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James Hoggan's "Climate Cover-Up": A Summary Review

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"Climate Cover-Up”: A Review (10/30/09)

You’ve been lied to.

The first decade of the new millennium has been the warmest ever--yet you are being told that the world is cooling.

The greenhouse effect was discovered in 1824, and the role that carbon dioxide plays in it in 1860--yet you are being told that the science is too immature.

In 2005 Dr. Naomi Oreskes found not one of 928 published scientific papers taking exception to the scientific consensus on human-induced global climate change, and three years later Dr. Peter Doran found that 97% of active climate researchers agreed that human activity is warming the world’s climate--yet you are being told that there is a scientific “controversy.”


What actually does exist is a disinformation campaign—systematic, well-conceived, well-executed, and above all well-funded. Such is the message of Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade To Deny Global Warming, just published by Greystone Books.

Authors James Hoggan and Richard Littlemore know PR. The former is president of Hoggan and Associates, an award-winning public relations company in Vancouver, Canada, and the latter is a senior writer at the same firm. This insider perspective on the art—and on what should be the ethics—of public relations gives their book a poignant tone. Hoggan is torn between professional admiration on the tactical level, and ethical and professional disgust when he steps back to consider the bigger implications.

James Hoggan Explains Climate Denial "Astroturf"

Hoggan writes:

Public relations is the art of building good relationships. You do that most effectively by earning trust and goodwill among those who are important to you and your business. And in more than thirty years of public relations practice, I have learned that the best way to achieve those goals is to act with integrity and honesty and to make sure everybody know you are doing so.

Of course, lies are darned handy when the truth is something you dare not admit. . . when Exxon gives money to think tanks in support of programs that sow confusion about global warming, that isn’t public relations. It’s not an effort to build or maintain the quality of Exxon’s reputation. It is, rather, a direct interference in the public conversation in a way that serves Exxon’s interest at the expense of the public interest.

But here’s the part that bugs me the most: the people who are taking Exxon’s money are often in public relations. Or they are taking advantage of skills, tactics, and techniques that have been developed and refined in the shadier parts of the public relations industry.

Climate Cover-Up is a carefully researched, detailed, and thoroughly-documented account of the climate change disinformation campaign. Although there is a very brief summary of the relevant science history in Chapter 2, the book is not so much concerned with the science itself. (Instead, Hoggan and Littlemore urge the reader to educate him- or herself on that topic, and provide a few pointers to start.) But Climate Cover-Up does painstakingly trace the flow of money and ideas from Big Energy and friends to you, a member of the much-abused concerned public.

Aerial view of Syncrude's Mildred Lake Plant, Alberta Oil Sands.  The Oil Sands are Canada's beggest emitters of greenhouse gases.  Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Aerial view of Syncrude's Mildred Lake Plant, Alberta Oil Sands. The Oil Sands are Canada's beggest emitters of greenhouse gases. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

It is not always easy to “follow the money”—quite often there is some effort made to launder it by involving legitimate institutions. A case in point, documented in Climate Cover-Up, is that of the “Friends of Science,” an anti-Kyoto Protocol group who solved their fund-raising problems by taking oil-patch money via the Calgary Foundation and a specially-created “Science Education Fund” at the University of Calgary. It was used primarily to fund the speaking and advocacy activities of denialist Tim Ball.

But despite such subterfuges, Hoggan and Littlemore document that Exxon has spent at least $20 million to counter what the scientific literature has to say about global warming since the signing of the Kyoto accord. This money has flowed, directly or indirectly, to a bewildering network of organizations, including the Science & Environment Policy Project, the Cato Institute, the American Council on Science and Health, the National Center for Policy Analysis, the Independent Institute, the Frontiers of Freedom Institute, the Hoover Institution, the Heritage Foundation, and The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition.