Today’s Guardian and Independent newspapers both report that over the next 50 years, global warming could drive a quarter of land animals and plants into extinction. According to a four-year research project by scientists from eight countries, published today in the prestigious journal Nature, 1 million species will have disappeared by 2050. The findings have been described as “terrifying” by the report’s lead author, Chris Thomas, professor of conservation biology at Leeds University.

Professor Thomas said: “When scientists set about research they hope to come up with definite results, but what we found we wish we had not. It was far, far worse than we thought, and what we have discovered may even be an underestimate.” (Quoted, Paul Brown, ‘An unnatural disaster,’ The Guardian, January 8, 2004: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,1118244,00.html)

The predicted disaster is based on a mid-range forecast of possible outcomes. The worst case suggests as many as 58% of species could become extinct – the best case suggests 9%, still catastrophically high.

The Guardian and Independent both devote editorials to the report. The Guardian writes of “a fresh wake-up call about the dangers of global warming”. As a possible response, the editors cite Chris Thomas, who suggests “an immediate and progressive” switch to technologies that produce little or no greenhouse gases, combined with active removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. (‘The death of species’, Leader, The Guardian, January 8, 2004)

“The usual response to the problem”, the Guardian continues, “is to blame governments. They certainly carry a great deal of the responsibility…” America is then criticised for abandoning the Kyoto protocol to limit greenhouse gasses. Britain is praised for being “more or less on target” with regards to Kyoto, with its performance assisted “fortuitously by the unrelated decline of its polluting coal-mining industry”. No mention is made of the fact that Kyoto is itself a trivial response to climate change.

Finally, the Guardian’s editors note: “Although governments undoubtedly have a leading role to play, there are plenty of things that individuals can do that could make a dramatic difference… having a shower rather than a bath, putting a ‘hog’ in the lavatory cistern, recycling household rubbish, disposing of household chemicals carefully, encouraging wildlife in the garden and composting vegetable cuttings”.

Governments and individuals aside, there is of course one other group that might be deemed worthy of mention – transnational corporations. In 1991, in his book US Petroleum Strategies In The Decade of the Environment, Bob Williams, a consultant to the oil and gas industry, described the industry’s number one priority:

“To put the environmental lobby out of business… There is no greater imperative… If the petroleum industry is to survive, it must render the environmental lobby superfluous, an anachronism.” (Quoted, Andrew Rowell, Green Backlash – Global Subversion of the Environment Movement, Routledge, 1996, p.71)

Ron Arnold, also an industry consultant, told a meeting of the Ontario Forest Industries Association:

“You must turn the public against environmentalists or you will lose your environmental battle.” (Quoted Sharon Beder, Global Spin – The Corporate Assault on Environmentalism, Green Books, 1997, p.22)

The response was overwhelming:

“Right wing businessmen like Richard Mellon Scaife and Joseph Coors, and conservative treasuries like the Mobil and Olin foundations, poured money into ad campaigns, lawsuits, elections, and books and articles protesting ‘big government’ and ‘strangulation by regulation’, blaming environmentalists for all the nation’s ills from the energy crisis to the sexual revolution.” (Kirkpatrick Sale, The Green Revolution, Hill and Wang, 1993, p.49)

Frank Mankiewicz, a senior executive at transnational PR firm Hill and Knowlton, predicted accurately:

“I think the companies will have to give in only at insignificant levels. Because the companies are too strong, they’re the establishment. The environmentalists are going to have to be like the mob in the square in Romania before they prevail.” (Beder, op., cit, p.22)

With much of life on earth threatened by mass death, not one word of this appears in today’s Guardian or Independent, where climate change continues to be presented as a kind of wildlife issue somehow existing outside the realities of corporate greed, propaganda and control.

It is fine for our corporate media to rage against the destruction of our world, but it is not in the business of doing anything about it – literally the reverse is true. After all, the same edition of the Guardian that features today’s “terrifying” report, carries large, lucrative adverts for Lexus cars, Toyota cars, Audi cars, BMW cars, American Airlines, Dixons computer equipment, Office World, HSBC, Magnet, and so on – adverts promoting endlessly rising mass consumption on which all broadsheets depend for 75% of their revenue. Doing something means taking on exactly these corporate interests, exactly these materialist versions of life, liberty and happiness. Doing something, in fact, means taking on corporate interests like the Guardian newspaper.

The Independent’s editors are equally happy to describe the appalling fate in store for us without feeling the need to tell the truth about the cynical causes and obstructed solutions. The editors warn of the coming mass death: “it is not an asteroid that will have caused this, of course: it is us. The Sixth Great Extinction will be an entirely human achievement.” (‘The sixth great extinction is avoidable – if we act now’, Leader, The Independent, January 8, 2004)

It is “us”, although most of us – the public – are excluded from meaningful politics, debate and action by corporate interests. We are excluded by the corporate media – media like the Independent – which naturally have nothing to say about the exclusion or their role in making it possible.

The Independent then concludes:

“There is still time to take action against climate change, and some world leaders, notably Tony Blair, are committed to doing so”; but the continuing reluctance of George Bush to take the threat seriously invites disaster.

Again, not a word about the organisations destroying our world by obstructing action on climate change. The US National Association of Manufacturers, for example, representing much of US industry, was candid enough in its letter to George W. Bush in May 2001:

“Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of 14,000 member companies of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) – and the 18 million people who make things in America – thank you for your opposition to the Kyoto Protocol on the grounds that it exempts 80 percent of the world and will cause serious harm to the United States.” (Michael E. Baroody, NAM Executive Vice President, Letter to the President Concerning the Kyoto Protocol, May 16, 2001, http://www.nam.org)

That other great voice of US business, the US Chamber of Commerce, declared in a letter to the US president:

“Global warming is an important issue that must be addressed – but the Kyoto Protocol is a flawed treaty that is not in the U.S. interest.” (www.uschamber.org July 19, 2001)

The US Chamber’s website notes that it is the world’s largest business federation representing more than “three million businesses and organisations of every size, sector and region”.

In our view, the corporate media’s long-term, stubborn refusal to address the real issues behind global warming – the corporations fighting with unrelenting ferocity to destroy not just the Kyoto protocol but the environment movement itself – represents the ultimate betrayal of us, our future, and our planet.

The journalists willing to participate in this betrayal are complicit in unimaginable crimes against humanity. They must be held to account for their actions. We must demand honesty, action, an end to corporate obfuscation – if there is to be a future.


The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. In writing letters to journalists, we strongly urge readers to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Sample Email:

Why, in reporting the catastrophic effects of global warming, do you make no mention of the global corporate efforts to obstruct even trivial action on climate change and to destroy the environment movement? Why are these political and economic factors bringing mass death to our planet unworthy even of mention by you and your newspaper?

Write to Paul Brown at the Guardian:

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Write to Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger:

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And, very importantly, the Letters Page:

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Write to Steve Connor at the Independent:

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Write to Independent editor, Simon Kelner:

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And the Letters Page:

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