I've been doing a lot of head-scratching the past few days. After a few fairly straightforward posts about U.S. climate policy last week, I received a deluge of antagonistic comments — a couple of them intelligent but most of them downright hateful. The weirdest suggested that I needed to "just die" because I was somehow restricting freedom of expression (can't even begin to wrap my head around that one).
This was all a lot to take in for a fairly uncontroversial cleantech blogger. And I wondered, why the sudden attention? Then I got a clue.
Just last week Thom Hartmann spoke on-air about his meeting with a "blogger hit man." According to Hartmann, several conservative think-tanks in Washington have staff web surfers who are paid to leave negative and/or confusing information in the comments section of any popular, left-leaning blog posts.
That got me thinking. Certainly the coal and oil industries (generous funders of conservative think tanks) have a lot to lose if a cap-and-trade law or other CO2 regulation is passed. So it would be logical (and smart, actually) for them to spend money attacking the "grass roots" of public opinion — the blogosphere, especially considering the growing body of hard evidence that now proves beyond a doubt the very real and imminent threats of climate change.
So just how big is this anti-climate war chest?
I was about to dive into the research when, fortunately, Environmental Defense beat me to the punch by releasing some very interesting statistics. In 2008 alone...
52 public spokespersons were engaged by polluting corporations to spread disinformation about global warming online and in the media
2,340 paid lobbyists were working in Washington on climate change in 2008. Of them 2,047 were advocating against climate change.
$45 million was spent on global warming denial advertising by the coal industry in 2008.
The infiltration of money has many avenues. Just last month, Princeton physics professor William Happer testified before Congress, indicating that we were in a period of global cooling. Not coincidentally, Happer is also Chairman of the Board of the conservative think tank Marshall Institute which has received more than $700,000 in funding from ExxonMobil. One notable Washington Post columnist, George Will, published numerous demonstrably false claims about global warming (referencing Happer). He did not publish a retraction. He did not lose is job.
One of the more popular talking points used (you will see it in abundance if you read the comments on my Leaked EPA document story) is that 2008 was colder than 2007, thus global warming is a lie. Yes indeed 208 was a bit colder. It was ONLY the 9th hottest year on record, as opposed to 2007 which was the 7th hottest on record. The numbers don't lie:
"Global cooling" is one of numerous mistruths presented by corporate-funded bloggers (and the occasional homicidal commenter). For more myths and facts, and to see a real-time accounting of the money being spent this year to fight against climate change policy — called the "Spendometer" — I encourage you to go to Environmental Defense's Climate page.