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Environmentalists Lose Battle for Public Mind

July 14, 2010
By Paul Chesser

The BP rig explosion has caused the greatest oil mess in U.S. history, and eco-activists are puzzled as to why they can't exploit it to advance initiatives such as climate-change legislation.

The BP rig explosion has caused the greatest oil mess in U.S. history, and eco-activists are puzzled as to why they can't exploit it to advance initiatives such as climate-change legislation. "It's hard to imagine a more useful disaster," wrote two Washington Post environmentalist reporters, noting a squandered opportunity.

Could it be because we've heard similar alarms before? We were told in past decades about the pulled pin on the overpopulation grenade, an impending ice age and a nuclear-caused scorched earth. Photos of starvation and Hollywood "Day After" productions accompanied the ominous predictions.

More recently, we've been lectured about so-called hazards such as fossil-fuel-caused global warming, mountaintop coal mining and hydraulic fracturing to reach natural-gas deposits. Smokestacks and drills interchanged with unaltered woods and wildlife conveyed approaching doom, thanks to human corruption of the planet.

But now the Homo sapiens are tired of the blame, not to mention the photoshopped images that falsified many of the accusations. Coca Cola's polar bears seemed more real.

The Post reported that while the BP leak concerns everyone, public reaction reflects a desire to address our oil-exploration problems so we can continue to access and use fossil fuel resources, as opposed to the environmentalists' "end it all" plan.

"People's outrage is focused on BP," said Yale University public-opinion researcher Anthony Leiserowitz. The spill "hasn't been automatically connected to some sense that there's something more fundamental wrong with our relationship with the natural world."

Missing those signals, environmental extremists want to use the disaster as an excuse (once again) to modify human behavior via forced curbs on greenhouse gases.

Their approach was to corrupt science with the climate-change cause. Degreed leftists like the Union of Concerned Scientists have pushed the global-warming agenda for years, and not just in objective disguises like the National Academy of Sciences. One of their top alarmists, Stephen Schneider of Stanford University, is author of the November release "Science as a Contact Sport." The researchers at the University of East Anglia in England and Penn State University's Michael Mann took this principle to heart when they conspired to exclude the works of skeptical climate scientists from research journals. And Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Benjamin D. Santer was famously revealed in the Climategate e-mails to want to "beat the crap out of" skeptical climatologist Patrick J. Michaels, formerly of the University of Virginia.

Not quite Mel Gibson, but the revelation of this secretly menacing attitude wasn't the beginning of the climate activists' woes anyway. The global-warming movement had lost standing (according to several polls, including quarterly ones from Rasmussen Reports, as well as Gallup) before the Climategate scandal broke in November. Now their credibility is at an all-time low, as illustrated by their current failed messaging.

The environmentalists' public displays have become hackneyed and cliched. A Hands Across the Sand demonstration against offshore oil drilling, co-sponsored by nearly all the recognizable groups (including Greenpeace, Sierra Club and Audubon, plus and others) drew scant media attention and participation only from the activists' marginal ranks.

If the environoiacs want to capture the minds and the energy of average Americans, blaming them for their "addiction to oil" is the wrong way to go about it. Whoever came up with the public relations idea to equate our everyday low-cost, lifesaving energy use to back-alley junkie dependencies needs to go back to marketing school.

Put all the ingredients together - the Climategate deception, fraudulent scare tactics, guilt trips and stupid messaging - and the recipe flops. Americans have figured out they don't like the taste, and they don't believe the environmentalists when they say it's good for their health.

Paul Chesser is a special correspondent for The Heartland Institute.

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