Climatic Confusion and Corporate Collusion:
Hijacking the Greenhouse Debate

Sharon Beder

Citation: This is an extended version of the article submitted for publication as Sharon Beder, Corporate Hijacking of the Greenhouse Debate, The Ecologist, March/April 1999, pp. 119-122.

This is a final version submitted for publication.
Minor editorial changes may have subsequently been made.

Sharon Beder's Other Publications

  1. Front Groups
  2. Scientists
  3. Think Tanks
  4. Conferences
  5. Economists

In December 1997 the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was held in Kyoto, Japan to discuss a treaty to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. Over 10,000 people attended including 1,500 delegates from 160 countries, 3500 observers, and 4000 media people.[1] The outcomes of the conference were disappointing but not surprising given the strength of industry opposition to an effective treaty. Although the European Union had been pushing for average reductions of 15% below 1990 levels, the average turned out to be little more than 5% and three countries were in fact granted approval to increase their emissions (see table below[2]). As yet no enforcement measures have been decided upon.
Australia                  +8%  Lithuania                  -8%  
Bulgaria                   -8%  Monaco                     -8%  
Canada                     -6%  New Zealand                 0%  
Croatia                    -5%  Norway                     +1%  
Czech Rep.                 -8%  Poland                     -6%  
Estonia                    -8%  Romania                    -8%  
EIJ                        -8%  Russia                      0%  
Hungary                    -6%  Slovakia                   -8%  
Iceland                   +10%  Slovenia                   -8%  
Japan                      -6%  Switzerland                -8%  
Latvia                     -8%  Ukraine                     0%  
Liechtenstein              -8%  United States              -7% 

For the treaty to be legally binding it has to be ratified by a minimum of 55 nations responsible for atleast 55% of emissions.[3] A country which does not ratify the treaty, that is, get its government to formally agree to it, is not bound by it. In the US, which represents 20 percent of emissions, the Senate voted 95 to 0 prior to the Kyoto conference to oppose any agreement at Kyoto that harmed the US economy or that did not include developing countries.[4] Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, one of the sponsors of the Resolution, boasted: "The President can negotiate whatever treaty he chooses, but no treaty will become law or have any effect whatsoever in the United States without the approval of two thirds of the Senate." He pointed out that if binding reductions for developing countries were not included in the agreement then "it will not see the light of day in the United States."[5] In fact Clinton has since agreed to the treaty on behalf of the US.

The agreement also provides enough loopholes and flexibility to ensure that countries like the US that have committed to reductions do not have to actually reduce their emissions. It may even enable "large covert increases in domestic emissions." Tradeable emissions let countries buy the rights to discharge emissions above their agreed target from countries that reduce their emissions beyond their agree targets. For example some countries in Eastern Europe are already emitting 30% less carbon dioxide than in 1990 because of economic decline and they may be happy to sell their rights to emissions in return for hard currency, with no net benefit to the planet.[6]

Another mechanism, Joint Implementation, enables countries like the US to offset their own emissions by providing energy efficient technologies to developing countries or by `creating' environmental `sinks' to absorb carbon dioxide, such as forests. For example, American Electric Power, which uses coal to generate electricity, has already pledged to preserve 2.7 million acres of a tropical rainforest in Bolivia in the hope that this will exempt it from having to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions which would be far more expensive.[7]

In Australia the government is hoping to avoid measures to curtail industry and energy-based emissions of carbon dioxide by decreasing the rate of land clearance. It won this concession along with an increase of 8% on 1990 levels of emissions through sheer obstinacy at the Kyoto conference.

The governments of the US and Australia, which produce the world's highest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases, have for many years obstructed international greenhouse gas reduction measures being taken. This reflects the power of industry in these countries rather than any lack of concern on the part of their citizens. The majority of people in the US and Australia wanted their governments to act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In Australia a Herald/AC Nielsen-McNair survey conducted in November 1997 found that 90 percent of Australians are concerned about global warming, 83 percent believe it is a serious threat to humans and the environment, 79 percent said that Australia should sign a treaty to cut emissions and 68 percent said that economic concerns should not prevent the Government from signing such a treaty.[8] In the US a New York Times November poll also found that the majority of people (65 percent) felt that the US should cut greenhouse gas emissions even if other countries don't.[9]

However, politicians in these countries have not been responsive to people's concerns because of the success of industry lobbying and the confusion corporate-funded scientists, front-groups and think tanks are deliberately spreading. As Ross Gelbspan stated in Harper's Magazine the "confusion is intentional, expensively gift wrapped by the energy industries."[10] It is in this way that corporate influence goes far beyond the millions of dollars in campaign donations made by the fossil fuel industry to politicians and political parties.

In the lead up to the Kyoto conference on global warming the fossil fuel industries in the US and Australia stepped up their campaign to prevent a treaty being signed that involved greenhouse gas reduction targets for both countries. A US consortium of 20 organisations launched an anti-climate treaty campaign in September this year. These industry groups representing oil, coal and other fossil fuel interests spent an estimated $US13 million on television, newspaper and radio advertising in the three months leading up to the Kyoto conference to promote public opposition to the treaty. Speaking at a news conference on this campaign, the President of the National Association of Manufacturers, Jerry Jasinowski, argued that the treaty would mean energy prices would go up, jobs would be moved to developing countries, and businesses, farmers and consumers would suffer.[11]

In 1998 the New York Times reported on internal American Petroleum Institute (API) documents showing that fossil fuel interests intended to raise $5 million over two years to establish a Global Climate Science Data Center as a non-profit educational foundation to help with their goal of ensuring that the media and the public recognise the uncertainties in climate science. The documents state that victory will be achieved when climate change becomes a non-issue and those promoting the Kyoto treaty using existing science appear "to be out of touch with reality".[12]

This was just the latest phase in a corporate funded campaign to discredit global warming predictions and undermine the political will necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In September 1995 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which involves 2,500 climate scientists, issued a landmark statement representing a level of consensus that had not previously been achieved on the issue of global warming. The Panel stated that "the balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate" and that climatic instability was likely to cause "widespread economic, social and environmental dislocation over the next century."[13]

Yet this level of consensus amongst the world's climate scientists is not widely known because the corporations that would be affected by measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have waged a deceptive campaign to confuse the public and policy-makers on the issue. They have used corporate front groups, public relations firms and conservative think tanks to cast doubt on predictions of global warming and its impacts, to imply that we do not know enough to act and to argue that the cost of reducing greenhouse gases is prohibitively expensive. The US National Coal Association spent $US700,000 on this in 1992/93 alone. Also in 1993, the American Petroleum Institute (a trade association representing companies such as BP Oil, Shell, Chevron and Exxon) paid PR-firm Burson-Marsteller $US1.8 million. Burson Marsteller helped it defeat a proposed tax on fossil fuels.[14]

Fostering doubt is a well known public relations tactic. Phil Lesly, author of a handbook on public relations and communications, advises corporations:

People generally do not favor action on a non-alarming situation when arguments seem to be balanced on both sides and there is a clear doubt.

The weight of impressions on the public must be balanced so people will have doubts and lack motivation to take action. Accordingly, means are needed to get balancing information into the stream from sources that the public will find credible. There is no need for a clear-cut `victory.'...Nurturing public doubts by demonstrating that this is not a clear-cut situation in support of the opponents usually is all that is necessary.[15]

The success of this strategy is evident in US Gallop polls in October and November 1997. They found that 37 percent of those surveyed thought that scientists were unsure of the cause of global warming. The poll also showed a drop in concern about global warming since 1991.[16]

Perhaps nowhere has the fossil fuel industry been more successful than in Australia where the government presented fossil fuel industry's interests as being synonymous with the national interest. In 1988 when the National Greenhouse 88 Conference was held in Australia there was unprecedented public interest in the issue. This has been systematically eroded through a well-orchestrated international campaign to portray global warming as little more than a theory that scientists can't agree on. This strategy is aimed at crippling the impetus for government action to solve these problems, action which might adversely affect corporate profits.

Front Groups

Various front groups have been formed to oppose measures to prevent global warming, particularly in the US. They include the Global Climate Information Project which was formed just before the Kyoto meeting and spent millions on newspaper and television advertising aimed at scaring the public about what an agreement at Kyoto might mean in terms of increased prices for everything. The Coalition for Vehicle Choice, which is funded by car manufacturers including Ford, GM and Chrysler, also ran advertisements in the lead up to Kyoto.[17]

The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC) held a sweepstakes to encourage grassroots lobbying against a treaty. TASSC is funded by corporations such as 3M, Amoco, Chevron, Dow Chemical, Exxon, Philip Morris, Procter and Gamble and General Motors. To be eligible for the $1000 prize contestants had to visit the Junk Science Web site, where global warming science is portrayed as junk science, and email President Clinton to either sign or not sign the Kyoto treaty. A sample letter urged Clinton not to sign because of the harm it would do to energy prices and "our standard of living."[18]

The Information Council on the Environment, which is a coal industry front group, incorporating the National Coal Association, Western Fuels, and Edison Electrical Institute amongst others, was formed in 1991 to "reposition global warming as theory (not fact)." It has a large advertising budget and in a media strategy obtained by Ozone Action, detailed its plan to target "older, less-educated males from larger households who were not typically active information seekers", and to use scientists as spokespeople as they are more credible with the public.[19]

In the negotiating sessions leading up to the Kyoto Conference, industry representatives made up most of the observers, under a provision that enables organisations `qualified in matters covered by the Convention' to attend. They did not represent their firms at these meetings but corporate front groups such as the Global Climate Coalition and the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association.[20]

The Global Climate Coalition, a coalition of 50 US trade associations and private companies representing oil, gas, coal, automobile and chemical companies and trade associations, put together with the help of PR giant Burson-Marsteller, has spent millions of dollars in its campaign to persuade the public and governments that global warming is not a real threat.[21] On its home page it describes its membership as representing "a broad spectrum of virtually all elements of U.S. industry including the energy producing and energy consuming sectors" and says its concern is with the "potentially enormous impact that improper resolution [of global climate issues] may have on our industrial base, our customers and their lifestyles and the national economy."

The Coalition's tactics have included the distribution of a video to hundreds of journalists which claims that increased levels of carbon dioxide will increase crop production and help to feed the hungry people of the world. In the lead up to the Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro in 1992 the Global Climate Coalition and other industry interests successfully lobbied the US government to avoid mandatory emissions controls. Instead the Framework Climate Convention was watered down to suit the US. Industrialised countries, including Australia, pledged to stabilise their emissions at 1990 levels but this goal was not binding. It was soon recognised that this Convention was not enough. Emissions steadily increased in many countries including Australia and the US.

Some of these corporate front groups have come and gone as they have been exposed, only to be replaced by others. The Greening Earth Society was established in April 1998 by Western Fuels Association to convince people that "using fossil fuels to enable our economic activity is as natural as breathing". Another recent addition to the campaign has been the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, which according to CLEAR, the Washington-based Clearinghouse on Environmental Advocacy and Research, seems to have a strong working relationship with both Western Fuels and Greening Earth Society.[22]


Corporations and their front groups have utilised a handful of dissident scientists to cast doubt on the likelihood of adverse impacts arising from global warming. These scientists who oppose the general scientific consensus on global warming have had their voices greatly amplified by fossil fuel interests. Gelbspan notes that "Through their frequent pronouncements in the press and on radio and television, they have helped to create the illusion that the question is hopelessly mired in unknowns. Most damaging has been their influence on decision makers..."[23]

Such scientists do not disclose their funding sources when talking to the media or before government hearings. An example is Patrick Michaels, who is generally described in the media as being from the University of Virginia. Michaels edits the World Climate Report, which is funded by Western Fuels Association (a consortium of coal interests) and associated companies. Additionally Michaels has received funding for his research from Western Fuels Association, Cyprus Minerals Company, the Edison Electric Institute and the German Coal Mining Association.[24] Michaels is on the advisory board of TASSC and was at one time on the advisory board of the Information Council on the Environment.

Michaels was featured in New Scientist in July 1997 as "a climatologist at the University of Virginia" and one of the "world's top scientists." Michael's criticisms of global warming models are cited in the article without any mention of his funding sources.[25] Michaels in turn cites the New Scientist article as supporting his views without mentioning the article was based on an interview with him.[26]

Michaels told an Australian business audience that global warming would lead to milder winters, longer agricultural seasons in cold climates and little extra heat in warmer climates. He was referred to in the Sydney Morning Herald as "a leading American climatologist" from the University of Virginia. The paper quoted him as saying "You'd have a very hard time saying it was a net negative.... I find it very hard to believe that the folks in the Pacific Islands won't adapt to a 30 centimetres sea level rise."[27]

Other scientists involved in the campaign to discredit greenhouse emission reduction targets include Dr Richard Lindzen, Dr Robert Balling, and Dr S. Fred Singer. Lindzen, who was also featured in the New Scientist article and in the Australian Institution of Engineers' Engineering World as an independent scientist is a consultant to the fossil fuel industry, charging $2500 a day for his services.[28]

Balling is also heavily funded by fossil fuel interests. Balling is reported in The Arizona Republic as saying that he had "received more like $700,000 over the past five years" from coal and oil interests in Great Britain, Germany and the US in the previous six years. A report by Ozone Action also details how Balling received research money from the Kuwait Government. His book, The Heated Debate, was commissioned by the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, a think tank opposed to environmental regulation.[29] Balling was also on the advisory council for the Information Council on the Environment.

Fred Singer is executive director of the think tank, the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP). This project was originally set up in 1990 with the help of the Washington Institute for Values in Public Policy (funded by the Rev Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church) which provided it with free office space. (SEPP is no longer affiliated with Moon and receives its funding from various foundations.)[30]

SEPP argues that global warming, ozone depletion and acid rain are not real but rather are scare tactics used by environmentalists. Singer, speaks and writes prolifically on these subjects and is in demand by anti-environment groups.[31] He is on the advisory board of TASSC. Two of the leading Australian conservative think tanks have sponsored him to tour Australia, putting his views on global warming. Most recently he toured Austria in November 1997, prior to the Kyoto conference, and presented a speech to the Austrian parliament. He has worked for companies such as Exxon, Shell, and Arco.[32] According to the Environmental Research Foundation:

For years, Singer was a professor at the University of Virginia where he was funded by energy companies to pump out glossy pamphlets pooh-poohing climate change. Singer hasn't published original research on climate change in 20 years and is now an `independent' consultant, who spends his time writing letters to the editor, and testifying before Congress, claiming that ozone-depletion and global warming aren't real problems.[33]

The recently uncovered API documents reveal a new plan to "Identify, recruit and train a team of five independent scientists to participate in media outreach... this team will consist of new faces who will add their voices to those recognized scientists who are already vocal."[34]

Think Tanks

The SEPP is just one of the many conservative think tanks in various parts of the world that seek to undermine the case for global warming preventative measures. Think tanks are generally private, tax-exempt, research institutes that present themselves as providing impartial disinterested expertise. However think tanks generally tailor their studies to suit their clients or donors. Writing in the National Catholic Reporter, Thomas Blackburn describes think tanks as "home to nonteaching professors and shadow cabinet ministers hired to spread a patina of academese and expertise over the views of their sponsors."[35]

Corporate funded think tanks have played a key role in providing credible `experts' who dispute scientific claims of existing or impending environmental degradation and therefore provide enough doubts to ensure governments `lack motivation' to act. These dissident scientists, usually not atmospheric scientists, argue there is "widespread disagreement within the scientific community" about global warming. For example, most conservative think tanks have argued that global warming is not happening and that any possible future warming will be slight and may have beneficial effects.

The Heritage Foundation is one of the largest and wealthiest think tanks in the US. It gets massive media coverage in the US and is very influential in politics, particularly amongst the Republicans who dominate the US Congress. In October it published a backgrounder entitled. "The Road to Kyoto: How the Global Climate Treaty Fosters Economic Impoverishment and Endangers US Security." It began "Chicken Little is back and the sky is falling. Or so suggests the Clinton Administration..." and went on "By championing the global warming treaty, the Administration seeks to pacify a vociferous lobby which frequently has made unsubstantiated predictions of environmental doom". The Heritage Foundation prefers unsubstantiated predictions of economic gloom: "Ultimately, the treaty's restrictions will force Americans to sacrifice their personal and economic freedom to the whims of a new international bureaucracy."[36]

In its Environmental Briefing Book for Congressional Candidates the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) argues that "the likeliest global climate change is the creation of a milder, greener, more prosperous world."[37] One of CEI's publications is The True State of the Planet which was partially funded by the Olin Foundation, founded by Olin Chemical. In it Robert Balling claims that the "scientific evidence argues against the existence of a greenhouse crisis, against the notion that realistic policies could achieve any meaningful climatic impact, and against the claim that we must act now if we are to reduce the greenhouse threat."[38]

Similarly John Shanahan, from the Heritage Foundation, argues that there is "enormous uncertainty associated with the scientific methodology used to predict future climate changes."[39] Like the CEI he claims global warming is a theory that is widely challenged and that "almost all the scientists agreed that catastrophic global warming predictions are unsupported by scientific evidence" [emphasis added]. In each case they are questioning the most extreme predictions to cast doubt on the scientific consensus about more moderate consequences.

Think tanks in other parts of the world are also seeking to cast doubt upon global warming predictions. In Britain the newly formed Environmental Unit of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) launched Global Warming: Apocalypse or Hot Air in 1994.[40] The Australian Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), which gets almost one third of its budget from mining and manufacturing companies, has also produced articles and media statements challenging the greenhouse consensus.

Brian Tucker, previously Chief of the CSIRO Division of Atmospheric research, is now a Senior Fellow at the IPA where he trades on his scientific credentials to push an ideological agenda. In 1996 in a talk on the ABC's Ockham's Razor he stated that "unchallenged climatic disaster hyperbole has induced something akin to a panic reaction from policy makers, both national and international."[41] In the talk he ignored the scientific consensus represented by the IPCC 1995 statement and argued that global warming predictions are politically and emotionally generated:

there is little evidence to support the notion of net deleterious climate change despite recent Cassandra-like trepidation in the Australian Medical Association and exaggerations from Greenpeace. Why then has so much alarm been generated? The answer is complicated. In my opinion, it is due partly to the use and abuse of science to forment fear by those seeking to support ideological positions, and partly due to the negative and fearful perspective that seems to characterise some environmental prejudices.

Tucker's article The Greenhouse Panic was reprinted in Engineering World a magazine aimed at engineers. The article, introduced by the magazine editor as "a balanced assessment," argues that "alarmist prejudices of insecure people have been boosted by those who have something to gain from widespread public concern."[42] This article, which would have been more easily dismissed as an IPA publication, has been quoted by Australian engineers at conferences as if it was an authoritative source.

The think tanks have been so successful at clouding the scientific picture of greenhouse warming and providing an excuse for corporations and the politicians they support, that they have, to date, managed to thwart effective greenhouse reduction strategies being implemented by governments in the English speaking world. For example, according to Greenpeace researcher, Andrew Rowell, a 1989 report by a think tank, the George C. Marshall Institute, on the greenhouse effect "was used by the Bush administration to justify a more lenient approach to CO2 emissions."[43]


Prior to Kyoto Australian politicians travelled the world looking for allies for its renegade position on global warming. Whilst it has found few governmental allies it has found support amongst US industry interests and US senators. In July 1997 the Australian Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, Mr Anderson, met with some top fossil fuel industry executives in the US who praised Australia's position on global warming.[44]

In July the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Australian Embassy in Washington addressed a Competitive Enterprise Institute conference on "The Costs of Kyoto" where he claimed Australian business was strongly behind their government's stance in opposing uniform greenhouse emission targets for industrialised countries. Also speaking at the conference was Patrick Michaels, contrarian Wilfred Beckerman from Oxford University and others who gave reasons for not agreeing to emissions reductions at Kyoto.[45]

In August the Frontiers of Freedom Institute, a conservative corporate funded US think tank organised a conference in Canberra in conjunction with the Australian APEC Study Centre. The conference, entitled Countdown to Kyoto, was organised, according to the Australian, to "bolster support" for the Government's increasingly isolated position on global warming in preparation for the Kyoto conference. US Senator Chuck Hagel, who co-sponsored the Senate resolution on a treaty agreement in Kyoto, was a speaker as was US Congressman John Dingell. Other speakers included the Chairman of Australian multinational BHP and the Director of the think tank, the Tasmania Institute.

Malcolm Wallop, who heads the Frontiers of Freedom Institute, chaired the conference with Hugh Morgan, the head of Western Mining. Wallop was a US Senator for 18 years who boasts of his achievements in promoting SDI and opposing welfare, progressive taxation, Social Security, and government funding for higher education. Wallop said in a letter to US conservative groups: "This conference in Australia is the first shot across the bow of those who expect to champion the Kyoto Treaty." He also stated that the conference would "offer world leaders the tools to break with the Kyoto Treaty." The conference was opened by Australian Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fisher who argued that tough emission reduction targets could put 90,000 jobs at risk in Australia and cost more than $150 million.[46]

Michaels argued at the Countdown to Kyoto conference that the science to support "expensive and potentially disruptive policy to reduce greenhouse gas sorely lacking."[47] Michaels also gave the good news about global warming to a global warming seminar organised by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia, when he recently visited Australia. He has travelled the world on behalf of anti-climate treaty interests. In October he attended a conference similar to Canberra's Countdown on Kyoto in Vancouver organised by the conservative think tank, The Fraser Institute. Also attending this conference was Robert Balling.[48]


In both the US and Australia, think tank economists have been influential in debate over the costs of greenhouse gas abatement. In Australia the Commonwealth government has relied heavily on figures provided by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE). ABARE raised $1.1 million from oil companies and industry lobby groups by offered them the opportunity to pay $50,000 to sit on the steering committe and "have an influence on the direction of the model development" (as stated in ABARE's literature). Those who took advantage of the offer included Mobil, Exxon, Texaco, BHP, Rio Tinto, the Australian Aluminium Council, the Business Council of Australia, and Norwegian oil company Statoil. The Australian Conservation Foundation, which could not afford the $50,000, requested a waiver of the fee to be on the steering committee but was refused.[49] According to Clive Hamilton, from the Australia Institute (an environmental think tank), 80 per cent of the funds for ABARE's climate change modelling come from the fossil fuel industry.[50]

Not surprisingly ABARE's model (MEGABARE) predicts huge costs in jobs and income if emission reduction targets are to be met. This is disputed by environmentalists and alternative energy experts, as well as 131 Australian economists who signed a joint statement that said "the economic modelling studies on which the Government is relying to assess the impacts of reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions overestimate the costs and underestimate the benefits of reducing emissions." Professor Mark Diesendorf, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures, claims that ABARE's model has serious flaws because it neglects the role of technological change as well as the benefits of different energy paths such as the new industries created. And several Australian studies over the last few years have shown that emissions could be cut in Australia by atleast 20 percent without cost. In fact an earlier 1991 ABARE study "concluded that emissions could cost-effectively be cut by 30 percent."[51]

In the US a frequently cited computer model of economic costs of climate change, the International Impact Assessment Model (IIAM) was originally commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute, although this is seldom mentioned when referring to the findings of the model. This model also predicts large costs if emissions targets have to be met and that it would be cheaper to reduce emissions later rather than earlier. The model ignores the environmental costs of not acting sooner and the possibility of new markets created by alternatives to fossil fuels.[52]

The World Resources Institute (WRI) examined "sixteen widely-used economic models, including the three used by the Clinton administration to analyse climate policy options" and found that they differed in terms of the assumptions they made such as the availability of alternative energy sources, whether nations would cooperate, how energy taxes would be spent, whether fossil fuel consumption reductions would have other benefits such as cleaner air. The WRI found that even with the most unfavourable assumptions the costs would amount to only 2.4 per cent of GDP over the next 22 years: "This means that the economy in 2020 would be 75 percent larger than today's, instead of 77.4 percent larger." Even so, a more likely scenario, they claim, is that sensible policies and international cooperation would ensure "carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced with minimal impacts on the economy".[53]

The emphasis on and exaggeration of costs has long been a tactic of corporations opposing environmental regulation. Invariably the economic disaster forecast by industry never eventuates and the cost turns out to be far less than predicted. For example, when it was proposed that CFCs be banned as propellants in the US, chemical companies predicted terrible consequences to an industry which employed 200,000 people and contributed $8 billion to the US economy. In fact the US economy benefited from the ban.


Throughout 1998 vested interests lobbied against the US ratification of the Kyoto Treaty. The Global Climate Information Project and the Global Climate Coalition again ran a major advertising campaign in the lead up to the Buenos Aires meeting in November 1998.36 The Republican-chaired House Subcommittee on National Economic Growth, Natural Resources, and Regulatory Affairs held a series of hearings entitled "Kyoto Protocol: Is the Clinton-Gore Administration Selling Out Americans?" to which many business people testified, including executives from the American Petroleum Institute, the Ford Motor Company, The American Coal Company and the National Mining Association. Vested interests are thus preventing cost-effective solutions being found to the global warming problem by continuing to focus the debate on whether it is worth spending money on a problem that may not materialise. We should have moved on from that question a long time ago.


[1] Murray Hogarth, `Call for Second Climate Summit', Sydney Morning Herald, 16 January 1998

[2] Australasian Science, February 1998, p. 26.

[3] Peter Montague, `Kyoto', Rachel's Environment & Health Weekly (19 December 1997)

[4] Stephen Lunn, `Defy greenhouse bullying: ex-senator', The Australian, 20th August 1997.

[5] Chuck Hagel, `Kyoto: The Political Realities', IPA Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 (1997), p. 15.

[6] Fred Pearce, `Countdown to Chaos', New Scientist (29 November 1997 1997), p. 22.

[7] Colum Lynch, `Case Study with American Electric Power', Amicus (Winter 1998)

[8] Murray Hogarth, `PM out of step on greenhouse', Sydney Morning Herald, 26 November 1997, p. 1.

[9] Cited in `Cozy Relationship Threatens Climate Treaty Summit in Kyoto', Greenpeace Press Release, 5 December 1997.

[10] Ross Gelbspan, `The Heat is On: The Warming of the world's climate sparks a blaze of denial', Harper's Magazine, December 1995.

[11] Vicki Allen, `Industries launch anti-climate treaty ad campaign', Reuters News Service, 10 Sept 1997.

[12] Documents attached to National Environmental Trust, `Big Oil's Secret Plan to Block the Global Warming Treaty', Corporate Watch Features,, October 1998.

[13] Quoted in Ross Gelbspan, `The Heat is On'.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Philip Lesly, `Coping with Opposition Groups', Public Relations Review, Vol. 18, No. 4 (1992), p. 331.

[16] Alec Gallup and Lydia Saad, `Public Concerned, Not Alarmed About global Warming', The Gallup Poll Home Page, World Wide Web, 1997.

[17] Bob Burton and Sheldon Rampton, `Thinking Globally, Acting Vocally: The International Conspiracy to Overheat the Earth', PR Watch, Vol. 4, No. 4 (1997), p. 5.

[18] `Alert: Global Warming `Sweepstakes', Clear View Mailing List, 19 November 1997.

[19] Ozone Action, Ties that Blind: Industry Influence on Public Policy and Our Environment, Ozone Action, Washington D.C., 1997, p. 5.

[20] Ute Collier, `On the road to Kyoto: The dynamics of the international climate negotiations', WGES Newsletter (Summer 1997), p. 17.

[21] Anon., `Coalition urges resistance to greenhouse gas demands', Chemical Marketing Reporter, Vol. 246, No. 8 (1994); Bette Hileman, `Plan to prevent climate change pleases industry', Chemical & Engineering News, Vol. 71, No. 11 (1993); Bob Burton and Sheldon Rampton, `Thinking Globally, Acting Vocally: The International Conspiracy to Overheat the Earth', PR Watch, Vol. 4, No. 4 (1997), p. 3.

[22] Quoted in 'A CLEAR Special Report: Western Fuels Association's Astroturf Empire', CLEAR View Mailing List, 10 November 1998.

[23] Gelbspan, `The Heat is On'

[24] Ozone Action, Ties that Blind, p. 4.

[25] Fred Pearce, `Greenhouse Wars', New Scientist, 19 July 1997, pp. 38-43.

[26] Patrick J. Michaels, `The Search for an Explanation of the Apparent Lack of Dramatic and Damaging Global Warming' Paper presented at the Countdown to Kyoto, Canberra, 18-21 August 1997.

[27] Anon., `Global warming not all bad news, says climatologist', Sydney Morning Herald, 23rd August 1997.

[28] Gelbspan, `The Heat is On'

[29] Quoted in Ozone Action, Ties that Blind, pp. 2-3.

[30] Carl Deal, The Greenpeace Guide to Anti-Environmental Organizations (Berkeley, California: Odian Press, 1993), pp. 89-90; David Helvarg, The War Against the Greens: The "Wise-Use" Movement, the New Right, and Anti-Environmental Violence (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1994), p. 21.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Andrew Rowell, Green Backlash: Global Subversion of the Environment Movement (London and New York: Routledge, 1996), p. 143.

[33] Peter Montague, `Ignorance is Strength', Rachel's Environment & Health Weekly, No. 467 (1995)

[34] Documents attached to National Environmental Trust, `Big Oil's Secret Plan to Block the Global Warming Treaty', Corporate Watch Features,, October 1998.

[35] Thomas E. Blackburn, `Right-thinking conservative think tanks', National Catholic Reporter, Vol. 31, No. 41 (1995), p. 18.

[36] Angela Antonelli, Brett Shaefer and Alex Annett, `The Road to Kyoto: How the Global Climate Treaty Fosters Economic Impoverishment and Endangers US Security, Heritage Foundation Backgrounder 1143, 6 October 1997.

[37] CEI, `Global Climate Change', Environmental Briefing Book for Congressional Candidates, Competitive Enterprise Institute, World Wide Web, (, 1996.

[38] Robert C. Balling, `Global Warming: Messy models, decent data, and pointless policy', in Ronald Bailey (eds), The True State of the Planet (New York: The Free Press, 1995) p. 84.

[39] John Shanahan, `A Guide to the Global Warming Theory', Heritage Foundation Backgrounder 896, 1992.

[40] Rowell, Green Backlash, p. 328.

[41] Brian Tucker, `A Rational Consideration of Global Warming', Ockham's Razor, ABC Radio National, 18 August 1996.

[42] Brian Tucker, `The Greenhouse Panic', Engineering World (August 1995), p. 35.

[43] Rowell, Green Backlash, p. 141.

[44] Murray Hogarth, `Why our stand on climate change is doomed', Sydney Morning Herald, 23rd August 1997.

[45] Burton and Rampton, `Thinking Globally, Acting Vocally', p. 4.

[46] Stephen Lunn, `Defy greenhouse bullying: ex-senator', The Australian, 20th August 1997.

[47] Patrick J. Michaels, `The Search for an Explanation of the Apparent Lack of Dramatic and Damaging Global Warming' .

[48] `"Confusionists" Gather in Vancouver', Greenpeace Press Release, 29 October 1997.

[49] Murray Hogarth, `Greens Priced Out of Kyoto Input', Sydney Morning Herald, 4 February 1998, p. 3.

[50] Murray Hogarth, `Climate research alleged to be biased', Sydney Morning Herald, 5 August 1997.

[51] Gavin Gilchrist, `Too Much Hot Air', Sydney Morning Herald, 30 August 1997, p. 5S.

[52] Ozone Action, Ties that Blind, p. 12.

[53] WRI, `New WRI Report Pinpoints Source of Conflicting Predictions About Costs of Climate Change', News Release, 11 June 1997.

[54] Ozone Action, Ties that Blind, p. 14.

[55] Global Climate Change, web page,, 1998.

Professor Sharon Beder is a visiting professorial fellow at the University of Wollongong.
Sharon Beder's Publications can be found at