COPing with Climate-Change Misinformation

Right now, a climate-confab party is being held on the beaches of the Indian Ocean by the U.N.'s 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) -- this while the rest of us deal with real-world issues in a more mundane fashion.  In particular, American business and industry struggle to produce goods and services and employment for a hardworking and creative workforce.

But when it comes to their role in society, industry operators are nearly always painted as the bad guys by environmentalists -- despite the fact that without the benefits of industry, much societal and individual advancement would not take place.

Whether it's the socialist socialites splashing in the South African sun or the lunar-shot luminaries populating the Occupy Wall Street crowd, the constant message seems to be that the grand producers among us -- the industrialists -- are somehow out to enslave a workforce so as to enrich only themselves.  Yet the ploy is the same old progressive standby of class warfare designed to engender envy and cause unrest among the hoi polloi.

Industries that have typically been recorded at the top of the hit parade for pro-planet activists, and therefore must be most vigilant about smear tactics, are nuclear and chemical plants and hazardous waste treatment facilities.  Of late, though, fossil fuel energy companies have been in the scope of the activists, especially since carbon dioxide has been targeted as a hazard to the earth.  With plentiful supplies of coal, oil, and natural gas within our borders, the U.S. could readily become not only energy-independent, but a significant energy supplier to the rest of the world.

Therein lies the problem.  Energy-independence may be the greatest threat of all for those who wish to see our nation become subsumed within the international community -- to have Americans subject to the whims of the failed socialist oligarchy that has ensnared and enslaved too much of the rest of the world (except for those equally unfortunate people dominated by dictatorships and theocracies).

Thus, the progressive environmentalists meeting at COP17 in Durban, South Africa will be working overtime to paint American industries, especially those in the energy sector, with a broad brush soaked in the muck of misinformation.

To counter the negative publicity generated by this anti-industry assault, corporations should continue to abide by some basic principles and practices, such as:

  1. Operate Legally and Ethically -- Facility owners and operators must do more than just comply with the myriad of laws and regulations imposed by government.  They must always do what is right -- that is, operate in a fair and just manner toward their employees and the community.
  2. Educate Employees on Benefits and Risks -- Employees must be informed of the benefits their company provides to the community.  In addition, relative risks and environmental impacts associated with the operation and ways to mitigate those risks and impacts must be stressed.
  3. Listen and Respond Appropriately to the Public -- Effective communication requires trust, and trust is built on an honest, open dialog among parties who are impacted by plant operations.
  4. Properly Disseminate Information to the Media -- Proactively disseminate clear, accurate, complete, timely, and consistent information on your facility to the media, to head off any disinformation campaigns by activists.

Diligent practice of these four directives should go a long way to convince reasonable folks of the safety and necessity of industrial operations.

However, with today's access to speed-of-light technology to spread negative perceptions about even the most beneficial and generous of companies, industries have a 24/7 job of maintaining positive community relations.

Beware!  Regardless of vigilant, continuous, and careful exercise of the four directives listed above, anti-industry zealots will not be convinced of the need for "Big Business."  Attacks can be expected from environmental religionists at COP17 and beyond who put "the planet" before people.

Anthony J. Sadar is a certified consulting meteorologist specializing in air-quality issues and the primary author of Environmental Risk Communication: Principles and Practices for Industry (CRC Press/Lewis Publishers, 2000).

Right now, a climate-confab party is being held on the beaches of the Indian Ocean by the U.N.'s 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) -- this while the rest of us deal with real-world issues in a more mundane fashion.  In particular, American business and industry struggle to produce goods and services and employment for a hardworking and creative workforce.

But when it comes to their role in society, industry operators are nearly always painted as the bad guys by environmentalists -- despite the fact that without the benefits of industry, much societal and individual advancement would not take place.

Whether it's the socialist socialites splashing in the South African sun or the lunar-shot luminaries populating the Occupy Wall Street crowd, the constant message seems to be that the grand producers among us -- the industrialists -- are somehow out to enslave a workforce so as to enrich only themselves.  Yet the ploy is the same old progressive standby of class warfare designed to engender envy and cause unrest among the hoi polloi.

Industries that have typically been recorded at the top of the hit parade for pro-planet activists, and therefore must be most vigilant about smear tactics, are nuclear and chemical plants and hazardous waste treatment facilities.  Of late, though, fossil fuel energy companies have been in the scope of the activists, especially since carbon dioxide has been targeted as a hazard to the earth.  With plentiful supplies of coal, oil, and natural gas within our borders, the U.S. could readily become not only energy-independent, but a significant energy supplier to the rest of the world.

Therein lies the problem.  Energy-independence may be the greatest threat of all for those who wish to see our nation become subsumed within the international community -- to have Americans subject to the whims of the failed socialist oligarchy that has ensnared and enslaved too much of the rest of the world (except for those equally unfortunate people dominated by dictatorships and theocracies).

Thus, the progressive environmentalists meeting at COP17 in Durban, South Africa will be working overtime to paint American industries, especially those in the energy sector, with a broad brush soaked in the muck of misinformation.

To counter the negative publicity generated by this anti-industry assault, corporations should continue to abide by some basic principles and practices, such as:

  1. Operate Legally and Ethically -- Facility owners and operators must do more than just comply with the myriad of laws and regulations imposed by government.  They must always do what is right -- that is, operate in a fair and just manner toward their employees and the community.
  2. Educate Employees on Benefits and Risks -- Employees must be informed of the benefits their company provides to the community.  In addition, relative risks and environmental impacts associated with the operation and ways to mitigate those risks and impacts must be stressed.
  3. Listen and Respond Appropriately to the Public -- Effective communication requires trust, and trust is built on an honest, open dialog among parties who are impacted by plant operations.
  4. Properly Disseminate Information to the Media -- Proactively disseminate clear, accurate, complete, timely, and consistent information on your facility to the media, to head off any disinformation campaigns by activists.

Diligent practice of these four directives should go a long way to convince reasonable folks of the safety and necessity of industrial operations.

However, with today's access to speed-of-light technology to spread negative perceptions about even the most beneficial and generous of companies, industries have a 24/7 job of maintaining positive community relations.

Beware!  Regardless of vigilant, continuous, and careful exercise of the four directives listed above, anti-industry zealots will not be convinced of the need for "Big Business."  Attacks can be expected from environmental religionists at COP17 and beyond who put "the planet" before people.

Anthony J. Sadar is a certified consulting meteorologist specializing in air-quality issues and the primary author of Environmental Risk Communication: Principles and Practices for Industry (CRC Press/Lewis Publishers, 2000).

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