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The denial industry

By Cindy Baxter - posted Thursday, 19 July 2007

When UK TV’s Channel 4 gave the go-ahead to Martin Durkin for his Great Global Warming Swindle proposal there would have been cheers across the plush Washington offices of numerous industry-funded think tanks.

A major plank in their 15-year campaign against action on global warming had been laid down - and just in the nick of time.

2007 has been a big one for the climate. We have seen the IPCC conclude, with 90 per cent certainty, that global warming is happening and that we are causing it. We have seen huge companies like HSBC and Conoco Phillips (and even Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation) not only accepting the science, but joining global efforts to combat global warming. Al Gore won an Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth.


Much of the world has shifted to focusing on how we should deal with climate change rather than whether we should. But what is the point in continuing to deny the science? Is this really a scientific debate?

In 2001, US communications guru and advisor to the Republicans, Frank Luntz, wrote a memo to the Republicans advising them on the language they should use when talking about climate change.

“The scientific debate remains open,” he wrote. “Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to scientists and other experts in the field.”

Those scientists and experts have been provided by the Washington think tanks funded by ExxonMobil and other oil, coal and car companies. Many of them are interviewed in The Swindle.

A classic example is Fred S. Singer, who is heavily involved with no less than 14 Exxon-funded think tanks. Contrary to what is said in The Swindle, he is not a Professor. Nor was he ever a director of the US weather service. He has published few, if any, papers contributing to the IPCC.

He has been a leading light in denying climate science since the early 1990’s and admits getting money from the fossil fuel industry. Indeed, he has been brought to Australia on a couple of occasions, both times paid for by industry groups such as the Institute for Public Affairs.


Fred’s a busy man in the denial industry - he has also appeared over the years as, variously, the scientific expert for the chemical industry questioning science over the hole in the ozone layer; with the nuclear industry for claiming that nuclear energy is safe, and is still running arguments against the links between second hand smoke and health. At one point he argued that mirrors in the sky would save the ozone layer.

Singer is a professional denial machine. But he is one of the people Martin Durkin would have you believe is a “leading climate scientist”. Seven other of the interviewees are also closely connected with the same Exxon-funded group of think tanks and have been central to the denial campaign for the last 15 years (Patrick Michaels and Richard Lindzen in particular).

About the only bone fide “leading climate scientist” in the original film was Carl Wunsch, an oceanographer who says he was misled by Durkin as to the nature of the program, and was quoted entirely out of context. Wunsch has made an official complaint to the UK broadcasting watchdog, Ofcom. His interview was cut from the documentary shown on Australian television.

The money Exxon and its cronies have spent on climate denial in the US has been successful, especially during the Bush era. The US Government remains outside the Kyoto Protocol. The White House has been accused by leading US climate scientists of gagging them. Bush’s own environmental advisor Phil Cooney was caught watering down the climate science in official government documents. He resigned last year and went to work for Exxon.

Before viewing The Great Global Warming Swindle, the Australian public should have known of these connections, and that the film’s content is part of the long term campaign by an industry-funded propaganda machine to stop action on climate change.

Like the famous tobacco industry quote in the late 1960’s, “doubt is [their] product”.

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About the Author

Cindy Baxter is co-author of, a Greenpeace website which tracks Exxon’s funding of the climate denial industry. She is currently based in Washington.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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