Dealing in Doubt

The Climate Denial Machine vs. Climate Science

Page - September 10, 2013
A brief history of attacks on climate science, climate scientists and the IPCC.

September, 2013.



"Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' [linking smoking with disease] that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy...”

Tobacco company Brown and Williamson internal document, 1969

“Skepticism is not believing what someone tells you, investigating all the information before coming to a conclusion. Skepticism is a good thing. Global warming skepticism is not that. It’s the complete opposite of that. It’s coming to a preconceived conclusion and cherry-picking the information that backs up your opinion. Global warming skepticism isn’t skepticism at all.”

John Cook of

Table of Contents:



The 1990s: a network of denial is created

  • The funders
  • The Players 
  • The think tanks
  • The roots of climate denial: borne out of Big Tobacco anti science campaigns

The history of IPCC attacks

  • 1990 – The IPCC’s First Assessment Report
  • 1995 The Second Assessment Report (SAR)
  • 2001 – The Third Assessment Report (TAR)   
  • 2007 – the Fourth Assessment Report 
  • Climategate: No Scandal behind these gates: (updated 2013)     
  • The AR5, fifth assessment report:  the cherry-picking begins

The Denial Machine Goes Global

  • Australia:  A climate denial front ‘down under
  • The UK’s denial machine


CASE STUDY: The Heartland Institute: a Clearing House of Climate Denial Campaign Tactics

  • Heartland’s internal workings exposed
  • Heartland’s Fake Scientific Conferences and the Unabomber
  • The Origin of the ICCC
  • The NIPCC – or “Climate Change Reconsidered” – or “Not the IPCC”
  • 2013 NIPCC in China – or: Let not the truth get in the way of a good story
  • Heartland, ALEC and the attack on science education

The Attacks on Scientists

  • Case Study:  Bad science versus hockey sticks: Michael Mann
  • Other attacks on scientists
  • Using Freedom of Information to attack scientists
  • The American Tradition Institute vs Mann and the University of Virginia
  • ATI vs James Hansen and NASA
  • ATI vs climate scientists and journalists
  • ATI and the EPA
  • FOI in Australia
  • Conspiracy of Doubt
  • Personal attacks and death threats 
  • Attacks on the consensus

Faking It

  • 2012: “Pal review” replaces “peer review”
  • 2012: Fake a Government report
  • Fake a counter consensus 
  • Fake science and polar bears
  • Can’t publish a peer-reviewed article?  Self publish a book!
  • Fake – or outdated - qualifications

Climate denial and US politics

  • The political effect of climate denial
  • 2013:  Republican denial


Appendix 1: Climate Denial’s “Continental Army”

Appendix 2: Funding of Think Tanks working on Climate Denial


This report describes organized attacks on climate science, scientists and scientific institutions like the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC), that have gone on for more than 20 years. It sets out some of the key moments in this campaign of climate denial started by the fossil fuel industry, and traces them to their sources.

The tobacco industry’s misinformation and PR campaign in the US against regulation reached a peak just as laws controlling tobacco were about to be introduced. Similarly, the campaign against climate change science – and scientists - has intensified as global policy on climate change has become more likely. This time though there is a difference. The corporate PR campaign has gone viral, spawning a denial movement that is distributed, decentralised and largely immune to reasoned response.

This report updates our March 2010 report, ahead of the forthcoming 2013 release of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment report.

The 2010 report was published just after the hysteria that greeted the release of climate scientists’ personal email hacked or stolen from the University of East Anglia on the eve of the Copenhagen Climate Summit in late 2009. This scandal showed the depth and sophistication of the climate denial movement and the willingness of the media to amplify their message, despite its lack of evidence or scientific support – and to be distracted from the urgency of the issue by unfounded attacks on leading research scientists.

Since 2009, there have been nine separate investigations into this so-called “scandal,” each of which have exonerated the scientists at the centre of the accusations. Yet that hasn’t stopped the continued hysteria around the scandals. There have been two more attempts at a “climategate” type scandal, releasing more emails, with very little effect. Unfortunately, traditional media outlets failed to properly correct the misinformation they were so culpable in helping to spread.

With this new edition of Dealing In Doubt we:

  • Detail the ongoing attempts to attack the integrity of individual climate scientists and their work.
  • Look beyond the strategic parallels between the tobacco industry’s campaign for “Sound Science” (where they labeled mainstream science as “junk”) to the current climate denial campaign, to new research that has come to light revealing the deeper connections: the funding, personnel and institutions between the two policy fights.
  • Detail how some scientists are now fighting back and taking legal action.
  • Showcase the Heartland Institute as an example of how tobacco-friendly free market think tanks use a wide range of tactics to wage a campaign against the climate science.
  • Reveal the range of tricks used by the denier campaign, from “pal review” instead of peer review, to personal attacks on scientists through Freedom of Information requests, self-publishing books, and the general conspiratorial noise from the denial machine in the blogosphere.

The majority of the front groups or free market think tanks running campaigns against climate science continue to receive funding from big oil and energy interests.

Since our first report, the massive campaign against climate science – and action on climate, funded by oil barons the Koch Brothers has come to light. And while fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil, whose very products are causing global warming, continue to fund think tanks driving the campaigns, much of the foundation funding has now been driven underground, masked by a funding front-group called the Donors Trust – and its associate Donors Capital Fund, two “donor-advised” funds created to hide the real givers and thus shield them from negative exposure of their support for these campaigns.

Funding to the organizations that comprise the denial machine has risen during the Obama presidency, just as the urgency of climate solutions and promise of policy advances also rose.

“The side that has been issuing these attacks are extremely well-funded, well-organized. They have had an attack infrastructure of this sort for decades, developed it during the tobacco wars, they honed it further … in further efforts to attack science that industry or other sceptical interests find inconvenient. So they have a very well honed, well-funded organized machine that they are bringing to bear in their attack now against climate science.

“It’s literally like a marine in battle against a cub scout when it comes to the scientists defending themselves… We’re not PR experts like they are, we’re not lawyers and lobbyists like they are. We’re scientists, trained to do science.”

- Climate scientist Michael Mann: February 2010

Meanwhile the consensus – and evidence – continues to grow

None of the climate denial machine’s counter attack has changed the harsh reality, the scientific consensus, that climate change is underway and it is caused by humanity’s pollution and other insults to the planet..

If there wasn’t already enough proof in the years of replicated scientific evidence, a May 2013 peer reviewed study examined more than 11,000 climate change papers, and of the 4,000 papers that discussed whether climate change was caused by humans, 97 percent agreed. On the other hand, the percentage of papers challenging this consensus didn’t move – it had flatlined. This corroborated a similar finding in 2010 from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The IPCC scientific assessment is a rigorous and robust process, one of the biggest organized scientific endeavours in the world, involving thousands of scientists in hundreds of research institutes around the world, who assess and compile the findings of thousands of published and peer reviewed papers across a wide range of topics, from the measurement of shrinking ice caps to oceans, clouds, temperature records and observed impacts. It is also a human endeavour and therefore not perfect.

The very purpose of the IPCC itself, and its periodic assessments and reports, is to inform governments participating in the UNFCCC process of the latest science in order to evaluate policy measures. Science is indeed the engine that drives the policy train. Certainty adds urgency and should spur action. The coal, oil and gas industries have always recognized this and have therefore strived for uncertainty to slow policy advances.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the IPCC is that the work is done entirely voluntarily. For many of the scientists involved, it’s the equivalent of having a second job, where you spend as much, if not more time on it as your primary job, unpaid.

Greenpeace has, and continues to have, confidence in the IPCC. There is no more reliable guide to – and summary of - the world’s climate science than the IPCC reports. If anything, due to the long lead-in time for the IPCC reports, they err on the side of conservatism. In late 2012, studies that compared the IPCC’s predictions over 22 years of weather data showed that the organisation has consistently underplayed the intensity of global warming in its reports. The denier campaigns against the IPCC consistently accuse it of overplaying the science, but, if anything, it has underplayed it.

Return to Table of Contents


On the Denial machine:

RealClimate – a blog by climate scientists discussing the latest research and explaining concepts for the general public.

Climate Progress – A. U.S blog run by Joe Romm that covers developments in climate science and politics.

Skeptical Science – An Australian blog by John Cook, that answers the main denier arguments.

Deltoid – An Australian blog by scientist Tim Lambert that exposes the scientific holes in denier arguments:

DeSmogBlog – a Canadian blog exposing climate denier junk science and business links

Climate progress by Joe Romm

Hot Topic – New Zealand blog on climate science and denial arguments

The Guardian Environment blogs, namely:

Planet Oz

Climate Consensus the 97%

ALEC exposed

Climate Insider

Former “gagged” US climate scientist Rick Piltz follows the abuse of climate science at

On the media:

Media Matters for America has ongoing monitoring of climate change misinformation in the media is available at:

Elliot Negin's six-part series: "Unreliable Sources: How the Media Help the Kochs & ExxonMobil Spread Climate Disinformation," Union of Concerned Scientists, available on Huffington Post:

Forecast the Facts runs accountability work on TV meterologists, politicians and companies that misrepresent or lie about the science and consequenses of global warming.

Checks & Balances Project report: "Fossil Fuel Front Groups on the Front Page," available at:

On science

RealClimate blog – a blog by climate scientists discussing science in a very scientific way.

Skeptical science: blog by John Cook, that answers the main denier arguments.

Grist “how to talk to a climate sceptic”



Naomi Oreskes

For a more detailed and full historical account of the denier war on science we recommend “Climate Cover Up” by James Hoggan, Greystone books 2009


“Science as a Contact Sport” by Stephen H Schneider (intro by Tim Flannery) – a scientist’s account of years of denier attacks. Random House, 2009