Will mainstream media be duped in 2018 by climate denial spin doctors?

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Will 2018 be the year that mainstream media is not duped by professional spin doctors and fake experts paid to downplay and deny the realities of climate change?

Call me cynical, but after more than a decade of research and writing into the role big fossil fuel companies have played in sponsoring coordinated attacks on climate science with public relations spin, I remain unconvinced we won’t see a resurgence in climate denial.

Later this year, a major update on the state of climate change research — the impacts, solutions, scientific underpinnings, etc. — will be released by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In the past, these IPCC reports have turned into a lightning rod for attacks by organizations like the Heartland Institute and theCompetitive Enterprise Institute, who claim to tout freedom and liberty as their cause, but enjoy big dollar sponsorship from coal and oil companies like Koch Industries, Murray Energy, and ExxonMobil.

IPCC climate reports are the Spin Olympics for these fossil-funded groups, with the winner reaping the rewards of notoriety and ultimately more funding to continue their disinformation campaigns.

As in the past, whether an attack on the IPCC climate change report is successful is almost entirely contingent on whether opinion leaders in the media are duped again.

Much of the spin doctoring and public opinion shaping strategies undertaken by the climate science attack dogs relies on getting their message out past their “audience bubble.” In order for them to win the day the story needs to go mainstream.

It is not good enough to get their story published in the ideological bubble of an outlet like Brietbart News or the conspiracy theory echo chamber over at InfoWars. The story can start in these outlets, but it ultimately needs to reach past these audiences, and that is where mainstream media outlets become very important to the climate denial cause.

If the attack can leap to the pages of outlets with more credibility with larger audience segments (think New York Times and CNN), then the fossil-funded climate cabal wins the gold medal.

Fortunately we have a thing called history.

Like big tobacco companies who paid pretend scientists to make up pretend research to fight back against the scientific body of evidence linking tobacco smoke to cancer, there is now a well-documented history of coal and oil companies paying unqualified experts to attack climate science research with the goal of stalling climate change policies that would impact their bottom lines.

In fact, right now Attorneys General in multiple states have active investigations into what ExxonMobil knew and when about the scientific research on climate change and whether the company actively worked to undermine what they knew to be true.

Tobacco companies paid dearly in the end for artificially manufacturing doubt about the link between cigarettes and cancer and other health effects, and ExxonMobil and these other big fossil fuel companies will likely pay dearly for their misdeeds some day.

But someday is not today, and while there have been massive leaps in renewable energy technology and major policy initiatives like the Paris Climate Accord, we also know that we are getting close to past the point of complacency on climate change.

Ignoring the mountains of evidence showing that the burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels is causing unnatural levels of heat trapping gas in our atmosphere seems insane at this point, and we know that those who do are likely driven by ideology, their bank account or an overly active conspiratorial mind.

And any journalists who ignores the similarly larger mountains of evidence documenting the decades long multi-million dollar public relations campaign to prop up fake experts and create doubt about the realities of climate change falls into the same boat or is just naive at best.

The IPCC releases their updated report later this year, leaving more than enough time for any journalists covering climate change, energy and environmental issues to get up to speed.

To leave no room for excuses, here’s plenty of the well-documented history about how the fossil fuel industry paid to manufacture doubt about climate change:


  • George AD

    Yes. The Murdoch Press and reactionary radio will continue publishing and broadcasting falsehoods, quite knowingly.

    • Joe

      Time to lock them all up, the Rupert and his newsrags and the radio nutcase shock jocks, in the name of protecting Australia. We can’t have lies continually being spread across the country that ‘terrorise’ the public causing hysteria and fits of panic.

      • MaxG

        The problem is (while I agree with you) that your talk is considered terrorism in the eyes of the current rulers. It is sad that speaking the truth is something to be frowned upon… what a world.

      • Hettie

        Don’t be silly , Joe! Rupert owns the Australian Government, as well as “the Australian .”
        Happy new year, btw.

  • Grpfast

    Can’t see any change happening in mainstream media. Lazy controlled journalists interested in their pay packet only.
    Most need to be reminded what a journalist is. Was once a proud profession.
    Of course the media are now “fake news” professionals. Can’t trust any of information available from previous reliable sources.

    • MaxG

      I wouldn’t lash out like that… most of us are in wage-slavery… we cannot bite the hand we feed of, otherwise we’ll be shown the door. The free press (the 4th pillar of democracy) was gone some decades ago when corporations bought the media and used it as soundboard for their and their customer’s spin and interests.

    • Ren Stimpy

      I’ve noticed a lot of change mainly in the mainstream media discussion threads (but also the articles) since the satellite data hit a new warming peak in late 2015 thru 2016. Climate change deniers who previously put all their money on the 1998 El Nino being the peak thereby supposedly proving “no warming for 16 years” had to basically shut up when the 2015/2016 peak easily surpassed the one in 1998. It’s been mostly quiet on the Climate Denial Front ever since.

  • PaulC

    Can’t see the truth getting in the way of the denial story…

    I expect the same strategies to continue: (1) deny climate is changing, (2) claim there is no scientific consensus by pointing to a few quacks who disagree, (3) start an argument about climate changes being natural and a self-correcting cycle, (4) point to renewables being intermittent, expensive and subsidised whereas it’s really fossil fuels that are all of the above, (5) claim that renewables manufacturing consumes enormous energy and has dirty manufacturing processes (rare earths mining waste etc.)

    The list goes on… but the question is do you blame the FF giants, or is the root cause the sheeple? Just read the public’s comments on some of the slanted nonsense that’s published.

    Perhaps we really do get the leaders (political and business) we deserve.

    • MaxG

      “Perhaps we really do get the leaders (political and business) we deserve.” Most certainly; what I have been saying for yonks… unfortunate but true.

    • Hettie

      Meanwhile, back at home, the Mums and Dad’s are looking at their horrifying power bills, and calling the solar installers.
      They will believe his lies about the refugees, but they can do their sums.

  • Hettie

    Rupert is heavily invested in fossil fuels and climate change denial. He must Be spewing that the financial reality of renewables means the imminent death of coal.
    Expect redoubled efforts from all his publications to down play the risks of accelerated anthropogenic global heating, and to vilify renewable energy sources.

    • Joe

      Hello again and welcome back young Hettie. The Rupert and his beloved Liberal Party Newsletter aka ‘The Australian’ have been busy of late doing the sort of the thing you talk about. Climate change…nah its Sunspots activity just making its usual and only temporary changee in Earth’s temps: Freezing temps across North America….that’s the new Ice Age hitting Earth: Forecast global temp rises of up to 4- 6 degrees due to increasing CO2 emissions….nah they are way too high, knock that down a bit to 2 – 3 degrees which is just comfy living on the New Planet Earth. Just gotta love the Rupe and his band of merry deniers masquerading as journalists.

  • Ken Fabian

    Large parts of the mainstream media are fellow dupers rather than innocent dupees – and that is the real climate conspiracy. They can act as foreign owned political campaign organisations and get tax deductions on their costs of doing so. They can influence politicians to change the rules in their favour, to strengthen their influence and undermine more thoughtful and truthful voices.

    Climate science denial in the mainstream exists because too much of our media is in the business of promoting sales pitches and it’s most important customers – “business”, not the public – has been choosing where to stand on climate and energy on the basis of how climate policy might affect their short term costs and profitability, NOT on the basis of climate science and projections of long term impacts, economic or environmental. Stopping climate policy – not stopping dangerous climate change – has been the “product” their major customers have wanted to sell.

  • Jonathan Milford

    The ‘mainstream media’ will not change until Rupert Murdoch, who owns most of it, is dead and buried. Remember that he set up the IPA and installed Tony Abbott as PM to carry out their policies. He also went to the USA to take over their media and assist in the Exxon conspiracy.

  • Kevin Brown

    Maurice Newman has been uncharacteristically quiet about his “global cooling” claim recently. Even Andrew Bolt has shut up in the face of the lived experience we are encountering.

  • Pedro

    I do not buy/read newspapers or watch commercial TV news as I no longer trust them and have even become increasingly skeptical of the ABC/SBS. I am one many that does not see their ads and views the print media and free to air TV as becoming worthless and irrelevant. Good riddance when they go out of business for their poor content and shabby lazy journalism is all their own doing.

  • Jexpat

    Aise from the ideological problem at the top: Owners and senior editors, the unfortunate fact is that the vast majority of corporate media journalists are innumerate and scientificaly illiterate- so even if they could or wanted to cease reporting propaganda and engaging in demonstrably false equivalencies, they they lack the skills to do so.

  • Sasquatch

    god I wish there were big evil solar companies and despicable wind turbine conglomerates and maybe a few grid scale storage multinationals. One day we’ll be so lucky.