Guest post from Michael Halpern, Union of Concerned Scientists:

When a hacker (or hackers) released a second batch of emails stolen from scientists last month, the immediate question that sprang to my mind was, “Why haven’t we found them yet?” And now, after months of apparent inactivity, it seems that British authorities are taking a renewed interest in tracking down the criminals who are responsible, and the United States Department of Justice is also getting involved.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) originally put it quite nicely in a statement: “If this happened surrounding nuclear arms talks, we would have the full force of the western world’s intelligence community pursuing the perpetrators. And yet, with the stability of our climate hanging in the balance with these international climate treaty negotiations, these hackers and their supporters are still on the loose. It is time to bring them to justice.”

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The Production Tax Credit for wind energy will expire at the end of 2012.

The Tax credit is designed to level the playing field between important renewable energy sources, and the overwhelming government subsidies that have flowed to obsolete and poisonous forms power for more than a century.

The PTC is getting a lot of support from both sides of the aisle, despite the best efforts of the Tea Party troglodytes to undercut the technologies that can save the planet. It’s up to us to let our reps know about the importance of wind in maintaining our competitiveness, creating good jobs and strong communities, and preserving a liveable planet for our children.

The movie trailer above previews a new examination of the Tobacco industry’s push to addict young people around the world to poison.

One of the vital untold stories of the anti-science movement is the Tobacco industry’s involvement at the roots of climate denial. It happened in the course of funding initiatives originally designed to fend off anti-smoking legislation.  The industry decided that the best way to set up phony “grass roots” groups to support them was to avoid being too transparent.

George Monbiot

..what I have discovered while researching this issue is that the corporate funding of lobby groups denying that manmade climate change is taking place was initiated not by Exxon, or by any other firm directly involved in the fossil fuel industry. It was started by the tobacco company Philip Morris.

In December 1992, the US Environmental Protection Agency published a 500-page report called Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking. It found that “the widespread exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) in the United States presents a serious and substantial public health impact. In adults: ETS is a human lung carcinogen, responsible for approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths annually in US non-smokers. In children: ETS exposure is causally associated with an increased risk of lower respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. This report estimates that 150,000 to 300,000 cases annually in infants and young children up to 18 months of age are attributable to ETS.”

Had it not been for the settlement of a major class action against the tobacco companies in the US, we would never have been able to see what happened next. But in 1998 they were forced to publish their internal documents and post them on the internet.

Within two months of its publication, Philip Morris, the world’s biggest tobacco firm, had devised a strategy for dealing with the passive-smoking report. In February 1993 Ellen Merlo, its senior vice-president of corporate affairs, sent a letter to William I Campbell, Philip Morris’s chief executive officer and president, explaining her intentions: “Our overriding objective is to discredit the EPA report … Concurrently, it is our objective to prevent states and cities, as well as businesses, from passive-smoking bans.”

To this end, she had hired a public relations company called APCO. She had attached the advice it had given her. APCO warned that: “No matter how strong the arguments, industry spokespeople are, in and of themselves, not always credible or appropriate messengers.”

So the fight against a ban on passive smoking had to be associated with other people and other issues. Philip Morris, APCO said, needed to create the impression of a “grassroots” movement – one that had been formed spontaneously by concerned citizens to fight “overregulation”. It should portray the danger of tobacco smoke as just one “unfounded fear” among others, such as concerns about pesticides and cellphones. APCO proposed to set up “a national coalition intended to educate the media, public officials and the public about the dangers of ‘junk science’. Coalition will address credibility of government’s scientific studies, risk-assessment techniques and misuse of tax dollars … Upon formation of Coalition, key leaders will begin media outreach, eg editorial board tours, opinion articles, and brief elected officials in selected states.”

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Dear NPR

December 19, 2011

The letter fired off to NPR after a Saturday Weekend Edition radio piece caused sudden gastric distress.

Dear NPR –

I almost threw up listening to Scott Simon’s embarrassing puffball conversation with glib freshman House member Bill Huizenga.

The House of Representatives is now one of the most unpopular institutions in the country, and in large part due to the freshmen republican class and the inflexible, extreme ideological values that Mr Huizenga represents.

I’m not alone in this view. According to a new survey by Pew Research, “Half of all Americans say the current Congress has accomplished less than others, and 40 percent say Republican leaders are to blame, while just 23 percent of those polled say Democratic leaders are responsible.”

While Mr Huizenga may think he’s doing a great job, the American people do not. According to the poll,

“53 percent, see the GOP as the more extreme of the two parties, as well as the party that is less honest and ethical and less willing to work with the other side”

So it is particularly nauseating to have to sit thru 5 minutes of unanswered nonsense from the party that is doing its best to keep anything, from a trillion dollar spending bill, to the simplest judicial appointment, or even road repair – from happening in government – as long as a progressive with black skin and a funny name is in the white house.

I’m used to this kind of one sided blather from Fox and Friends, not NPR. But an earlier news item shed some light on Mr Simon’s gabfest.

One of the pet projects of the Tea Party congress is to completely defund NPR, leaving the country without even the shreds of the once great journalistic enterprise that all Americans could be proud of – and completely at the mercy of the Fox News/talk radio axis that has been creating the alternative universe that Mr Huizinga lives in – the one where WMDs, Death Panels, and Kenyan birth certificates are real, and, for instance, climate change, is not.

This build-your-own reality approach of the Fox News fueled Tea Party zealots is in large part what has so divided the nation – which can no longer even agree on a common set of objective facts. NPR is supposed to be a remedy to this – that is exactly why they hate it so passionately.

Mr Simons fauning interview smacked more of Stockholm syndrome than journalism.

Can we please not do this again?

Solar Energy Industries Association/Greentech research:

  • The U.S. solar industry installed a quarterly record for new solar electric capacity in Q3 with 449 MW.
  • More U.S. solar electric capacity came online in Q3 2011 than all of 2009 combined, and Q4 2011 is predicted to be even larger.
  • However, the U.S. solar market faces substantial market uncertainty with financing and political risks, including the looming expiration of Section 1603 Treasury Program.

WASHINGTON D.C. – The U.S. solar energy industry achieved a new record for installations and growth in the third quarter of 2011 thanks to utility-scale project completions, a strong residential market, effective policies and the plummeting price of solar panels, according to a report released today by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

Through the third quarter of 2011, the U.S. solar market has installed more than 1,000 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity on the year, already surpassing the 2010 annual total of 887 MW, according to the U.S. Solar Market Insight: 3rd Quarter 2011 report. This includes 449 MW installed in the third quarter alone – a record for quarterly installations and more new solar electric capacity than was added in all of 2009. This also represents 140 percent growth over the same quarter last year.

Much of this growth is due to the Department of Treasury’s 1603 program, which is set to expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress extends it. In the absence of an extension of the program, the report predicts that there will be a tax equity bottleneck for projects in 2012, leading to a possible slowdown in installations in late 2012 and into 2013.

GreenTechMedia:

Update: Last night the U.S. House of Representatives joined the Senate in passing an extension of the Department of Treasury Section 1603 tax grant program — a boon for the U.S.solar and wind industries.

It was signed by President Obama this afternoon.

To take advantage of the extended deadline, eligible renewable projects must begin construction by December 31, 2011.

OK, I’m confused – if anyone knows how a deadline of December 31 equals an “extension” let me know. It’s important to note that this program originated in the Bush Admin –

Certain factions in Washington, D.C. don’t want to renew the tax grant.  The catch is that the 1603 grant provision was actually passed during the Bush Administration.  There is a sense that Republicans don’t want to support anything with the scent of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) upon it.

Nicuragua? Ain’t they communists?  Ah heard ’em say “community”. Well, there you go.

What more proof do you need?

One of my great privileges at The American Geophysical Union gathering last week was meeting John Cook – mastermind of SkepticalScience.com – the 900 pound gorilla of climate denial debunking websites.

John held forth in a number of sessions, all of which I somehow missed, but we managed to get together several times after hours – which is where a lot of the best interaction and discussion takes place.

John speaks here on the challenges and pitfalls of informing the disinformed, and de-programming the discombooberated victims of the climate denial industrial complex.

Yes, that David Attenborough.