegan or if you do not use a hybrid or electric car, you are not a sincere fighter for climate change. These divisions have a very effective effect on maintaining the status quo.
Mann, who has been the target of attacks and discredits for years, claims that shifting the solution to the problem of climate change to individual responsibility is a conscious intention of oil and similar companies, which are trying to divert attention from themselves as the largest greenhouse gas emitter. They are the ones who say, “Climate change is your responsibility.” According to Mann, the dilemma of “individual action” vs. “systemic change” is wrong, because both individual actions and systemic changes are important.
In the next article, I will write about methods that can be used in the fight for the truth about climate change.
Mann, M. E. (2021) The New Climate War: the fight to take back our planet. Scribe.