Debunked: CFR Admits "Millions Spent to Confuse Public About Geoengineering"

A quote from a CFR talk:
there is a lot of money getting spent to make sure that a very substantial portion of the public stays totally confused about this.
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Is often used to suggest that money has been spent to confuse the public abot geoengineering, however the quote is actually about climate change, and refers to how large energy companies spend money to confuse the public about climate change in ofder to limit regulation of carbon emissions. This only indirectly affects geoengineering discussions.

Step 1 - Original Source


M. Granger Morgan, Head, Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University. At a Council of Foreign Relations lecture.
March 10, 2010, Washington D.C.

Video, quote at 2:40
Direct link to 2:40

Transcript (with additional links to audio and video):

http://www.cfr.org/climate-change/developing-international-framework-geoengineering/p21651

MORGAN: So, just a quick elaboration:
First of all, of course, there is a lot of money getting spent to make sure that a very substantial portion of the public stays totally confused about this. And, I mean, it's been really quite pernicious. But there's been literally tens of millions of dollars spent on every little thing that comes along that might, you know, relate to some uncertainty. And while sure there's uncertainty about some of the details of the climate science, there isn't any uncertainty about whether we have a serious problem.
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Step 2 - Context.

The quote is from Granger Morgan. From the introduction:

Granger Morgan is professor and head of the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, and also, for many years, has been a leader in helping finding ways to describe scientific uncertainty and incorporate risk into public policy decision making
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At the start of the lecture he gives a long talk on climate change, and how it might lead some country to eventually do geoengineering, and hence how research is needed.

But then about three years ago, given the really abysmal progress that the rest of the -- you know, the U.S. and all the rest of the world are making, in terms of reducing emissions, I began to get concerned, among other things, that somebody might wake up one day and say, 'Oh, my God, we've got a problem.' I mean, the Chinese, for example, might conclude, because of changes in precipitation, 'we can't feed our people;' or Russia might conclude that all of Siberia is turning -- with the permafrost thawing, is turning into an impenetrable bog.
And so I got worried a bit about the prospect that somebody might -- or some small group of folks might go off and unilaterally just start doing this, having concluded, 'We've got a problem, we've got to fix it.' And at that stage, I decided maybe the foreign policy community should start thinking about this issue.
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Clearly he's not suggesting at all that any geoengineering is currently being done.


Steps 3 & 4 - Meaning

The quote "Millions Spent to Confuse Public About Geoengineering" is really a headline distillation of a conspiracy oriented interpretation of the first two sentences above.

Here's another example where the article in the sentence is taken to mean one thing. In this case it's the word "this" in "make sure that a very substantial portion of the public stays totally confused about this.".

Here though the quote debunks itself when you simply look at the next sentence.

And while sure there's uncertainty about some of the details of the climate science, there isn't any uncertainty about whether we have a serious problem.
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And then the next paragraph clarified who and what he is talking about:

The other issue is that there are folks running around saying, 'This is going to be incredibly expensive. It's going to just totally wreck the economy.' Well, you can recall that many of those same people made precisely that same argument about the Clean Air Act. And the electricity industry met the requirements for the Clean Air Act at a cost of -- well, actually the economy met the requirements of the Clean Air Act at a price that was about a half a percent of GDP.

Now, if you were going to decarbonize the energy system on a gradual basis over the next 50 years or so -- by which I mean, for example, in electricity, roughly doubling the rate of new construction and never building anything that was not zero carbon -- you could probably decarbonize the entire system for something like 0.7 of 1 percent of GDP.
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Step 5 - Single sentence debunking:

He's talking about climate science, and how the energy industry companies spend money to confuse the issue of reducing carbon emissions.
 
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