Propaganda from the Public Purse

Source:  SPPI

by Dennis Ambler

“Before becoming an expert on climate change communication, Ed Maibach went through a change of his own.

Back in 2005, Maibach and his wife joined some family members on an educational walking trip through the Dolomites in Italy. Members of the trip spent the mornings listening to leading climate scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the afternoons climbing mountains.

There, they became familiar with climate change basics. The dramatically rising level of CO2 in our atmosphere is rapidly destabilizing our climate. The world?s population ? more than 6.5 billion people ? is growing and modernizing rapidly, leading to greater use of fossil fuels and deforestation.

These events, in turn, accelerate climate destabilization and reduce the earth?s capacity to produce the food and fresh water needed to sustain the current human population, much less our rapidly expanding population of tomorrow. Soon, countless people around the world may lose access to the environmental conditions that sustain their existence.

?After listening to these lectures four mornings in a row, the epiphany struck,? says Maibach. ?I finally made the connection between global warming and public health ? ?global warming is likely this century?s most profound threat to public health and well-being. When that epiphany struck, I realized exactly what I had to spend the rest of my life working on.?

In fall 2007, after joining Mason?s Department of Communication, Maibach founded the Center for Climate Change Communication and became its director.

The center is the first behavioral science research center in the United States dedicated solely to improving climate change public engagement methods.

Starting with the community he knew best, Maibach planned his first study, which was conducted in partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund, to be a national survey of public health department directors.

The research team was surprised to find that nearly 60 percent of local public health department directors nationwide reported that they were already seeing harmful health effects of climate change in their jurisdictions, yet few felt they had the capacity to respond.

In 2008, Maibach and a colleague at American University won a prestigious Health Policy Investigator Award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This award funds their research intended to help health professionals more effectively communicate the health implications of climate change.

More recently, several of the center?s researchers were awarded a Climate Change Education Grant from the National Science Foundation to study the role TV meteorologists can play in educating the public on the local effects of climate change.

Center researchers have been actively sharing the fruits of their labor. Numerous organizations ? from the local to the global ? have sought their guidance, including Virginia state and local governments, environmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations, federal agencies and even foreign embassies.

Last fall, Maibach was invited to Hollywood to brief several dozen writers, directors and producers on how to engage their audiences more effectively on climate change.”

(No doubt a certain James Cameron would have been there….)

Let’s look at the survey

Out of 2,296 members of the National Association of County & City Health Officials, they produced a sample size of  217, who were contacted. The responses were:

Take a running jump = 38 .

Refused to answer calls or e-mails = 46

This left 133, of whom 81, (61%), believed their jurisdiction had seen the effects of climate change in the last 20 years.

So the actual figure of 3.5% of 2,296 local public health department directors becomes “nearly sixty percent of local public health department directors nationwide.”

Yep, he’s made the connection alright, that’s a great way to communicate dodgy science and spin the results.

Oops, I forgot, you paid for it.

“The Climate Change Education Partnership (CCEP) program seeks to establish a coordinated national network of regionally- or thematically-based partnerships devoted to increasing the adoption of effective, high quality educational programs and resources related to the science of climate change and its impacts.

Each CCEP is required to be of a large enough scale that they will have catalytic or transformative impact that cannot be achieved through other core NSF program awards.  The CCEP program is one facet of a larger NSF collection of awards related to Climate Change Education (CCE) that has two goals:

(1) preparing a new generation of climate scientists, engineers, and technicians equipped to provide innovative and creative approaches to understanding global climate change and to mitigate its impact; and,

(2) preparing today’s U.S. citizens to understand global climate change and its implications in ways that can lead to informed, evidence-based responses and solutions.”