Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Who is WPP and what do they have to do with climate change?

'Postcard' from the WPP web site showing the myriad of companies under their umbrella

According to their web site, WPP is one of the world's largest communications services groups, employing 135,000 people working in over 2,000 offices in 107 countries. WPP is a huge conglomerate of marketing, advertising, public relations, and lobbying companies spread out across the world, with earnings of over $12 billion in 2008.

Sir Martin Sorrell runs the multi-billion dollar media giant. He started the company in 1986 by buying a majority stake in the manufacturer of wire baskets and, through a series of high stakes buyouts and hostile takeovers, used this company as a springboard to 'basket' a worldwide marketing services company. He was Knighted in 2000, and was awarded the Harvard Business School’s highest honor, the Alumni Achievement Award, in 2007. So what does Sir Sorrell and his media giant have to do with climate change?

One of Sir Sorrell’s many companies is Hill and Knowlton (H&K), a leading international public relations (PR) firm, providing services to local, multinational and global clients. The firm is headquartered in New York, with 80 offices in 43 countries, as well as an extensive associate network. According to David Michaels book, Doubt is Their Product: How Industry's Assault on Science Threatens Your Health, it was H&K that designed the PR campaign to convince the public that smoking was not dangerous.

Hill and Knowlton encouraged the tobacco industry to set up their own research organization, the Council for Tobacco Research (CTR), which produced ‘science’ favorable to the industry, emphasized doubt in all the science linking smoking to lung cancer, and questioned all independent research unfavorable to the tobacco industry. The PR campaign significantly delayed regulation of tobacco products. In his book, Michaels, now head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), writes, "The industry understood that the public is in no position to distinguish good science from bad. Create doubt, uncertainty, and confusion. Throw mud at the anti-smoking research under the assumption that some of it is bound to stick. And buy time, lots of it, in the bargain." The title of Michaels' book comes from a telling statement in a 1969 tobacco company memo, "Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the body of fact that exists."

It was Hill and Knowlton that helped asbestos industry giant Johns-Manville set up the Asbestos Information Association (AIA). Manufacturers of lead, vinyl chloride, beryllium, and dioxin products also hired H&K to devise product defense strategies to combat the numerous scientific studies showing that their products were harmful to human health. And it was H&K that helped the chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) industry cast doubt on the science showing that human-generated CFCs could cause serious harm to Earth's protective ozone layer.

The idea of industry created “think tanks” caught on and we see organizations like the George C. Marshall Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Heartland Institute, and Dr. Fred Singer's SEPP (Science and Environmental Policy Project), which have been active for decades in the Manufactured Doubt business, generating misleading science and false controversy to protect the profits of their clients who manufacture dangerous products. It is these organizations and their cohorts that have now organized an all out campaign of disinformation, defamation, and criminal activity to combat the body of facts that shows man’s activities contributing to accelerating global warming.

Oh, and guess who has been selected as official media sponsor for the December 7 - 18, 2009, UN Conference on Climate Change, in Copenhagen. Any ideas? I'll give you a hint. Its company initials are H and K.

For more on the Manufactured Doubt Industry and the global warming deniers disinformation campaign, see Jeff Masters' WunderBlog.

For specifics on the Climate Research Unit hacked emails, see Real Climate.

For the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) statement on the hacked emails, see Dot Earth.

To read the actual IPCC assessment report (AR4), go here (go ahead, it has a summary).

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