In an International Survey taken among the world’s most educated and technologically advanced countries, American citizens were found to be the most skeptical about climate change. This should come as no surprise; we have all seen it. In the United States, those who believe climate change to be a hoax or a work of God are not just skeptical citizens standing on their own, they are being led and even shepherded, by prominent religious and political figures (for more on the role of the Religious Right, hold tight for my next blog post). Powerful actors in business, religion, and policy, take great strides to plant the seed of doubt and feed it with disinformation campaigns. Let’s take a look at a few of these campaigns, and find how these actors are involved.
Public schools in New Hampshire, Tennessee, and Louisiana are the current the battle ground for disinformation campaigns. In these three states, and many others, legislatures have put forward bills (and some have even passed them) requiring different climate science curriculum in secondary-schools. Representatives pushing the bills argue that teachers are not teaching “both sides” of the issue and thus, are not encouraging critical thinking. Let’s keep in mind that many of these representatives are funded by industries with seeded interests in making sure the next generation is just as skeptical as this one. Additionally, the organization drafting the legislation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, is also funded by individuals in all the wrong industries. (Take a look at its board of directors to see if your legislator is involved) Essentially, this call for “critical thinking” from legislators is starting to look like a demand from the fossil fuel industry to stop teaching science.
Smells bad to me already, but are you still looking for the proof?
Fortunately, in one incident, internal documents were leaked. These particular documents were from the Heartland Institute, a thinktank in Chicago were many misinformation campaigns are thought up. The linked documents couldn’t be more clear about how the efforts are funded and what their goals are. Take a look:
“We are pursuing a proposal from Dr. David Wojick to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science. His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science. We tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $100,000 for 20 modules in 2012, with funding pledged by the Anonymous Donor.”
The document also references other corporate actors, like the Koch Foundation, that are funding different parts of the effort. Many individuals and corporations who are donors, however remain anonymous even in this internal document.
In response to the document, Leo Hickman of the Guardian said:
“So, we have an anonymous millionaire donor – whose agenda and/or vested interest we know not – funding an effort to discredit the teaching of climate science in schools? How can that ever be justified or considered democratic, let alone judged to be in the pupils’ best interests?”
Climate change denial is not a natural-occurring phenomenon. There are entire thinktanks and foundations in place to ensure that it continues. These initiatives work to do two main things to students: keep them from learning about the scientific proof of climate change in schools and teach them to be suspicious of any evidence they might encounter in the future.