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”

Congress Should Expose or Outlaw Astroturfers

The venerable New York Times has reported the discovery of “More Fake Letters To Congress” by Bonner & Associates, the Astroturf specialists hired by Americans for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCE) to interfere with the vote on the Waxman-Markey bill.

As much as Bonner has tried to deny its involvement, the agency was clearly the source of forged letters, purporting to come from charitable organizations opposed to the climate bill. But then, Bonner’s record is well-recorded.

As William Greider described in his book, Who Will Tell the People, Bonner has operated a “boiler room” that featured “300 phone lines and a sophisticated computer system, resembling the phone banks employed in election campaigns. Articulate young people sit in little booths every day, dialing around America on a variety of public issues, searching for ‘white hat’ citizens who can be persuaded to endorse the political objectives of Mobil Oil, Dow Chemical, Citicorp, Ohio Bell, Miller Brewing, US Tobacco, the Chemical Manufacturers Association, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association and dozens of other clients.”

Slamming the Climate Skeptic Scam


Updated: June 15, 2009

There is a line between public relations and propaganda - or there should be. And there is a difference between using your skills, in good faith, to help rescue a battered reputation and using them to twist the truth - to sow confusion and doubt on an issue that is critical to human survival.

And it is infuriating - as a public relations professional - to watch my colleagues use their skills, their training and their considerable intellect to poison the international debate on climate change.

That's what is happening today, and I think it's a disgrace. On one hand, you have the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – as well as the science academies of every developed nation in the world – confirming that:

  • climate change is real;
  • it is caused by human activity; and
  • it is threatening the planet in ways we can only begin to imagine.

On the other hand, you have an ongoing public debate - not about how to respond, but about whether we should bother, about whether climate change is even a scientific certainty. While those who stand in denial of climate change have failed in the last 15 years to produce a single, peer-reviewed scientific journal article that challenges the theory and evidence of human-induced climate change, mainstream media was, until very recently, covering the story (in more than half the cases, according to the academic researchers Boykoff and Boykoff) by quoting one scientist talking about the risks and one purported expert saying that climate change was not happening – or might actually be a good thing.

New Fraser Institute video both patronizing and wrong

In an embarrassing - and failed - effort to speak the hip language of youth, the Fraser Institute has launched a YouTube video dismissing climate change as a matter of natural variability, saying:

“The climate changes naturally; always has; always will.”

Obviously aimed at high school students (sample voiceover: “all because you ride the bus to school every day”), this seems to steal from the tobacco maker’s playbook for selling cigarettes to children.

Standing on Principle: Explaining the DeSmogBlog's Position on the BC Election

An election campaign is unfolding in the Canadian province of British Columbia over the next month, the outcome of which could have important implications all over North America and, ultimately, around the world.

A central issue in this provincial political squabble is a carbon tax - according to most analysts, the least-expensive, most effective and most transparent of climate change solutions (check this report, for example from the U.S. Congressional Budget Office [PDF]).

But if carbon taxes are popular among economists, they are widely regarded as toxic among voters - as any new tax is likely to be. That’s why the B.C. election is so important. For people outside this jurisdiction, it is being seen not so much as a minor election in a distant place, but as a referendum on carbon taxes. The assumption here is that if the tax fails here, it won’t be worth trying anywhere in North America.

Freeman Dyson is flailing outside his field of expertise; the NYT should be embarrassed

Freeman Dyson seems like a nice man and, in 1949, he was certainly one of the most impressive physicists in the world. Nicholas Dawidoff is a great sportswriter. And the New York Times (with obvious exceptions) is held to be a reputable and credible publication.

But none of that helps to explain why the NYT Magazine would ask a sportswriter to research an 8,000-word article on an issue he knows nothing about - featuring an 85-year-old “expert” who is similarly at sea on the issue.

Take what position you will on the degree of urgency, climate change is unquestionably one of the most important public policy issues currently facing any government in the world. It is somewhere between casually irresponsible and criminally reckless for a respected medium like the New York Times to undermine the quality of public discussion by putting so much focus on people who are so clearly out of their depth.

Climate Change is on America's Mind

A new research report out today details the fact that, despite the global economic meltdown, over 90 percent of Americans agree that the U.S. should act rapidly to combat global warming, including 34 percent who feel the U.S. should make a large-scale effort even if it costs a lot of money.

Americans overwhelmingly support calls for a comprehensive set of climate change and energy policies, including funding for research on renewable energy (92%); tax rebates for people buying fuel-efficient vehicles or solar panels (85%); and regulation of carbon dioxide as a pollutant (80%).

The study [PDF], entitled “Climate Change in the American Mind: Americans’ Climate Change Beliefs, Attitudes, Policy Preferences, and Actions,” was conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication – both of which are objective professional groups known for their cautious approach to opinion research.  The study authors surveyed over 2,000 Americans last fall to extrapolate the nationwide figures. 

Highlighting the increasingly powerful role of consumer activism in pressuring companies to take bold steps forward, the researchers found that roughly half of Americans are willing to reward or punish companies for their climate change-related activities. However, two-thirds of those consumers surveyed said they did not know which companies to target, posing a barrier to effective consumer advocacy campaigns.

Canada to study economic impact of climate change

It’s hard to know whether to celebrate or to weep.

CanWest News Services reporter Mike de Souza has learned that the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is calling for a lightning fast (eight-week), bargain basement ($40,000) report on the potential economic impacts of climate change in Canada.

We certainly laud the Prime Minister’s sudden interest, but if this is anything more than a public relations exercise designed to lobby the anti-science cohort in his own caucus, it is an affront - so terribly inadequate to the task as to only further humiliate Canada on the international stage.

The Big Ask: "Act Now!" on global warming [video]

This video is well done. Help spread the message by emailing it on to your friends and family.

Great Idea! Bob Lutz Offers Himself as GM Sacrifice

If Congress wants a sacrifice, it should be me.”

- GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz

We don’t often agree with GM’s head of product development, but on this point, Bob Lutz has a point.

As we reported the other day, Lutz is the quotable character who is struggling to position GM as a conscientious green company, even while continuing to deny climate change and to blame his company’s disastrous condition on everyone but management.

In his most recent gaffe, Lutz told CBS News today that whoever is charged with monitoring the U.S.  government’s auto-industry bailout should look harshly on the negative impact caused by California fuel regulations.

GM VP Bob Lutz's green pose is (what's the phrase?) a "total crock of sh#t"

Among the most galling visions, as U.S. carmakers stand cap-in-hand before the American people, is the site of a preening GM Vice President Bob Lutz pretending to be green.

Lutz is firmly on the record as someone who is too lazy, too ideologically hidebound or just too stupid to look at the latest robust and frightening science of climate change. He has dismissed global warming as “a total crock of shit,” saying that he puts his faith in the signatories of the laughable Oregon petition.

Lutz has tried to reassure us in the past by saying, “My thoughts on what has or hasn’t been the cause of climate change have nothing to do with the decisions I make to advance the cause of General Motors.” Which raises an interesting question: why would Congress bet billions on a policy maker who would dismiss out of hand the biggest environmental crisis in human history, and then go on making self-destructive decisions that drive his company to the brink of bankruptcy?