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July 22 2012


Understanding Harper's Evangelical Mission

This post originally appeared in The Tyee, and is re-published with permission.
Any Canadian listening to the news these days might well conclude that the Republican extremists or some associated evangelical group has occupied Ottawa.

And they'd be righter than Job, I believe.

Almost daily, more evidence surfaces that Canada's government is guided by tribalists averse to scientific reason in favour of Biblical fundamentalism — or what some call "evangelical religious skepticism."

First came Canada's pull-out of the Kyoto agreement without any rational or achievable national plan to battle carbon pollution.

Next came the hysterical and unprecedented letter by Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver, an investment banker. It branded local environmentalists and First Nations as foreign radicals because they dared to question the economic and environmental impacts of a Chinese-funded pipeline.

At the same time federal security types declared Greenpeace, a civil organization originally started by Canadian journalists, to be a "multi-issue extremist group."

After quietly gutting the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Harper government now proposes to dismantle the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act as well as the Fisheries Act, Canada's strongest and last remaining water safeguard.

While government and industry PR folk spin fabrications about Canada's environmental record, Scott Vaughan, Federal Environment Commissioner in the office of the Auditor General, reports that there are only 12 water quality stations for Canada's 3,000 First Nations communities and just one federal water monitoring station operating downstream from the oil sands. Until last year it was calibrated only to detect pulp mill pollution.

The data-antagonistic Harper government has so muzzled federal scientists that an editorial in the prestigious Nature magazine demanded that it was "time for the Canadian government to set its scientists free."

And now Tory senators are threatening to revoke the charitable status of any group that dares to criticize the government's environmental performance or its subsidies for fossil fuels.

From where does the government's extreme animus towards journalists, environmental groups, First Nations and science (and I've put together but a partial list of victims here) arise? The moment demands we take a close look at Stephen Harper's evangelical beliefs.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Alliance Church holds to four foundational convictions based on the belief the Bible is without error, according to a 2007 Vancouver Sun article citing Indiana State Purdue University religious studies Prof. Philip Goff. The article says:

"The Alliance Church places an intense focus on the need for personal salvation, emphasizes the importance of leading a 'holy' life and encourages spiritual healing, says Goff.

"The denomination also stresses that Jesus Christ's return to Earth is imminent, says the evangelical specialist, who was raised in the Alliance Church.

"Alliance Church rules, like those of other evangelical denominations, strongly oppose homosexual relationships, describing them as the 'basest form of sinful conduct.'

"The Alliance Church is also tough on divorce and holds that Christians who have been adulterous do not have a right to remarry.

"The denomination's leaders, in addition, oppose abortion, stem-cell research, euthanasia, the use of marijuana and ordained female clergy…"

Harper's Creed
Unknown to most Canadians, the prime minister belongs to the Christian and Missionary Alliance, an evangelical Protestant church with two million members. Alberta, a petro state, is one of its great strongholds on the continent. The church believes that the free market is divinely inspired and that non-believers are "lost."

Now let's be clear: I am a Christian and a social conservative and a long time advocate of rural landowners and an unabashed conservationist. I have spent many pleasant hours in a variety of evangelical churches and fundamentalist communities. Faith is not the concern here.

But transparency and full disclosure has become the issue of paramount importance. To date, Harper has refused to answer media questions about his beliefs or which groups inform them. If he answered media queries about his minority creed (and fewer than 10 per cent of Canadians would call themselves evangelicals) he'd have to admit that he openly sympathizes if not endorses what's known as "evangelical climate skepticism." 

No one knows this fossil fuel friendly ideology better than Dr. David Gushee, a distinguished professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University and a Holocaust scholar. The evangelical Christian is also one of the drafters of the 2006 Evangelical Climate Initiative. It declared climate change a serious threat to Creation that demands an ethical Christian response.

But that's not the wing of the evangelical movement that Harper listens to. Given his government's pointed attacks on environmentalists and science of any kind, Harper would seem to take his advice from the Cornwall Alliance, a coalition of right-wing scholars, economists and evangelicals. The Alliance questions mainstream science, doubts climate change, views environmentalist as a "native evil," champions fossil fuels and supports libertarian economics.

'Resisting the Green Dragon'

A recent declaration on climate change by the Cornwall Alliance denies that carbon dioxide "is a pollutant" and adds that "there is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming." Moreover any reduction in emissions would "greatly increase the price of energy and harm economies."

A separate Cornwall declaration describes environmental regulation as an impediment to God's will:

"We aspire to a world in which liberty as a condition of moral action is preferred over government-initiated management of the environment as a means to common goals."

A book published by the Alliance called Resisting the Green Dragon: Dominion not Death even portrays environmental groups as "one of the greatest threats to society and the church today."

One passage reads that, "The Green Dragon must die… [There] is no excuse to become befuddled by the noxious Green odors and doctrines emanating from the foul beast…"

The Cornwall Alliance also believes that renewable forms of energy such as wind and solar are only good enough for poor or rural peoples until nuclear and fossil fuel facilities "meet the needs of large, sustained economic development."

Beware 'the new hypocrite'

In a 2010 interview, Gushee, a brilliant and passionate Christian, detailed the basic tenets of "evangelical climate skepticism." He said there were seven main points and argued that they had poisoned the Republican Party. These tenets not only explain startling developments in Canada but should raise the hair on the neck of every thinking citizen regardless of their faith:

1. Disdain for the environmental movement

2. Distrust of mainstream science in general

3. Distrust of the mainstream media

4. Loyalty to the party

5. Libertarian economics as God's will (God is opposed to government regulation or taxation

6. Misunderstanding of divine sovereignty (God won't allow us to ruin creation)

7. Unreconstructed Dominion theology (God calls on humans to subdue and rule creation)

In the end of the interview, Gushee summarized the purpose of this new evangelical Republicanism: "God is sovereign over creation and therefore humans can do no permanent damage… God established government for limited purposes and government should not intervene much in the workings of a free market economy… The media is overplaying climate change worries… The environmental movement is secular/pagan and has always been a threat to American liberties…

"Nice worldview, huh? I disagree with just about every word of it."

But that Republican religious tribalism is now Ottawa's worldview.

Readers looking for a thoughtful analysis on Harper and the rise of libertarian religious tribalism in Canada should pick up Marci McDonald's The Armageddon Factor.

Another touchstone might be G.K. Chesterton, a radical Catholic, who regularly questioned the wealth and power of big government and business decades ago.

He would have advised us to get to the bottom of whether our prime minister is pretending to be just a wonkish politician while pursuing an extreme Republican evangelical agenda.

"The old hypocrite was a man whose aims were really worldly and practical, while he pretended that they were religious," the radical Catholic once observed. "The new hypocrite is one whose aims are really religious, while he pretends that they are worldly and practical."

Canada needs to have an open conversation about the virtues of democracy over theocracy.

March 31 2012


What The IPCC Ignores, According To The GWPF

This series of posts (123, 4) examines the UK-registered educational charity & climate-change denying think-tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation GWPF. This fifth post examines one of the assertions made within GWPF Briefing Paper No1. The paper boldly claims that the findings of the UN IPCC are too narrow and that the work of “many scientists” is being ignored.

Can it be true? Is there “an alternative (scientific) view“ being overlooked by the IPCC? This would be a monumental discovery! Forget Briefing Paper No1. Let's examine those overlooked scientists.

Yet despite the importance of this assertion, Briefing Paper No1 only manages to name one of these “many scientists.” He is Syun-Ichi Akasofu whose cited paper will now be examined.

(To be truthful, the work of Akasofu has been critically examined elsewhere but not well enough to entirely dismiss it summarily within the critique of Briefing Paper No1. This fifth post is thus clearing the decks of a bit of clutter ready for an examination of Briefing Paper No1 in the next post.)

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Sponsored post

March 30 2012


GM Dumps Heartland Institute, Will No Longer Fund Climate-Denying Spinstitute

General Motors is breaking up with the Heartland Institute, announcing recently that the company will discontinue funding to the notorious climate-denying spin shop.

The move by GM comes in direct response to a national outreach campaign organized by Forecast the Facts, which garnered more than 20,000 people, including 10,000 GM vehicle owners, calling on GM to drop its financial support of the Heartland Institute.

"We applaud GM’s decision and the message it sends: that it is no longer acceptable for corporations to promote the denial of climate change, and that support for an organization like Heartland is not in line with GM’s values. This victory belongs to the 20,000 Americans, including 10,000 GM owners, who demanded that GM put its money where its mouth is on climate change and sustainability," said Forecast the Facts Campaign Director Daniel Souweine.

Climate One director Greg Dalton revealed the GM pullout after receiving confirmation directly from GM during an event at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club.  Dalton had pressed GM CEO Dan Akerson about its support for Heartland at a Climate One event earlier this month. Akerson said at the time that he would personally review the Heartland funding. 

Heartland President Joseph Bast was understandably upset to learn of GM's decision to cease any further financial support, but continued to push his trusty shiny penny version of events rather than own up to the real reasons for the waning support of his group's efforts. Internal Heartland documents made public last month exposed the shocking revelation of Heartland's plans to deceive schoolchildren about climate science, most notably.

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March 12 2012


Climate Change Denial Isn't About Science, or Even Skepticism

Cross-posted from the David Suzuki Foundation's Science Matters blog. By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Editorial and Communications Specialist Ian Hanington.

Let's suppose the world's legitimate scientific institutions and academies, climate scientists, and most of the world's governments are wrong.

Maybe, as some people have argued, they're involved in a massive conspiracy to impose a socialist world order. Maybe the money's just too damn good. It doesn't matter. Let's just imagine they're wrong, and that the polar ice caps aren't melting and the climate isn't changing. Or, if you prefer, that it's happening, but that it's a natural occurrence — nothing to do with seven billion people spewing carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere.

Would it still make sense to continue rapidly burning the world's diminishing supply of fossil fuels? Does it mean we shouldn't worry about pollution?

read more

February 21 2012


Whistleblower Authenticates Heartland Documents

Climate scientist Peter Gleick has acknowledged that he was the person who convinced the Heartland Institute to hand over the contents of its January Board package, authenticating the documents beyond a doubt and further exposing the disinformation campaign Heartland has pursued in the last week, trying to discredit the information.

In the Huffington Post tonight, Gleick reported that he had received the controversial Climate Strategy document from an anonymous source earlier this year and said that he attempted to confirm whether the contents were true. Gleick went on:

In an effort to do so, and in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else's name. The materials the Heartland Institute sent to me confirmed many of the facts in the original document, including especially their 2012 fundraising strategy and budget. I forwarded, anonymously, the documents I had received to a set of journalists and experts working on climate issues. I can explicitly confirm, as can the Heartland Institute, that the documents they emailed to me are identical to the documents that have been made public. I made no changes or alterations of any kind to any of the Heartland Institute documents or to the original anonymous communication. [emphasis added]

So, while admitting that he impersonated a third party in order to induce Heartland to confirm its own ongoing questionable conduct, Gleick has effectively caught Heartland squarely in the headlights, proving that the Institute has dissembled and lied.

Whistleblowers - and that's the role Gleick has played in this instance - deserve respect for having the courage to make important truths known to the public at large. Without condoning or promoting an act of dishonesty, it's fair to say that Gleick took a significant personal risk - and by standing and taking responsibility for his actions, he has shown himself willing to pay the price. For his courage, his honor, and for performing a selfless act of public service, he deserves our gratitude and applause.

Heartland, in the meantime, deserves to be stripped of its charitable status and laughed out of the professional "think tank" fraternity for its amateurishness and the far-less-than-credible position that it has taken in the last week, denying its own responsibility in this "leak," dissembling about the origin of the material and going out of its way to "fail" to authenticate documents that it knew all along were legitimate.

read more

January 27 2012


Will The Global Warming Policy Foundation’s Seed Funder Be Revealed?

Who is funding the shadowy front groups that represent the interests of polluters by sowing doubt about climate change? One of the most aggressive climate denial “think” tanks spreading misinformation in Europe is the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), founded in 2009 by former British Conservative politician Lord Nigel Lawson, who chairs the organization.

British investigative journalist Brendan Montague argued today in a tribunal that the UK's Charity Commission should release documents regarding the GWPF’s early funding. Specifically, Montague seeks to persuade a judge to compel the release of a bank statement provided to the commission by Lord Lawson that would reveal the name of the "well known" secretive donor who furnished Lawson with the initial £50,000 seed donation to launch the GWPF.

In his appeal to the Information Rights Tribunal to fulfill his Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the financial document, Montague argued that the public has a right to know who has bankrolled the GWPF to assess possible conflict of interest. The GWPF has promoted doubt about manmade climate change ever since its founding in 2009. It is essential to the public interest because it will help to understand the foundation’s motivations for continuously promoting political inaction on climate change, Montague argues. He seeks to confirm whether this wealthy donor is connected to the oil or coal industry.

NASA’s James Hansen and other scientists have publicly endorsed Montague’s inquiry. Climate denial front groups have long hidden behind the lack of a legal requirement to reveal their donors, a level of secrecy that is increasingly under the spotlight around the world. Greenpeace has worked diligently for more than a decade to compile information about funding from ExxonMobil and, more recently, the funding from Koch Industries for U.S. climate denial groups through its ExxonSecrets.org site and its reports on the Kochtopus network

But little is known about other sources of funding, particularly support from other polluter interests.

"The public should know who is funding climate denial so they can properly judge the information put out by organizations like the Global Warming Policy Foundation,” Australian ethics professor Clive Hamilton told Graham Readfearn, writing for the Brisbane Times.**

DeSmogBlog and others have repeatedly pointed out that the GWPF plays fast and loose with facts, and the funding sources behind Lord Lawson's group are thought to be another area in which the GWPF may not be telling the whole truth. 

Lord Lawson has claimed in a GWPF annual report:

… “we offer all our donors the protection of anonymity. However, in order to reassure those who might otherwise doubt our complete independence, our Protocol for the Acceptance of Gifts lays down that we do not accept donations either from the energy industry or from anyone with a significant interest in the energy industry.”

Montague wants Lawson to come clean about this to see whether it's true or not. Montague is a seasoned journalist who previously worked for the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail in the UK, and now serves as director of the Request Initiative, which files Freedom of Information requests on behalf of non-profits.

Montague's lawyer Robin Hopkins appealed to the judge today:

There is enormous public interest in transparency as to who that individual is. There is a pressing need to scrutinise whether or not that person has any ‘significant interest’ in the energy industry. It appears that the Charity Commission makes no attempt to address that issue – it is left entirely in the hands of the GWPF itself.

Further, it is important that the public knows which high-profile figure has this degree of influence within GWPF. Parliament’s Science and Technology Select Committee has expressed this public interest and has pressed for transparency on the issue of GWPF’s donors. It has been stonewalled.”

Tribunal judge Alison McKenna is expected to reach a decision within four weeks. 

Read Montague’s witness statement to the UK Information Rights Tribunal [PDF].

**Graham Readfearn, a freelance journalist, is a DeSmogBlog contributor. The piece he wrote for the BrisbaneTimes.com.au describes in more depth how the UK inquiry has important ramifications in Australia and around the world. He notes that two prominent Australian climate change contrarians – Professor Bob Carter, of James Cook University, and Professor Ian Plimer, a mining company director and geologist at the University of Adelaide – are members of the GWPF's academic advisory committee. See Graham’s piece for more detail: Bid to out the money behind the voice against climate change.

AttachmentSize Brendan Montague GWPF Witness Statement.pdf365.85 KB

January 07 2012


As Santorum Surges, Sound Science Sags

This is a guest post by Bill Walker, originally published at Climate Central.

There’s a new ringleader of the skeptics' circus — otherwise known as the 2012 field of Republican presidential candidates.

Rick Santorum’s out-of-nowhere surge to a virtual tie for first place in the Iowa caucuses may not boost him to frontrunner status in next week’s New Hampshire primary and the states beyond. But in the contest to see which GOP candidate can be the biggest doubter of the science of climate change, Santorum is the unchallenged leader of the pack.

Santorum not only denies that manmade global warming is a growing concern, he denies its very existence. “There is no such thing as global warming,” he once said on Glenn Beck’s show, adding that it’s “patently absurd” to think a naturally occurring substance like CO2 – “a trace gas in the atmosphere, and the man-made part of that trace gas is itself a trace gas “ – is warming the planet. (Well, not if you understand the greenhouse effect.) He told Rush Limbaugh: “I’ve never … accepted the junk science behind that narrative.”

But it’s not really about “junk” science. Santorum simply doesn’t accept science. A devout evangelical Catholic, Santorum also rejects evolution and tried to amend federal law to require the teaching of “intelligent design” in public schools. After his fellow candidate, Jon Huntsman, affirmed his belief in evolution, Santorum said: "If Governor Huntsman wants to believe that he is the descendant of a monkey, then he has the right to believe that."

Santorum lost Iowa by only eight votes; you have to wonder if coming out against the germ theory of disease would have put him over the top.

And it’s not just Santorum. For a long time, Congressional Republicans insisted there must be “sound science” behind environmental regulations. Now Republican politicians at all levels are rejecting sound science, either as a matter of faith or in a transparent bid for the votes of the party’s anti-science wing. Trust in science has become an electoral liability.

Four years ago, GOP nominee John McCain said without reservation that people are warming the planet and it’s time to act. This year the GOP debates have sounded like a panel discussion at a convention of the American Petroleum Institute. With one exception, all the candidates have embraced positions that run counter to facts the overwhelming majority of scientists agree on. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote:

So it’s now highly likely that the presidential candidate of one of our two major political parties will either be a man who believes what he wants to believe, even in the teeth of scientific evidence, or a man who pretends to believe whatever he thinks the party’s base wants him to believe.


The Republican presidential candidates participating in the Iowa GOP/Fox News Debate in August. Credit: Iowa Politics/flickr. 


In one corner, the flip-floppers. Mitt Romney has reversed course on climate change so dramatically he seems to be debating himself. In 2008 Newt Gingrich taped an ad with Nancy Pelosi urging action on global warming. Now he says it was “the dumbest thing I’ve done.” Ron Paul has also done an about-face. He once acknowledged that “something (is) afoot” and that human activity had something to do with it, but later called the idea of manmade climate change “the greatest hoax (in) … hundreds of years.”

In the other it’s the hard-core deniers, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman (formerly) and Santorum. Perry’s skepticism is particularly harsh — he believes climate scientists have manipulated data to pull in research money — and self-righteous. He likened current global warming skepticism to Galileo’s 17th century stand against the notion that the sun orbits the Earth.

The one candidate unafraid to publicly affirm global warming science is Huntsman, who (perhaps as a result) barely registers in the polls. Just months ago he tweeted:

To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”

It’s tempting to instead apply that label to his rivals. But what’s really behind the candidates’ race to the scientific bottom?

Dr. Larry Hamilton, a sociologist and pollster at the University of New Hampshire, told Climate Central some Republicans are skeptical of climate change science because they don’t like the proposed solutions to the problem, such as cap and trade, which they view as oppressive government regulation. But he also said among the party’s rank-and-file, especially the evangelical faction with outsize influence in the primaries, there is an alarming level of distrust of science itself.

In national surveys,” Hamilton said, “Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to say they don’t trust scientists as a source of information about environmental issues.”

A Public Policy Polling survey found that only 21 percent of Republican caucus voters in Iowa believe in global warming and only 35 percent accept evolution. Hamilton said it’s not that different in New Hampshire, where the Granite State Poll found that 31 percent of Republicans accept manmade climate change as a fact.

So what’s a rational Republican who trusts science and is concerned about climate change to do?

Farrell Seiler, chairman of New Hampshire Republicans for Climate, said he and his members will vote for Huntsman (although the more they’ve looked at his energy policy the less impressed they are). Seiler attributed the relatively greater acceptance of science among New Hampshire Republicans to the fact that the state is in “the direct line of fire” of extreme weather, particularly on its coast.

 In November, Seiler’s group sponsored a New Hampshire town hall meeting on climate change and invited all the GOP candidates. They realized the frontrunners wouldn’t come, but they made a special effort to reach out to Huntsman. They wanted to know why, after his “call me crazy” tweet, he seemed to back off his position.

 “We wanted to send a message that there are Republicans who get it on climate,” Seiler said. “We hoped Jon Huntsman would be willing to make a strong statement in front of a climate-friendly audience. But he didn’t show.”

This is a guest post by Bill Walker, originally published at Climate Central

Bill Walker, a writer and columnist for Climate Central, is a former newspaper correspondent and for more than 20 years a communications strategist for leading environmental organizations. He lives in Berkeley, Calif.

September 17 2011


"Doubt" Video On Fossil Fuel Industry's Tobacco PR Tactics To Undermine Science

In case you didn't manage to catch all 24 hours of the Climate Reality Project (I mean, what the heck else were you doing?), I wanted to flag this one video for you, as it's particularly germane to the ongoing coverage here at DeSmogBlog.

It's called "Doubt," and it's about how the fossil fuel industry took the tobacco industry's playbook (didn't just borrow a play, but really the whole playbook) to confuse the public on the science of climate change. Not by disproving the facts — because that's impossible — but just by creating enough doubt to make a busy public dismiss it.

DOUBT from The Climate Reality Project on Vimeo.

Here's the core of it all:

"How did the tobacco companies manage to lie to the public in face of all the scientific evidence?

They realized that the science didn't need to be disproven. It was enough to create doubt in the minds of the public to keep them from recognizing the truth."

While the subject might be one that we dive deep into regularly (and which Chris Mooney has covered from every direction, upside down and backwards), I think it's important to spotlight a broader birds-eye perspective like this one. Especially as the video is incredibly well produced, and could be something that manages to reach a whole new audience. Speaking past the choir here.

Here's to hoping that it goes viral. Spread the word!

August 03 2011


Interview with 'Kivalina' Author Christine Shearer - Trivia Challenge For Free Copy

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Shearer, author of "Kivalina: A Climate Change Story," an important new book that probes some of the tangible consequences of climate change denial. Shearer chronicles the very real experience of the melting and eroding community of Kivalina, Alaska, a smalll but resilient village community that sued ExxonMobil and 23 other polluters for contributing to the global warming that is tearing down their homes.

**Answer the trivia questions at the bottom of this post for a chance to win a free copy of Kivalina.

Brendan DeMelle (BD): What inspired you to write this book?

Christine Shearer (CS): In 2007 I became part of a science project assessing the biggest human impacts to marine ecosystems, which required getting data from over 100 scientists. And the more I worked on it, the more it became clear to me that the data on climate change was really alarming, and that if we did not get a handle on this problem soon, it could be too late - we'd set into motions feedbacks that could not be reversed. Which made me wonder about the disconnect between what scientists knew about climate change, and what many in the U.S. were hearing about the subject - you know, that it's not happening, or it's not that bad, or it's natural, etc.

At the same time I happened to be studying the disinformation campaigns of past industries in one of my graduate classes - like lead and asbestos, and also climate change. Academics and journalists have been documenting the tactics of industrial misinformation for decades now.

And so one night - it was 2008 - I was in my environmental law class, and the teacher read a news headline about this lawsuit, this tiny Alaska Native village suing fossil fuel companies for damaging their homeland and creating a false debate about climate change, and I just knew I had to write about it.

BD: What was the biggest surprise you discovered in researching Kivalina?

CS: That their situation was so much worse than I thought it would be. Like I said, my initial questions and interests had everything to do with the misinformation campaigns and the lawsuit. So I went to Kivalina thinking that would be my focus. And then I got there and realized the lawsuit was just one part of the story.

I knew Kivalina was eroding and its residents needed to be relocated, but I imagined it to be a slow, predictable process, and relocation far off. And I got there and stood on this tiny, tiny island, completely surrounded by water - one side the sea, the other a lake - with some homes already hanging a bit off the edge, while other homes had already been moved inland, and I heard about large storms that took away chunks of the island. And then I understood that the erosion is not slow and predictable at all - it usually comes suddenly, quickly, and severely, in ways that threaten peoples' safety.

Kivalina is racked every fall by very large, intense storms, which the island used to be able to handle, because ice would keep the shoreline firm and act as a buffer. But that ice is forming later and later in the year because of increasing average temperatures, so when the storms come, Kivalina is a sitting duck, there is little protection. A rock revetment on the sea side was being built when I was there, but the people still need to be relocated, that is inevitable. And the revetment offers some protection, but some of the people say they still get nervous about storms, that the revetment won’t be enough. And they wonder if they will ever be relocated, because there is no relocation policy in the U.S., and they have been trying to relocate since 1992.  

BD: What is the latest news about the lawsuit Kivalina v. ExxonMobil?  Where do things currently stand?

CS: The village's claim of public nuisance, or unreasonable harm, was dismissed as a "political question" for the executive and legislative branches, and unsuitable for the judicial branch, which is how three prior climate change public nuisance claims had been dismissed. The judge also denied Kivalina legal standing to bring the lawsuit, saying that the greenhouse gases that contributed to the harm of the people of Kivalina was not "fairly traceable" to emissions of the defendant fossil fuel companies, which the judge said was required by the claim. This meant that the secondary claims of conspiracy and concert of action, which had to do with the misinformation campaigns on climate change, were thrown out without being commented on.

The decision is being appealed, and Kivalina is waiting on that decision. In another federal public nuisance climate change claim Connecticut v. AEP, the Supreme Court ruled that states could not bring federal public nuisance suits for an injunction - a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions - against large emitters because the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases, even though the EPA has yet to regulate.

But Kivalina is different because here we have an identifiable, discrete harm, specific to the people of Kivalina, and a request for damages - the relocation costs - rather than an injunction. So Kivalina's lawyers argue that the claim fits the requirements of public nuisance, so we'll see.  

It might be like tobacco, where you have several lawsuits, but they only become successful after more and more documented evidence of deliberate corporate misinformation begins to emerge. Part of the reason we know so much about the tobacco industry was that their internal documents were released through the discovery process of litigation - no climate change claim has reached that stage yet.

BD: You focus a lot of blame for government inaction on climate change on what David Michaels coined the “Product Defense Industry” (PDI), which helps large industries to stave off regulations and avoid true accountability to the public.  If you had to pick 2-3 specific players, which individuals, companies or groups would you identify as the key actors most responsible for the success of this PDI network?

CS: Well, first I want to say that when I interviewed Michaels he was very reluctant to really tie the PDI to climate change, because his analysis of the PDI was based on his own experience and research, which was more focused on worker and consumer safety regulations.

But in my own research on climate change, I found his discussion of the PDI very applicable, because what you have is a dense connection of organizations, law firms, paid experts, and astroturf groups that represent corporate interests in fighting off regulations, lawsuits, and negative publicity.

So in terms of what makes the PDI in general most effective, I would say the tobacco industry. When I interviewed Michaels and asked him what separated tobacco from other industries that tried to mislead people, he said it was tobacco that turned misinformation into an art. And I would agree.

Before tobacco, you had manufacturers of things like asbestos and lead that would try to suppress scientific research that suggested their products were harmful, and either deny or downplay diseases like asbestosis or lead poisoning or try to blame it on other environmental or health factors, or even blame workers or children for getting sick.

But it was the tobacco industry that really seemed to perfect the tactic of creating doubt to try and discredit an entire body of scientific research. And it came out of litigation - the tactic was designed by their lawyers. They knew if they created doubt in jurors' heads about research connecting smoking to disease, they won, even if there was overwhelming evidence proving smoking is harmful, which there was.

And it was also effective as far as PR in shaping public opinion - you just give people that seed of doubt to sustain their skepticism. And they slowly and steadily built up all sorts of firms and organizations to spread this message of doubt, even on other issues, to give these organizations the appearance of being unconnected to tobacco.

Another big player was the PR firm Hill & Knowlton. It was started by a man named John Hill who was really appalled by the growth of government during the New Deal of the 1930s, and very much saw the firm's role as representing corporate interests, even if it meant doing things like shopping around for scientists to question peer-reviewed scientific research.

And that kind of work was picked up and continued by other organizations like APCO Worldwide, created by the law firm Arnold & Porter when it was defending tobacco companies - and now one of the firms representing fossil fuel companies in the Kivalina lawsuit. APCO really helped popularize the terms "junk" and "sound" science, and what that did was create a concept that allowed industries and their supporters to question scientific research without necessarily appearing to be anti-science, because they can say it's "junk" science. So research suggesting something is harmful? Junk science. Research suggesting it's not so bad? That's sound science.

And the third player I would say are the politicians who support this, because they are the enablers in turning certain corporate interests into established government policy. And I think the absolute worst was the Bush-Cheney Administration, which turned to fossil fuel industries and supporting firms to dictate U.S. climate change policy - or lack of policy - and even suppress or rewrite government reports on climate change science with think tank "research" funded by companies like ExxonMobil.

BD: You discuss the “discourse of doubt” created by the fossil fuel industry and its allies surrounding the science of human-driven climate change.   What do we have to do as a society to get beyond that confusion campaign and move towards action?

CS: That is the question.

I agree with the idea that there is no silver bullet to this issue, it will be a silver buckshot, a culmination of various efforts. So I wont lay out an exhaustive list of what people could do and are doing, which I think is all necessary and important, but just kind of sum up the main issue.

I don't think the answer is arguing with diehard climate change "skeptics" over the science - that is a recipe for a long waste of time with no successful outcome. But you might be able to find common ground with some of them on things like energy efficiency being a smart investment. And we need to differentiate them from the people who are more on the fence about the science and still trying to sort through all the info, since there is so much misleading info out there. The more people we reach, the more we multiply our efforts.

But there is denial of the science, then there is denial of the implications - that we need to transform how we live. I agree with activists like Bill McKibben and scientists like James Hansen. A problem as severe as climate change requires a mass social movement. Because what we are dealing with is a small group of people that want to treat climate change like it's just bad PR, to prevent social change. That is incredibly dangerous and totally unacceptable.

So we all need to do what we can, and then push ourselves to do more, and link up with people on our efforts. And we need to find common ground - climate change is not some yuppie environmental movement, it's a social justice issue, it's an economic issue, it's a political issue, so there is a lot of overlap for broadly shared goals. And we need to be as vigilant, as demanding, and as unrelenting as the pro-corporate movement has been. And I know the challenges are enormous, but they will be good for us, our community well-being, and our democracy, so it's worth it.
**For a chance to receive a free copy of Kivalina: A Climate Change Story, please email Editor [at] DeSmogBlog [.] com, with the correct answers to the following three trivia questions about Christine Shearer.  The first five people to correctly answer all three questions will win a free copy of “Kivalina: A Climate Change Story.”

1) Christine co-wrote an article about grassroots resistance against a proposed coal mine in what country?

2) Christine wrote an article with climate scientist Richard Rood. What was it about?

3) Christine works for the organization CoalSwarm. What is CoalSwarm's mission?

Kivalina is available on Amazon.com and other top booksellers, and don't forget to seek it out or request it at a local independent bookstore near you.

March 08 2011


Current GOP Is “Party of Science Deniers,” Waxman Says

During a speech at the Center for American Progress Action Fund on Monday, Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) came out swinging against Republican climate science denial and political attacks against the Clean Air Act. 

Waxman told the crowd, “it apparently no longer matters in Congress what health experts and scientists think. All that seems to matter is what Koch Industries think.”

Rep. Waxman’s frank assessment of the state of political attacks on science in the age of the Koch Congress should garner some interesting responses at today’s House Subcommittee on Energy and Power hearing “Climate Science and EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Regulations,” where the GOP majority is sure to belittle climate science and ignore the urgent need to cut global warming pollution, yet again. 

The former chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee prior to the Koch-fueled Tea Party takeover in November, Rep. Waxman told the CAPAF audience:

“I’ve never been in a Congress where there was such an overwhelming disconnect between science and policy…”

“Republicans in Congress have become the party of science deniers, and that is profoundly dangerous…”

“The gulf between what science tells us and what the governing party in the House believes makes it difficult to find common ground…”

Waxman’s comments also follow on the heels of the introduction of the Energy Tax Prevention Act (H.R. 910), in the House by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and in the Senate by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), an anti-science effort designed to strip the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) mandate to use the Clean Air Act to curb carbon pollution and protect lives.  This climate zombie-fueled legislative attack directly defies the Supreme Court’s decision upholding EPA’s mandate.

With science denial taking deep root in the U.S. GOP, seasoned lawmakers like Rep. Waxman are becoming increasingly frustrated by dangerous Republican efforts to ignore science when it comes to responding to the critical threat of climate change. And the root cause of much of the partisan disconnect stems from Koch Industries extensive financial backing of anti-science lawmakers, as Waxman stated succinctly:

“Science denial, partisanship, and the rising power of special interests are deeply intertwined,” Waxman said, “and they feed off each other.” He explained the vicious circle fueled by Koch Industries, the private petrochemical conglomerate, and the Republican Party. “Koch Industries benefits immensely from the rollback of EPA regulations, so it backs Republican candidates who advocate this position. And it funds groups that attack science and it organizes anti-regulation demonstrations. Republican strategists see a partisan advantage in attacking efforts to address climate change, so that leads to a growing acceptance of science denial.”

Although clearly angered at the Republicans’ current attacks on science-based policymaking, Waxman did extend an invitation to the GOP to resume relying on science to shape policy solutions.  His three recommendations include: preserving carbon emission regulations, educating the public on the very real dangers from climate change, and building bi-partisan consensus to secure the country’s energy future and to respond to mounting environmental problems.

Head over to The Wonk Room to read more and watch a video of Waxman's remarks.

Tune into the climate science hearing Tuesday morning at 10:00am EST to find out what the Republicans have to say about Rep. Waxman’s comments, and more.

February 28 2011


Once and For All: Climate Denial is Not Postmodern

If our goal is to do something about the ever-growing problem of climate change denial, I believe we must first understand it—its forms, its motivations, its arguments.

That's why I recoil every time I hear the argument—made over the weekend in the New York Times magazine by Judith Warner—that science denial used to be a left wing thing, centered on the so-called “postmodernists” of academia, but now things have flipped. Now it’s located on the right—witness climate denial. Or as Warner puts it:

That taking on the scientific establishment has become a favored activity of the right is quite a turnabout. After all, questioning accepted fact, revealing the myths and politics behind established certainties, is a tactic straight out of the left-wing playbook. In the 1960s and 1970s, the push back against scientific authority brought us the patients’ rights movement and was a key component of women’s rights activism. That questioning of authority veered in a more radical direction in the academy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when left-wing scholars doing “science studies” increasingly began taking on the very idea of scientific truth.

This analysis is so wrong that one barely knows how to begin.<!--break-->

First, the idea that conservatives would be strongly influenced by the abstruse arguments and wordplay of left wing academia doesn't make any sense. Do we not recall that starting in the 1970s, conservatives created an armada of ideological think tanks—including many think tanks that now dispute climate change—precisely so as to create their own echo chamber of “expertise” outside of academia? To them, 1990s postmodernism would be the quintessential example of effete academic uselessness.

But that's not even the biggest objection to Warner's line of thinking. The biggest objection is that climate change deniers do not look, behave, or sound postmodern in any meaningful sense of the term.

As Warner herself recognizes, if postmodernism has any central theme (in relation to science) it is problematizing the idea that there is something called scientific “truth” that can be objectively discerned. The insights of “science studies” were thus deployed in order to show that scientists are quite subjective in how they do things, frequently engaging in personal battles and clinging to ideas that they should let go; that broader cultural and scientific trends color allegedly objective scientific discoveries (is it a coincidence that the phrase “survival of the fittest” was coined at a time of ruthless capitalism and imperialism in the British empire?); that scientists sometimes ignore or sneer at local or indigenous forms of knowledge that actually offer key insights about the way the world works (as in the story of the Cumbrian sheep farmers following Chernobyl); and so forth.

These are all valid insights. The trouble is that some more radical left wing thinkers appeared (for it was always hard to tell how much of it was mere scholarly flirtation and provocation) to take them an extreme, suggesting that science might not really be our road to truth. But that doesn't follow at all from the insights of science studies. It’s one thing to ask that we more realistically understand how scientists behave, and note some of their shortcomings; it’s something else again to say that science isn’t the best method, in the long term, for figuring out how the world works. Of course it is—despite individual scientists’ shortcomings.

In any event, the idea that science is the embodiment of "truth" is something with which climate deniers blithely agree. They think that they are right and that the scientific consensus about global warming is wrong--objectively. They’re not out there questioning whether science is the best way of getting at the truth; they’re out there talking as though their scientists know the truth.

Can you picture James Inhofe citing Derrida or Foucault? The very idea is comical.

Frankly, if climate deniers were more conversant with science studies, I have to believe that they would feel a lot less sure of themselves—and they would never have been able to make such a big fuss about “ClimateGate.” “ClimateGate” is the quintessential example of scientists showing, through their private emails, that they’re people too; that they have passions and feelings, that they say things they shouldn’t and make mistakes. No shock at all to people in “science studies,” who can tell you the same thing about, say, the private writings of Isaac Newton.

Much of the reaction to “ClimateGate,” on the part of both science deniers and the general public, was characterized by a naïve view of science which expects researchers to be rigorously objective at all times—almost like robots. You’re only likely to be shocked to find scientists behaving like ordinary people in their emails if you’ve been wrongly led to think they’re somehow not like ordinary people.  

Similarly, I don't think climate change deniers would be so willing to discard a global scientific consensus, based on the views of a handful of scientists who disagree with it, if they actually paid attention to science studies. For many of these dissenting "skeptic" scientists of course have agendas of their own, rivalries with scientists in the "mainstream," and so on. What on earth makes them so trustworthy, so objective?

If anything, the insights of science studies, properly applied, ought to make us more confident than ever that we should trust modern climate science. After all, do you know how hard it is to achieve a global scientific consensus when every scientist can gain fame and fortune by upsetting or undermining it--and when scientists very much desire fame and career advancement?

If anything, climate change deniers are pretty oblivious to what we've learned from science studies--which is yet another reason to be very skeptical of what they're saying.

February 21 2011


The Denialists Progress: From Doubt-Mongering to Certainty

Over the weekend, the U.S. House of Representatives voted along partisan lines in favor of an amendment sponsored by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri (pictured at left) to cut funding for the Nobel Peace Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). When I flagged this incredible news on my Discover blog, the clean energy activist Michael Noble tweeted back: “Gone, even that old refrain: 'needs more study.'" 

The more I think about it, the more profound that little remark becomes.

Time was when I, and many others tracking and critiquing the climate "skeptics," would linger on their manufacture of uncertainty, their sowing and merchandising of doubt. “Doubt is our product,” as the infamous tobacco memo put it.<!--break-->

Up through “Climategate” and the ensuing attacks on the IPCC over matters like the Himalayan glaciers blunder, the resistance to climate science really was well captured by this broad strategy. The central theme was that there was a body of science being produced by experts, and those who didn’t like its findings were problematizing, nitpicking, fighting around the edges while ignoring the big picture.

The ultimate effect was both sowing confusion—as average citizens were prompted to throw up their hands, unsure who to believe—and creating delay—as uncertainty was used as an excuse for doing nothing about the climate problem.

The administration of George W. Bush epitomized a strategy of doubt-mongering when it comes to climate change. In 2001 the president even commissioned a National Academy of Sciences review of the state of climate science--seeking to determine whether the IPCC was trustworthy--and then proceeded to misrepresent the NAS's strongly pro-IPCC findings as an excuse to do nothing on the issue.

As Bush put it in 2004, in a written response to questions from Science magazine: "In 2001, I asked the National Academy of Sciences to do a top-to-bottom review of the most current scientific thinking on climate change. The nation's most respected scientific body found that key uncertainties remain concerning the underlying causes and nature of climate change." You don't find a better example of manufactured uncertainty than that: The NAS report in question actually strongly supported the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming.

Meanwhile, throughout the Bush administration political appointees massaged the science, controlled the message—but they were never so bold as to pronounce that all of climate science was wrong and corrupt, and not even worthy of our consideration any longer.

But that’s not really what you see out there anymore. A decision to defund the IPCC, rather than attack or criticize it, doesn’t bespeak a strategy of doubt-mongering. It signals extreme certainty that one is right, that we don’t even need to consider (skeptically or otherwise) any more new results from climate scientists.

So, for that matter, does the recent elevation and anointment of James Inhofe as the de facto GOP expert on climate science--implying that somehow his early, pioneering skepticism has been decisively vindicated by events.

The logic now appears to be: "There was this thing called the IPCC whose findings were dubious and repeatedly called into question. Then came “Climategate,” which validated our suspicions, proving that the IPCC (and all the science it produced) was utterly corrupt. Thus, there is nothing to global warming but a cesspool of politicized science, and it can all be dismissed. No need even to spend taxpayer dollars studying it any longer." (Interestingly, it appears that Rep. Luetkemeyer, who sponsored the anti-IPCC amendment, has exaggerated how much money the U.N. body receives from the U.S. government by a factor of 5 or more.)

Don’t get me wrong: I know those attacking climate science never really believed it, and were probably always as sure of themselves as they appear now. Nevertheless, they’ve now been dramatically emboldened—they’re willing to go much farther. They don’t feel the need to behave as the Bush II administration did, at least leaving the door open in a rhetorical sense. Now, they’re slamming it shut.

Where we once had climate “skeptics”—always preserving the scare quotes--now we really do have deniers.

January 19 2011


Is Climate Denial Corporate Driven, or Ideological?

Recently, I’ve been reading some research by Riley Dunlap, a sociologist at Oklahoma State University who collaborates frequently with Aaron McCright, another sociologist at Michigan State. Together, they’ve done penetrating work on the right wing resistance to climate change science in the US, and in particular, on the role of conservative think tanks in driving this resistance.

In a series of 2010 papers, however, I’m detecting a theme that runs contrary to what many often assume about the driving forces of climate denial. It is this: McCright & Dunlap argue that while corporate interests may once have seemed front-and-center in spurring resistance to climate science, at this point it's becoming increasingly apparent that ideological motivations are actually the primary motivator. Or as they put it: “conservative movement opposition to climate science and policy has a firm ideological base that supersedes the obvious desire for corporate funding.”<!--break-->

Time was when defending climate research was all about finding out which conservative think tanks were being funded by Exxon Mobil. Or more recently, by the Koch brothers. And there's certainly a lot of special interest influence out there. But McCright and Dunlap argue that we should focus on the power of conservative, free market and anti-regulatory ideology first and foremost. In other words, the corporate funding, when it occurs, may be more a symptom of what's going on than the root cause.

Why? Well, first, Dunlap and McCright note that “conservative think tanks increased their opposition to climate science and the IPCC, even as major portions of industry were reducing theirs.” And I don’t think there’s any denying it: Corporate views on climate change have grown considerably more diverse, with many leading companies, like General Electric, now calling for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Just look at what happened yesterday: The CEO of Royal Dutch Shell called for climate action because the “clock is ticking.” 

Meanwhile, right wing resistance has gotten increasingly shrill, especially after “ClimateGate,” and attacks on climate scientists have only grown more vicious.

A second leg of the argument takes an international focus: Climate denial, say McCright and Dunlap, seems to thrive in nations that “have or have had conservative governments and in which conservative think tanks are firmly planted.” That would include the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and Denmark. And then their third argument is to look at “skeptic” scientists: While this isn't uniformly true, they tend to be political conservatives. Indeed, Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway have written that “market fundamentalism” underlies the ideology of the scientists they discuss in their book Merchants of Doubt, like Frederick Seitz.

If McCright and Dunlap are right, there are some important implications. One would be that the continuing growth in the clean energy industry may drive a wedge between business interests on the one hand, and political conservatives on the other.

And the other is that no matter how pragmatically corporate leaders behave on this issue, free market ideologues may nevertheless continue to block action—whether or not it’s good for the economy, or for business.


Dunlap, Riley E. and Aaron M. McCright.  2010. "Climate Change Denial:  Sources, Actors and Strategies."  Pp. 240-259 in Constance Lever-Tracy (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Climate Change and Society.  London:  Routledge.

McCright, Aaron M. and Riley E. Dunlap.  2010.  "Anti-Reflexivity:  The American Conservative Movement‘s Success in Undermining Climate Science and Policy." Theory, Culture and Society 26:100-133.

January 18 2011


West Virginia Politicians Vow To Fight Dirty On Coal, While EPA Enforces Laws To Protect Appalachian Residents

Dirty coal and climate denial are hot topics in West Virginia right now.  Last week, acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D-WV) delivered West Virginia’s State of the State address where he gave a spirited defence of “carbon friendly” coal.  Then the very next day the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stole the spotlight by vetoing what would have been the largest mountaintop removal project in the state.

Tomblin, who replaces former Governor and newly minted Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), emphasized his support for the expanded use of coal as a vital part of the nation’s energy mix.  He also vowed to aggressively pursue West Virginia’s lawsuit against EPA until a more “sensible” approach can be found to regulate coal’s global warming emissions.

Governor Tomblin’s comments do not break new ground and will tie West Virginia to coal despite the fact that the industry negatively impacts the state’s economy.  His counterparts Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and the aforementioned Joe Manchin are already well known for frequently overlooking the negative impacts of coal.
This trio will lead West Virginia’s politicized effort to oppose EPA action to address coal’s huge pollution problems.  Sen. Rockefeller has already declared plans to reintroduce his bill to block EPA’s effort to limit global warming emissions from power plants and other stationary sources for two years.  And in the wake of the Arizona tragedy, who can forget the grim spectacle of Joe Manchin’s “Dead Aim” attack ad in which he fired a rifle at (already dead) climate legislation.

Unfortunately for Governor Tomblin, less than 24 hours after his speech touting the myth of “carbon friendly” coal, he faced an early challenge from an EPA espousing commonsense.

Reserved for only exceptional cases and used just 13 times since 1972, the EPA exercised its authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act and issued a 99-page decision to halt the proposed disposal of coal mining waste into streams at Arch Coal's non-union Mingo-Logan Coal Company's Spruce No. 1 coal mine.  The operation has been under review for more than a decade and has included an extensive scientific and environmental study, a major public hearing, and some 50,000 public comments.  In its final determination, the EPA ruled that not enough was being done to avoid anticipated environmental, water quality, and wildlife impacts from the dumping of waste rock and dirt into Pigeonroost Branch, Oldhouse Branch and their tributaries.

After more than a year of discussions failed to produce an agreement to protect Appalachian communities, the EPA overturned approval for the 2,300-acre mountaintop removal project, originally granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2007.

According to EPA Assistant Administrator Water Peter S. Silva:

"The proposed Spruce No. 1 Mine would use destructive and unsustainable mining practices that jeopardize the health of Appalachian communities and clean water on which they depend."

"Coal and coal mining are part of our nation's energy future and EPA has worked with companies to design mining operations that adequately protect our nation's waters.  We have a responsibility under the law to protect water quality and safeguard the people who rely on clean water."

Halting this major mountaintop removal mining project was hailed by conservationists and environmentalists, including Sierra Club Environmental Quality Program Director Ed Hopkins:

“In sharp contrast to the previous administration's policies on mountaintop removal coal mining, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is showing a strong commitment to the law, the science and the principles of environmental justice.”

“She deserves enormous credit for changing policies to protect Appalachia's health, land and water."

Not surprisingly, the move was assailed by the “free market” Competitive Enterprise Institute as job killing, and the state’s political class was “deeply angered” vowing “the fight is not over” and that the EPA decision would be overturned in court.  Senator Rockefeller also vented his frustration in a letter to President Obama about the EPA’s decision:

“I am writing to express my outrage with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to veto a rigorously reviewed and lawfully issued permit at the Spruce Number 1 Mine in Logan County, West Virginia.”

“This action not only affects this specific permit, but needlessly throws other permits into a sea of uncertainty at a time of great economic distress.”

Sometimes government is accused of moving too slowly.  On this, I am not so sure.  You have a Senator who has already written a letter, and not to be outdone, a Governor who countered the EPA decision with the announcement of a Rally For Coal:

“Our coal industry provides jobs for our men and women, money for our children’s education, and energy for our country’s growing appetite for electricity,” Gov. Tomblin said.  “We must stand up and show federal regulators that we will not retreat from their unfair actions.  We will continue the fight not just for the Spruce Number One mine but for every coal miner, coal company and for our way of life.”

The tough talk by West Virginia’s coal-addicted politicians echoes the tone of many of the new Republican leaders in Congress, including Fred Upton (R-MI), the new Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee with jurisdiction over the Clean Air Act, and Mike Simpson (R-ID), the new Chair of the EPA's appropriations subcommittee.  But the EPA is not about to back down from a critical fight to protect the health of Appalachian residents, who have heard enough of the coal industry’s lies from politicians.

November 12 2010


George Marshall: The Ingenious Ways We Avoid Believing in Climate Change

George Marshall, founder of the UK-based Climate Outreach Information Network, has a new three-part video series exploring ‘The Ingenious Ways We Avoid Believing in Climate Change.’  Marshall explores the psychology of climate change denial and climate communications, both in this video series and on his blog ClimateDenial.org. Check out the videos below.
Part one
Risk – and why we don’t feel threatened by climate change
Belief – why we can’t just accept the information and need to believe in it
Attention – how avoiding  talking about climate change is like avoiding talking about human rights atrocities
Part two –
Stories – the way we mediate information about climate change. The problem with polar bears and why human rights organisations are more interested in ice cream than climate change.

Part three
Distancing – the strategies we adopt to keep the information at arm’s length
Compartmentalising – how we can accept climate change and continue polluting behaviour
Positive Framing – how we seek to turn climate change into a personal advantage
Ethical Offsets – how we adopt the easiest behaviours as proof of our virtue
Cynicism- the commercial appropriation of climate change images
What happens next? - surprisingly - what happens next

August 23 2010


The New Yorker Exposes Koch Industries "Kochtopus" Behind Tea Party and Climate Denial Machine

The New Yorker has published a must-read article exposing the long reach of the "Kochtopus" network set up by Koch Industries to fuel the Tea Party and fund the climate denial machine.  

Written by investigative journalist Jane Mayer, the piece titled "Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging war against Obama" explores the decades-long efforts of brothers David and Charles Koch to manipulate and deceive the public on issues ranging from climate change to cancer-causing chemicals. 

Koch Industries has done far more than even ExxonMobil to fund the climate denial machine in recent years, and media coverage about numerous Tea Party and GOP candidates who deny the science of climate change confirm that the Kochs' reach has infected national politics in unprecedented ways.

The lengthy New Yorker article covers many interesting new angles about the Kochs' influence-peddling empire, and adds to a growing body of research about Koch Industries' anti-science, anti-democratic activities.

Building upon the research from Greenpeace's excellent Koch report earlier this year, Jane Mayer expands on Koch's role in funding climate deniers and anti-science think tanks, not to mention the Tea Party. 

Head over to The New Yorker to read the slimy details.   <!--break-->


June 09 2010


Sen. Lindsey Graham, Former Friend of Climate Legislation, Now Foe, and Acting Denier-ish

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has told reporters that he will vote against the climate bill that he helped to craft along with remaining co-sponsors Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT).  According to CongressDaily (sub. req'd), Graham says he doesn’t like “new changes [to the bill] that further restrict offshore oil and gas drilling and the bill's impact on the transportation sector.”

As David Roberts at Grist writes:
“Yes, you read that right: He says he's bailing from the bill because, in the wake of one of the greatest offshore oil drilling disasters of all time, a bill devoted to reducing climate pollution does not expand offshore oil drilling enough. Such is the Bizarro World of the U.S. Senate.”

Graham previously yanked his name off the bill out of anger surrounding Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) decision to prioritize immigration reform over climate and energy.  While some still hoped that Graham would suck it up and vote for whatever eventually became of the bill he helped create, he dashed all hopes of that happening today.

Instead, Graham says he now will only support a bill that allows polluting utilities more time to meet their emission reduction targets and completely exempts energy-intensive manufacturers and other industries from a carbon control plan.

He said Congress should “start over and scale down your ambitions.”

Actually, ambitions had already been scaled down to the point where the climate will not be saved under any current Congressional plan, by a long shot.

Senator Graham says he’ll work to cobble together a “hodgepodge of ideas out there that I think form a potential pathway forward.”

Not right now, of course.  That would demonstrate that he and other Republicans understand the urgency of addressing our oil addiction and solving climate change.

(So much for President Obama’s optimism that the oil spill would help remind all Americans of the need to work together to kick our oil addiction and to pass a science-based climate protection bill.  Graham’s move seems to indicate the exact opposite – any effort to limit further dangerous offshore drilling is simply too much for the Right.)

Sometime later in the future down the road a bit, maybe a single Republican (or gasp, more than one) might emerge to take up the mantle and remind the Right that they need a safe climate to pass on to their grandkids too.

That person is no longer Sen. Graham, who today even sounded like he had a couple cups of climate denier Kool-Aid for breakfast:
“I'm in the wing of the Republican Party that has no problem with trying to find ways to clean up our air. We can have a debate about global warming, and I'm not in the camp that believes man-made emissions are contributing overwhelmingly to global climate change, but I do believe the planet is heating up. But I am in the camp of believing that clean air is a noble purpose for every Republican to pursue. The key is to make it business friendly.”

Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones comments:
“So, he now says he doesn't think that man-made emissions are causing the planet to warm—but that the planet is warming. And that emissions are bad for us, just not bad in the way that most people who care about emissions think they're bad. Right? I give up.”

Last week the President boldly pledged that, "The next generation will not be held hostage to energy sources from the last century."

But as long as the Republicans can find a way to block action on climate and clean energy (and everything else), the next generation will surely remain hostage to dirty polluting fuels.

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