Roger Pielke Jr, the political scientist recently hired by Nate Silver’s new FiveThirtyEight “data journalism” venture, has a long record of harsh criticisms of the climate science community, impugning the motives, ethics, and honesty of climate scientists and communicators. Bonus: find out what he thinks about Grist readers (#79)!
The Volokh Conspiracy, a blog of climate conspiracy theorists, is now part of the Washington Post. When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos took over the Post, some climate activists hoped he would close down the Post’s editorial support for climate-science deniers such as George Will and strengthen the influential paper’s focus on the climate threat. But it was not to be. In the first major move since the acquisition, Bezos' Post has simultaneously dropped liberal “wunderkind” blogger Ezra Klein and added the corporate-right lawyer blog Volokh Conspiracy, founded by Eugene Volokh in 2002. The Volokh Conspiracy bloggers are aptly named, as many of them have promoted conspiracy theories about anthropogenic climate …
At a recent forum on the Internet industry’s support for green energy, Facebook and Google representatives could not explain why their companies are members of a powerful lobbying organization that opposes that mission. This year, Google and Facebook became members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a nationwide lobbying group that links corporations and conservative foundations with Republican legislators at the state level.
CNBC host Joe Kernen marked the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy by questioning the wisdom of investing to protect utility customers from extreme weather. In an October 24 interview with Steve Holliday, the CEO of utility company National Grid, Kernen cited Bjorn Lomborg’s recent global warming denial op-ed in the Washington Post, “Don’t Blame Climate Change for Extreme Weather.”
Kernen’s repeated dismissal of global warming and attacks on climate scientists and activists as the “eco-taliban” have spurred a 45,000-signature petition drive organized by climate accountability group Forecast the Facts.
Reading from Lomborg’s op-ed, Kernen rebuked Holliday for investing in resilience to damages from extreme weather, which have been rapidly rising. In particular, both extreme precipitation and sea level are increasing in the Northeast, both due to fossil-fueled global warming. Holliday's National Grid is a British-based utility company with customers in the U.S. Northeast. Kernen claimed that his dismissal of the well-known connection between global warming and extreme weather was backed by prominent climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
I contacted Dr. Schmidt about Kernen’s use of his words, which he called a “red herring.”
“My statement in no way implies that no extremes are changing,” Dr. Schmidt retorted, “and certainly not that electricity companies shouldn’t invest in increased resilience, which, as Holliday rightly notes, is prudent regardless.”
How did Kernen's confabulation come to pass? It's a classic example of the climate-denial machine's manipulation of the journalistic infrastructure. About a month ago, E&E News interviewed Dr. Schmidt about a paper that found that increases in weather extremes are concentrated in North America and Europe:
The study noted that the greatest recent year-to-year changes have occurred in much of North America and Europe, something confirmed by a separate study last year. The result, according to several scientists, is a misperception across the West that the weather extremes occurring there are occurring everywhere. . . . “General statements about extremes are almost nowhere to be found in the literature but seem to abound in the popular media,” Schmidt said. “It’s this popular perception that global warming means all extremes have to increase all the time, even though if anyone thinks about that for 10 seconds they realize that’s nonsense.”
Bjorn Lomborg then misleadingly contrasted Dr. Schmidt’s quotation with comments from President Obama, in his Washington Post op-ed approved by editor Fred Hiatt:
President Obama has explicitly linked a warming climate to “more extreme droughts, floods, wildfires and hurricanes.” The White House warned this summer of “increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events that come with climate change.” Yet this is not supported by science. “General statements about extremes are almost nowhere to be found in the literature but seem to abound in the popular media,” climate scientist Gavin Schmidt of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies said last month. “It’s this popular perception that global warming means all extremes have to increase all the time, even though if anyone thinks about that for 10 seconds they realize that’s nonsense.”
Kernen then used Lomborg’s article to argue that climate change has no influence on extreme weather:
I’m looking at a Washington Post piece, Steve. It’s the Washington Post. “Don’t blame climate change for extreme weather.” It goes on to say that in popular — um — well, you see that is in the popular media, but the science does not support it at all. . . . Gavin Schmidt of NASA Goddard Institute: “General statements about extremes are almost nowhere to be found in actual scientific literature but abound in popular media. It’s a popular perception that global warming means that all extremes have increased although anyone who thinks about that for ten seconds realizes is nonsense.”
Kernen’s comments ironically appeared with the chyron “SUPERSTORM SANDY: LESSONS LEARNED.”
The election is over, the inauguration is complete, and it is time, as President Obama said in his inaugural address, to "answer the call of history." That means taking bold action on climate change. As President Obama embarks on his second term, many are already discussing his legacy. Will he be the president who stood by while the climate crisis unfolded? Or will he be our generation’s Abraham Lincoln, rallying the nation to tackle the fundamental moral challenge of our time? The president sounded all the right notes on Monday: We will respond to the threat of climate change ... knowing that …
Ethical Electric, a new venture by progressive activist Tom Matzzie, aims to transform how Americans get power. It's an electricity delivery company that will provide 100 percent renewable electricity to its members, while also mobilizing them on progressive energy and climate action.
I’d been a supporter of addressing climate change and clean energy as a progressive, but it became much more personal. I didn’t want to spend any more of my money on dirty energy. I wanted to only support 100 percent clean energy.
The Obama campaign is acting as if it is already in a general-election fight, against a Big Oil-Mitt Romney ticket. In a new ad, President Obama attacks “Big Oil” and Mitt Romney, pushing back against oil-industry campaign ads that accuse Obama of raising gas prices. The front group American Energy Alliance, secretly funded by Koch Industries and other oil giants, is running a $3.6 million ad campaign that criticizes Obama policies that don’t favor the oil-industry agenda. Oil companies have been profiting from American suffering at the gas pump, but they believe they would do even better under a Romney presidency, the new Obama ad argues:
Under President Obama, domestic oil production’s at an eight-year high. So why is Big Oil attacking him? Because he’s fighting to end their tax breaks. He’s raising mileage standards, and doubling renewable energy. In all these fights, Mitt Romney stood with Big Oil, for their tax breaks, attacking higher mileage standards and renewables. So when you see this ad, remember who paid for it and what they want.
As long-delayed rules to enforce the Clean Air Act against coal pollution go into force, the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign has launched Mr. Coal Guy, a new social-media campaign with satirical videos that parody the coal industry’s multi-million-dollar advertising campaigns. These videos feature Mr. Coal Guy, played by Mr. Show’s John Ennis, using iconic TV shows from the 1980s to portray coal as fun, hip, and totally safe. In one video, Mr. Coal Guy provides the voice-over to a clip of Bob Ross’ timeless landscape painting to promote mountaintop removal coal mining (“scrapey scrapey good-bye lakey!”):
Speaking at a high-dollar Chicago fundraiser hosted by Oprah Winfrey as the city basked in June-like weather last week, President Barack Obama admitted to being “a little nervous” about global warming:
Mitt Romney's top individual donor is Environmental Defense Fund board member Julian H. Robertson Jr., who has given $1.3 million to the Romney super PAC Restore Our Future even though Romney has viciously attacked the climate cap-and-trade policies EDF supports. A spokesperson for the hedge-fund billionaire said Robertson is confident Romney would "do the right thing" if elected:
In terms of the environment and climate-change controls, which [Robertson] does believe is one of the most important issues the country and the world faces, he has confidence that Romney, once he’s in there, will do the right thing.
Brad Johnson is the campaign manager of Forecast the Facts. He was previously the editor for ThinkProgress Green. Brad holds a bachelor's degree in math and physics from Amherst College and master's degree in geosciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.