Business Coalition Suggests Detailed Language for Paris Talks to Achieve Rapid Decarbonization

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 24 Nov 2015 13:35:00 GMT

The We Mean Business coalition of private-sector climate activists has released detailed recommended language for the upcoming climate negotiations in Paris. The report was prepared by BSR and DLA Piper for the coalition, which includes B-Team, Ceres, Carbon Disclosure Project, the Climate Group, the Prince of Wales Corporate Leader Group, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Funding was provided by the ClimateWorks, IKEA, and Thomson Reuters Foundations.

Corporate members on the board of We Mean Business include Starbucks, Nike, IKEA, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Kingfisher, Unilever, HP, Tata, CLP Power, and NEUW Ventures.

1. WMB Ask #1: Net zero greenhouse gas emissions well before the end of the century

Businesses and investors need a strong long-term goal in the Paris Agreement that sets a clear destination and time frame, and that operationalizes a global emissions pathway which holds warming below 2°C. This would provide the policy certainty and clarity needed to drive low carbon and climate resilient investment in the real economy. By providing long-term details in national decarbonization strategies to 2050, governments will increase business confidence in making multi-decadal low carbon capital investments.

Preferred Text

  • Article 2 (Purpose)
    “The purpose of this Agreement is to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2°C and preferably below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by ensuring deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions, and to achieve the global transformation to low carbon and climate resilient economies and societies.”
  • Article 3 (Mitigation)
    “To achieve the long-term temperature goal set out in Article 2 of this Agreement, Parties collectively aim to reach net zero global greenhouse gas emissions well before the end of this century.”
  • COP Decision
    “Strongly encourages Parties to formulate and communicate, by 2018, national decarbonization strategies to 2050, to facilitate the mobilization of climate finance and investment.”

2. WMB Ask #2: Strengthen commitments every 5 years

After COP21, from 2016 to 2020, businesses will unleash additional low carbon innovation and investment. Continuous improvement should apply not only to businesses but to governments as well. By strengthening their commitments every 5 years, starting in 2020, governments will keep pace with private sector innovation, stimulate increased private sector ambition, and progressively realize the transformation of the global economy.

Preferred Text

  • Article 3 (Mitigation)
    “Successive nationally determined commitments shall be communicated every 5 years.”

    “Each Party shall progressively strengthen the ambition of their successive nationally determined commitment every 5 years from 2020 onwards, informed by the global stocktake set out in Article 10 and by the best available science, until the ultimate objective of the UNFCCC and the objective of this Agreement are achieved.”

  • Article 10 (Global Stocktake)
    “The CMA shall, in 2024 and every 5 years thereafter, take stock of the implementation of this Agreement, to assess collective progress towards achieving the ultimate objective of the UNFCCC and the objective of this Agreement, in order to inform the formulation and communication of successive nationally determined commitments.”
  • COP Decision
    Requests all Parties to communicate an updated nationally determined commitment well in advance of the twenty-sixth session of the COP (by the first quarter of 2020 for those Parties ready to do so), with a view to enhancing the ambition of their nationally determined commitment.”

    Decides to convene a dialogue among Parties in 2019 to take stock of the collective efforts of all Parties, to inform the communication of their updated nationally determined commitments.”

3. WMB Ask #3: Enact meaningful carbon pricing

Carbon pricing is one of the key policy instruments needed to harness the power of business to tackle climate change. With the majority of INDCs either putting or considering a price on carbon, whether through carbon taxes or markets, the Paris Agreement should recognize their efforts and the merits of these approaches to driving emissions reductions. Over a thousand companies have reported using an internal carbon price or plan to do so, in anticipation of future regulation. A price on carbon incentivizes low carbon innovation, shifts investment towards low carbon technologies, and helps ensure sustained economic competitiveness. To be effective, carbon pricing needs to be adopted globally, to reach high enough levels to change investment decisions and behaviour towards lower carbon ones and to converge to avoid trade friction.

Preferred Text

  • Preamble
    Emphasizing that many Parties have already put a price on carbon, and that where the price is sufficient to drive lower carbon investment and behavior, this is an important, efficient, and cost-effective approach to achieving deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions.”
  • Article 3 (Mitigation)
    “The CMA shall further facilitate international cooperation between Parties in the implementation of mitigation activities.”

    “Parties shall ensure the environmental integrity of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes used towards the fulfillment of its nationally determined mitigation commitments. Internationally transferred mitigation outcomes must avoid double-counting and be real, permanent, additional and verified.”

  • COP decision
    Invites all Parties to consider further international cooperation in the implementation of nationally determined mitigation commitments.”

    Requests that the IPC commence a work programme to develop standardized accounting rules which ensure the environmental integrity of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes, with a view to the IPC making recommendations to the CMA at its first session.”

    Decides that the CMA shall, at its first session, adopt standardized accounting rules which ensure the environmental integrity of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes.”

  • NDCs
    Many submitted NDCs put a price on carbon, whether through carbon taxes or markets, and if through markets, anticipate potential links to other markets.

4. WMB Ask #4: New and additional climate finance at scale

The satisfaction of the Copenhagen pledge to mobilize $100 billion per year of climate finance in 2020 is key to an ambitious deal in Paris. But building the low carbon economy will take trillions – not billions – of dollars in climate finance. To shift these trillions, the Paris Agreement will need to improve the predictability of financial flows, improve domestic enabling environments to facilitate climate investment, and direct international support towards low emission and climate resilient investment.

Preferred Text

  • Article 6 (Finance)
    “Developed country Parties, and other Parties willing to do so, shall scale up the mobilization of climate finance from USD 100 billion per year from 2020.”

    “Parties shall improve the predictability of finance flows, including through the transparency system set out under Article 9.”

    “All Parties shall strive to improve domestic enabling environments, to encourage the mobilization of climate finance from a wide variety of sources, including public and private, bilateral and multilateral and alternative sources.”

    “Parties shall enhance international support for low emission and climate resilient investments, and reduce international support for high emission and maladaptive investments.”

  • COP Decision
    Decides that Parties shall, in accordance with their national circumstances, consult and cooperate to mobilize climate finance and investment, including partnering with other Parties and with the private sector.”

5. WMB Ask #5: Transparency and accountability to promote a race to the top

A strong transparency system under the Paris Agreement will reassure businesses and investors that all governments will be accountable for their commitments. By making collective progress towards a global 2°C trajectory clear, transparency will allow businesses to prepare for the climate impacts of projected warming. Shared accounting and reporting rules will prevent governments from gaming their commitments, which would distort the perceived risks of climate impacts.

Preferred Text

  • Article 9 (Transparency)
    “The purpose of the system for transparency of action is to:
    (a) provide the clearest possible understanding of the emissions and removals of individual Parties, and of global aggregate net emissions relative to the objective of this Agreement in Article 2, and the long-term mitigation goal in Article 3;
    (b) ensure clarity and tracking of progress made in implementing and achieving individual Parties’ nationally determined mitigation commitments;
    (c) provide a clear understanding of Parties’ progress in implementing adaptation actions…”

    “The purpose of the system for transparency of support is to:
    (a) ensure clarity on support provided and received by individual Parties;
    (b) provide a full overview of aggregate support provided, mobilized and received…”

    “In tracking progress towards achieving their nationally determined commitments, Parties shall apply the principles of transparency, accuracy, completeness, comparability and consistency according to rules adopted by the CMA at its first session.”
    “Each Party shall, subject to its respective capabilities, provide information at least biennially. This information shall be reviewed, subject to the Party’s respective capabilities, by an expert review team, which shall identify any issues related to facilitating implementation and compliance under Article 11.”

6. WMB Ask #6: National commitments at the highest end of ambition

An agreement with the broadest possible participation will address business concerns around maintaining competitiveness on a fair playing field. Broad and ambitious participation is also crucial to addressing climate change. Businesses will need to be confident that national commitments made by governments are more than words, and will be implemented. Countries joining the Paris Agreement should therefore commit to implementation and not merely communication of their national climate action plans.

Preferred Text

  • Article 3 (Mitigation)
    “Each Party shall regularly formulate and communicate a nationally determined mitigation commitment that it shall implement.”

    “Each Party’s successive nationally determined mitigation commitment shall be at that Party’s highest possible level of ambition as of the time of its formulation.”

  • NDCs
    The Paris Agreement is universal. Nearly all countries covering nearly all global greenhouse gas emissions submit nationally determined commitments for the Paris Agreement and becomes Parties to the Paris Agreement.

7. WMB Ask #7: Adaptation to build climate resilient economies and communities

Even if warming is held below 2°C, businesses will need to adapt to substantial climate impacts. By treating adaptation with the same political parity as mitigation, including with a long-term global vision on adaptation, the Paris Agreement will signal that all actors must build climate resilience while they reduce emissions. Business can play a constructive role in building this resilience not only within their own economic infrastructure, but also within the workforce, communities, and ecosystems on which they depend. Private sector consultation in national adaptation planning will help to facilitate this.

Preferred Text

  • Preamble
    Emphasizing that adaptation is a global challenge which must be addressed with the same urgency as mitigation.”
  • Article 4 (Adaptation)
    “Parties establish the long-term vision of increasing resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change, recognizing that adaptation is a challenge faced by all, with local, national, regional and international dimensions, and impacts on all sectors, and that it is a key component of a contribution to the longer-term global response to climate change to protect people, livelihoods, ecosystems, and economies.”

    “Parties recognize that adaptation will be needed regardless of the level of mitigation reached and that the greater their mitigation efforts, the less adaptation will be needed.”

    “Each Party shall engage in a national adaptation planning process and enhance its adaptation plans, policies and actions…”

  • COP Decision
    Decides that the national adaptation plans, policies and actions referred to in Article 4 should be developed in consultation with relevant stakeholders including…the private sector/b>.”

8. WMB Ask #8 Pre-2020 ambition through Workstream 2

In the years 2016 to 2020, Workstream 2 under the Durban Platform can raise pre-2020 ambition by exploring and scaling up technical solutions to reduce emissions and build climate resilience. Two high-level champions will give this effort the political profile needed for success. An annual high-level event can build upon the many initiatives that have been launched under the Lima-Paris Action Agenda at COP21, and promote new efforts.

Preferred Text

  • COP Decision on Workstream 2, High-level Dialogue/Events
    Decides that two high-level champions, with relevant experience in leadership positions in government and the private sector, shall be appointed to facilitate the scale up and launch of new or strengthened efforts, voluntary initiatives and coalitions, through strengthened high-level engagement in the period 2016-2020, including by:
    (a) Working with the UNFCCC Executive Secretary and the current and incoming presidencies of the COP to coordinate an annual high-level event that provides an opportunity to announce new or strengthened efforts;
    (b) Engaging intensively with interested Parties and non-Party stakeholders, including the private sector; and
    (c) Providing guidance on the organization of the Technical Examination Processes.
  • COP Decision on Workstream 2, Mitigation
    Requests the appointment of co-facilitators to guide the Technical Examination Process on mitigation and, in consultation with Parties and high-level champions referred to below, to create a detailed work programme for 2016 and 2017 focused on scaling up implementation.”

    Encourages Parties, Convention bodies, international organizations and non-Party stakeholders, including the private sector, to engage actively and effectively in this process, to submit their experience and suggestions…to this process, and to cooperate in implementing the policies, practices and actions identified during this process…”

  • COP Decision on Workstream 2, Adaptation
    Decides to launch a second Technical Examination Process on adaptation in the period 2016-2020…with the meaningful participation of non-Party stakeholders, to enhance adaptation action and support, share best practices and address gaps in implementation, knowledge, finance, technology, planning and institutional capacity.”

Letter from Ben Santer in Support of Tom Karl, Climate Scientist Under Attack by Lamar Smith

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 19 Nov 2015 02:15:00 GMT

Message from Ben Santer: Here is a message of support I sent to Tom Karl on November 17, 2015. I remain deeply concerned by the unwarranted Congressional scrutiny that the 2015 Karl et al. Science paper continues to receive.

I have no concerns about public distribution of this letter.

Dr. Thomas R. Karl
Director, National Center for Environmental Information
Veach-Baley Federal Building
151 Patton Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801-5001

Dear Tom,

I just wanted to express my gratitude and scientific appreciation for the critical research you and your NCEI colleagues have performed over the last several decades. You have been pioneers in many different areas: in producing observational estimates of global-scale changes in land and ocean surface temperatures, in identifying non-climatic artifacts in temperature measurements, in developing rigorous scientific methods of adjusting for such artifacts, and in accounting for the incomplete, time-varying coverage of observations.

NCEI has made its surface temperature data sets freely and openly available to the entire climate science community, thus enabling important research on the nature and causes of climate change, climate variability, and climate model evaluation. NCEI staff have clearly and thoroughly documented each surface temperature data set that NCEI has released – in scientific publications, in presentations to policymakers and professional societies, and in extensive online material. No scientific organization has done a more thorough or transparent job in developing and analyzing observations of 20th and early 21st century changes in Earth’s climate.

I am deeply concerned that NCEI’s science is now being subjected to Congressional scrutiny and criticism. Such scrutiny and criticism is not warranted. The leadership of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology should understand that science is dynamic rather than static. All observational temperature data sets have evolved in important ways over time, in tandem with improvements in the ability to identify and adjust for inhomogeneities introduced by changing measurement systems, changing measurement practices, and changes in the spatial coverage of measurements. This is true not only for surface temperature data sets, but also for measurements of the heat content of the world’s oceans, and for satellite-based estimates of temperature change in Earth’s lower and upper atmosphere. Evolution of observational temperature data sets is a normal, on-going scientific process. It is not evidence of non-scientific behavior.

If our country is to take informed decisions on how to address problems arising from human perturbations to the climate system, we need access to the best-available scientific information on how Earth’s climate has actually changed. NCEI provides such critically important information to the scientific community, policymakers, and the public. You and your NCEI colleagues deserve our sincere thanks and our continued support.

With best regards,

Ben Santer

Distinguished Member of Scientific Staff, Lawrence Livermore National Lab
Member, U.S. National Academy of Sciences

A Brief List of Keystone XL Supporters

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 06 Nov 2015 17:51:00 GMT

After a protracted political battle pitting the climate movement against the power players of Washington DC, TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline has been rejected by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.

Below is a brief and far from exhaustive list of political insiders who supported the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline or predicted its approval at some point between 2011 and today:

Actual climate scientists were near-unanimous in their opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, based on a serious analysis of the pipeline’s potential climate impact. Ralph Keeling, James Hanson, Ken Caldeira, Peter Gleick, James McCarthy, Michael Oppenheimer, Michael Mann, Steve Running, Richard Somerville, Jason Box, George Woodwell, and many others supported calls for civil disobedience against the pipeline. Hansen and Jason Box were themselves arrested.

On Senate Floor, Sen. Whitehouse Calls for RICO Investigation of 'Climate Denial Machine'

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 20 Oct 2015 23:52:00 GMT

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, called for a civil RICO investigation of ExxonMobil and the “climate denial machine” on the floor of the U.S. Senate Tuesday afternoon. Whitehouse, who speaks on climate change every week that the Senate is in session, had raised the possibility of such an investigation in a speech in May that compared the fossil-fuel industry’s campaign of deception to that of the tobacco industry.

With new investigations by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times about ExxonMobil’s history of knowing climate deception, and rising calls from the public led by Climate Hawks Vote for civil or criminal action by the Department of Justice, Whitehouse again took the floor.

Whitehouse took on his critics, mocking the “histrionics on the far right” and describing the Wall Street Journal editorial page as the”Troll-in-Chief for the fossil-fuel industry.”

The senator concluded with a call for a civil RICO investigation of the “climate denial scheme,” from the fossil-fuel giants like ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers to the organizations they back, like the Wall Street Journal and the Manhattan Institute.

This was Senator Whitehouse 115th “Time to Wake Up” climate speech.

Whatever the motivation of the Wall Street Journal and other right-wing climate denial outfits, it is clearly long past time for the climate denial scheme to come in from the talk shows and the blogosphere, and have to face the kind of truth-testing audience that a civil RICO investigation could provide. It’s time to let the facts take their place, and let climate denial face that “greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.”

With his speech, Whitehouse joined the growing ranks calling for a DOJ investigation of the fossil-fuel industry, which now include Merchants of Doubt author Naomi Oreskes, Representatives Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier of California, and Democratic presidential candidates Martin O’Malley and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

The Climate Hawks Vote petition, which unlike Sen. Whitehouse’s call includes language open to criminal investigation of ExxonMobil’s activities, can be found here.


Mr. President, last week, former head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Robert M. White passed away at the age of 92. Dr. White served this nation under five presidents and pioneered the peaceful use of satellites to understand our weather and climate. “We do have environmental problems and they’re serious ones, the preservation of species among them,” he said, “but the climate is the environmental problem that’s so pervasive in its effects on the society. . . . The climate is really the only environmental characteristic that can utterly change our society and our civilization.”

That was in 1977. That same year, James F. Black, a top scientific researcher at the Exxon Corporation gave that company’s executives a similar warning: “[T]here is general scientific agreement,” he told Exxon’s Management Committee, “that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.” According to emerging reports, Exxon executives kept that warning a closely guarded company secret for years.

I rise today for the 115th time to urge that we wake up to the threat of climate change. I rise in the midst of a decades-long, purposeful corporate campaign of misinformation, which has held this Congress and this nation back from taking meaningful action to prevent that utter change. Scrutiny of the corporate campaign of misinformation intensifies, and scrutiny of the fossil fuel polluters behind it intensifies, and the regular cast of right-wing, climate-denier attack dogs have got their hackles up.

On May 6, I gave a speech here on the Floor. The speech compared the misinformation campaign by the fossil fuel industry about the dangers of carbon pollution to the tobacco industry’s misinformation campaign about the dangers of its product.

The relevance of that comparison is that the United States Department of Justice, under the civil provisions of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute—RICO for short, brought an action against the tobacco industry. The United States alleged that the tobacco industry’s misinformation campaign was fraudulent. And the United States won, in a lengthy and thorough decision by United States District Judge Gladys Kessler.

Go ahead and read them. DOJ’s complaint and Judge Kessler’s decision can be found at the websites of the Justice Department and the Public Health Law Center, respectively, and are linked on my website, I will warn you: the judge’s decision is a long one—but it makes good reading.

The comparison is strong. There are whole sections of the Department of Justice civil RICO complaint, and whole sections of Judge Kessler’s decision, where you can remove the word “tobacco” and put in the word “carbon,” and remove the word “health” and put in the word “climate,” and the parallel with the fossil fuel industry climate denial campaign is virtually perfect.

This is not an idea I just cooked up. Look at the academic work of Professor Robert Brulle of Drexel University and Professor Riley Dunlap of Oklahoma State University. Look at the investigative work of Naomi Oreskes’s book Merchants of Doubt, David Michaels’s book Doubt is Their Product, and Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner’s book Deceit and Denial, describing the industry-backed machinery of deception.

Look at the journalistic work of Neela Banerjee, Lisa Song, David Hasemyer, and John Cushman Jr. in the recent reporting of InsideClimate News about what ExxonMobil knew about climate change versus the falsehoods it chose to tell the public. Look at a separate probe by journalists Sara Jerving, Katie Jennings, Masako Melissa Hirsch, and Susanne Rust in the Los Angeles Times.

From their work, we now know that Exxon, for instance, knew about the effect of its carbon pollution as far back as the late 1970s, but ultimately chose to fund a massive misinformation campaign rather than tell the truth. “No corporation,” said professor and climate change activist Bill McKibben, “has ever done anything this big and this bad.”

Here’s how Judge Kessler depicts the culpable conduct of the tobacco industry: “Defendants have intentionally maintained and coordinated their fraudulent position on addiction and nicotine as an important part of their overall efforts to influence public opinion and persuade people that smoking is not dangerous.”

Compare that to the findings of Dr. Brulle, whose research shines light on the dark money campaigns that support climate denial. The climate denial operation, to quote Dr. Brulle, is “a deliberate and organized effort to misdirect the public discussion and distort the public’s understanding of climate.”

The parallels between what the tobacco industry did and what the fossil fuel industry is doing now are so striking, I suggested in my speech of May 6, that it was worth a look: that civil discovery could reveal whether the fossil fuel industry’s activities cross the same line into racketeering. I said that again in an op-ed piece I wrote in the Washington Post on May 29 regarding the civil RICO action against tobacco.

Oh, my, what caterwauling has ensued from the fossil fuel industry trolls! Here’s a quick highlight reel of the tempest of right-wing invective.

One climate denier, Christopher Monckton, declared, “Senator Whitehouse is a fascist goon.” Another denier compared me to Torquemada, the infamous torturer of the Inquisition. And the official Exxon responder got so excited about this suggestion he used a word I am not even allowed to say on the Senate Floor! He forgot Rule One in crisis management: don’t lose your cool.

The right-wing website responded by calling me “the preposterous Democrat senator for Rhode Island,” and saying the notion that there is an industry-funded effort to mislead the American people about the harm caused by carbon pollution is “a joke,” a conspiracy theory on par with Area 51 or the faking of the moon landing. Tell that to tobacco.

Paul Gigot, editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal, said global warming concerns, “are based on computer models, not by actual evidence, not by actual evidence of what we’ve seen so far.”

The polluter-funded George Marshall Institute, a long-time climate denial outfit, wrote that this was an attack on constitutional rights; a presumptuous argument on their part given that there’s no constitutional right to commit fraud.

Similarly, Calvin Beisner, founder of a phony-baloney industry front called the Cornwall Alliance, said the same: the mere suggestion represents a “direct attack on the rights to freedom of speech and the press guaranteed by the First Amendment” and is “horrifically bad for science.” Coming from a science denial outfit, that concern for science is rich. And again, fraud is not protected by the First Amendment.

In the National Review, I was accused of wanting to launch “organized crime investigations . . . against people and institutions that disagree with [me] about global warming,” in order to “lock people up as Mafiosi.”

“Crime”? “Lock people up”? Let’s remember, Mr./Madam President, that we are talking about civil RICO, not criminal. No one went to jail in the tobacco case. Investigating the organized climate denial scheme under civil RICO is not about putting people in jail. Query why the National Review would mislead people about such an obvious fact.

All a civil RICO case does is get people to have to actually tell the truth, under oath, in front of an actual impartial judge or jury, and under cross-examination—which the Supreme Court has described as “the greatest legal invention ever invented for the discovery of truth.” No more spin and deception.

But that’s exactly the audience polluters and their allies can’t bear, so the flacks set off criminal smokescreens and launch “fascist goon” and “Torquemada” hysterics. A few weeks ago, 20 scientists agreed with me, and wrote a letter to Attorney General Lynch supporting the idea of using civil RICO.

That was too much for the Troll-in-Chief for the fossil fuel industry: the Wall Street Journal editorial page. The Wall Street Journal editorial page has long been an industry science-denial mouthpiece. They use the same playbook every time: one, deny the science; two, question the motives of reformers; and three, exaggerate the costs of reforms.

When scientists warned that chlorofluorocarbons could break down the atmosphere’s ozone layer, the Wall Street Journal ran editorials—for decades—devaluing the science, attacking scientists and reformers, and exaggerating the costs associated with regulating CFCs. When acid rain was falling in the Northeast, the Wall Street Journal editorial page questioned the science, claimed the sulfur dioxide cleanup effort was driven by politics, and said fixing it carried a huge price tag. Ultimately, the Journal’s editorial page, after years of this, had to recant and admit that the cap-and-trade program for sulfur dioxide “saves about $700 million annually compared with the cost of traditional regulation and has been reducing emissions by four million tons annually.”

Now, on climate change, the Journal is back to the same pattern: deny the science, question the motives of climate scientists, exaggerate the costs of tackling carbon pollution. For decades, the Journal has persistently published editorials against taking action to prevent manmade climate change.

On this the editorial page said, by talking about civil RICO I’m trying to “forcibly silence” the denial apparatus. “Forcibly silence”? First of all, against the billions of the Koch Brothers and ExxonMobil, fat chance that I have much force to use. And “silence”? I don’t want them silent; I want them testifying, in a forum where they have to tell the truth. Is the Journal really saying that in a forum where deniers have to tell the truth their only response would have to be silence? Making them tell the truth forcibly silences them? Because the only thing civil RICO silences is fraud.

By the way, the Journal editorial never mentions that the government won the civil RICO case against tobacco on very similar facts. That would detract from the fable.

Who does the Journal cast as the victim in their fable? None other than Willie Soon, who they said I singled out for—here’s what they said—having “published politically inconvenient research on changes in solar radiation.” Actually, what’s inconvenient for Dr. Soon is that the New York Times reported that he gets more than half of his funding from big fossil fuel interests like ExxonMobil and the Charles G. Koch Foundation, to the tune of $1.2 million, and didn’t disclose it. Dr. Soon’s research contracts even gave his industry backers a chance “for comment and input” before he published, and he referred to the papers he produced as “deliverables.” In case you don’t know it, that’s not how real science works. Of course, none of this sordid financial conflict is even mentioned by the Wall Street Journal editorial page. They’d rather pretend Dr. Soon is being singled out for “politically inconvenient” views. Please.

It gets better. In the editorial, the role of neutral expert commenting on this goes to Georgia Tech’s Judith Curry. She offers the opinion that my “demand . . . for legal persecution . . . represents a new low in the politicization of science.” This is a particularly rich and conflict- riddled opinion, as Ms. Curry is herself a repeat anti-climate witness performing regularly in committees for Republicans here in Congress. Again, no mention of this interest of Ms. Curry’s by the Wall Street Journal editorial.

The fossil fuel industry’s climate-denial machine rivals or exceeds that of the tobacco industry in size, scope, and complexity. Its purpose is to cast doubt about the reality of climate change in order to forestall a move toward cleaner fuels and allow the Kochs and Exxons of the world to continue making money at everybody else’s expense. And the Wall Street Journal editorial page plays its part in the machine.

Even though it’s only the editorial page, and not the Journal’s well-regarded newsroom, facts and logic are supposed to matter. Ignoring the successful tobacco litigation; omitting the salient fact of Dr. Soon being paid by the industry involved in his research; and bringing in a climate denier as their neutral voice without disclosing that conflict—I’d like to see them get this editorial by the editorial standards of their own newsroom.

So why all the histrionics on the far right, Mr./Madam President? Why the deliberate subterfuge between civil and criminal RICO? Why the name-calling? Have we perhaps touched a little nerve? Have we maybe hit a bit too close to home? Are the cracks in the dark castle of denial as it crumbles maybe beginning to rattle the occupants?

Whatever the motivation of the Wall Street Journal and other right-wing climate denial outfits, it is clearly long past time for the climate denial scheme to come in from the talk shows and the blogosphere, and have to face the kind of truth-testing audience that a civil RICO investigation could provide. It’s time to let the facts take their place, and let climate denial face that “greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.”

I yield the floor.

Congressional Climate Hawks to DOJ: Investigate Exxon's "Immoral" And "Sustained Deception Campaign" On Climate

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 16 Oct 2015 15:37:00 GMT

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.)
On Thursday, two Democratic members of Congress have called for the Department of Justice to investigate the legality of ExxonMobil’s “sustained deception campaign disputing climate science.” In a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Representatives Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier of California “request the DOJ investigate whether ExxonMobil violated RICO, consumer protection, truth in advertising, public health, shareholder protection or other laws.”

The request, motivated by independent journalistic investigations by Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times, compared Exxon’s deliberate “campaign to deceive the American people about the known risks of fossil fuels” to the tobacco industry’s actions “to deceive the American people about the known risks of tobacco.” The tobacco industry was the subject of a successful RICO lawsuit.

The apparent tactics employed by Exxon are reminiscent of the actions employed by big tobacco companies to deceive the American people about the known risks of tobacco. In this case, Exxon scientists knew about fossil fuels causing global warming and Exxon took internal actions based on its knowledge of climate change. Yet Exxon funded and publicly engaged in a campaign to deceive the American people about the known risks of fossil fuels in causing climate change. If these allegations against Exxon are true, then Exxon’s actions were immoral. We request the DOJ to investigate whether ExxonMobil’s actions were also illegal.

The representatives’ letter follows a public call for such an investigation made by the members of Climate Hawks Vote in September of this year.

Also on Thursday, climate activist Bill McKibben held a one-man protest against Exxon, getting arrested at an ExxonMobil gas station in Vermont in order to raise public knowledge of the news stories.

Download the DOJ letter or view the full text below.


October 14, 2015

Loretta E. Lynch, Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Dear Attorney General Lynch,

As Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, we are alarmed by allegations that Exxon (becoming ExxonMobil in 1999) intentionally hid the truth about the role of fossil fuels in influencing climate change. Investigations by the Los Angeles Times and Inside Climate News allege that Exxon scientists confirmed fossil fuels’ role in climate change decades ago, but top executives decided to hide the truth and instead embarked on a massive campaign of denial and disinformation.1

ExxonMobil’s apparent behavior is similar to cigarette companies that repeatedly denied harm from tobacco and spread uncertainty and misleading information to the public. The Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecuted tobacco companies under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. We ask that the DOJ similarly investigate ExxonMobil for organizing a sustained deception campaign disputing climate science and failing to disclose truthful information to investors and the public. We request the DOJ investigate whether ExxonMobil violated RICO, consumer protection, truth in advertising, public health, shareholder protection or other laws.

According to the investigation by Inside Climate News, in July 1977 at an Exxon Management Committee meeting, senior Exxon scientist James Black “delivered a sobering message: carbon dioxide from the world’s use of fossil fuels would warm the planet and could eventually endanger humanity.” In 1978 Exxon “launched its own extraordinary research into carbon dioxide from fossil fuels and its impact on the earth.” Exxon “assembled a brain trust that would spend more than a decade deepening the company’s understanding” of global warming.

In 1982, Exxon prepared a corporate primer on carbon dioxide and climate change. The primer—which was circulated to management but marked “not to be distributed externally”—stated that heading off global warming “would require major reductions in fossil fuel combustion” and that unless that happened “there are some potentially catastrophic events that must be considered.” Exxon “did not elaborate on the carbon problem in annual reports filed with securities regulators,” nor did Exxon “mention in those filings that concern over CO2 was beginning to influence business decisions it was facing.”

In 1988, instead of following their own scientists and the actual science, Exxon apparently started doing the opposite and engaged in a campaign of denial and disinformation. The company “started financing efforts to amplify doubt about the state of climate science.” Exxon “helped to found and lead the Global Climate Coalition, an alliance of some of the world’s largest companies seeking to halt government efforts to curb fossil fuel emissions.”

Despite its public efforts to deny climate change, Exxon apparently took company actions based on its knowledge of global warming. According to the Los Angeles Times investigation, in 1990 engineers at Exxon “were quietly incorporating climate change projections into the company’s planning and closely studying how to adapt the company’s Arctic operations to a warming planet.” A top Exxon researcher, Ken Croasdale, explored how much easier and cheaper oil drilling in the Arctic would be with a melting ice cap.

The Times investigation concluded that “As Croasdale’s team was closely studying the impact of climate change on the company’s operations, Exxon and its worldwide affiliates were crafting a public policy position that sought to downplay the certainty of global warming.” The Times identified a “gulf between Exxon’s internal and external approach to climate change.”

The apparent tactics employed by Exxon are reminiscent of the actions employed by big tobacco companies to deceive the American people about the known risks of tobacco. In this case, Exxon scientists knew about fossil fuels causing global warming and Exxon took internal actions based on its knowledge of climate change. Yet Exxon funded and publicly engaged in a campaign to deceive the American people about the known risks of fossil fuels in causing climate change. If these allegations against Exxon are true, then Exxon’s actions were immoral. We request the DOJ to investigate whether ExxonMobil’s actions were also illegal.


Ted W. Lieu, Member of Congress

Mark DeSaulnier, Member of Congress

National Forum on Climate Change, Clean Energy and Communities of Color

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 29 Sep 2015 13:00:00 GMT

National, congressional, community, and faith leaders will share ideas on how we can work together and ensure the Clean Power Plan creates health, wealth, and opportunity for low-income communities and communities of color.

From 9 to 11 am, at the National Press Club located at 529 14th Street NW in Washington, D.C.

RSVP here.

Hillary Clinton Announces Opposition to Keystone XL Tar-Sands Pipeline

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 22 Sep 2015 20:31:00 GMT

Speaking at a town-hall event in Iowa, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced her opposition to the approval of the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline.

“I oppose it because I don’t think it’s in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change,” Clinton told the crowd.

This marks a dramatic turnaround for the Democratic frontrunner.

During Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, her department recommended the pipeline be approved. Clinton let contractors for the pipeline’s owner, the Candian company TransCanada, control the approval process. A single State Department staffer assigned in the Bush administration to oversee the contractors remained in that position until October 2010. Public hearings on the State Department’s draft approval for the pipeline were run by a TransCanada contractor. As public outcry against the pipeline grew, TransCanada hired former staffers for Hillary Clinton to lobby on its behalf.

In March 2012, her husband and former president Bill Clinton announced his support of the pipeline’s construction, saying, “I think we should embrace it.”

Later that month, President Obama fast-tracked the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, celebrating his administration’s record of “drilling all over the place.”

From reporter Samantha-Jo Roth:
.@HillaryClinton – “I oppose Keystone XL pipeline” #IAcaucus

Hillary Clinton in Iowa

Rally to Keep Exelon Out of D.C.

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 17 Sep 2015 16:00:00 GMT

Last month, D.C. scored a big victory when the Public Service Commission unanimously rejected Chicago-based energy giant Exelon’s attempt to take over Pepco. Their decision made it clear that this merger is NOT in the public interest. But our fight isn’t quite over.

Exelon has indicated they will try and push their bad deal through. Their first key step would be reaching a back room deal with Mayor Bowser and the D.C. Government. We won’t let that happen!

Next Thursday at noon, join us in front of the Wilson Building to show Mayor Bowser that we stand together against this bad deal – and we won’t let Exelon sneak it under the door at the last minute.

  • WHAT: Rally to keep Exelon out of D.C. (and our region)!
  • WHEN: Thursday, September 17th at noon
  • WHERE: In front of the Wilson Building at 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
  • WHO: The Power DC coalition, you and all of your friends who live or work in downtown D.C.
  • WHY: We need all hands on deck to keep our victory intact—and to protect our electricity bills and our progress on clean energy from Exelon’s top-down, anti-renewable energy, nuclear-driven business model.


Just since August 24, hundreds of letters have been sent to Mayor Bowser urging her to stand firm—now it’s time to show our strength. We can protect D.C. residents from higher bills and keep our region heading toward cleaner, more efficient power.

Hill Briefing on Environmental Justice

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 15 Sep 2015 13:00:00 GMT

As a part of the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change’s continual effort to advocate for environmental justice principles, we will be convening a briefing on Capitol Hill for Members of Congress and their Staff members. The purpose of this briefing is to provide Member and their Staffers with a brief history of the Environmental Justice movement, share concrete examples of environmental injustices and highlight opportunities to integrate environmental justice into the state planning process of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

Our panel will include influential members of the Environmental Justice Movement including
  • Ms. Monique Harden Esq., Advocates for Environmental Human Rights (LA)
  • Dr. Charlotte Keys, Jesus People Against Pollution (MS)
  • Ms. Sharon Lewis, Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice (CT)
  • Dr. Nicky Sheats, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance (NJ)
  • Ms. Peggy Shepard, WE ACT for Environmental Justice (NY)
  • Ms. Kim Wasserman, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (IL)
  • Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome, WE ACT for Environmental Justice (DC)
  • Rev. Leo Woodberry, Kingdom Living Temple (SC)
  • Dr. Beverly Wright, Deep South Environmental Justice Center (LA)

U.S. Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards (MD-4) is co-hosting this briefing with the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change. For more information, go to

It Could Be Worse: Thoughts on Obama's Clean Power Plan

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 08 Sep 2015 18:47:00 GMT

KatrinaOriginally published at The Jacobin.

At the beginning of August, President Obama unveiled with great fanfare the “Clean Power Plan,” a “Landmark Action to Protect Public Health, Reduce Energy Bills for Households and Businesses, Create American Jobs, and Bring Clean Power to Communities across the Country.”

Stripping away the poll-tested language, the president was announcing — after epic delaysEPA regulations for carbon-dioxide pollution from existing power plants, finally fulfilling a 2000 George W. Bush campaign pledge. The proposed rule’s compliance period will begin in 2022.

From a policy perspective, the proposed rule is a perfect distillation of the Obama administration’s approach to governance: politically rational incrementalism that reinforces the existing power structures and is grossly insufficient given the scope of the problem.

The information necessary to understand the rule is impressively buried on the EPA website amid “fact sheets” that list out-of-context factoids and fail to cite references from the one-hundred-plus-page technical documents or ZIP files of modeling runs. The structure of the plan is complex (for example, states can choose to comply with “rate-based” pollution-intensity targets or “mass-based” total-pollution targets) and carefully designed to satisfy a wide range of stakeholders.

With sufficient inspection, the plan’s impact on climate pollution — its entire purpose — emerges: the rule locks in the rate of coal-plant retirement that has been ongoing since 2008, and that’s about it.

Under both the rate-based and mass-based approaches, the projected rate of change in coal-fired generation is consistent with recent historical declines in coal-fired generation. Additionally, under both of these approaches, the trends for all other types will remain consistent with what their trends would be in the absence of this rule.

Now, that’s a pretty good accomplishment in political terms. The administration is seizing on the ascendant power of the natural-gas industry to codify an existing economic trend at the expense of the presently weak coal industry. Coal-plant pollution has been protected from air-pollution regulation for generations; some of the plants in operation today were built during the Great Depression. These plants — immensely profitable for their owners — are not only climate killers, but destroyers of the lives of anyone who lives downwind of their poisonous effluvia. These rules were crafted in the face of the sociopathic opposition of the Republican Party to any climate policy, let alone one administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

From the perspective of actual reality, however, the proposed rule is so weak as to be potentially destructive. It is built around the premise that the United States will extend its commitment to fracked gas for decades to come, even as the climate targets Obama personally signed onto can only be met if the dismantling of all fossil-fuel infrastructure begins immediately.

The rule’s expectations for renewables are clear evidence of the political power of the fossil-fuel industry trumping that of clean power. Since 2009, US wind generation has tripled and solar generation has grown twentyfold. Yet the EPA expects much slower renewable electricity growth in the next fifteen years. This assumption is why the rule will deliver de minimis cuts to greenhouse pollution from the electric power sector—unless states implementing the rule voluntarily adopt stronger goals.

More than anything else, the Clean Power Plan is a triumph of messaging discipline. The Obama administration has learned some lessons from the political debacle that accompanied the death of the Waxman-Markey climate bill in the Senate. Although there was significant money put into a grassroots mobilization for climate legislation, that mobilization failed spectacularly.

The organization 1Sky — which was formed in 2007 with the sole purpose of building grassroots support for climate legislation — had support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the National Wildlife Federation, NRDC, Friends of the Earth, and others. But its efforts came to naught. (1Sky was absorbed by in 2011.)

The White House discouraged grassroots mobilization, and instead focused their attention on the inside game, the elite stakeholders in Washington DC. The insider strategy relied on the chimera of gaining Republican votes for transformative climate policy. As a result, climate policy elites and grassroots activists spent years in conflict, while opposition was effectively organized under the Tea Party banner. By the middle of 2009, both public and elite support for climate legislation had collapsed.

This political collapse should have come as no surprise, in particular to Obama, who won the White House using a campaign strategy built from the lessons of leftist community organizers, most notably campaign advisor Marshall Ganz. However, even before he took the oath of office, Obama abandoned the grassroots-mobilization infrastructure in favor of a fully centralized approach.

The administration’s approach was actually in part an attempt not to repeat the failures of the Clinton-Gore approach to climate. Their policy attempts — a “BTU” energy tax proposed in 1993 and the Kyoto Protocol global treaty Gore negotiated in 1997 — ran up against congressional opposition. So the Obama White House, populated by many of the veterans of the Clinton years, deliberately took their hands off the tiller and let their allies in Congress, namely Rep. Henry Waxman and Sen. Barbara Boxer of California and Rep. Ed Markey and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, take the lead.

So climate policy failed yet again, in a different manner. It’s almost as if the real problem wasn’t how various policies were presented to Congress, but instead the political composition of Congress itself.

This time they have deliberately coordinated with grassroots environmental groups, including environmental justice organizations, to sell the EPA rule. The mainline environmental groups, at the behest of the administration and funded by Democratic-aligned grants, burned the midnight oil to get their members to submit eight million comments in support of the rule, an accomplishment almost unparalleled in terms of the amount of effort expended to achieve minimal political influence.

The environmental justice community — a diverse and fractious network of predominantly local, non-white environmental organizations — took a different approach in response to elite outreach. They accepted grants to engage on the Clean Power Plan, but used their seat at the table to advocate forcefully against the previous draft of the rule.

Because Obama’s first EPA administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, had previously established mechanisms to consider environmental justice in the rule-making process, the activists’ concerns about this rule were at least partly addressed.

But it’s not nearly enough. Dismantling the global fossil-fuel economy is a civilization-scale fight. Fossil-fuel industrialists have every incentive to resist democratic control to prevent their economic extinction. And that extinction is what climate policy needs to bring about, not forestall — global warming won’t stop until we stop burning fossil fuels. The Obama years have been spent in skirmishes and accommodations that have served mainly to delay the inevitable, seismic conflict between extractive capitalism and democratic society.

The modest accomplishments for climate and environmental justice in the Clean Power Plan will have little meaning unless they turn out to be the first salvos in a relentless assault on the carbon economy. In 2008, Obama envisioned that he would oversee from the White House “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

That moment has not yet come.

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