The Democratic presidential candidates will gather in Las Vegas for their first primary debate on October 13, and NextGen Climate President Tom Steyer is urging CNN debate moderator Anderson Cooper to make climate change and clean energy a central part of the discussion.
In a September 29 letter to Cooper, Steyer wrote that while three major candidates -- Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley, and Bernie Sanders -- have recognized the threat posed by climate change and taken strong stands on key climate-related issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, Arctic drilling, and the EPA's Clean Power Plan, "the candidates have yet to discuss their specific plans to comprehensively address climate change and build a clean energy economy." That's why, according to Steyer, Cooper has "a unique opportunity to push the Democratic presidential candidates" to "articulate, defend and refine" their climate and clean energy plans.
In addition to making his case based on the urgency of addressing climate change, Steyer's letter cited polls showing that climate change is a "top-tier issue for Democratic voters" and argued that these voters "demand nothing less than a robust discussion" about the issue.
Cooper recently told the Huffington Post that he wasn't aware of Steyer's letter and wouldn't commit to asking about climate change in next week's debate. Cooper did acknowledge, however, that "environmental issues are of great interest" to both Democrats and the country as a whole, and he hinted that it is "entirely possible" he'll ask the candidates about the topic. CNN's Jake Tapper asked several GOP candidates about climate change during the cable network's Republican primary debate on September 16.
But NextGen Climate isn't taking any chances. In an October 7 blog post, the group pointed out that The Washington Post's Greg Sargent also believes that Democratic primary voters "deserve to know more specifics about the contenders' [climate] solutions," and concluded: "You're up, Anderson." NextGen also urged supporters to tweet some climate- and energy-related questions to Cooper:
Because of both the magnitude of the climate crisis and importance of the issue to Democratic voters, NextGen has called on the Democratic Party to add another primary-season debate to its schedule that will focus entirely on climate change and clean energy. But in the meantime, Tuesday's CNN debate presents an opportunity to get the conversation started.
Image at top via Flickr user mroach using a Creative Commons License.
In addition to repeating debunked claims that a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ozone standard will harm the economy and do nothing to improve public health, conservative media are pointing to ozone that naturally occurs in national parks as supposed evidence that the EPA standard is unfair and unnecessary. But while some "background ozone" does come from natural sources like wildfires -- and from industrial pollution drifting into a state from outside the U.S. -- levels of background ozone are not high enough to prevent states from meeting the EPA's new standard, and states are not responsible for reducing it.
Students and alumni at Santa Clara University are protesting an upcoming speech by syndicated columnist George Will. After Will "trivialized" campus sexual assault victims in a 2014 column, he has faced widespread opposition at schools that have hosted him. Last year, Will was uninvited from a speech at Scripps College and protested by hundreds of students at two other schools.
Will first came under fire after his June 2014 column dismissed "the supposed campus epidemic of rape, aka 'sexual assault,'" and argued that efforts to combat campus sexual assault have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges."
A petition at Change.org states that the signatories are "extremely disappointed" with Will's inclusion in Santa Clara's President's Speaker Series on October 8. "We find Will's flatly dismissive statements about sexual assault, climate change, and the Pope not only disrespectful," the petition states, "but contrary to the very spirit of a speaker series dedicated to 'engaging people and ideas that shape our world'" (emphasis added):
While we believe that hosting speakers with a wide range of political viewpoints is vital to the intellectual life of the university, publications by Will demonstrate that he is not interested in the kinds of presentation and discussion that make this series a successful contribution to the mission of the university.
Will has repeatedly issued statements that both trivialize the problem of campus sexual assaults and invalidate the experiences and feelings of sexual assault survivors. Moreover, his recent claim that national and local efforts to combat campus rape have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges" is not merely misguided, but deeply misogynistic and ignorant.
The invitation of Will, at considerable financial cost to the university, sends a profoundly contradictory message to our campus community and particularly our students. At this year's university convocation, President Engh talked about the need for students, faculty, staff -- and the institution as a whole -- to respond with more courage and concern to the problem of violence against women, particularly on college campuses across the country.
Featuring George Will in the President's Speaker Series also undercuts the dedication of many universities (including SCU) to promoting sustainability, an effort Will derides as a silly "progressive gesture." Moreover, leading climatologist Michael Mann notes, "George Will is known for grossly misstating the science of climate change." Ironically, in a recent opinion piece titled "Pope Francis's fact free flamboyance," Will described Pope Francis as embracing ideas "impeccably fashionable, demonstrably false and deeply reactionary," with the "intellectual tone of fortune cookies."
Last October, Will was uninvited from a speaking engagement at Scripps College, after the school's president said Will had "trivialized" sexual assault cases, including one "that reflects similar experiences reported by Scripps students." Later in the year, hundreds showed up to protest a speech Will gave at Miami University in Ohio, while over a thousand students signed a letter criticizing the speech. Some students at Michigan State University also turned their backs on Will during his recent commencement speech. Other students and faculty at MSU even held a separate commencement ceremony, and Michigan Senator (and MSU alumna) Debbie Stabenow condemned the decision to host Will.
Image of Miami University protest courtesy of the Facebook page of the school's Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program.
The last time Newsweek published an anti-environment op-ed without disclosing the author's oil industry ties, the esteemed news outlet was forced to acknowledge the error and provide proper disclosure to its readers. Now it's happened again.
On October 1, Newsweek published an op-ed by the Cato Institute's Walter Olson that argued against calls for the government to investigate climate science deniers under the federal racketeering law. But Newsweek identified Olson only as "a senior fellow at the Cato Institute's Center for Constitutional Studies," failing to disclose that Cato has received funding from the oil industry, including ExxonMobil.
ExxonMobil is currently under fire after an InsideClimate News investigation revealed that although Exxon's own scientists discovered decades ago that fossil fuel emissions could lead to catastrophic climate change, the company subsequently "spent more than 20 years discrediting the research its own scientists had once confirmed." Additionally, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and a group of 20 prominent scientists have called for an investigation of "corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change" under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the same law that tobacco companies violated by deceiving the public about the health risks of smoking.
In his Newsweek op-ed, Olson pushed back against the idea of investigating climate science deniers under the RICO statute, claiming it threatens the right to free speech. Olson asserted that "controversial speech need not be true to be protected" and defended the right to use "half-truths, selectively marshaled data, [and] scientific studies that spring from agendas," arguing that these tactics are merely "common currency of everyday debate in Washington."
Newsweek failed to disclose the Cato Institute's industry funding, which includes at least $125,000 from ExxonMobil. Cato was co-founded by the oil billionaire Koch brothers and has received millions of dollars from the Koch family.
The Cato Institute is also home to long-time climate science denier Patrick Michaels, and once published a fake "addendum" to a federal climate report, which Climate Science & Policy Watch characterized as "counterfeit."
In April, Newsweek published a deeply-flawed op-ed attacking wind energy by Utah State University professor Randy T. Simmons without disclosing that Simmons' full title at Utah State was the Charles G. Koch professor of political economy, or that he is a senior fellow at the Koch- and ExxonMobil-funded Property and Environment Research Center. After Media Matters and others drew attention to the lack of disclosure and other problems with the op-ed, Newsweek added a correction and an editor's note disclosing Simmons' oil industry ties, and also published an op-ed responding to his misleading claims.
Following the incident, Newsweek Managing Editor Kira Bindrim told Politico: "Admittedly, we did not do an outside vetting of Simmons, and we are not in the habit of fully fact-checking opinion pieces picked up like this from outside sites. These are aspects of our workflow that we're looking at now."
Image at the top from Flickr user Tommaso Galli with a Creative Commons license.
The president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) lashed out at The Washington Post for exposing his organization's oil industry funding, baselessly describing a Post article about the group's anti-environmental agenda as "[l]ies, innuendos and false claims."
The Post recently helped pull back the curtain on the NBCC's fossil fuel-friendly agenda. In a September 28 article, The Post reported that the NBCC has been fighting an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal to reduce ground-level ozone pollution, the primary component of smog, and also noted that the NBCC is heavily funded by ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel interests. The NBCC has been fighting air pollution standards and climate change action for decades.
NBCC president Harry Alford decried the Washington Post article in a column on his organization's website, titled "Environmental Extremists seem to be going cuckoo." Without identifying any specific errors in the Post article, Alford wrote that that it contained "[l]ies, innuendos and false claims" and "misinformation about the National Black Chamber of Commerce." He also described the Post article as "incomplete reporting, replete with racial innuendos," but failed to elaborate.
From Alford's post on the NBCC website:
Just this week, the super liberals put out misinformation about the National Black Chamber of Commerce via the Washington Post newspaper. Lies, innuendos and false claims. The reporting was less than professional and we attempted to explain the misrepresentations to their Ombudsman. To our surprise, the Post doesn't have an Ombudsman to whom readers can go to correct inaccuracies. They even claim one of the "gotcha" men stalking me with a camera is a "writer". Just a few years ago he was in security at the Detroit Westin Hotel. Give me a break! The others they quoted also have hidden agendas.
The misinformation articles, the lies and stalking us around the country are flattering. But we didn't become the number one Black business association in the world by being timid. There are a lot of "broke face" governors, senators, congresspersons and corporate CEO's who have learned this the hard way. We got a big laugh from the incomplete reporting, replete with racial innuendos. As my late mentor, Arthur A. Fletcher, once told me, "When you get on the front page of the Post you are in Tall Cotton and that ain't bad. The fact is they are fearing your movement and your side is apparently winning."
The truth always wins eventually.
Rush Limbaugh criticized Politico and other media outlets for reporting on his remarks that NASA's discovery of water of Mars was part of a "left-wing agenda," claiming the remarks were taken out of context. However, when asked by Politico to explain how, a Limbaugh spokesman refused to explain.
On the September 28 edition of his show, Limbaugh, talking about NASA's announcement that day it had discovered liquid water on Mars, claimed NASA had been "corrupted by the current regime" and, referencing global warming, asked, "what's to stop them from making up something that happened on Mars that will help advance their left-wing agenda on this planet?" Limbaugh doubled down on his remarks the next day, claiming Media Matters took his remarks "out of context" and that "Obama has turned NASA over to Muslim outreach."
Politico's Eliza Collins, writing about Limbaugh's criticism of the media reports on his remarks, noted "It's not clear, however, how exactly Limbaugh felt he was being misinterpreted." Collins added a Limbaugh spokesman "declined to elaborate." She also noted "[a] transcript posted on Limbaugh's own website, however, matches Media Matters' version word for word":
Rush Limbaugh took a swipe Tuesday at POLITICO and others who had reported on his recent comments about the discovery of water on Mars -- saying that his remarks about how NASA's findings would be used to "advance a leftist agenda" were being misinterpreted.
"POLITICO has a story: 'Rush Limbaugh Pans Evidence of Water on Mars as Part of Leftist Agenda,' and they take it out of context, too, which is typical," he said on his show Tuesday. "I don't think this guy, Eliza Collins... I doubt that he went to my website to find out what I really said. Just looked at these 'watchdog' websites and took it from there."
On Monday, POLITICO wrote about a lengthy segment of the conservative radio host's show in which he predicted that the Mars discovery would be used to promote liberal views about climate change.
The original story on POLITICO cited a transcript and video of Limbaugh from the left-leaning website Media Matters, a long-time critic of the radio host that has called on advertisers to boycott his program. A transcript posted on Limbaugh's own website, however, matches Media Matters' version word for word.
"This Mars thing is just totally all over the place out there, and every one of these people talking about it, from local TV news, say, in Dallas, or The Politico, are getting it totally out of context from our old buddies at Media Matters for America, which wouldn't know the truth if it knocked them unconscious," Limbaugh said Wednesday.
It's not clear, however, how exactly Limbaugh felt he was being misinterpreted. A spokesman for the radio host declined to elaborate.
Listen to Limbaugh's original remarks here:
From the September 30 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the September 30 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Numerous media outlets have covered GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush's new fossil fuel-friendly energy plan without mentioning his extensive ties to the industry. Both Bush's campaign and his super PAC have received significant donations from oil and gas interests, Bush met secretly with coal industry executives in June, and he recently appointed fossil fuel industry ally Scott Pruitt to oversee his campaign policy agenda.
From the September 29 edition of Comedy Central's The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore:
From the September 29 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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ExxonMobil has long known that burning fossil fuels causes climate change, yet has continued to fund groups that deny its existence. According to The Guardian's Dana Nuccitelli, Exxon's actions parallel how the tobacco industry deliberately deceived the public about the health risks of smoking.
In a September 29 Guardian article, Dana Nuccitelli reported on a recently concluded eight-month investigation by InsideClimate News that found that Exxon's own scientific research confirmed human-caused global warming as far back as the late 1970s. According to InsideClimate, the obtained documents show that Exxon scientists confirmed that carbon dioxide emissions impact the climate and that these findings were in accordance with expert consensus. The investigation further found that after "a decade of frank internal discussions on global warming and conducting unbiased studies on it, Exxon changed direction in 1989 and spent more than 20 years discrediting the research its own scientists had once confirmed."
In the Guardian article, headlined, "Is the fossil fuel industry, like the tobacco industry, guilty of racketeering?" Nuccitelli reported that a group of climate scientists is calling for an investigation "of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change" under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). He noted that a similar lawsuit was brought against the tobacco industry in 2006, and resulted in a district court judge ruling that tobacco companies worked to "maximize industry profits by preserving and expanding the market for cigarettes through a scheme to deceive the public."
The connection between the tobacco industry and climate denial has been made before by those who have noted that many of the people and organizations working against climate action previously worked on behalf of the tobacco industry, and that both industries have used similar deceptive tactics to cast doubt on settled science. The Heartland Institute, for one, has received over $700,000 in funding from ExxonMobil and has previously denied the health dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke.
From The Guardian:
Is the fossil fuel industry, like the tobacco industry, guilty of racketeering?
ExxonMobil has become infamous for its secretive anti-climate science campaign, having spent $30 million funding groups denying the scientific evidence and consensus on human-caused global warming.
Last week, after an eight-month investigation, InsideClimate News revealed that from the late-1970s to the mid-1980s, scientists at Exxon were in fact at the cutting edge of climate science research.
It's ironic that 33 years ago, the world's largest oil company accepted and concurred with the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming that many people continue to deny to this day.
In another internal company document in November 1982, Exxon scientists illustrated the rapid global warming they expected to occur over the following century due to rising carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels. A year earlier, Exxon scientists were discussing the distinct possibility that the consequences of climate change could become catastrophic in the near future.
Coinciding with the InsideClimate News revelations, a group of climate scientists sent a letter to President Obama, his science advisor John Holdren, and Attorney General Lynch, calling for an investigation "of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, as a means to forestall America's response to climate change."
In 1999, the Justice Department filed a civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) lawsuit against the major tobacco companies and their associated industry groups. In 2006, US District Court Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that the tobacco industry's campaign to "maximize industry profits by preserving and expanding the market for cigarettes through a scheme to deceive the public" about the health hazards of smoking amounted to a racketeering enterprise.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has noted that the fossil fuel industry's efforts to cast doubt on climate science closely mirror those by the tobacco industry. As Senator Whitehouse said in May 2015, "Imagine what a little discovery into the beast would reveal about the schemes and mischief of the climate denial apparatus--about what they're telling each other in private while they scheme to deceive the public. The truth will eventually come to light. It always does."
Indeed, as the InsideClimate News investigation subsequently revealed, Exxon's own scientists were warning of the dangers of human-caused climate change nearly 40 years ago. The parallels to the tobacco industry's public deception are striking. It appears that many climate scientists have become fed up, and are encouraging the government to embark on a similar RICO investigation into fossil fuel industry efforts to mislead the public.
From the September 29 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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The Washington Post is helping pull back the curtain on the National Black Chamber of Commerce's (NBCC) oil industry-funded campaign against environmental safeguards.
In a September 28 article, The Post explained that the NBCC is engaged in a "subtle effort ... to reduce support for [environmental] regulations among blacks, Latinos and even the elderly -- groups not usually regarded as natural allies for corporations fighting air-pollution laws." The Post noted that the NBCC has been heavily funded by Exxon Mobil, and that the list of sponsors for NBCC's 2015 national conference "included a number of major fossil-fuel interests, including Koch Industries, owned by oil magnates and conservative activists Charles and David Koch," adding: "Such donations make up as much as 80 percent of the group's revenue in some years, tax records show, and the NBCC has channeled its money into causes that favor fossil-fuel interests."
While the Post article focused on NBCC's work to undermine Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plan to reduce harmful ozone pollution, the NBCC has also produced a discredited study about the EPA's climate change plan, which establishes the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants. NBCC President Harry Alford has used the NBCC study to attack the EPA climate plan in congressional testimony and a series of deceptive op-eds.
From The Washington Post:
Since early summer, Alford has delivered the same pitch in multiple cities, blasting a plan to impose limits on ozone, a pollutant that contributes to urban smog and aggravates breathing disorders, particularly among the elderly and very young.
Alford's message -- that the proposed regulations would hurt the economy and stifle job growth -- is nearly identical to the one being broadcast widely by the rules' opponents from business and industry. The National Association of Manufacturers has poured millions of dollars into a television ad campaign criticizing the proposal, which the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to adopt in final form Wednesday.
But while the TV ads command the most attention, a more subtle effort is underway to reduce support for the regulations among blacks, Latinos and even the elderly -- groups not usually regarded as natural allies for corporations fighting air-pollution laws.
The National Black Chamber of Commerce, which acknowledges receiving strong financial backing from Exxon Mobil and other fossil-fuel interests, has specifically tailored its message to African American audiences, drawing anger from environmental and public health groups that say urban blacks would be among the biggest beneficiaries of tighter regulations.
"The dirtiest utility plants pollute and hurt black communities," said Evlondo Cooper, a researcher for the Checks and Balances Project, a watchdog group that investigates the use of corporate money in anti-clean-energy campaigns. Cooper, whose nonprofit organization has staged videotaped confrontations with Alford at two of his recent speaking events, said groups such as the NBCC have helped foster perceptions of a sharp divide among African Americans over whether stronger air-quality laws are needed.
"He doesn't speak for black people," Cooper said, referring to Alford, "and nothing about his support for the fossil-fuel lobby or his attacks on clean energy has been helpful to our community."
In his frequent essays and blog postings, Alford has referred to the EPA as "wicked' and a "monster" that is "out of control." He flatly dismisses the notion of environmental justice -- the idea that minorities suffer unfairly from pollution -- as a "farce."
"Many naive blacks have bought the lie -- hook, line and sinker," he says.
Alford's organization declines to give detailed information about the NBCC's membership or sources of income, although records filed by the group show more than $800,000 in contributions over the past decade from Exxon Mobil. At the group's 2015 national conference in August, a list of sponsors given to attendees included a number of major fossil-fuel interests, including Koch Industries, owned by oil magnates and conservative activists Charles and David Koch.
Such donations make up as much as 80 percent of the group's revenue in some years, tax records show, and the NBCC has channeled its money into causes that favor fossil-fuel interests. For example, the NBCC, gave $50,000 last year to a Florida organization that sought to impose additional costs and restrictions on homeowners who want to install solar panels on their roofs.
[Alford's] stances have angered not only environmental groups but also other African American business organizations, which say Alford's views represent at best a small fraction of black business owners and entrepreneurs. Ron Busby, president of the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce, a rival group, said internal surveys have consistently shown high levels of support among his group's members for strong environmental regulations.
"As a child I had asthma, and I remember my parents saying it was a black disease, because that's what we thought, growing up," Busby said. "Anyone who's saying it's not affecting our community isn't speaking on behalf of black people."
Image at top via Flickr user House GOP using a Creative Commons License.
From the September 28 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show: