Corporate manipulation moves to Phase II.
The huge corporations that have spent the last two decades lobbying forcefully
to get government and the media to deny the existence of global warming and
climate change have embarked on a new tack.
In the first phase of their campaign, these capitalist enterprises used every
trick in the book to deny or belittle global warming. Since before the Kyoto
Accords—which went into effect in 1994 and which the U.S. refused to sign—the
energy companies in particular were setting up front organizations to dispute
the scientific evidence.
These groups have had innocuous-sounding names like The Advancement of Sound
Science Coalition (TASSC), Americans for Balanced Energy Sources (ABEC), Center
for Energy and Economic Development, Cooler Heads Coalition, Global Climate
Coalition, Global Climate Information Project and the Greening Earth Society.
There are many more. From a long list available at sourcewatch.org, the sampling
provided here goes only as far as the Gs.
The wolf in sheep’s clothing
TASSC started as a front for Philip Morris. It morphed from disputing the danger
of tobacco smoke to advancing “industry-friendly positions on a wide range
of topics, including global warming, smoking, phthalates and pesticides.”
The Cooler Heads Coalition, according to its website, globalwarming.org, was
formed in 1997 to “dispel the myths of global warming by exposing flawed
economic, scientific and risk analysis. ... The risks of global warming are
speculative; the risks of global warming policies are all too real.”
Before it disbanded in 2002, the Global Climate Coalition (GCC) “was
one of the most outspoken and confrontational industry groups in the United
States battling reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.” It collaborated
with groups such as Sovereignty International, which believes that global warming
is a plot to enslave the world under a United Nations-led “world government.”
The members of the GCC read like a Who’s Who of the largest U.S. industrial
corporations and their organizations, including the American Petroleum Institute,
Chevron Oil, Chrysler, Dow Chemical, Duke Power, DuPont, ExxonMobil, Ford, General
Motors, McDonnell-Douglas, Shell Oil, Texaco and Union Carbide.
According to the Los Angeles Times (Dec. 7, 1997) the GCC spent $13 million
on its 1997 anti-Kyoto ad campaign, an amount roughly equivalent to Greenpeace’s
entire annual budget.
Common Cause has documented more than $63 million in contributions to politicians
from members of the GCC from 1989 to 1999.
The Global Climate Information Project, sponsored by the GCC and the American
Association of Automobile Man u facturers, among others, was created to sponsor
an adver tising campaign in the U.S. against the Kyoto agreement.
The Greening Earth Society, funded and controlled by the Western Fuels Association,
an association of coal-burning utility companies, claims that greenhouse gas
emissions are a good thing because they will lead to greater plant growth and
a greener environment.
For a while, this full-court press by U.S. big business fed the media with
false information that kept a large part of the population confused. In this
period, more than half the reporting by the U.S. corporate media echoed the
well-funded industry lobbyists’ claim that climate change and global warming
were just an unproved “theory.” They ridiculed the view that the
combustion of fossil fuels—especially oil and coal—leads to an accumulation
of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that then traps the earth’s heat.
But then came the hurricanes, the drenching rains leading to disastrous floods
and mud slides, the tornadoes, the grapefruit-sized hail, the droughts, the
wildfires, the melting of glaciers, the death of coral reefs, the shrinking
of the polar ice caps, and the biggest “natural” disaster to hit
a major U.S. city since the San Francisco earthquake—the flooding of New
The Pasterze, Austria's longest glacier (below), was about 2 kilometers
longer in the 19th C. This black & white photograph was taken in 1875
from an overlook on the Grossglockner High Road. It is compared with a photgraph
taken from the same vantage point, showing the complete destruction of the
1875 Photo of the Pasterze Glacier
2004 Photo of the former location of the Pasterze Glacier
(Photos from World
View of Global Warming)
Global warming is now virtually undisputed in the world’s scientific
community, which has moved on to creating models to predict the impact of climate
change on low-lying coastal areas, deserts, tundra, ocean currents and so on.
So what are the big corporations that spent hundreds of millions on disinformation
The wolf gets through the door
They are moving into the area of ecology and conservation in order to make
sure that whatever is done is profitable for them.
Take something like the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. It is a product
of the Pew Charitable Trusts, set up by the descendants of Joseph Pew, founder
of the Sun Oil Co.
For generations, this super-rich family has funded a panoply of right-wing
organizations, from the American Liberty League in the 1930s to the Christian
Freedom Foundation and the John Birch Society in the 1950s and, more recently,
the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Manhattan
Institute for Policy Research. This last organization was set up by William
Casey, later to become Reagan’s CIA director.
Unlike the earlier industry-sponsored organizations, the Pew Center on Global
Climate Change does not dispute global warming. Rather, it seeks to set the
agenda of the environmental movement and any related legislation so businesses
can take advantage of it.
Its website talks about “the emerging greenhouse gas market.” The
center has set up a Business Environmental Leadership Council, which says that
“companies taking early action on climate strategies and policy will gain
sustained competitive advantage over their peers.”
“The BELC,” they go on, “is now the largest U.S. based association
of corporations focused on addressing the challenges of climate change, with
40 members representing $2 trillion in market capitalization and over 3 million
“Many different sectors are represented, from high technology to diversified
manufacturing; from oil and gas to transportation; from utilities to chemicals.
We accept the views of most scientists that enough is known about the science
and environmental impacts of climate change for us to take actions to address
And what kinds of actions do they propose?
“Businesses can and should take concrete steps now in the U.S. and
abroad to assess opportunities for emission reductions, establish and meet
emission reduction objectives, and invest in new, more efficient products,
practices and technologies.
“The Kyoto agreement represents a first step in the international process,
but more must be done both to implement the market-based mechanisms that were
adopted in principle in Kyoto and to more fully involve the rest of the world
in the solution.”
These words may sound innocent enough—to someone unfamiliar with the
crafty and devious nature of the class of robber barons who, in a relatively
short period of time, have become fabulously wealthy by disregarding the health
and well-being of millions of workers and their families.
On closer examination, however, it should be clear that this wing
of the ruling class has decided that there is a lot of money to be made from
new technologies that may, or may not, slow down global warming. They want to
push “market-based mechanisms” because that’s where the money
is. And the targets of much of their “analysis” on global warming
are developing countries like China, India and Brazil, which they want to “fully
involve ... in the solution.”
TOP 10 CO2 PRODUCING NATIONS
Photo from Solcomhouse
According to Environment News Service, these three countries emit only one-tenth
the amount of greenhouse gases per capita as North America. That hasn’t
stopped the U.S. government, which is bought and paid for by corporate lobbyists,
from opposing the Kyoto Accord largely on the grounds that it doesn’t demand
enough of poorer countries. The corporate media, always ready to blame the Third
World, is stoking the fires with dire speculation on what the world will be like
when every Chinese family has a car, etc.
In fact, even though its opening of a market economy in many areas to spur
development has brought grave problems to China—from the growth of bourgeois
values to a widening income gap, unemployment and horrendous conditions in its
older, privatized coal mines—there is a robust environmental movement
in China that has a great deal of input into government planning. (We will discuss
this in our next article.)
Challenge facing environmental movement
The biggest challenge facing the environmental movement here is to break free
of the clutches of big capital, whose embrace is really the kiss of death. Too
many of the “mature” environmental groups, like the Sierra Club,
are tied in directly to the ruling class. Its library, for example, is named
after William E. Colby, the first secretary of the Sierra Club and a director
for 49 years. Colby launched the Accelerated Pacification Campaign during the
Vietnam War and was named director of Central Intelligence by Richard Nixon
This dependence on the largess of the very rich makes such groups look for
solutions amenable to big business. It promotes the idea that the interests
of the mass of people and of the billionaire owners of capital can be conciliated.
That approach may work when the object is to preserve a beautiful piece of
wilderness for fortunate hikers to enjoy, or to keep a pristine lake unpolluted.
But the predicted catastrophes that will follow global warming and climate
change are far too big to yield to this class-collaborationist approach. Climate
change has the potential of producing disasters on a scale that we have seen
only during the all-too-frequent imperialist wars of the last hundred years
To politically prepare for what lies ahead, it is necessary to understand the
mechanisms of the capitalist system and why even the most illogical, anti-scientific
courses of action can become the norm under the pressure of the profit needs
of big capital.
(Photos and text added by Axis
Why the fox mustn’t guard the henhouse
By Deirdre Griswold
Are exploitation and national oppression the major factors driving climate
Global warming is no longer a prediction. Its long-term effects are already
unfolding across the planet. There are scads of scientific and news reports
showing how serious it has already become for tens, if not hundreds, of millions
In the literature dealing with this grave crisis, few if any references to
the current social system can be found. Yet that doesn’t mean it is not
the basic issue that has to be addressed in order to find a solution.
Perhaps the reason the issues of class exploitation and national oppression
are not discussed is because control over billions of people, their labor and
resources by a few fabulously wealthy corporations and banks is taken for granted.
Since most of these mega-firms are rooted in highly developed capitalist countries
and, in addition to exploiting workers at home, also super-exploit the rest
of the world—creating the most malicious, self-serving and racist ideologies
to justify their right to do so—the issue of social change really becomes
one of overturning not just local class domination but the entire imperialist
Most of the scientists and technical people dealing with the subject of global
warming are looking for what they believe to be practical solutions, and the
notion of changing social relations on a grand scale is not on their agenda.
Even those sympathetic to various struggles of the workers and oppressed for
improvements in their conditions of life are not at this time looking to a revolutionary
restructuring of the world.
Yet their own predictions as to the gravity of what is to be expected unless
human economic activity is profoundly altered should drive them to look beyond
the very small steps that they themselves admit are mere band-aids. Certainly,
any social movement around this issue must tackle the question of profits versus
human needs and survival.
Not a personal but a social problem
However well intentioned, appeals to people on an individual basis to change
their habits—“Don’t drive a car,” “Turn off your
electric lights,” “Stop being a consumer”—bring results
that are trivial when measured against the problem.
If there’s no adequate public transportation, if there’s no attractive
and affordable city planning that lets workers live close to jobs, shopping
and recreation, how can they stop driving cars?
Ever since the mass production of cars began, big corporations in auto, steel,
rubber and oil have deliberately prevented the U.S. government from developing
an adequate mass transit system, directly leading to this country being the
world’s worst in emissions of greenhouse gases.
People are not “consumers” by nature. A multi-billion-dollar capitalist
industry called advertising constantly works on their minds to convince them
that happiness comes only through buying more products. The industry itself
creates enormous waste—only a fraction of a “newspaper” is
news, for example. Whole forests are sacrificed every day to provide paper for
advertising. Furthermore, trees absorb carbon from the main greenhouse gas,
carbon dioxide. Their loss accelerates global warming.
Another direct corollary of class and national oppression is war. Today, wars
are raging in the Middle East because the U.S. oil industry, which more than
any other sector of capital controls the Bush administration and its foreign
and domestic policy, wants undisputed control over that petroleum-rich era.
What is more destructive to the environment than war? Not only do the planes,
ships and tanks of this giant
military power contribute to global pollution, but the trillions of dollars
spent on past, present and future wars is rob bed from funding social programs—like
housing, transportation and alternative energy—that could drastically
reduce the problem of greenhouse gas emissions.
The destruction and waste built into this militarized, oppressive capitalist
society dwarfs whatever energy and resources may be wasted in individual consumption.
The main issue in reining in global warming is social and political, not personal:
Will economic activity continue to be based on privately owned corporate entities
whose survival in the struggle for markets depends on generating ever greater
profits, measured in quarterly bottom lines? Or will it be based on social ownership
of all productive wealth, which then allows for broad planning geared to satisfying
the long-term needs of the masses of people?
This leads directly to the question of which class will lead society—the
workers, in alliance with all the oppressed, or the capitalist exploiters of
Not to take up these questions is to ignore the elephant in the room. It leads
to the unscientific view that greed and inertia are “human nature”
and can’t be changed. We are already hearing doomsday predictions from
eminent scientists. The pessimism and despair of those who limit their outlook
to a future constrained by capitalism can only grow more desperate.
Profiteers lied to the public
The record of the U.S. capitalist class on global warming is undeniable.
As was pointed out in the first article in this series [www.workers.org/2006/us/warming-0720/],
big business in the U.S., especially companies in the energy and automobile
industries, for about two decades spent hundreds of millions of dollars to discredit
the scientific view that human activity—especially the combustion of fossil
fuels—had created a blanket of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere
that was trapping the sun’s heat. They created benign-sounding lobbying
groups to disinform the public and make sure that the government didn’t
impose regulations on greenhouse gas emissions or ratify the Kyoto Protocol,
the only worldwide agreement to limit these emissions—and a very weak
one, at that.
A year ago, the Guardian newspaper in Britain reported that State Department
documents showed the Bush administration “thanking Exxon executives for
the company’s ‘active involvement’ in helping to determine
climate change policy, and also seeking its advice on what climate change policies
the company might find acceptable.” The documents were written shortly
before Presi dent George W. Bush announced he would not sign the Kyoto Protocol.
(“Revealed: how oil giant influenced Bush,” Guardian, June 8, 2005)
Not surprising, of course. The only thing surprising is that Greenpeace was
able to get a-hold of the government documents to prove it.
But now industry-sponsored propaganda has been thoroughly disproved by the
dramatic and tangible evidences of global warming and climate change that are
all around us. So some of the worst sources of disinformation—like the
Global Climate Coalition, which got most of its funding from Exxon—have
In their place have come various well-funded NGOs that acknowledge global warming
but promote “solutions” that will be profitable to big business.
Last article, we mentioned the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Their funding
comes from the Pew family fortune, which comes from Sun Oil. There is also the
Reason Foundation—which talks about “unleashing market forces”
to solve global warming.
Britain’s first Special Representative on Climate Change, John Ashton,
summed up the approach of these groups: “Climate change needs to be seen
not as an economic threat, but an economic opportunity.”
Certainly there is much money to be made on selling autos, for example, that
burn less gas. With oil prices high, more consumers want affordable hybrid cars.
General Motors found out the hard way that its gas-guzzling SUVs and Hummers
were losing out to lighter, more efficient vehicles.
Inventors hope to make money with new alternate-fuel devices and maybe even
contraptions that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere—although they
haven’t figured out what to do with it once they have captured it.
The nuclear power industry hopes to make money by replacing coal-fired generating
plants with nuclear.
In all of this, however, the main motivation is to make money. Push your product
to make money. Ridicule the competition, bribe and even lie to prevent others
from getting the contract. That’s how capitalism has always worked.
It should already be clear that, when discussing the future of the earth, decisions
on how to allocate society’s resources need much more objective criteria
It is precisely the drive for money and private profit on a short-term basis
that has gotten humanity into this mess. And it is the control by a privileged
few, who dominate even the so-called democratic political process with their
huge fortunes, that prevents capitalist governments from taking the sweeping
measures needed to restructure society on a rational basis.
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