PBS FRONTLINE – “Climate of Doubt” airs tonight


Tune in tonight at 10 p.m. ET as PBS FRONTLINE investigates the disinformation campaign on climate change. “Climate of Doubt describes the individuals and groups behind an organized effort to attack science by undermining scientists, and to unseat politicians who say they believe there is current climate change caused by human activity.” [UPDATE: see also our October 25 post on this program,  “Climate of Doubt” — Money Buys Skepticism]

Even as the United States has suffered under severe drought, massive wildfires, and record-breaking heat, this year neither presidential candidate talks meaningfully about climate change and climate change disappeared from the presidential debates for the first time in nearly 25 years.  Only four short years ago both presidential candidates agreed that climate change was a problem worth discussing and solving.  In 2008 President-elect Obama called climate change a matter of urgency and national security.  Today, discussion of climate change and its implications has been stifled by political ‘leaders.’ The parties use the issue to define polarized positions, with one party typically denying climate science and the other in retreat on dealing with the problem.

How did it get this way in just four years?  What triggered the significant negative movement in public opinion, from which we are only now recovering?

In a well-orchestrated counterattack on climate change legislative, diplomatic, and regulatory initiatives , fossil fuel companies and wealthy ideologue donors have funded organizations to wage war against climate science and climate scientists,  undermining public understanding and efforts to develop meaningful climate policy.

Five years ago, FRONTLINE, which does perhaps the best investigative journalism in American television, presented an hour-long report, titled “Hot Politics,” looking at the influences that were preventing the U.S. government from acting on climate change.  To this day, “Hot Politics” remains the best hour U.S. television has done at putting the global warming disinformation campaign in context.  We look forward to seeing this new report.

From the press release from PBS on the upcoming program “Climate of Doubt”–



 FRONTLINE presents

Climate of Doubt

Tuesday, October 23, 2012, 10 P.M. ET on PBS



Twitter: @frontlinepbs #frontline

Four years ago, the presidential candidates agreed that climate change was a critical issue demanding urgent attention. But that national call to action has disappeared and in the past four years public opinion on the climate issue has cooled. This election cycle, the presidential candidates barely discuss climate change. And new studies find that only about half of Americans believe global warming is caused by human activity. What’s behind this dramatic reversal? In Climate of Doubt, FRONTLINE correspondent John Hockenberry of PRI’s The Takeaway explores the inner workings of the movement that changed the debate on climate change.

In numerous interviews that took him across the country, Hockenberry discovers how climate skeptics mobilized, built their argument, and undermined public acceptance of a global scientific consensus. Tim Phillips, President of Americans for Prosperity, explains how the movement was able to find a voice and gain momentum as the economy failed, “We got up a hot-air balloon, put a banner on the side of it that said, cap-and-trade means higher taxes, lost jobs, less freedom. And we went all over the country doing events and stirring up grassroots anger and frustration, concern.”

Climate of Doubt describes the individuals and groups behind an organized effort to attack science by undermining scientists, and to unseat politicians who say they believe there is current climate change caused by human activity. Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M, says, “I fully expect that after this program airs I’ll get another FOIA request for all of my emails with you. And you know, I’ll just deal with that. As a climate scientist, I think a lot about the future. It goes with the job. And I want to make sure that in 50 years or 100 years or 200 years, nobody could ever say we didn’t warn them.”

FRONTLINE also investigates the funding that powers the skeptic movement in the name of free market, anti-regulation, small government causes. Hockenberry finds that funding has shifted away from fossil fuel companies to more ideological, and less public, sources. According to Robert Brulle, a sociologist studying the funding patterns of these groups, “The major funders of the climate counter-movement are ideologically driven foundations that are very much concerned about conservative values and world views.”

On the April 2007 FRONTLINE program “Hot Politics” –

View the full program

“Science Suppressed” — FRONTLINE and Center for Investigative Reporting 2007, from “Hot Politics,” segment on Bush Administration suppression of the first National Climate Assessment (from interviews with Rick Piltz and others)

Additional interview material from “Hot Politics” 2007

Earlier posts:

PBS FRONTLINE “Hot Politics” of global warming on April 24, 2007

Category archive: Attacks on climate science and scientists

Category archive: Global Warming Denial Machine


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5 Responses to PBS FRONTLINE – “Climate of Doubt” airs tonight

  1. Pingback: Heartland Calls Wahhmbulance. Anticipates Frontline will Report Truth. « Climate Denial Crock of the Week

  2. Pingback: PBS airs “Climate of Doubt” | Climate/Oceans Action

  3. Brian Wind says:

    I’m an amateur naturalist following global warming obsessively.
    Global climate change, with its cause in fossil fuel consumption, is happening very rapidly right now. The evidence is everywhere and hard to ignore, yet so many Americans are either uniformed or in denial that we are politically paralyzed. We are very close to massive methane clathrate eruptions, which would rapidly create a terminal planet. And even if this does not happen, agriculture cannot tolerate further temperature increases, so a global food crisis is imminent, with planet population pushing 8 billion people. This means social and political upheaval in the extreme. There is possible hope if we cease burning fossil fuels very quickly, but there is no political will to take this huge and disruptive step. Personally, I believe we must try, but know I risk being taken for a madman if I push those around me or become too loud.
    How about you?

  4. Russell Seitz says:

    Hockenberry deserves a dart from Columbia Journalism review for expressing deep shock at anonymous funding , and keeping a straight face as John Kerry harumphed about political money distorting the policy process .

    His wife’s foundation shelled out about a half million clams to subsidize this ‘election year special’

    • Rick - Climate Science Watch says:

      If that’s true, then good for her — it was a pretty good program. As with FRONTLINE’s “Hot Politics” first aired in April 2007, this has been probably the best coverage on U.S. television of the machinations of the global warming disinformation campaign. Kerry was essentially correct, and we’re talking about a great deal more than a few hundred thousand. Corporate money and the money of wealthy right-wing ideologues are clearly distorting the climate policy process and have contributed to giving us a Congress and a group of presidential contenders in one party who seem to have to pass a litmus test of being stupid on climate science — all fronting for the interests behind that distortion of the process. Kerry has been good on climate change, he is not at odds with the most credible expertise in the climate science community, and he knows what’s going on with Congress. His remarks nailed an essential point.

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