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”--
HOW THE SKEPTICS CHANGED THE GAME ON CLIMATE CHANGE:
INSIDE THE REMARKABLE TURNAROUND THAT CHANGED PUBLIC OPINION AND THE U.S. POLITICAL LANDSCAPE
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” –
“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)