Climate change is the most serious issue facing humanity today. Rising sea levels threaten not only developing nations; some U.S. cities are already doomed to sink beneath the waves. The global economy is due to tank as temperatures continue to rise, and there is even some evidence to suggest that human conflict is only made worse by rising temperatures.
Efforts to cast doubt on this are incredibly dangerous, and a sting by Greenpeace has revealed that two prominent climate skeptics were apparently paid to do just that.
A group of Greenpeace activists posing as consultants to fossil fuel companies approached these two professors, both at leading U.S. universities, in order to commission reports that would explain the supposed benefits of using coal as an energy source and the good that will come from rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.
The two academics were both receptive to the proposals, and the sting revealed a sinister form of academic funding: This unsubstantiated “research” could make its way into the public domain without the funding behind it ever being revealed, unlike research that is paid for with grant money.
The first academic, William Happer, is a professor of physics at Princeton University and a prominent climate change skeptic. In the past, he has been called to testify against the so-called “dogma” in climate change research by politicians with a clear aim to deny the existence of dangerous climate change.
In email exchanges with the undercover activists, it was revealed that he agreed to highlight the supposed negative impacts of making a deal at the United Nations climate talks in Paris. In one exchange, Happer writes: “More CO2 will benefit the world. The only way to limit CO2 would be to stop using fossil fuels, which I think would be a profoundly immoral and irrational policy.” Happer suggested that, instead of having his “research” anonymously peer-reviewed, he would be able to handpick sympathetic reviewers that would readily accept his report.
The second, Frank Clemente, is a retired sociologist from Pennsylvania State University; he was asked by the undercover activists to counteract several damaging studies on deaths caused by coal power plant emissions. The sting also revealed that U.S. coal giant Peabody Energy was apparently paying him tens of thousands of dollars to produce coal-friendly research.
“Down the years, how many scientific reports that sowed public doubt on climate change were actually funded by oil, coal and gas companies? This investigation shows how they do it, now we need to know when and where they did it,” said John Sauven, the director of Greenpeace U.K., as reported by the Guardian.
There is an overwhelming consensus amongst the world’s scientists that climate change is not only happening, but it is happening at an unprecedented rate thanks to human activity. Global temperatures have already risen by 1°C (1.8°F) from pre-industrial times; this may not sound like much, but the rate of temperature change is over 47,000 times faster than the naturally occurring temperature change over the last 90 million years.
Despite the activities of climate skeptics like Happer and Clemente, the global recognition of dangerous climate change is on the uptick. In fact, it’s safe to say that the United Nations Climate Change Conference is happening amid an atmosphere of global solidarity, and the two most prolific greenhouse gas emitters – China and the U.S. – are on board to getting an effective, binding deal in Paris this week.
The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, reacting to the sting, told the Guardian: “One professor or one scientist is not going to negate peer-reviewed scientists by the thousands over many years and 97% of the scientists on the planet.”
[H/T: The Guardian]