The drumbeat of skepticism over global warming has been oddly muted in the weeks since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its summary report in February. For some who found peculiar solace in believing that the world's leading scientists were all idiots, it's been a rough spell.
With more of the IPCC's findings due to be released this spring and corporate money to fund the global-warming skepticism campaign drying up, it can only get worse for the hard-core deniers.
It's not easy being anti-green.
There's no money in it anymore.
I got an anonymous voice mail a couple weeks ago that suggested at least one passionate gas-guzzling ideologue might be losing his grip altogether.
"Hi," he said. "I read your article and I'm going to use every kind of energy I can that will pollute the air. I let my car run over just to let the exhaust pollute the air. There ain't a (expletive deleted) thing that liberal (expletive deleted) Al Gore can do about it, and I'm going to keep doing this as long as I can, just in defiance to Al Gore and the rest of the environmentalists. You can tell Al Gore for me to go (expletive deleted) himself."
It's no wonder the guy is feeling desperate. President Bush started talking about clean energy in his State of the Union speech. Gore won an Oscar for his global-warming documentary. Now even the world's largest oil company has abandoned him.
Until last year, Exxon-Mobil Corp. was the chief financial backer of the global-warming skepticism campaign.
The media blitz, the brainchild of the company's "Global Climate Science Team," was outlined in an internal memo in 1998.
The memo said the objective was to "undercut the conventional wisdom on climate science," and over the years nearly $16 million was invested in the effort.
Among the 43 organizations that received funds from the Exxon war chest were the Heritage Foundation, the George C. Marshall Institute, the Independence Institute in Golden and the biggest source of global-warming disinformation on the planet, the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.
In January, Exxon spokesman Mark Boudreaux told reporters that the company had quit funding think tanks to grind out media campaigns dissing the international scientific community.
The deniers were on their own.
Things got so bad for CEI that its fundraisers came looking for a handout from Colorado's Intermountain Rural Electric Association last year. The Associated Press reported that IREA gave CEI's global-warming skepticism campaign $100,000 to keep it alive.
IREA needs all the spin it can get.
If concern over greenhouse-gas emissions becomes acute and conservation and alternative energy efforts take hold in the public, elected officials might take a second look at its coal-burning generation plants.
So $100,000 is nothing to IREA. Undermining respect for scientists who have spent decades gathering data on global warming is vital to its economic interests.
Still, even with the support of small players in the energy industry, the skepticism campaign is on life support without Exxon. Executives at the company have made it clear they no longer will be focusing their corporate largesse on global-warming disinformation.
Exxon officials instead are participating in talks to develop strategies for regulating and reducing greenhouse gases, joining companies such as Shell and BP, which have been working on these issues for a decade.
As BP's CEO said in a speech at Stanford in 1997, it's "unwise and potentially dangerous to ignore the mounting concern."
Exxon poured money into disproving global-warming science, but the data are overwhelming.
It gave up.
Soon the lone voice of climate-change deniers just may be a nameless nutball idling his car in his driveway, shrieking profanities into his cellphone and burning fossil fuels as fast as he can.
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