For years the fossil fuel industry worked to undermine climate action now they have adopted two new approaches to climate denial. Climate scientist Michael Mann says focusing on individual behavior is the fossil fuel industry’s latest climate denial tactic. “[T]here is an attempt being made by them to deflect attention away from finding policy solutions to global warming towards promoting individual behaviour changes that affect people’s diets, travel choices and other personal behaviour,” said Mann. “This is a deflection campaign and a lot of well-meaning people have been taken in by it.”
Mann’s comments appeared in a recent Guardian article. He is the director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University and one of the world’s foremost experts on climate change. He told the Observer that the fossil fuel industry deployed this deflection campaign because they can no long refute the mounting evidence supporting anthropogenic climate change.
While Mann did not deny the value of individual actions like avoiding air travel he said they were no substitute for policy reform. He sees it as part of a clever campaign to encourage infighting and shift attention away from the root causes of the crisis.
“We should also be aware how the forces of denial are exploiting the lifestyle change movement to get their supporters to argue with each other. It takes pressure off attempts to regulate the fossil fuel industry. This approach is a softer form of denial and in many ways it is more pernicious.”
Another tactic they use is “doomism”, as Mann put it. “This is the idea that we are now so late in the game [in tackling global warming] that there is nothing that we can do about the problem,” he added. “By promoting this doom and gloom attitude this leads people down a path of despair and hopelessness and finally inaction, which actually leads us to the same place as outright climate-change denialism.” In both cases climate deniers achieve their objective which is to resist popular efforts to curtailing fossil fuel use.