Hillary Clinton has made it clear that, under her administration, the US would fight climate change by boosting investment in renewables and nuclear power, cutting tax subsidies for fossil fuels, and implementing the Paris agreement. A batch of WikiLeaks emails has revealed that the Clinton campaign considered a plan to open up another front in this particular war.
A well-funded effort to push back against the dark forces of climate change denialists, especially those given a voice by controversial media tycoon Richard Murdoch, was recently proposed to Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta by David Fenton, the founder of a US public relations agency.
First uncovered by the Guardian, it appears that the focus of Fenton's plan was on targeted advertising. Designed to be featured in Murdoch-owned newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, and on his TV channels and websites, including Fox News, they would have informed their readers and viewers that they are being willfully deceived on the scientific consensus.
Referencing several investment promises from specific contributors, Fenton hoped to make Murdoch’s climate denial a “major issue”. Support from academics, journalists, green organizations, and a wide range of public officials was advocated to boost this effort. The communiques, dated between 2014 and 2015, also advocate the use of civil disobedience, such as encouraging picketing outside WSJ offices and Fox studio buildings.
Outlining his action plan, Fenton says that “Fox News repeatedly reinforces (and helps creates) the view held by almost every single Republican member of Congress that humans are not changing the climate. With the conscious and subconscious power of a television network, it reinforces red state views that climate change is a liberal plot for government control.”
Far from just focusing on the US, Fenton wished to expand this information campaign to Murdoch-owned titles in both Australia and the UK. The Guardian reports that the campaign ultimately never went ahead.
Regardless, it highlights that Clinton’s campaign has acknowledged the hideous scale of America’s climate change denial problem, and this awareness is no bad thing. After all, you can’t effectively fight climate change if huge swaths of the public don’t accept the science behind it.
Since the early 90s, many Republican lawmakers have jumped into bed with the fossil fuel industry. Using largely pro-Republican media, they have conspired to actively promote the idea that man-made climate change is an elaborate fiction, despite the fact that the science makes it clear that the very opposite is true.
One only needs to look to the current Republican standard bearer’s thoughts on climate change – that it’s a myth, a Chinese hoax – for a summation of the general GOP stance on the issue. There’s only so much that scientists and science journalists can do to educate the public on the matter when powerful, vested interests are constantly distorting the facts.
“Fox News is the biggest single factor keeping almost 40 percent of Americans from believing humans are changing the climate, while only 10 percent know that 97 percent of climate scientists agree we are warming the earth at our peril,” Fenton notes in one email exchange.
Recent Pew polls of the American public back him up on this point. Only 20 percent of those who are pro-Republicans think climate change is a serious problem, compared to 68 percent of Democrats.
Some Republican politicians do in fact wish to support climate change mitigation measures, but many are worried that the Murdoch media machine will discredit them over such actions.
Indeed, Fenton notes that “until Murdoch is put on the defensive on climate change, opening political space for conservatives to come forward, it is unlikely that bipartisan efforts on climate change will be achieved in time.”