Scientists fear new attempts to undermine climate action
The Guardian (U.K.), April 21, 2006
Britain's scientists are drawing up a plan to fight renewed attempts by sceptics and industry-funded lobby groups to derail international action on climate change.
According to a confidential internal memo, the Royal Society expects "groups and individuals" to question the science of global warming and the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
It predicts that lobbyists will try to undermine a report next year from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is expected to give a new warning on climate change.
Sources say the report, a draft of which was handed to governments earlier this month, will warn that global warming could drive the Earth's temperature to levels far higher than previously predicted. The report draws together research over the past five years and will be made public in February.
The Royal Society memo says: "It seems likely that these groups will again seek to undermine the IPCC in the period around publication. There are already signs these groups will be targeting European countries and Canada to seek to provoke opposition to the Kyoto protocol."
The document says the oil company Exxon Mobil has tried "to influence public opinion about the threat of climate change". It also says "concerted efforts" were made in 2004-05 to change the way the UK media covered climate science after Tony Blair declared that global warming was one of his priorities.
The memo shows concern that parts of UK media do not reflect the scientific consensus that human emissions of carbon dioxide are driving climate change. It highlights articles in the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, which it says "appeared to be directly influenced by information distributed by lobbyists".
But the memo also criticises environmental campaigners for misrepresenting scientific evidence and says that green groups and the British media "have been guilty of expressing unjustified certainty about the science of climate change".
It criticises Greenpeace for blaming global warming for the 2003 heatwave that killed 30,000 people across Europe. Global warming could not be blamed for individual weather events, although it does make some more likely to occur.
In a statement, the Royal Society said: "This is an internal memorandum based on our own analysis of the way in which climate change has been covered in the UK media.
"It is clear that a number of well-funded and well-orchestrated media campaigns were carried out, by groups that are opposed to the Kyoto protocol and measures to restrict greenhouse gas emissions. There are signs that these groups are preparing similar media and political offensives ahead of the publication of the IPCC fourth assessment report in 2007."