‘Losing Earth’ Explores How Oil Industry Played Politics With The Planet’s Fate

‘Losing Earth’ Explores How Oil Industry Played Politics With The Planet’s Fate.

By Terry Gross
Fresh Air / WHYY (4/8/19)

Climate change is often thought of as a partisan issue in the United States, but New York Times journalist Nathaniel Rich says that wasn’t always the case.

Rich says that from 1979 until 1989, climate change was viewed as a bipartisan problem — then the the oil industry “descended and bared its fangs” and everything changed.

In his new book, Losing Earth, Rich writes that in the late 1980s, the American Petroleum Institute began paying scientists to write op-eds questioning climate science. He describes the effort as a campaign to “sow propaganda [and] disinformation, to buy off politicians and scientists, and, ultimately, to convert an entire political party to denialism.”

Rich says the campaign paid off. No longer was climate science accepted as fact: “All of a sudden,” he says, “you have a number of pieces that start to appear that say maybe there’s not scientific consensus about this problem.”

As a result, the Republican party began to shift its stance on climate change: “It’s become a starkly partisan issue,” Rich says. “And it seems like we are much further from a solution than we were 30 years ago.”

“Climate change victimizes the victimized. It oppresses the oppressed. … It cuts along class lines, racial lines, generational lines and socioeconomic lines. So the worse off you are, the more marginalized you are, the worse you’re going to suffer from what’s coming.”


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