The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has launched a PR offensive after a series of high-profile member defections due to the Chamber’s denial of climate science and its aggressive lobbying against clean energy legislation. Earlier this year, Chamber officials pledged to put climate change science on trial in a “Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century.” Not only has the Chamber spent millions trying to derail the clean energy bill in Congress, but a leaked memo also revealed that the Chamber has been assisting the oil industry in orchestrating astroturf “EnergyCitizen” rallies.
The PR strategy has been focused on lashing back at critics, while assuring the public that the Chamber actually does view climate change as a serious problem that must be addressed somehow. Chamber officials and representatives have been on a media blitz, seeking to rebuke the Scopes monkey trial comment and trying to strike a very different tone on the science of climate change:
Chamber Chief Lobbyist Bruce Josten called the Scopes monkey trial comment “unfortunate, regrettable, stupid.” “We have not, are not and will not” challenge the science behind climate change, added Josten. [Politico, 10/20/09]
Chamber spokesman Eric Wohlschlegel: “We’ve never questioned the science behind global warming.” [NYT, 9/28/09]
David Chavern, Executive Vice President: “We want a climate change bill.” [NPR, 10/22/09]
However, in a 75-minute, profanity-laced interview with Politico today, Chamber president Tom Donohue continued to deny the science underpinning climate change:
Donohue refused to say if he believes the science behind global warming. “Is the science right? Is science not right? I don’t know,” he said.
Of course, Donohue is being consistent. Donohue, who also sits on the board of a company that ships coal, has forced the Chamber into a denier position on climate change for years. He has run ads mocking cap and trade, touted books questioning climate change, and promoted a myth of a global “cooling trend.”
Despite the spin by more disciplined officials, the Chamber continues to spend unprecedented amounts of money lobbying against clean energy legislation. With climate change deniers like Bill Kovacs and Tom Donohue at the helm, it seems unlikely that there will be much of a change in position — even with local Chambers of Commerce joining the slew of businesses repudiating the national organization’s backwards stance on climate.
Pete Altman is keeping tabs of which companies have left the Chamber.