Why Climate Change Skepticism Stops Climate Action

In this Our Changing Climate environmental video essay, I look at why climate change skepticism and denial are so effective at thwarting needed climate action.


I specifically look at how climate change skepticism in ExxonMobil, which knew about human-caused climate change as far back as 1977, and yet constructed a campaign of disinformation and denial in order to shroud the mounting scientific evidence.


Transcript Provided by YouTube:

00:03
climate change is now a polarizing issue
00:05
in American politics while the
00:08
environmental movement has long known
00:09
that scientific evidence is an important
00:12
part of convincing people and
00:13
governments to take action their efforts
00:16
continue to be thwarted not only by
00:18
outright denial ISM but also by a much
00:20
more insidious version of climate change
00:22
denial pseudo rational climate
00:25
skepticism a campaign of disinformation
00:27
from seemingly legitimate sources has
00:31
stymied the climate movements efforts to
00:32
educate the general public on climate
00:34
change in part because it casts doubt on
00:37
established climate science today
00:39
instead of debunking climate change
00:42
denial I’m going to explore climate
00:44
skepticism and why had such a powerful
00:46
factor in preventing climate action even
00:48
when scientific studies continue to say
00:51
that human caused climate change is a
00:53
reality in order to understand the power
00:56
of climate change skepticism we need to
00:58
first strip down the conservative
01:00
climate change strategy to its core a
01:02
fair amount of public voices that
01:05
denounce the evidence of anthropogenic
01:06
climate change are backed by a number of
01:09
large conservative think tanks like the
01:11
heartland or Cato Institute who have
01:13
developed an anti environmental strategy
01:15
that seeks to muddy research-based
01:17
results by claiming that the science is
01:19
quote unquote unsettled while also
01:21
championing a need for more analysis
01:23
this tactic works so well because
01:25
climate deniers don’t necessarily have
01:28
to provide a strong counter-argument
01:30
refuting the growing evidence of
01:32
human-caused climate change instead all
01:34
they need to do is plant kernels of
01:36
doubt in the public’s mind which
01:38
ultimately blocks a majority consensus
01:40
needed to create political change and
01:43
with the use of official sounding names
01:45
like the Cato Institute these unfounded
01:47
claims seem even more legitimate these
01:50
tactics take a page directly from the
01:52
tobacco industry’s playbook from the
01:54
1950s to the 1970s tobacco companies did
01:58
not necessarily provide strong evidence
02:00
through a few claims made against
02:02
cigarettes so much as cast the needed
02:04
amount of doubt on the research in order
02:06
to delay policy change
02:08
skeptics and the fossil fuels industry
02:10
are finding success with very similar
02:12
strategies take for example the case of
02:15
Exxon Mobil in 1977 the scientific
02:18
adviser of exons products research
02:20
division
02:21
James F Black gave a presentation to
02:23
some company managers outlining the
02:25
blunt truth that our use of fossil fuels
02:27
was contributing to warmer global
02:30
temperatures in the subsequent 10 years
02:32
Exxon embarked on an intensive in-house
02:34
scientific investigation that researched
02:37
the validity of this claim the company
02:39
even went so far as to outfit one of
02:41
their super tankers the S o Atlanta k–
02:43
with equipment to test carbon dioxide
02:45
levels in the ocean exons research was
02:48
extensive and the result of their
02:49
computer models and tests confirmed what
02:52
many other studies were already saying
02:54
global temperatures would rise as a
02:56
result of increased carbon dioxide
02:58
release all of this was summed up in a
03:01
43 page memo circulated within the
03:03
company which was concerned with the co2
03:06
greenhouse effect which is receiving
03:08
increased attention in both the
03:10
scientific and popular press as an
03:12
emerging environmental issue in short
03:14
ExxonMobil knew that the burning of
03:16
fossil fuels contributes to a changing
03:19
climate in 1977 despite this knowledge
03:22
by the 1990s ExxonMobil had adopted a
03:25
policy of climate change skepticism and
03:28
disinformation among other methods the
03:30
company published a number of ads that
03:33
cast doubt on the established studies of
03:35
the time and praise the importance of
03:37
embracing skepticism Exxon also donated
03:40
over 675 thousand dollars to the
03:44
Heartland Institute from 1997 to 2006
03:48
this think-tank spread scientific
03:50
disinformation in many forms one of
03:53
which included mailing 100,000 free
03:56
copies of a book to people on Earth Day
03:58
that claimed that climate science has
04:00
been corrupted scepticism is a powerful
04:03
tool in an era where mainstream news is
04:06
dominated by concerns of profitability
04:08
and controversy rather than
04:11
evidence-based stories by constantly
04:13
repeating that there still uncertainty
04:15
or a need for
04:16
you debate climate change skeptics
04:18
continue to generate doubt about climate
04:21
science without needing to substantiate
04:23
any of their claims this unfortunately
04:25
means that today the battle for climate
04:28
action is not over facts but instead
04:30
over whose voice is the loudest so
04:32
climate change disinformation and
04:35
skepticism can only continue to exist if
04:37
we give it a microphone conducting the
04:40
baits on how to deal with human caused
04:42
climate change is fine but in order to
04:44
move forward with strong climate policy
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we need to make clear that this form of
04:49
skepticism is just another tool to delay
04:52
essential climate action this video is
04:56
made possible in part by the wonderful
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people who support me on patreon if
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you’re interested in helping me grow
05:02
this channel head on over to patreon and
05:04
pledge a small amount of money for every
05:06
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05:08
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05:10
or in our changing climate sticker as
05:12
always if you like what you just saw
05:14
share it around and subscribe thanks so
05:16
much for watching and I’ll see you next
05:18
Friday


This post was previously published on YouTube.

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