Guest essay by Brandon Schollenberger
You can’t make things like this up. James Hansen, one of the most vocal proponents of global warming, is now part of the global warming denial campaign.
I would never have imagined that until I read an article about a new paper, Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations, by Robert Brulle. It claims to investigate the financial status of the “climate change counter-movement” (CCCM), also referred to as the “denial campaign.” I was flabbergasted when I read this in its introduction:
What is the climate change counter-movement?
Here I argue that an efficacious approach to defining this movement is to view it as a cultural contestation between a social movement advocating restrictions on carbon emissions and a counter-movement opposed to such action.
According to this, it doesn’t matter if you believe in global warming. It doesn’t matter if you think global warming is a serious problem. It doesn’t matter if you demand taxes on fossil fuels to pay for investments in renewable energy and carbon sequestering to attempt to lower carbon dioxide emissions. All that matters is how you feel about “restrictions on carbon emissions.”
And it’s not just bad wording. The Conclusion section of the paper says:
The CCCM efforts focus on maintaining a field frame that justifies unlimited use of fossil fuels by attempting to delegitmate the science that supports the necessity of mandatory limits on carbon emissions.
Mandatory limits/restrictions on carbon emissions are known as cap and trade. Oppose those, and no matter what else you may say or do, you’re part of the “denial campaign.” That means when James Hansen writes things like:
But at the heart of his plan is cap and trade, a market-based approach that has been widely praised but does little to slow global warming or reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. It merely allows polluters and Wall Street traders to fleece the public out of billions of dollars.
It is not too late to trade cap and trade for an approach that actually works.
He’s part of the “denial campaign.”
Why then does Brulle not discuss people like Hansen in his paper? It’s simple. Brulle is playing fast and loose with definitions. Brulle’s Supplementary Material describes how he collected his list of organizations:
a consolidated list of all of the organizations identified in prior studies was created.
With an attached footnote that says:
Criteria and Studies utilized to compile this comprehensive listing of potential CCCM organizations are:
1. Organization represented by a speaker/sponsorship at any of the ICC/Heartland Conference
2. Organization participated in the Global Climate Coalition
3. Organization participated in Alliance for Climate Strategies
4. Organization participated in the Cooler Heads Coalition
5. Organization listed as a climate skeptic organization in Merchants of Doubt (Oreskes and Conway 2010)
6. Organization listed in the Greenpeace study of climate change counter-movement (Greenpeace 2010)
7. Organization listed in the Union of Concerned Scientists study of climate change counter-movement (Union of Concerned Scientists 2007)
8. Organization listed in NCRP study of Conservative Organizations (NCRP 1997: 46-53)
An obvious question is why do the first five bullets not describe “organizations identified in prior studies” as claimed? I don’t know. What I do know is all eight bullets deal with groups on the skeptical side. Brulle argues anyone who opposes cap and trade is a denier by simply pretending people like James Hansen don’t exist.
The problem goes beyond that. Brulle doesn’t exclude all people like James Hansen. He doesn’t exclude all people who oppose cap and trade but support other options. What Brulle does is far worse. He includes some people who want to take action to combat global warming but not others, and he does so arbitrarily. For example, the Global Climate Coalition declared:
the development of new technologies to reduce greenhouse emissions [is] a concept strongly supported by the GCC.
That is a course for combating global warming. People can disagree about how good a course it is, but there is no stated distinction between it and the course James Hansen endorses. Both oppose cap and trade, both endorse alternative approaches, but only one gets called a denier. Why?
Because Brulle didn’t make a list of deniers. He made a list of people he dislikes. Being a “denier” isn’t a matter of fitting his definition of the views of a “denier.” It’s just a matter of being disliked by Brulle and his sources.
In other words, “denier” is defined as, “Anyone I dislike.”