Global warming PR suffers blowback

In mid-June, a respected newsletter for the public relations profession, Jack O’Dwyer’s, reported on a speech given to a Canadian Public Relations Conference by Jim Hoggan, a Vancouver PR practitioner. Reportedly, global warming is the top public issue in Canada, even more than the economy and healthcare.

I have been a public relations counselor since the mid-1970s. Like many in the profession, I came to it after having been a journalist. My advice to clients has always been to tell the truth.

To the extent that people are more concerned about a speculative theory than they are about the real critical issues affecting their real lives tells you how successful proponents of the theory of the Earth dramatically and suddenly warming in a year, ten years, or a hundred years, have been.

Is the Earth warming? Yes, it has been warming since the last mini-Ice Age ended in the 1800s. Since then the Earth has warmed a fraction of a degree Fahrenheit or Centigrade, and this is well within the range of natural variability, what’s the big deal?

Mr. Hoggan, however, was worried. In a speech called, “You can spin MotherNature”, he told attendees that a survey he undertook revealed that, “More than eighty percent of people believe environmental PR pros mislead the public for a living.” Most of the 1,097 respondents said, “they thought PR people were helping clients misrepresent their performance.”

He said, “There are climate quibblers in the energy industry. And the auto industry is confused—actively campaigning against climate change regulation even while spending billions on advertising concentrated on its largest, most profitable and most environmentally damaging models.”

No, Mr. Hoggan, neither the energy industry, the auto manufacturers, nor their consumers and the general public are “confused” about climate change, nor are they stupid.

About the same time he was giving his speech, the Associated Press reported that, “More people than ever are driving alone to work as the nation’s commuters balk at carpools and mass transit. Regardless of fuel prices, housing and work patterns make it hard for suburban commuters to change their gas-guzzling ways.” I guess this was all supposed to make us cry “Oh, boo-hoo.” Typical of such articles, the consumer is to blame along with the awful energy and auto companies.

This is why the environmental groups and their PR representatives continue to spend millions to influence legislators to regulate, regulate, and regulate many aspects of our lives. Based on highly dramatic environmental claims, the intent is to limit people’s right to make market-based decisions.

The result is policies that drive up the cost of basic commodities that include food, energy, and housing. Policies based on “global warming” or “climate change” have great scientific uncertainty. They are often based on a mistrust of free enterprise and, indeed, a negative view of humanity in general.

Who are some of the “climate quibblers” that are casting doubt on their claims? After a slow start when any legitimate climatologist or meteorologist who disputed the claims was attacked, they have been joined by an impressive and growing list of world leaders.

Recently Vaclav Klaus, the President of the Czech Republic, wrote, “We are living in strange times. One exceptionally warm winter is enough irrespective of the fact that in the course of the 20th century the global temperature increased only by 0.6 degrees Centigrade for the environmentalists and their followers to suggest radical measures to do something about the weather, and do it right now.”

In April Yuri Izrael, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, was interviewed by the Ria Novosti news agency. The Vice Chairman of the International Panel on Climate Change broke with its much-vaunted “consensus” over global warming. “I think the panic over global warming is totally unjustified. There is no serious threat to the climate.” He is the head of the Institute of Global Climate and Ecology in Russia.

Science is not about “consensus.” It is about provable facts. Everything else is a hypothesis.

Richard S. Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who early and often debunked and rebuked the theory of global warming, has been at a disadvantage with the general public because, not surprisingly, he cites some rather complex scientific data. As early as 1988 he began to speak out, and more recently said, “the current evidence does not warrant any drastic actions that cannot be justified independently of climate concerns.”

Mr. Hoggan ended his speech by tossing out the standard calumnies about those who cite real science. “The mainstream media are presenting a controversy that doesn’t appear in science—usually without mentioning when skeptical experts were unqualified.”

What these skeptics are really trying to do, however, is to insure you will have gasoline when you drive up to the pump or a choice of oil or natural gas to heat your home this winter. If Mr. Hoggan’s survey is correct—and I think it is—the public is skeptical of PR professionals who tell them the Earth is dramatically warming or just about to.

So, whom do you trust? Jim Hoggan? Speaker Pelosi? Governor Schwartzenegger? Al Gore? Do you really believe that “Live Earth” concerts have anything to do with science? I recommend you trust your own common sense.

Caruba, an adjunct CFACT policy analyst, writes a weekly column, “Warning Signs,” posted on the website of The National Anxiety Center at www.anxietycenter.com.

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CFACT defends the environment and human welfare through facts, news, and analysis.