The denial industry
For years, a network of fake citizens’ groups and bogus scientific bodies has been claiming that science of global warming is inconclusive. They set back action on climate change by a decade. But who funded them? Exxon’s involvement is well known, but not the strange role of Big Tobacco. In the first of three extracts from his new book, George Monbiot tells a bizarre and shocking new story
Tuesday September 19, 2006
The website Exxonsecrets.org, using data found in the company’s official documents, lists 124 organisations that have taken money from the company or work closely with those that have. These organisations take a consistent line on climate change: that the science is contradictory, the scientists are split, environmentalists are charlatans, liars or lunatics, and if governments took action to prevent global warming, they would be endangering the global economy for no good reason. The findings these organisations dislike are labelled “junk science”. The findings they welcome are labelled “sound science”.
All this is now well known to climate scientists and environmentalists. But what I have discovered while researching this issue is that the corporate funding of lobby groups denying that manmade climate change is taking place was initiated not by Exxon, or by any other firm directly involved in the fossil fuel industry. It was started by the tobacco company Philip Morris.
In December 1992, the US Environmental Protection Agency published a 500-page report called Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking. It found that “the widespread exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) in the United States presents a serious and substantial public health impact. In adults: ETS is a human lung carcinogen, responsible for approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths annually in US non-smokers. In children: ETS exposure is causally associated with an increased risk of lower respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. This report estimates that 150,000 to 300,000 cases annually in infants and young children up to 18 months of age are attributable to ETS.”
Within a couple of months, Monbiot says, the Morris company had a PR company, APCO, working on preventing “states and cities, as well as businesses, from passive-smoking bans.” In order to do that, they needed a grassroots group. So they created one.
By May 1993, as another memo from APCO to Philip Morris shows, the fake citizens’ group had a name: the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition. It was important, further letters stated, “to ensure that TASSC has a diverse group of contributors”; to “link the tobacco issue with other more ‘politically correct’ products”; and to associate scientific studies that cast smoking in a bad light with “broader questions about government research and regulations” – such as “global warming”, “nuclear waste disposal” and “biotechnology”. APCO would engage in the “intensive recruitment of high-profile representatives from business and industry, scientists, public officials, and other individuals interested in promoting the use of sound science”.
And, the fellow that set it up, Steve Milloy, worked for APCO and Philip Morris.
TASSC did as its founders at APCO suggested, and sought funding from other sources. Between 2000 and 2002 it received $30,000 from Exxon. The website it has financed – JunkScience.com – has been the main entrepot for almost every kind of climate-change denial that has found its way into the mainstream press. It equates environmentalists with Nazis, communists and terrorists. It flings at us the accusations that could justifably be levelled against itself: the website claims, for example, that it is campaigning against “faulty scientific data and analysis used to advance special and, often, hidden agendas”. I have lost count of the number of correspondents who, while questioning manmade global warming, have pointed me there.
The man who runs it is called Steve Milloy. In 1992, he started working for APCO – Philip Morris’s consultants. While there, he set up the JunkScience site. In March 1997, the documents show, he was appointed TASSC’s executive director. By 1998, as he explained in a memo to TASSC board members, his JunkScience website was was being funded by TASSC. Both he and the “coalition” continued to receive money from Philip Morris. An internal document dated February 1998 reveals that TASSC took $200,000 from the tobacco company in 1997. Philip Morris’s 2001 budget document records a payment to Steven Milloy of $90,000. Altria, Philip Morris’s parent company, admits that Milloy was under contract to the tobacco firm until at least the end of 2005.
Monbiot says he has seen TASSC’s arguments all over the globe, including Canada. We know our knows our Minister of Pollution knows them. Oh, and have you thanked her yet? Two addresses, remember? Two addresses, double the fun. This one. And this one.