Bought and paid for: the dirty politics of climate denial


Has climate denial in New Zealand been bought and paid for by corporate interests? We already know that the ACT Party’s routine denial is closely linked to the financial support the party receives from wealthy free market fundamentalist Alan Gibbs, but revelations of potential PR “hits” by Cameron Slater’s right wing attack blog against youth climate activists Generation Zero suggest that corporate lobbying has stooped to new lows.

In the Sunday Star Times this weekend, Matt Nippert dug into some of the Dirty Politics emails obtained by hacker Rawshark that did not see the light of day in Nicky Hager’s book. One exchange in January of this year has Katherine Rich — the former National front bench spokesperson, now chief executive of the Food and Grocery Council and a key figure in directing Slater and PR man Carrick Graham to conduct smear campaigns against commercial targets — commenting on Generation Zero and its views:

“Reading their bios and twitter feeds. Some of their views extremely nutty. Eg NZ should reduce emissions to 40% below 1990 levels. I don’t know how we’d do that without shutting factories and culling stock.”

Rich’s views on emissions targets and their consequences are laughably ill-informed, but then she seems to get her climate info from Slater, and that’s not a good thing.

In the email exchange Slater tags Generation Zero with one of his favourite smears: they’re “green taliban in sheeps clothing”, and Graham notes that:

They’re on the target list.

Slater and Graham’s target list, detailed in Dirty Politics, consists of people and organisations to be attacked on behalf of paying clients. Hager notes that Slater was being paid $6,500 every month by Graham for his blog services. Slater routinely republished material written by Graham unaltered and under his own name. Graham would then turn up in the comments to add even more bile to the invective.

Dirty Politics also notes that Katherine Rich enlisted Slater and Graham’s services in defence of dairy company Fonterra when E coli was discovered in a batch of bottled cream earlier this year. Hager also suggests that Slater’s odd little campaign against breast feeding advocates would probably have aligned well with Fonterra’s commercial interest in milk powder.

Slater and Graham’s enthusiasm for attacks on Generation Zero seems to have petered out soon after the email exchange, and a search of Whale Oil shows little more than occasional invective against the organisation in comments there. But Slater has a long history of posting aggressive attacks on our understanding of climate science and policy, stretching back over many years.

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In the past, I have been tempted to write off Slater’s denial as just par for the course for an extreme right wing blogger, but the revelation that he has been paid by commercial interests to conduct smear campaigns, and of his close ties to John Key, Jason Ede, Judith Collins and other senior members of government, prompts a serious question.

Was Slater’s climate denial encouraged by Collins, Ede, and Key? Given that there is a rump of National members of parliament openly sceptical of the need for urgent action to reduce emissions — deputy PM Bill English and Gerry Brownlee among them — was Slater helping his mates by providing cover for their policy inactivity?

All his smoke and fury (which, of course, signifies nothing) could have been designed to make Key and Groser look moderate: not accepting outright denial, but not going along with those noisy people who want steep emissions cuts. Slater helped to create the illusion of false balance, by moving the Overton Window away from reality and into lala land.

Dirty Politics shows us a political and media nexus that has spun badly out of control, and a government that has been complicit in smears and law-breaking in order to tighten its grip on power. Government attitudes to climate policy are only one part of an issue that could properly be described as a constitutional crisis. But if the National Party does manage to ride the storm and cling to power we know what expect for the next three years. More climate inaction, more emissions trading profiteering by big corporates, and the mortgaging of all our futures against John Key’s ego.


  1. Cameron Slater would have been paid to do dirty work by practically every a..h..l outfit in this country, and perhaps outside too. The gambling industry, liquor industry, the whaling industry, the tobacco industry, the factory farming industry, the fracking industry, the list probably goes on forever. Not hard to see why the poor guy needs treatment for depression. Being surrounded by these jerks all the time would drive anyone to depression. There’s an old saying – if you sup with the Devil, be sure to use a long spoon.

    • Mike-The-Lefty, I have a suspicion that Slater’s clients will be drying up…

      Not many folk will want their names/companies/organisations dragged through the mud the next time his computers are hacked, and more dirty secrets revealed to the public.

  2. Is this the reason why no media coverage of the Climate change conference In Auckland this week was given any coverage on NZTV or RNZ this morning other than a brief 30 second blip around 6am on TV one?

    This even showed the conference has a large overseas component and Key’s own Science adviser Peter Gluckman was there also.

    Apparently the tests show the ice pack is thinning to a critical level and potential close to the future collapse of the ice shield entirely.

    Such an important issue that obviously was somehow shelved by this industry lobby, and Key as it can’t be seen as their issue that they have so far recklessly ignored.

  3. “…Mike-The-Lefty, I have a suspicion that Slater’s clients will be drying up…”

    looks like Mossad are keen on taking up the slack…

    • Klein has a new book out in September: This Changes Everything – Capitalism vs the climate. From the blurb:


In her most provocative book yet, Naomi Klein tackles the most profound threat humanity has ever faced: the war our economic model is waging against life on earth.

      Should be an interesting read. Watch the “trailer” here.

  4. So let me get this straight. Cameron Slater actually believes in CAGW but pushes the sceptic view because he’s getting paid for it?

    • I have no idea what Cameron Slater “believes”, but his aggressive rejection of the scientific evidence certainly plays well with his clients and in his network of influence.

  5. I have read Dirty Politics and agree with Hagers views. Clearly Cameron Slater has put his name to climate sceptic articles to hide the actual lobby group, yet give them some force.

    One other problem is climate sceptic lobby groups that hide behind harmless looking names on opinion websites using names like John Smith, or the environmental progressives (fictitious) society. This creates the impression of big public scepticism, but it’s really just a small number of industry groups.

    Only about 20% of Cameron Slaters emails etc were hacked. I don’t know what is in the rest but probably more of the same. Or worse.

  6. Why pick on Rich, or that horrible excuse of a human Slater?
    YOU are all in denial
    And the more information you/they ignore proves this to be so.
    We are @ 400 ppm CO2 PLUS a very real probability of 500ppm CO2e with the combination of the other GHGs and global dimming.
    There is no getting around the fact that the last time the planet was HALF as bad as this the average global temperature was about 5.2 C above what it is now, there was next to no ice, and the oceans were about 26 meters higher than they are now.
    If it wasn’t for the VERY short time lag of 30 to 40 years (dew to ice and deep ocean temperatures) the human habitat would have well and truly gone, along with all of us.
    A true environmental party would tell you this stuff. Not promote growth based savings schemes etc, but then what better way to display your denial?
    The 4 ‘soon to be’ mothers I know, are committing the greatest acts of denial.

  7. National and its minions like slater will always put money before all else.

    Greed is god to them and nothing shall stand in the way of making money.

    They will exploit everything and everybody for the almighty dollar.

    Short term profit versus pollution and damage to the planet …….. we know what they will always choose.

    The money.

  8. I’m curious about the journalist Matt Nippert’s relationship with Cam Slater mentioned in the email released yesterday by John Key which ‘encouraged’ Collins’ resignation. I understand Cam influencing Fran O’Sullivan and Jared Savage, but a supposedly left wing soul such as Nippert? I had heard Nippert’s father is a retired Fonterra exec, leading the tidy circle back to the right’s smear campaign but maybe that’s just my screaming leftie liberal conspiracy theory hysteria getting in the way of the facts.

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