Persuasion and warming

Propaganda we can refer to here in simplistic terms as ‘mass persuasion.’ That mass persuasion generally is self-serving, hence propaganda is communication designed to persuade a specific audience on some topic near and dear to the propagandist, or the entity(ies) paying for the propaganda. Could be a politician seeking election to public office, a corporation seeking to avoid product liability lawsuits, a company trying to sell more of its product, or in this case, industries attempting to slow or stop a shift in public opinion that would lead to legislation, policy or culture changes demanding action on anthropogenic climate change.

But first, some refresher data (go here for a lengthier discussion of these strategies):

Pre-persuasion–framing the debate–make sure that your preferred option has very little competition

  • Some strategies:
    •  Climate change or global warming is simply theory;
    • The science is undecided;
    • The economic costs of an undecided issue would bankrupt economies;
    • Even if it’s happening, there’s no evidence it’s anthropogenic;
  • Carbon dioxide–greenhouse gas or best friend?
  • Fox News, weather, and global warming
  • Polar bears and NRDC
  • Advertising’s important contributions
  • Greg Craven, Oregon HS teacher, and risk

Source credibility

Message control (language and imagery)

  • Global warming vs climate change–which has greater effect?
  • Each’side’ has language that it uses in public discourse
    • Climate deniers, global warming, climate disruption, front groups/astroturf/greenwash, fossil fuels, renewable energy
    • Global warming alarmists, climate change, theory, climategate (trying to tie a ‘scandal’ to Watergate–see above link), Medieval warming period (i.e., pre-industrial warming suggests humans aren’t involved), global cooling, clean coal, energy security, climate police
  • Uncertainty
    • The tobacco industry used this technique for decades (to confuse cause-effect relationships of smoking and cancers)–as long as the public believes the science is unsettled, public opinions don’t shift dramatically. Some of the same scientists who defended the tobacco industry went to work for the oil and gas folks later, such as Fred Singer.
    • from the Heartland Institute (italics are my comments):’Development of our “Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms” project. Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective (appeal to emotion). To counter this we are considering launching an effort to develop alternative materials for K-12 classrooms. We are pursuing a proposal from Dr. David Wojick (source credibility) to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science (source credibility–not he is a consultant). His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain (pre-persuasion, message control) – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science. We tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $100,000 for 20 modules in 2012, with funding pledged by the Anonymous Donor.’
    • Heartland’s latest video production: ‘Unstoppable Solar Cycles‘ (featuring Drs. David Legates and Willie Soon). David Legates, by the way, was hired at NOAA by President Trump.
      • Divergent views on relationship between CO2 and temperature over time: the skeptics (oceans release CO2 when the heat) and climate scientists (a nuanced view)
    • Here’s a long list of various efforts to inject uncertainty into the ‘debate’
    • Typical argument–the numbers game (CO2 makes up a small amount of greenhouse gases, water vapor a huge amount):








But does water vapor behave or persist like other greenhouse gases? No. It causes more warming, actually, but it’s short-lived because of how it cycles.

Appeal to emotion (mostly fear)

Some history, concepts affecting shifts (or lack thereof) in public opinion


Well, they’re weird. For Americans, anyway. In what other country can opinions on global warming be explained by political party affiliation? The scientific community shows pretty high consensus levels–97%. And PR professionals know that once most people believe the scientific community pretty much agrees, public opinion shifts (and calls for action increase). Hence the strategy–uncertainty, confusion, efforts to discredit the science, public relations campaigns in the popular media, not the scientific journals. And it’s been wildly successful, relative to actual numbers.