Overwhelming green interests
Debate about climate change is commonly framed as a fight between underdog environmentalists against “deniers of science” who are backed by the limitless resources of “big oil.”
This framing is far removed from reality but the origins of dislike for “big oil” are understandable. The history of the oil industry in the Western World from the time the first commercial oil well was drilled in Western Pennsylvania in 1859 has been the epitome of monopolistic business practices, disregard for the environment, crony capitalism, plutocrats, self-serving geopolitics and war.
With this background, it is easy to see how accusations that the fossil fuel industry funded disinformation campaigns against environmentalists have been plausible. The Heat is On, a book published in 1997 by an ex-Boston Globe reporter named Ross Gelbspan claimed that the fossil fuel industry was “repositioning global warming as theory rather than fact” reminiscent of the way the tobacco industry employed “shill experts” to confuse the public about links between cancer and cigarettes.
No convincing evidence has ever been presented to show that fossil fuel companies have been guilty of the accusations. Rather than attempt to change the narrative they have gone along with the climate change orthodoxy hedging their bets by positioning themselves as “green.” They recognize that modern society cannot operate without energy irrespective of how it is generated.
These days the fossil fuel companies are mostly run by engineers and financiers who are preoccupied with managing the day to day turbulence of their businesses rather than concerning themselves with public perceptions.
To imagine that the fossil fuel companies are powerful and able to manipulate public opinion misses the point that they are just a small part of the energy ecosystem. The energy industry is massive. But it is fragmented and made up of many different companies, suppliers, subcontractors, support services, utilities and regulatory bodies.
Furthermore, the provision of energy is interwoven with every aspect of our lives, including transportation, food production, manufacturing, construction, health care, education and everyday living. To single out fossil fuel companies for humanity’s collective guilt is unjust and disregards that energy is the ingredient that makes modern civilization possible.
The value of energy in our lives has been the reason politicians, financiers, industrialists and the environmental movement have settled on it to further their goals not only in Canada but also globally.
“Global warming” and “climate change” became the rallying cries of the environmental movement due to the initiative of Maurice Strong. As head of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) he convened the first international expert group meeting on climate change which evolved into the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Ironically, Strong was an oil man himself having been appointed in 1976 by Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau when he was prime minister, to head up the national oil company, PetroCanada.
From the start the climate change movement has been propelled forward by government funding, with the IPCC promoting the narrative about a global warming crisis.
A growing number of individuals and institutions have been using the narrative to further their goals, which include:
• Governments who have a reason to raise the price of energy and generate trillions of dollars in tax revenues. How could anyone object to saving the planet! After all, “There is NO PLANET B!”
• Respected organizations like the American Meteorological Society, The National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Association and the National Aeronautics Space Association use the narrative to secure funding and raise their profile.
• Environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGO) use the crisis to raise funds for various campaigns and then target specific industries and infrastructure projects, using their charitable status for advantage. The Canadian government funds partisan climate change initiatives with public charitable funds, as documented here by Parker Gallant.
• Business and industry non-governmental organizations (BINGOs as the UNFCCC calls them) have diverse business and consulting interests.
• Scientific and academic institutions have a cause to champion that secures grants. Even marginal research projects can get funding if they are linked, however tenuously, with carbon dioxide or climate change.
• Global crusaders can use the crisis as a reason to redistribute wealth from industrialized countries to less developed ones.
• The political movement, “Green New Deal” aims to transform the economy to tackle “the twin crises of inequality and climate change.”
• The finance sector can generate new business by investing in green technologies and inventing new cap and trade markets and financial instruments such as carbon credits.
• Mark Carney the ex-Governor of the Bank of Canada is lining up to use climate change as a reason to angle towards creating a new global digital reserve currency.
• Teachers can teach their students a big, interesting climate change morality tale.
• And the media can build audiences by picking the moral high ground and covering what amounts to a bulletless war. Leading newspapers and magazines have become unashamed propagandists having signed up to Covering Climate Now, who extol, “When hundreds of newsrooms focus their attention on the climate crisis, all at the same time, the public conversation about the problem gets better: more prominent, more informative, more urgent.”
There are now thousands of institutions who have chosen to promote the climate change narrative and cumulatively their annual budgets are in the trillions of dollars.
Spending by the much-vilified fossil fuel companies is trivial in comparison. The five largest publicly traded oil companies have been spending around $200 million each year on government lobbying.
We have now arrived at a point where stories about the climate changing due to human-generated carbon dioxide are repeated incessantly. Drowned out are voices calling for journalists, politicians and educators to look at actual weather data and learn about recent scientific findings.
Green interests have become so overwhelming that politicians have become unable to advance policies that will benefit Canadians. We are left with energy and environment policies that are increasing the cost of living, driving away investment and jobs, and compromising the unity of the country.