October 31, 2014
Big time PR firms are some of the most odious players in the anti-science movement, masterminding campaigns for big oil, big tobacco, big sugar, and a host of other death merchant types.
If the oil and gas industry wants to prevent its opponents from slowing its efforts to drill in more places, it must be prepared to employ tactics like digging up embarrassing tidbits about environmentalists and liberal celebrities, a veteran Washington political consultant told a room full of industry executives in a speech that was secretly recorded.
The blunt advice from the consultant, Richard Berman, the founder and chief executive of the Washington-based Berman & Company consulting firm, came as Mr. Berman solicited up to $3 million from oil and gas industry executives to finance an advertising and public relations campaign called Big Green Radicals.
The company executives, Mr. Berman said in his speech, must be willing to exploit emotions like fear, greed and anger and turn them against the environmental groups. And major corporations secretly financing such a campaign should not worry about offending the general public because “you can either win ugly or lose pretty,” he said.
“Think of this as an endless war,” Mr. Berman told the crowd at the June event in Colorado Springs, sponsored by the Western Energy Alliance, a group whose members include Devon Energy, Halliburton and Anadarko Petroleum, which specialize in extracting oil and gas through hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. “And you have to budget for it.”
What Mr. Berman did not know — and what could now complicate his task of marginalizing environmental groups that want to impose limits on fracking — is that one of the energy industry executives recorded his remarks and was offended by them.
“That you have to play dirty to win,” said the executive, who provided a copy of the recording and the meeting agenda to The New York Times under the condition that his identity not be revealed. “It just left a bad taste in my mouth.”
Berman was paid well by Philip Morris (PM), which stays in business only by addicting people during vulnerable adolescent/young adult brain development, so they can be lifeshort customers. Berman has worked for companies that privatize the profits and socialize the costs. He attacked fine scientists like Steve Schneider (Stanford) and Stan Glantz (UCSF).
Following is a small sample from the instructive Legacy Tobacco Documents Library. Philip Morris was quite friendly to Berman, responding quickly with money, at least $600K + ($200K + $200K + $500K) + $350K + $300K = $21.5M in 4 years.
“We have been looking for a consultant who is both a hospitality industry insider as well as a legislatively astute individual . We believe we have found a worthy candidate who can help us to test these waters and ultimately succeed in achieving our goal.
Rick Berman …General Counsel to The American Beverage Institute (A.B.I). The ABI is an organization of restaurateurs and beverage industry leaders whose goal is to inform government officials and the public on issues involving adult beverages.The primary issue of the ABI is opposing the lowering of the legal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level.” (more praise for Berman)
“… I’m hopeful that your company will be able to make a contribution of $500,000 to help us continue our education program on behalf of the hospitality industry and the public consumer.”
2009 background story in PRWatch:
Berman has long been the front man through which corporations have aggressively attacked their opponents without leaving fingerprints. Known to his own friends and enemies alike as “Dr. Evil,” Berman has perfected the art of setting up non-profit “charitable” groups to advance corporate interests. The groups have deceptively helpful-sounding names, like “Guest Choice Network,” the “Employment Policies Institute” or the “Center for Consumer Freedom,” but really serve as well-funded attack dogs for the tobacco, alcohol, chain restaurant, tanning and other industries. The groups’ non-profit status makes their funding hard to trace, which has permitted Berman to operate in the shadows for decades while pocketing millions from unpopular industries for his work thwarting public interest legislation. Read the rest of this entry »
October 31, 2014
Pope Francis made an impact this week with a ringing defense of science, and the environment.
Ever since the Galileo thing, the Catholic church has been a little self-conscious on the science stuff – but there is a rich history of connecting spirituality with the natural world, that resonates strongly today for many Christians, and people of many traditions.
It’s a big story, because whatever one thinks of the Pope, or of religion, it plays a large role in shaping the world view of most of the world’s people. To be effective communicators, scientists, and science advocates, must aIways consider how to speak with this these perspectives in mind.
If nothing else, from a political perspective, big impact in developing nations, and on US hispanics – who are already strong on environmental, green, and climate issues. (maybe some clues on that below..)
Not insignificant in a number of midwestern states as well.
Pope Francis said the theory of evolution did not contradict the Bible or church teachings, as creationists claim.
“God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life,” the pope said. “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”
Catholic teaching has not traditionally been opposed to evolution, unlike evangelical Christianity in the U.S., although a close associate of Pope Benedict XVI criticized the scientific theory in a 2005 opinion piece published in the New York Times.
Pope Francis made the speech while unveiling a bust of Benedict, his predecessor.
The pope said biblical teachings gave humans the responsibility to care for the earth and its inhabitants.
In the Book of Genesis, God commanded Adam “to name everything and to go ahead through history,” Pope Francis said. “This makes him responsible for creation, so that he might steward it in order to develop it until the end of time.”
He warned that it was a “grave sin against God the creator” to destroy the environment, and scientists held a special responsibility to protect God’s creation.
“Therefore the scientist, and above all the Christian scientist, must adopt the approach of posing questions regarding the future of humanity and of the earth, and, of being free and responsible, helping to prepare it and preserve it, to eliminate risks to the environment of both a natural and human nature,” Pope Francis said. “But, at the same time, the scientist must be motivated by the confidence that nature hides, in her evolutionary mechanisms, potentialities for intelligence and freedom to discover and realize, to achieve the development that is in the plan of the creator.”
Francis said the poor need land, a roof over their head and work, and said he knew well that “If I talk about this, some will think that the pope is communist.”
“They don’t understand that love for the poor is at the center of the Gospel,” he said. “Demanding this isn’t unusual, it’s the social doctrine of the church.”
Francis has already been branded a Marxist by conservative U.S. commentators for his unbridled criticism of capitalist excesses, for his demand that governments redistribute social benefits to the needy, and his call for the church to be a “poor church, for the poor.”
His speech Tuesday broadened his concerns to include the environment, the rights for farmers to have land, and for young people to have work. He promised that the concerns of the poor would be highlighted in his upcoming encyclical on ecology and the environment.
“Today I want to unite my voice with yours and accompany you in your fight,” he said.
Among those in the audience were Argentine “cartoneros,” who sift through garbage looking for recyclable goods. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was particularly close to the cartoneros; as pope he has maintained his support for their plight.
Francis had an informal meeting Tuesday with Bolivian President Evo Morales, who was part of the delegation.
A reader sent a link that fits about here.
And then that got me thinking about the item below. Read the rest of this entry »
October 30, 2014
Photos and video I took during an August 2014 south Greenland maintenance tour of promice.org climate stations and an extreme ice survey time lapse camera went viral, featuring a surprisingly (to me and others) dark surface of Greenland ice.
What we know, the southern Greenland ice sheet hit record low reflectivity in the period of satellite observations since 2000 due to a ~2 month drought affecting south Greenland…
October 30, 2014
You may have seen crotchity non-scientist John Coleman, whose greatest claim to fame is having been fired by the Weather Channel, on Fox News’ whatsername show, a few days ago. (Wasn’t she supposed to be the “smart one”? I guess all things are relative..)
It’s getting harder not to notice that climate deniers come from an increasingly distant generation, and prefer Fox News to actual respectable outlets. Coleman gave the predictable “al gore, liberal scientists, its not humans” performance, and the echo chamber did the rest.
I’m sure it’s a coincidence that, two days later, The Weather Channel released a statement on climate change:
More than a century’s worth of detailed climate observations shows a sharp increase in both carbon dioxide and temperature. These observations, together with computer model simulations and historical climate reconstructions from ice cores, ocean sediments and tree rings all provide strong evidence that the majority of the warming over the past century is a result of human activities. This is also the conclusion drawn, nearly unanimously, by climate scientists.
Humans are also changing the climate on a more localized level. The replacement of vegetation by buildings and roads is causing temperature increases through what’s known as the urban heat island effect. In addition, land use changes are affecting impacts from weather phenomena. For example, urbanization and deforestation can cause an increased tendency for flash floods and mudslides from heavy rain. Deforestation also produces a climate change “feedback” by depleting a source which absorbs carbon dioxide.
Potential outcomes range from moderate and manageable to extreme and catastrophic, depending on a number of factors including location and type of effect, and amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Not every location and its inhabitants will be affected equally, but the more the planet warms, the fewer “winners” and the more “losers” there will be as a result of the changes in climate. The potential exists for the climate to reach a “tipping point,” if it hasn’t already done so, beyond which radical and irreversible changes occur.
The bottom line is that with the rate of greenhouse gas emissions increasing, a significant warming trend is expected to also continue. This warming will manifest itself in a variety of ways, and shifts in climate could occur quickly, so while society needs to continue to wrestle with the difficult issues involved with mitigation of the causes of global warming, an increased focus should be placed on resiliency and adaptation to the effects of global warming given the sensitivity of civilizations and ecosystems to rapid climate change.
October 30, 2014
I responded that it’s OK to feel that, – its perfectly natural to feel that way. I know from many, many conversations with senior scientists, that there is a huge emotional toll to be constantly engaged in this area of research, while so little is actually being done on a policy level to address the onrushing freight train.
This past summer, when Dr. Jason Box and I returned from Greenland, we were surprised to find that Jason’s tweet about undersea carbon stores, expressing more than a bit of trepidation in somewhat plain language, had gone viral.
As a larger and larger fraction of the population at large “gets it” about the gravity of the situation – there is obviously a hunger for less happy talk or denial, and more gut reaction. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning and keeps me up late at night.
…growing bodies of research in the relatively new field of psychology of global warming suggest that climate change will take a pretty heavy toll on the human psyche as storms become more destructive and droughts more prolonged. For your everyday environmentalist, the emotional stress suffered by a rapidly changing Earth can result in some pretty substantial anxieties.
As Naomi Klein writes in her most recent book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, “We probably shouldn’t be surprised that some climate scientists are a little spooked by the radical implications of their own research. Most of them were quietly measuring ice cores, running global climate models, and studying ocean acidification, only to discover, as Australian climate expert and author Clive Hamilton puts it, that in breaking the news of the depth of our collective climate failure, they were ‘unwittingly destabilizing the political and social order.’” Talk about a lot of pressure.
“I don’t know of a single scientist that’s not having an emotional reaction to what is being lost,” Parmesan is quoted saying in the National Wildlife Federation’s 2012 report, “The Psychological Effects of Global Warming on the United States: And Why the U.S. Mental Health Care System is Not Adequately Prepared.” “It’s gotten to be so depressing that I’m not sure I’m going to go back to this particular site again,” she says, referring to an ocean reef she has studied since 2002, “because I just know I’m going to see more and more of it dead, and bleached, and covered with brown algae.”
Lise Van Susteren, a forensic psychiatrist based in Washington, D.C. — and co-author of the National Wildlife Federation’s report — calls this emotional reaction “pre-traumatic stress disorder,” a term she coined to describe the mental anguish that results from preparing for the worst, before it actually happens.
“It’s an intense preoccupation with thoughts we cannot get out of our minds,” Van Susteren says. And for some, it’s a preoccupation that extends well outside of the office. “Everyday irritations as parents and spouses have their place, they’re legitimate,” she says. “But when you’re talking about thousands of years of impacts and species, giving a shit about whether you’re going to get the right soccer equipment or whether you forgot something at school is pretty tough.”
October 30, 2014
Of course you can change minds about climate. I know because I’ve produced a series of videos debunking climate denial, and continue to get feedback that they turn people around. There is however, a school of thought that maintains the workings of the brain are such that, once people are settled in their views, they are all but incapable of anything but robotic motivated reasoning, based on whatever their genetic programming might be.
Chris Mooney’s book “The Republican Brain” is sometimes cited as evidence for this view.
That’s why it’s interesting he has written this in his new Wash Post blog.
Chris Mooney in the Washington Post Wonkblog:
It’s no secret that certain political worldviews prevent people from accepting the science of global warming.
And it’s not just that conservative and pro-free market beliefs are strongly correlated with dismissal of climate science. Get this: Conservatives who are more scientifically literate, or better at math, are even less likely than their ideological compatriots to accept global warming. That’s how powerful ideology can be — and such findings have often been used to call into question whether educational initiatives can really make any difference when it comes to hot-button scientific issues like climate.
A new study just out in the journal Climatic Change, however, suggests education may work after all.
Kathryn Stevenson and her colleagues at North Carolina State University studied a sample of 378 sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students in North Carolina, administering questionnaires that assessed their level of scientific knowledge about climate change, their degree of acceptance of mainstream climate science (the idea that humans are causing global warming), and also how ideologically “individualistic” — a worldview that emphasizes freedom and free markets, and that is very skeptical of government regulation — they were.
And they produced a result that reversed prior findings: In middle school “individualists,” as their level of scientific knowledge about global warming increased, so did their acceptance of the idea that it is caused by humans. In fact, the knowledge-acceptance relationship was stronger in these young individualists than it was among kids who had a disposition toward communitarianism — an ideological view that is best captured in Hillary Clinton’s famous phrase “it takes a village,” and that emphasizes our co-dependency in society, rather than the importance of individual freedom and initiative.
October 29, 2014
Everywhere we look, we can see the hinge of history swinging away from climate denial, and a global wake up on where we are.
The “Talk Radio Industry” has been almost completely dominated by those angry loud voices who adamantly deny climate change, ranging from attacking the science itself, the scientists, the scientific consensus, and my favorite; the “global hoax” theory. These talk radio hosts read from the same script written by “Think Tanks” funded by Big Oil which launched a massive Media and PR campaign to “confuse the American public” on the science two decades ago. They succeeded and “talk radio” played a key role in their success.
Here’s the problem: until the American Public understands how high the stakes are, how small the window is, and that the solutions are “here and now” too, we are headed toward a future that is not fit for survival as we know it. It’s late, but it’s not too late. More extremes are on the way but we can avoid the nightmare scenerio!
The idea is ambitious, but if Nancy can generate adequate funding from this effort, there is an open door at a flagship station, WPWC 1480 AM located in Washington DC, and a 4 to 6 pm time slot — afternoon drive time, with the idea of eventually shooting for an XM radio slot.
I’ve contributed to Nancy’s effort with the “ask” video above, and, if the idea goes, may have some input into the day to day broadcasts – so I say, if not now, when?
Skinner also is concerned about increased heavy precipitation events and how they’re going to affect Michigan’s agriculture industry. If California continues on its path of extreme drought, she said, Michigan may have to ramp up its agricultural output. But with more extreme precipitation events, which the recent National Climate Assessment forecasts for the Midwest, topsoil could be eroded, making it difficult for Michigan to achieve greater agricultural production.
“We have to get with the scientists and think about how we deal with drainage … so that we are able to step up the production of agriculture to meet the needs of the country,” she said.
Skinner first became interested in environmental issues when her sister-in-law died of melanoma in the early 1990s at 32 years old. At that time, the hole in the ozone layer was growing rapidly, a factor her doctor said could have contributed to the cancer diagnosis. So, Skinner began to research the hole, eventually reading Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance in 1993.
After the Great Midwestern floods of 1993, Skinner worked with President Bill Clinton’s White House to develop a team of federal agencies and architects that rebuilt two communities affected by the floods in Missouri and Illinois on higher ground, so that they wouldn’t be destroyed if the kind of flooding seen in 1993 happened again.
Skinner ran for Senate in Illinois in 2004, but ended up losing to then state-senator Barack Obama.