How climate deniers attacked the second ever UN report on global warming

| 26th September 2018
Fakenomics: Frederick Seitz - paid for tobacco to attack the science linking smoking to cancer - led the charge against the UN's second major climate change report in 1995. BRENDAN MONTAGUE investigates

I was indeed amazed about Dr Seitz’s way of proceeding.

The climate deniers were ready to attack the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) following its second report, released in 1995. They well understood the political dangers that confronted them.

Frederick Seitz, then chairman of the faux think tank, the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) – which argues against the existence of climate change – demanded that IPCC chairman Bert Bolin draft a statement immediately saying that the IPCC had “not been able to quantify the magnitude of the greenhouse gas”. 

He even took the extra step of drafting the proposed letter, ready for Bolin to sign. “I was indeed amazed about Dr Seitz’s way of proceeding,” Bolin would recall.

‘Disturbing corruption’

Seitz would later use the pages of the Wall Street Journal to issue unsubstantiated claims against the IPCC, rather ironically under the headline “A Major Deception on Global Warming”.

He stated that “this report is not what it appears to be – it is not the version that was approved by the contributing scientists listed on the title page.”

“In my more than 60 years as a member of the American scientific community, including service as president of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Physical Society, I have never witnessed a more disturbing corruption of the peer-review process than the events that led to this IPCC report.”

The newspaper, however, did not inform the reader of Seitz’s oil or tobacco funding, which meant the author was not what he appeared to be.

Seitz was joined by Patrick Michaels, then a visiting scientist at the Exxon-funded George C. Marshall Institute, in the attack against the IPCC.

State of the climate

Michaels used his position as editor of the publication the State of the Climate Report to accuse scientists of hiding any weaknesses from policymakers and members of the public in the most recent climate models, despite the fact that this issue had been directly addressed in the IPCC documents.

Michaels also demanded that the Met Office in Devon, England, provide the original data supporting some of the science, and complained bitterly when it refused.

The State of the Climate Report was delivered to every member of the US Congress on Earth Day in April 1996.

Bolin was absolutely furious and unusually blunt about his feelings. “The way Michaels dealt with the climate change issue in the first issue of the State of the Climate Report disqualified him from taking part as a serious fellow scientist in the climate change debate. His statements were simply not trustworthy.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists responded by issuing a press release attacking the maverick scientist for his sources of funding. They claimed: “The forthcoming climate change report sponsored by the Western Fuels Association is like a lung cancer study funded by the tobacco industry.”

Cooler heads

Michaels was then invited to speak at the launch of the latest sceptic vehicle, the Cooler Heads Coalition. The coalition presented itself as a subgroup of the National Consumer Coalition and wished merely “to dispel the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific and risk analysis.”

Myron Ebell, the chairman of this new outfit, around the same time joined the newly formed Exxon-funded free market think tank, the Frontiers of Freedom. The economist currently works with Fred Smith at the Koch-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).

Meanwhile, Roger Bate, founder of the European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF), was working equally hard in the UKto attack the IPCC and climate science.

Politicisation of science

An internal memo set out the tasks for the tobacco- and oil-funded front: “RB to write a short book on the politicisation of science, showing the motivations of the various players influencing the outcomes. May concentrate on one topic so one can analyse the players properly. Climate change is the obvious choice. Two publishers interested.”

The ESEF also planned to place articles implying that the “source is now more important than the science,” defending British American Tobacco while Bate and an environmental journalist named Richard D. North wrote an article titled Anatomy of Health Scares, dubbing the salmonella outbreak “Chickengate”.

Bate also penned a comment article asking, “Why Regulate Nicotine When Caffeine is More Addictive?” and continued to promote his latest climate change book, Global Warming, A Report of the European Science and Environment Forum.

Subjective view

Promotional material sent to tobacco companies stated: “There has been much focus on the IPCC and the only opposition to the idea that there is a consensus has come from individual scientists who, with a few notable exceptions, have been dismissed as misguided by those within the process, and indeed most commentators.”

It goes on: “We are identifying mainstream journalists, specialist science journalists, selected MPs and MEPs and other policy advisors and academics. We want the media to come to ESEF for a different subjective view.”

The book was advertised as including contributions from the major climate change deniers: Singer, Michaels, geography professor Robert Balling, and the increasingly eccentric climatologist Piers Corbyn.

This Author

Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist, founder of Request Initiative and co-author of Impact of Market Forces on Addictive Substances and Behaviours: The web of influence of addictive industries (Oxford University Press)He tweets at @EcoMontague. This article first appeared at Desmog.uk

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