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The Planet Wreckers
Bill McKibben, TomDispatch
Climate-Change Deniers Are On the Ropes — But So Is the Planet
It’s been a tough few weeks for the forces of climate-change denial.
First came the giant billboard with Unabomber Ted Kacynzki’s face plastered across it: “I Still Believe in Global Warming. Do You?” Sponsored by the Heartland Institute, the nerve-center of climate-change denial, it was supposed to draw attention to the fact that “the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.” Instead it drew attention to the fact that these guys had over-reached, and with predictable consequences.
A hard-hitting campaign from a new group called Forecast the Facts persuaded many of the corporations backing Heartland to withdraw $825,000 in funding; an entire wing of the Institute, devoted to helping the insurance industry, calved off to form its own nonprofit. Normally friendly politicians like Wisconsin Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner announced that they would boycott the group’s annual conference unless the billboard campaign was ended.
Which it was, before the billboards with Charles Manson and Osama bin Laden could be unveiled, but not before the damage was done: Sensenbrenner spoke at last month’s conclave, but attendance was way down at the annual gathering, and Heartland leaders announced that there were no plans for another of the yearly fests. Heartland’s head, Joe Bast, complained that his side had been subjected to the most “uncivil name-calling and disparagement you can possibly imagine from climate alarmists,” which was both a little rich — after all, he was the guy with the mass-murderer billboards — but also a little pathetic. A whimper had replaced the characteristically confident snarl of the American right.
That pugnaciousness may return: Mr. Bast said last week that he was finding new corporate sponsors, that he was building a new small-donor base that was “Greenpeace-proof,” and that in any event the billboard had been a fine idea anyway because it had “generated more than $5 million in earned media so far.” (That’s a bit like saying that for a successful White House bid John Edwards should have had more mistresses and babies because look at all the publicity!) Whatever the final outcome, it’s worth noting that, in a larger sense, Bast is correct: this tiny collection of deniers has actually been incredibly effective over the past years.
The best of them — and that would be Marc Morano, proprietor of the website Climate Depot, and Anthony Watts, of the website Watts Up With That — have fought with remarkable tenacity to stall and delay the inevitable recognition that we’re in serious trouble. They’ve never had much to work with. Only one even remotely serious scientist remains in the denialist camp. That’s MIT’s Richard Lindzen, who has been arguing for years that while global warming is real it won’t be as severe as almost all his colleagues believe. But as a long article in the New York Times detailed last month, the credibility of that sole dissenter is basically shot. Even the peer reviewers he approved for his last paper told the National Academy of Sciences that it didn’t merit publication. (It ended up in a “little-known Korean journal.”)
Deprived of actual publishing scientists to work with, they’ve relied on a small troupe of vaudeville performers, featuring them endlessly on their websites. Lord Christopher Monckton, for instance, an English peer (who has been officially warned by the House of Lords to stop saying he’s a member) began his speech at Heartland’s annual conference by boasting that he had “no scientific qualification” to challenge the science of climate change…
(3 June 2012)
Top US companies shelling out to block action on climate change
Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian
Some of America’s top companies are spending heavily to block action on climate change or discredit climate science, despite public commitments to sustainable and green values, a new report has found.
An analysis of 28 Standard & Poor 500 publicly traded companies by researchers from the Union of Concerned Scientists exposed a sharp disconnect in some cases between PR message and less visible activities, with companies quietly lobbying against climate policy or funding groups which work to discredit climate science.
The findings are in line with the recent expose of the Heartland Institute. Over the years, the ultra-conservative organisation devoted to discrediting climate science received funds from a long list of companies which had public commitments to sustainability.
The disconnect in this instance was especially stark in the researchers’ analysis of oil giants ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil, and the electricity company DTE energy.
But even General Electric Company, which ranks climate change as a pillar of its corporate policy on its website, had supported trade groups and thinktanks that misrepresent climate science, the researchers found…
(30 May 2012)
North Carolina Wishes Away Climate Change
Kate Sheppard, Mother Jones
Some lawmakers will go to great lengths to deny the reality of climate change. But this week, North Carolina lawmakers reached new heights of denial, proposing a new law that would require estimates of sea level rise to be based only on historical data—not on all the evidence that demonstrates that the seas are rising much faster now thanks to global warming.
The sea level along the coast of North Carolina is expected to rise about a meter by the end of the century. But business interests in the state are worried that grim projections that account for climate-induced sea level rise will make it harder for them to develop along the coast line…
(1 June 2012)
A cold climate in the arts world
Geoffrey Lean, The Independent
‘Where are the books? The poems? The plays? The goddamn operas?” So asked Bill McKibben, author and environmental campaigner, venting frustration at the cultural failure to address climate change.
It was a fair question, and it spawned a movement. Shouldn’t the arts be getting to grips not just with global warming but with the whole multi-headed global environmental crisis, at a time when – if the scientists are even half right – civilisation faces its greatest ever challenge?…
And yet great artists have effectively embraced causes in the past. Picasso’s Guernica helped bring the Spanish Civil War to world attention. Dickens’s and Gaskell’s portrayal of the social inequities of 19th century Britain proved catalytic, as did Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. More recently, theatre has spearheaded the fight for freedom in Belarus, artists such as Barbara Kruger and Banksy impart a strong social message – and Earthrise, the classic photograph of the Earth from space, helped give rise to the modern environmental movement…
(1 June 2012)