Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise has been watching the climate world since 2009. What she sees isn't pretty.

Public Relations Firms & Climate Change

Much of what we hear about climate change has been carefully crafted by PR firms and ad agencies.

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The chairman of the David Suzuki Foundation isn’t a scientist.
He’s a PR specialist whose website dismisses genuine scientists as “amateurs.”

We’re told that the scientific case for global warming is “incontrovertible,” that only the deliberately perverse now doubt that human activities have triggered grave climatic consequences.

But if the science speaks for itself, why is the chairman of the David Suzuki Foundation a public relations specialist? James Hoggan is described on the Foundation’s own website as:

one of Canada’s most respected public relations professionals and the president and owner of Hoggan & Associates, an award winning strategic communications firm… [bold added]

Of course there is no list of “most respected” Canadian PR people anyone can possibly consult in order to verify such a claim. That’s 100% spin. Which is what PR folks do. They are expert at making themselves and their clients sound impressive.

Moreover, “respected” isn’t the adjective most commonly associated with that business. Here in North America, we talk about PR hacks. Like lawyers, these people are hired guns. They advance a position not because it’s true and not because they themselves necessarily believe it, but because it’s their job.

When PR firms aren’t stretching the truth about people, companies, and activities whose image they’ve been hired to burnish, they’re frequently smearing the competition. Which is exactly what Hoggan does. His online bio brags that he is the co-founder of “the influential website DeSmogBlog.”

DeSmogBlog.com is, in my view, one of the ugliest destinations on the Internet. It’s a hit squad, a professional demean team. And it was started – let me repeat this – by a close associate of David Suzuki.

DeSmogBlog’s main purpose is to heap scorn on climate skeptics – or anyone who says anything remotely skeptical. A Canadian satirist by the name of Rex Murphy has been described as “resolutely stupid about climate change” by the lovely folks over at DeSmogBlog because his viewpoint differs from theirs.

In 1995, geologist Ian Plimer won Australia’s Eureka Prize for the Promotion of Science for his book, History of the Planet. Seven years later, he won the Eureka Science Book prize for another title. Yet according to DeSmogBlog, Plimer is an “amateur.” Rather than considering what this award-winning scientist has to say, DeSmogBlog thinks we should take the word of its own personnel – people such as:

Back in 2009, I designed a DeSmogBlog parody website that included a detailed, all-kidding-aside-critique of it’s anti-free-speech stance. The short version is that these people are scary. The DeSmogBlog website declares:

Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view.

In other words, anyone who disagrees with them is practicing deception – and has no right to free speech. That is their position.

Mature, democracy-cherishing individuals don’t think this way. Zealots, tyrants, and propagandists do.

Sadly, this isn’t the only example of PR firms smack in the middle of the the climate debate. According to the Holmes Group (which monitors the public relations industry), the United Nations Foundation has just recruited “three PR firms…to drive a major new global assignment focusing on climate change.” Last year, it hired a fourth PR company to sell its sustainable energy ideas.

In 2010, Claire Jakobsson left her job as senior adviser on energy and climate change with the UK House of Commons Parliamentary Resources Unit. Where did she go? She joined the energy and climate change unit at the Bell Pottinger Public Affairs firm. Evidently, climate change is such big business that PR firms now have entire departments devoted to it.

That same year, the Austrian Environment Ministry selected the Grayling PR firm to implement an awareness program titled “Improving climate step by step.”

And in 2009, the Danish government chose:

Hill & Knowlton as official media sponsor for the UN Conference on Climate Change, COP15, to be held in Copenhagen in December.

Hill & Knowlton is a global PR firm that has also done work for tobacco companies, the Church of Scientology, and the natural gas lobby.

Anyone interested in dozens of similar examples is invited to check out the search results here. It’s clear from those above, however, that much of what we read and hear about global warming has been carefully crafted by the PR and advertising industries (Al Gore’s RealiltyDrop project “was created with pro bono help from advertising agency Arnold Worldwide“).

We’re being sold a particular climate change line. That line has little to do with science – or with the unvarnished, even-handed truth.

Rather, it’s spin, spin, spin.

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read my critique of DeSmogBlog’s anti-free speech stance here

hat tip to Tom Nelson

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