Saturday, October 07, 2006



Just when you thought Philip Morris couldn't get any more comically Bond-villain evil, it turns out that they have been covertly funding a global-warming denial campaign.

In his new book Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning (a Penguin UK book with no US release -- what gives, Penguin?), Oxford prof George Monbiot dug up the documentation. From his interview on NPR's On The Media:

GEORGE MONBIOT: They realized that if passive smoking was the only thing they campaigned on, their fingerprints would be all over it. So they were advised not to campaign only on passive smoking but to link it with other issues which bore on regulatory matters, and the first of those issues was global warming.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: What's the evidence that you have to document this campaign?

GEORGE MONBIOT: The great thing about one of the big lawsuits against the tobacco companies is that one of the outcomes was to force the companies to put their archives on public record. And so you can go through the source material documenting exactly what their strategy is. And in this case, they say, we're going to set up this so-called grass roots coalition.... One of the campaigns, which was by far and away the most central to corporate-funded climate change denial, the Advancement for Sound Science Coalition and and the other things that it spawned, was actually started by Philip Morris rather than by Exxon. And Exxon only came in later.

Monbiot also ripped micro-power advocates a new one in a recent New Scientist piece by revealing how their shaky home generation statistics often hide a lousy return on investment, and more generally noting that you get vastly greater efficiencies of scale by pushing for large alt-power generators (offshore, say) and then bringing it in over transmission lines.

It's a point reminiscent of one raised by Elizabeth Royte's wonderful Garbage Land -- a point late in the book which few reviewers noted, by the way. After tracking the trail of her trash throughout the Northeast, she's appalled to discover that industrial and ag sources produces exponentially more waste than households do. In other words, by the time consumer goods reach you, your little efforts at virtue are pretty pathetic. It makes far more sense to (a) reduce demand, and (b) regulate the manufacturing process. But we're so busy feeling good about sorting plastic from aluminum that industry can do pretty much what it damn well pleases.

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