The Inner Sanctums of Climate Change Propaganda
Written by William Walter Kay BA LL B
At the close of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco (September 14, 2018) twenty-nine foundations signed a communique heralding the “largest climate-related philanthropic commitment ever made.” The foundations pledged $4 billion (over 5 years) to the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) campaign. Nat Simons, Sea Change Foundation co-founder, hastened to add:
“The multi-billion commitment announced today is only a down payment.”
The 29 signatories are hardly the full complement of CAGW-funding philanthropies. Moreover, philanthropy’s overall contribution to the CAGW crusade is bested by businesses from the Climate Industrial Complex, and by government environment and energy agencies. That said, philanthropic money, being the least encumbered of the funds empowering this campaign, tends to steer the ship.
Too much attention goes to clumsy movement dinosaurs like Greenpeace, and to celebrity scientists and ephemeral enviro-ministers. Far more important personages inhabit the nexus between Big Green philanthropy and certain academic faculties honing the cutting-edge techniques of Climate Change Communication.
The Yale Program for Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) styles itself thusly:
“We conduct scientific research on public climate change knowledge, attitudes, policy preferences and behaviours and the underlying psychological, cultural and political factors that influence them.”
YPCCC is a branch of America’s oldest green academy: the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. YPCCC cooperates with the Yale Center for Business and Environment and the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy.
YPCCC is funded by 8 philanthropies and 2 government agencies; the latter being: National Oceans and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Science Foundation (NSF). Notable among the former are four Global Climate Action Summit signatories (MacArthur Foundation, Heising-Simons Foundation, Grantham Foundation and Energy Foundation).
The “flow-through” Energy Foundation pools funds from 23 philanthropies in order to distribute them in an orderly fashion. Energy Foundation donors include 10 Global Climate Action Summit signatories.
YPCCC dates to a 2005 Aspen confab summoned by Yale’s School of Forestry whereat 100 environmental, business, media, religious and political chieftains agreed upon the battle plan: Americans and Climate Change: Closing the Gap between Science and Action.
YPCCC’s dozen-strong faculty have PhDs in enviro-studies, psychology or political science; and careers straddling the academic-activist divide. YPCCC boasts 18 PhD Research Affiliates (4 from George Mason University, 2 from other Yale departments). YPCCC’s 33 doctoral students specialise in social media, video production, and/or digital advertising.
Prior to becoming YPCCC Director in 2007 Anthony Leiserowitz (PhD, Human Geography) had been: Senator William Faust’s (D MI) assistant; an Aspen Global Change Institute coordinator; and a JFK School of Government consultant. Leiserowitz currently adorns the Copenhagen-based KR Foundation’s 5-member board; which grants $20 million a year to enviro-causes.
Leiserowitz’s YPCCC crew conduct: public opinion polling; climate messaging research; surveys and experiments. They map national and international attitudes and behaviours. They publish reports and papers. They provide public presentations (and private briefings). YPCCC research is used by: CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, and the Guardian.
YPCCC does more than observe and report. YPCCC subsidiary Yale Climate Connections partners with: Pulitzer Center, Thomson Reuters, and CNN spin-off One Big Story; and with start-ups: H2O Radio, This Planet, and I See Change, to run a news service that rolls-out broadcast-quality articles and videos on topics ranging from religious mores to extreme weather.
Climate Connections funds and supervises ChavoBart Digital Media whose daily 90-second climate-related radio shows are broadcast on 400 American radio stations. ChavoBart, a private company, serves a dozen conservation NGOs. ChavoBart makes “actionable information.”
Climate Connections reaches an additional audience of hundreds of thousands through Twitter, Linked-in and Facebook. Climate messaging goes out. Data comes in.
Bud Ward oversees Climate Connections’ 3 full-time staff and 17 regular contributors. Ward has been an enviro-journalist since 1974 and an enviro-journalist organiser since 1988. After the Cold War, Ward created the foundation-funded Central European Environmental Journalism Review. Ward collaborates with the: UN, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Society of Environmental Journalists. Ward, a regular National Public Radio guest, was George Mason University’s 2009 “Climate Communicator of the Year.”
In 2007 YPCCC, and the foundation-funded Environmental Defense, co-launched George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication (GMU4C). YPCCC and GMU4C co-produce the annual: Climate Change and the American Mind.
GMU4C’s principal professors are Ed Maibach and Connie Roser-Renouf. Former PR exec, Maibach is a senior member of the National Climate Assessment. He was lead speaker at a White House press event and has addressed the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Connie Roser-Renouf is active in the National Academy of Sciences and runs a national program facilitating CAGW museum exhibits. She was lead author of Global Warming’s Six Americas and the 2016 Elections – a much-referenced document, co-produced with YPCCC.
GMU4C funding comes from NASA, NOAA and NSF; and from several philanthropies including Energy Foundation and Grantham Foundation. The latter, a movement dark-horse, was founded in 1997 by British-born octogenarian Jeremy Grantham of the Boston-based Grantham, Mayo, van Otterloo investment firm ($70 billion under management). Grantham, an avowed corporatist, divulges few details about his philanthropy.
GMU4C employs 46 faculty and staff and 8 doctoral students. GMU4C boasts 18 affiliated professors and 5 partnering journalism societies.
In 2009, together with foundation-funded Climate Central, GMU4C began an initiative aimed at fusing public health with climate change. This partnership liaises with medical societies to discover the “health harms of climate change.” A 2016 conference on this topic attracted 9 medical societies. In 2018 they launched the Medical Society Consortium for Climate and Health. Presently, 5 national medical associations partner with GMU4C.
In 2009, with NSF funding, GMU4C began converting media weathercasters into climate educators. This initiative, Climate Matters, partners with the American Meteorological Society, NOAA and NASA. In 2014 Climate Matters’ pet weathercaster interviewed President Obama regarding climate change. (GMU4C claims their polling convinced Obama to speak more about climate.)
Climate Matters provides weekly CAGW awareness packages to 600 weathercasters. Thanks to this program 75% of Americans have CAGW messaging surreptitiously insinuated into their weather reports. CAGW/weather combo reports have increased 17-fold since 2012.
(A key Climate Change Communication metric is the percentage of people believing current weather to be CAGW-influenced. One of the most effective mechanisms for shifting people from CAGW scepticism to CAGW acceptance involves instilling the idea that local weather is becoming “weird.”)
The trajectory of the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science (ORECS) exposes academic trends. Circa 2015, ORECS began soliciting climate science papers for content in marketable encyclopedia sets and handbooks. A team of 40 distinguished advisers and editors (dominated by Germans and Scandinavians) was convened and papers appeared. Tellingly, ORECS immediately spawned the semi-autonomous Oxford Encyclopedia of Climate Change Communication to:
“…examine the origin and evolution of our understanding of climate change as presented in communication and media, including their effects on public opinion and policy.”
Moreover, of the 206 science papers ORECS published, 119 are Communications papers. Other papers deal with politics and policy. Papers actually dealing with climate science comprise only 30% of the climate science encyclopedia. Persuasion is what persuasion science does.
Oxford Encyclopedia of Climate Change Communication Editor-in-Chief Martin Nisbet got his PhD in Communications from Cornell and now teaches at Northeastern. Nisbet, an AAAS consultant, is also Editor-in-Chief of Environmental Communication – the International Environmental Communication Association’s journal. Environmental Communication’s editorial board overlaps with Nisbet’s encyclopedia board. Connie Roser-Renouf is also on EC’s board. Nisbet the author of 75 papers, is: “among the most influential communication researchers of his generation.”
Europeans spearhead Climate Change Communication science, although they do not always name it such. One node is Hamburg U’s Center for Sustainability and Climate Change Management. To aid their interdisciplinary and educational programming work they hosted the World Symposium on Climate Change Communication in Graz, Austria (2018).
In 2016 Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology hosted 25 “climate denial” specialists. This conference was the brainchild of Professor Martin Hultman. Attending via Skype from Oklahoma was Hultman’s inspiration, Professor Riley Dunlap.
Dunlap’s study of climate scepticism among American conservative men, Cool Dudes, so impressed Hultman he did a knock-off on Norwegians also titled Cool Dudes. Hultman reckons 63% of Norway’s “conservative” men are “deniers” (compared to 36% of Norway’s overall population).
In 2018 Hultman kicked-off his Center for Studies of Climate Change Denialism (CEFORCED) – the world’s first research institute dedicated to denialism. CEFORCED is hosted by Chalmers University and funded by the Swedish Energy Agency. CEFORCED has recruited 40 research affiliates from around the world.
CEFORCED is the Swedish government’s reaction to homegrown climate sceptical groups like Stockholm Initiative and Climate Sense, and the more worrisome “Right-Wing Populist” Swedish Democrats, who audaciously challenge meteorological authorities’ climate pronouncements.
Understanding Right-wing Populism (RWP) is a Climate Change Communication priority. Professor Lockwood’s Right-wing populism and the Climate Change Agenda (2018) relays what his scholarly peers deem the Right-Wing Populist’s universal lament:
“…this is our polity, in which we, the democratic sovereign, have a right to practise government by the people, but we have been shut out of power by corrupt politicians and an unrepresentative elite who betray our interests, ignore our opinions, and treat us with contempt.”
This is not a “right-wing” statement; it is a pro-democracy statement. Lockwood concedes:
“…the core populist ideology does not fit neatly into the conventional left-right ideological dimension.”
According to Lockwood, populists are rebelling against the fact that:
“…mainstream political parties have become more technocratic and converged on a centre-right policy agenda around a middle-class voter, and a cartelization of politics.”
Populists are economic nationalists resisting the UN and EU. Populists want national governments, not supranational bureaucracies, to set policy. As CAGW is the supranational issue par excellence, populist climate scepticism is merely collateral damage of a broader rejection of globalism.
The Comparative Manifesto Project analysed the climate views of 13 European RWP parties. Four were climate sceptical (British National Party, UK Independence Party, Danish People’s Party and Italy’s Northern League). Eight were climate silent or climate ambiguous. Only Greece’s LAOS embraced CAGW orthodoxy.
Most European RWP parties do not reject CAGW; preferring to marginalise climate and focus on immigration. Austria’s Freedom Party, Hungary’s Fidesz and Jobbik, and Finland’s Finn Party avoid climate. When pressed, they express mild scepticism not outright rejection. Nevertheless, climate is a watershed issue. Mainstream (non-populist) parties explicitly endorse CAGW science and mitigation.
Many European RWP parties are pro-nuclear. Some are pro-renewables (Austrian Freedom Party, Danish People’s Party and Hungary’s Jobbik). All oppose enviro-taxes. Poland’s Law and Justice Party is pro-coal and only begrudgingly complies with EU diktat regarding renewables. Germany’s Alliance for Democracy (AfD) is pro-coal, pro-nuclear and hostile to renewable subsidies. Many AfDers express climate scepticism, however when the topic surfaced at their 2016 national convention an unbridgeable fissure opened.
American populism surfaced not as an independent party but as a Republican faction. Tea Party Republicans are the stoutest organised expression of CAGW rejection. According to Dunlap, by 2008 “climate change denial” had become “a virtual litmus test for Republican political candidates.” Trump won Tea Partier hearts by calling climate change as a hoax.
CAGW Communicators are prohibited, upon pain of ostracism, from doubting CAGW. Hence CAGW disbelief must be attributed to failings of the heretics, not to flaws in CAGW. Six failings are proffered:
- Confirmation Bias – deniers only seek evidence validating denial;
- Libertarianism – libertarians would rather deny science than accept solutions requiring government intervention;
- Dunning-Kruger Effect – deniers have low intellectual abilities and delusions of superiority. “Smart idiots” become less persuadable the more tidbits of knowledge they accrue;
- Tribalism – deniers belong to denier families, churches or parties. Tribal loyalty overrules science;
- Conspiracist Ideation – deniers suffer paranoid delusions wherein climate scientists form part of a nefarious global conspiracy;
- Fossil Fuel Disinformation – deniers are duped by oil and coal company propaganda.
In their effort to blame scepticism on Big Oil’s libertarian goons, Dunlap’s team assembled data which sceptics may find valuable. Did you know?
- 108 CAGW-sceptical books were published between 1982 and 2010;
- 87% came through publishing firms. 13% were self-published;
- 71% of the professionally published books were funded by, or written by persons connected to, free market think tanks like Cato Institute, Heartland Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Marshall Institute, Hoover Institute, and Institute for Economic Affairs;
- Pre-1999 CAGW-sceptical books were nearly all US-published; thereafter scepticism went global.
Global Warming’s Six Americas and the 2016 Elections categorises Americans by attitude towards CAGW. The breakdown:
- Alarmed 17%
- Concerned 28%
- Cautious 27%
- Disengaged 7%
- Doubtful 11%
- Dismissive 10%
The “Alarmed” demand government action. “Doubtfuls” and “Dismissives” oppose government action and support Trump. Pew research also shows stark differences of opinion between Republicans and Democrats regarding CAGW.
The authors of Climate Change and the American Mind (2018) surveyed 1,278 adults. 14% did not believe global warming was happening. 28% said the warming was natural. 21% were very worried about global warming. 61% believed US weather was already affected; 29% believed it was greatly affected.
Climate Change Communicators engineer polarisation.
The “Alarmed” cohort doubled over the last decade due to media and educational persuasion; not due to climatic change. A quarter of the Alarmed harangue politicians. Many Alarmed believe carbon dioxide causes skin cancer. Many believe global warming is intentional. Much climate communication aims at pressing the “Concerned” into the torch-and-pitchfork toting mobs of the Alarmed.
At the spectrum’s other end Communicators lure Doubtfuls away from Dismissives. Here they heed the words of Yale Climate Connections contributor, Dana Nuccitelli:
“One thing most social scientists agree on is that people are more open to information when it comes from “trusted sources” – people with whom they have shared values.”
Such thinking has prompted the “conservative-to-conservative” projects creating golden opportunities for Bob Inglis and Katherine Hayhoe et al.
In 2012 GMU4C recruited six-term Congressmen Bob Inglis (R SC) to front their RepublicEn experiment. Inglis, a former climate sceptic, works the conservative lecture circuit with an “I Saw the Light” testimonial. This fetched him a JFK Profile in Courage Award. RepublicEn recently recruited its 5,000th Republican. In 2016 Inglis and Hayhoe were placed on Politico’s 50 list. Hayhoe earlier made Time Magazine’s 100 list.
Katherine Hayhoe was born unto an Evangelical father, Doug Hayhoe (PhD Ed. M.Div.). She began her career studying Astronomy but jumped on the CAGW bandwagon in 1995, ultimately earning a PhD in Atmospheric Science. En route she married an Evangelical pastor.
Evangelicals constitute 25% of the US electorate. They incline toward CAGW scepticism. Doug Hayhoe explains this by pointing to the social and theological conservativism of his Evangelical tribe. Stem cell and Evolution controversies convinced many Evangelicals that scientists have hidden agendas.
CAGW communicators approach this constituency through the Evangelical Climate Initiative, Young Evangelicals for Climate Action; and through turbo-charging Katherine’s career. Now an YPCCC Research Affiliate and a RepublicEn advisor, Katherine tours the US delivering crafted 45-minute lectures to Evangelical congregations. The first seven minutes are devoted to Christ.
Doug Hayhoe studies his daughter’s impact on audiences using before-and-after surveys. In a published study he reports impressive increases in CAGW concern among audiences who listen to Katherine’s sermon.
Like many CAGW Communicators Katherine recommends ditching the label “Denier” for “Dismissive.” She defines this cohort as:
“…a dismissive person will dismiss any evidence, any arguments with which they’re presented because dismissing the reality of climate change and the necessity for action is such a core part of their identity that it’s like asking them, you know, to cut off an arm.”
Leiserowitz believes Dismissives constitute a loud, over-represented 11% of America. He bemoans:
“We are now in an environment where it is very difficult to have a rational conversation about climate change with people who think it’s just a conspiracy. That deeper hard-core conservative base, that has so infused Republican politics in particular has marched the party and many of its staunchest core supporters out on the limb very far from this problem and its source.”
“You don’t have to persuade Dismissives – who tend to think it’s all just a liberal conspiracy – that climate change is real. You just have to persuade them not to be in active resistance to climate solutions.”
In other words: Forget about converting sceptics. Demoralise them. Neutralise them. Vilify them.
Uber-hip climate pundit Michael Barnard has picked up the beat:
“It must not be very pleasant to hang out with other global warming ‘skeptics’ these days what with so many of the crowd being so obviously frothing racists and deluded.”
Barnard’s trendy epithet, “xenosceptic,” serves a dual purpose. Doubtfuls can be drawn toward CAGW acceptance by convincing them that Dismissives are blinded by odious ideologies. Dismissives can be silenced out of fear of being associated with frothing racists.
The official narrative has late-1980s scientists discovering Earth’s temperature to be unnaturally over-heating; then rushing out to alert policy-makers. CAGW, however, did not arise from science. It arose from government oil and coal phase-out programs. Phase-outs are the horse; CAGW is the cart. Phase-outs are the dog, CAGW is the tail; …and what a tale.
Even sceptics have difficulty grasping that Climate Change is all propaganda. They ensnare themselves in endlessly untangling the ever-lengthening Gordian Knot of CAGW pseudo-science. This is crucial work for sure, but there comes a times to ask: why do scientists fudge temperature data, exaggerate sea level rises, and lie about polar bears? The answer is that their portentous papers, like the pretentious publications that print them …ain’t nothin’ but propaganda.
Barnard, Michael. Climate Change ‘Skepticism’ 6 overlapping drivers; Clean Technica, August 15, 2018.
Barnard, Michael. Male Right-Wing Nationalists Are Now All Climate Change Deniers; Clean Technica, August 28, 2018.
Bender, Nicole. Philanthropic Community Announces $4 billion Commitment to Combat Climate Change; Climate Works, September 14, 2018.
Bergstedt, Eva. Conference on climate change denial; Linkoping University, October 27, 2016
Chalmers University of Technology. Climate Change denial strongly linked to right-wing nationalism; Press Release, August 22, 2018.
Dunlap, Riley et al. Climate Change Denial Books and Conservative Think Tanks: Exploring the connection; The American Behavioral Scientist, June 2013.
George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication
Hayhoe, Katherine. There must be more productive ways to talk about climate change; National Public Radio interview transcript, May 9, 2017.
Kirk, Karin. Changing Minds on Climate Change; Yale Climate Connections, April 18, 2017
Anthony Leiserowitz’s C.V.
Leiserowitz, Anthony. Trump Voters and Global Warming; Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, February 6, 2017.
Lockwood, Matthew. Right-wing populism and the Climate Change Agenda; Environmental Politics, Vol. 27, No. 4; Routledge, Taylor and Francis; April 2018.
Nuccitelli, Dana. Katherine Hayhoe is successfully convincing doubtful evangelicals about climate change; The Guardian, August 28, 2017
Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science
Oxford Encyclopedia of Climate Change Communication
Pera, Charlotte. Philanthropic Community Announces $4 billion Commitment to Combat Climate Change; Climate Works, September 14, 2018.
Roser-Renouf, Connie et al. Global Warming’s Six America’s and the Elections 2016; Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, July 12, 2016.
Smith, Heather. How do you make conservatives care about climate change? An expert shares his tips. Grist, October 16, 2015.
Smith, Heather. What’s the best way to communicate about climate change? This expert offers some insights. Grist, September 17, 2015.
Swedish Energy Agency
Yale Program for Climate Change Communication
Yale Climate Connections
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