TV ads that doubt climate change are 'misleading'

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A senior scientist has condemned as "a deliberate effort to mislead" a series of television adverts produced by an oil industry-funded lobbying group that seeks to portray concern over global warming as alarmism.

The adverts, produced by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), seek to argue that despite widespread agreement about the growing evidence of climate change, other evidence suggests the opposite. The adverts catchphrase says: "Carbon dioxide - they call it pollution, we call it life."

But a scientist whose report about the Antarctic ice-sheet is featured in the adverts has denounced the CEI and said they have quoted his study out of context. Professor Curt Davis of the University of Missouri-Columbia, said: "I think they are confusing and misleading the public."

Asked if he doubted the evidence of global warming, he replied: "Personally, I have no doubts whatsoever." Mr Davis's June 2005 study examined the ice-sheets of east Antarctic which showed an increase in mass. However, he said his study did not look at coastal areas which are known to be losing ice and said the "fact that the interior ice sheet is growing is a predicted consequence of global warming".

Green campaigners have long accused the CEI of producing misleading and inaccurate claims about global warming and the role of mankind's use of fossil fuels. In reality, there is a broad scientific consensus that the planet is warming and that human activity is an important factor in this change. Last year, the national academies of science from the UK, US, Japan and other nations cited "strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring" and that "it is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities".

Kert Davies, a Washington-based campaigner with Greenpeace, said: "The bottom line is that we are seeing a series of last gasps from the sceptics. They are losing ground so quickly. They are so laughable they do not need to be parodied."

David Doniger, the climate policy director with the Natural Resources Defence Council, said climate change sceptics did not even represent "the minority ... they're the fringe". He added: "It's the same as with tobacco. To claim that fossil fuel emissions don't cause global warming is like saying cigarettes don't cause cancer."

The CEI has powerful friends. The organisation has received more than $1.5m (£800,000) in funding from ExxonMobil, the world's biggest oil company, to help fund its efforts to question the evidence of climate change.

Last year The Independent revealed how one of the CEI's officials was behind a lobbying effort to undermine support for the Kyoto treaty among European nations. The plan sought to bring together corporations, academics, commentators and lobbyists to undermine EU support for the treaty. The official, Chris Horner, met with representatives from a number of leading companies including Lufthansa, Ford Europe and the German utility giant RWE. Mr Horner said his approaches failed to interest the corporations.

Myron Ebell, CEI's director of global warming policy - who was censured by the House of Commons last year after criticising the Government's chief scientist - defended the adverts and said "alarmists were swamping the ability to have a reasonable debate". He dismissed Mr Davis' claim that his Antarctic study had been misrepresented and said the media chose to report only reports which highlighted the evidence of climate change and ignored those that questioned it. He said: "There is no consensus about the extent of the warming or the consequences."

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