Yesterday’s subscriber comments
show greenhouse believers top even cyclists and aerial ping pong fans
for provocability. Unlike the other faiths though, the global warmists
have Paul Krugman on their side.

Krugman’s New York Times column
(subscription) on Monday may have fingered a source of Christian Kerr’s
60 Canadian greenhouse sceptics – Exxon Mobil. Krugman launched into
the oil giant and its former CEO, Lee Raymond, claiming Raymond turned
the company into an “enemy of the planet”, a worse environmental
villain than other big oil companies.

The attack wasn’t merely
for selling a lot of hydrocarbons or giving the occasional Alaskan sea
gull an oil bath, but for fighting the science that suggests the
warming thing is on. Krugman says that when the greenhouse science was
less convincing, major oil companies and kindred souls were members of
a body called the Global Climate Coalition, whose aim was to oppose any
limits on producing alleged greenhouse gases.

As the evidence
began to mount, many companies, including BP and Shell, conceded
something needed to be done and dropped out of the coalition – but
Exxon decided to fight the science. Krugman:

A leaked memo from a 1998 meeting at the American Petroleum
Institute, in which Exxon was a participant, describes a strategy of
providing “logistical and moral support” to climate change dissenters,
“thereby raising questions about and undercutting the ‘prevailing
scientific wisdom’. ”

And that’s just what Exxon Mobil has
done: lavish grants have supported a sort of alternative intellectual
universe of global warming sceptics. The people and institutions Exxon
Mobil supports aren’t actually engaged in climate research. They’re the
real-world equivalents of the Academy of Tobacco Studies in the movie Thank You for Smoking, whose purpose is to fail to find evidence of harmful effects.

But
the fake research works for its sponsors, partly because it gets picked
up by right-wing pundits, but mainly because it plays perfectly into
the he-said-she-said conventions of “balanced” journalism. A 2003
study, by Maxwell Boykoff and Jules Boykoff, of reporting on global
warming in major newspapers found that a majority of reports gave the
sceptics – a few dozen people, many if not most receiving direct or
indirect financial support from Exxon Mobil – roughly the same amount
of attention as the scientific consensus, supported by thousands of
independent researchers.

It was certainly a rewarding exercise for Raymond anyway. Exxon paid him US$686 million over his 13 years at the top.

Peter Fray

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