“Memo to Media: Industry Spin on Climate is Still Deceiving You”

by Mike Gaworecki

April 24, 2009

There was a rather interesting (if you want to call it that) story in the New York Times today about how the Global Climate Coalition, "a group representing industries with profits tied to fossil fuels," ignored its own scientists’ findings that human activity is causing global warming. These findings date back to the early 90s at least. Of course this is not surprising: The auto, oil, and coal industries, to name a few, are still by and large trying to obstruct legislation that will regulate their ability to pollute our atmosphere, even well after all legitimate debate on the issue is over.

These corporate polluters don’t need to "win" the debate, of course, just sow doubt and confusion, in order to delay action on global warming. And they’ve done that quite well, often aided and abetted by journalists who are compelled to present both "sides" of an argument, no matter how illogical one side might seem, and are surprisingly easily duped by the hacks on the payrolls of groups like the Global Climate Coalition.

Greenpeace’s own Glenn Hurowitz wrote a blog for the Huffington Post about how journalists are still being duped on a daily basis by these same industries:

The amazing thing about this story is not that industry deceived journalists about the threat of climate change, but that journalists are still buying industry deceptions to this day – just different ones.

Having finally lost the battle about the reality of climate change, these same industries and their backers in Congress have come up with a different deception: that bold action on climate change would somehow negatively affect the economy.

In fact, there’s overwhelming evidence showing that climate change is causing hundreds of billions of dollars in drag on the U.S. and world economies as a result of drought, flood, sea level rise (Hurricane Katrina alone caused more than $100 billion in damage), and greater spending on hot-weather accoutrements like air conditioning. NRDC estimates the damage from just four impacts at $2000 per family every single year. And that number doesn’t even consider, for example, the $167 billion annual health care costs attributable to regular old cancer-and-asthma inducing coal fired power plants.

Nevertheless, many journalists, including even many at The New York Times (here and here (h/t Joseph Romm) for instance) repeat as received truth the industry’s latest myth that continuing to spew pollution is somehow good for the economy.

I’m sure the oil and coal industries have a memo somewhere that will come out in 15 years showing that, in fact, their economists knew the environmentalists were right all along: a clean energy economy will in fact boost GDP, create millions of new clean energy jobs, and save consumers money on their electricity bills.

But until that memo comes out, they’re going to continue peddling totally concocted junk economics about dirty energy to reporters – and impede the creation of the clean energy economy.

It’s time for journalists to learn from experience that no matter what your instincts or how slick and knowing the industry flacks seem, they cannot be trusted. They can’t be trusted when they say tobacco is safe, they can’t be trusted when they deny the need for seat belts, they can’t be trusted when they deny the dangers of climate change, and they most certainly can’t be trusted when it comes to the new green economy.

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