Friday, 24 March 2017

The Art of Hiding the Truth - PSEEG

    Showing the film 'Merchants of Doubt' started the evening at Pembrokeshire South East Energy Group's (PSEEG) March meeting.  This explained clearly how the art of denying facts has been honed since the 1950/60s.

In 1958 the tobacco industry knew that heavy smoking contributed to lung cancer and by 1960s it also knew that nicotine was addictive.  This did not stop their representatives claiming in 1984 that they did not know that it caused lung cancer or in 1994 telling Congress that it is not addictive.

Their 'Playbook Strategy' included cast doubt, question the science, create controversy, find friendly scientists, attack the messenger, shift the blame and delay regulation.  This has been followed in many areas – oil, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, flame retardants – and of most concern to PSEEG Climate Change.

Back in 1988 James Hansen worked for the NASA Goddard Institute.  He warned of the problems of climate change and – being a scientist – thought the evidence would be enough to convince politicians to act to reduce CO2 emissions.  He had no idea of the influence of the forces ranged against him – funded by fossil fuel vested interests.  In 2002 Naomi Oreskes looked at all peer reviewed published articles on global warming and climate change and found that 97% of scientists agreed.

The vested interests – too many to mention - invested huge amounts of money in following the 'Playbook Strategy' in order to deny the problem existed and that burning fossil fuels caused the problem.

Over the last eight years America has made strides to reduce its carbon footprint and now the head of the Environmental Protection Agency is one Scott Pruitt who only a couple of week ago said 'He did not believe that the release of CO2 was pushing global temperatures upwards'.

Fortunately over 195 counties are signed up to the latest Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change as they clearly see the current results of increasing temperatures.

Janet Roberts followed up with a very short presentation.  The first section was about 'dark money' which is how millions of dollars are poured into misinformation machines - such as think tanks, bloggers and fake citizen groups.  Second section was about the 'dark internet' where Tim Berners-Lee fears that the global open web which he created is now under threat saying 'We've lost control of our personal data' and 'Its too easy to spread misinformation on the web' and 'Political advertising online needs transparency and understanding'.  Both the Electoral Commission and the Information Commissioner's Office are looking into any affect on election outcomes.  Finally we had a short word about 'Bots'.  These are automatically generated e-mails or Facebook or Twitter posts which are used to alter or harden peoples views.

Finishing the evening with tea/coffee and biscuits we discussed the film and its implications. 

organised by a member of Narberth Quaker Meeting


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