“31 pages of shock reading”, Spiegel had named a study whose authors described the risks of climate change on behalf of Shell. That was 1986.
The study was pretty damn accurate. Not only the continuous warming, but also the increase in extreme weather events and threats to the habitability of wider parts of the globe have been predicted as very likely, true, as we know today.
The study also showed that the only responsible way out of this threat was the abandonment of fossil fuels, Shell’s core business.
But Shell decided against the advice of its own scientists, who recommended a “forward-looking approach together with governments”. The board of Directors declared the document a top secret and decided a policy of organized doubt and wait. After all, the scientific consensus was not yet 100%.
So the study disappeared in the Safes, research contracts for other energy technologies were not granted. An Isolated Case? No, even the competitor Exxon was concerned about the discussion on climate change from the 1970s onwards and had an analogous study prepared which produced the same results.
However, the Exxon Board of directors did not correct the priority of oil and Gas in the business model, but instead systematically began to sow scepticism among governments and associations about the not yet completely certain research results.
In the millennia, there had always been ice and hot periods. Natural causes as likely to explain had high credibility and corresponded to historical experience. As usual in the USA, the board of management was rewarded by their high bonuses, based on the stock value, a typical Motivation to short-Termness and contempt for value.
Fears and Fake News as a Lobby-gun
Exxon founded the Global Climate Coalition together with Shell, the Texan oil billionaire Koch and the oil industry lobby. This global lobbying organization called into question the meteorological predictions of governments and journalists, highlighting the enormous economic risks of oil and Gas withdrawal as the most expensive forms of energy at present.
The scorn fears destroyed the initial consensus of governments to tackle the Problem, especially in the US. The commonality expressed in 1992 by the signatures under the declaration of Rio by 154 States collapsed and five years later made the first UN climate change conference in Kyoto a fiasco.
Just once to 5 percent emission reduction by 2012, the participating states were able to reach agreement after several conference extensions, nothing compared to the risks described by science.
Vice president and presidential candidate Al Gore had also signed the Rio Declaration and named the Global Climate Coalition in 1999 in his campaign Criminal, which presumably cost him electorate votes. He only missed the president’s office against George Bush Jun, an oil company that was not interested in environmental issues, a historic caesura in the environmental behavior of the United States.
After Bush took office, the Global Climate Coalition officially dissolved. A justification was, that a connoisseur of the oil Industry, will ensure their secure future. But the dissolution of this organization was only a move against too strong visibility. A number of foundations have now been set up, which still systematically cast doubts on the dominant share of our civilization in climate change.
Overall, all this is not only a dramatic ethical failure of industry, but — if you look at the dangers of climate change — it is probably the biggest economic crime humanity has ever experienced. Along with Al Gore’s electoral defeat, it destroyed the Western civilization’s ability to correct the climate challenge. Unfortunately,this is not the case.
For ten years now, there has been a worldwide consensus among science organisations that most of the climate change is caused by the emissions of our civilization and that it could have a maximum of 20 percent natural causes. But the countermeasures remain modest, as the new Climate Protection Act also underlines for Germany.
Why only could industrial resistance be so successful? It is one of the intellectual strengths of our culture to prevent risks. Usually, reports of risks trigger global action and prohibition requirements. Not so when it comes to climate change.
Climate change is a matter of believing
The answer lies in the scientific uncertainty in the prediction of the weather development, and also the climate development. For the weather sequences are subject to the so-called random theory of physics, so natural science can only be calculated as probabilities.
This applies more to the prediction of long-term Trends. Hundreds of parameters, such as the Earth’s surface, fluctuations in solar radiation due to the time of day and the season, the large ocean currents and statistical assumptions for cloud formation must be weighted and included in the model calculations. A typical case for “Big Data” and large data centers, the greater the probability of correct predictions.
The average increase in the Earth’s temperature is to be calculated with relatively high certainty, but for regional Trends it always remains with probabilities. Security over the civilisation-related proportion was still seen 20 years ago with probabilities of 70 or 80 percent.
Only today, with 98 percent certainty, is it assumed that only between 10 and 20 percent of climate changes have natural causes, but 80 to 90 percent are caused by our civilization and their emission gases, and this will result in a significant increase in extremes and large-scale regional changes.
What is truth?
The lack of experimental, hard evidence and the confirmation only in model calculations make it easy to sow doubts about climate change. But that is exactly what has long been and will be used by economically interested parties. Journalists and editorial staff take this into a Dilemma. For it is a journalistic Tradition to hear important statements against opinions.
According to the Supreme maxim of the code of Press Council, journalism is committed to the truth. But it is precisely when this is uncertain that the Tradition of listening to counter-opinions is the logical way out. The question today, however, is whether this rule should still be followed if worldwide scientific consensus has formed, or if one only supports the dissemination of Fake News with unfounded counter-opinions.
The Situation today
Today, it is a worldwide consensus that climate change not only causes moderate global warming, but also the increase in extreme weather events and changes, such as the melting of large ice areas, the migration of desert areas, the thawing of the Permafrost swamps of Siberia. This also corresponds to the observations of recent years as a quasi-experimental confirmation.
All other theories, such as that they are primarily natural changes, are refuted. There is also consensus.
The rapidly increasing public concern about climate change, therefore, has now become rare for the doubters in the talk shows and most print media. However, the efforts of the fossil industries involved have not disappeared.
There seems to be a new level of activity with new tactics, such as the use of the commentary functions in books and social networks and the online editions of the news services.
For example, if you analyze the comments on the book “self-combustion” by Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, 40 percent (17 comments) of the 43 comments are annihilating, almost all of the skeptics group assign, at over 50 percent (23 comments) positive reviews.
The science journalist Harald Lesch reached with his book, “humanity creates” double the number of reviews with mostly positive comments (58 percent), and is not combated with only 20 percent negative as aggressive. The tilting elements of the climate, which Professor Schellnhuber points out, are the greatest stimulus for skeptics.
So the renewed donation of the Koch brothers, known at the end of 2018, amounting to about $ 10 million, to promote the denial of climate change seems to work well.
As with everything that can produce fanaticism, it is of course impossible to determine which commentators have been trained or even bought and which contradict the scientific consensus with better knowledge.
So the detailed Wikipedia article denying human-made global warming distinguishes between the skeptics, numerous groups organized by laymen and The denying groups organized by industry.
In addition, the Wikipedia article has a detailed bibliography and thus enables a deeper understanding of the topic. However, it is also clear that opponents of climate change are not only part of this group, but that there is a wide variety of fanaticisms and different scepticism in matters of faith and that this part simply has to be regarded as protected by freedom of expression.
However, we must learn to master the many questionable forms of this Fake News.
These strikes would not have needed it
If one now looks at the enormous concerns of the younger Generation about the emerging threats, the severity of the ethical failure of these exploiters of fossil fuels, but also of politics, becomes obvious.
30 years ago was convenient time to introduce the necessary new technologies and lifestyle priorities in small but regular steps. This opportunity has been missed. Now it is 5 after twelve, several of the major changes are already irreversible.
The younger Generation will no longer be able to keep quiet with a “further so”. The provocative weak “climate protection law” could provoke a hot autumn.