Monday, April 9, 2012

Inside the Climate-Change-Denial Playbook

Last week I posted a video of Senator James Inhofe interviewed by Rachel Maddow. In this interview Inhofe makes assertions that made my jaw drop. Namely, that environmental lobbying groups out-spent oil-and-gas lobbyists by over a billion dollars in 2009.  He even sites Nature Magazine as the source for this "fact." A "fact" that he clearly got wrong by grossly misrepresenting and confusing the numbers.

The opinion piece in question can be viewed here. The numbers reported by the editors are as follows; $272 million spent by oil-and-gas lobbyists opposing cap-and-trade in 2009 while $229 million spent by environmental groups lobbying for cap-and-trade legislation. By claiming that environmental lobbyists spent nearly a billion dollars more than oil-and-gas lobbyists while the article clearly states that environmental groups spent 43 million dollars less, Inhofe is guilty of an egregious falsehood. 

Incidentally, Inhofe also describes Nature as a "very liberal publication." This struck my as particularly hilarious as the vast majority of the material written about in Nature is derived from primary research conducted in laboratories all over the world.  It has the highest impact factor of any academic journal and publishing in said journal is the most competitive endeavor a scientist can undertake.  In all my life I have not seen a single member of the US congress argue about the scientific reporting in Nature Magazine unless it threatened their bottom-line. You don't see Inhofe arguing over the liberal or conservative way in which the crystal structure of Malaria parasite proteins are described. Imagine hearing a senator argue - Yes, the cysteine-rich Duffy-binding-like domains of the parasite's erythrocyte binding protein actually only bind to right-leaning cell surface receptors - COME ON!

I want to emphasize that the article Inhofe refers to is a brief OPINION piece, not a full-on research article. It is an opinion written by the editors encouraging their audience to read a report made by a professor at American University in Washington, DC named Matthew C. Nisbet. The title of professor Nisbet's article is - Climate Shift: Clear Vision for the Next Decade of Public Debate.  

While reading professor Nisbet's response to Inhofe's misuse of his report I came across a very interesting paragraph describing the playbook of the climate-change-deniers.  The following paragraph makes clear that there is an orchestrated effort among some conservatives in Washington to frame climate-change consistently in a severely anti-science manner.  
"During the 1990s, based on focus groups and polling, Republican consultant Frank Luntz helped shape the climate skeptic playbook, recommending in a strategy memo to lobbyists and Republican members of Congress that the issue be framed as scientifically uncertain, using opinions of contrarian scientists as evidence. He also wrote that the “emotional home run” would be an emphasis on the dire economic consequences of action, impacts that would result in an “unfair burden” on Americans if other countries such as China and India did not participate in international agreements."
Using anti-science tactics is intolerable to me and I feel sad for the people of this county who are fooled by charlatans like James Inhofe.  They are making a mockery of this republic and it makes me want to scream!

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