The careful, conservative language of science provided the springboard for a powerful, multi-decade, anti-science public relations campaign promoting catastrophic humanly enhanced combustion

Car Show, Stratford, Ontario, June 18, 2023. Along with the immense pleasure they bring to their owners and admirers cars play a central role in setting the conditions for ‘fire weather.’ Jaan Pill photo

The title for this post is based on a discussion in Chapter 20 of Fire Weather (2023) by John Vaillant regarding how the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), a lobbying organization founded by the fossil fuel industry, disavowed and undermined decades of previous scientific research about the relationship between the coal, oil, and gas industry and the reality of global warming.

Jaan Pill photo

The crucial point here is that scientists are trained to speak in a careful, conservative language. In this case, scientists for decades have spoken with great care, being conservative in their choice of words, that the evidence appeared pretty solid regarding the science of climate change. The opposing lobbying effort was based, however, on the counter argument that if there is the least bit of doubt about the evidence, then that level of doubt is quite enough to strongly and adamantly question what scientists worldwide have concluded.

And strongly questioned it has been; for many decades, carbon emissions into the atmosphere relentlessly continued with results now increasingly evident as Fire Weather documents in a manner that underlines the global spectacle now unfolding.

Jaan Pill photo

The author’s voice matters hugely

This post is concerned with an author’s voice. A writer seeking to reach a general audience for nonfiction is likely to include references to their own self as their narrative unfolds. Such a reference to self appears to be central to the voice adopted in many cases by the author of a book-length nonfiction text; such a voice is an inherent feature in many cases of an author’s persona.

Jaan Pill photo

John Vaillant, author of Fire Weather: The Making of a Beast (2023), exemplifies a form of authorial voicing that works really well, in my estimation as a reader. As a writer, Vaillant is at times speaking in a personal, self-referential voice. It must be added that the way of speaking which the author uses is employed in moderation. Such an approach to voicing works well. Knowing what the author is feeling and thinking, and what they are reminded of as the narrative unfolds, is helpful for the general reader. It’s a way to get the reader engaged. The task as I see it is to be engaging without the creation of a situation where the author’s personal take on things becomes obtrusive.

Jaan Pill photo

Powerful disinformation regarding climate change

Effective public relations efforts by the fossil fuels industry have over many decades provided powerful disinformation to the public regarding climate change. In Fire Weather we encounter a compelling and engaging, evidence-based, carefully-cited outline of how the Global Climate Coalition (GCC) aggressively disavowed and undermined previously widely promoted, solid and cumulative scientific research extending back many decades regarding the central and determinant role of fossil fuels in the genesis of global warming. That is what the title of the current post refers to. [1, 2, 3]

Jaan Pill photo

Vaillant succinctly lays out the facts regarding such a fossil fuels disinformation campaign. The outline proceeds in a manner which enables a general reader such as myself to follow the narrative with ease.

Once rare, fire tornadoes are now a regular occurrence worldwide

I have currently been reading (pp. 296-97) about the phenomenon of “pyrotornadogenesis,” which refers to tornadoes generated by wildfire. Such fire tornadoes are “mimicking tornadoes, previously Earth’s most rapid and powerful climate-change agents” (p. 297).

Jaan Pill photo

The author notes that such phenomena some years ago were sufficiently rare as to be remarkable for their novelty. Now, they are frequently observed in forest fires worldwide. Such phenomena are truly unprecedented, as Vaillant observes on frequent occasions. The CBC and the Tyee have helped to publicize this book. I’ve borrowed a copy from the Stratford Public Library and have been reading it with interest.

3 replies
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Note 1

    A June 22, 2023 Guardian article, of relevance in relation to the current post, is entitled: “Rightwing war on ‘woke capitalism’ partly driven by fossil fuel interests and allies: Report shows connections of business and rightwing thinktanks to laws aimed at environmental, social and corporate governance.”

    An excerpt (of a body text featuring a more standard spelling of “right wing”) reads as compared to the headline” reads:

    The American right wing’s widening fight against what it calls “woke capitalism” is partly driven by fossil fuel interests or industry allies, according to a new report published on Thursday.

    Conservatives often use the term “woke capitalism” to refer to environmental, social and corporate governance – or ESG – criteria used to screen investments based on their environmental and social implications.

    Just this year, Republican lawmakers in 37 states introduced a stunning 165 pieces of anti-ESG legislation, according to the new report from strategic research and advisory firm Pleiades Strategy.

    A second Guardian article (June 21, 2023) is entitled: “Senate examines role of ‘dark money’ in delaying climate action: The budget committee hearing looked into alleged misinformation from big oil that covered up ‘massive’ risks of the climate crisis.”

    The article speaks of misinformation. It may be argued that disinformation is a more accurate description as there is a clear attempt to mislead the public. An excerpt reads:

    Committee Democrats invited three witnesses. First to the stand was the Harvard history of science professor Naomi Oreskes. “Climate change is a market failure, and market failures require government action to address,” she testified.

    Fossil fuel interests’ efforts to disrupt climate policy had come at great expense to the US, including not only financial costs, but also human suffering and lives lost, said Oreskes, who has written several books on oil industry misinformation.

  2. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Note 2

    A June 22, 2023 Guardian article is entitled: “Ecological tipping points could occur much sooner than expected, study finds: Amazon rainforest and other ecosystems could collapse ‘very soon’, researchers warn.”

    An excerpt reads:

    Ecological collapse is likely to start sooner than previously believed, according to a new study that models how tipping points can amplify and accelerate one another.

    Based on these findings, the authors warn that more than a fifth of ecosystems worldwide, including the Amazon rainforest, are at risk of a catastrophic breakdown within a human lifetime.

    “It could happen very soon,” said Prof Simon Willcock of Rothamsted Research, who co-led the study. “We could realistically be the last generation to see the Amazon.”

    The research, which was published on Thursday in Nature Sustainability, is likely to generate a heated debate. Compared with the long-established and conclusively proven link between fossil fuels and global heating, the science of tipping points and their interactions is relatively undeveloped.

  3. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Note 3

    A related topic, as noted in a June 22, 2023 New York Times article, concerns the susceptibility of dams in our current climate circumstances; the article is entitled: “The Trillion-Gallon Question: Extreme weather is threatening California’s dams. What happens if they fail?”

    An excerpt reads:

    Cox was not a scientist; he had studied to be a journalist. “My role is going out and getting the ball rolling, starting the project, recruiting people,” he said. His training proved useful because it taught him how to cut across disciplines — and how to ask a lot of annoying questions. I could see his mind at work when he talked about a project to restore the natural banks of the Los Angeles River. Experts had all sorts of stolid objections or arguments in favor of it. He was the one to ask: Once these habitats reunite, will we have to worry about mountain lions coming down and eating people’s pets?

    A consistent theme in Fire Weather (2023) is that many contemporary events are unprecedented: a person lacks the capacity, based on their previous formative experiences, to imagine the catastrophic situations that can (gradually or instantaneously) arise and overwhelm a community anywhere; a second excerpt from the above-noted article reads:

    Did presenting state officials with these numbers make a difference? I asked. No, he said. So many of the officials he talked to about Arkstorm were like the mayor in “Jaws” — unwilling to see a problem they couldn’t fix. Most officials wanted to do nothing if possible, or if they had to do something, they wanted it to be the cheapest thing they could get away with.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *