Hundreds of Youth Activists Arrested at White House for Keystone XL Protest

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 03 Mar 2014 00:37:00 GMT

Arrests at White House398 youth activists were arrested Sunday in front of the White House, after staging a “die-in” protest against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The protesters marched from the Georgetown University site of President Barack Obama’s 2013 climate speech to the street in front of Secretary of State John Kerry’s house before arriving at the White House. Kerry is slated to make a decision on on whether the pipeline — which will unlock access to Canadian tar sands and have a carbon footprint equivalent to fifty new coal-fired power plants — is in the national interest. President Obama is responsible for the final determination.

“We are trying to escalate as much as we can,” Michael Greenberg, a Columbia University sophomore who helped organize Sunday’s protest, told the National Journal’s Ben Geman. “We are not playing softball with the president any more.”

“Young people are tired of watching a president who ran on the promise of ‘ending the tyranny of oil’ keep caving to the fossil fuel industry,” wrote Jamie Henn, Communications Director for 350 Action, at MSNBC.com

There is a Flickr set of XLDissent photographs, and Annie-Rose Strasser at Climate Progress has compiled photos from Twitter of the march and protest.

“An entire movement has thrown itself into in this Keystone fight, from local frontline groups to big national green organizations,” said 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben. “But this weekend shows the power and bravery of some of the most crucial elements: young people, and activists who understand the centrality of environmental justice.”

"Whoring" "Nazis": Climate Deniers Lash Out

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 21 Feb 2014 03:06:00 GMT

Heartland Institute Unabomber billboardIn response to mild action taken recently by the Obama administration to respond to the ongoing climate crisis, prominent climate deniers have lashed out. Their language is reminiscent of last year’s billboard campaign by the Heartland Institute comparing climate scientists to the Unabomber and terrorists and Chris Monckton calling young climate activists “Hitler Youth.”

In the Washington Post op-ed pages edited by Fred Hiatt, long-time climate science denier Charles Krauthammer repeated the refrain that climate science is a “religion” and then accuses President Obama and other climate realists of “whoring.”
Climate-change proponents have made their cause a matter of fealty and faith. For folks who pretend to be brave carriers of the scientific ethic, there’s more than a tinge of religion in their jeremiads. If you whore after other gods, the Bible tells us, “the Lord’s wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit” (Deuteronomy 11).

Sounds like California. Except that today there’s a new god, the Earth Mother. And a new set of sins — burning coal and driving a fully equipped F-150.

But whoring is whoring, and the gods must be appeased. So if California burns, you send your high priest (in carbon-belching Air Force One, but never mind) to the bone-dry land to offer up, on behalf of the repentant congregation, a $1 billion burnt offering called a “climate resilience fund.”

On his personal blog, Dr. Roy W. Spencer claimed that the use of the term “climate denier” is a Holocaust reference and calls climate scientists “global warming Nazis.”

I’m now going to start calling these people “global warming Nazis”.

The pseudo-scientific ramblings by their leaders have falsely warned of mass starvation, ecological collapse, agricultural collapse, overpopulation…all so that the masses would support their radical policies. Policies that would not voluntarily be supported by a majority of freedom-loving people.

“Like the Nazis, they advocate the supreme authority of the state (fascism),” Spencer continued, “which in turn supports their scientific research to support their cause (in the 1930s, it was superiority of the white race).”

When challenged, Spencer doubled down. “A couple people in comments have questioned my use of ‘Nazi’, which might be considered over the top. Considering the fact that these people are supporting policies that will kill far more people than the Nazis ever did — all in the name of what they consider to be a righteous cause — I think it is very appropriate. Again, I didn’t start the name-calling.”

Spencer is a Heartland Institute “expert”.

Update: Although the San Francisco Chronicle’s Debra Saunders’ tweet-based column misrepresents Hill Heat’s relationship to the Forecast the Facts #DontPublishLies campaign, her column does offer a reasonable interpretation of Krauthammer’s “whoring” commentary, in which the users of fossil fuels are whores after false gods who are being punished by drought, and President Obama is the defender of climate science and planet Earth.

Secretary of State John Kerry: Climate Change Is A 'Weapon of Mass Destruction'

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 17 Feb 2014 15:47:00 GMT

Speaking in Jakarta, Indonesia on February 16th, Secretary of State John Kerry described manmade global warming as a “weapon of mass destruction, perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.”

Kerry’s vision of the threat of climate change should mean a death knell for federal approval of fossil-fuel projects such as the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline and coal export terminals. He said that “governments and international financial institutions need to stop providing incentives for the use of energy sources like coal and oil.” Although fossil fuels are “currently cheap ways to power a society, at least in the near term,” Kerry went on, governments “have to factor in the cost of survival.”

Some other key quotes:

The fact is that climate change, if left unchecked, will wipe out many more communities from the face of the earth. And that is unacceptable under any circumstances – but is even more unacceptable because we know what we can do and need to do in order to deal with this challenge.
There’s a big set of opportunities in front of us. And that’s because the most important news of all: that climate change isn’t only a challenge. It’s not only a burden. It also presents one of the greatest economic opportunities of all time.
Coal and oil are currently cheap ways to power a society, at least in the near term. But I urge governments to measure the full cost to that coal and that oil, measure the impacts of what will happen as we go down the road. You cannot simply factor in the immediate costs of energy needs. You have to factor in the long-term cost of carbon pollution. And they have to factor in the cost of survival.
Today I call on all of you in Indonesia and concerned citizens around the world to demand the resolve that is necessary from your leaders. Speak out. Make climate change an issue that no public official can ignore for another day. Make a transition towards clean energy the only plan that you are willing to accept.
And if we come together now, we can not only meet the challenge, we can create jobs and economic growth in every corner of the globe. We can clean up the air, we can improve the health of people, we can have greater security; we can make our neighborhoods healthier places to live; we can help ensure that farmers and fishers can still make a sustainable living and feed our communities; and we can avoid disputes and even entire wars over oil, water, and other limited resources. We can make good on the moral responsibility we all have to leave future generations with a planet that is clean and healthy and sustainable for the future.

Kerry’s speech reflects remarks made by President Obama as a campaigner in 2007 and to students in Turkey in 2009. Kerry has a long history of urgency on the climate crisis, including repeated efforts to pass non-partisan climate legislation in the U.S. Senate.

Full transcript:

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Robert. Thank you very, very much. I don’t know. I think some of you were cheering twice for the same university. I don’t know. (Laughter.) It seemed to come from the same place anyway.

What a pleasure to be here at America, where we are looking at all of the air conditioning pipes running right through here. I love it. The spirit and feel of this place is very special and it’s wonderful to see our friends up here from Kalimantan and also everybody from Sumatra. Thank you very much for being with us. Can you hear me? Yeah! Wave! (Laughter.) Do a few selfies, everybody will – (laughter.) Anyway, it’s really a pleasure to be here. I see a lot of iPads up in the air sort of flashing away.

This is special. Ambassador Blake, thank you for doing this. Thank you all for coming here today. I want to welcome all of those of you who are tuning in elsewhere, some of you who are watching on a home webcast, and we’re delighted to have you here. It’s really a pleasure for me to be able to be back in Jakarta, back in Indonesia, where you have one of the richest ecosystems on Earth. And you live in a country that is at the top of the global rankings for both marine and terrestrial biodiversity, and you have a human ecosystem that includes some 300 ethnic groups, speaking at least 700 languages – extraordinary place.

But because of climate change, it is no secret that today, Indonesia is also one of the most vulnerable countries on Earth.

This year, as Secretary of State, I will engage in a series of discussions on the urgency of addressing climate change – particularly on the national security implications and the economic opportunities. And I want you to think about those. But I wanted to start right here, in Jakarta, because this city – this country – this region – is really on the front lines of climate change. It’s not an exaggeration to say to you that the entire way of life that you live and love is at risk. So let’s have a frank conversation about this threat and about what we, as citizens of the world, need to be able to do to address it.

Some time ago I travelled to another vibrant city – a city also rich with its own rich history – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And I was there, sitting in a big room, surrounded by representatives from about 170 countries. We listened as expert after expert after expert described the growing threat of climate change and what it would mean for the world if we failed to act. The Secretary General of the conference was – he was an early leader on climate change, a man by the name of Maurice Strong, and he told us – I quote him: “Every bit of evidence I’ve seen persuades me that we are on a course leading to tragedy.”

Well, my friends, that conference was in 1992. And it is stunning how little the conversation has really changed since then.

When I think about the array of global climate – of global threats – think about this: terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – all challenges that know no borders – the reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them. And it is a challenge that I address in nearly every single country that I visit as Secretary of State, because President Obama and I believe it is urgent that we do so.

And the reason is simple: The science of climate change is leaping out at us like a scene from a 3D movie. It’s warning us; it’s compelling us to act. And let there be no doubt in anybody’s mind that the science is absolutely certain. It’s something that we understand with absolute assurance of the veracity of that science. No one disputes some of the facts about it. Let me give you an example. When an apple separates from a tree, it falls to the ground. We know that because of the basic laws of physics. No one disputes that today. It’s a fact. It’s a scientific fact. Science also tells us that when water hits a low enough temperature, it’s going to turn into ice; when it reaches a high enough temperature, it’s going to boil. No one disputes that. Science and common sense tell us if you reach out and put your hand on a hot cook stove, you’re going to get burned. I can’t imagine anybody who would dispute that either.

So when thousands of the world’s leading scientists and five reports over a long period of time with thousands of scientists contributing to those reports – when they tell us over and over again that our climate is changing, that it is happening faster than they ever predicted, ever in recorded history, and when they tell us that we humans are the significant cause, let me tell you something: We need to listen.

When 97 percent of scientists agree on anything, we need to listen, and we need to respond.

Well, 97 percent of climate scientists have confirmed that climate change is happening and that human activity is responsible. These scientists agree on the causes of these changes and they agree on the potential effects. They agree that the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide contributes heavily to climate change. They agree that the energy sources that we’ve relied on for decades to fuel our cars and to heat our homes or to air condition our homes, to – all the things that provide us electricity like oil and coal – that these are largely responsible for sending those greenhouse gases up into the atmosphere. And the scientists agree that emissions coming from deforestation and from agriculture can also send enormous quantities of carbon pollution into our atmosphere.

And they agree that, if we continue to go down the same path that we are going down today, the world as we know it will change – and it will change dramatically for the worse.

So we know this is happening, and we know it with virtually the same certainty that we understand that if we reach out and touch that hot stove, we’re going to get burned. In fact, this is not really a complicated equation. I know sometimes I can remember from when I was in high school and college, some aspects of science or physics can be tough – chemistry. But this is not tough. This is simple. Kids at the earliest age can understand this.

Try and picture a very thin layer of gases – a quarter-inch, half an inch, somewhere in that vicinity – that’s how thick it is. It’s in our atmosphere. It’s way up there at the edge of the atmosphere. And for millions of years – literally millions of years – we know that layer has acted like a thermal blanket for the planet – trapping the sun’s heat and warming the surface of the Earth to the ideal, life-sustaining temperature. Average temperature of the Earth has been about 57 degrees Fahrenheit, which keeps life going. Life itself on Earth exists because of the so-called greenhouse effect. But in modern times, as human beings have emitted gases into the air that come from all the things we do, that blanket has grown thicker and it traps more and more heat beneath it, raising the temperature of the planet. It’s called the greenhouse effect because it works exactly like a greenhouse in which you grow a lot of the fruit that you eat here.

This is what’s causing climate change. It’s a huge irony that the very same layer of gases that has made life possible on Earth from the beginning now makes possible the greatest threat that the planet has ever seen.

And the results of our human activity are clear. If you ranked all the years in recorded history by average temperature, you’d see that 8 of the 10 hottest years have all happened within the last 10 years. Think about it this way: all 10 of the hottest years on record have actually happened since Google went online in 1998.

Now, that’s how fast this change is happening. And because the earth is getting hotter at such an alarming speed, glaciers in places like the Arctic are melting into the sea faster than we expected. And the sea is rising – slowly, but rising – and will rise to dangerous levels. Scientists now predict that by the end of the century, the sea could rise by a full meter. Now, I know that to some people a meter may not sound like a lot, but I’ll tell you this: it’s enough to put half of Jakarta underwater. Just one meter would displace hundreds of millions of people worldwide and threaten billions of dollars in economic activity. It would put countries into jeopardy. It would put countless – I mean, come to the local level – it would put countless homes and schools and parks, entire cities at risk.

Now, climate change also tragically means the end of some species. The changing sea temperature and the increasing amount of acidity – the acidity comes from coal-fired power plants and from the pollution, and when the rain falls the rain spills the acidity into the ocean. And it means that certain species of fish like cod or sardines can no longer live where they once lived. This is devastating for the world’s fisheries. And scientists predict that fisheries will be among the hardest hit. Just think about the fishermen who sell their fish catches at Pasar Ikan. Think about it. There are some studies that say that Indonesia’s fisheries could actually lose up to 40 percent of what they currently bring in – so a fisherman who usually has about a hundred fish to sell one day would suddenly only have 60 or so for sale. The impact is obvious.

Climate change also means water shortages. And if you have these enormous water shortages, then you have a change in the weather – because of the weather patterns, you’re going to wind up with droughts, the lack of water. And the droughts can become longer and more intense. In fact, this isn’t something around the corner – this is happening now.

We are seeing record droughts right now, and they’re already putting a strain on water resources around the world. We’ve already seen in various parts of the world – in Africa, for instance – people fighting each other over water, and we’ve seen more conflicts shaping up now over the limits of water. Back in the United States, President Obama just the other day visited California, where millions of people are now experiencing the 13th month of the worst drought the state has seen in 500 years. And no relief is in sight. What used to be a 100-year or a 500-year event is now repeating itself within 10 years.

Furthermore, climate change means fundamental transformations in agriculture worldwide. Scientists predict that, in some places, heat waves and water shortages will make it much more difficult for farmers to be able to grow the regular things we grow, like wheat or corn or rice. And obviously, it’s not only farmers who will suffer here – it’s the millions of people who depend on those crops that the farmers grow. For example, the British government research showed that climate change may have contributed to the famine that killed as many as 100,000 people in Somalia just back in 2010 and 2011.

And scientists further predict that climate change also means longer, more unpredictable monsoon seasons and more extreme weather events. Now, I’ll tell you, I can’t tell you – no weatherman on TV or anybody is going to be able to look at you and tell you – that one particular storm was absolutely the result of climate change. But scientists do predict that many more of these disastrous storms will occur if we continue down the current path. Ladies and gentlemen, I saw with my own eyes what the Philippines experienced in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan and I will tell you it would be absolutely devastating if that kind of storm were to become the normal thing that happens every single year in many places.

On top of the unspeakable humanitarian toll, the economic cost that follows a storm like that is absolutely massive. I don’t mean just the billions that it costs to rebuild. We’ve seen here in Asia how extreme weather events can disrupt world trade. For example, after serious flooding in 2011, global prices for external computer hard drives rose by more than 10 percent. Why? Because electronic manufacturing zones around Bangkok were out of commission, wiped out by the weather. So it’s not just about agriculture – it’s also about technology. It’s about our global economy. It’s about potentially catastrophic effects on the global supply chain.

Now, despite all of these realities – despite these facts – much of the world still doesn’t see or want to see the need to pursue a significant response to this threat. As recently as 2011, a survey of city officials here in Asia found that more than 80 percent of the population said they did not anticipate climate change hurting their cities’ economies.

And despite more than 25 years of scientific warning after scientific warning after scientific warning – despite all that, the call to arms that we heard back in Rio back in 1992 – despite that, we still haven’t globally summoned the urgency necessary to get the job done. And as a result of this complacency, last year the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere reached the highest point in human history – despite all the warnings.

Now, I know that these are some dramatic scientific facts – statistics. But think of it this way: If the worst-case scenario about climate change, all the worst predictions, if they never materialize, what will be the harm that is done from having made the decision to respond to it? We would actually leave our air cleaner. We would leave our water cleaner. We would actually make our food supply more secure. Our populations would be healthier because of fewer particulates of pollution in the air – less cost to health care. Those are the things that would happen if we happen to be wrong and we responded. But imagine if the 97 percent of those scientists are correct and the people who say no are wrong. Then the people who say no will have presented us with one of the most catastrophic, grave threats in the history of human life. That’s the choice here.

Notwithstanding the stark choices that we face, here’s the good thing: there is still time. The window of time is still open for us to be able to manage this threat. But the window is closing. And so I wanted to come to Jakarta to talk to you because we need people all over the world to raise their voices and to be heard. There is still time for us to significantly cut greenhouse emissions and prevent the very worst consequences of climate change from ever happening at all. But we need to move on this, and we need to move together now. We just don’t have time to let a few loud interests groups hijack the climate conversation. And when I say that, you know what I’m talking about? I’m talking about big companies that like it the way it is that don’t want to change, and spend a lot of money to keep you and me and everybody from doing what we know we need to do.

First and foremost, we should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific fact. Nor should we allow any room for those who think that the costs associated with doing the right thing outweigh the benefits. There are people who say, “Oh, it’s too expensive, we can’t do this.” No. No, folks. We certainly should not allow more time to be wasted by those who want to sit around debating whose responsibility it is to deal with this threat, while we come closer and closer to the point of no return.

I have to tell you, this is really not a normal kind of difference of opinion between people. Sometimes you can have a reasonable argument and a reasonable disagreement over an opinion you may have. This is not opinion. This is about facts. This is about science. The science is unequivocal. And those who refuse to believe it are simply burying their heads in the sand.

Now, President and I – Obama and I believe very deeply that we do not have time for a meeting anywhere of the Flat Earth Society. One of the arguments that we do hear is that it’s going to be too expensive to be able to address climate change. I have to tell you, that assertion could not be less grounded in fact. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. Serious analysts understand that the costs of doing nothing far outweigh the costs of investing in solutions now. You do not need a degree in economics or a graduate degree in business in order to understand that the cost of flooding, the cost of drought, the cost of famine, the cost of health care, the cost of addressing this challenge is simply far less – the costs of addressing this challenge are far less than the costs of doing nothing. Just look at the most recent analysis done by the World Bank, which estimates that by 2050, losses – excuse me one second – losses from flood damage in Asian ports – fishing ports, shipping ports – the losses in those ports alone could exceed $1 trillion annually unless we make big changes to the infrastructure of those ports.

Finally, if we truly want to prevent the worst consequences of climate change from happening, we do not have time to have a debate about whose responsibility this is. The answer is pretty simple: It’s everyone’s responsibility. Now certainly some countries – and I will say this very clearly, some countries, including the United States, contribute more to the problem and therefore we have an obligation to contribute more to the solution. I agree with that. But, ultimately, every nation on Earth has a responsibility to do its part if we have any hope of leaving our future generations the safe and healthy planet that they deserve.

You have a saying, I think, here in Indonesia, “Luka di kaki, sakit seluruh badan”. (Laughter.) I – for those that don’t speak as well as I do – (laughter) – it means “when there’s a pain in the foot, the whole body feels it.” Well, today in this interconnected world that we all live in, the fact is that hardship anywhere is actually felt by people everywhere. We all see it; we share it. And when a massive storm destroys a village and yet another and then another in Southeast Asia; when crops that used to grow abundantly no longer turn a profit for farmers in South America; when entire communities are forced to relocate because of rising tides – that’s happening – it’s not just one country or even one region that feels the pain. In today’s globalized economy, everyone feels it.

And when you think about it, that connection to climate change is really no different than how we confront other global threats.

Think about terrorism. We don’t decide to have just one country beef up the airport security and the others relax their standards and let bags on board without inspection. No, that clearly wouldn’t make us any safer.

Or think about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It doesn’t keep us safe if the United States secures its nuclear arsenal, while other countries fail to prevent theirs from falling into the hands of terrorists. We all have to approach this challenge together, which is why all together we are focused on Iran and its nuclear program or focused on North Korea and its threat.

The bottom line is this: it is the same thing with climate change. And in a sense, climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.

Now I mentioned earlier, a few minutes ago, that last December I went to Tacloban in the Philippines, not long after Typhoon Haiyan. I have to tell you: I’ve seen a lot of places in war and out of war and places that have been destroyed, but in all the time of my life, I don’t think I’ve ever seen devastation like. We saw cars and homes and lives turned upside-down, trees scattered like toothpicks all across a mountainside. And most devastating of all, so quickly, that storm stole the lives of more than 5,000 people – women, and children who never saw it coming.

The fact is that climate change, if left unchecked, will wipe out many more communities from the face of the earth. And that is unacceptable under any circumstances – but is even more unacceptable because we know what we can do and need to do in order to deal with this challenge.

It is time for the world to approach this problem with the cooperation, the urgency, and the commitment that a challenge of this scale warrants. It’s absolutely true that industrialized countries – yes, industrialized countries that produce most of the emissions – have a huge responsibility to be able to reduce emissions, but I’m telling you that doesn’t mean that other nations have a free pass. They don’t have a right to go out and repeat the mistakes of the past. It’s not enough for one country or even a few countries to reduce their emissions when other countries continue to fill the atmosphere with carbon pollution as they see fit. At the end of the day, emissions coming from anywhere in the world threaten the future for people everywhere in the world, because those emissions go up and then they move with the wind and they drop with the rain and the weather, and they keep going around and around and they threaten all of us.

Now, as I’ve already acknowledged, I am the first one to recognize the responsibility that the United States has, because we have contributed to this problem. We’re one of the number – we’re the number two emitter of greenhouse gas emissions. The number one is now China. The fact is that I recognize the responsibility that we have to erase the bad habits that we have, which we adopted, frankly, before we understood the consequences. Nobody set out to make this happen. This is the consequence of the industrial revolution and the transformation of the world, and many of the advances that we made that have changed the world for the better came from these steps. But now we do know the attendant consequences that are linked to these actions.

President Obama has taken the moral challenge head on. Over the past five years, the United States has done more to reduce the threat of climate change – domestically and with the help of our international partners – than in the 20 years before President Obama came to office.

Thanks to President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the United States is well on our way to meeting the international commitments to seriously cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and that’s because we’re going straight to the largest sources of pollution. We’re targeting emissions from transportation – cars trucks, rail, et cetera – and from power sources, which account together for more than 60 percent of the dangerous greenhouse gases that we release.

The President has put in place standards to double the fuel-efficiency of cars on American roads. And we’ve also proposed curbing carbon pollution from new power plants, and similar regulations are in the works to limit the carbon pollution coming from power plants that are already up and already running.

At the same time, Americans have actually doubled the amount of energy we are creating from wind, solar, and geothermal sources, and we’ve become smarter about the way we use energy in our homes and in our businesses. A huge amount of carbon pollution comes out of buildings, and it’s important in terms of the lighting, in terms of the emissions from those buildings, the air conditioning – all these kinds of things thought through properly can contribute to the solution. As a result, today in the United States, we are emitting less than we have in two decades.

We’re also providing assistance to international partners, like Indonesia. This year the Millennium Challenge Corporation launched the $332 million Green Prosperity program to help address deforestation and support innovation and clean energy throughout the country. We also implemented what we called “debt for nature” swaps, where we forgive some of the debt – and we have forgiven some of Indonesia’s debt – in return for investments in the conservation of forests in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

But the United States – simple reality: just as I talked about the scientific facts in the beginning, this is a fact – the United States cannot solve this problem or foot the bill alone. Even if every single American got on a bicycle tomorrow and carpooled – instead of – or carpooled to school instead of buses or riding in individual cars or driving, or rode their bike to work, or used only solar powers – panels in order to power their homes; if we each, every American, planted a dozen trees; if we eliminated all of our domestic greenhouse gas emissions – guess what? That still wouldn’t be enough to counter the carbon pollution coming from the rest of the world. Because today, if even one or two economies neglects to respond to this threat, it can counter, erase all of the good work that the rest of the world has done. When I say we need a global solution, I mean we need a global solution.

That is why the United States is prepared to take the lead in bringing other nations to the table. And this is something that President Obama is deeply committed to. And as Secretary of State, I am personally committed to making sure that this work is front and center in all of our diplomatic efforts. This week I will be instructing all of the chiefs of our missions at American embassies all over the world to make climate change a top priority and to use all the tools of diplomacy that they have at their disposal in order to help address this threat.

Now I have just come here today, I arrived last night from China, where I met with government leaders and we discussed our cooperation, our collaboration on this climate change front at length. The Chinese see firsthand every single day how dangerous pollution can be. I recently read that an 8-year-old girl was diagnosed with lung cancer because of all the air pollution that she was inhaling. Eight years old. And the devastating human toll pollution, it takes comes with a very hefty price tag: Air pollution already costs China as much as 8 percent of its GDP because two things happen as a result of the pollution: healthcare spending goes up and agricultural output goes down.

Now I am pleased to tell you that the leaders of China agree that it is time to pursue a cleaner path forward. And China is taking steps, and we have already taken significant steps together through the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group that we launched in Beijing last year.

Just yesterday, we announced a new agreement on an enhanced policy of dialogue that includes the sharing of information and policies so that we can help develop plans to deal with the UN climate change negotiation that takes place in Paris next year, in planning for the post-2020 limit to greenhouse gas emissions. These plans are a key input into UN negotiations to develop a new global climate agreement, and we have hopes that this unique partnership between China and the United States can help set an example for global leadership and global seriousness.

Now make no mistake: this is real progress. The U.S. and China are the world’s two largest economies. We are two of the largest consumers of energy, and we are two of the largest emitters of global greenhouse gases – together we account for roughly 40 percent of the world’s emissions.

But this is not just about china and the United States. It’s about every country on Earth doing whatever it can to pursue cleaner and healthier energy sources. And it’s about the all of us literally treating the pain in the foot, so the whole body hurts a little less.

Now this is going to require us to continue the UN negotiations and ultimately finalize an ambitious global agreement in Paris next year. And nations need to also be pursuing smaller bilateral agreements, public-private partnerships, independent domestic initiatives – you name it. There’s nothing to stop any of you from helping to push here, to pick things that you can do in Indonesia. It’s time for us to recognize that the choices the world makes in the coming months and years will directly and substantially affect our quality of life for generations to come.

Now I tell you, I’m looking out at a young audience here. All of you are the leaders of the future. And what we’re talking about is what kind of world are we going to leave you. I know that some of what I’m talking about here today, it seems awful big, and some of it may even like it’s out of reach to you. But I have to tell you it’s not. One person in one place can make a difference – by talking about how they manage a building, how they heat a school, what kind of things you do for recycling, transportation you use. What you don’t – I think what you don’t hear enough about today, unfortunately, and I’ve saved it for the end, because I want you to leave here feeling, wow, we can get something done. There’s a big set of opportunities in front of us. And that’s because the most important news of all: that climate change isn’t only a challenge. It’s not only a burden. It also presents one of the greatest economic opportunities of all time.

The global energy market is the future. The solution to climate change is energy policy. And this market is poised to be the largest market the world has ever known. Between now and 2035, investment in the energy sector is expected to reach nearly $17 trillion. That’s more than the entire GDP of China and India combined.

The great technology – many of you have your smart phones or your iPads, et cetera, here today – all of this technology that we use so much today was a $1 trillion market in the 1990s with 1 billion users. The energy market is a $6 trillion market with, today, 6 billion users, and it’s going to grow to maybe 9 billion users over the course of the next 20, 30, 40 years. The solution to climate change is as clear as the problem. The solution is making the right choices on energy policy. It’s as simple as that. And with a few smart choices, we can ensure that clean energy is the most attractive investment in the global energy sector.

To do this, governments and international financial institutions need to stop providing incentives for the use of energy sources like coal and oil. Instead, we have to make the most of the innovative energy technology that entrepreneurs are developing all over the world – including here in Indonesia, where innovative companies like Sky Energy are building solar and battery storage and projects that can help power entire villages.

And we have to invest in new technology that will help us bring renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydro power not only to the communities where those resources are abundant –but to every community and to every country on every continent.

I am very well aware that these are not easy choices for any country to make – I know that. I’ve been in politics for a while. I know the pull and different powerful political forces. Coal and oil are currently cheap ways to power a society, at least in the near term. But I urge governments to measure the full cost to that coal and that oil, measure the impacts of what will happen as we go down the road. You cannot simply factor in the immediate costs of energy needs. You have to factor in the long-term cost of carbon pollution. And they have to factor in the cost of survival. And if they do, then governments will find that the cost of pursuing clean energy now is far cheaper than paying for the consequences of climate change later.

Make no mistake: the technology is out there. None of this is beyond our capacity.

I am absolutely confident that if we choose to, we will meet this challenge. Remember: we’re the ones – we, all of us, the world – helped to discover things like penicillin and we eradicated smallpox. We found a way to light up the night all around the world with a flip of the switch and spread that technology to more than three quarters of the world’s population. We came up with a way for people to fly and move from one place to another in the air between cities and across oceans, and into outer space. And we put the full wealth of human knowledge into a device we can hold in our hand that does all of the thinking that used to take up a whole room almost this size.

Human ingenuity has long proven its ability to solve seemingly insurmountable challenges. It is not a lack of ability that is a problem. It is a lack of political resolve that is standing in our way. And I will tell you as somebody who ran for elected office, when you hear from the people, when the people make it clear what they want and what they think they need, then people in politics respond.

Today I call on all of you in Indonesia and concerned citizens around the world to demand the resolve that is necessary from your leaders. Speak out. Make climate change an issue that no public official can ignore for another day. Make a transition towards clean energy the only plan that you are willing to accept.

And if we come together now, we can not only meet the challenge, we can create jobs and economic growth in every corner of the globe. We can clean up the air, we can improve the health of people, we can have greater security; we can make our neighborhoods healthier places to live; we can help ensure that farmers and fishers can still make a sustainable living and feed our communities; and we can avoid disputes and even entire wars over oil, water, and other limited resources. We can make good on the moral responsibility we all have to leave future generations with a planet that is clean and healthy and sustainable for the future.

The United States is ready to work with you in this endeavor. With Indonesia and the rest of the world pulling in the same direction, we can meet this challenge, the greatest challenge of our generation, and we can create the future that everybody dreams of.

Thank you all very much for letting me be with you. Thank you.

Google's Republican Lobbyists and Representatives

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 24 Jan 2014 08:22:00 GMT

Niki Fenwick
Google ex-McCain PR representative Niki Christoff
An article in the Wall Street Journal about Google’s rapid rightward shift goes beyond the hire of former Republican Rep. Susan Molinari (R-N.Y.) as their chief lobbyist:
Starting in 2010, when the antitrust case first started appearing on the horizon, Google started hiring Republican lobbyists and communications staff.

To head up its Washington office, Google in 2012 hired former Republican congresswoman Susan Molinari. Niki Christoff, a veteran of Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, was moved to Washington last year to head up Google’s communications in the capital.

Before that, Google hired Pablo Chavez, a former general counsel for Mr. McCain, who recently left for LinkedIn; Seth Webb, a former staffer for the Republican Speaker of the House; and Jill Hazelbaker, who also worked for a string of Republican candidates.

Today, Google’s in-house lobbyists are evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, says a person familiar with the situation.

Its spending on lobbying rose from around $1.5 million in 2007 to $14 million in 2013.

Jill Hazelbaker, Google’s head of corporate communications from 2010 to 2013, was the subject of a 2011 profile in Business Insider which explained her meteoric rise as a top member of the 2008 John McCain campaign. Hazelbaker’s early Internet politics credentials came from trolling Democrats under assumed names as a member of the Tom Kean Jr. senatorial campaign in New Jersey in 2006. In 2013, she moved to the United Kingdom to head Google’s European lobbying efforts. Her Twitter account, @jillhazelbaker, is protected.

Seth Webb was hired by Google from his Republican House staff position in 2009, when their DC operation was still primarily Democratic leaning technocrats.

Nicole “Niki” Christoff (Fenwick) was a policy liaison for the 2008 John McCain campaign, starting at McCain’s Straight Talk America in March 2006. She was previously an associate policy director at the Republican polling shop Luntz Research Companies, and worked at Baker Botts LLP in Washington, DC as a trial attorney specializing in criminal defense. Christoff graduated from Harvard Law School in 2003 and Harvard College in 2000. Her Twitter account, @nikichristoff, is protected.

The WSJ article did not mention Rachel Whetstone, Google’s senior vice president of communications and public policy since 2005, a Tory scion and one of the “100 most powerful women in Britain” in 2013. Her husband Steve Hilton was the “Rasputin-like” chief strategy advisor to prime minister David Cameron.

The WSJ reporters Thomas Catan, Brody Mullins, and Gautam Nagesh also note that Google’s contributions have shifted from majority Democratic to majority Republican:
In the 2008 election cycle, Google’s political-action committee, funded by employee donations, supported Democrats, 58% to 42%, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. In the 2012 cycle, Republicans took a slight lead, and in the current election cycle, donations to the parties are running about even.

Jeff Bezos' Washington Post Hires Volokh Conspiracy Theorists

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 22 Jan 2014 06:42:00 GMT

Jeff Bezos visits the Washington PostThe Volokh Conspiracy, a blog of climate conspiracy theorists, is now part of the Washington Post.

When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos took over the Washington Post, some climate activists hoped he would close down the Post’s editorial support for climate-science deniers such as George Will and strengthen the influential paper’s focus on the climate threat.

But it was not to be.

In the first major move since the acquisition, Bezos has replaced liberal “wunderkind” blogger Ezra Klein with the corporate-right lawyer blog Volokh Conspiracy, founded by Eugene Volokh in 2002.

The Volokh Conspiracy bloggers are aptly named, as they have promoted conspiracy theories about anthropogenic climate change and the scientists who study it.

“As these stories make clear, several of the scientists whose e-mail and other documents were disclosed engaged in both unethical and illegal conduct.”
Jonathan H. Adler, former Competitive Enterprise Institute environmental director and Heartland Institute contributor, 1/30/10
“JunkScience.com, run by the Cato Institute’s prolific Steven Milloy, is a year-round antidote to the unscientific panics incited by big government and the scientists who love it.”
Dave Kopel, Independence Institute, 12/6/04
“The recent Climategate scandal underlines the dangers of like-minded small groups falsifying evidence and excluding opposing views.”
Ilya Somin, Cato Institute Adjunct Scholar, 12/21/09
“Whatever the exact state of climate science, the marriage of the authority of science and the authority of the United Nations plainly corrupted a non-negligible number of the climate scientists. Not, let us be clear, that it took very much to sway scientists who were offered what appeared to them to direct global economic policy and win Nobel prizes.”
Kenneth Anderson, Hoover Institution Visiting Fellow, 2012
“All of their examples of people supposedly ‘reinventing’ the climate change debate were people who were convinced that we needed to do something now to stop or reverse global warming, which is pretty much what that side of the debate has wanted all along. . . . We may well be causing climate change, but it’s not clear there’s anything we as individuals or we as a country are really equipped to do about it.”
Will Baude, 6/22/13
“Hoffer is correct that we now have enough data to know that most prior climate models are wrong.”
Jim Lindgren, 1/3/14
“Remember, people are usually at least somewhat circumspect in writing emails to professional colleagues around the world. Thus, is it likely that the corruption in this subfield of climatology is LESS serious or MORE serious than the scientists would disclose to their colleagues in their own emails?”
Jim Lindgren, 12/8/09
“While the wider world is just beginning to realize that the subfield of paleoclimatology is in shambles (and has been for the last decade), scientists in related disciplines are increasingly fighting back against the shoddy work and orthodoxy that was foisted on them.”
Jim Lindgren, 12/7/09
“The other moment in the debate that struck me as quite strange was Biden’s comment that he is certain that all global warming is manmade and that manmade global warming is what is melting the polar icecap . . .

Palin’s answer was much more nuanced and consistent with science (not to mention being absolutely correct about what to do it about it as a policy matter, focus on the impacts and the mix of policies to respond to climate change) . . .

It is obvious that there are cyclical temperature changes on the planet (in addition to other natural variances, such as sun spots, cloud cover, etc.). We have had ice ages and tropicl [sic] periods. I have tried to find some nuance or qualification in Biden’s statement that he understands the difference between ‘all’ and ‘most’ or the possible role of natural causes, but I don’t see it. He seems to just be wrong about his understanding of what the science actually says on this point.”

Todd Zywicki, Competitive Enterprise Institute Director, Institute for Humane Studies Director and Charles G Koch Alumni Award Recipient, Goldwater Institute Senior Fellow, Mercatus Center Senior Scholar, Property and Environment Research Center Fellow, 9/28/08

Commentary: Obama Does Not Believe Global Warming a Civil-War or World-War-II Scale Crisis

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 21 Jan 2014 05:34:00 GMT

Barack ObamaPresident Barack Obama evidently does not believe that fossil-fueled global warming is a nation-threatening crisis, despite repeated scientific warnings that a full-scale mobilization must be enacted now to avert global catastrophe. At the top of his list for accomplishments before the end of his term, instead of a redirection of the national and global economy towards rapid decarbonization, is the goal of beginning “the process of rebuilding the middle class and the ladders into the middle class.”

In response to The New Yorker’s David Remnick’s question of “what he felt he must get done before leaving office,” Obama said:
I think we are fortunate at the moment that we do not face a crisis of the scale and scope that Lincoln or F.D.R. faced.

Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were president at the start of the Civil War and World War II, respectively.

Obama’s presidency has been marked by a backing away from a sense of urgency about the climate crisis. “Obviously there’s great urgency in dealing with a threat to the entire planet,” Obama said as a candidate in 2007. In an October 2007 speech, he called global warming “the planet’s greatest threat,” “the issue that will determine the very future of life on this Earth,” “a fact that threatens our very existence,” and “the most urgent challenge of this era.”

“Global warming is not a someday problem, it is now,” he said. He pledged “to phase out a carbon-based economy that’s causing our changing climate.” “As President, I will lead this commitment,” he promised.

Six and half years later, global carbon pollution has continued to rise rapidly, fueled in no small part by Obama’s “all of the above” support for increased oil drilling, fracking, and coal mining.

After years of near-to-total silence on the ravages of a polluted climate to the nation, Obama started his second term with a new promise for action.

“As a President, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act,” he said in June 2013.

It looks he doesn’t actually feel the urgency of his own words.

Enviro Coalition Letter Calls on Obama to Drop 'All of the Above' Strategy for 'Carbon-Reducing Clean Energy' Strategy

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 17 Jan 2014 04:49:00 GMT

In a letter sent to President Barack Obama on Thursday, the leaders of the nation’s top environmental organizations aggressively criticized his “all of the above” energy strategy. The 16 groups, ranging from environmental justice organizations such as the Native American Rights Fund to the corporate-friendly Environmental Defense Fund and the progressive advocacy group Voices for Progress, praised the president’s “goal of cutting carbon pollution” but sharply rebuked the White House’s support for expanded fossil-fuel extraction:
An “all of the above” strategy is a compromise that future generations can’t afford. It fails to prioritize clean energy and solutions that have already begun to replace fossil fuels, revitalize American industry, and save Americans money. It increases environmental injustice while it locks in the extraction of fossil fuels that will inevitably lead to a catastrophic climate future. It threatens our health, our homes, our most sensitive public lands, our oceans and our most precious wild places. Such a policy accelerates development of fuel sources that can negate the important progress you’ve already made on lowering U.S. carbon pollution, and it undermines U.S. credibility in the international community.

The groups made special note of Obama’s announcement in June that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would be judged for the “net effects” of its “impact on climate.” The Keystone XL pipeline is incompatible with the 2°ree;C warming limit to which Obama has committed the United States, but the administration may attempt to use a different, high-emissions scenario as the baseline against which to judge the pipeline’s “net effects.”

The environmentalists concluded with the recommendation that the White House’s “all of the above” strategy be replaced with a “carbon-reducing clean energy” strategy:
We believe that a climate impact lens should be applied to all decisions regarding new fossil fuel development, and urge that a “carbon-reducing clean energy” strategy rather than an “all of the above” strategy become the operative paradigm for your administration’s energy decisions.

The full text of the letter is below.

American Rivers * Clean Water Action * Defenders of Wildlife * Earthjustice *
Energy Action Coalition * Environment America * Environmental Defense Fund *
Friends of the Earth * League of Conservation Voters * National Audubon Society *
National Wildlife Federation * Native American Rights Fund *
Natural Resources Defense Council * Oceana * Physicians for Social Responsibility *
Population Connection * Sierra Club * Voices for Progress

January 16, 2014

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D. C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We applaud the actions you have taken to reduce economy-wide carbon pollution and your commitment last June “to take bold action to reduce carbon pollution” and “lead the world in a coordinated assault on climate change.” We look forward to continuing to work with you to achieve these goals.

In that speech, you referenced that in the past you had put forward an “all of the above” energy strategy, yet noted that we cannot just drill our way out of our energy and climate challenge. We believe that continued reliance on an “all of the above” energy strategy would be fundamentally at odds with your goal of cutting carbon pollution and would undermine our nation’s capacity to respond to the threat of climate disruption. With record-high atmospheric carbon concentrations and the rising threat of extreme heat, drought, wildfires and super storms, America’s energy policies must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, not simply reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

We understand that the U.S. cannot immediately end its use of fossil fuels and we also appreciate the advantages of being more energy independent. But an “all of the above” approach that places virtually no limits on whether, when, where or how fossil fuels are extracted ignores the impacts of carbon-intense fuels and is wrong for America’s future. America requires an ambitious energy vision that reduces consumption of these fuels in order to meet the scale of the climate crisis.

An “all of the above” strategy is a compromise that future generations can’t afford. It fails to prioritize clean energy and solutions that have already begun to replace fossil fuels, revitalize American industry, and save Americans money. It increases environmental injustice while it locks in the extraction of fossil fuels that will inevitably lead to a catastrophic climate future. It threatens our health, our homes, our most sensitive public lands, our oceans and our most precious wild places. Such a policy accelerates development of fuel sources that can negate the important progress you’ve already made on lowering U.S. carbon pollution, and it undermines U.S. credibility in the international community.

Mr. President, we were very heartened by your commitment that the climate impacts of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would be “absolutely critical” to the decision and that it would be contrary to the “national interest” to approve a project that would “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” We believe that a climate impact lens should be applied to all decisions regarding new fossil fuel development, and urge that a “carbon-reducing clean energy” strategy rather than an “all of the above” strategy become the operative paradigm for your administration’s energy decisions.

In the coming months your administration will be making key decisions regarding fossil fuel development — including the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking on public lands, and drilling in the Arctic ocean — that will either set us on a path to achieve the clean energy future we all envision or will significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. We urge you to make climate impacts and emission increases critical considerations in each of these decisions.

Mr. President, we applaud you for your commitment to tackle the climate crisis and to build an economy powered by energy that is clean, safe, secure, and sustainable.

Sincerely,

Wm. Robert Irvin
President and CEO
American Rivers

Robert Wendelgass
President
Clean Water Action

Jamie Rappaport Clark
President and CEO
Defenders of Wildlife

Trip Van Noppen
President
Earthjustice

Maura Cowley
Executive Director
Energy Action Coalition

Margie Alt
Executive Director
Environment America

Fred Krupp
President
Environmental Defense Fund

Eric Pica
President
Friends of the Earth

John Seager
President
Population Connection
Gene Karpinski
President
League of Conservation Voters

David Yarnold
President and CEO
National Audubon Society

Larry J. Schweiger
President & CEO
National Wildlife Federation

John Echohawk
Executive Director
Native American Rights Fund

Frances Beinecke
President
Natural Resources Defense Council

Andrew Sharpless
Chief Executive Officer
Oceana

Catherine Thomasson, MD
Executive Director
Physicians for Social Responsibility

Michael Brune
Executive Director
Sierra Club

Sandy Newman
President
Voices for Progress

Koch Brothers Support Disaster Relief Effort for W. Va. Chemical Spill from Koch Industries Distributor

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 13 Jan 2014 02:13:00 GMT

AFP staff deliver water to victims of coal industryIn the wake of a coal-industry chemical spill that contaminated the water supply of over 300,000 West Virginians, a Koch Industries political operation stepped in. The spill into Elk River of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM), a coal washing agent manufactured by Eastman Chemical, came from the facilities of Freedom Industries. Freedom Industries, a closely held private company, distributes coal-mining chemicals including those made by Koch Industries subsidiary Georgia-Pacific Chemicals.

Americans for Prosperity, the group that serves as the organizing wing for the Koch brothers’ extensive political efforts, alerted its national list soon after the coal-industry disaster crippled West Virginia. In an email with the electronic signature of AFP President Tim Phillips, describes the “disaster” caused by the Koch Industries chemical distributor as one that had “no warnings”:
A few days ago, there was a terrible incident in West Virginia, which has left more than 300,000 of our fellow citizens without safe, useable water. The water in the nine affected counties isn’t even safe after boiling! Currently there isn’t a timeline for when the water will be safe again. . . .

There were no warnings for this disaster. There was no time to prepare once the emergency struck.

The efforts of AFP staff to distribute “clean water and supplies into West Virginia to help with relief efforts” has been promoted on conservative media.

“It is so exciting to serve our fellow West Virginians at this crucial time of need,” explained Wendy McCuskey, the newly minted West Virginia state director of Americans for Prosperity Foundation, in a press release. “We are so happy to be able to meet their need for clean water and ease this very difficult time for West Virginia families.”

The message from AFP President Phillips raise a central question: Why where there “no warnings for this disaster” and “no time to prepare”?

“Few chemicals are actually regulated by safe-drinking-water or other water-quality rules,” the Charleston Gazette’s Ken Ward Jr. wrote, “and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has tested only about 200 of the 84,000 chemicals in the agency’s inventory.” In addition, the Freedom Industries facility has benefited from West Virginia’s notoriously lax oversight of the coal industry.

Koch Industries and its subsidiaries have a long record of opposing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency efforts to tighten water quality standards for stream-dumping and to update the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Chemical Substance Inventory.

At Slate, reporter Dave Weigel sardonically noted the Koch group’s charitable role, writing “No one who gives away free water can be evil.”

From: Tim Phillips – Americans for Prosperity
Date: Sat, Jan 11, 2014 at 4:57 PM
Subject: West Virginians need your help

I need your help.

A few days ago, there was a terrible incident in West Virginia, which has left more than 300,000 of our fellow citizens without safe, useable water. The water in the nine affected counties isn’t even safe after boiling! Currently there isn’t a timeline for when the water will be safe again.

There are thousands of suffering families, young mothers, and elderly folks who need your help. Fortunately, Americans have a great history of coming together during times of emergency to help those in need. This is one of those times. AFP Foundation, our sister organization, has already sent additional staff loaded with clean water and supplies into West Virginia to help with relief efforts, and hope you’ll help us bring aid to those in need.

Here are some ways you can help:
  • Donate to our friends at the American Red Cross.
  • Send supplies, such as water, baby wipes, and hand sanitizer to:
    113 Lakeview Drive, Charleston, WV 25313

Many of our state chapters have begun putting together relief kits to send to West Virginia. Please contact your state director, or email us at info@afphq.org and we’ll get you in touch with the best person. There were no warnings for this disaster. There was no time to prepare once the emergency struck. Experts suggest that the best way to prepare is with a 72-hour kit that includes water, food, and toiletries. As much as we hope it doesn’t, an unexpected emergency could happen anywhere, so please take the time today to set aside enough supplies for you and your family for at least 72 hours. For more information on how you can prepare you and your family for emergencies, go here.

Thank you for all you do to help your fellow Americans. I know the citizens of West Virginia will appreciate your assistance.

Sincerely,

TimPhillipssig

AFP President Tim Phillips

P.S. Send an email to info@afphq.org, and we’ll let you know what supplies are needed in West Virginia.

Top Climate Science Conference Sponsored By Top Climate Polluters

Posted by Brad Johnson Sat, 28 Dec 2013 19:55:00 GMT

AGU, Sponsored By ExxonThe annual conference of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the top meeting of the world’s climate science community, enjoys the “generous support” of the world’s largest greenhouse polluters, including ExxonMobil, Chevron, and BP. The AGU’s annual meeting in San Francisco each December is the world’s largest gathering of earth scientists, at more than 20,000 attendees, ranging from physical climatologists to petroleum geologists. This December 9-13, AGU’s sponsors were prominently displayed on its website and on posters in the conference halls with the headline, “Thank You To Our Sponsors”:

AGU would like to take the time to recognize the generous support from all of the sponsors of the 2013 Fall Meeting and the events at the meeting.

The top sponsor credited was ExxonMobil; second-tier sponsors included BP, Chevron, and drilling services giant Schlumberger.

The prominent “thank you” given to the companies that profit from the disruption of our climate system received condemnation from some public commenters.

“Nausea-inducing greenwashing: Pukewashing,” tweeted climate and energy blogger Lou Grinzo.

“The cognitive dissonance is mind-boggling,” wrote geology student Ryan Brown.

The union recognizes that the sponsorship is designed to influence its attendees; in promotional materials AGU says sponsorship will “build your brand and create [a] positive link in the attendees’ minds” and “recruit new scientists, enhance your corporate image, show support, and raise your visibility among the scientific community.”

In August 2013, AGU declared that “human-induced climate change requires urgent action.” The AGU Climate Change Position Statement clearly implicates “fossil fuel burning” as the dominant factor in “threats to public health, water availability, agricultural productivity (particularly in low‐latitude developing countries), and coastal infrastructure,” and “no uncertainties are known that could make the impacts of climate change inconsequential.”

The statement was developed by a 14-person panel chaired by Texas A&M climatologist Gerald North. Thirteen of the 14 members voted to approve the strong statement; famous climate skeptic Roger Pielke Sr. dissented. (Pielke’s son, Roger Pielke Jr., is a political scientist who argues as a pundit that climate change does not require societal action.)

Hill Heat sent email messages to the members of the AGU panel asking if they had concerns about AGU accepting funding from the fossil-fuel industry, including companies that have an extensive history of funding attacks on climate science and political opposition to the regulation of carbon emissions.

“Frankly, I have never thought about this,” Dr. North, the panel chair, replied. He noted that many AGU scientists are employed by the extractive industries, and said he would be concerned only if he had seen the AGU’s work being corrupted by fossil-fuel money:

Many AGU members work in the oil and gas industries as well as the coal industry. I suppose the AGU could be corrupted by these elements, although I have no evidence (that I know of) of this having happened in the past. AGU Committees I have served on have shown no evidence of nefarious inputs or pressures. Usually, the first meeting of an AGU Committee there is a conflict of interest session in which all tell of any matters that might be construed as a conflict of interest. This was the case with the Committee I chaired.

“So far I have no reason to object to these contributions so long as AGU Committees can operate without interference,” Dr. North continued. “It’s a little like universities taking such donations. For example, my university Texas A&M accepts many contributions from them and I have never felt any pressure from any university official or Texas government official. There has to be a ‘wall’ of separation between donors and what is done with their money. For example, at the University donors of endowed chairs have no say in who the chair goes to.”

Fellow panelist Kevin Trenberth, Distinguished Senior Scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., related a similar sentiment to Hill Heat.

“Fossil fuels exist and will continue to do so,” Trenberth wrote. “Many of the companies have diversified into other areas of energy. So that alone is not a reason for inappropriateness. In addition a big part of AGU is geophysics and geology. Several companies have also declared that they have good intentions and no longer fund mis-information. I am not sure how well that bears up to scrutiny. But in general, yes, AGU should accept funding from the fossil fuel industry, as long as it has no strings attached. And they can use the funds to push back if warranted.”

Sylvia Tognetti, an environmental science and policy consultant who is not an AGU member, told Hill Heat she does not believe it is appropriate to AGU to accept fossil-fuel industry sponsorship. “I expect that a campaign on this issue would be a difficult one, given the schizophrenic relationship that exists between science and policy,” she wrote in an e-mail. “But bringing attention to these contradictions might just provoke an important dialogue on the role of science for the public good.”

According the AGU Fall Meeting Sponsorship Prospectus, “Sponsorship at the AGU Fall Meeting is a cost-effective way of branding your company, your products, and your services to more than 20,000 geophysical and space scientists.” The prospectus notes that “Sponsorship can increase your corporate/product awareness, build your brand, and create positive link in the attendees’ minds between you and an activity in support of their science.” The top “gold” sponsorship level costs a minimum of $15,000.

In the 2012 Fall Meeting Sponsorship Prospectus, AGU says that Chevron and Exxon Mobil are companies which “realize the benefit of sponsorship with the AGU,” as a “cost effective, high profile tool your company can use to recruit new scientists, enhance your corporate image, show support, and raise your visibility among the scientific community.”

The AGU conference also advised climate scientists on effective communication, with presentations such as “400ppm CO2 : Communicating Climate Science Effectively with Naomi Oreskes and multiple presentations by John Cook, Stephan Lewandowsky, Susan Hassol, and Dana Nuccitelli.

New White House Adviser John Podesta: 'Unconventional Sources of Fossil Fuels Cannot Be Our Energy Future'

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 10 Dec 2013 22:03:00 GMT

John Podesta, an advocate for strong climate action and opponent of the exploitation of unconventional fossil fuels, is joining the White House as a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, the New York Times reports.

In a 2010 keynote address at Canada 2020’s “‘Greening’ The Oil Sands: Debunking the Myths and Confronting the Realities,” a Canadian conference promoting tar sands extraction, Podesta apologized for being the “skunk” at the “garden party” as he laid out his profound skepticism about “green” tar sands, comparing it to “clean coal” and “error-free deepwater drilling.”

Below are some key excerpts:

Today, there is almost unanimous agreement that we can add another cost to dependence on high-carbon fuels. And this one is beyond our ability to calculate.

Failing to curb our dependence on fossil fuels will create a world dramatically different than the one we’re currently accustomed to; one in which sea level rise, extreme weather, and reduced resource supplies will not only cause irreparable harm to ecosystems around the globe, but also tremendous human suffering and conflict.

Oil extraction from tar sands is polluting, destructive, expensive, and energy intensive. These things are facts. I think suggesting this process can come close to approximating being “greened” is largely misleading, or far too optimistic, or perhaps both. It stands alongside clean coal and error-free deepwater drilling as more PR than reality.

Oil sands can’t simply be as good as conventional oil. We need to reduce fossil fuel use and accelerate the transition to cleaner technologies, in the transportation sector and elsewhere.

We either rapidly green the world’s engine of economic growth, or we suffer consequences that are very difficult to even fully comprehend, in addition to those we already tolerate. Unconventional sources of fossil fuels cannot be our energy future.

In January 2013, Podesta announced his opposition to Arctic drilling, saying in a Bloomberg op-ed that “there is no safe and responsible way to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean”:
Now, following a series of mishaps and errors, as well as overwhelming weather conditions, it has become clear that there is no safe and responsible way to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean. . . The Obama administration shouldn’t issue any new permits to Shell this year and should suspend all action on other companies’ applications to drill in this remote and unpredictable region.

“Moving beyond fossil fuel pollution will involve exciting work, new opportunities, new products and innovation, and stronger communities,” Podesta said in 2009 Congressional testimony.

In contrast, Podesta has laid out an optimistic vision for smart grids, utility-scale renewable energy development, and global clean-energy investment.

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