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Chu compares climate disinformation campaign to tobacco industry’s efforts

By Joe Romm on March 15, 2010 at 8:25 am

"Chu compares climate disinformation campaign to tobacco industry’s efforts"

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Energy Sec also says “we will not be economically competitive” if we don’t price carbon in a comprehensive clean energy bill

Here is our Nobel prize-winning physicist Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, in a San Jose Mercury News interview:

SJMN:  Are you worried that the political will to enact a national policy or somehow tax or price carbon emissions is gone now? If you look at recent polls, the number of Americans who believe that global warming is real and man-made is declining. The political trends are not in your favor.

Chu:  Americans were believing because of sound bites, and now they’re disbelieving because of sound bites. One can honestly say that if we don’t do this, we will not be economically competitive. Ten and 20 years from now, the price of oil will likely be higher “” this is not a stretch of the imagination. The debate for whether smoking causes lung cancer and emphysema was actually in the first decade among scientists, but they muddied the waters for 2½ more decades. Climate change, on a global scale, is a much bigger deal, and people are trying to muddy the waters, particularly people who think they might lose. Unfortunately, it’s easier to propagate fear than seeing a vision of prosperity.

I prefer the phrase, “blow smoke in our face,” extending the tobacco analogy, but the point is the same:  The global warming polluters are actively spreading disinformation to block action, just as the tobacco companies did.

The questions now, as with Big Tobacco, are — how many people will the anti-science disinformers fool, how long will they delay action, how many millions and millions of people will suffer needlessly as a result?

Here’s Chu in a speech at the annual conference of the US Export-Import Bank:

“Despite what you may hear in the blogs and things, the overwhelming evidence of climate change is growing stronger day by day, year by year.”

I wonder which blogs he could be talking about?

The question, he added, is not whether the Earth will warm up, but by how much.

Chu said that unless the U.S. acts more aggressively to address climate change – including measures that create a cost for emitting carbon dioxide – it will continue to lose out to European and Asian countries that have gained the lead in high-tech energy industries.

He noted that the U.S., in the mid-1990s, had 45 percent of the global solar photovoltaic market, but that the U.S. market share is now less than 10 percent.

Chu noted several other areas where the U.S. is losing out in high technology energy manufacturing to countries that are moving more aggressively to boost alternative energy generation.

“This is very, very scary,” he said. “We still need to have a core in manufacturing.”

He later told reporters that uncertainty about U.S. climate policy, such as when a price on carbon will kick in, is leaving banks hesitant to make loans for energy projects.

Chu said that the prospect of energy prices rising slightly if U.S. climate legislation is enacted must be weighed against what he called the greater cost of not acting.

“Meanwhile everything is on hold. Everything on hold means capital on hold, capital on hold means investments not being made. Investments not being made means jobs not being created, and we are falling behind. One has to realize that that is in fact now happening,” Chu said.

Hear!  Hear!

h/t The Hill’s E2 blog

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3 Responses to Chu compares climate disinformation campaign to tobacco industry’s efforts

  1. mike roddy says:

    It’s not quite the alternative energy companies and our economic future arrayed against the fossil fuel companies. Lending to oil and gas companies is very low risk and high volume, so banks often quietly block progress. Wealthy Americans who live on interest rely on fossil fuel company dividends and appreciation, so they fund deniers through “think tanks”, and pressure media companies whose stock they hold.

    These are very formidable opponents. Look at all the damage the tobacco companies did on behalf of a much smaller industry. We face a tough job, especially since the PR task to prevent change is a modest one: all they have to do is smear opponents and sow doubt.

    I’m just glad that we have fighters like Chu and Romm in the ring. I sense that the pushback to people like Watts and Inhofe is gaining strength, in spite of last month’s polls. Let’s battle even harder now.

  2. ChrisD says:

    Chu said that the prospect of energy prices rising slightly if U.S. climate legislation is enacted must be weighed against what he called the greater cost of not acting.

    This mirrors the growing consensus (there’s that word again) among economists:

    [T]here is a broad consensus that the cost of climate inaction would greatly exceed the cost of climate action—it’s cheaper to act than not to act. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by moving to alternative energy sources and capturing carbon from coal-fired power plants will cost less in the long run than dealing with the effect of rising sea levels, drought, famine, wildfire, pestilence, and millions of climate refugees.

    http://www.thebigmoney.com/articles/hey-wait-minute/2009/02/11/surprise-economists-agree

  3. Mark Shapiro says:

    Gotta love Secretary of energy Steven Chu — all the way to his nerdiac core.