Guardian columnist laments fossil fuel influence on climate change coverage

George Manbiot’s succinct August 3 piece in The Guardian takes note of how well-to-do fossil fuel interests continue to promote misinformation about global warming in news coverage. As most of us are well aware, last year was the warmest ever recorded, beating the previous record set the year before, and this year is on track to be warmer still. Indirect measurements of warming, such as the declining extent of Arctic sea ice and the rise in sea levels, continue to point in the same direction. Despite that, we still hear people insist that global warming stopped more than ten years ago. And as Manbiot is far from alone in pointing out, past scientific predictions about warming of have actually tended to understate the problems we’re now experiencing.

Not all that many years ago most Republican as well as Democratic leaders acknowledged the science and differed only on how to address the problem. Both Presidents Bush spoke of the need to do something, as did Republican presidential candidates Bob Dole and John McCain. Mitt Romney was largely dismissive of climate change when he ran in 2012, but last year he made it clear he recognizes the reality and importance of the problem (see e.g. this piece in The Atlantic).

Unfortunately, the recent sharp rightward shift of the GOP and its base seems to have led to a growing degree of science denial. Most Republican presidential contenders this year reject the scientific consensus, and the eventual nominee, Donald Trump, has called climate change a “hoax” invented by the Chinese. (That at least has the virtue of novelty. There are still some who credit Al Gore with the idea.) On the other hand, as Manbiot points out, Trump’s golf course in Ireland “is seeking permission to build a wall – not to keep out Mexicans, but to defend his business from rising sea levels, erosion and storm surges caused, the application says, by global warming.”

The candidate who finished second behind Trump and well ahead of the rest of the field, Ted Cruz, has said things just as nonsensical, for example repeating the myth that the term “global warming” was replaced by “climate change” two or three years ago when scientists supposedly realized the warming wasn’t happening. In reality, of course, both terms for the same set of phenomena have been in use for decades.

For just one obvious example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was created to study global warming during the Reagan administration. A previous post on this blog linked to a scientific paper published 60 years ago that referred to human-caused global warming as “climate change” in its title. The same post featured an amusing video someone created to contrast Cruz’s claim with clips going back to the 1980s of Republican as well as Democratic presidents (as well as British PM Margaret Thatcher) speaking about “climate change” in a fashion that makes it clear they’re talking about global warming.

For more about Cruz’s multiple false assertions about global warming (errors that are by no means limited to Cruz), see also this post.

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