Why the enormous discrepancy?
James Lawrence Powell answers in an important new book, The Inquisition of Climate Science. Powell describes the corporate funding of a vicious and successful attack on science.
In a review/essay, Petroleum and Propaganda: The Anatomy of the Global Warming Denial Industry , I discuss Powell's book. Corporate funders (e.g., ExxonMobil) support a network of think tanks, of which Powell discussed four in detail: the now-defunct Global Climate Coalition, the Heartland Institute, the George C. Marshall Institute, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The think-tanks put out a steady stream of propaganda that denies global warming. Powell also describes briefly some individual popularizers and propagandists, mostly non-scientists but with a few scientists as well, typically with little knowledge of climate change.
The mass media typically gives equal weight to a handful of climate change deniers and to the vast majority of climate scientists. The fossil-fuels industry does not have to win a debate. They will gladly settle for a draw, because it gives the impression that the scientific community is deeply divided about whether or not global warming is real. "Doubt is our product", as a tobacco industry executive proclaimed while the tobacco industry pursued the same strategy that the fossil fuel industry is pursuing today.
Lowell briefly summarizes "Climategate," which he justifiably dismisses as much ado about nothing.
Inquisition is an indispensable book: anyone who cares about global warming should have a copy.
My essay appeared in the May 2012 issue of Monthly Review. The editors of the magazine have written an introduction, Notes from the Editors in which they say that my review essay "raises critical questions with respect to science, corporate propaganda, and the future of humanity."