EditorialEDITORIAL: Climate change denial is a hoax to protect corporate interests

ETC StaffOctober 18, 20197 min

Et Cetera Staff

For more than four decades, many of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies have worked to shape attitudes and deceive the public about the cartographic consequences and risks of climate breakdown.

Over this time, these companies have poured billions of dollars into an international disinformation campaign, including forging letters to Congress, secret funding of think tanks and sympathetic scientists and the creation of fake grassroots organizations to deliberately manufacture uncertainty about the implications of climate change, according to the study “The Climate Deception Dossiers” conducted by The Union of Concerned Scientists.

Yes, the consensus has shifted significantly in Canada and most of Europe concerning emissions and the importance of moving towards renewable forms of energy. And to be fair, there has been a noticeable moderation of views from those previously involved in questioning the science of climate change. But the stark contrast is still all too visible in countries such as the U.S. and more recently, Brazil, where leading politicians openly deny climate science and treat economic growth as paramount importance compared to preserving our natural world.

Climate change teen activist Greta Thunberg speaks at a climate strike at the Vancouver Art Gallery in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada October 25, 2019. (REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier)

The scientific evidence shows the next decade will be crucial for efforts to restrict the rise in global temperature if we wish to prevent global temperatures rising by more than 1.5 C. And politicians should be judged on what they do to achieve this goal.

The ideological separation in Western democracies behind the issue of climate emergency is clear. The voting records of most conservative politicians are abysmal, whether the topic is fracking, renewable energy subsidies, or devising a coherent strategy to retool the economy towards green energy.

Meanwhile, 20 companies – including ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Shell – are responsible for more than 35 per cent of all energy-related carbon dioxide and methane globally, totaling 480 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) since 1965, according to the Climate Accountability Institute, despite knowing about the destructive impact of their activities.

Research shows conservatives are more likely to have accepted donations from oil companies and there is a revolving door culture with lucrative jobs on offer for amenable public servants.

It’s no accident climate denial is integral to right-wing ideology. The Republican Party in the U.S. has been mobilizing to drown out propositions like the Green New Deal. Indeed, the development of fossil fuel projects and their connection to economic growth seem to form a cornerstone of right-wing political strategy.

Over the years, environmental campaigners in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere have worked to highlight the enormous power wielded by multinational oil companies — and to highlight how this concentration of power has been used to advance their economic interests, particularly with the injection of enormous sums of money pumped into elections. Last year, the fossil fuel industry spent an astonishing $125 million on lobbying politicians in America.

It’s critical to recognize the tentacles of Big Fossil are indispensable in shaping public consciousness, manipulate democracy while constraining the choices that are available in our toolbox to reverse this dangerous trend.

The debate on the issue of the climate emergency is often focused on individual responsibility (e.g., living a carbon-neutral lifestyle and changing eating habits) or on policies (like setting carbon taxes and targets) centred on transnational efforts governed by the UN’s framework. All these approaches to this increasingly existential threat to our planet are valid and essential.

While some moderate politicians promote renewable projects, they continue to expand pipeline operations in the face of overwhelming evidence that these decisions will only speed up the breakdown of our ecosystem and render the planet uninhabitable.

We cannot confront the power behind such irresponsible behaviour until we know what it is. Our first priority in this struggle is to understand the multifaceted nature of the threat we face. Only then we can overcome the implications at such a monumental scale.