James Hoggan

Primary tabs

James Hoggan's picture

Personal Information

Twitter URL
https://twitter.com/james_hoggan
Profile Info

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”

US Chamber's Long History of Killing Clean Energy Policy

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is taking on water for advocating a climate change position that even its own members find irresponsible.

But this is only the latest episode in the Chamber’s 20-year campaign to block legislative solutions that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create new green jobs and, ultimately, lead to energy independence.

That campaign is a central – unavoidable – theme in Climate Cover-up, the book that I have recently written with Richard Littlemore. It details four years of research on climate change misinformation and especially on the work of a powerful alliance of lobbyists and industry front groups who have set back the fight against climate change – and the push for clean energy independence – by two decades.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a leading player from the outset, is finally suffering mainstream exposure, as major companies abandoned ship in protest against the Chamber’s climate policy. Apple, Exelon, PNM Resources, PG&E, PSEG, Levi Strauss & Co, and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce have all quit; and Nike stepped down from the Chamber board of directors. All cited embarrassment over Chamber climate policy as the cause.

The Chamber brought this rift upon itself.

Vice President Bill Kovacs triggered the humiliation during the summer when he suggested that the Environmental Protection Agency be subjected to a Scopes monkey trial to review the science behind man-made climate change. Kovacs back-pedaled as soon as mainstream media picked up the story, but not in time to stop the exodus of Chamber members who wanted to distance themselves from the Chamber’s anti-science position.

Last week, Mother Jones revealed that the Chamber has also been inflating its membership numbers by 1,000 per cent. While the Chamber has been claiming to represent “more than three million” U.S. businesses, in reality, it has just 300,000 business members. That still could be seen as an impressive number but, at less than 1% of all American companies, it hardly justifies the Chambers claim to be “the voice of business” in the United States.

Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein published an excellent piece on the Chamber’s inflated membership, noting “how disingenuous the Chamber has become in its Washington lobbying.” Even the White House joined in the Chamber pile-on.

Pity Rex Murphy. At this point, he has no place to go.

For years, Canada’s most famous climate denier —- a national broadcaster, columnist and author -— has  railed against science.

He’s positioned himself as a kind of noble dissident, one of but a few remaining voices of “reason” questioning the motives of the more than 450 lead-author scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Now he’s inched further out on his already cracking and splintering limb with a column that equates climate activists such as Al Gore with crazed zealots. The occasion is the release of Canadian Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s new green-economy platform, which the parliamentarian calls “the most significant investment in clean energy jobs this country has ever seen.”

To support his case that this sort of patently irresponsible talk could lead the nation into hemp-nutter land, Murphy turns to an error-riddled but widely-circulated October report written by Paul Hudson, a BBC weatherman with no scientific credentials or expertise.

Hudson’s report regurgitates the same old arguments that fossil-fuel-industry front groups have been feeding us for years in an effort to sustain the illusion that the jury is still out on global warming.

Clearly, Murphy is grasping at straws. “This is, or may be, the church of global warming’s Galileo moment - when observation of what is happening trumps the gloomy choir of consensus,” he writes.

I almost feel bad for the guy.

Here we have a man who has quite literally yammered himself into a corner. As the nation and the world finally begin to grapple with the reality of our situation and the hard work and new opportunities that lie ahead, Murphy has left himself no dignified exit strategy.

And so, like a cornered raccoon, he resorts to officious spitting and hissing about climate zealots, heresies, and piety.

Edelman Oilsands Advice - Embarrassing and Wrong

It is often infuriating to see the advice that my PR colleagues are giving to compromised companies, but sometimes it’s just embarrassing.

Such was the case with the advice that Edelman Public Relations principal Richard Edelman was doling out to the tar sands industry this week. Edelman was quoted in the Vancouver Sun telling tar sands insiders at a conference in Alberta that they should start pushing their position on Facebook and Twitter.

“You have to go where the conversations are,” he said.

This is bad advice on so many counts.

American Petroleum Institute Astroturf campaign: When Does "Spin" Become a Lie?

The New York Times added its voice today to those condemning the American Petroleum Institute’s Astroturf campaign to set up phony “citizen” protests that are actually populated by paid energy industry employees.

Beyond the fundamental duplicity of API’s actions, the NYT complains in its editorial that it finds some elements of the industry campaign “particularly annoying.” For example, API says the Waxman-Markey climate legislation will result in $4-a-gallon gasoline, while two very reputable analyses have said the bill will add, at most, 20 cents a gallon.

In a world polluted by some of the worst kind of public relations spin, people have grown too ready to accept this kind of dramatic overstatement as “part of the game.” Even the NYT finds this exaggeration merely “annoying,” even if particularly so.

We should be outraged. API is offering no rationale or justification for its overheated rhetoric. It has been challenged on this point and failed to come up with an explanation or analysis that support the $4 claim. And yet its campaigners keep saying that which is insupportable by evidence.

What do you call that - usually?

Is ExxonMobil Really the "Green Company of the Year"?

We Really, Really Hope So

It was hard, at first, to know whether the Forbes headline was tongue-in-cheek: ExxonMobil: Green Company of the Year.

But the story seemed sincere. Exxon is finally beginning to invest in renewable alternatives, putting $600 million into algae farms that would turn sunlight into automotive fuel. And the company is putting more effort than ever into developing and distributing natural gas.

Gas (methane) is unquestionably “greener” than Exxon’s conventional oil products. As Forbes says:

“Per unit of energy delivered, methane releases 40% to 50% less carbon dioxide than coal and a quarter less than petroleum. Coal fuels half of U.S. power generation. Replacing all of it with methane would cut CO2 emissions by 1 billion tons a year.”

Of course, Exxon isn’t actually “replacing” anything. It’s adding significantly to the global capacity to generate more greenhouse gases, even if some of the increase will come at a slower marginal pace.

Public Support for Energy Bill Shows the Deception in Bonner Astroturf Campaign

A recent poll sponsored by the Center for American Progress goes another step toward revealing the duplicity of Astroturf campaigns like the one that Bonner & Associates was running while representing the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).

The CAP poll shows that, in swing states, 63 per cent of voters support the climate change legislation currently being considered in the Senate. And yet the Bonner crowd was fomenting a “grassroots” campaign specifically designed to make it look like the public was taking quite a different position.

The Dose Makes the Poison - in Chemicals AND in Public Relations

Review: Slow Death by Rubber Duck

In the face of every toxic threat that humans have yet created, here is a realization that is equally optimistic and discouraging: humans needn’t fear science; but we should be terrified by the lies we tell ourselves about the good and bad things that human “mastery” of science can bring.

This point struck me as I was reading Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie’s excellent book, Slow Death by Rubber Duck. As the lighthearted title suggests, this is a jaunty walk through the horrors of chemical poisoning - a very personal voyage of discovery by the authors, who actually arranged for themselves typical exposures to the kinds of cancer-causing chemicals that all of us might run into on any particular day.

Their conclusion (minor): risks lurk around every corner. Their conclusion (major): Our failure to recognize and regulate those risks is not based on a lack of knowledge. It’s based on a high degree of societal recklessness that flows directly from leaving the chemical salespeople in charge of risk management. The chemical and pharmacological industries’ profit-driven public relations is trumping our efforts to make prudent judgments about our health and safety.

Astroturf attack on democracy is intentional - and should be illegal

Adfero and Bonner’s actions are planned and deliberate

You can’t convict someone of a crime unless you can prove that the accused was acting with intent - that they did what they did on purpose. By that standard, Astroturfing specialists at the Washington, D.C., PR firms Adfero Group and Bonner & Associates have demonstrated that they are guilty, even if what they are doing is - at this point - not technically a crime.

It should be. Because the Astroturfers are subverting democracy. By their own description, the firms are holding the U.S. democratic system up for sale. They’re using the old totalitarian tactic of gathering rent-a-crowds to push around politician. And, as Bonner boasts on its own website, they are doing it in a way that that gives them a specific advantage over lobbyists who, thanks to good legislation, would have to declare who was paying their bills.

New "Grassroots" Pro-Coal Group backed by K-Street PR Firm

“The Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security (FACES of Coal).” the latest “grassroots” organization to join the public conversation on behalf of the coal industry, appears to be a project of the K-Street public relations firm, the Adfero Group, one of industry’s most accommodating voices in Washington, D.C.

The FACES website, which includes no contact information, is registered to Adfero.

[Update: since we posted this article, the website registration for facesofcoal.com has been updated overnight and Adfero’s name has been wiped, however - thanks to research by one of our most loyal readers, Frank Bi, a cross-reference with Adfero’s IP address still shows facesofcoal.com running on their server.]

FACES describes itself as “an alliance of people from all walks of life who are joining forces to educate lawmakers and the general public about the importance of coal and coal mining.” But Adfero’s client list includes Koch Industries and the US Chamber of Commerce, two leaders in the fight to confuse, distort and deny the science of climate change - and especially to block government action that might affect their bottom line.

Reynolds, Tol, Lomborg: The Case for Ignoring Climate Change

The most successful Libertarian politician in Canadian history, Globe and Mail columnist Neil Reynolds, has joined the campaign to do nothing about climate change, basing his argument (A Net-Benefit Greenhouse Gas Plan - Less is Really More) not on the work of anyone who actually studies climate science, but rather on two economists with a track record of trying to discourage action.

Most famous of these is Bjorn Lomborg, the Disingenuous Environmentalist and director of a Danish think tank that specialilzes in understating the costs of climate change and overestimating the costs of taking preventative action.

In the run-up to the United Nations meeting scheduled for his hometown in December, Lomborg’s Copenhagen Concensus Center has commissioned 21 reports “to examine the costs and
benefits of different solutions to global warming.” The most recent result, a paper by the economist Richard Tol (inset), gives a good indication of how agenda-driven and, in some regards, surprisingly unprofessional, those papers might be.

Pages