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The Denial Campaign

Listen to the People, Not the Polluters

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December 6, 2011

Amy Goodman | Truthdig

DURBAN, South Africa—High above the pavement, overlooking Durban’s famous South Beach and the pounding surf of the Indian Ocean, and just blocks from the United Nations Climate Change Conference, where up to 20,000 people gathered, seven activists fought against the wind to unfurl a banner that read “Listen to the People, Not the Polluters.” It was no simple task. Despite the morning sun and blue sky, the wind was ferocious, and the group hanging the banner wasn’t exactly welcome. They were with Greenpeace, hanging off the roof of the Protea Hotel Edward.

Inside, executives gathered at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), an organization that touts itself as “a CEO-led organization of forward-thinking companies that galvanizes the global business community to create a sustainable future for business, society and the environment.” Down at street level, as the police gathered and scores held signs and banners and sang in solidarity with the climbers, Kumi Naidoo lambasted the WBCSD, labeling it one of Greenpeace’s “Dirty Dozen.”

Naidoo is no stranger to action on the streets of Durban. While he is now the executive director of Greenpeace International, one of the largest and most visible global environmental organizations, in 1980, at the age of 15, he was one of millions of South Africans fighting against the racist apartheid regime. He was thrown out of high school and eventually had to go underground. He emerged in England, living in exile, and went on to become a Rhodes scholar. Naidoo has long struggled for human rights, against poverty and for action to combat climate change.

A colleague and I scrambled up to the roof to film as the seven banner-hanging activists were arrested. South African climber Michael Baillie, one of them, told me: “Our goal here today was to highlight how governments are being unduly influenced by a handful of corporations who are trying to adversely influence the climate negotiations that are happening here in Durban. They are holding the climate hostage.”

Later, at the U.N. conference inside the Alfred Luthuli International Conference Center, named after an early president-general of the African National Congress and the first African to win the Nobel Peace Prize, Naidoo told me about that morning’s action: “We are not opposed to the idea of dialogue with corporations, but clearly corporations are not actually moving as fast as we need them to move and, in fact, are actually holding us back. Therefore, we think that calling them out, naming and shaming them, is critically necessary so that people know why these climate talks here are not actually going as fast as we need them to go.”

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Koch Political Group Brags About Bullying GOP Lawmakers Into Denying Climate Science

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December 7, 2011

Marie Diamond | Think Progress

In its cover story this week, the National Journal explores a curious phenomenon: while the science supporting climate change has only gotten stronger, the onetime Republican consensus on the issue has fallen apart. The reason, quite simply, is the right-wing polluter Koch Industries and its political front group Americans for Prosperity.

As Political Correction notes, just three years ago, Republicans including Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) all expressed a belief in human-caused climate change. Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) even supported legislation to reduce carbon pollution. But all of these prominent leaders have since joined the rest of the Republican party “in a sudden and near-unified retreat to silence or denial.”

What’s changed for Republican politicians is “the influx into electoral politics of vast sums of money from energy companies and sympathetic interest groups”:

Republicans have long had close financial ties to the fossil-fuel industry, of course. Between 1998 and 2010, the oil-and-gas industry gave 75 percent of its $284 million in political contributions to Republicans. [...]

Among the most influential of the new breed of so-called super PACs is the tea party group Americans for Prosperity, founded by David and Charles Koch, the principal owners of Koch Industries, a major U.S. oil conglomerate. As Koch Industries has lobbied aggressively against climate-change policy, Americans for Prosperity has spearheaded an all-fronts campaign using advertising, social media, and cross-country events aimed at electing lawmakers who will ensure that the oil industry won’t have to worry about any new regulations.

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Fox Viewers Overwhelmingly Think We Should Prepare For Alien Invasion Before Fighting Climate Change

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August 19, 2011

Alex Seitz-Wald | Think Progress

A new (supposedly) NASA-funded study postulating that aliens may attack humans over climate change had all the ingredients for a perfect Fox faux controversy — it bolstered their anti-science narrative, painted their opponents as clownish radicals, and highlighted wasteful government spending on a supposedly liberal casue. Fox reported the “news from NASA” several times several times today, presenting it as official “taxpayer funded research.” A chyron on Fox and Friends read: “NASA: Global warming may provoke an [alien] attack.”

But as Business Insider pointed out, they’re “wrong” — “That report was not funded by NASA. It was written by an independent group of scientists and bloggers. One of those happens to work at NASA.” NASA distanced itself from the report as well, calling reports linking the agency to it “not true.” Host Megyn Kelly finally corrected the record this afternoon, saying, “I was making that up.”

But before she did, she was so bemused by the study that she directed her viewers to complete a poll on her website which asked how we should respond to the study: “Immediately increase efforts to curb greenhouse gases,” “Develop weapons to kill the Aliens FIRST,” or “Gently suggest scientists research how to create job.”

Not surprisingly, most suggested they research something else. But more than six times as many respondents (19 percent to 3 percent) said we should focus on building weapons to kill aliens before curbing greenhouse gases.

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Arctic Scientist Who Exposed Climate Threat to Polar Bear Is Suspended

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Suzanne Goldenberg | The Guardian UK

It was seen as one of the most distressing effects of climate change ever recorded: polar bears dying of exhaustion after being stranded between melting patches of Arctic sea ice.

But now the government scientist who first warned of the threat to polar bears in a warming Arctic has been suspended and his work put under official investigation for possible scientific misconduct.

Charles Monnett, a wildlife biologist, oversaw much of the scientific work for the government agency that has been examining drilling in the Arctic. He managed about $50m (£30.5m) in research projects.

Some question why Monnett, employed by the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, has been suspended at this moment. The Obama administration has been accused of hounding the scientist so it can open up the fragile region to drilling by Shell and other big oil companies.

"You have to wonder: this is the guy in charge of all the science in the Arctic and he is being suspended just now as an arm of the interior department is getting ready to make its decision on offshore drilling in the Arctic seas," said Jeff Ruch, president of the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. "This is a cautionary tale with a deeply chilling message for any federal scientist who dares to publish groundbreaking research on conditions in the Arctic."

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Nine of the 10 loudest climate-denying scientists tied to Exxon

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May 11, 2011

Sarah Laskow | Grist

Climate change deniers like to point out that they have scientists on their side, too. But an analysis of more than 900 papers supporting climate skepticism showed that about 20 percent of those papers came from the same 10 scientists, and nine of them, according to The Carbon Brief, have ties to ExxonMobil.

Eight of the scientists were directly connected to organizations that took money from Exxon, and one other only showed up on papers written with an Exxon-affiliated scientist. Only one of those 10 could claim to be independent of the oil giant. (He or she probably had other problems.)

Given Exxon's massive profits, it's not so surprising they could find nine people whose research fit nicely with the company's political agenda and underwrite their work. After all, the Catholic Church, flush with resources, also found plenty of people willing to offer scientific proof that the Earth was at the center of the universe.

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How climate change deniers led me to set up Skeptical Science website

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April 28, 2011

John Cook | Guardian UK

My exploration of climate change denial began innocuously enough – namely some vigorous discussions with sceptical family members. This provoked me to dig a little deeper into the science (no one wants to lose an argument with their father-in-law), but before I knew it, I had wandered into a bewildering labyrinth of raging online debates and bottomless pits of misinformation. How to make sense of it all?

At this point, my inner-computer geek asserted itself and I began constructing a database of climate 'sceptic' arguments. To cut to the truth of each argument, I made peer-reviewed science the ultimate authority. There's no higher standard than evidence-based research conducted by experts, which is then rigorously scrutinised by other experts. As I began to piece together the various pieces, a clear picture began to emerge.

The case for human-caused global warming is robust. It's based on many lines of independent evidence, all pointing to a single, consistent answer. This preponderance of evidence is why we have a consensus among scientists. It's not about tree-hugging or secret plans to control the world – it's rooted in empirical measurements and the laws of physics.

Patterns in the sceptic arguments began to emerge. Instead of considering all the evidence in their search for the truth, climate 'sceptics' refuse to accept evidence that humans are causing global warming. This is not scepticism but denial. To deny a scientific consensus based on so much evidence, you have to deny the scientific evidence.

There are a number of methods to deny evidence and believe me, I've seen them all. The simplest method is to avoid the evidence altogether by smearing climate scientists or indulging in conspiracy theories. This is what "climategate", the theft or leaking of scientists' emails, was all about. A smattering of quotes taken out of context from a handful of emails does nothing to change the vast weight of evidence showing global warming.

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Climate Change Understanding Falls Along Political Lines

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April 22, 2011

Jeanna Bryner | LiveScience

While public opinion on climate change might be polarized, it's a stark contrast to the scientific community's unified stance regarding the warming of our planet. The latest research finds public understanding of the issue falls along political party lines, with Republicans most often saying Earth's climate is either not changing or agreeing it is changing -- but that those changes are due to natural causes.

Democrats, on the other hand, most often agreed that the climate is changing now due mainly to human activities. The research is published in a report put out by the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute and announced this week.

"Although there remains active discussion among scientists on many details about the pace and effects of climate change, no leading science organization disagrees that human activities are now changing the Earth's climate," said study researcher Lawrence Hamilton, professor of sociology and senior fellow with the Carsey Institute. "The strong scientific agreement on this point contrasts with the partisan disagreement seen on all of our surveys."

The reason may have to do with where we get our information on climate change, which Hamilton suggests is not scientists, but instead through news media, political activists, friends and other nonscience sources.

"People increasingly choose news sources that match their own views. Moreover, they tend to selectively absorb information even from this biased flow, fitting it into their pre-existing beliefs," Hamilton said. (For instance, a study published in 2009 in the journal Communications Research showed that college students chose news sources that matched their views on abortion and gun ownership issues.)

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Here's How You Can Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

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April 20, 2011

Lee Dye | ABC News

Do you know your carbon footprint? Probably not, unless you are incredibly well informed about the many factors that determine how much impact you will leave on this planet during your journey through life. And now researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have added a new level of complexity to the problem.

One size does not fit all. What works for Uncle Billy in Plaintown, Nebraska, probably won't work for you.

Lifestyle, family income and even age all contribute to a wide variation in the size of an individual's carbon footprint.

Researchers Christopher Jones and Daniel Kammen of Berkeley's Energy and Resources Group have tried to make it easier for a family or an individual to come up with a reasonable estimate of how many tons of carbon they contribute each year.

"Everyone has a unique carbon footprint," said Jones, lead author of the study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The researchers studied all 50 states and 28 metropolitan areas to determine which strategies would work best in each of those areas.

The bottom line: it is possible to reduce a carbon footprint and save money at the same time. It may not be a huge difference, but multiplied by potentially millions of concerned citizens it could add up to a major impact.

Berkeley Scientists Create Online Carbon Calculator

Jones and Kammen have created a "carbon calculator" that is available to anyone at coolclimate.berkeley.edu. The calculator asks the visitor a few questions and determines which actions would likely lead to the greatest reduction in the size of the footprint.

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