Never before have so many been mislead by so much money spent by the so very few. All without the slightest attention to the truth.
I'm talking about those who deny proven climate science. Deniers, sometimes aptly called "confusionists," want to mislead us so our leaders won't move to battle the scourge of our time. Because if leaders act, profits of the fossil fuel companies and the whole fake universe of climate denial will come crashing down.
Climate deniers are gearing up for an event they really fear: the release next week of the fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. It will again reaffirm that climate change is a huge problem and that it's being caused by the burning of fossil fuels. (Click here for some must-read stories on the upcoming IPCC report.)
The IPCC was founded in 1988 by the U.N. and the World Meteorological Organization, and will issue a report dripping with authority. The assessments are not written by paid groups, but by scientists who volunteer their time.
Because of this, climate deniers, who are paid by groups with agendas, are laying it on thick now, producing reports and writing op-eds in the usual media outlets that will print their rubbish without any basic fact-checking.
But this column is not for the deniers of science; they are lost to their Midas grip.
This column is for all the rest of us going about our work week unclear of how to respond to the conflicting rattle and hum of the climate change debate. But let's simplify it: Is the planet warming due to the concentration of greenhouse gases?
So why all the doubt? Scientists have traditionally been held in high esteem in our culture. With their exacting standards, the proven peer review process, they've pried open vast secrets of our awesome universe.
But today too many doubt the smartest minds who are uncovering the biggest and scariest things happening to our planet. You can thank the merchants of carbon, the Lord Voldemorts of our time, for this. They are determined to cloud the issues for their benefit -- to your detriment.
The art of attacking science has been growing over the past few decades. Many trace the origins to the tobacco wars. Big tobacco worked feverishly to prevent a government crackdown on their lethal product, including using dubious science to sow confusion over whether there was a link between nicotine and cancer. The strategy was best summed up in one memo from a tobacco company:
"Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy."
This strategy, as documented in the great book, Merchants of Doubt, became a template for big companies trying to stave off government oversight, including the battles over acid rain and protecting the ozone layer.
Now big oil, the Koch Brothers, Exxon and the like, are pouring millions into campaigns to confuse the public over science that is established and proven. They have created a fake universe of front organizations, lobbyists and even some compliant scientists.
"Many organizations have settled in the Potemkin village of climate change denial," wrote scientist Michael Mann in his book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars.
"The corporate PR campaign has gone viral, spawning a denial movement that is distributed, decentralized and largely immune to reasoned response," according to an exhaustive 66-page study, "Dealing in Doubt", produced by Greenpeace.
Greenpeace says ExxonMobil spent $27.4 million to support the climate denial universe between 1998-2012. In 2010, Greenpeace revealed that the Koch Brothers, with their vast resource holdings, funneled at least $67 million since 1997 to climate denial organizations. As well, Greenpeace says two groups, Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, which allow companies to secretly donate to climate denying causes, have lavished $146 million on more than 100 groups between 2002-2011.
And this is not even counting the money fossil fuel groups pay to U.S. politicians. It's not a coincidence that one-third of U.S. law makers are climate deniers.
Yeah, so first they pollute the skies, then our minds and then our elected representatives.
How can you know the difference between the truth and the falsehoods? Here are five tests:
1. Climate deniers quote from a small group of so-called experts who rarely do any original research, let alone subject their 'work' to the peer review process.
2. Climate deniers usually treat the environment as a joke and think it's funny to viciously attack established climate scientists.
3. Articles in suspect news organizations rarely quote at length or provide links to the latest scientific findings they are attempting to refute. The authors make blanket statements like "I believe a new ice age is underway" -- without the slightest factual backup.
4. Articles and papers published by climate deniers all tend to sound the same. They have an uncanny ability to sing from the same misleading song sheet.
5. Climate deniers say there are two sides to the debate over global warming, when there are not. Climate science is settled -- the real debate is how we respond to it -- not whether it's happening.
A closing thought from Philip Roth, from his novel, The Plot Against America: "To have enslaved America with this hocus-pocus! To have captured the mind of the world's greatest nation without uttering a single word of truth!"
Roth was writing a fictional tale of what would have happened to America during World War II if it embraced fascist ideals instead of open, democratic values. Now we are facing a new kind of hocus-pocus that is all too real, propagated by a dangerous minority.