Guest Columnists

Concussions, cancer and climate change


Even if you’re not a fan of the National Football League, you probably are aware of accusations that the league has tried to subvert Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) research related to player concussions. According to, a “Congressional report described how the NFL pressured the National Institutes of Health to strip the $16 million [study] from a prominent … researcher.”

That each of the owners of the 32 NFL teams recently pocketed some $225 million explains why they don’t want the truth known. Despite the permanent debilitation these repeated injuries are thought to cause; despite likely CTE related-deaths like that of former Iowa Hawkeye Tyler Sash; despite the post-mortem analyses on players that show clear signs of CTE; despite all of this, the NFL appears committed to protecting its profits by undermining research and fostering doubt in public understanding.

This kind of “cover-up” is nothing new. One prominent example, among many, is the tobacco industry’s 50-year denial of the link between smoking and lung cancer, even as tens of millions of Americans have died.

In these and other cases, those whose profits were at risk have impeded or cast doubt on the science substantiating the dangers associated with their respective products. It seems painfully evident that life and health had little value compared to their billion-dollar profits.

Today, we face another scientifically established threat, far greater in both its scope and destructive impact, that is being denied by those whose billion-dollar profits are threatened. And like its predecessors, this industry is doing everything possible to deny the unprecedented dangers its products represent — in this case to all of us.

The industry, of course, is Big Oil, and the unprecedented danger is climate change. In fact, there is far more scientific research linking carbon-based fuel emissions to climate change than was ever published on smoking and lung cancer. Yet the spurious denial of climate change continues, with the fossil fuel industry even hiring some of the exact same scientists who once worked for Big Tobacco.

According to Scientific American, between 2010 and 2013 alone, $558 million was funneled to 140 climate denial organizations, every one of whose misleading climate-denial arguments has been debunked by climate scientists. Yet these organizations continue their baseless assertions that this unprecedented threat to life on our planet is unsubstantiated.


But money from the fossil fuel industry is not confined to pseudoscientific organizations; it also floods the campaign coffers of politicians who are effectively paid to protect industry profits by denying climate change.

It is time for Americans to wake up and see climate denial for exactly what it is: an unabashed commitment to place the profits of billionaires above our planet’s future. We have seen it with Big Tobacco and the NFL. It is time we realize the same thing is happening with life-threatening climate change denial.

With predicted destructive climate disruptions already underway, it is clearer than ever that the time to take decisive action is now. The lives of our children, grandchildren, and all future generations depend on it.

• Thom Krystofiak is a graduate of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership training, and is an activist in the effort to reverse the dangers of climate change. Jonas Magram serves on the steering team for the 30-organization Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition and on the Executive Committee of the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club, and hosts Climate Action USA on Blog Talk Radio. Comments:

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