Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
In what passes for debate about climate change one of the most tiresome allegations is that skeptics are lavishly funded by big oil. As a result of this funding, so the argument goes, the public has been confused by those who’ll say anything in exchange for a paycheck.
“Follow the money” we’re told and you’ll discover that climate skeptics are irredeemably tainted. Ergo nothing they say can be trusted. Ergo their concerns, questions, and objections should be dismissed out of hand.
It’s therefore amusing that the current oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is now drawing attention to the close relationship between climate change activists and BP – aka British Petroleum, an entity for which the descriptor “big oil” was surely invented.
According to the Washington Post the green group Nature Conservancy – which encourages ordinary citizens to personally pledge to fight climate change – “has accepted nearly $10 million in cash and land contributions from BP and affiliated corporations over the years.”
Gee, didn’t Greenpeace build an entire ExxonSecrets website to expose the allegedly diabolical fact that, over a 9-year-period (1998-2006) ExxonMobil donated a grand total of $2.2 million to a conservative think tank?
$10 million versus $2 million. Who do we suppose has the cozier relationship with big oil?
But that’s just the beginning. The Washington Post also points out that Conservation International, another green group which insists climate change represents a “profound threat,” has “accepted $2 million in donations from BP over the years and partnered with the company on a number of projects.”
Funny, Greenpeace doesn’t talk about that. Nor does it mention:
The only dollar amounts Greenpeace cites in its explanation of why it decided to launch ExxonSecrets is that measly $2.2 million. Versus 10 + 2 + 30 + 500 + 100. Let’s see, which all adds up to…wait for it…$642 million.
If the world is divided into two factions – one that believes climate change is a serious problem and another that thinks human influence on the climate is so minimal it’s indistinguishable from background noise – one group has pulled off a bank heist while the other has been panhandling in front of the liquor store.
In the same document in which Greenpeace talks about the ExxonMobil money it chillingly asserts that climate “deniers” aren’t entitled to free speech. Why? Because “Freedom of speech does not apply to misinformation and propaganda.”
Actually, the big thinkers on the subject have consistently taken the opposite view. John Stuart Mill was adamant that no one has the right to decide what is or is not propaganda on everyone else’s behalf. He would have looked Greenpeace in the eye and told it to stop imagining that its own judgment is infallible.
More than a hundred years later Noam Chomsky famously declared that if you don’t believe in freedom of expression for opinions you despise you don’t believe in it at all.
If Greenpeace would like to have a serious conversation about who, exactly, is spreading misinformation I’m up for that – since it’s overwhelming obvious that the big oil jackpot was awarded to those on the Greenpeace side of the debate.
The fact that climate change activists have enjoyed such a powerful funding advantage and yet insisted all the while that the exact opposite was the case is troubling. It tells us a good deal about their intellectual rigour. About their character. And about their ability to distinguish fact from fiction.
If there really is a climate crisis, if our grandchildren’s future really is imperiled, these aren’t the people to lead us out of the wilderness.
UPDATE (June 6): Reader Terry Kesteloot alerted me to the fact that the Greenpeace.org website is apparently infected with a “very low” risk computer virus. The links in this post to Greenpeace’s ExxonSecrets FAQ have therefore been replaced with links to a copy of the document that resides at Archive.org (scroll down once the page loads).
If your machine has virus protection, the document may be viewed directly on the Greenpeace website HERE.