Robert Kenner’s documentary Merchants of Doubt looks at professionals working for the fossil fuel industry to sow doubt in the US climate change debate. Photograph: Sony Pictures Classics
Thursday 20 November 2014 06.42 EST
Who remembers that climate change was a top priority early in George W Bush’s first term as US president? Merchants of Doubt, a new documentary film released in US cinemas this week, reminds us that in June 2001 Bush and the Republican party were 100% committed to curbing carbon emissions causing global warming.
Six months later everything changed. The film shows Republican party leader John Boehner calling the idea of global warming “laughable”, said Merchants of Doubt director Robert Kenner.
With the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center occupying attention, Americans For Prosperity, a powerful, fossil-fuel lobby group founded by the billionaire Koch Brothers, launched a decade-long, multi-pronged campaign to sow doubt about the reality of climate change.
By equating the findings of climate scientists as an attack on personal freedoms, they cleverly shifted the focus away from science to political opinion. “Creating a focus point away from what is actually going on is how magicians pull off their tricks,” said Kenner who directed the Oscar-nominated documentary Food Inc.
The deception has worked well. Few Americans know 97% of scientists agree climate change is caused by human activity and is happening now.