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Daniel Souweine's Posts


Why is WGBH Legitimizing David Koch’s Climate Change Denial?

Last Wednesday, more than 50 people gathered outside of WGBH — Boston’s public television station and the largest producer of national PBS television content — with 119,000 petition signatures calling on the station to drop David Koch from its board. Even Elmo was there (well, a local climate activist dressed up as Elmo), to say that a man who has spent millions spreading lies about climate change doesn’t belong on the board of an institution that seeks to enrich “people’s lives through programs and services that educate […]” WGBH spokespeople were quick to respond that as a board member, Koch has no impact on their programming. …

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What Sandy Looks Like Six Months Later

Two weeks ago, I visited Keansburg, NJ, one of the many Jersey Shore communities devastated by the fossil-fueled Superstorm Sandy. My ostensible purpose was to deliver a check from members of my organization, Forecast the Facts, who had graciously donated to support the rebuilding effort. But I also wanted to see first hand what a climate disaster looked like six months later, after the nation’s attention had moved on. If you want the headline, it is that Keansburg is still reeling from Sandy. But it’s a headline that doesn’t scream at you when you first roll into town. As I …

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The Climate Silence Continues

Anyone who takes the threat of climate change seriously has to view the reelection of Barack Obama with great satisfaction. The American people rejected Mitt Romney, a candidate who mocked the threat of climate change, much to the delight of his base. Among the millions of Americans already suffering from climate impacts, and the thousands who spend their waking hours pushing for urgent action, glasses were raised, and rightfully so. But if we look at the past few months with clear eyes, we must acknowledge that our victory toasts are bittersweet, given the near total refusal by both candidates to …

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2012 or 1988?

1988. That was the year of James Hansen's now famous congressional testimony on climate change. It was also the first year that climate change came up in the presidential debate cycle. Chicago Tribune reporter Jon Margolis asked Vice Presidential candidates Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle about climate change and fossil fuels. Both agreed that it was time to act. Fast forward 24 years. Today, the science of climate change is incontrovertible, and crushing impacts like drought, wildfires, and flooding are now hitting American communities. And, yet, if Barack Obama and Mitt Romney don't discuss climate change tonight, it will be …

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At the debate, listen for the climate silence

When the candidates face off in today's debate, every word they utter will be scrutinized for gaffe-ability, flip-floppiness, and sound-bite-ification. But when it comes to climate change, it's what they aren't saying that deserves our undivided attention. Even with the urgent reality of global warming rapidly outpacing scientific predictions, both candidates have been disturbingly silent about the two central facts of this immediate, massive, and unprecedented problem.

Fact No. 1: Climate change is already wreaking havoc in the U.S.

In the past four years, Americans have been struck by a barrage of climate-fueled disasters. From record heat waves to increasingly powerful storms, harvest-destroying droughts to unprecedented flooding, the impacts of climate change are now squarely being felt within our borders. But neither candidate has "connected the dots" in clear, straightforward language. Obama's reluctance has been particularly notable: In recent speeches about Hurricane Irene, the Colorado wildfires, and this summer's drought, the president made no mention of how climate change is exacerbating these "natural" disasters. This is a huge missed opportunity, as polls show that increasingly, extreme weather is (finally) convincing many Americans that climate change is upon us.

Fact No. 2: To avoid catastrophic warming, we have to keep 80 percent of known coal, oil, and gas reserves in the ground


Hey, weather man: Where’s the climate coverage?

This week in Boston, Mass., the nation's broadcast meteorologists will meet in their yearly conference sponsored by the American Meteorological Society (AMS). You probably don't have it marked on your calendar, but from the point of view of the planet, it's the most important meeting of weather reporters in history. Because the burning question in Beantown is whether weathercasters will embrace their responsibility to communicate how climate change is creating a new normal of dangerous, extreme weather.

Given the climate change-fueled storms, heat waves, droughts, and wildfires that have dominated the past year, global warming will undoubtedly be a "hot" topic at this year's conference. But, amazingly, many broadcast meteorologists remain lukewarm to the subject: The majority of weathercasters, including many with AMS certification, don't believe that humans are causing climate change, let alone that it's dramatically shifting our weather patterns. These meteorologists are missing the opportunity to be journalistic heroes who can inform the nation about our increasingly poisoned weather.

For those weathercasters who want education on the subject, the conference will have plenty to provide, with panels like "Applying Climate Change to Google Earth," "Climate Change and Ocean Stories," and "Hot Topics for the Station Scientist." But the source of the climate communication deficit is mostly not educational, it's about politics. The ideological bent of some forecasters, and the pressures to avoid "controversial" subjects that might affect ratings, are leading some meteorologists to ignore science when airtime arrives. That's why the staff of Forecast the Facts will be attending the conference, carrying a message from thousands of our members: that reporting on global warming is a professional and moral responsibility.

Read more: Climate & Energy


It wasn’t just the billboards: How activists brought down the Heartland Institute

Activists protest outside the Heartland climate-denier conference. (Photo by Forecast the Facts.)

It's been a rough few weeks for the Heartland Institute, the "intellectual" nexus of the fossil fuel-powered machine that disparages climate science in the United States. Nineteen corporations have pulled more than $1 million in expected funding for the institute, leading President Joe Bast to ask attendees at the recent Heartland climate-denial conference whether they had a "rich uncle" who could help out. Seriously.

At a time when most news about climate change is bad, Heartland's decline has been a rare bright spot. How did it come about? In the reductive rendering of the mainstream media, the narrative has become that Heartland simply overplayed its hand by launching a billboard campaign comparing people who believe in global warming to the Unabomber, one of the single dumbest PR moves in recent history. Others have gone deeper, pointing out that Heartland has been painting itself into the crazy corner for a long time, and its lies were bound to catch up with it eventually. In that view, Heartland's demise was essentially inevitable.

The infamous Unabomber billboard.

While these narratives have elements of truth -- the billboards were incredibly stupid, and Heartland has been lying for a long time -- neither offers a full explanation because both deemphasize the crucial role of citizen action. Simply put, the post-billboard exodus of Heartland's corporate donors would have been neither as big nor as fast if not for the actions of thousands of everyday Americans calling those donors to account. Indeed, it might not have happened at all.

Read more: Climate Skeptics