'Dark money' involved in delaying climate action core of Senate probe
Witnesses invited by Democrats highlight the role of dark money in climate misinformation.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, chairman of the budget committee, organized a hearing on the role of oil and gas-linked "dark money" in delaying climate action, The Guardian reported.
“I am shining a light on the massive, well-documented economic risks of climate change, These are risks that have the potential to cascade across our entire economy and trigger widespread financial hardship and calamity,” Whitehouse said.
“Beginning as early as the 1950s, industry scientists became aware of climate change, measuring and predicting it decades before it became a public issue,” he said. “But industry management and CEOs spent decades promoting climate misinformation.”
Three witnesses were invited by the Senate Democrats to illustrate the graveness of the climate crisis and the necessity of taking action to contain it, and another two were invited by Senate Republicans to challenge their claims.
“Climate change is a market failure, and market failures require government action to address,” Naomi Oreskes, Harvard History of Science professor, testified.
Oreskes explained that the fossil fuel industry lobbies stifle climate action, bringing upon the US severe costs: both financial and humanitarian.
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Christine Arena, a former PR coordinator at Edelman, presented a comparative approach to the fossil fuel industry's enterprise of spreading misinformation to gloss over the severity of the climate crisis with of the tobacco industry when they tried to cover up the harms of smoking.
“Just like the tobacco executives before them, [fossil fuel executives] characterize peer-reviewed science and investigative journalism that illustrates the extent of their deceptions as biased or inconclusive,” said Arena.
Richard Painter, a professor of Law and former President George Bush's White House ethics lawyer, was another witness called to testify.
Painter emphasized that the climate crisis shouldn't be politically divisive. Americans from all across the political spectrum should push to contend the climate misinformation.
Dr. Roger Pielke Jr, professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, was the first of the witnesses called to testify by the Republican senators. He said while climate change had serious implications, it was being overblown by the Democrats.
Scott Walker, president of the Capital Research Center, contended the claim that "dark money" was a problem such that it has been a common and normalized practice in American politics.
“To say that a group uses dark money is like saying the group uses telephones. It’s a universal technology,” he said.
He added that the "political left" (referring to the Democrats) took more "dark money" than the right.