The Public Relations Debate About Global Warming Heats Up

The denial of man-made global warming is one of the greatest PR campaigns in history.  With echoes of the industry-funded research from tobacco companies that denied links between smoking and lung cancer, the well-coordinated PR plan has delayed new regulations for coal and petroleum industries and influenced millions of Americans.

In simple terms, man-made global warming can be described as “the increase in Earth’s average surface temperature due to rising levels of greenhouse gases,” according to NASA. “The most popular explanation for global warming is the burning of fossil fuels, mainly petroleum and coal, which produces carbon dioxide as one of the by-products. As of 2010, the concentration of carbon dioxide is about 50% higher than it was before the start of the industrial revolution in the late 1800′s.”

The deniers have masterfully labeled themselves as “Pro-Business” and “Anti-Government” while painting their adversaries as meddling intellectuals and bureaucrats intent on imposing their unproven beliefs on everyone else.

It’s a well-funded group.  Drexel University completed a study that concluded conservative foundations and others have bankrolled their case with $558 million between 2003 and 2010.  “Money amplifies certain voices above others and, in effect, gives them a megaphone in the public square,” writes environmental scientist Robert J. Brulle, the study’s author.  “Powerful funders are supporting the campaign to deny scientific findings about global warming and raise public doubts about the roots and remedies of this massive global threat,” the study noted.

The public relations tactics for the Deniers include:

  • Attacking the science of global warming
  • Attacking the motives of the scientists
  • Claiming the rise in earth’s temperatures are “natural”
  • Denying there is consensus among scientists
  • Claiming cleaner power plants would kill jobs
  • Making fun of former Vice President Al Gore, an expert on global warming
  • Convincing the media into conducting debates on “both sides of the issue.”

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