david roberts

Tue, 2014-01-28 14:32Chris Turner
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Why It's Not Enough To Be Right About Climate Change

Polar Vortex wind currents from earth.nullschool.net and the washington post

A couple weeks back, I found myself enmeshed briefly in a local debate here in Calgary regarding the validity of the argument that a continent-wide spell of frigid weather raised a serious challenge to the scientific foundations of anthropogenic climate change. In the depths of the cold snap, a rookie city councillor, Sean Chu, tweeted:

I replied:

The exchange and other snarky dismissals of Chu’s line of reasoning got picked up by the Calgary Herald, which ran a news item on its blog and a follow-up piece defending Chu against “anthropogenic global warming religionists” on the op-ed page.

As we were engaged in our local rhetorical joust, climate change deniers continent-wide were re-enacting the same little drama on stages big and small, eventually inspiring one of those killer rapid-fire round-ups of TV news talking-head idiocy on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. “Apparently decades of peer reviewed study can be, like a ficus plant, destroyed in one cold weekend,” Stewart concluded.

In itself, any given one of these minor foofaraws (or are they argle-bargles?) is barely worth wasting the pixels contained in this sentence. But as a whole — as a tenaciously consistent, recurring pattern of discourse — they actually illustrate a singular challenge to concerted and sustained climate change action. So if you’ll stick with me, let’s unpack the mess a bit and take a look.

Thu, 2012-05-03 12:46Steve Horn
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B.C. Protest This Saturday to Stop Warren Buffett's BNSF Coal Trains

Warren Buffett, the third wealthiest man on the planet (net worth: $44 billion), often referred to as the “Oracle of Omaha,” is the target of a May 5 action called for by Stop Coal B.C. Well, not Buffett directly, but a rail company he owns through his massive holding company, Berkshire Hathaway: Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway.

BNSF Railway is the second largest freight rail company in the United States and the exclusive carrier of thermal coal from coal basins in the northwestern U.S. to docks in British Columbia, where the dirty coal is exported to the global market, primarily to Asia.

The action calls for activists to blockade BNSF's four coal-loaded freight trains from reaching their final destination for the day and in the process, risk arrest. It is part of 350.org's broader “Connect the Dots” event taking place on Saturday, with actions planned throughout the world.

The Stop Coal B.C. call to action reads,

Sun, 2011-09-25 12:13Steve Horn
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Pentagon Back to Tried and True PR Tactic - Greenwashing

The Pentagon public relations and propaganda machine is at it again. Working overtime to convince pundits and citizens of the benevolence of its “democracy spreading” missions abroad,  some notables have drank the kool-aid

In a recent article titled, “The military’s historic embrace of smart energy,” Grist's David Roberts wrote, 

The U.S. military's embrace of energy efficiency and renewable energy is going to be one of the great stories of the coming decade. It will be a story about technology, the changing face of warfare, geopolitics in the 21st century, and the struggle to change one of the world's largest bureaucracies…For decades, the lines of warfare on climate change and clean energy have been drearily familiar and amazingly resistant to change. If it follows through on its promises, the Department of Defense – the largest consumer of oil and electricity in America – has the potential to change all that.

Furthermore, in March 2010, the Center for American Progress penned a holistic report titled, “It’s Easy Being Green: The Pentagon Goes Green One Wedge at a Time.”

While a nice and hopeful sentiment, this flies in the face of both history, as well as present day reality of the Pentagon's activities abroad. A review, then, is in order.

Mon, 2011-01-03 15:20Brendan DeMelle
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Future of Coal Dims Further in 2010, But Dying Industry Still Killing and Polluting

2010 was a dark year for the dirty U.S. coal industry, with the deaths of 48 coal miners – the deadliest year in nearly two decades – and widespread recognition of the threat posed by hazardous coal ash waste to waterways nationwide. 

2011 hasn’t started off very well either, with a New Year’s Day article in the Washington Post noting the industry’s failure to begin construction on a single new coal-fired power plant in the United States for the second straight year.

An excerpt from the Post story:

“Coal is a dead man walkin’,” says Kevin Parker, global head of asset management and a member of the executive committee at Deutsche Bank. “Banks won’t finance them. Insurance companies won’t insure them. The EPA is coming after them… . And the economics to make it clean don’t work.”

Not only are the coal barons failing to build new plants, but their aging fleet is also facing a huge wave of coal-plant retirements thanks to new and emerging EPA regulations, as Grist’s Dave Roberts summarized last month. 

Nevertheless, the coal industry’s best efforts to flood Washington with lobbyists and dirty PR tricks seem to have crippled President Obama’s campaign pledge to end mountaintop removal and stalled out EPA administrator Lisa Jackson’s momentum towards regulating coal ash as the hazardous waste it surely is.

Tue, 2010-11-02 13:29Brendan DeMelle
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Outcome of U.S. Midterm Election Already Clear - Polluters Win Again

While U.S. voters head to the polls today - and everyone from Fox to Politico to your uncle on Facebook becomes a pundit trying to predict the results - the outcome is already crystal clear: polluters have won again, handily.

With the advent of now limitless corporate donations polluting the democratic process thanks to the Supreme Court’s insane ruling on Citizens United, dirty energy interests, Wall Street fat cats and lobbyists will run America for the foreseeable future.

Corporations have long enjoyed the advantage of spending a tiny amount (compared to their enormous profits) to influence the entire political system, buying future access and favors that pay off for years to come, simply by driving contributions to their favored candidates in every contest from local zoning board races to governors to U.S. Senators.

But thanks to Citizens United, corporate influence is now far more invasive and impactful. Polluters can freely run attack ads and vicious smear campaigns against climate hawks, deploy their front groups to mislead voters on everything from health care to global warming, sponsor ballot initiatives to kill clean energy progress, and generally play fast and dirty with zero accountability for their actions. 

Wed, 2010-06-02 12:47Brendan DeMelle
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Climate denial activists’ parallel to anti-relativity movement of 1920s

This is an excellent piece by friend of DeSmogBlog Joss Garman, cross-posted with permission from JossGarman.com:

“This world is a strange madhouse. Currently, every coachman and every waiter is debating whether relativity theory is correct. Belief in this matter depends on political party affiliation.”

So wrote Albert Einstein in a letter to his one time collaborator, the mathematician Marcel Grossmann in 1920.

Jeroen van Dongen of the Institute for History and Foundations of Science at Utrecht University in Holland, writing in a recent edition of the journal, ‘Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics,’ describes the effectiveness of the movement that grew up to oppose Einstein’s theory. There are some striking parallels with today’s climate debate.

At a time when The Guardian just reported another poll showing a drop in concern about climate change, and a New York Times front page this week described Britons’ growing doubts about the science, its worth taking a look at that anti-science campaign, which was waged by Einstein’s critics because like today’s climate denial movement, the anti-relativity movement had some success too.

Sun, 2009-10-25 10:34Kevin Grandia
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My Favorite Climate Cover Up Quote So Far

Climate Cover Up continues to amass some amazing coverage and praise from around the world. 

Here are some of my favorite reviews so far:

Jeff Biggers reviewed Climate Cover Up at the Huffington Post:

“James Hoggan and his DeSmogBlog.com posse might be our nation’s most important sleuths–and they ain’t even from the United States. … Climate Cover-Up is an indispensable guidebook to anyone concerned about our planet’s climate future; in fact, it should be required reading for all American citizens, journalists, public policy makers – and President Barack Obama. … Let’s hope Climate Cover-Up makes it to the White House before the next round of Big Coal lobbyists.”

Liz Veazey at It’s Getting Hot in Here says:

“As someone fighting for bold climate action it is really helpful to better understand folks fighting against you and how they are organized.  I would definitely recommend the book, especially if you, like me and many others, felt like the climate denial campaign was mostly over.”

The Georgia Straight in Vancouver writes that Climate Cover Up offers “compelling insights for anyone interested in learning why there is so much confusion about this issue in the media.”

Straight Goods, Canada’s leading independent online newsmagazine, says:
“If you care about your well-being, the fate of your children and the environment, please read James Hoggan’s new book, Climate Cover-Up.”

RealClimate.org, a website that focuses on the science of climate change, had this to say about the book:
“There is an important story behind the climate change denial effort that goes well beyond the scientific issues at hand. It’s not our mission at RealClimate to tell that story, but there are others who are doing it, and doing it well. Hoggan and Littlemore are clearly among them. Read this book, and equally important, make sure that others who need to do as well.”


But my favorite quote of all (so far) comes from David Roberts at Grist, who describes DeSmogBlog as “a Canadian outfit that has its teeth in the skeptic movement’s arse like it was made of sirloin.”

Roberts says Climate Cover Up “offers chapter and verse on the industry groups, scientists for hire, and lazy-ass media that have colluded to leave the public in its current state of ignorance on the most important scientific question of our time. This isn’t just bloggy ranting either: the guys know how to dig, and they’ve uncovered original documents. Tasty, tasty documents.”


Have you seen another great review of Climate Cover Up? Drop me a line at [email protected],

Thu, 2009-05-14 00:27Jeremy Jacquot
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The OMB-EPA Kerfuffle That Wasn't

Is the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) deliberately trying to sabotage the EPA’s efforts to regulate carbon dioxide emissions? Is Peter Orszag, the agency’s brainy and genial director, secretly in cahoots with Republican opponents of President Obama’s climate policies?

Not quite – though that may have been your first impression upon reading the raft of articles published yesterday that breathlessly reported that an OMB memo had strongly criticized the EPA’s proposal to regulate greenhouse gases.

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