SINGAPORE – Research aimed at disputing the scientific consensus on global warming is part of a huge public misinformation campaign funded by some of the world’s largest carbon polluters, former Vice President Al Gore said Tuesday.
“There has been an organized campaign, financed to the tune of about $10 million a year from some of the largest carbon polluters, to create the impression that there is disagreement in the scientific community,” Gore said at a forum in Singapore. “In actuality, there is very little disagreement.”
Gore likened the campaign to the millions of dollars spent by U.S. tobacco companies years ago on creating the appearance of scientific debate on smoking’s harmful effects.
“This is one of the strongest of scientific consensus views in the history of science,” Gore said. “We live in a world where what used to be called propaganda now has a major role to play in shaping public opinion.”
After the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made up of the world’s top climate scientists, released a report in February that warned that the cause of global warming is “very likely” man-made, “the deniers offered a bounty of $10,000 for each article disputing the consensus that people could crank out and get published somewhere,” Gore said.
“They’re trying to manipulate opinion and they are taking us for fools,” he said.
He said Exxon Mobil Corp., the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, is one of the major fuel companies involved in trying to mislead the public about global warming.
“Some of the tobacco companies spent millions of dollars to create the appearance that there was disagreement on the science. And some of the large coal and utility companies and the largest oil company, ExxonMobil, have been involved in doing that exact same thing for the last several years,” Gore said.
ExxonMobil said the allegation was “completely false.”
“The recycling of this type of discredited conspiracy theory diverts attention from the real challenge at hand: how to provide the energy needed to improve global living standards while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” company spokesman Gantt Walton said.
Last year, British and American science advocacy groups accused ExxonMobil of funding groups that undermine the scientific consensus on climate change. The company said the scientists’ reports were just attempts to smear ExxonMobil’s name and confuse the debate.
Walton said the company’s financial support does not mean control over any group’s views, and that ExxonMobil believes that the risk that greenhouse gas emissions is contributing to climate change warrants taking action to limit them.
Gore said that with growing awareness of climate change, the world will see an acceleration in efforts to fight the problem, and urged businesses to recognize that reducing carbon emissions is in their long-term interest.
But while Washington should lead by example, he said developing nations also have to play a part.
“Countries like China, just to give an example, which will next year be the largest emitter in the world, can’t be excluded just because it’s technically a developing country,” Gore said. “When you look at the absolute amount of CO2 each year and going forward, China will soon surpass the U.S.”
Gore said that as the Asian giant’s economy expands, China faces an increased risk from climate change and must leapfrog old, polluting technologies while maintaining growth.
The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency said in June that China overtook the United States in carbon dioxide emissions by about 7.5 percent in 2006. China was 2 percent below the U.S. in greenhouse gas emissions in 2005, the agency said.