climate change

Mon, 2014-01-27 19:49Graham Readfearn
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Mont Pelerin Society A Window Into Ideological Heart Of Kochtopus Climate Denial

It’s known as the Kochtopus – the extensive network of think tanks, institutes, university departments, political funding arms and “grassroots” activist groups funded by oil billionaires Charles and David Koch.

The multi-tentacled network has pumped tens of millions of dollars into groups that deny the risks of human-caused climate change.

But if it is Koch cash that helps fuel these groups, then what is it that fuels the Koch brothers themselves beyond the obvious financial interest?

As DeSmogBlog has revealed, Charles Koch is a long-standing member of the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) – a global group of industrialists, academics and economists who share the “neoliberal” ideology of limiting government control.

If the Koch network has many groups dangling from its tentacles, then Charles Koch’s membership with the Mont Pelerin Society provides a window into the ideological heart of the Kochtopus.

DeSmogBlog today publishes the global membership directory of the Mont Pelerin Society as it was in 2010, with all personal contact details redacted.

Tue, 2014-01-21 12:29Sharon Kelly
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In Push For Nuclear Power, Climate Change Concerns Overlooked

Three years ago the world was reminded of the dangers nuclear energy poses when catastrophe struck Japan at the Fukushima power plant. Since then the gravity of the disaster has grown more evident as cleanup efforts have turned into a debacle. In the last month alone we have seen news of radioactive water leaks at the site, lawsuits from U.S. Navy sailors who responded to the initial disaster and are now developing cancer and ongoing harm to the fishing industry.

The nuclear industry is often portrayed as a climate-neutral alternative to coal and natural gas. An industry-tied movie called Pandora's Promise, recently featured at Sundance and debuted through Netflix and iTunes, has been promoting this very perspective.

But nuclear power plants need cooling water, which means they are often situated on shorelines. That makes these plants more vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, such as sea level rise. They are also more at risk of being affected by the ever-growing number and severity of storms tied to climate change, such as Hurricane Sandy.

Case in point: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers recently concluded that a small six-foot-high miniature tsunami that hit near a New Jersey nuclear power plant this summer was not the result of a seismic event (as tsunamis usually are). Instead, the researchers concluded that the surge was caused by a sudden atmospheric pressure change. The nuclear plant, Oyster Creek, did not report any damage. But experts say there was a cautionary lesson on offer: expect the unexpected. Climate change will cause more destructive and seemingly freakish events like this. Emergency planners need to plan for them — especially when the risks are high as is the case with nuclear plants.

Tue, 2014-01-14 22:27Graham Readfearn
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Exclusive: Mont Pelerin Society Revealed As Home To Leading Pushers Of Climate Science Denial

THERE’S a popular talking point coming from climate change denialists that all people who accept the science and the need to act on it are somehow blinded by faith.

In Australia, climate science contrarian columnists can barely touch their keyboards without typing out the words “global warming faith” or explaining how human-caused global warming is some sort of “new religion”.

This “climate religion” narrative often goes hand-in-hand with another favourite denialist talking point where climate scientists are only doing what they do because there’s a dollar in it.

Presumably the laws of physics, the melting ice sheets, the increasing risk of bushfires, the hottest decades on record and the acidifying oceans are also waiting for their cash.

Maurice Newman, the man hand-picked by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to be the government’s top business advisor, loves both of these debating points.

Newman has described climate scientists as being a “global warming priesthood” and belonging to a new “religion”. In a second opinion column in two weeks in The Australian, Newman repeats his cynicism over the IPCC and climate scientists, describing them as a “cartel” that “will deny all contrary evidence”.  Newman even repeats the myth that in the 1970s scientists were certain the world was heading for global cooling, when in fact, as this study shows, a healthy majority of scientific papers were predicting the opposite. 

Yet Newman has a deep belief system of his own, having long been associated with a form of “classic liberalism” – a particular world view which advocates small government and low regulation of the activities of businesses.

Not only that, but he is a member of a global society of influential business people, academics and think tank associates known as the Mont Pelerin Society who share the same broad ideology.

The Mont Pelerin Society

The Mont Pelerin Society was established in 1947 by free market economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek.

Maurice Newman, a Mont Pelerin member since 1976, has long been an admirer of the work of Hayek and fellow free market economist Milton Friedman, a past president of the Mont Pelerin Society.

Newman was responsible for bringing Friedman to Australia in the mid-1970s, at a time when Newman was helping to set up the Centre for Independent Studies – a Sydney-based free market think tank.

Mont Pelerin’s website explains that while all members don’t agree on everything, “they see danger in the expansion of government, not least in state welfare, in the power of trade unions and business monopoly, and in the continuing threat and reality of inflation.”

The Society, which holds a meeting annually in different parts of the world, also explains how its members see their society “as an effort to interpret in modern terms the fundamental principles of economic society as expressed by those classical economists, political scientists, and philosophers who have inspired many in Europe, America and throughout the Western World.”

To become a member, individuals have to be nominated by a current member and then seek endorsement by the membership committee before being endorsed. 

DeSmogBlog has obtained a full list of the society’s members that includes senior representatives of many of the world’s foremost “free market” think tanks actively pushing back on proposed policy solutions to tackle climate change.

The list, from 2010, includes almost 500 people from 52 countries, with the bulk of members coming from the United States and the United Kingdom. The 70-page list includes private contact details. DeSmogBlog has decided to publish only extracts with contact details redacted.

Among the notable members is Charles Koch (list excerpt here), the US oil billionaire who has been a Mont Pelerin Society member since 1970.

Mon, 2014-01-13 01:30Sharon Kelly
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New Carbon Rules for Power Plants A Missed Opportunity To Rein in Natural Gas Emissions, Critics Say

One of the linchpins of the Obama administration’s high-stakes plan to address climate change moved one step closer to implementation this week, as the EPA officially published proposed new carbon emissions standards for power plants, drawing fire from environmentalists who say the rules for natural gas power plants are too lenient.

The proposed rules cover both natural gas and coal-fired electrical plants, which are responsible for 40 percent of America’s carbon dioxide emissions.

The rules would make it virtually impossible for new coal-fired power plants to be built, unless carbon capture and sequestration technology is used, but sets standards that can be easily achieved by natural gas power plants without using any similar tools.

This has led to an outcry from environmental groups like the Center for Biological Diversity.

“If the EPA is serious about the climate crisis, it needs to be serious about reducing greenhouse pollution from all power plants — regardless of whether they are fueled by gas or coal,” Bill Snape, the senior counsel for the Center said in a statement. “The bottom line is that we can do better.”

The rules for coal plants are not expected to have much direct impact on new power plant construction plans—utilities planned to build very few coal plants even before the EPA proposed its rule.

But once they are finalized, the standards for new power plants will trigger a key clause of the Clean Air Act, and the EPA will next be required to create similar carbon dioxide emissions guidelines that would govern the existing 6,500 coal and natural gas power plants nationwide.

It’s important because it establishes the form that these regulations will take,” John Coequyt, of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign told ThinkProgress.

The EPA move is part of Mr. Obama’s overall climate strategy, which disappointed many observers who criticize its support of fracking and its underwhelming effectiveness. “The Obama administration is aiming for reductions by 2020,” Brad Plumer wrote in the Washington Post’s Wonkblog earlier this week. “But that's not nearly enough to avert a 2°C rise in temperatures, which is the broader goal.”  

Mr. Obama’s climate plan calls for a heavy reliance on natural gas, which produces roughly 50 to 60 percent as much carbon dioxide as coal when burned, to help transition away from coal. But there is strong evidence that natural gas, which is primarily composed of the powerful greenhouse gas methane, may be worse for the climate than coal. The Obama climate plan, in that case, would represent a move from the frying pan into the fire.

Sun, 2014-01-12 06:00Jim Hoggan
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Recommended Reading: The Agony of Frank Luntz in The Atlantic

This is a worthwhile read about a morally confused guy who would, if he continues to do what he does so well, make the problem he is distressed about worse. He seems unable to see his own hand in all of this polarization and promotion of goofy ideas.

I suspect that most of us looking at what Luntz has done would say finding cracks in public thinking and figuring out how to use them to get people elected is going to take us down a dark road.

With his advice to Republicans in 2002, Luntz turned climate science into one of the most partisan issues in American politics.

“The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science. Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate.”

The public was mistaken about this and Luntz either knew or should have known they were mistaken.

He knows there is something wrong but doesn't know it is him.

Head over to The Atlantic to read The Agony of Frank Luntz.

Mon, 2013-12-16 14:56Caroline Selle
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Carbon Emissions And Financial Risk Concentrated In 90 Top Emitters Responsible For 60% Of Emissions

A survey released last week indicates many major institutional investors, such as retirement funds and insurance companies, are putting their investments at risk by neglecting to address the negative financial impacts posed by climate change.

It’s no wonder that some of these investments are dicey when you consider the findings of another paper released last month, which indicated 90 companies are responsible for two-thirds of manmade carbon emissions. That’s not just a huge concentration of carbon emissions — it’s a concentrated dose of financial risk.

Published in the journal of Climatic Change, the report, “Tracing anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions to fossil fuel and cement producers, 1854–2010,” uses public records and data from the U.S. Department of Energy to calculate emissions based on the companies’ entire supply chains.

All but seven of the 90 companies identified are part of the fossil fuel industry.

Nearly 30 percent of emissions were produced by just the top 20 companies. Together, ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips and Peabody Energy, all investor-owned companies, are responsible for more than 13 percent of manmade carbon emissions.

These companies also have a disproportionate amount of political influence in North America. In the United States alone, ExxonMobilChevron and BP have contributed more than $12 million to lawmakers since 1999.

Half of the emissions traced by the report were produced in the last 25 years, when awareness of global warming was increasing. Concerted efforts to deny climate science and halt climate policy began in the early 1990s. As an updated Greenpeace report released in September 2013 shows, the climate denial machine has its roots in Exxon’s funding of front groups.

Mon, 2013-12-16 10:07Steve Horn
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New "Frackademia" Report Co-Written by "Converted Climate Skeptic" Richard Muller

The conservative UK-based Centre for Policy Studies recently published a study on the climate change impacts of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for shale gas. The skinny: it's yet another case study of “frackademia,” and the co-authors have a financial stake in the upstart Chinese fracking industry.

Titled “Why Every Serious Environmentalist Should Favour Fracking“ and co-authored by Richard Muller and his daughter Elizabeth “Liz” Muller, it concludes that fracking's climate change impacts are benign, dismissing many scientific studies coming to contrary conclusions.

In an interview with DeSmogBlog, Richard Muller — a self-proclaimed “converted skeptic” on climate change — said he and Liz had originally thought of putting together this study “about two years ago.”

“We quickly realized that natural gas could be a very big player,” he said. “The reasons had to do with China and the goal of the paper is to get the environmentalists to recognize that they need to support responsible fracking.

The ongoing debate over fracking in the UK served as the impetus behind the Centre for Policy Studies — a non-profit co-founded by former right-wing British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1974 — hosting this report on its website, according to Richard Muller.

“They asked for it because some environmentalists are currently opposing fracking in the UK, and they wanted us to share our perspective that fracking is not only essential for human health but its support can be justified for humanitarian purposes,” he said. 

This isn't the first time Liz Muller has unapologetically sung the praises of fracking and promoted bringing the practice to China. In April, she penned an op-ed in The New York Times titled, “China Must Exploit Its Shale Gas.” 

Tue, 2013-12-10 14:48Kevin Grandia
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Survey Lists the Best and Worst Financial Funds When it Comes to Climate Change Risk

Is your pension fund or insurance company a leader or laggard when it comes to avoiding risky bets on the future impacts of climate change?

A new survey released today finds that many major institutional investors, like retirement funds and insurance companies, are putting their investments (read: your money) at risk by not addressing the negative financial impacts posed by climate change and atmospheric disruption.

The survey, called the Global Climate Investment Risk, is based on data acquired from 460 funds who were invited to provide data, either from members of those funds or using publicly available information. Each fund is rated from AAA to X based on investment mix and recognition of the financial risks that climate change will have now and into the future.

Conducted by the Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP), the survey concludes that, of the 460 funds, only 5 received a AAA rating, while 173 funds are rated “X.”

Wed, 2013-12-04 16:18Guest
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Boston Globe Columnist Jeff Jacoby Distorts Survey And Study To Deny Climate Consensus

This is a guest post by Climate Nexus, and originally appeared on Climate Science Watch.

Jeff Jacoby’s recent Boston Globe op-ed misses the mark on the climate consensus. His argument boils down to the claim that there’s no consensus among scientists on the causes and effects of global warming – plus, the very idea of consensus is “authoritarian and anti-scientific” anyway. Both parts of this assertion completely mischaracterize the way that science works, using previously debunked factoids that don’t belong in a news outlet of this prominence. Climate scientists agree that human activity is warming our planet, and that this is causing harmful impacts that will get worse if we do nothing.

A few examples show the thinness of Jacoby’s justification:

Meteorologists actually support the facts of human-caused climate change. Jacoby cites a recent survey of the American Meteorological Society, even though the study authors themselves have already spoken up to directly refute his interpretation of their work. In fact, 73% of AMS members surveyed agree that human activities have contributed to warming, and that number rises among those with greater scientific expertise. Among meteorologists actively publishing on climate topics, 93% agreed.

Furthermore, meteorologists are just a subset of the scientific community. The 93% consensus among meteorologists does not refute the 97% consensus (established via multiple different survey methods) among the broader climate science community that humans are warming our climate.

Fri, 2013-11-29 13:54Graham Readfearn
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Guide Claims Warsaw COP19 Climate Talks Were Captured By Corporate Fossil Fuel Interests

Cover page of The Cop19 Guide to Corporate Lobbying

THERE were two logos on the grey felt conference bags offered to delegates at the recent COP19 United Nations climate change negotiations in Warsaw.

One was the official COP19 logo, embroidered onto the flap of the document bag inside which negotiators, observers and UN staff could carry around the draft texts which were supposed to pave the way for a new global deal to cut emissions of greenhouse gases.

Nestled unashamedly and proudly alongside this COP19 logo was the official mark of the Lotos Group - an oil and gas company majority owned by the Polish Government.

The juxtaposition was emblematic of the talks in Warsaw, which some observers described as the most “corporate captured yet” of any of the United Nations climate talks since the first “Conference of Parties” was convened in Berlin, Germany, in 1995.

Alongside LOTOS Group, other major corporate sponsors of COP19 included fossil fuel energy giant Alstom Power - delegates were greeted with that company's logo whenever they took a drink from the free water coolers scattered around Poland's National Stadium, the venue for the talks.

The main negotiating rooms and plenary rooms were elaborately constructed canvas and steel marquees on the stadium's playing surface and were provided with cash from another sponsor, ArcelorMittal, which lays claim to be the “world’s leading steel and mining company.”

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