Climate Denial Industry Costs Us $500 Billion a Year

Mon, 2009-11-16 12:54Jim Hoggan
Jim Hoggan's picture

Climate Denial Industry Costs Us $500 Billion a Year

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has announced in its latest World Energy Outlook that every year of delayed action to address climate change will add $500 Billion to the price tag of saving the planet.

The climate denial industry should foot the bill, since they are responsible for causing the delay.

In the run-up to the Copenhagen climate summit, a growing number of government leaders from around the world - and even high level United Nations representatives - have suggested that an ambitious, legally binding agreement is all but impossible to achieve in Denmark this December.  Some have indicated that it may take six months to a year beyond Copenhagen to cement a global agreement.  Nearly all point the finger at the United States for causing this delay.

But it is not President Obama’s fault, a fact that is difficult for many outside the U.S. to comprehend. Shouldn’t the U.S. president, often considered the “most powerful man in the world,” be able to commit the nation to specific emissions reduction targets and financial contributions to help developing countries deal with climate change?

It is not that simple, though. 

The real blame lies at the feet of the climate denial industry, which has spent the past 20 years working to confuse the U.S. public and lawmakers about climate change. More than any other single factor, the climate denial industry can claim responsibility for the present stalemate in both domestic U.S. and international climate policy debates.

Groups like the Heartland Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, American Enterprise Institute and a host of oil and coal industry front groups, including the now-infamous American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), have collectively thrown a wrench in the cogs of U.S. climate policy, grinding the nation’s response to climate change to a halt.


Disinformation and denial campaigns waged by these fossil fuel defenders – several of which I profiled briefly in a recent post Who Is Killing Copenhagen –  have also had an impact on efforts to forge a global action plan to address climate change.  These front groups were actively involved in blocking U.S. participation in the Kyoto Protocol back in the mid-1990s, and now they are directly responsible, once again, for U.S. obstruction in the Copenhagen negotiations.

Now we know definitively that the climate denial industry – which spends hundreds of millions every year on disinformation and denial efforts – is costing the world an extra $500 billion for each year that we fail to implement a coordinated global response to climate change.

World leaders meeting in Copenhagen next month should consider adding to the agenda a plan to charge these oil and coal industry front groups for every penny of that $500 billion annual delay cost, including back payments for the past 20 years of delay created by the climate denial machine.

They owe at least that much to those facing climate change impacts already, let alone future generations who will suffer far more due to their efforts.

Previous Comments

Pre-election, I made the basic point on one of these threads that Obama and the rest of the government leaders would be unable to do much in the way of climate change mitigation.

I didn’t have the “denial industry” in mind exactly, but the point was that grand changes would not be accomplished. There is just too much push back or too much momentum going the other way.

If I recall correctly, I was basically shot down and told the President had the power to effect the changes.

Somehow I just can’t picture Bush or McCain standing there in China saying that if their two countries can’t team up and show the way, the rest of the world has no reason to follow.

The fact that Obama is swimming through molasses to make progress on the issue does not take away from the fact that he has made it a priority. “Grand changes” start with small moves. Right through the election campaign he told his supporters that it would take time and perseverence, that nothing would happen overnight. He received the Nobel for being there, ready and open to negotiation to effect change on a whole range of issues. That’s what will bring about peace and a collaborative solution to the issues we are facing.

Earlier this evening I was listening to As It Happens, and it featured a clip of a hip-hop group in Nairobi made up of street kids who are feeling the effects of climate change RIGHT NOW in the desolation of famine and drought. They are singing in Swahili about “foreign markets”, “pollution” and “climate change”, concepts for which there are no words in their native tongue. THEY GET IT. It’s high time that our government did, too. Ferny

See this Ferny:

“In his State of the Union address, President Bush announced a $1.2 billion Freedom Fuel initiative to reverse America?s growing dependence on foreign oil by developing the technology for commercially viable hydrogen-powered fuel cells to power cars, trucks, homes and businesses with no pollution or greenhouse gases.”

I’m not entirely sure that Obama’s calls for energy independence and “clean energy” are any different. Yes, there are “political realities” but let’s look at the record:

1) Canadian tar sands, the dirtiest of all - Obama’s State Department granted a permit to export the syncrude to the U.S., and Obama has vocally supported the subsidies for an Alaska-to-Alberta gas pipeline, needed to increase production at the tar sands (as did McCain and Palin).

2) Coal-to-gasoline projects, and equivalently dirty process. The DOE has ramped up funding for these coal projects since Obama came into office, giving $2 billion to Project FutureGen - something that even the Bush era DOE refused to fund, due to unproven technology and high costs. Since both FutureGen and coal-to-gasoline use the same coal gasification technology, FutureGen might just be a coal-to-gasoline plant in disguise, to be unwrapped later.

See the DOE itself:
http://www.fossil.energy.gov/programs/powersystems/gasification/index.html

“Coal gasification offers one of the most versatile and clean ways to convert coal into electricity, hydrogen, and other valuable energy products… Gasification, in fact, may be one of the most flexible technologies to produce clean-burning hydrogen for tomorrow’s automobiles and power-generating fuel cells. Hydrogen and other coal gases can also be used to fuel power-generating turbines, or as the chemical “building blocks” for a wide range of commercial products.”

The rationale is that Illinois has dirty sulfur-rich coal that can’t be burned in U.S. power plants without fines or expensive scrubbers - unlike the low-sulfur Powder Basin coal that BNSF hauls all over the place (BNSF has a VP as director of the ACCCE). The only way around this is to convert the coal to gasoline - which produces massive water pollution, but not so much air pollution.

Both of these approaches involve massive increases in GHG production over the short term - and the failure to agree to a legally binding treaty in Copenhagen means that these projects can now move forward with no fear of legal repercussions, which is all that the industry wanted - and they got it.

So, what we seem to have here on the part of the Obama Administration is quiet support for ultra-dirty fossil fuel industries, and a refusal to exercise global leadership on climate.

The power of the President is the power to control the agenda - and unless you are saying he has no control over the budgetary decisions of the DOE, than you would have to conclude that Obama’s level of support for the coal industry is about ten times that for the renewable energy industry.

This is better than Bush-Cheney, when the ratio was about a hundred to one, but still, it means that fossil fuels retain their unfair government subsidies, while renewable energy is left to struggle on with state support.

I don’t think either Bush or Obama really “gets it” - or if they do, they’re unwilling to go up against their primary Wall Street donors, all of whom are heavily invested in fossil fuel business as usual.

I believe we are expecting too much from politicians if we expect them to really reform the system. They are a product of the system. They are beholden to multiple interests. They are driven by the need to get face time on TV and the possibility of re-election.

Take Schwarzenegger for example. When campaigning he ran around saying we would be beholden to no one. He would say No to special interests. He would set things straight unlike the “girlymen”. - wrong Arny - you were just like the rest - the system ran you.

I feel your pain too.

Here is what each and everyone of you can do to help rid our Earth of its nasty fossil fuel produced wealth.

First unhook your computer and bury it in your back yard; it runs on fossil fuel GHG powered networks.

Next cut the main power lines to your mom and dad’s house, don’t use latex products to insulate yourself while doing this as they are part of the evil petro-chemical industy.

Next take a turkey baster and suck the battery acid out of your mom and dad’s cars and squirt it into their gas tanks - heh heh no more GHGs out of them.

Don’t consume anything that is either manufactured or transported with fossil fuels - you know food, clothing, cell phones, condoms, ipods etc etc - throw ‘em all away.

And if you flew into Copenhagen to “protest” the oil companies and such go screw them all by swimming back - you don’t need any of natures filthy crappy crummy crude oil.

All of nature is simply wonderful - except her coal and oil; It’s enough to initiate a lawsuit against nature for putting them on our beautiful “green” planet in the first place. Amen

RE: “Grand changes” start with small moves.”

Yes, the beer hall putsch etc. we get it

RE: “Earlier this evening I was listening to As It Happens, and it featured a clip of a hip-hop group in Nairobi made up of street kids who are feeling the effects of climate change RIGHT NOW in the desolation of famine and drought.”

Hey me too, Im experienceing “climate change “RIGHT NOW”. 6 months ago I was wearing shorts and sandals and now its overcoats and mittens. What have those kids in Nairobi done to our weather and whose going to make them pay?

As for droughts and famines just what are they? Are these something that the EVIL oil componies created or was it what Moses did to Pharoah that started the climate change ball rolling?

It’s hard to take anything they say seriously. The costs may be far higher in the long run, or lower in the short term, but it is not very reliable information.

For example, Tanaka, the Executive Director of the IEA, recently gave a speech in Bergen, Norway titled

“Fighting Climate Change with Carbon Capture and Storage, 27 May 2009”

http://www.iea.org/speech/2009/Tanaka/Bergen_CCS_notes.pdf

As noted, CCS from coal combustion doesn’t work and has not been demonstrated even at the small scale.

In addition, Tanaka only looks at cap-and-trade, which is not going to work very well for switching to a renewable energy economy - rather, what are needed are direct solar and wind feed-in tariffs that guarantee prices for renewable energy producers.

Tanaka claims that, quote, “The world needs to better understand the role of CCS in a sustainable energy future—CCS is not just a clean coal technology; in fact, it is a vital GHG control technology that will be needed to make power generation and heavy industry sustainable.”

Here Tanaka and the IEA are ignoring the fact that solar and wind can replace fossil fuels - they don’t even admit that it is possible, which is on par with the interests of the major fossil fuel-based member of the organization, the U.S.
Just more propaganda for the coal lobby - run by a government-financed agency, no less. However, by positioning themselves as ‘concerned parties’ they are ideally set up to water down or kill off climate legislation - sort of like an astroturf program posing as an independent government agency, instead of as a grassroots group.

It’s an example of how the best lies are half true - yes, doing nothing now will cost more later - but dumping billions into CCS will only make the problem worse, while also subsidizing the coal-to-gasoline industry via DOE grants.

Unbelievably shady behavior is becoming the norm here, sad to say.

I wrote up the same IEA news at cleantechnica

http://cleantechnica.com/2009/11/13/every-year-of-delaying-legislation-on-climate-change-adds-500-billion-a-year-says-iea/

but your conclusion is so right.

IEA: Canada’s oil sands set for rebound

MONTREAL, Nov. 13 (UPI) “Canada’s oil-sands industry, hampered by the global economic crisis, could bounce back if it can overcome key economic and environmental challenges, according to the International Energy Agency”.

This is just PR for the industry, not a reliable independent outlook.

we can just get Kofi to give us the food for oil money the UN stole and use it to pay the $500 billion/yr.. I wonder how they came up with that number? and, of course, it is Bush’s fault not the big O’s. peace, rich

you know, nobody in their right mind would believe this story. They just made up that 500 billion dollar amount because they just assume all of these dire situations are going to come about. And Femack, nobdoy cares about what some stupid kids are singing except you. You act as if a flood or a food shortage never happened before global warming theory. Next time I buy a car, I’m going to ask for the most unenvironmentally friendly car I can get. I want a giant, gas guzzling suv that blows smoke everywhere. Ho HO HO, merry christmas!

And haven’t you figured out how to use a reply link yet?

your ignorant description of “some stupid kids” is pretty characteristic of your posts here, so your plan to buy a Hummer-wannabe isn’t news. Nor is your persistent belief that anybody that says something you don’t like is making it up. Time will tell, but unfortunately time is exactly what we don’t have anymore.

Fern Mackenzie

fern I really think it’s great that you’re so concerned about the environment. I encourage you to not use the computer, not drive a car, not a fly a plane and not apply lipstick because it has oil in it. So I think you should respect and encourage my decision to drive a gas guzzler, burn infinite amounts of carbon and eat only meat. I hear some poor disadvantaged minority kids singing about how eating vegetables sucks and how it sucks not having a big car like a hummer. True Story.

Yeah that makes about as much sense as a wingless bird. I guess if you create your study based on false presumptions you can make up any figure you want. The hallmark of global warming science I suppose.

On the other hand Global warming also denial saves us over 1.5 trillion every year so if you take 1.5 trillion minus 500 billion we’re still 1 trillion in the black every year! Gotta love math

Are you paid by someone to sabotage this blog? The nastiness this blog is attacked by so-called climate sceptics is comparable to the attacks against Obama in US townhall meetings. Anyway, real scientists arent nasty either.

Is someone getting paid to write comments on blogs anywhere? no

That is a point for the skeptic commenter - he doesn’t get paid anything. In fact he likely gets ridiculed.

The bloggers themselves get paid and thus have a conflict but the commenter is naturally comparably free of bias.

That point is really indisputable.

No, it is disputable.

RE: “Anyway, real scientists arent nasty either.”

Not even the ones gloating over the death of John Daly; the first effective skeptic?

Anyway, I think you should only allow people to comment here who agree with you 100% and then you could have a “consensus” just like the IPCC.

Oh by the way, Robert Mugabee and Hugo Chavez are speaking before the IPCC cheerleaders. Hows that for nastiness?

I don’t know where the IEA got $500 billion from but it’s too low a figure. If they’re going to fabricate a cost for alarmist value, they should have gone much, much higher.

We cannot blame them, though. They have to walk a fine line between the credible and the fantastic. Every-day people know the difference.

Every-day people know that blaming a so-called “denial industry” for sabotaging the global warming industry’s mantra is absurd. Attempts to force us off cheap fossil fuels (and our economy, on which they are based), is absurd. When alarmism gets absurd, polls show that fewer people believe the alarmists.

Every-day people know that nothing particularly bad has occurred to the planet, despite the relentless alarmist media barrage that’s thrown at them. Of course, alarmists tell us that bad things WILL happen, just wait and see. But all the people see is record cold weather, more rain, and cooler temperatures. And the people see that alarmists WANT the planet to be in peril, especially if the alarmists stand to make a fortune off the people’s backs in the process.

The people know that even if the “denial industry” actually WAS funded with hundreds of millions of dollars every year (an egregious lie), then the science supporting the notion of manmade global warming must be VERY WEAK. After all, our government spent $100 billion over the past 20 years on research to build the case against (not for) the fossil fuel devil. How fragile the science must be if private funding equal to a mere 10% of government expenditures is all it took for skeptical scientists to thwart alarmists efforts to scuttle our way of life.

RE: “James Hoggan is the president of the public relations firm James Hoggan & Associates. Over the past two decades, Jim has earned a reputation as one of Canada’s leading public relations professionals. His clients have included A&W Foods, the North West Cruise Ship Association, Vancouver Port Authority, Canadian Tire, Business Objects and Canadian Pacific Rail.”

Hold the damn phone: Have you looked at what the sponser of this web site has been up to? Look closely at your sponser’s biography

Northwest Cruise Ship Association - promoting pampered people “cruising” around on GHG belching oil powered luxury liners - why haven’t you activists torpedoed them all by now?

Canadian Tire - ie a Petro-chemical industy rape of the earth used to power GHG emmitting vehicles

Vancouver port Autority - Damn I thought we were supposed to only use things we could make in our own backyards - This is equivalent to the Pope in Rome joining up with Hugh Hefner in the Playboy Mansion

Look, its way past time you all realize that your leader and sponser of this web site is an environmental Satan hell bent on wrecking the entire planet; he may single-handedly be responsible for all the droughts in Nairobi.

Get off this web site now - Save the planet

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