James Hoggan

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James (Jim) Hoggan is one of Canada’s most respected public-relations professionals and the president and owner of the Vancouver PR firm Hoggan & Associates.

A law school graduate with a longstanding passion for social justice, Jim also serves as chair of the David Suzuki Foundation—the nation’s most influential environmental organization—and as a Trustee of the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education.

James Hoggan is the co-founder of  Stonehouse Standing Circle, an innovative public-engagement and communications think-tank, and the former chair of The Climate Project Canada —Al Gore’s global education and advocacy organization. He also led the Province of British Columbia’s Green Energy Advisory Task Force on Community Relations and First Nations Partnerships.

James Hoggan is the co-founder of the influential website  DeSmogBlog and the author of two books,  Do the Right Thing: PR Tips for Skeptical Public, and Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming. He speaks, writes, and presents widely on public attitudes toward sustainability, climate change, and the environment.

You can follow Jim on Twitter here: @James Hoggan on Twitter.

You can click here to read James Hoggan’s recent article on “How Propaganda (Actually) Works”

Bjorn Lomborg’s Climate Confusionist Spin Is Never Ending

Bjorn Lomborg

Bjorn Lomborg is in the spin business, plain and simple.  In his Wall Street Journal op-ed this week, the Danish game theorist pretends to be so surprised that people were confused by his ‘change of heart’ last month – when he suddenly recognised that climate change is “one of the chief concerns facing the world today” and advocated for a $100 billion annual investment and a carbon tax – after years spent arguing that the world shouldn’t spend a penny on the problem. 

Hardly surprising to anyone who has followed Lomborg’s long trail of disingenuous spin, the ‘change of heart’ was nothing more than a ploy manufactured to tease his forthcoming book. 

Spinning like a top, Lomborg starts off his oddly defensive opinion piece with this twister:

After years of being accused of believing something I didn’t believe—or, more accurately, not believing something I really did—I made headlines last month for changing my mind even though I hadn’t.”

Dizzy yet? Well let’s review Lomborg’s history of spin.

On Factual Literacy and Media Responsibility In The Age Of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh

This New York Times online editorial last week by Tim Egan, “Building a Nation of Know-Nothings,” says a lot about the need for literacy, respect for facts and rational thought all being important building blocks for democracy.  

Egan notes the “astonishing level of willful ignorance” evident among the public, thanks to the lies and distortions put forward “largely by design” by Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, “aided by a press afraid to call out the primary architects of the lies.”

Egan correctly points out that this pattern is all too often seen on the subject of global warming:

“Climate-change denial is a special category all its own. Once on the fringe, dismissal of scientific consensus is now an article of faith among leading Republicans, again taking their cue from Limbaugh and Fox.” 

Read “Building a Nation of Know-Nothings” on The New York Times website. 

International Scientists Confirm Climate Change is "Undeniable"

An international team of climate scientists led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has confirmed that climate change is “undeniable” and clearly driven by the “human fingerprints” of greenhouse gas emissions.  The findings are based on new data that was not reviewed during the most recent 2007 report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The Financial Times reported today that the NOAA study drew on 11 different indicators of climate, and “found that each one pointed to a world that was warming owing to the influence of greenhouse gases.”

The scientists confirmed that seven of the indicators are rising, including air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, marine air temperature, sea level, ocean heat, humidity, and tropospheric temperature in the “active-weather” layer of the atmosphere closest to the earth’s surface. Four other indicators were declining: Arctic sea ice, glaciers, spring snow cover in the northern hemisphere, and stratospheric temperatures.

The Financial Times quotes Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring at the UK Met Office, stating:

“The whole of the climate system is acting in a way consistent with the effects of greenhouse gases. The fingerprints are clear. The glaringly obvious explanation for this is warming from greenhouse gases.”

Glaringly obvious, unless you are a climate skeptic who denies the facts in favor of touting manufactured scandals like “Climategate” - a mythical tale ginned up by the climate denial machine to further confuse the public about the real dangers of climate change. 

IPCC Fumbles Media Relations Strategy, Must Review Basic Principles of Public Relations

Andy Revkin’s revelations over the weekend about the botched media relations strategy deployed by the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, demonstrate that the IPCC has failed to learn from its recent missteps in managing public communications.

If you don’t have anything to hide, don’t act as if you do.

Being thrust into the media spotlight and subjected to sudden intense scrutiny can rattle any organization, and the IPCC is hardly the first institution to be accused of resorting to a “bunker mentality” and evading media inquiries. But, as Revkin points out correctly, sheltering yourself from the press is bound to backfire, creating more skepticism about your activities when you should really focus on explaining your work more clearly and operating with greater transparency.

For an organization like the IPCC - which has been accused of holding information too closely to its chest - to send an open letter advising its lead authors and editors to “keep a distance from the media” demonstrates PR mismanagement at its worst. It reinforces the perception that IPCC leadership doesn’t really know what it is doing.

That’s unfortunate because the IPCC has reportedly been spending a lot of time internally reviewing its operations to increase transparency. But this memo doesn’t help demonstrate that fact, by a long shot.

NY Times 'Climategate' Editorial A Reminder That Media Have Failed Miserably Covering Climate Science

The New York Times deserves praise for its excellent editorial on Sunday, “A Climate Change Corrective,” which rightly confirms that the “Climategate” non-scandal has been thoroughly investigated and revealed as a political attack on scientists, not the grand United Nations conspiracy concocted by industry front groups and the right wing echo chamber.

Five separate reviews have found no evidence whatsoever to back up the outrageous claims made by skeptics and deniers that the state of climate science has in any way been weakened by the theft and public airing of years’ worth of emails and documents from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit last winter. 

The Times’ editorial correctly calls on all the media outlets that amplified the bogus conspiracy theories from the Climategate noise machine to return to the subject and set the record straight for their viewers.  Far too much ink and airtime was spent on inflating the mythical Climategate conspiracy, and ever since there has been hardly any effort made to explain this episode accurately – as a baseless political attack on climate science.  It is imperative that all the outlets that fell into this trap and perpetuated the Climategate nonsense now spend the time necessary to ensure that their audiences know the truth.  

The Times editorial expresses hope that the “debunking of Climategate, will receive as much circulation as the original, diversionary controversies.”

Aside from the difficulty associated with correcting a lie once it has circulated this widely, editors at media outlets who lent credence to the Climategate myth must do some deep soul-searching to figure out why none of their reports initially probed the real conspiracy in this matter – the coordinated, political attack on climate scientists ginned up by a network of climate change skeptics who turned the mountain of stolen material into a sensational global news story. 

Lies Concocted By Climate Deniers Likely To Stick Around Despite Corrections

It takes less than a minute to tell a lie that can spread around the world, yet it can take days, months, or years to correct it.  Sometimes the truth never catches up to the lie.

As Newsweek’s Sharon Begley wrote this past weekend, nowhere is this challenge demonstrated more clearly than in the wake of the ‘Climategate’ stolen emails controversy and the recent retraction by the Sunday Times of London surrounding its bogus ‘Amazongate’ reporting. 

Begley details how, despite multiple investigations concluding that climate science remains on solid ground and exonerating the main climate scientists targeted in the University of East Anglia attacks, the “highly orchestrated, manufactured scandal” still manages to fool a large portion of the public into thinking that climate change warnings are overblown.

Begley writes:
A lie can get halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its boots on, as Mark Twain said (or “before the truth gets a chance to put its pants on,” in Winston Churchill’s version), and nowhere has that been more true than in “climategate.” In that highly orchestrated, manufactured scandal, e-mails hacked from computers at the University of East Anglia’s climate-research group  were spread around the Web by activists who deny that human activity is altering the world’s climate in a dangerous way, and spun so as to suggest that the scientists had been lying, cheating, and generally cooking the books.

    But not only did British investigators clear the East Anglia scientist at the center of it all, Phil Jones, of scientific impropriety and dishonesty in April, an investigation at Penn State cleared PSU climatologist Michael Mann of “falsifying or suppressing data, intending to delete or conceal e-mails and information, and misusing privileged or confidential information” in February.

Stanford Study Exposes Lack of Credibility and Expertise Among Climate Skeptics

A study by Stanford University researchers examining expert credibility in climate change has confirmed that climate skeptics and contrarians within the scientific community comprise at best 3% of the field, and are “vastly overshadowed” in expertise by their colleagues who agree that manmade climate change is real. 

As readers of DeSmogBlog know well, the credibility of climate science and scientists has come under attack in recent months.  In the wake of the Climategate episode –portrayed in the right wing media as a scandalous cover-up while independent investigations found no evidence calling into question the integrity of climate science – skeptics have loudly argued that the public shouldn’t trust the overwhelming consensus among scientists that man-made climate change is real.

Flipping that faulty assertion on its head, this new Stanford study, published today in the highly-regarded journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides even more reason for the public to scrutinize the credibility of the skeptics and contrarians themselves, showing them to possess less direct expertise and far fewer published works in the climate science literature than colleagues who agree with the consensus view.

BP’s Crisis Communications Strategy Is Fundamentally Flawed

How a company handles a crisis is the ultimate test of its character. 

Does it accept responsibility for mistakes or bad decisions, work to make amends and to improve its practices moving forward? 

Or does it resort to what I call Darth Vader PR, launching a public relations offensive to spin the public, seeking to deflect legitimate criticism?

If you fail this crisis communications test, as BP has recently, it usually indicates underlying character problems in your organization.  It demonstrates that you are out of touch with the momentous shift of social norms towards a more sustainable economic and environmental future. 
 
The New York Times reported recently that BP CEO Tony Hayward is in the crosshairs for his repeated gaffes and BP’s alleged cover-ups:

“Instead of reassuring the public, critics say, Mr. Hayward has turned into a day-after-day reminder of BP’s public relations missteps in responding to the crisis…
Mr. Hayward and the company have repeatedly played down the size of the spill, the company’s own role in the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, and the environmental damage that has occurred. At the same time, they have projected a tone of unrelenting optimism despite repeated failures to plug the well.”


There’s a word for that ‘unrelenting optimism’ in the face of total failure to get the job done – incompetence.  BP not only can’t plug the blowout, the company can’t even express genuine concern about the impact of its growing mess.  There’s a word for that too – insincerity.

Freak April Rain Showers Hit Canadian Arctic

While the Gulf of Mexico continues to choke on oil from a man-made disaster, the Arctic is experiencing another form of man-made onslaught thanks to climate change. 

Late last month, British explorers hiking in the Canadian Arctic reported that their ice base off Ellef Ringnes Island had been hit by a three-minute rain shower.  A team of Canadian scientists camped about 145 km west also reported being hit by rain at the same time.

Pen Hadow, the British team’s expedition director, told Reuters, “It’s definitely a shocker … the general feeling within the polar community is that rainfall in the high Canadian Arctic in April is a freak event.”

Hadow, whose team is gathering data on the effects of climate change on the Arctic Ocean in the Catlin Arctic Survey, said that “scientists would tell us that we can expect increasingly to experience these sorts of outcomes as the climate warms.”

Oil Sands Newest PR Push Doomed to Fail - Again

The recently launched Astroturf platform AlbertaIsEnergy.ca is yet another faulty step by the captains of the Alberta oil and gas industry – people more interested in ill-advised public relations campaigns than in coming to grips with the challenges facing their industry.

AlbertaIsEnergy.ca is the website and foundational platform of a new PR push, launched last week by a group of industry associations closely tied to Alberta oil and gas. The campaign was launched with a Calgary Chamber of Commerce speech by Dave Collyer, the President of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).

Let me concede this right off the bat: the executives who control CAPP have every right to launch PR campaigns. They have a responsibility to their members – even to their members shareholders and employees – to make their point of view known in the community. But they also have a responsibility to do so in a transparent and forthright fashion.

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