ENOUGH is enough. As I wrote in a recent column, there is an unspoken convention among columnists that we do not discuss each other's work. It is a convention that should be broken because it is frankly driven by ego more than any professional or social principle, and more importantly, because it discourages broader discussion and debate that could benefit the public.
And it should be broken because in some instances, fortunately, infrequent but nonetheless completely unforgivable ones, our silence on someone else's topic makes us complicit in the intentional, and perhaps even malicious spread of disinformation.
One of those instances, and it was far from being the first, was my fellow Manila Times columnist Yen Makabenta's entry for Saturday, August 26, "World climate declaration: 'There is no climate emergency.'" The column is only a column in the sense that it occupies the designated space; except for a few inconsequential introductory and concluding remarks, the entire thing is a republication of the so-called World Climate Declaration.
There is, in fact, a global climate emergency. Formal acknowledgment of the existence of anthropogenic climate change, and the need to act to lessen it is a core policy both at the international level in bodies such as the United Nations, the G20, Asean, the Organization of American States and the African Union, and individually in every nation on earth; even North Korea has an official policy on climate change and has made emissions reduction commitments under the 2015 Paris Accords. Pope Francis has issued a papal encyclical letter calling on Catholics to join the fight against climate change; likewise, there has been an Islamic Declaration on Climate Change, a Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change and a Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis, each signed by hundreds of leaders of those respective faiths.
There is not, in any sense whatsoever, "a currently intense debate on climate change between climate alarmists and climate skeptics." If there was, then the so-called World Climate Declaration would have been reported by the world's mainstream media when it was originally released, which over the past few years has diligently practiced "both sides-ism" to a fault.
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Telling the public that anthropogenic climate change is not happening and has not reached, or is not quickly approaching, crisis proportions is denying a basic fact. That is disinformation, and if it cannot be stopped before it reaches the public — as it should be — then it cannot be left unchallenged, egos and reputations and writers' courtesies be damned.
I will address the actual content of the so-called World Climate Declaration in my next column; today, I'll expose the source of this disinformation. First, a point of clarification on its publication date. Contrary to what the August 26 column says, the offending document was not originally published on August 22. It was actually released, and promptly ignored by everyone, in March 2020. Its recent republication, which actually happened on June 27 of this year, was timed to get ahead of the release of the 32nd annual Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) State of the Climate report (which was published last week), and the upcoming 6th Assessment Report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The re-release of the so-called World Climate Declaration also provided an opportunity for its author, a group called the Climate Intelligence Foundation, or Clintel, to rebrand itself as the slightly more benign-sounding Global Climate Intelligence Group.
Clintel is a Netherlands-based climate science denial group founded in 2019 by retired professor of geophysics Guus Berkhout and journalist Marcel Crok, and, of course, its principal position is that "there is no climate emergency."
In the Netherlands, the organization is politically connected to the Forum voor Democratie, the main Dutch nationalist party. Many of its "800 scientists, scholars and professionals" that support Clintel are affiliated with organizations identified as part of Koch Industries' well-organized climate denial campaign, including the Heartland Institute, the Cato Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, all of which are members of the Koch-funded Atlas Network.
According to investigations by the Dutch broadcaster KRO-NCRV Pointer and the DeSmog Network, the more than 1,000 signatories to the so-called World Climate Declaration have "conducted little to no climate research," and include "a commercial fisherman, a retired chemist, a cardiologist, and an air-conditioning engineer, alongside a number of retired geologists."
If all of this was not a clear indication of Clintel's true motives, its sources of funding are. Most of its direct funding comes from two Dutch real estate magnates, Niek Sandmann and Cor Verkade, but its indirect funding comes from the oil and gas industry. Berkhout's main business is a company called Delphi Consortium (founded in 1982), which provides geo-imaging services for the petroleum industry; companies such as Shell, BP and Chevron use Delphi's research data. Revenues from these subscriptions are funneled to Clintel; Berkhout and Crok have denied this, but Delphi's contributions have been well-documented by a number of investigators, including KRO-NCRV and corporate watchdog Follow the Money.
The so-called World Climate Declaration is simply another feeble shot fired in a long-running disinformation campaign waged by those who stand to suffer substantial commercial losses from the world effort to mitigate climate change and its impacts. What motivation one might have for deliberately choosing to participate in that disinformation campaign I do not know, and I will not speculate. It simply has no place in the public discourse; it actively seeks to mislead and cause harm, and it is time for an open, aggressive, and resolute effort to stop it for the sake of those who will be hurt the most by it.