Stanford Professor: Anthropogenic Global Warming Caused by “Dishonest” Industry, Not Individuals

by William Yeatman on December 23, 2014

in Blog, Features

An inconvenient truth encountered by global warming alarmists is voter indifference. Poll after poll suggests that Americans lend ultra-low priority to climate change (rightly so). This is why candidate Obama ran to the right of Romney on energy/environment policy during the 2012 campaign.

Individual agency—antithesis of Prof. Proctor’s take on AGW

Individual agency—antithesis of Prof. Proctor’s take on AGW

Indeed, voter apathy in the face of climate change drives AGW activists batty with frustration, so much so that they refuse to acknowledge the phenomenon. Instead of accepting the truth at hand—that everyday Americans simply don’t care about global warming in a lifetime filled with more pressing matters—climate worry warts, especially those in academia, are given to grand conspiracy theories about how nefarious fossil fuel industries spend untold billions to manipulate the American polity into its current ambivalence regarding the imperative to “do something” about global warming.

Of course, this thesis is belied by a cursory Google News search of the term “climate change,” which reliably engenders a parade of horribles on the impending catastrophic impacts in store for civilization. To wit, here is a representative sampling of first-page headlines from just such a search, conducted this morning:

  • “Risk of dengue fever increases due to climate change” (Fox News);
  • “Climate change could cost US coasts $1 trillion by 2100” (Science Now);
  • “Another threat from climate change: bad-tasting shrimp” (LA Times);
  • “Will global climate change ground commercial airlines?” (Top Secret Writers).

As usual, there weren’t any “denier” headlines. Which raises an obvious question: How is climate messaging almost always alarming, if industry is pulling all the strings? 

Yesterday, I came across a new variant of the idea that fossil fuel companies are brainwashing us, and it’s a doozie. According to Professor Robert Proctor, a historian of science at Stanford University, industry has engineered the false impression that individuals are responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, when in fact the real culprit is a handful of businesses in energy and cement production. Here’s how Proctor’s argument, presented at this month’s American Geophysical Union conference, was described in Monday’s edition of ClimateWire ($):

A prevailing belief about climate change is that all of humanity — all 7 billion of us — is collectively responsible for industrial greenhouse gas emissions. But that is not strictly true. About 63 percent of all industrial emissions since 1854 have come from 90 companies, many of them coal and oil and gas producers, according to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Proctor said that industry’s idea for hoisting responsibility for the climate problem onto individual shoulders was derived from the tobacco industry. In the ’90s, tobacco companies ran media campaigns that equated smoking with freedom of choice. This placed responsibility for their addiction on individuals rather than on industry.

This perception can be flipped, and industry can be denormalized and shown to be dishonest, Proctor said.

This is wacky stuff, akin to suggesting that the alphabet is responsible for Prof. Proctor’s doctoral thesis. As reported, he claims that individuals don’t cause climate change, because most greenhouse gases have been emitted by a relatively small set of industries. Left unsaid (at least as reported) is the fact that industry’s emissions are the direct byproduct of meeting consumer demand—i.e., that of the individual. Moreover, the happy consequence of this process (i.e., meeting consumer demand) has been the unprecedented acceleration in quality of life enjoyed by *individuals* since the industrial revolution.

Ben Welgoed December 24, 2014 at 4:14 pm

And now about the g a p i n g hole (in Proctor’s essay), aka, the elephant in the room.

Voices have been raised to mandate labelling of products according to how much energy they cost to produce. This has been staunchly fought and successfully held off by both energy producers and -gobblers, with as a result that citizens’ eyes are not even seeing day in day out what energy equivalents their habits add up to. Citizens lacking that basic info has been a blessing for industry, both energy producing and -wasting.

Knowledge tends to save lives, and as to energy use, it could save a whole lot of MegaWattHours. Citizens actually want this info, but the industry does its utmost to tell the people that they should not. Such would after all “clog up all the space on products’ labels”, and of course the latter is a mighty big deal, in their fiction.

jan freed December 26, 2014 at 5:34 am

Another gaping hole: “Individuals” are responsible and not fossil fuels industry?

The ff industry opposes the use of alternative energy sources, e. E.G. their “fossil tools” in Congress (who were elected on their waves of cash) oppose Wind/Tax Credits, a carbon fee, EPA regs, etc. They oppose virtually any environmental regs that effect their bottom line.

So the “individual” is trapped in an “only wheel in town” choice. Most Americans support limiting emissions, even if there is a cost. It’s the GOP (and some Dems) who do not honor that view or even tolerate discussion, not individual Americans.

Frederick Colbourne January 20, 2015 at 6:43 am

Fossil fuels are not the only game in town. There’s hydro but of course the waterfalls are limited. There’s nuclear and that is unlimited.

What there is not, except in fairy tales, is not is a future filled with windmills and solar farms. Because both need backup from fossil fuel plants when the sun doesn’t shine and wind doesn’t blow.

But lots of people get sucked into believing fairy tales.

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