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Happy birthday Kyoto! What was it again?

Happy Birthday Kyoto Protocol! This week marks the ten year anniversary. Is it a reason to celebrate? Kyoto was our first international agreement to cut emissions, so what can we learn for Paris? asks Alice Bell, writer and researcher on science, technology and the environment.

The Kyoto Protocol was an iconic international agreement setting targets for countries to cut the emissions of gases that cause climate change. A world first.

It was, unsurprisingly, a bit of a compromise. The targets weren’t as high as China or the Alliance Small Island States wanted, but still stronger than those proposed by Canada and the United States.

VIDEO: Young Iowan Questions Rick Perry on Fracked Oil Pipeline Ties at Town Hall Meeting

By David Goodner

When 24-year old Iowa native Kevin Rutledge first heard that former Texas governor and potential Republican Party presidential candidate Rick Perry had been appointed to the Board of Directors of Energy Transfer Partners, which is attempting to build a pipeline carrying oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale through his home state, he was hopping mad.

So on February 16, Rutledge decided to drive three hours from Des Moines to Sioux City, Iowa and ask Rick Perry face-to-face about his ties to the company during a town hall meeting at Morningside College.

Rutledge is from Ottumwa, Iowa and the proposed route of a new Dakota Access crude oil pipeline would cut right through the heart of the southeast Iowa county where he grew up, potentially impacting his home community with oil spills, polluted waterways, and damaged farmland.

Iowans and Americans are tired of not being listened to because we don’t have millions of dollars to influence politicians,” Rutledge told DeSmogBlog. “I heard about ties between Rick Perry, Iowa Governor [Terry] Branstad, and the Bakken oil pipeline and immediately knew this was an opportunity for me to ask him a question about it and bring this issue into light.”

Fact Check: Rick Perry Already Advocated Publicly for Bakken Oil Pipeline In Iowa

Rick Perry Bakken Pipeline

By David Goodner 

Rick Perry's Iowa spokesman says the potential presidential candidate won't publicly advocate for the controversial Bakken oil pipeline project he has a personal stake in as newly appointed board member of Energy Transfer Partners. But Perry was on TV news telling Iowans they “should support efforts to build the Bakken Pipeline” three days before his appointment to the board of the Fortune 500 oil company was made public.

Rekha Basu's excellent story Feb 11 for the Des Moines Register, “PAC money distorts politics, caucuses” sums up exactly why former Texas Governor Rick Perry's entanglement in a controversial, hot-potato Bakken oil pipeline fight in Iowa is such a big deal. Basu writes:

Prospective presidential candidate Perry gets a direct financial stake in a controversial oil-pipeline proposal. The Bakken pipeline, which would stretch through Iowa on its way from North Dakota to Illinois, is widely opposed by environmental and other groups. But by investing in Perry and his campaign, the company can bank on a friend in the White House to create a climate favorable for such projects. In 2012, the head of Energy Transfer Partners gave a quarter million dollars to a Super PAC for Perry. And now Perry has a seat on its board. A Perry spokesman says Perry won't be publicly promoting the pipeline, but he doesn't have to. His board presence is endorsement enough.

I hope most Americans also understand the absurdity of politicians using their office to return a debt to the deep pockets that helped get them elected.

But Basu's op-ed is also the third mainstream media story in as many days to uncritically repeat a questionable claim that Perry's Iowa spokesman Robert Haus made saying that the Texas politician will not publicly promote the Bakken pipeline in Iowa.

Why a UK shale gas industry is incompatible with the 2°C framing of dangerous climate change

Kevin Anderson, professor of energy and climate change at the Tyndall Centre, discusses why fracking in the UK is incompatible with limiting warming to 2°C.

This piece is a response to Professor Robert Mair’s Royal Society science policy blog, “Hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in the UK – an opportunity to shape a constructive way forward” (In Verba, 26th Jan): 

Professor Mair’s Royal Society post suggests that the development of a UK shale gas industry is compatible with the UK’s climate change targets. I suggest this conclusion is premised on a partial and overly simplistic interpretation of the UK’s muddled climate change obligations.

GOP Activists: Rick Perry's Bakken Oil Pipeline Ties Could Cost Him Iowa Caucus Support

By David Goodner

Former Texas governor Rick Perry's recent appointment to the board of Energy Transfer Partners, a company attempting to build a Bakken oil pipeline through Iowa, could hurt him in the first-in-the-nation Republican Party caucus if he decides to run for president, according to a conservative Iowa Republican activist and a DeSmog analysis of the political landscape.

Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) appointed Perry to its Board of Directors on February 3. ETP is a Texas-based company whose subsidiary corporation, Dakota Access, LLC, has petitioned the state of Iowa to build a pipeline carrying up to 575,000 barrels per day of oil obtained via North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) fields.  

The news about Perry's board appointment and its tie-in to the Iowa Caucus highlights the complicated terrain the issue will create for some Republicans in Iowa. It is a “political hot potato,” as DeSmog's Steve Horn wrote, and it is possible questions about the pipeline will arise in caucus politics leading up to 2016.  

Permitting plans in Iowa by Energy Transfer Partners and Dakota Access, LLC have sparked resistance from environmental activists and family farmers, the latter of whom often vote Republican, as well as from the libertarian wing of the GOP. Libertarian Republicans are often concerned about property rights and the potential abuse by government of eminent domain laws to confiscate private land for corporate profit.

“If Rick Perry is going to compete in Iowa this year, this could definitely be a big factor that could hurt him,” Jeff Shipley, a young Republican from Fairfield, Iowa, told DeSmogBlog. Shipley is a Republican activist, organizer, and former statehouse candidate for the Iowa GOP who has worked on presidential campaigns and with county and state party leaders for years. His home in Fairfield is located in Jefferson County, one of 18 Iowa counties sitting along the proposed pipeline route.

Jeff Shipley Iowa
Photo Credit: Shipley for Iowa

“This is a for-profit corporation that is going to try and use the force of government to steal farmers property,” Shipley told DeSmogBlog. “That runs contrary to typical conservative values.”

Fear, Ridicule, Danger: Is It Safe to Be a Climate Scientist?

This is a guest post by Minda Berbeco cross-posted with permission from Live Science. Minda Berbeco is programs and policy director at the National Center for Science Education and visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley Museum of Paleontology. She contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Recently, a college senior reached out to me, looking for tips on how to present her research to the public. We went around in circles for a while, until it became clear that the “public” she was targeting was the legislature in her fossil-fuel-loving state, her research was on climate change and her question was not, “How do I make this accessible?” but rather, “How do I survive?” 

I quickly assured her that no one was going to attack her — that, at worst, people might be dismissive of, or uninterested in, her research. I suggested that other concerns might be more pressing: getting good grades, finding a place in a research lab, securing employment after the completion of her graduate work. As for the public, I finished by saying, “My goodness; they can't hurt you, they can't fire you and they can't give you an 'F.'” Afterward, though, I wondered, “Is that really true?”

Western States Petroleum Association Spent $8.9M Lobbying Against Climate and Fracking Efforts in California Last Year

Western States Petroleum slideshow

This is a guest post by Dan Bacher.

The oil industry continued its long reign as the top spender on lobbying in California in 2014, according to data just released by the California Secretary of State.

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) led the list with $8.9 million spent on lobbying in 2014, nearly double what it spent in the previous year. WSPA spent $4.67 million in 2013.

WSPA apparently spent much of its money on stopping a fracking moratorium bill in the Legislature and trying to undermine California’s law to lower greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of WSPA and the former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create questionable “marine protected areas” in Southern California, also successfully opposed legislation by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson to protect the Vandenberg State Marine Reserve and the Tranquillon Ridge from offshore oil drilling plans.

“The winners of the 2014 lobbying competition are in – and the winner is… BIG OIL!’” said Stop Fooling California, an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse Californians. “Congratulations, Western States Petroleum Association and Chevron! No one has spent more on evil in California than you!”

The association spent a total of $4,009,178 lobbying state officials in the third quarter of 2014, a new quarterly record by WSPA shows.

Bjørn Lomborg Sings WSJ’s Same Old Climate Change Song: Don’t Worry, Be Happy

This is a guest post by Climate Nexus.

Bjorn Lomborg’s latest op-ed in the Wall Street Journal resurrects repeatedly demolished distortions of fact to downplay the real and increasingly documented threats of climate change. His trademark tactic is to acknowledge that climate change is real and human-caused, only to then dismiss the solutions—reducing emissions and promoting clean energy now—as unnecessary or infeasible.

Fortunately, his longstanding fight against climate action is failing to persuade the public, as an overwhelming majority of Americans understand that climate change is a serious threat and that we’re already feeling the impacts. More to the point they support action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially through continued expansion of clean energy and new rules for coal-fired power plants.

Mr. Lomborg has relied on similar distortions for his arguments many times before, even drawing censure from the Danish government for his “perversion of the scientific method.”

After the release of Lomborg’s “deeply flawed” book The Skeptical Environmentalist, the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science remarked that Lomborg’s work was a testament to the “vulnerability of the scientific process…to outright misrepresentation and distortion.” One researcher decided to fact check Lomborg’s claims, and had so much material that Yale published it as a book: The Lomborg Deception. In the book, Lomborg’s many sloppy citations and misleading myths are thoroughly debunked, but that hasn’t stopped him from repeating the same general arguments in years since.

When it comes to climate, he insists over and over: Don’t worry, be deceived.

The Facts:

Canada is Trading Away its Environmental Rights

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

In 1997, Canada restricted import and transfer of the gasoline additive MMT because it was a suspected neurotoxin that had already been banned in Europe. Ethyl Corp., the U.S. multinational that supplied the chemical, sued the government for $350 million under the North American Free Trade Agreement and won! Canada was forced to repeal the ban, apologize to the company and pay an out-of-court settlement of US$13 million.

The free trade agreement between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico was never designed to raise labour and environmental standards to the highest level. In fact, NAFTA and other trade agreements Canada has signed — including the recent Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with China — often take labour standards to the lowest denominator while increasing environmental risk. The agreements are more about facilitating corporate flexibility and profit than creating good working conditions and protecting the air, water, land and diverse ecosystems that keep us alive and healthy.

'The Drop in Oil Price Means We Need More Action on Climate Change Not Less'

Simon Bullock, senior campaigner at Friends of the Earth, asks: How should governments react to the drop in oil price?

This month, a powerful article in Nature highlighted yet again that most of the world’s oil, coal and gas needs to stay in the ground, if we want to prevent dangerous climate change. This is the “unburnable carbon” analysis that President Obama and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney have both made mainstream in recent months.

Related, over the last 6 months the world oil price has crashed, catching almost all economists and analysts by surprise. As well as profound economic effects, this crash affects “unburnable carbon” in two broad and opposite ways.

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