DeSmogBlog Apologizes to Barack Obama

Mon, 2008-01-07 08:41Jim Hoggan
Jim Hoggan's picture

DeSmogBlog Apologizes to Barack Obama

We at the DeSmogBlog would like to acknowledge a mistake in “awarding” presidential hopeful Barack Obama a 2007 SmogMaker prize for his position on global warming.

This was one of five prizes that we gave out last week in an attempt to call attention to the distracting – and sometimes outright deceptive – messages that certain people and companies promote when they talk about climate change.

Given that Barack Obama is far from the worst offender on this file, we hoped his nomination might shock people to attention. We wanted to generate discussion about the positions that all the presidential hopefuls have taken (or not) on climate change. The media – and most of the candidates – have ignored the issue almost entirely, a fact we hoped to stress by pointing out that even the best-informed candidate’s position seems inadequate to the huge task ahead.


Well, we succeeded in generating discussion, beginning in our own organization. Reacting to our news release, Chris Mooney jumped immediately to Obama’s defence. Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science and the most recent Stormworld, Hurricanes, Politics and the Battle Over Global Warming, said: “There remains a huge gap between what is scientifically and climatically necessary on global warming, and what is politically feasible in the US. So no sane candidate is going to be able to completely satisfy environmental interests right now. … I think it’s a mistake to therefore attack the candidates who take the problem seriously as they try to walk this difficult line.”


Ross Gelbspan, whose defining books Boiling Point and The Heat is On were a big part of the inspiration for starting the DeSmogBlog, also spoke up for Obama’s position: “I think he’s made a giant step for a politician, given that he comes from a coal state, in backing off his unqualified support of CCS (carbon capture and storage) and other coal technologies. Initially, he was pushing coal. After the environmentalists talked to him, he strongly qualified his approach – supporting only proven CCS technology. That means the guy can listen – and can change his position according to what he learns.”

These and some of the previously reported criticisms of our position are well taken. While we would always hope for better, we must acknowledge that Obama’s position is a stunning improvement over the current standard and a clear notch up from the other serious contenders. We would like to apologize – to withdraw the award – and to wish him the best in continuing to refine and improve his position.

 

Previous Comments

While I applaud the intent of the award to Obama, Chris Mooney and Ross Gelbspan have made good points. Who said that politics is the art of the possible? Get him into office first, then start hammering away about his position on coal etc.

Cheers
Fern Mackenzie

With all due respect, fern, I question the wisdom of the strategy you propose. Though I’m not a US voter, when I do vote I like to know what I’m voting for and I would expect the US electorate would also like to know what, exactly, it is they’re voting for should they decide to select Obama as the Dem candidate. Perhaps another candidate can be persuaded to be stronger on this issue – and others – and would be a better choice for the environment.

I was speaking generally. All of the candidates have struck a position on AGW that they think they can sell to the American electorate. None of them is perfect, and we have to face it: the US voter has a lot of other things on his/her mind besides AGW. We’d be overoptimistic to suppose the candidate with the best plan for carbon emissions will necessarily win. Whoever gets in, his/her AGW position will be the one to target for improvement, whatever direction it takes. Obviously, there may be a better platform out there. With Obama, coal fired plants are an issue.

Fern Mackenzie

Therein lies the problem with US Politics. Because of the corporate stranglehold on US society, truth can’t get you elected. Case in point is the Edwards Campaign. JE is speaking truth to power as forcefully as any candidate in recent decades yet can’t get coverage in the US corporate media because he is firmly against corporate interests. In the pursuit of ad dollars and keeping the one major candidate who is overtly antagonistic to those interest out of focus, the race has been set up as a two-way “horse-race” between Clinton and Obama with a prohibition on Edwards coverage.

I too would like to hear more from Obama on many issues, but realistically, he can’t say such things.

I haven’t been following the positions of US candidates very much, perhaps not enough to warrant a comment, but it seems to me that Obama has not been good at making clear, well-defined statements in general (especially re Iraq withdrawal and AGW) – or is it that he’s been good at making ‘nuanced’ murky statements? Either way, that perception makes me worry about what he really stands for (Can he be bought?) and how he might spin things if he comes to power. Maybe I’m just too cynical.

Issue the award to John Baird instead…He’s far more deserving anyway.

I’ll second that nomination!

Fern Mackenzie

Yeah, give Bali Boy a flip-flop award or something.

How about a membership in Greenpeace Canada?

So, you’ve apologized to Obama for being the best of a bad lot. His qualified support for coal “is a stunning improvement over the current standard” and you want to go easy on him because he is “a sane candidate” and therefore cannot “completely satisfy environmental interests right now.”

Is it still the case that, as you put it in your Jan. 4 email, that Obama is “campaigning on a greenhouse gas reduction ‘target’ that the U.S. won’t have to meet for 42 years and he has continued to promote the current administration’s plan to circumvent the Kyoto Protocol, the only international climate agreement currently in place.”

If that hasn’t changed, your apology is ill considered and premature.

How do you expect American voters to select a green president if you won’t hold candidates accountable for their positions? If the environmental movement is not prepared to tell the truth, why should we expect any more from politicians?

This is not a time for “politics-as-usual lesser-evilism.”

By the way, I’m a Canadian. I can’t vote in the US election, but given that the US government does not hesitate to intervene politically, economically and militarily around the world, I and billions of other non-Americans, have an abiding interest in the outcome of the US presidential election.

We are hoping y’all can do better than Dubya this time around. You won’t if you continue to pull your punches and let politicians off too lightly.

I find myself on the fence on this one. The original award shocked me into really looking at what the candidates have been saying, and it’s true that none of them is championing the cause as we’d like to see it done.

Bottom line, though, as you point out, we have to stand on the side lines and wait to see how it plays out. The rest of the world has a huge stake in the results.

Paul, you do know, don’t you, that deSmogBlog is Canadian?

Fern Mackenzie

Yeah, not everyone will have noticed, but our default position is to be polite …. call it  a national character flaw.

I know that deSmogBlog is Canadian, Fern. I was mainly addressing the Americans in the crowd, insofar as they are the only ones who are in a position to vote.

I know how tempting it is to refrain from criticizing a politician who appears to offer a positive alternative. However, when we offer uncritical support to someone who appears “less evil” we are accepting responsibility for their shortcomings. We become complicit.

Worse, by refraining to speak what we believe to be truth on the grounds that the electorate is too stupid or reactionary to understand what we are saying, we are treating them with a special kind of elitist contempt that can only backfire.

There may be all kinds of reasons for Americans to prefer Obama to Clinton, or Democrats to Republicans, though when you look at voting records on both sides it is almost impossible to find anyone who has, for example, consistently opposed the Iraq war or consistently taken solid positions vis-a-vis the environment.

Those of us who have taken the time to become acquainted with the issues have a duty to speak the truth and to resist the pull of “lesser-evilism.” Honesty is a rare commodity, but it is contagious and we need much more of it.

We may not be able to vote, but we don’t have to sit on the sidelines.

PG

I find myself overwhelmed by the amount of information bombarding us all daily, and confess have not followed the candidates’ platforms very closely. A little more attention is probably warranted.

Fern Mackenzie

Paul,

Obama’s platform does, in fact, contain several benchmarks prior to 2050. They do not explicitly dictate a carbon limit, but imply progress (for instance, a 50% increase in new building energy efficiency by 2030). What’s more the cut in carbon emissions by 2050 is 80% below 1990 levels. Perfect? No, but let’s not let the better get in the way of the good. Here’s a link to his energy/environment platform:

http://www.barackobama.com/issues/energy/

I should add that I am not an Obama partisan.

Cheers, Martin

Thanks for the link, Martin. I hope all reading this check it out. If Obama’s platform is the best one available in this presidential election we are all in big trouble.

Obama’s environmental program is hamstrung by his inability to identify the real problem. He focuses on things like carbon credit trading and biofuels because he can’t or won’t acknowledge that the problem is galloping consumerism. He can’t or won’t tell Americans that they are going to have to give up their cars, reorient their economy to reduce consumption and redesign their cities to create sustainable habitats.

If there was one line in his platform about rebuilding national public transportation infrastructure it might be possible to take him seriously. But, like all of the others, he is unable to wake up from the trance that is called the American Dream, but more properly understood as a nightmare in the making.

Sigh,
PG

Appropriate.

I compliment you on having the courage to reverse your position. Too many people are too damn proud to climb down from mistakes.

Yeah, notice when Hoggan first made his chest-thumping accusations, he (bafflingly) wrote in Third Person-singular style, even absurdly going so far as to quote himself.

Now when he issues his “apology”, after his hamfisted ploy blew up in his face – it’s First Person-plural. Heh.

issued by Jim Hoggan as spokesperson for DeSmogBlog: Judged by an expert panel of fraudbusters – the staff at the climate change watchdog DeSmogBlog.com – these awards recognize clever, deceptive or merely devious public relations campaigns.

Read more carefully. It makes perfect sense.

Fern Mackenzie

Canadians are so apologetic.

Do us all a favor (oops “favour”). Stick to your guns, you had it right the first time. By backing off Obama, you may be helping Obama, but I am not sure if you are helping the overall debate. The world just has to warm by 2 Canadian degrees C. and really bad things happen, whether or not politicians are good or better.

And who is that dude taking potshots at the sponsor of this blog? Fern Mackenzie - good on you for not letting that go. Desmogblog should follow your example. Let the politicians equivocate.

He’s one of our trolls…just ignore him.

up here, candidates who espouse a really effective stance on AGW and the environment are viewed as single-issue “fringe” candidates and can’t get elected (although their support base is expanding at an unprecedented rate).

I live in a riding where the conservatives could get a dead donkey elected. I posted a Green Party sign, talked to people, canvassed everyone in my address book – to no avail.

We used to be “represented” by the very John Baird who has set this country decades backwards on the environment, and embarrassed us so thoroughly at the Bali conference. When the electoral boundaries were re-drawn, we ended up with a Baird-wannabe. Every week or so I send him a loaded email with attachments (IPCC reports, The Age of Consequences, etc), urging him to take a more progressive position. What I get back are patronizing emails thanking me for my input and explaining how we must “proceed with caution.” It’s very wearisome.

Obama has demonstrated that he can learn and adapt according to new information, rather than trying to bury it or distort it as the Bush administration has done. This is an important quality, not only for the environment. Our PM won’t even listen! I hope that the American people manage to elect someone with an open mind, rather than someone hard-wired into an ideology that allows no variations from the dogma.

Fern Mackenzie

“Judged by an expert panel of fraudbusters”

I suddenly realised what this website lacks:

A laugh-track.

I check DeSmogBlog on a daily basis. When I read the award about Obama, it conveyed exactly the information I wondered about. Of course Obama is liberal and a moderate, far more liberal and moderate than all the Republicans and more moderate (likely) than Hillary. But what I wondered, as do many, many citizens who have taken a small interest in THE FATE OF THE PLANET ITSELF, was whether Obama might actually get it, and speak passionately about saving the world. Which is not about “pleasing environmentalists”. And the answer is “no”, he doesn’t get it. Which doesn’t mean I won’t be personally rooting for Obama (I will) as a vastly superior candidate than most of the others. But it does mean that the oil & weapons industry has so conquered the US and its politicians that democracy is no longer. Which is why DeSmogBlog exists, and needs to continue its couragous work. Keep it up.

No politician has plans that are in proportion to the reality before us all. As long as we let people get away from appropriate action, we help in the denial of the problem. Desmog should not be aiding and abetting denial. Label whomever’s plan’s as ‘best’, but make sure that the world knows that even that is not anywhere near enough.

Dear “Leadership Seeker”,

Nice name, but you know what they say –

There’s a seeker born every minute.

I think that you should rethink your apology. Not only are Barack’s stands little improvement, if any, over those of the Bush administration but Barack is one of the few Democratic Senators(other than Robert Byrd of WV who came to it very late and under pressure from the coal industry in his home state and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota) to cosponsor the Coal to Liquid Fuel Energy Act, Senate bill 154, in the U.S. Senate. He’s also a cosponsor with the same lot of mostly conservative Republican Senators in the pocket of Big Coal of the Coal to Liquid Fuel Promotion Act, Senate Bill 155 in the U.S. Senate.

Both bills would use government funds to subsidize the development of more coal to liquid fuel technologies and help pay for necessary infrastructure through tax credits and abatements, loan guarantees for coal to liquid fuel projects and other incentives promoters of renewable energy in the U.S. could only dream at this time.

Obama is an original copsonor from the time the bills were introduced in Jan of ‘07.

When I see if information from some shell environmental organizations setup to promote his campaign, they always point out that he has recieved the least money from Big Oil. What they fail to point out and obscure is that the reason Big Oil is not funding him is he is already securely in the pocket of Big Coal and supporting programs which will compete with gasonline.

Burning liquid coal in cars is the worst possible scenario for global warming as the resulting carbon emissions are higher than that of gasoline and would appear to only make global warming much worse.

There is also the fact that mountain top removal is a serious and devastating environmental issue in several coal mining states exacerbating deforestation on a scale comparable to the loss of forest with other critical deforestation in places much more discussed such as the Amazon basin. Also, the headwaters of waters running out of the coal mining regions in the Appalachian Mountains alone provide 2/3rds of the U.S. population with it’s drinking water. These waters are increasingly contaminated with heavy metals and other toxins as a result of mountain top removal.

West Virginia is ground zero for the battle against mountain top removal to extract coal in the U.S.

I believe as a U.S. citizen concerned about global warming that Obama’s positions on coal to liquid fuel are clearly unconscionable and no one appears to be talking about it.

I was hoping that your award would finally draw attention to this log in the eye of one of the Democratic candidates and help us get him to renounce this foolhardy endeavor.

Please look up these bills on thomas.loc.gov and see for yourself if this candidate is one any environmentally conscientious voter should be supporting!

And note, there are other options in U.S. politics than Democrats and Republicans. The Greens are a major force in politics here in the Twin Cities metro and elsewhere around Minnesota and the country and are highly viable electorally for many seats in many parts of the country.

David Strand
Twin cities area, Minnesota

The economic stimulus package is primarily designed to boost the economy and give people access to Instant Payday Loans. The President also believed that this bill will help working families to stay on track by sending out checks to certain states that have nearly depleted their funding for Medicare, so some of the quick loans they are expecting will be arriving early.  The Medicare and Medicaid systems are both beginning to experience shortfalls and are expected to be close to bankruptcy within the next 20 years.  Social Security is also right behind those two, so getting some online payday loans in now, and getting down to work on the problem is a good move.