Corporate mapper asks: Who needs old-time climate change deniers when we’ve got the ‘New Climate Denialism’?

Posted on May 12, 2017, 1:02 am
6 mins

PHOTOS: Shannon Daub, associate director of the CCPA’s British Columbia office and co-director of the Corporate Mapping Project, at the mapping project’s 2017 Summer Institute at the University of Victoria this week. Below: CCPA B.C. Director Seth Klein (Twitter) and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

VICTORIA, B.C.

Just because there are hardly any climate change deniers left any more doesn’t mean there’s no climate change denial, says Shannon Daub of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Indeed, Ms. Daub told about 60 participants in the 2017 Summer Institute of the Corporate Mapping Project at the University of Victoria this week, climate change denialism is playing a bigger role than ever as corporations, right-wing think tanks, Astro-Turf groups, conservative governments and others among the Usual Suspects shift from denying outright that climate change is taking place to conceding the science is real while doing what they can to delay meaningful change that might do something about it.

“They’ve decided to stop fighting the science,” observed Ms. Daub, associate director of the CCPA’s British Columbia office and co-director of the Corporate Mapping Project, a six-year research initiative jointly run by the University of Victoria, CCPA’s B.C. and Saskatchewan branches, and the University of Alberta’s Parkland Institute.

None of which is to say there aren’t actual deniers of climate change science out there, of course. It’s just that it’s become sort of a legacy hobby activity engaged in by amateurs who write letters to their local newspapers. The smart money in climate change denial, as Ms. Daub explained, has moved on to new approaches.

So the days when the fossil fuel industry paid big bucks to get think tanks, foundations, friendly academics and lobbyists to confuse the public and raise doubt about the powerful evidence climate change is real are thankfully coming to an end. As Ms. Daub said in a blog post last fall written with CCPA B.C. Director Seth Klein, “the climate deniers have now mostly been exposed and repudiated.”

But as a result, she told the UVic conference, opponents of action on climate change have adopted subtler approaches. She named four main kinds of climate change denialism now commonly practiced in Canada, none of which requires participants to be embarrassed by having to claim aloud that the science of climate change isn’t … well, scientific.

The Cheerleaders – who tell us about our bright green market-based future based on the trinity of renewables, clean technology and carbon taxes without addressing the truly difficult question of how we actually manage the transition from fossil fuels, which won’t be easy. They act as an echo chamber for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cheerleading, she observed.

The Pragmatists – who recognize Western Canada’s oilsands need a reputation makeover to give Canadian oil a better reputation abroad and win access to foreign markets. It’s what Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is doing, Ms. Daub argued, when Alberta’s government uses carbon pricing and tougher environmental regulations in an effort to persuade Canadians we can have climate leadership and more oil and gas expansion at the same time. It’s what B.C. Premier Christy Clark is up to when she touts the province’s “climate leadership” to push LNG development and fracking.

The Skeptics – who say, “we’re behind this policy as long as it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do.” You know, like “revenue neutral” carbon taxes that don’t result in industry paying more for carbon outputs. Groups like the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers now acknowledge the need for a more effective approach, but warn us not to move too fast or change anything that might affect the Canadian industry’s competitiveness. “It’s actually a form of obstructionism,” Ms. Daub argued.

The Indigenous Rights and Title Deniers – who endorse reconciliation and Indigenous self-determination, but insist in the face of First Nations legal challenges on the legal right to push pipelines wherever they want.

All of these “new climate deniers,” Ms. Daub said, provide “green cover for industries profiting from fossil fuels and pumping carbon into the environment.”

As for those old “hard deniers,” why would they bother? “Why take the flack when you can do the same thing and get the credit?”

Formally known as Mapping the Power of the Carbon-Extractive Corporate Resource Sector, the Corporate Mapping Project is financed by a $2.5-million partnership grant awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, plus $2 million in matching funds from partner organizations. SSHRC Partnership Grants support formal partnerships between universities and others to improve understanding of critical issues facing Canadians.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

37 Comments to: Corporate mapper asks: Who needs old-time climate change deniers when we’ve got the ‘New Climate Denialism’?

  1. Robert Bragg

    May 12th, 2017

    I think this is stretching the definition of denial to an absurd degree. It suggests that anyone not completely opposed to any and all oil and gas development or use is in denial. A convenient way for the so-called “pure”environmentalists to keep the politics polarized and guarantee no progress is made in transitioning the economy to more environmentally-sustainable bases. It’s completely negative and leaves no room for negotiation.

    Reply
  2. Ryan H

    May 12th, 2017

    Wow, as someone who strongly supports moving to a more sustainable future, the lack of nuance in those categories is disheartening. The first two categories she explicitly acknowledges are working to improve things, but not as fast or directly as she would like. The third is the closest thing to active opposition on the list, and still represents an incremental victory.

    But the last is staggering. Native rights and land rights in Canada are wrapped up in so many layers of complication that writing off the whole thing (including many pro-pipeline and development native groups?) as a climate change denial tactic is insultingly reductionist. To the point where it is almost not even wrong, but is rather completely outside of the bounds of any other dialogue.

    Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      May 13th, 2017

      I agree, Ryan. The transition to a fossil-free future has to be taken in steps. While these steps should have started a generation ago, they are at least starting now. I am afraid the net effect of Ms Daub’s comments will be detrimental to the environment, as conservative commentators will take them as proof there is no point in taking any steps at all. Jim’s point below is such an example.

      Reply
      • Bob Raynard

        May 13th, 2017

        …as is Farmer B’s.

        Reply
      • political ranger

        May 15th, 2017

        Not at all!
        We need such a reduction in GHG production, on the order of about 80% over 30 years, that a little bit here and a wee bit there is in effect, nothing at all.
        Consider you and yer buds in a car travelling 60 kph. Great fun!
        Now, consider the knowledge that there is a great cliff 999 m ahead. If you and yer buds decide to slow down by no more than 1 km per minute, yer all toast!
        The cliff is a known hazard. Global warming above 400ppm is a known hazard.
        You decide what’s ridiculous.

        Reply
      • Andrew

        August 16th, 2017

        Bob: You posted “The transition to a fossil-free future has to be taken in steps. While these steps should have started a generation ago, they are at least starting now.” Well, since we have missed those steps maybe they should be running to make up for lost time, instead of making baby steps towards that fossil free future.

        Conservatives in every country it seems is involved in rejecting climate change until it happens to them, until they start feeling the effects. Instead they will blame the other guy e.g. “China is to blame” no, it isn’t. China makes tons of stuff for USA and Canada etc.

        I can’t believe that Conservatives still debate whether climate change is happening. I also find it amazing that Conservatives deny the scientific theory of evolution. I think the conservatives need to dismantle the creation museum and get in step with real peer reviewed science. The best tool we have around that helps us to understand the material world is the scientific method.

        Reply
  3. Bloozguy

    May 12th, 2017

    What would you call the Alberta NDP and Federal Liberal’s push for pipelines?

    Reply
  4. Val

    May 12th, 2017

    4.5 millions seems that’s a price to hire witch hunters team of 5.
    cheap like borscht sweet deal, isn’t?

    Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      May 12th, 2017

      It’s cheap compared to what the opposition spends to stall moves to reduce climate change. Given it could help save the planet for your grandkids, it’s a bargain.

      Reply
      • Val

        May 14th, 2017

        oops! my apology.
        didn’t know that by “progressive” definition, fraudsters already been classified as world saviors 🙂

        Reply
  5. Jim

    May 12th, 2017

    Perhaps years of associating anyone that questions you with Nazis has back fired. I have always found the term deniers so childish, you should be able to state your case without resorting to name calling.
    It is however amusing to see Alberta’s carbon tax being sold as helping the environment, and nice to see there are others who recognize this farce. When it is simply another tax directly targeting what is left of the middle class.

    Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      May 12th, 2017

      I dunno… given the potential ramifications of a warming earth, ‘denier’ might actually be too mild.

      Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      May 13th, 2017

      The beauty of the carbon tax is that paying it is optional. If you reduce your energy consumption by the same percentage as the tax, you literally pay nothing. So, put on a sweater in winter, quit leaving your car idling, run a couple of errands with a bicycle and it is all good.

      If you choose not to add a bit of green to your lifestyle, the carbon tax still allows for environmental improvement. The other day I bought some LED light bulbs at an unheard of price of 99 cents. Thanks for contributing to the subsidy, Jim.

      Reply
      • Farmer B

        May 13th, 2017

        Bob I have to disagree, in Alberta in the middle of winter when it is -30 the option of paying the carbon tax is not optional. I require some heat to stay alive. Now I could install a wood burning stove in my house and go out on my land and collect wood to burn and heat my house and avoid the carbon tax. As the carbon tax increases in the future this may be an option I may have to consider. Or I could spend even more money and install a geothermal heating system. But the fact remains for the majority of Albertan’s not paying any carbon tax is not an option!

        Reply
        • Val

          May 14th, 2017

          “I could install a wood burning stove in my house and go out on my land and collect wood to burn and heat my house and avoid the carbon tax.”
          ——————————————————————————————————-

          hey Brian, you really hopes to outsmart political racketeers?
          the Byzantine Empire was first (at least by found records) who practiced “chimney tax”.
          this form of taxation from about 8~9 century had spread around the known at the time world up into 18 century.
          what makes you thing, that in the search for next source of cash influx for doing nothing, this or following government wouldn’t revive forgotten but historically proven to work well taxation practice?

          b.t.w. wondering why this fact in human history not yet been used as argument – fight of our ancestors with pollution and attempt to preserve our present well being.

          Reply
        • Bob Raynard

          May 14th, 2017

          Hey, Farmer B,

          Yeah, I may have taken a bit of artistic license when I said paying it is optional. I do believe, however, that how much you pay is optional. The purpose of a carbon tax is to try and change people’s behavour, because there is certainly a lot of room for change. Yes, the reality is we need to heat our houses when it is minus 30, but the same reality dictates that we shouldn’t expect to walk around the house in a T shirt and bare feet. Likewise home buyers need to consider how big a house they really need – especially after their kids leave home.

          Car idling is another area where behavour changes need to be made. Winter in Alberta means you have to dress for the cold, and be prepared to brush the snow off your car. When people use their remote starters to defrost their windshields, and even melt the snow off, they are making a strong case for a higher carbon tax, especially if they are parking outside because their attached garage is full of stuff. Unfortunately idling becomes a habit, and I see it at temperatures like plus 10, when it isn’t really clear if the idling is to run the heater or the air conditioner!

          Yeah, paying the carbon tax is not optional, but how much you pay is.

          Reply
          • Tiddo

            May 25th, 2017

            So much of what you’re saying rings true for so many reasons, but especially the idling the car (really… truck) to melt the snow and defrost the windows because you can’t park in your enormous garage for all the stuff inside… You should see my neighborhood.

      • Jim

        May 13th, 2017

        Who will provide this subsidy when the middle class is gone? I do agree that there are ways to limit the tax paid however with the rebate only given to lower income earners there is no way to avoid it. It also doesn’t provide incentive for low income earners to cut consumption if you are just going to write them a cheque.

        Reply
        • Bob Raynard

          May 14th, 2017

          Jim, my understanding is there are 2 subsidies happening. One rebate is available to everyone to help them reduce their carbon footprint. This is what I took advantage of to buy my 99 cent subsidized lightbulbs; other people can use it to upgrade windows etc.

          The second subsidy is the one you refer to, available only to low income people. It gives money to cover the effect of the carbon tax but the beauty of it is it gives them the money regardless of their consumption. So yes, they definitely still have incentive to cut their consumption because they can then use their rebate cheques for other things.

          Reply
  6. Sam Gunsch

    May 12th, 2017

    FWIW … research on how to neutralize the misinformation methods of the climate doubters, anti-vaxxers, etc. :

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2017/may/08/study-to-beat-science-denial-inoculate-against-misinformers-tricks?platform=hootsuite

    excerpt: ‘In short, the more we explain the techniques of science denial and misinformation, the more people will become inoculated against them. When we’re exposed to examples of people using cherrypicking or fake experts or false balance to mislead the public, it becomes easier to recognize those techniques, and we’re less likely to fall for them in the future. Teaching people to recognize those techniques is a primary goal of the Denial101x free online course mentioned by Cook.

    When anti-vaxxer Andrew Wakefield was confronted with the consequences of misinforming the Somali immigrants in Minnesota, he told a Washington Post reporter “I don’t feel responsible at all.” One wonders whether we’ll be hearing those words from climate deniers in the coming years.’

    Reply
  7. Sam Gunsch

    May 12th, 2017

    A key problem is that the ‘balance’ practice of mainstream journalism has been exploited by the misinformation purveyors:

    excerpt: ‘in climate stories, journalists will often present arguments by climate scientists and climate deniers with equal weight, creating the perception of a 50/50 split when in reality, 97% of experts are on one side,’

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2017/may/08/study-to-beat-science-denial-inoculate-against-misinformers-tricks?platform=hootsuite

    excerpt: ‘The study focused specifically on misinformation about climate change. The scientists wanted to determine if inoculation could boost peoples’ resistance to false balance in the media, and efforts to cast doubt on the 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming.

    The two issues are connected – in climate stories, journalists will often present arguments by climate scientists and climate deniers with equal weight, creating the perception of a 50/50 split when in reality, 97% of experts are on one side, as elegantly illustrated by John Oliver in this clip with over 7 million views from his HBO program Last Week Tonight’

    Reply
  8. ronmac

    May 12th, 2017

    I myself have some questions on climate change. While I don’t deny climate change is happening I sometimes wonder how much human activity is contributing to it. Is it significant? Or is it minisclue (“a couple farts in a hurricane” was how one scientist described it)?

    I saw a documentary once about 15 years ago about the Vikings who settled along the coast of Greenland. This was about a thousand years ago. They managed to establish thriving agricultural communities that existed for hundreds of years. They didn’t call it “Greenland” for nothing.

    But gradually the climate got much colder. They couldn’t farm anymore. They had to turn to the sea to survive. But even that proved too much. By the 1500’s the last surviving Vikings in this community which thrived for 500 years frooze to their in their beds.

    Now every time I hear alrming reports about the ice shelves in Greenland breaking apart I can’t help but think about those Viking farms. We’ve seen this movie before.

    P.S. If you say it’s probably a good idea we gradually get away from fossil fuels to cleaner forms of energy like solar, no argument from me. I’m onboard with that. Sure it’s going to take massive public subsidies to get that infrastrure up and running and the fossil fuel industry (which itself has depended on these same subsidies) is going to resist.

    Reply
    • Val Jobson

      May 13th, 2017

      Can you provide the different scientific explanations for why it got colder back then, and for why it is getting warmer now? No? Then why do you think your Greenland mythology is relevant?

      We are getting warmer because we are producing GHGs which make the average global surface temperature go up. The scientists say it is human-produced, if we produced no GHGs, we would actually be getting a little cooler.

      https://skepticalscience.com/climate-change-little-ice-age-medieval-warm-period-intermediate.htm

      Reply
      • ronmac

        May 15th, 2017

        Obviously the only explanation I can provide why Greenland got colder is that it’s part of a natural cycle that scientists don’t undertand yet. Are GHC’s speeding the process along? I don’t know. Probably.

        If the black plague wiped out 99.9% of humanity back in the day, leaving us with a few hunter gatherers today scattered over the seven continents would the climate still be getting warmer? That’s a good question.

        I’m pretty skeptical of science as objective truth. Conventional scientific wisdom is changing all the time. You don’t know what to believe anymore.

        I’m getting pretty skeptical of science being an objective of arbritrar of truth. Today’s conventional scientific becomes tomorrow’s

        Reply
        • Val Jobson

          May 17th, 2017

          But scientists don’t throw up their hands and say it’s “natural” and so they can’t understand it; they worry at it until they do understand it. Anyway the cooling at Greenland was not a global cooling, just regional to Europe. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Ice_Age

          You don’t trust what scientists say because you are ignorant about what they do and how they do it. They know their own limitations and don’t make claims they can’t back up.

          Reply
    • political ranger

      May 16th, 2017

      a couple things Ron;
      first, the warming period (Medieval Warm Period) took place over a few centuries. The warming was not global and was +0.3 to maybe +1.0 warmer depending on location. It was followed by a cooling trend, again over a few centuries and again, locationally variable, not global. Because of this non-global aspect scientists suspect volcanic or ocean current changes as the driver of change.
      second, GHG increases are in the air-shed, the global air-shed. Whatever effects GHG has on temperatures would be happening across the globe. And they are. Whatever variation there is is easily explained by either the starting point, ie: cold air warms faster than warm given an equal pulse, or positive feedback mechanisms, ie: melting sea ice exposes a darker sea-surface which absorbs more heat, melting perma-frost releases methane which amplifies the GHG effect.
      And the best estimate of the warming we can expect, given the current consumption trajectory, is 2 – 6 degrees, across the globe. These estimates are basic arithmetic, something a grade 10 science student can easily perform.

      Make no mistake Ron! You and I have not seen this movie before. It is not one we are going to enjoy.

      Reply
  9. David

    May 12th, 2017

    Yes, the deniers have largely disappeared. However, I doubt they will every completely go away after all there are still people who believe the earth is flat and Elvis is alive. I think some people just have a contrary nature or are immune to facts.

    Some of the deniers seem to have morphed into the more reasonable sounding “skeptics”. I am not sure exactly what being a skeptic is, but I am thinking perhaps they accept some but not all of the science around climate change – ie. they do not dismiss it completely like deniers would. However, it seems funny the skeptics never usually talk about the part they accept, so I wonder if they are just deniers in disguise.

    The largest group of perhaps former deniers has turned into advocates of do nothing or just ignore the issue. They realize it only makes them look silly to continue to deny or be skeptics so they don’t actually argue against the science of climate change – they just argue it is too expensive and difficult to do anything about it, so lets do nothing.

    I suppose one could argue against the cost of having a good fire department too and we could just ignore the consequences of that too. I guess some people can compartmentalize things well and just ignore what they don’t want to think about.

    Reply
  10. Farmer B

    May 13th, 2017

    What really interests me is the fact that even what the pragmatists are doing is wrong. The enviro’s will only be happy when there is no resource developement and we are all sitting around staring at our solar panels and wondering what we are going to eat. It is obvious what Premier Notley and Justin Trudeau are doing is not enough. No matter what we do it is not enough. This lack of acknowledgement of progress makes them irrelevant imo.

    Reply
  11. Sassy

    May 13th, 2017

    I think the money spent on the Corporate Mapping Project would be better spent on more (unbiased) research on the causes of climate change and contingency planning for severe events.

    An Inconvenient Truth started many of us thinking and worrying about anthropogenic global warming. A few years later, however, I stumbled upon the climategate emails (http://www.lavoisier.com.au/articles/greenhouse-science/climate-change/climategate-emails.pdf). The astonishingly bad climate science and agenda-driven scientists exposed from the hacked material shocked me into questioning everything. I felt manipulated. I’ve only followed the topic intermittently since then but, from what I’ve read so far, I’m no longer totally convinced CO2 is the main cause of climate change or that human activity is the main creator of increased CO2.

    I consider myself open-minded, not a “denier”. I’d like to see honest research supported to better understand climate change. Enough with the PR machine. Most people can see climate change is happening, so work from there to mitigate harm. I also fully support moving away from fossil fuels for health and environmental reasons. My preference for a levy like the carbon tax is a focus on assistance of small-scale owner or cooperative-owned green energy production. I’d like to see the large corporate energy producers and utility monopolies phased out as new people-friendly business models are promoted (I know, not likely to happen….).

    In summary, I think unnecessary conflict and name-calling over THE CAUSE of climate change is a waste of time – time better spent on practical plans while, at the same time, urging ethical scientists to work together using rigorous scientific methods. Regular readers will know I’m not a fan of the Wildrose/PCs so please don’t assume I’m now in that “box”.

    Reply
    • Val Jobson

      May 14th, 2017

      Climategate was a propaganda exercise. You got suckered.

      The climate science was not bad and the scientists were not agenda-driven. Those same scientists are still doing good science and are well-respected for their work as well as the courage they display in standing up to the liars.

      Reply
      • Sassy

        May 15th, 2017

        You need to actually read even a fraction of the hacked emails from climategate. The science WAS bad and the scientists openly shared with each other in many, many email conversations their need to make the data fit the desired outcome for their bosses (anthropogenic global warming). They fudged or eliminated data all the time. I will try to find another link when I have time.

        This discussion is so important because critical political decisions are now (finally) being made on climate change. Our leaders are relying on research built on the rotten base laid out by those first climate scientists. Due to this distortion, I think government contingency planning to deal with more frequent floods, fires, tornadoes, crop disruptions, etc. etc. is not getting the attention it needs.

        Reply
        • Val Jobson

          May 17th, 2017

          I followed the whole climategate BS while it was going on and it is false to say it proved any bad science was done and it’s false to claim the scientists told each other they had to make the data fit a desired outcome. It was a pack of lies told by criminals who belong in jail for stealing emails and invading privacy.

          Because the climate scientists’ work is valid, we can plan for flooding, fires, etc. It’s the lying deniers who have held us back from preparing for the changes that are happening.

          Reply
    • anonymous

      May 14th, 2017

      “The Lavoisier Group is an Australian organisation formed by politicians and dominated by retired industrial businesspeople and engineers.[1] It does not accept the science of global warming and works to influence attitudes of policy makers and politicians. The organisation downplays the risk of the effects of global warming, rejects the scientific conclusion that human activity causes it, and opposes policies designed to curtail it. Some members regard climate change as a “scam.””.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavoisier_Group

      Reply
      • Sassy

        May 15th, 2017

        Sorry, that may have been an unfortunate choice but I wanted to provide a link to some of the hacked emails from climategate. I don’t know if Lavosier’s interpretations are politicized (statements/opinions in Wikipedia are not unbiased either). What I wanted to link to, but couldn’t quickly find, was Canadian Steve McIntyre’s emails and experiences with the small group of influential climate scientists advising the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. McIntyre, and a few others, were trying to get access to the raw data and statistical analysis behind the “hockey-stick” graph and other evidence purporting to prove catastrophic human-caused global warming from increased carbon dioxide. I haven’t followed this story closely but I believe most of the critical data and and computer programs doing the analysis were subsequently “lost”, just as important climate information from the arctic was “lost” with Harper’s destruction of the research library and, more recently, ancient northern ice core data was “lost” with the unfortunate melting of key pieces stored at the U of A.

        Large industry players seem to be financing and “stirring up” both sides of this debate. That’s something we should all question.

        Reply
        • Val Jobson

          May 17th, 2017

          McIntyre had the data provided to him long before he stopped complaining, but was not honest enough to admit it, & he doesn’t know how to use the data properly. He’s not a credible source, just a yappy idiot on the internet.

          Reply
  12. Sam Gunsch

    May 14th, 2017

    Actual traditional conservative assumptions argue that we should take precautionary actions to avoid climate catastrophe.

    Krugman’s tweets set this out:

    Paul Krugman‏Verified account @paulkrugman May 2

    So, a few thoughts on uncertainty and climate policy. You might not know this from some discussion, but this has been a major research topic

    See for example here: http://www.realclimateeconomics.org/uncertainty_and_risks.html … Much of the discussion gets technical, but I think you can get the gist pretty easily

    Suppose it might rain heavily today. The forecast is uncertain, as forecasts are, although meteorologists do their best.

    So two questions. One is probabilities: how likely is that rain. The other is costs: how heavy is that umbrella, how bad being drenched
    43 replies 44 retweets 198 likes

    Climate change is the rain; climate policy the umbrella. What do we know?

    1. Climate change could be really, truly, civilization-ending bad
    100 replies 469 retweets 1,002 likes

    2. Mitigation policy is NOT hugely costly. We have lots of evidence and experience: pollution control done well not at odds with growth

    And the usual record is that market-based stuff — cap&trade or taxes — ends up much cheaper than expected. Check history of acid rain

    Oh, and renewable technology has made action even cheaper than optimists imagined. So uncertainty is NOT a reason to do nothing

    On the contrary, it makes the case for climate action stronger. Anyone saying otherwise either hasn’t thought it through or has an agenda

    Reply

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