Research aimed at disputing the scientific consensus on global warming is part of a huge public misinformation campaign funded by some of the largest carbon polluters in the world, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore said Tuesday.
"There has been an organized campaign, financed to the tune of about US$10 million (EUR 7.2 million) a year from some of the largest carbon polluters, to create the impression that there is disagreement in the scientific community," Gore said at a forum in Singapore. "In actuality, there is very little disagreement."
Gore likened the campaign to that of the millions of dollars spent by U.S. tobacco companies years ago on creating the appearance of uncertainty and debate within the scientific community on the harmful effects of smoking cigarettes.
"This is one of the strongest of scientific consensus views in the history of science," Gore said. "We live in a world where what used to be called propaganda now has a major role to play in shaping public opinion."
After the release of a February report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made up of the world's top climate scientists, that warned that the cause of global warming is "very likely" man-made, "the deniers offered a bounty of US$10,000 (EUR 7,250) for each article disputing the consensus that people could crank out and get published somewhere," Gore said.
"They're trying to manipulate opinion and they are taking us for fools," he said.
He said ExxonMobil Corp., the world's largest publicly traded oil company, is one of the major fuel companies involved in attempting to mislead the public about global warming.
Last year, British and American science advocacy groups accused ExxonMobil of funding groups that undermine the scientific consensus on climate change. The company said the scientists' reports were just attempts to smear ExxonMobil's name and confuse the debate.
Gore said as awareness of the urgent need to address climate change grows, the world is fast approaching a tipping point that, when crossed, will see an acceleration in efforts to fight the problem, and urged businesses to recognize that reducing carbon emissions is in their long-term interest.
But while Washington should lead by example, developing nations also have to play a part.
"Countries like China, just to give an example, which will next year be the largest emitter in the world, can't be excluded just because it's technically a developing country," Gore said. "When you look at the absolute amount of CO2 each year and going forward, China will soon surpass the U.S."
Gore said that as the Asian giant's economy expands, China faces an increased risk from the effects of climate change and must find ways to leapfrog old, polluting technologies in ways that can maintain growth.
In June the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency said China overtook the United States in carbon dioxide emissions by about 7.5 percent in 2006. China was 2 percent below the U.S. in greenhouse gas emissions in 2005, the agency said.