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50 ways to deny climate change

By Lyn Bender - posted Tuesday, 5 November 2013

It is seems that there are fifty ways to do almost anything, and as an exercise I compiled a list of the fifty ways I observed as having been used to promote climate science denial. I could have continued on. But it was getting too depressing.

Contextually in Australia we live in a world that promotes the status quo, of the resources led economy. Even though this economy is destroying the habitability of the planet and even as it approaches its own demise: like a virus slowly killing off its own host.

As in the dying days of any empire those that have held dominion, race to claim the spoils before the wheel turns. We are coming to the end of an age that will end, no matter how we respond. The fossil fuel age will literally burn itself out because it holds the seeds of its own destruction. Carbon is destined to become a stranded asset. A currently highly valued product, that we can no longer plan to use into the future. It represents investment that can't be realized.


The easier way would be a serious immediate response to emissions reduction. But the currently easier path, will metamorphose into the long term horrendous more costly way. A way that that will be forced upon our children and grandchildren.A way that will mean the planet is locked into dangerous warming.

We could of course choose another. way. The currently inconvenient way that will give us a chance of survival into the next century. We could embrace necessary change. But the latter way is often chronically opposed and avoided, or the last sought. It involves a shift in deeply ensconced guiding paradigms. This can mean a radical change of the constructed meaning of our lives. The human psyche gravitates towards slotting events and insights into existing belief systems and accepted knowledge.

The strength of Science is that it operates in so called counter intuitive ways testing new associations and bringing about revolutionary ways of seeing the universe. Such as the earth not being the centreof the universe and instead that it orbited the sun. Or humans being a part of eco biological change not literally created in the garden of Eden by a God.

The understanding of the climate emergency has largely been obscured by the prevalence in our media of confusing assertions about the science. A recent important report by Professor Wendy Bacon has revealed shocking and alarming media

bias towards denial. The report states that Australia may have the highest concentration of media skepticism print in the world.

This has largely been promoted by vested interests; but has tapped into our fear of change, with its attendant losses and our sense of helplessness. Nearly all of the skepticism was produced by News Corporation which owns two thirds of Australia's media. Fairfax still published six skeptical to nine science based articles.


Here is my depressing list of the fifty ways I have observed being used to promote the wrecking of a planet, that is, our planet not theirs.

It is far from exhaustive. Nor should blame for our failures be sheeted solely at the new coalition government. Kevin Rudd who in 2007 heroically identified climate change as the greatest moral challenge of our generation was ultimately quashed by the machine that installed our current government. So too was Julia Gillard for legislating for the carbon price. They are not blameless for their fallibility but they at least attempted the assault on the Goliath of fossil fuel interests. In a Bizarre show of bipartisanship major parties are sticking with the puny inadequate tokenistic five percent reduction target. Whereas Bernie Fraser has recommended a 15 percent reduction by 2020 and 25 to 30 percent by 2030. The highly respected former Reserve Bank head Bernie Fraser is Chairman of the board of the Independent Climate Change Authority, which the coalition has vowed to scrap.

It was set up in legislature by the previous government to advise the Government on Emissions targets and policy.. The proposed scrapping involves another denial mechanism : that of shooting the messenger, in an attempt to eradicate the message.

Here is my list of denier's strategies that I have spotted.

  1. Always refer to the climate "debate", as though the science is still undecided.
  2. Plan the economy factoring out climate science, by appointing business advisors who deny global warming.
  3. Plant big coal investors on environment boards while denying any conflict of interest.
  4. Use coal investors and lobbyists to advise Government on coal exploration and to assess risks of Coal Seam Gas (CSG).
  5. Sack competent globally respected climate advisors and other climate regulators.
  6. Have no science portfolio
  7. Disparage or ignore world authoritative reports such as those by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
  8. Capture influence in the main stream media.
  9. Politicize the Public Service by sackings and resulting intimidation.
  10. Deny that you deny. "As I've often said [in the recent past] climate change is real & serious but…"
  11. Promote ineffective solutions over effective ones.
  12. Discredit environmentalists and experts, rather than confront the evidence presented.
  13. Infiltrate the media with links to vested interests.
  14. Assert that the economy is separate from the environment and denigrate the science and ignore the future.
  15. Promote a climate change denial primer in schools.
  16. Climate change is real but there is no need to be alarmed, its not all bad.
  17. Tell lies about the terrible economic consequences of a carbon price.
  18. Enter parliament to promote your own interests regarding mining.
  19. Promote fossil fuels as the basis of the economy.
  20. Call it a belief and religious leftist   zealotry, not real science.
  21. Declare it's too complicated for most people to understand although it is not.
  22. Sack the experts that were appointed to explain it to the public.
  23. Deflect attention by focusing cynically or absurdly on other social justice concerns such as refugees.
  24. Identify and scapegoat groups as the "real" threats to our way of life ,such as refugees and "bikie gangs".
  25. Spread various myths that dispute climate change science.
  26. Develop and promote special terms of abuse such as warmists and alarmists .
  27. Flood the media with factually incorrect articles that discredit the climate science.
  28. Repeat easily stated and headline slogans, such as axe the tax, stop the boats.
  29. Saturate government with climate denier advisors.
  30. Create prisons (for asylum-seekers) on islands and Pacific nations impacted by climate change and threatened with inundation, through rising sea levels.
  31. Deny impact of climate change on extreme weather events.
  32. Expand Australian coal exports as fast as possible.
  33. Build infra structure to aid coal exports.
  34. Cut loans to funding to clean energy.
  35. Continue investing in fossil fueled power stations and infrastructure.
  36. Promote notorious climate deniers such as Lord Monkton.
  37. Disparage articles and reports by climate scientists.
  38. Speed up approval process for mining projects .
  39. Cut safeguards for the environment, by cutting green tape.
  40. Blame theGreens for bushfires .
  41. Blame environmentalists for floods.
  42. Fund political candidates who declare climate change denial and foster the interests of developers.
  43. Assert that warming is 'natural' everything changes and there is no problem.
  44. Dine sup party and accept funding from coal moguls.
  45. Cosy up to shock jocks and media science deniers.
  46. Have an inadequate emissions reduction target of 5 percent.
  47. Abolish (or try to repeal) the legislated price on carbon.
  48. Give greater media concentration to deniers than to the science.
  49. But the stand alone Piece de resistance is: elect a climate denying fossil fuel promoting Government, that is backed by vested interests.
  50. All of the above and more.

Still to come: the fifty ways to combat climate change. Most will be obvious and implied by the denial list.

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About the Author

Lyn Bender is a psychologist in private practice. She is a former manager of Lifeline Melbourne and is working on her first novel.

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