Climate Notes: Old Friends for Sale (PODCAST)

In August 1993, Billy Joel released what would turn out to be his final album of new material, the Grammy-nominated “River of Dreams.” The second track on the album is entitled “The Great Wall of China,” and it’s become one of my favorite songs. It’s about a former manager of Joel’s who reportedly swindled millions of dollars from the Piano Man. Joel was very close to the ex-manager, and when he discovered the theft, he realized that honesty was indeed such a lonely word.

“It cost too much and takes too long to find out too late /

Some words are not heard ’til after they’re spoken,” Joel sang.

“Your role was protective, [but] your soul was too defective /

[And] Some people just don’t have a heart to be broken.”

The song provided me with great comfort a few years ago, after I was, as I like to say, stabbed in the front by so-called friends who were outraged over the fact that I had come to the conclusion that global warming was not a hoax, but a legitimate issue of policy concern.

I will never forget–nor will I ever forgive–the onslaught of insults I received from these now-former friends for writing about the climate crisis: being called a “warmist” and “intellectually deficient” is not something one shakes off easily. I can say that those bitter experiences did inspire some of the best pieces I have ever written about climate, a series of pieces for Peter Sinclair’s website in the fall of 2011.

Every now and then, I’m asked about those former friends, and whether I was too harsh in deciding never to speak to them again. I’ve always given the same answer: No.

Growing up, I learned that if somebody doesn’t want you to be their friend anymore, the wisest thing to do is to honor their wishes. If someone tells you to get lost, well, get lost. The former friends who scorned me when I started writing about climate made it quite clear that they no longer respected me or even liked me. The message was as clear as an old Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song: “Don’t Come Around Here No More.”

It was a heartbreaking experience, but I’d like to think I’ve recovered. I’m listening to happier songs these days! However, as a result of my experiences, I find myself puzzled by articles about how to change the minds of climate-change deniers. We’ve all seen them: these pieces all make the bizarre contention that if we can just connect with people’s underlying values and principles, we can somehow, someway, someday get them to come along.

Yeah, right.

It was Bill Maher who once observed that you cannot change the mind of somebody who doesn’t have one. That’s a lesson I was forced to learn–and having learned it, I can say that Maher’s remark is an undisputed fact, as undisputed as climate science itself.

I’ve contended in the past, and still contend today, that climate-change denialism is an indicator of other extreme views held by the person who declares war on science. As I look back on the folks who scorned me, I realize that they held other unpleasant views that I was more than happy to get away from. The fellow who called me “intellectually deficient,” and who also believed Michael Crichton’s 2004 novel “State of Fear” debunked climate science? He was also a fan of the extremist political commentator Phyllis Schlafly, and also believed that Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor actually hated white people! The fellow who called me a “warmist”? He regarded labor unions as the source of all the economic problems in the country, and harbored a visceral loathing for the great Boston Phoenix reporter David Bernstein, who’s now with Boston Magazine, blaming Bernstein’s reporting for electoral outcomes he deemed unfavorable. Then there’s the ex-friend who considered climate-denying Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby a “realist” on the issue of global warming–and who also referred to opponents of the Iraq War as “domestic insurgents.” Then there’s the ex-friend who was a fan of the far-right political commentator Cliff Kincaid. Then there’s the ex-friend who was a fan of Sen. James Inhofe. And the ex-friend who said that he used to be a fan of the actress Anne Hathaway until he learned that Hathaway played a supporting role in the 2005 film “Brokeback Mountain”! And did I mention the ex-friend who, after I started writing about climate change, started posting articles by climate-change denier James Delingpole on his Facebook page?

You get the idea. And you wonder why I had to wash those men and women right out of my hair.

It’s been a few years since I severed ties with “…a few false friends of whom I am well rid,” to quote President Warren Harding. I imagine that as the evidence of human-caused climate change accumulates, and as cultural and political circumstances bring an effective end to big-time climate-change denial, those false friends will find themselves a little, shall we say, upset.

Frankly, this is why I’m hoping that there’s an overflow turnout for the People’s Climate March on September 21st in New York City. If two to three million people show up in the Big Apple to protest the fossil fuel industry’s 30-year effort to worm its way into American politics and culture, I imagine my ex-friends will be horrified. Good!

If you have ex-friends that looked down upon you because you dared to say that Al Gore was right, I have to ask: do you ever wonder what they’ll cling to as the storms set in? Can’t you see them rifling through old George Will columns, looking in vain for something, anything, to justify their investment in ignorance?

Speaking of George Will, you may have heard that at the end of August, the Washington Post (which, of course, distributes Will’s columns to newspapers nationwide) ran a series of editorials urging strong action to combat carbon pollution. In the first editorial, the Post declared:

“As the U.S. debate has deteriorated, scientists’ warnings have become more dire. According to the authoritative Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change , every region of the world faces serious risks , including sea-level rise or worsening heat waves, floods and wildfires — and those are consequences scientists can predict. Though poor nations along the equator may be hit hardest, U.S. analysts are beginning to quantify a variety of direct and negative effects climate change could have in our own country.

“These factors help explain a [certain] reason for hope: Despite ups and downs in the polling, a solid majority of Americans favors action to curb greenhouse [gas] emissions. As with the recent national shift on gay marriage, feelings on climate change will eventually move more decisively — we hope in time to spare the world unnecessary expense and suffering.

“And the United States is reaching a put-up-or-shut-up moment. As Congress dithered, Mr. Obama filled the policy void with executive actions designed to cut greenhouse [gas] emissions under authorities Congress entrusted to the Environmental Protection Agency decades ago in the Clean Air Act.”

In the second editorial, the Post declared:

“For more than a century, scientists have understood the basic physics of the greenhouse effect. For decades, they’ve realized humans can affect the climate by burning coal, oil and gas. But the country’s leaders remain divided on the need to curb greenhouse [gas] emissions, let alone how to do it.

“Among mainstream scientists, this paralysis is mind-boggling.

“There is now no doubt that the world is warming. In 2010, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration deemed this conclusion ‘unequivocal,’ pointing to multiple, independent lines of evidence, including decades of direct temperature readings. In 2011, Richard Muller, a University of California at Berkeley scientist and former climate-change skeptic, verified this conclusion after a two-year review of the data. The complaint that scientists did not predict a slowdown in warming lately does not contradict this finding: Climate change is a long-term phenomenon; the line will go up and down here and there, but the general direction will be up. As the most authoritative source on climate science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, explained in its Fifth Assessment Report last year, ‘Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850.’

“Further, the panel found, ‘It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.’ Among many pieces of evidence is the breakneck rate of carbon dioxide accumulation in the atmosphere, coinciding with measured temperature rise. Other human ‘fingerprints’ are becoming visible: Scientists, for example, are seeing a pattern of warming in the troposphere and cooling in the stratosphere that suggests greenhouse gases — not, say, variations in solar activity — are the cause.

“Waiting to deal with carbon emissions until the effects are clearer or technology improves is not a wise strategy. The emissions humans put into the atmosphere now will affect the climate in the middle of the century and onward. Technological change, meanwhile, could make a future transition away from fossil fuels cheap — or it might not, leaving the world with a terrible choice between sharply reducing emissions at huge cost or suffering through the effects of unabated warming.

“Businesses that do not hedge against the threat of uncertain outcomes fail. The world cannot afford such recklessness on climate change.”

In the third editorial, the Post observed:

“The EPA recognizes that command-and-control regulation is not ideal. It is offering as much flexibility as it can [in its Clean Power Plan], including regional emissions-cutting pacts, which would allow the required effort to be averaged across states and reduce the total cost by 17 percent. Yet only Congress can launch a more ambitious but flexible program giving power to U.S. companies and consumers.

“The EPA is starting the country down a carbon-reduction path, an important signal to Americans and foreigners seeking confidence that the United States will cut its carbon use. But the regulations’ greatest contribution will come if they prod Congress to enact a plan that’s both more comprehensive and more efficient.”

In the fourth editorial, the Post asserted:

“A prominent member of Congress has proposed a comprehensive national climate-change plan. It’s only 28 pages long, it’s market-based, and it would put money into the pockets of most Americans.

“This is not the first time that Rep. Chris Van Hollen…has made the point that the best climate-change policy is not complicated. He introduced a similar plan in 2009. The underlying logic is older still: Since the beginning of the climate debate, mainstream economists, left and right, have argued that the best way to cut greenhouse gases is to use simple market economics, putting a price on emissions that reflects the environmental damage they cause.

“As economists see it, the nation is giving a massive implicit subsidy to the users of fossil fuels, who fill the air with [excess] carbon dioxide, imposing real costs on society, without paying for the privilege. Make users pay for the carbon dioxide they emit and they will waste less energy, while investment will flow into low-carbon technologies. The nation would obtain emissions cuts at a minimum cost to the economy…

“The country is reaching a moment of decision on global warming. Scientists’ warnings are sharpening, and President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency is acting in the absence of a policy from Congress. The EPA rules can’t be as clean and efficient as market-based plans such as Mr. Van Hollen’s….Conservatives who truly favor free markets over central planning should come to the table. If they cannot muster the intellectual courage, Rep. John Delaney has a smart second-best idea: Let states escape the EPA’s centralized regulation if they enact their own carbon taxes instead.”

And in the fifth and final editorial, the Post proclaimed:

“…The United States must be a driver [of climate action]; no country has pumped more greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, and no global effort will succeed without U.S. buy-in and leadership

“In trade agreements, other environmental accords and arms-reduction pacts, countries have shown they can overcome mutual suspicion when cooperation offers clear, long-term benefits. A U.S. commitment would offer other countries confidence that the United States will jump with them — and allow U.S. diplomats to isolate laggards. Congress can help: Putting a price on U.S. carbon emissions, and applying a charge on imports from countries without a strong anti-emissions policy, would give China and others an incentive to implement plans of their own

“The world will not give up fossil fuels tomorrow — or many years from tomorrow. The transition scientists recommend will be slow, and the world may have to adapt to risks it did not have enough sense to avoid. But pointing out the difficulty of the problem is not a strategy. It is an excuse to shrink from one of history’s greatest challenges.

The series was interesting, to say the least, but profoundly hypocritical. As the progressive media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting noted on August 26:

“The Post explains what exactly is clear–the planet is indeed warming, and the climate crisis is caused by human activity–and says that ‘most reasonable climate skeptics accept these findings.’

“Except for some of the people the Post pays to write columns.

“Some of the most high-profile media climate deniers–George Will, Charles Krauthammer and Robert Samuelson–are all Post columnists who have done their part to contribute to the ‘shape of the climate debate.’ Krauthammer [has] mocked the idea that the science of climate change was ‘settled,’ and wrote that scientists who warn of the disastrous effects of climate change are ‘white-coated propagandists.’ Krauthammer went on TV this year to mock climate change science as ‘superstition.’

“Will has a long record of distorting climate science; in 2009 he wrote that warming was ‘allegedly occurring.’…

“Samuelson used to pooh-pooh climate change: ‘It’s politically incorrect to question whether this is a serious problem that serious people ought to take seriously,’ he wrote in the 1990s, and he praised George W. Bush for rejecting the Kyoto [Protocol]…

“In 2009 the paper’s op-ed page rather famously turned to noted climate expert Sarah Palin for a piece about how ‘we can’t say with assurance that man’s activities cause’ climate change.

“So if this series is a sign that the Washington Post has truly shifted on climate change, that’s a good thing. But if we’re to take them seriously about ‘the shape of the climate debate,’ perhaps they would like to offer some thoughts about what their paper’s columnists have done to warp that discussion. Whatever the case, the Post isn’t going to stop running anti-science op-eds. As editorial page editor Fred Hiatt told Joe Strupp of Media Matters, ‘I’m more inclined to take op-eds that challenge our editorials than just kind of join the chorus.’”

Joseph Romm of Climate Progress was even more blunt in an August 27 post:

“Ideally, the Washington Post should simply stop publishing climate science deniers, people who spread misinformation and disinformation on the existential threat that is climate change. Of course, that would include major columnists of theirs, including George Will…

“Does the paper publish more op-eds from people claiming cigarette smoking isn’t harmful to your health simply because the editors accept that fact? Of course not. Yet the scientific community’s certainty about human-caused climate change is as great as that of the medical community’s certainty that cigarette smoking is bad for your health…

“[In addition,] The Washington Post has a long history of giving equal or disproportionate time to the misinformation of climate science deniers.

“But now that they have acknowledged that ‘the science is real,’ there is no longer any justification for their reporters to quote people who are simply spreading misinformation or disinformation. The paper moved beyond quoting the tobacco industry on the supposed harmlessness of their product years ago.

“Two years ago NPR released an ethics handbook for reporters that asserted ‘our goal is not to please those whom we report on or to produce stories that create the appearance of balance, but to seek the truth.’ In particular, the handbook noted, ‘if the balance of evidence in a matter of controversy weighs heavily on one side, we acknowledge it in our reports.

“Where is that clearer than in the climate discussion, where we know upwards of 97 percent of climate scientists share the understanding that human activity is driving recent global warming?

“In July, BBC’s governing body released a report on its new policy to avoid false balance. It said, ‘science coverage does not simply lie in reflecting a wide range of views but depends on the varying degree of prominence such views should be given.’ As a result, BBC reporters are to sharply reduce the air time given to climate science deniers — and others with anti-science viewpoints — [to] make their coverage more fair and accurate.

“Is the Washington Post really going to leave it to a fake news show, John Oliver’s ‘Last Week Tonight,’ on HBO, to be the only U.S. ‘media’ outlet to hold a ‘statistically representative climate change debate’?

Apparently, since that’s the sort of stuff my former friends dig. They like lies and can’t tolerate truth. They hate Al Gore more than they love their kids and grandkids. They consider the Koch Brothers role models. They will scorn tomorrow for satisfaction today.

And they call *me* “intellectually deficient”?

Thank you for listening.

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The Climate Minute: Are we hypnotized by markets? Plus more New York bound buses (PODCAST)

New England is wrestling with it’s energy demands, but Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is increasingly uncomfortable with new gas infrastructure, (maybe due to local opposition to pipelines) despite pressure from the Governor of Maine. Still, Massachusetts is doing just fine with solar power, thank you very much. Cape Wind is still fighting nuisance lawsuits , and we hope they have as much success as they had against the last twenty six nuisance law suits. Climate change raises questions about “water security” in the future. Right now, citizens of Detroit are fighting deliberate home water shut-offs. Whatever the merits of the argument are on each side, this is unlikely to be the last water related environmental justice case. A draft of an upcoming summary IPCC report is blunt and stark, observing the irreversible nature of the changes we are creating, and the need for discipline to NOT burn the underground fossil fuels that we already know about (much less prospecting in the Arctic!) Jared Diamond wrote a book about how various societies failed to recognize the obvious seeds of their own destruction.

The New York Times reports that the Obama Administration may look for ways to get a climate agreement that bypasses the Senate. Needless to say, heads are exploding on at least one side of the political aisle.

The EPA’s website says it uses the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) (which is a number calculated by the Federal Government) “to estimate the climate benefits of rulemakings. The SCC is an estimate of the economic damages associated with a small increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, conventionally one metric ton, in a given year. This dollar figure also represents the value of damages avoided for a small emission reduction (i.e. the benefit of a CO2 reduction).”

Due to doubt and suspicion from some in Congress, the GAO looked in to the process of making the SCC calculation, and concluded it was done according to the right procedures. This lack of evidence of “cooked books” will no doubt disappoint the confusionists, but they can just continue to repeat their tired older talking point.

We should recognize however that the “Social Cost of Carbon” is a profound touchstone basis for a market-based approach to resolving climate issues. An interesting post at Grist wonders if the climate movement has become hypnotized by market fundamentalism.

The post says

“Thus the climate movement is possessed with near theological discussions about which market tool is better. Is it a straight-up carbon tax, or should we create a carbon cap, auctioning permits to pollute and allowing polluters to buy carbon emissions reductions in a trading marketplace? ideally seeking the lowest-cost carbon reductions possible. What is lost in the discussion is how we actually met big challenges in the past, challenges that require the creation of new technologies and industries. Market fundamentalism conceives new innovations and industries to rise magically out of properly adjusted market systems. Build the incentives and they will come. A study of economic history shows it just ain’t so.

This is a thought-provoking article. As an example of the role of government versus markets, read about the potential for “perovskite” based solar cells. The material was only recently recognized and could be a game changer- but maybe not. Will the ‘market’ fund the development of this speculative technology, or should the government (i.e. we the people) make the investment?

A great opinion piece in the New York Times (The Climate Swerve ) considers how the great mass of people might come to recognize the moral and ethical stakes at play in the issue of global warming.

Preparations for the People’s March in September are in full swing. A recent press release suggest the event has gone global:

  • In New Delhi, thousands will take over the streets on September 20 to demand a renewable energy revolution.
  • In Australia, organizers are expecting hundreds of individual events to take place across the country, including a major march in Melbourne.
  • In London environment organisations and faith groups are combining forces to create a historic march through the city to the steps of Parliament.
  • In Berlin three parallel marches will combine forces in a colourful festival.
  • Events are already being planned in Ghana, Kenya, DRC, Nigeria, and Guinea, along with a major march in Johannesburg.
  • In Paris, local groups will create the “Paris Marche pour le Climat,” with parades, marches, and bicycle rides planned across the bridges of the Seinne.
  • Reports are also coming in of large mobilizations planned in: Kathmandu, Rio, Sao Paulo, Jakarta, Dublin, Manila, Seoul, Mumbai and Istanbul.

From Massachusetts there will be bus departures from Amherst, Cambridge, Cape Cod, Framingham, Holyoke, Jamaica Plain, Longmeadow, Northhampton, Wellesley and Worcester (so far!) For details, and for buses from all over the country, go to the Transportation Page.

Because we recognize the necessity of personal accountability for our actions, because we accept responsibility for building a durable future and because we believe it is our patriotic duty as citizens to speak out, we must insist that the United States put a price on carbon.

Thanks for listening.

…Ted McIntyre

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The Climate Minute: Lobsterboats and New York bound buses (PODCAST)

This week we reflect on the implications of events in Ferguson for Climate Hawks and then debate the best defense for some brave coal protestors. Finally, we discuss the upcoming People’s Climate March in NYC.

Required reading for understanding the connection between climate and racial justice is this blog by Deirdre Smith. It is hard to make the point more clearly. Grist offers a primer on Environmental Justice in four minutes of video.

The lobster boat “Henry David T” was the scene of a maritime crime last year, but were the perpetrators forced to commit it? A recent Boston Globe article describes the possible use of the ‘necessity defense’. A Massachusetts legal ruling is clear in saying that such a defense must meet the following criteria:

“(1) the defendant is faced with a clear and imminent danger, not one which is debatable or speculative;

(2) the defendant can reasonably expect that his action will be effective as the direct cause of abating the danger;

(3) there is [no] legal alternative which will be effective in abating the danger;

(4) the Legislature has not acted to preclude the defense by a clear and deliberate choice regarding the values at issue.”

We discuss what possible arguments could be made for each of these claims. Did the coal in the barge represent a clear, imminent and non-debatable danger? What would your answer be?

New York City will be the site of a UN summit ( with the President in attendance) this September. Allison Fisher at CitizensVox describes what is at stake . The People’s Climate March promises to be the biggest climate event yet. (Hint: you should be there!) The route of the march has been approved by the NYPD, and is:

The March – 11:30 am, Sunday, September 21st

Assembly location: the area north of Columbus Circle.

March Route:

  • The march will begin at 11:30 am.
  • leave Columbus Circle and go east on 59th Street
  • turn onto 6th Ave. and go south to 42nd Street
  • turn right onto 42nd Street and go west to 11th Ave
  • turn left on 11th Ave. and go south to 34th Street

End Location: 11th Ave. in the streets between 34th Street and 38th Street

If you want to take a bus from the New England area, check out the many options with buses from Boston (check the Facebook page ), Cape Cod, and Framingham.

There are other buses from the area, and from across the country. Check out the national transportation coordination page at the Peoples Climate March website for an impressive list of opportunities from all over the country.

We mourn the passing of Senator Jim Jeffords and highly recommend you watch the short video Carbon narrated by Leonardo DeCaprio.

Because we recognize the necessity of personal accountability for our actions, because we accept responsibility for building a durable future and because we believe it is our patriotic duty as citizens to speak out, we must insist that the United States put a price on carbon.

Thanks for listening.

…Ted McIntyre

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Climate Notes: I’m a Loser, Baby (PODCAST)

I don’t trust Glenn Beck as far as I can throw him–and my back’s acting up right now.

The former Fox News Channel personality-turned-internet impresario appeared on the August 3 edition of CNN’s “Reliable Sources” to cry crocodile tears and beg for forgiveness from the American public. As the indispensable Oliver Willis of noted later that day:

“In an August 3 interview with host Brian Stelter labeled ‘the evolution of Glenn Beck,’ Beck appeared to discuss his network, The Blaze, and a move to a less political brand of talk, but Beck’s own comments in the interview and recent work show his act hasn’t really changed at all…

“In [one] segment of the interview with Stelter, Beck decried the harsh tone that has contributed to what he characterized as a ‘civil war’ atmosphere in America. Despite this posturing, his network recently aired a skit [that mocked] the epidemic of reported sexual assault on college campuses and claimed that it was ‘completely untrue.’ When he faced criticism for the skit, Beck said, ‘I stand by it … I double down on it.’

“Stelter did not bring up, nor did Beck mention, the ongoing litigation in which a man inaccurately described by Beck as a co-conspirator in the Boston Marathon bombing (a fact, Beck falsely alleged, that was being covered up by the government) is suing Beck for defamation in federal court.

“At one point in the interview, Beck mentioned that while he didn’t agree with Sen. Bernie Sanders on any issues, he could respect him because he did not shy away from labeling himself as a ‘socialist.’ But neither Beck nor Stelter mentioned that when Sanders was first elected to the Senate, Beck said that Vermont should be ‘vote[d] out of the union’ because Sanders won.”

Of course, during his tenure on CNN and Fox, Beck gained a reputation as perhaps the most vehement of climate-change deniers. Let’s take a look back at some of the lies Beck told over the years.

But first, let’s go back to the idiotic decision to give this ex-junkie shock jock a television forum in the first place.–stupid-things–315015747745

As Media Matters reported in January 2006:

“The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on January 17 that CNN’s Headline News has hired Glenn Beck — a nationally syndicated radio host known for making controversial statements — ‘for a new prime time program.’ Media Matters for America has compiled some of Beck’s more notable comments:

“On families of the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks: ‘[T]his is horrible to say, and I wonder if I’m alone in this — you know, it took me about a year to start hating the 9-11 victims’ families? Took me about a year.’

“On Hurricane Katrina survivors who remained in New Orleans: ‘And that’s all we’re hearing about, are the people in New Orleans. Those are the only ones that we’re seeing on television are the scumbags — and again, it’s not all the people in New Orleans. Most of the people in New Orleans got out! It’s just a small percentage of those who were left in New Orleans, or who decided to stay in New Orleans, and they’re getting all the attention.’

“Discussing disclosures from a caller who claimed to have tortured prisoners in U.S. custody: “I’ve got to tell you, I appreciate your service. … Good for you. Good for — I mean, good for you. Is it because you did it for the country? … I have to tell you, when all is said and done, I’m glad people like you are on our side.'”

Apparently, Beck’s first climate lie was broadcast on CNN on May 24, 2006. As Media Matters reported:

“On the May 24 edition of his CNN Headline News show, Glenn Beck appeared to question studies showing that global temperatures increased by 0.6 degrees Celsius during the 20th century by falsely claiming that annual temperatures in the United States have remained ‘pretty much flat.’ Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Richard Lindzen, who appeared with Beck on the program, agreed, stating ‘Well, yes, as far as we can tell.’ In fact, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies has documented a rise in temperatures in the United States comparable to the global increase. Beck’s apparent doubt about whether human beings are responsible for global climate change is contradicted by the scientific consensus on the subject, as previously documented by Media Matters for America.

“Beck claimed on the May 24 program that ‘if you look, the Earth has gotten warmer now by .6 degrees Celsius,’ but the rise in surface temperatures ‘is much higher in other parts of the world’ than it has been in the United States, which is ‘one of the more accurate record keepers in the world.’ But several studies show comparable temperature changes in the United States and the world as a whole. A report released by the United States Global Change Program in 2000 documented a temperature change of 0.6 degrees Celsius in the United States in the 20th century, the same increase Beck cited as the global temperature change. The study added that ‘the coastal Northeast, the upper Midwest, the Southwest, and parts of Alaska have experienced increases in the annual average temperature approaching 4°F (2°C) in the 20th Century’ and that ‘average warming in the US is projected to be somewhat greater than for the world as a whole over the 21st century.’

“As Media Matters has noted, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Academy of Sciences have said that the Earth’s surface temperature has risen by approximately 0.6 degrees Celsius — or 1 degree Fahrenheit — in the 20th century, but these figures, by definition, do not include the years 2001 through 2005, which are five of the six warmest years on record, as the Climatic Research Unit noted in a December 2005 press release.”

In June 2006, Beck first compared Al Gore to Adolf Hitler. Media Matters reported:

“On the June 7 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio program, CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck became the latest critic to compare An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary film about former Vice President Al Gore’s campaign to raise awareness of global warming, to the Nazis. Beck dismissed many of the conclusions drawn from the documentary, stating, ‘[W]hen you take a little bit of truth and then you mix it with untruth, or your theory, that’s where you get people to believe. … It’s like Hitler. Hitler said a little bit of truth, and then he mixed in ‘and it’s the Jews’ fault.’ That’s where things get a little troublesome, and that’s exactly what’s happening’ in An Inconvenient Truth.”

The assault on science continued that fall. Media Matters noted that “On the September 21[, 2006] edition of his CNN Headline News program, Glenn Beck cited two global-warming skeptics — William M. Gray and Bjørn Lomborg — to support his doubts that humans are ‘the ones causing’ global warming, and that ‘even if’ humans are causing global warming, there isn’t much they can ‘realistically do about it.’ But the methodology and results of studies by both Gray and Lomborg have been debunked by the overwhelming majority of environmental scientists, as Media Matters for America has documented.

“Beck began his segment on global warming by declaring: ‘Global warming is real. My issue is whether or not we’re the ones causing it, and, even if we are, what can you realistically do about it?’ As purported evidence that humans might not be ‘the ones causing’ global warming, Beck cited Gray, professor emeritus of atmospheric science at Colorado State University, whom Beck described as ‘a respected scientist.’ But as Media Matters for America has noted, a May 28 Washington Post Magazine article by Joel Achenbach reported that Gray’s methodology regarding climate change ‘is increasingly on the fringe’ and noted that even global warming skeptics have distanced themselves from Gray. Further, Beck claimed that the ‘best he [Gray] could do for a media platform … was a speech at the Larimer County Republican Club breakfast in front of about 50 people.’ In fact, in addition to the Washington Post Magazine, Gray was also mentioned as recently as September 20 on Fox News’ Special Report with Brit Hume and was quoted on CNN’s The Situation Room as recently as September 12.

“Later in the program, Beck hosted Lomborg, an associate professor of statistics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, to discuss how U.S. efforts to combat global warming demonstrate that, in Beck’s words, ‘our priorities are all mixed up.’ Lomborg stated that ‘[w]e actually had some of the world’s top economists’ look at how to handle global warming, and that they concluded it would be very costly and ‘do very little good.’ Lomborg similarly argued in his book, The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World, which purported to conduct a ‘non-partisan evaluation’ of environmental data in the hope of offering the public and policymakers a guide for ‘clear-headed prioritization of resources to tackle real, not imagined, problems,’ that the concerns of scientists regarding the world’s environmental problems — including global warming — were universally overblown. Yet as Media Matters documented, Scientific American magazine ran a series of articles from four well-known environmental specialists that lambasted Lomborg’s book for ‘egregious distortions,’ ‘elementary blunders of quantitative manipulation and presentation that no self-respecting statistician ought to commit,’ and sections ‘poorly researched and … rife with careless mistakes.’ The Union of Concerned Scientists similarly reported that Lomborg’s findings and methodology ‘fail[] to meet basic standards of credible scientific analysis.'”

After “An Inconvenient Truth” won a Best Documentary Oscar, Beck continued his attacks. As Media Matters observed, “On the April 5 [, 2007] edition of his CNN Headline News program, Glenn Beck joined Chris Horner, counsel for the energy industry-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, in denouncing former Vice President Al Gore’s award-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, with Horner saying the film is ‘pure science fiction.’ As evidence, Beck cited a New York Times article on global warming — which, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, includes misleading characterizations, a false comparison, and misrepresentations of Gore’s statements. Horner also claimed that, ‘in about a year, it’ll be almost 10 years since we’ve experienced any warming’ — an argument contradicted by NASA surface temperature analyses. He also asserted that Gore ‘has been saying, for nigh on five years, that we’ve got 10 years to live,’ a statement that Gore does not appear to have ever made.

“In introducing the segment, Beck stated: ‘Even The New York Times has said that Al Gore is writing checks that his research couldn’t cash. Usually, the only thing you find about Al Gore in The New York Times — love letters.’ Horner later echoed Beck’s claim, saying: ‘It took The New York Times about 15 months to pick up on the fact that his movie was pure science fiction before they found some scientists who were willing to say this.’ But as Media Matters noted, the March 13 Times article to which Horner and Beck were presumably referring included several misrepresentations of Gore’s position, including making a false comparison to suggest that Gore exaggerated a potential rise in sea levels…

“During the segment, Horner also claimed that ‘it’ll be almost 10 years since we’ve experienced any warming,’ and that ‘It hasn’t warmed since 1998.’ In fact, as Media Matters has noted, according to NASA, 1998 was a particularly warm year because ‘a strong El Nino, a warm water event in the eastern Pacific Ocean, added warmth to global temperatures.’ Despite the temperature spike that occurred in 1998, the Climatic Research Unit’s Global Temperature Record and a surface temperature analysis of 2006 by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) show a general warming trend since 1970. Moreover, a February 2007 NASA Earth Observatory news release states, ‘By the early 1980s, temperatures surpassed those of the 1940s and, despite ups and downs from year to year, they continued rising beyond the year 2000.’…

“During the show, Horner also stated that Gore ‘has been saying, for nigh on five years, that we’ve got 10 years to live, so, pretty soon … those chickens are going to come home to roost.’ In fact, Gore has asserted that, according to ‘leading scientists,’ such as NASA’s James Hansen, the climate may be reaching ‘a point of no return’ within the next 10 years. On the December 5, 2006, edition of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Gore said: ‘Some of the leading scientists are now saying we may have as little as 10 years before we cross a kind of point of no return, beyond which it’s much more difficult to save the habitability of the planet in the future.’ Media Matters could find no evidence that Gore has ever said that ‘we’ve got 10 years to live.'”

Beck’s rhetoric grew ever more repugnant. Media Mattters reported that “On the May 2 [, 2007] edition of CNN Newsroom, while previewing his [climate-denying] special, ‘Exposed: The Climate of Fear,’ CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck told host Don Lemon that he is doing the special because ‘the scientific consensus in Europe in the 1920s and ’30s was that eugenics was a good idea,’ adding: ‘I’m glad that a few people stood against eugenics.’ Those comments recall remarks Beck made on the April 30 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio program, in which he likened former Vice President Al Gore’s fight against global warming to Adolf Hitler’s use of eugenics as justification for exterminating 6 million European Jews. On that program, Beck stated: ‘Al Gore’s not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them. It is the same tactic, however. The goal is different. The goal is globalization. The goal is [a] global carbon tax. The goal is the United Nations running the world. That is the goal. Back in the 1930s, the goal was get rid of all of the Jews and have one global government.’

“Beck continued: ‘You got to have an enemy to fight. And when you have an enemy to fight, then you can unite the entire world behind you, and you seize power. That was Hitler’s plan. His enemy: the Jew. Al Gore’s enemy, the U.N.’s enemy: global warming.’ He added: ‘Then you get the scientists — eugenics. You get the scientists — global warming. Then you have to discredit the scientists who say, ‘That’s not right.’ And you must silence all dissenting voices. That’s what Hitler did.’”

Beck’s Nazi analogies were condemned by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, as well as Air America Radio’s Betsy Rosenberg—but where was the rest of the mainstream media?

In early-2009, Beck decamped for the Fox News Channel, where he continued his radical science-bashing, including an over-the-edge assault on the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

In mid-2009, Beck declared war on Van Jones, the White House Special Advisor for Green Jobs, unleashing so much raw hatred that he effectively drove Jones out of his position.

Days after Van Jones left the White House, reported on Beck’s, shall we say, special motivation to target Jones:

“…Fox News’ Glenn Beck engaged in a character assassination campaign to demonize White House environmental adviser Van Jones as ‘a committed revolutionary’ that led to Jones’ resignation over the weekend. The conventional wisdom was that Beck took aim at Jones because a group he co-founded, Color of Change, was successfully convincing advertisers to drop Beck’s show after he claimed President Obama had ‘a deep-seated hatred for white people.’ Though Beck’s attacks became ‘especially pronounced’ after the boycott started, he actually began his attacks against Jones before he even uttered the words that sparked the activist campaign against him.

“As Adele Stan and Joe Romm of [Think Progress] have [reported], on [September 6] Phil Kerpen, the policy director for the [Koch Industries front group] Americans for Prosperity, took credit for starting the assault on Jones. Kerpen wrote that on July 10, he e-mailed an old profile of Jones to a producer for Beck’s show [and encouraged Beck to go after Jones]. After that, Beck attacked Jones in 16 episodes of his Fox News show between July 23 and September 4, including five where he hosted Kerpen to help him…

“…Kerpen explained that his real mission is to put the ‘green jobs’ concept outside the bounds of the political mainstream.’ In [a] Sept. 7 podcast, Kerpen declared, ‘Van Jones is gone, but the ‘green jobs’ threat remains,’ adding that the right-wing should ‘channel all of the energy’ of Jones’ resignation towards ‘defeating the policy program that he stands for.’

“When Kerpen first contacted Beck about Jones, he said that it ‘confirms [the] ‘watermelon’ hypothesis,’ which Dave Weigel notes is the effort of conservatives ‘to paint environmental activists like Jones as anti-capitalist radicals less interested in the health of the planet than in a well-disguised radical agenda.’ In fact, on the June 26 episode of Beck’s show, Kerpen and Beck discussed the idea, saying that cap and trade ‘is green on the outside, the thinnest green on the outside. And inside, it’s deep communist red.’”

Beck continued to attack climate action and climate activists after he chased Jones out of his job, at one point feuding with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow over climate science.

Beck also openly boasted about his ties to billionaire climate-change denier Charles Koch on his program.

Beck left Fox News in mid-2011 to launch his own media empire, known as The Blaze, where he continues to attack climate science for the entertainment of his profoundly gullible audience. Well, you know what H. L. Mencken said…

Those of us concerned about the climate crisis don’t have media empires. We don’t have CNN and Fox at our beck and call. We don’t have the ability to chase people out of presidential administrations. What we do have, to use an old line by Senator Al Franken, is the truth…and the truth is that Glenn Beck will always be remembered as the man who indeed kept The Blaze going–the blaze of disinformation, the blaze of denial, and the blaze of degeneracy. Why listen to someone who wants our planet left in shambles? The only Glenn I want to listen to is Glen Campbell.

Thank you for listening.

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Climate Notes: On the March- Climate and Justice (PODCAST)

The shockwaves are still being felt from last week’s announcement by Markos Moulitsas, the founder of the highly influential progressive blog the Daily Kos, that he will not participate in the 2015 “Netroots Nation” conference, a popular gathering of progressive thought leaders and politicians, because it will be held in Phoenix, Arizona. Moulitsas declared:

“Netroots Nation announced two days ago that Phoenix, Arizona would host its 2015 conference. I wish the conference the best, but it will unfortunately take place without Daily Kos’ attendance or assistance.

“I made very clear in the wake of Arizona’s passage of [Senate Bill] 1070 [a highly controversial 2010 law allegedly intended to limit illegal immigration] that I would not be setting foot in the state, nor spending a dime in it until the law was revoked. The law, however gutted by the courts, remains on the books, as does systemic harassment of Latinos, so my pledge still stands.”

As Dave Weigel of noted on July 19:

“In the short history of blogging and online activism, this is a BFD. Moulitsas’ blog was the Petri dish for countless [progressive] writers and campaigners; Moulitsas himself was an accidental icon of the 2004-2008 period when the press woke up to the ‘netroots.’…This is a major figure in the online left, and he’s boycotting Arizona (with the hope of reunion for 2016’s [tenth] anniversary conference).”

In the comment section of the Daily Kos piece, there were several discussions about the risks people of color might incur attending the 2015 Netroots Nation conference as a result of Senate Bill 1070. As I read through the discussion, I couldn’t help thinking about whether similar risks might be incurred during another upcoming event that will be the focus of tremendous cultural attention: the People’s Climate March on the weekend of September 20 and 21 in New York City.

Two months ago, in a Rolling Stone essay that served as an open invitation for climate hawks to attend the People’s Climate March,’s Bill McKibben observed:

“A loud movement is, of necessity, a big movement – and this fossil-fuel resistance draws from every corner of our society. It finds powerful leadership from the environmental-justice community, the poor people, often in communities of color, who have suffered most directly under the reign of fossil fuel.”

Indeed, it’s hard to dispute that carbon pollution takes a disproportionately severe toll on communities of color–and indeed, there has been an admirable effort to ensure that communities of color are represented at the People’s Climate March.

However, I fear that the March will not be as diverse as it could be–because of the specter of the New York Police Department.

As’s Heather Smith noted shortly after McKibben’s announcement:

“The two-day event, as planned, will be a big, big one. Like, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom big. Among the groups name-checked: healthcare, transit, education, and construction unions, plus clergy, scientists, students, ‘plain old middle-class Americans,’ and executive types.

“Unlike’s high-profile events outside the White House in 2011, which involved civil disobedience and mass arrests, the September march will be a permitted protest, 350 says. How gracefully the event will coexist with New York’s police force, which has become increasingly militarized in the wake of 9/11 and has a history of dubious behavior in public protest situations, remains to be seen. There’s a new mayor in town, but unless something major happens over the summer, this will be the first large protest under [Bill] DeBlasio’s administration. That should be interesting.”

Obviously, this was written before the horror that was the death of Eric Garner, who was apparently choked to death by NYPD officers on July 17 during an attempted arrest for the intolerable and pernicious crime of…illegally selling cigarettes.

Yes, there are many good officers in the NYPD, and many legitimately dangerous criminals that they have to catch. Yes, one cannot assume that every encounter that a person of color will have with the NYPD will necessarily end badly. Still, considering the, shall we say, controversial track record of the NYPD with regard to race, it’s somewhat understandable that people of color might be a little reluctant to participate in the People’s Climate March, absent ironclad assurances from Mayor DeBlasio that the police will be on their best behavior.

In fact, you can argue that concerns about, shall we say, overzealousness from law enforcement in New York should be shared by all potential participants in the People’s Climate March, not just people of color. In a July 2012 post on about the NYPD’s 2011 assaults on members of Occupy Wall Street, Conor Friedersdorf noted:

“An investigation undertaken by law clinics at NYU, Fordham, Harvard, and Stanford has concluded, after eight months of study, that the NYPD abused Occupy Wall Street protesters and violated their rights on numerous occasions during the 2011 protests that radiated out from Zuccotti Park. Their report, Suppressing Protest: Human Rights Violations in the U.S. Response to Occupy Wall Street, was released today. It focuses on transgressions against international law…

“All of the following vignettes are quoted verbatim from its pages:

  • “A café employee at work near Union Square heard a passing Occupy march, went outside, and decided to begin filming after seeing police using what he felt was excessive force on protesters. Video evidence shows a white-shirted police officer pushing the café employee, camera in hand. It appears that the employee then began speaking to the officer while holding both hands in the air as the officer approached him. In an interview, the employee stated that he asked the officer why he was pushing and told the officer, ‘I’m just taking pictures.’ Video then shows the officer grabbing the employee by the wrist, and flipping him hard to the ground face-first, in what was described as a ‘judo-flip.’ The employee stated that he was subsequently charged with ‘blocking traffic’ and ‘obstructing justice.’…
  • “Video shows that an officer approached a woman from behind and grabbed her by the strap of her backpack and her scarf for no apparent reason. The officer began to pull the woman towards him, and other protesters began pulling the woman away from him. The officer pulled at the woman by the strap of her backpack for approximately fifteen seconds, and appeared to possibly be choking her via the strap or her scarf. The protesters eventually pulled the woman away from the officer, and police appeared not to take any further action.
  • “Video shows that an officer punched a protester three times in the head and shoulder. At the time, the protester was in a soft lock, in which he linked arms with other protesters and sat in the street, and police were attempting to pull him away. The video shows that the officer tried to separate the protester several times by pulling him, but did not attempt any other methods before punching the protester.
  • “Video appears to show that police pushed a woman onto the hood of a car. The woman then fell to the ground and did not get up for several seconds. When she got up, the woman was holding a microphone; the video’s caption states that the woman is a ‘news reporter.’ A news report provides a video of the same incident from another angle and identifies the individual who was pushed as a reporter for the Daily Caller…
  • “A journalist reported that an officer grabbed a protester ‘by the bottom of her throat and shoved her head against the hood of a car,’ and that another officer then ‘forcefully pressed her head against the car.’
  • “A journalist reported that officers threw down and beat a photographer with batons, even after he had shown his press pass. The journalist reported that the photographer ‘yelled several times, ‘I’m PRESS! PRESS!’ yet was slammed on the head [with a baton] twice after he’d been thrown to the ground when the police shoved back the protesters.’ In the same report, the photographer stated: ‘there was another push from the police — they saw me fall …. Just didn’t care …. Then came the batons. I couldn’t see if the people that were on top of me previously got hit at all but I certainly did, twice to the back and once on the head.'”

I hope the People’s Climate March is remembered for its beauty, not its brutality. I plan to attend that September weekend, but I can’t say I really blame people, particularly people of color, for being a little nervous about attending. After all, it’s hard to forget the horror stories. I can still remember reading the tabloid coverage of the Abner Louima case in the summer of 1997, and the international horror that case generated. I can still remember the sick feeling I had in my gut when I first read about the Amadou Diallo case in early-1999, and my fears that riots would break out after the NYPD officers in that case were acquitted in February 2000.

As Heather Smith suggested, there are legitimate reasons to be worried about whether law enforcement will behave with honor and civility during the People’s Climate March, or whether there will be bloodshed and bruises. How many times in life do we seek peace, but end up with war?

There will be children at the People’s Climate March–this is, of course, about the children, and the sort of life they’ll be able to lead. I hope those children aren’t left with profoundly negative impressions of law enforcement.

Speaking of negative impressions of law enforcement, earlier this month a federal lawsuit was filed against the NYPD, alleging a de facto policy of violently harassing citizens who record police officers. The New York Times reported:

“The suit…seeks a permanent injunction barring New York City employees from retaliating against those who record them in public.

“There have been federal rulings in districts covering Baltimore, Boston and Indianapolis, stating that recording officers in public places is protected by the Constitution, but the rulings are limited only to those districts. There has not been a decision recognizing that right in New York, said Norman Siegel, one of the lawyers who filed the lawsuit…

“In New York, the Police Department Patrol Guide states that ‘taking photographs, videotapes or tape recordings’ do not constitute probable cause for arrest or detention so long as the activity does not jeopardize the safety of officers or others.

“Still, the newly filed lawsuit asserts that there is ‘a widespread policy, practice and custom’ of police interference with people who record them, with some officers using their own phones to record people who are documenting police activity, instructing people that they are not permitted to record and arresting those who do.”

The Times also noted:

“The lawsuit described eight occasions, which Mr. Siegel said were based upon video evidence, in which officers arrested people who were recording in public, ordered them to leave or demanded that they delete images from cameras or cellphones.

“One account described the experiences of Debra Goodman, the plaintiff in the suit, who was said to have been taking a cellphone video in 2013 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan as emergency medical technicians spoke with a woman in a wheelchair and officers stood nearby. As she did so, the suit said, an officer began recording Ms. Goodman with his phone, demanded to see her identification and then arrested her. The charges were eventually dismissed by prosecutors; she is seeking unspecified damages.

“In another account, also from 2013, a man named Diego Ibanez used a phone to record officers making arrests inside a subway station. Although he was about 10 feet away, the lawsuit said, officers ordered him out of the station. Mr. Ibanez responded that he would record from a different part of the platform, the suit said, and was then arrested.

“As he was in custody, an officer told him that he could avoid jail if he deleted the recording he had made, the lawsuit said. The officer then tried to erase the video, but did not do so correctly, the lawsuit said, which allowed Mr. Ibanez to later recover the video, which showed him telling the police, ‘You can film police officers,’ just before his arrest.”

Now, presumably a number of the attendees at the People’s Climate March will be recording the proceedings on their smartphones. What if these attendees accidentally record footage of police misconduct? Will they be subject to abuse and arrest, with the whole world watching?

The People’s Climate March is about turning down the heat. Hopefully, this September, Mayor DeBlasio will encourage his officers to just cool it, and to focus on predatory criminals, not peaceful citizens. After all, those who will attend the People’s Climate March are simply responding to a 911 call, and a report of a planetary emergency with multiple casualties.

Thank you for listening

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The Climate Minute: Summertime biockbuster in a climate near you! (PODCAST)

This week we discuss some over-the-top natural phenomena that have us thinking of catastrophe movies. From Sharknado! to Hurricane Iselle, we give thumbs-up or thumbs-down to the ‘it-ought-to-be-a–movie’ class of events happening all around us. Even MSNBC got in the spirit!

Here are some links:

Because we recognize the necessity of personal accountability for our actions, because we accept responsibility for building a durable future and because we believe it is our patriotic duty as citizens to speak out, we must insist that the United States put a price on carbon.

Thanks for listening.

…Ted McIntyre

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The Climate Minute: Tornados and protests (PODCAST)

There was a lot of news in a busy week in climate. Here is a link-dump of topics from the podcast, mostly courtesy of D.R. Tucker. Happy reading (after you’re done listening!)

  • MA statehouse/Solar cap

  • Resignations and new ideas

  • Sheldon Whitehouse

Todd-Whitman on Fox

Because we recognize the necessity of personal accountability for our actions, because we accept responsibility for building a durable future and because we believe it is our patriotic duty as citizens to speak out, we must insist that the United States put a price on carbon.

Thanks for listening.

…Ted McIntyre

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