Climate Change Deniers — Introduction to the Series

During the June MESYM Documentary Night we watched “Gasland Part II“, a film exploring the topic of hydraulic fracturing, most commonly known as ‘Fracking‘. This film (together with first part ‘Gasland’) was produced by Josh Fox, an anti-fracking activist/journalist touring the United States visiting ranchers’ houses located nearby fracking sites, seeking to understand and document the impacts of fracking.

Fracking is an unconventional process to extract natural gas from shale rock formations buried deep underground, through pumping huge amounts of water mixed up with chemicals at such high pressure that it shatters the rock, releasing the trapped natural gas. Its ever-growing employment as a new energy source has been a very controversial issue. In the United States, its supporters emphasize achieving energy-independence from the Middle East (according to some estimations, the United States has enough shale gas as to both supply the country and for export for at least 50 years), while its detractors are scared about its negative impacts, among them the contamination of water aquifers with methane, its propensity to produce earthquakes, and its contribution to climate change, all of which are denied by the fracking industry.

In its most famous scene in the film (this one from Gasland, later reproduced in Gasland Part II), Josh Fox visited a rancher, who claimed that methane had leaked to the local aquifers and contaminated his water source. To prove it, the rancher opened the water tap and turned on a lighter next to it and, lo’ and behold, it caught fire!

gasland-tainted-water-on-fire-o

“Wow, this is it, case proved!” I thought, completely mesmerized by such a scene. This image alone is enough to end the discussion between the fracking company, which was denying that the methane had leaked to the local aquifers, and the rancher. (Later on, the fracking company would argue that the methane had been there all along, it was only a coincidence that there was fracking nearby his home. Yeah, I’m sure the rancher must have been washing his dishes using methane…)

So for me it was all very clear, and I assumed it should be so for everyone else. Or well, so I thought.

After watching the film, we opened up the space for a discussion among all our attendees, one of whom commented being confused after watching the film, since she has friends working for oil and gas talking good things about their industry, and she had visited a website which portrayed fracking as a safe technology with only positive benefits, and its extracted natural gas as a green energy. She could not make sense of the new information or understand how, if fracking really was safe, then the tap water got fire. That website she had visited had been very successful in portraying the information very differently, and she was doubting the evidence from the film.

Someone had succeeded in sowing a seed of doubt in her mind.

So, what’s going on?

Until here I’ve been talking about fracking, however, the experience described above happens also concerning many related issues. In particular, the campaign of disinformation is aimed at disrupting climate change action. As such, I have decided to explore what’s going on concerning climate change denial, and explore the following issues:

  • Who are they deniers?
  • Why do they do it?
  • What’s their strategy?
  • Are they present also in Malaysia?

Our opinion with regards to any topic can be easily manipulated (that is what marketing is all about). My research will focus on climate change denial, showing how indeed there is an industry shaping our thoughts with regards to climate change, for their own benefit. Once we are aware of these powerful external forces, we can better cope with them, better spend our energy working towards climate change mitigation and adaptation, and not waste our time anymore arguing if climate change really happens or if it’s man-made or not. It’s time to move on.

So stick with me for the following articles… coming soon!

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