Gallery: BOOK REVIEW: Climate Cover-Up


Conspiracy! Author James Hoggan realizes the ridiculousness of that word, asserting that it “strains credulity and is offensive in its own right.” Yet the massive media sway that he details in his book Climate Cover-Up feels like something a squinty, scruffy, clipboard-wielding man would accost you with. It turns out that most of the oft-quoted global warming skeptics are not climate scientists, and are not published in credible scientific journals. They are funded mostly by think tanks which are, in turn, funded by fossil fuel companies. “There are conspiracies aplenty,” he writes, ” documented and undeniable.” The central conspiracy here is the perpetuation of global warming uncertainty. His book puts out the serious details.

The anti global-warming “conspiracy” is a series of well-orchestrated public relations ploys. “Grassroots” deniers of global warming refuse to reveal their funding sources. Certain memos and documents detail a plan to inundate mid-level American newspapers with letters and articles from scientific skeptics. Hoggan even gathers research on the signatories of several anti-climate-change petitions complied by the Heartland Institute and others. Among listed skeptics of climate change there are: dead scientists, scientists with no peer-reviewed climate research, and in some of the most shocking instances, well-respected climate scientists whose named were attached without their consent.

In one particularly stinging story, Hoggan details the circumstances surrounding the coercing of renowned climate scientist Roger Revelle into coauthoring a “look before you leap” climate paper and the subsequent lawsuit against his indignant graduate student. What perturbs Hoggan the most is the fact that each denier group or individual is working to create uncertainty despite an overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming is real and man-made.

Part of Hoggan’s appeal as an author is that he is not, in fact an old man with a clipboard — he’s a very accomplished Public Relations executive who understands the machinations of media. The book is borne from his DeSmogBlog, and fueled by his professional indignation. Hoggan is aware that PR guys do not have the most glowing reputation, and so is infuriated by these interest groups’ perpetuation of spin-doctoring. “I started to notice evidence of the campaign everywhere I looked. To a trained eye, the unsavory public relations tactics and techniques and the strategic media manipulation became obvious. The more I thought about it, the more deeply offended I became.”

Hoggan does allow this indignation to color his language occasionally in that conspiracy-theorist way, but his research is so extensive that it’s easy to forgive. It’s even okay that he gets all dewy-eyed and poetic towards the end.

All in all, Climate Cover-Up is an example of anger channeled into real, sharp, relevant and useful work. “My best advice might be that you should survey a variety of sources just to help confirm — or challenge– what you have read in this book. I am confident that it will stand up to scrutiny, but I am even more concerned that you be rock solid in your own understanding, in your conviction, of what has been happening in the global climate change conversation.”

+ Climate Cover-Up

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  1. biguana December 15, 2009 at 10:13 am


    I very much respect your call for robust application of scientific method, as well as your admission of lack of insight into the issue – likewise I am not an expert and would therefore avoid making scientific arguments, although the consensus amongst “serious scientists” certainly seems pretty clear, and as you point out, better safe than sorry.

    However, I really don’t think the very few quoted lines were taken IN context. It seemed to me that to understand the context would require an in-depth understanding of both the the nature and the detail of the research in question, none which could realistically be explained in the mainstream press, which therefore restricted itself to a few words.

    Admittedly, I think UEA (and various other institutions) would have done (and could do) themselves huge favours by being a lot more open with research and data from early on. This would have perhaps avoided their current problem of not wanting to argue with fools in case onlookers can’t tell the difference.

  2. Bertie December 9, 2009 at 8:29 am

    @itchyrich: the context you mention is 3-4 messages between as little individuals on a topic which has many more scientific basis then what these leaked emails try to discredit.
    Would you say that because Enron cooked their books, all companies do the same? No, so the impact of these emails should be similarly put in context.
    It is a classic dishonest tactic to generalize a conclusion from a relatively small obervation – don’t fall into this trap

  3. itchyrich November 30, 2009 at 11:17 am

    @susdes, I’m as concerned about climate change as the next guy but I’m also interested in scientific method as it’s our best way of uncovering how things actually work. The emails in question were taken IN context, and demonstrate at the very least that data was deliberately manipulated because of a pre-formed intention.

    Some of the reactions to the leaked emails are over the top but there still seems like an attitude revealed by those emails that bears no relation to the scientific method’s respect for repeatability, the testing of hypotheses and peer review.

    In simple terms when scientists no longer follow the scientific method what they produce is no longer science.

    Before anyone quotes me out of context, I have no insight as to the ‘truth’ or otherwise of climate change. Considering the potential dangers I’d rather stay on the safe side and go green until we know it’s safe to do otherwise, but this kind of thing helps nobody.

  4. susdes November 29, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    @ecAr Some stolen emails taken out of context do not prove a conspiracy. They do prove that climate change deniers are still willing to do anything to promote the anti-science view. And will probably continue to do so considering the deep pockets of the denialist funders and their lack of ethics.

  5. ecAr November 24, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    Interesting that Inhabitat would post this days after the NYT published an article that proves the so-called “conspiracy theory” has validity. For those of you that might have missed it, the article sheds light on leaked emails between several of the often quoted credible scientists. The content of which mentions the lack of tests confirming global warming, the modification of test results to hide the fact that temperatures are actually reducing globally and not warming, and gives directives to contact other scientists in an attempt to eliminate all emails that show a trail of all discussions regarding their non-finding of fact. So I would take anything written in this book with a grain of salt. I think we would all agree that we should not pollute, save fossil fuels, and recycle our natural resources but to define global policy under the banner of “global warming” needs to be challenged when it appears to be unfounded. It appears all sides are spinning the issue to one extent or another so take the reviewers advice and do your own investigation on the subject before formulating your an opinion.

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