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I believe Forrest Gump would have had a better understanding of climate change than the average American today. But if Forrest was still operating the Bubba Gump shrimp company after the Gulf Oil Spill, he would have proclaimed, “Ha! Shrimp with no eyes are easier ta catch!”

In my previous post entitled ‘A Global Experiment with Everyone as the Guinea Pigs‘, reader Paul f. Getty says:

…I live in an area where virtually everyone is convinced global warming is a hoax. It drives me crazy…

I must admit that I am in the same boat, surrounded by idiots. I tried to have a conversation with a physician I work with about climate change, and he trotted out the same old arguments about planet Mars warming, prior predictions of ‘Global Cooling’, and that it was warm during the age of dinosaurs and they didn’t drive cars. For those interested, here is a link listing the most popular climate change denier arguments with the appropriate response by scientists. In a recent poll, the importance of climate change was shown to have receded in the American public’s mind:

Climate change no longer ranks first on the list of what Americans see as the world’s biggest environmental problem, according to a new Washington Post-Stanford University poll.

Just 18 percent of those polled name it as their top environmental concern. That compares with 33 percent who said so in 2007, amid publicity about a major U.N. climate report and Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary about global warming. Today, 27 percent identify water and air pollution as the world’s most pressing environmental issue.

Still, Americans continue to see climate change as a threat, caused in part by human activity, and they think government and businesses should do more to address it. Nearly three-quarters say the Earth is warming, and just as many say they believe that temperatures will continue to rise if nothing is done, according to the poll.

The findings, along with follow-up interviews with some respondents, indicate that Washington’s decision to shelve climate policy means that the issue has receded — even though many people link recent dramatic weather events to global warming. And they may help explain why elected officials feel little pressure to impose curbs on greenhouse gas emissions…

…“There’s really no movement in recent years in support for the amount of government effort they want to see put into the problem,” Krosnick noted. “But clearly the salience of the issue has declined a bit, [so] the pressure the public puts on government will be less.”

Just under four in 10 polled say global warming is extremely or very important to them, the lowest percentage since 2006 and down from 52 percent in 2007. Just 10 percent say it is extremely important to them personally, down from 15 percent in 2011 and 18 percent in 2007.

“The good news is that the public understands that the global warming problem is serious, and they overwhelmingly support serious solutions. The sad news is that, with reduced mainstream-media coverage and with big polluters and their allies in the media and in Congress falsely screaming hoax, the issue is not as high a priority,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters. “But record-breaking temperatures, intense droughts and wildfires, and other climate-related disasters will hopefully be a wake-up call.”…

So why has the government shelved any push for climate change policy, even though a majority of the public does see climate change as a serious problem? Well, as in all things related to how our sock-puppet politicians operate, it has to do with which corporate hand is pulling their strings. And in this case, that would be Big Oil. Chris Nelder blogged about the money from the fossil fuel industry spreading over the U.S. government like one vast, sticky, and toxic oil spill:

…The oil and gas industry utterly dominates the Energy and Natural Resources category, spending $149 million on lobbying in 2011. The entire complex of renewables falls under the “Misc Energy” category. On this basis, the oil and gas sector outspends Misc Energy by about three to one. But that leaves a lot out of the equation, because the utility sector is over two-thirds powered by coal and natural gas, and coal lobbying is partly represented by the Mining category. The oil and gas industry plus the utility sector outspends Misc Energy by more than five to one…

…That’s just the money being spent directly lobbying Congress, and publicly reported. Even more is being spent on disinformation, slander, and outright lies through a complex web of think tanks, fake advocacy groups, and other agencies. Groups like the Heartland Institute, which famously erected a billboard in suburban Chicago in May with a photo of Ted Kaczynski (the “Unabomber”), along with the caption “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?”

A report issued earlier this month by the Sierra Club (Clean Energy Under Siege – Following the Money Trail Behind the Attack on Renewable Energy) outlines some of this spending, with particular focus on ExxonMobil, coal giant Peabody Energy, and the billionaire Koch brothers, who preside over an empire of oil, gas, coal, and manufacturing interests….

…The fossil fuel industry has spent additional millions to vigorously attack and harass the climate scientists. An excellent feature in the June Popular Science (The Battle Over Climate Science) details the dirty deeds they have sponsored: Death threats. Hate mail. Harassment via spurious and expensive lawsuits. Threatening emails. Political attacks.

The way these scientists, trying to do good honest work in the public interest, are being harassed by paid jackals is horrifying, and reminds one of the McCarthy era. Likewise, the way the industry is paying these various front groups to mislead the public and create the illusion of a debate is straight out of the pages of the tobacco lobby. Indeed, many of the same characters who shilled for Big Tobacco are now doing the same for Big Oil, Gas and Coal…

It was reported the other day that the venomous hostility toward climate change scientists is the worst in the United States:

…While outspoken scientists of human-caused climate change in the United States endure torrents of freedom of information requests, hate mail and even death threats from skeptics, their counterparts abroad have been free to do their work without fear.

Jochem Marotzke, managing director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, said there is “no systematic attempt by a political camp” to target climate scientists in Germany. “I get the odd critical email from a skeptic, but would not classify anything as personally aggressive,” said Marotzke. “Very different from the U.S. scene.”

“I feel for my American colleagues and what they’ve had to deal with,” said Tim Lenton, an earth system scientist who specializes in climate tipping points at the University of Exeter in the UK. Lenton said he has never had to fend off skeptic attacks against his work or his integrity. “British scientists aren’t immune to attacks, but it is a very different level than compared to what is happening in the U.S.”

InsideClimate News contacted scientists working on climate change in Europe, Canada and Japan and learned that virtually everyone believes that the harassment is specific to the United States. They said that it could have long-term consequences for public understanding of global warming

According to Bob Ward, Australia is just as prone to right-wing climate denial as the U.S. and Britain:

The Australian newspaper proved last week that the echo chamber of climate change denial is not restricted to the United States and United Kingdom.

On 4 September, the newspaper, owned by News Limited, the Australian arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation empire, published an article by Peter Lilley, a veteran UK Member of Parliament from the right wing of the Conservative Party, promoting his ‘sceptical’ views about climate change…

…The article by Lilley in the Australian publicised a pamphlet which he produced for the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a club for climate change ‘sceptics’ founded in 2009 by Nigel Lawson, Margaret Thatcher’s former Chancellor of the Exchequer, to lobby the UK government about its policies…

…Rather than presenting new evidence, Lilley’s pamphlet simply recycled a series of erroneous allegations about the Stern Review which have been debunked many times over since its publication nearly six years ago. The editorial slot which the Australian handed to Lilley contained the same characteristic blend of flawed science and bad economics as his pamphlet.

For instance, Lilley claimed to accept the assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “as given”, but immediately rejected one of its fundamental findings that a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere would lead to a rise in global average temperature of between 2.0 and 4.5 centigrade degrees (known as the climate sensitivity). Instead, he suggested that the climate sensitivity could be about one centigrade degree, which the IPCC concluded was very unlikely.

It is, of course, a common tactic among some ‘sceptics’ to claim that they accept mainstream science but to downplay or ignore the evidence of the huge risks that rising levels of greenhouse gases are creating.

At current rates of emissions, greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere will be at least 150 per cent higher by the end of this century than they were before industrialisation began in the 18th century. This would mean a significant probability of global warming of 3 centigrade degrees or more to temperatures not seen on Earth for about 3 million years. As the IPCC pointed out in its last assessment report in 2007, those temperatures were associated with much smaller polar ice caps and global sea levels that were 15 to 25 metres higher than today .

Modern homo sapiens has only been around for about 250,000 years so we could be heading for a global climate that is not just without historical precedence but one of which humans have no evolutionary experience.

Yet Lilley’s article expressed remarkable confidence and certainty that our children and grandchildren will prosper regardless of how much the climate changes and will be so rich that they will be able to magically fix any amount of environmental damage that we cause.

But the scientific evidence indicates that unmitigated climate change could transform the planet through sea level rise and altered patterns of extreme weather that will submerge or desertify large regions in ways that will threaten the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people. Large populations would migrate to escape the worst impacts, leading to widespread and extended conflict.

Under such circumstances, it is difficult to believe, as Lilley apparently does, that economic growth will carry on regardless. Future generations would face huge upheavals that could make them poorer, not richer, than us.

So why did the Australian agree to publish an article that was so inaccurate and misleading? As Robert Manne, a professor of politics at La Trobe University in Melbourne, has pointed out the newspaper has a track record of biasing its coverage with flawed and error-strewn polemics from climate change ‘sceptics’. In this respect, the Australian is different to its News Corporation stablemates in the UK and more akin to its counterparts in the United States, such as Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. So The Australian is clearly part of the media that have embraced unscientific climate change denial as an editorial stance and form the echo chamber which amplifies the misinformation of ‘sceptics’…

But the Australian goes a step further to prevent its readers from learning the truth about climate change. I sent a letter with a colleague to correct the errors in Lilley’s article, but the newspaper refused to publish it, or indeed any other critical correspondence. This filtering out of dissent conveys the false impression that the ‘sceptic’ article did not suffer from fundamental flaws…

So there you have it. The fossil fuel industry really controls our government and, therefore, any meaningful transition away from what they sell has historically been thwarted. This is also why America has, as Kunstler puts it, a public rail system that the Bulgarians would be ashamed of. And you only have to look at how Ralph Nader was harassed by the car industry as further evidence of the rise of corporate power. The shadowy dons of organised money control everything, including public perception and government action, or lack thereof, on climate change.