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PennEast Pipeline 'Would Cause Massive Increase in Climate Pollution'

A study released Wednesday found that, if built, the controversial PennEast Pipeline for fracked gas could contribute as much greenhouse gas pollution as 14 coal-fired power plants or 10 million passenger vehicles—some 49 million metric tons per year.

The analysis, conducted by Oil Change International, showed that federal regulators are poised to rubber-stamp the PennEast Pipeline based on a woefully inadequate climate review that ignores the significant impact of methane leaks and wrongly assumes that gas supplied by the project will replace coal.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is facing a growing backlash across the country over its routine approval of gas pipeline projects that endanger communities and the climate. Today's study comes on the heels of a federal court hearing in which a judge slammed FERC's shallow and dismissive review of the climate impact of the Sabal Trail gas pipeline in the Southeast.

The new analysis counters FERC's final environmental impact statement for the PennEast project released in early April. It applies a methodology recently developed by Oil Change International to calculate the climate impact of gas pipelines from the Appalachian Basin. In contrast to FERC, the Oil Change methodology reflects the evolving analysis of methane leakage and the full lifecycle of pollution that pipelines cause from fracking well to smokestack.

"Our analysis shows that the PennEast Pipeline would cause a massive increase in climate pollution," said Lorne Stockman, lead author of the study and Oil Change International senior research analyst. "The only way FERC can conclude otherwise is by ignoring both science and economics. The PennEast pipeline is not needed, communities don't want it and it will deepen reliance on fossil fuels that we can't afford to burn."

The PennEast Pipeline, backed by a consortium of gas companies, would run roughly 120 miles from northeastern Pennsylvania to Mercer County, New Jersey, carrying up to 1.1 billion cubic feet of gas per day. The New Jersey Rate Counsel has concluded that New Jersey consumers do not need the gas. The project is facing stiff opposition from landowners and community and environmental groups along its route.

The Oil Change analysis found that the pipeline would be responsible for over 49 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by adding up the pollution from gas extraction and processing, pipeline operation, gas combustion at power plants and methane leaked across the gas supply chain.

The study found three major faults in FERC's review:

• FERC fails to acknowledge that methane leakage makes gas as dirty or dirtier than coal, wiping out any potential benefits of switching from coal to gas;

• FERC ignores the market reality that new gas production is likely to compete directly with clean energy and energy efficiency, especially in New Jersey, which has already phased out coal-fired generation;

• FERC fails to count upstream emissions from fracking operations.

Advocates from the region reacted to the study with concern and reiterated their commitment to stopping the pipeline, which has yet to receive key permits from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Delaware River Basin Commission:

"It is unseemly that the public and nonprofit organizations are having to invest time and money in doing the work FERC should be undertaking," said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper. "This report demonstrates, yet again, that the PennEast pipeline will help push our nation and world over the climate change cliff. FERC is not only legally required to do the kind of analysis included in this report, but is morally responsible."

Tom Gilbert, campaign director for Rethink Energy NJ and NJ Conservation Foundation, agreed. "It cannot be ignored that New Jersey's greenhouse gas emissions are going up, not down, driven by increased emissions from gas-fired electric plants," he said.

"This report shows that the PennEast pipeline would only further move the state in the wrong direction by increasing carbon emissions and methane leaks, putting public health and safety at risk."

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Historic Day in Britain: First Coal-Free Day Since 1882

By Andy Rowell

April 21, 2017, will go down as a significant day in the dying days of the fossil fuel era. For the first time since the renewable revolution in 1882, Britain went a full day without using dirty coal to generate electricity.

The UK's energy provider, the National Grid, called it a "watershed" moment and it is seen as a significant step towards the UK Government's plans to phase out coal generating power plants by 2025.

Just two years ago, the fossil fuel accounted for 23 percent of the UK's electricity generation, and last year it was six percent.

"To have the first working day without coal since the start of the industrial revolution is a watershed moment in how our energy system is changing," said Cordi O'Hara of the National Grid.

National Grid

The move was welcomed by environmentalists. "A decade ago, a day without coal would have been unimaginable and in 10 years' time our energy system will have radically transformed again," said Hannah Martin of Greenpeace UK. "The direction of travel is that both in the UK and globally we are already moving towards a low carbon economy."

And further evidence that the UK is helping push the growth of renewables globally has been documented by a new report from Renewables UK, which estimated that the value of the UK renewables products and services exported to some countries in 2016 was a whopping £2 billion.

Even Big Oil now expects renewables to be the fastest-growing sector over the next 20 years, with BP believing renewables will increase by seven percent per year.

Britain is not alone in phasing out coal, either. Earlier this month, a coalition of European energy companies announced that there would be no new coal plants built throughout the European Union after 2020.

"The power sector is determined to lead the energy transition and back our commitment to the low carbon economy with concrete action" said António Mexia, president of Eurelectric, which represents some 3,500 utilities across Europe.

The one person trying to stop the surge in renewables is, of course, President Donald Trump, whom I have labeled the King Canute of Coal, named after "the misguided Medieval King Canute, who believed he could hold back the incoming tide."

Trump wants to resurrect America's dying coal industry, but as Bloomberg reported, "For all Donald Trump's efforts to revive coal, market forces and some of his own supporters are vying to write their own version of America's energy future."

Bloomberg added: "Trump may be resolutely committed to fossil fuels, but the economic reality is renewables are now among the cheapest sources of electricity."

The climate deniers are still trying to persuade Trump to hold back the clean energy tide. On Tuesday, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry will speak at a Bloomberg New Energy Finance gathering in New York, alongside long-term climate denier Myron Ebell, who headed Trump's U.S. Environmental Protection Agency transition team.

Unbelievably, Ebell is still trying to argue that the renewable energy revolution is over.

"This large-scale effort to move the grid to solar and wind is a dead end," Ebell told Bloomberg. "The wind and solar industries have peaked." Ebell should check on the numbers as he continues to twist the truth: Wind and solar now employ almost 475,000 people in the U.S., three times that of coal.

He should also go down to Kentucky, where a former huge strip mine could be converted into … a solar farm. In Eastern Kentucky, a coal mining company plans what has been called the state's largest solar farm on a reclaimed mountaintop coal strip mine, promising jobs for redundant coal miners. It would be the first large-scale solar project in the coal country of Appalachia.

"I grew up with coal," said Ryan Johns, an executive with Berkeley Energy Group who are working with EDF Renewable Energy to explore developing the old coal site as a solar farm. "Our company has been in the coal business for 30 years. We are not looking at this as trying to replace coal, but we have already extracted the coal from this area."

"A project of this magnitude has never been proposed in Appalachia," added Doug Copeland, EDF development manager. "Doing so will require every bit of innovation, experience and skill we've developed."

They are not the only ones beginning to reimagine what the U.S. coal belt could look like. As West Virginia solar entrepreneur Dan Conant argued, "Our people have given sweat, blood, tears and lives to help build and power America. Reimagining ourselves not as a coal state, but as an energy state—including solar and wind—is critical if we are going to continue powering America."

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The meltwater of Canada's Kaskawulsh glacier was suddenly rerouted last May due to human-induced climate change. Photo credit: Jim Best

Human-Caused Climate Change Reroutes Entire River for First Time on Record

By Andy Rowell

New research published in the journal Nature Geoscience Monday outlines the first documented case in modern times of what is being called "river piracy," in which one huge river suddenly flows into another.

On a research trip last summer in Canada's remote Yukon territory, scientists found that the vast Slims River had suddenly and unexpectedly changed direction.

For centuries, the Slims River had flowed north, carrying meltwater from the massive Kaskawulsh Glacier towards the Bering Sea. It was not a small river, spanning some 150 meters (492 feet) at its widest point.

However, the unusually hot spring last year caused an intense melting of the glacier that cut a new channel through the ice to the Alsek River, which flows southwards and into the Pacific. Where once the two rivers were comparable in size, the Slims has been reduced to a trickle and the Alsek is now some 60-70 times larger.

The Alsek had stolen the waters of the Slims.

The first recorded case of "river piracy" in the modern era shows how quickly climate change can alter natural topography. And more troubling for the scientists is that a phenomenon that they would expect to happen over hundreds of years occurred in a matter of days. Moreover, they do not expect it to be reversed. The river theft "is likely to be permanent," they argued.

"We were pretty shocked. We had no idea what was really in store," said Professor Dan Shugar, the paper's lead author and a geoscientist at the University of Washington Tacoma. "Day by day, we could see the water level dropping."

Another of the scientists involved, James Best, a geologist at the University of Illinois, described the discovery. "We went to the area intending to continue our measurements in the Slims River, but found the riverbed more or less dry," he said. "The delta top that we'd been sailing over in a small boat was now a dust storm. In terms of landscape change, it was incredibly dramatic."

The paper outlines that climate change is to blame.

In just fifty years, the Kaskawulsh Glacier has retreated by up to 700 meters (2297 feet). But last year, that rate increased dramatically with the unseasonably warm weather. The scientists argue that the chance of the "river piracy" occurring due to natural variability is at 0.5 percent. "So it's 99.5 percent that it occurred due to warming over the industrial era," said Best.

The phenomenon could have major ramifications for areas such as the Himalayas, the Andes or Alaska as global warming continues and glaciers continue to retreat. Professor Shugar told the New York Times that, as climate change causes more glaciers to melt, "We may see differences in the river networks and where rivers decide to go ... We may be surprised by what climate change has in store for us—and some of the effects might be much more rapid than we are expecting."

Indeed, the Nature Geoscience paper was published alongside an essay from Rachel M. Headley, an Assistant Professor of Geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. "As the world warms and more glaciers melt, populations dependent upon glacial meltwater should pay special attention to these processes," she warned.

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Photo credit: Stein Glacier on Aug. 20, 2015. (C: James Balog and the Extreme Ice Survey/GSA Today/The Geological Society of America)

Going, Going, Gone

By Andy Rowell

President Trump opens his eyes, but he does not see. Trump listens, but he does not hear. He speaks, but he makes no sense. How can the most powerful man be so completely ignorant about climate change? How can it be that as the evidence about climate change gets stronger, politicians like Trump seem to get more ignorant?

That is a question that is perplexing climate scientists and others fighting climate change.

Every day comes news that we are in deep, deep trouble. The Guardian reported this morning that "Climate change is rapidly becoming a crisis that defies hyperbole," with impacts "occurring faster in many parts of the world than even the most gloomy scientists predicted."

The newspaper reported on three recent studies which reveal there has been a "massive under-reporting" of the impacts of climate change:

  • The first paper, published in Science found that current warming (just one degree Celsius) has "already left a discernible mark on 77 of 94 different ecological processes, including species' genetics, seasonal responses, overall distribution and even morphology—i.e. physical traits including body size and shape."
  • A second paper, published in Nature Climate Change this February concluded that 47 percent of land mammals and 23 percent of birds have already suffered negative impacts form climate change. In total, nearly 700 species in these two groups are struggling over climate change. Entire ecosystems—some the size of states within the U.S.—are changing. Some are not surviving.
  • A third study in PLOS Biology found that more than 450 plants and animals have undergone local extinctions due to climate change. As some struggle to adapt they may go extinct altogether.

Trump might not read the left-leaning Guardian or the scientific press, but he should be reading the Washington Post. Earlier this week the Washington Post reported on a recent paper by the Geological Society of America which "presents dramatic before-and-after photographs of glaciers around the world over the last decade."

The majority of the photos were taken by renowned photographer James Balog as part of the Extreme Ice Survey, which was featured in the 2012 documentary Chasing Ice. The videos and still photos show glaciers in fast retreat. For example, the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska retreated 550 meters between 2007 and 2015.

Balog told the paper, "I do think that our most dominant sensory apparatus is our vision. So when you can deliver an understanding of the reality of what's going on through vision, rather than numbers or maps, that also has the unique ability to touch and influence people."

The paper's authors argue that photographic records "provide an outstanding avenue for education, because they display a record of ice that may never be seen again."

But Trump is ignoring the photographic evidence. If he will not listen to the scientists, maybe Trump will listen to the security experts.

Sherri Goodman, a former U.S. deputy undersecretary of defense and founder of the CNA Military Advisory Board, is speaking this week in Sydney at the Breakthrough Institute at screenings of The Age of Consequences documentary, a film about the security threat posed by climate change. It is said to be a must-watch film. As the Toronto Star noted about the film, "the election of a climate denier Donald Trump underscores the urgency of this documentary."

As the ice retreats, whole ecosystem change and species die out, sea levels rise and storms increase and droughts get worse, we will all be living with the consequences of a climate denier in the White House, a man who looks, but does not see. Even as the glaciers disappear before his eyes.

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Putin Now Denies Humans Cause Climate Change

By Andy Rowell

These are dangerous days for the climate. Not only do we have a climate denier in the White House, we have one in the Kremlin, too.

At the end of last week, while visiting the Arctic, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that global warming was not caused by humans: "The warming, it had already started by the 1930s," he said. "That's when there were no such anthropological factors such as emissions, and the warming had already started."

In comments that will alarm many, Putin said that trying to curtail climate change was not a priority, but rather adaption was the key: "The issue is not stopping it … because that's impossible, since it could be tied to some global cycles on Earth or even of planetary significance. The issue is to somehow adapt to it."

Commentators have pointed out that this seems to be a dangerous U-turn by Putin and in direct contrast to his speech made at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in November 2015, when he said: "The quality of life of all people on the planet depends on solving the climate problem."

Environmentalists will also be alarmed that Putin seemed to endorse Scott Pruitt. The Russian president commented that "Positions and suggestions of those who don't agree with their opponents are not so stupid. God grant [Pruitt] health and success, everybody should listen to one another and only then you can find an optimal solution to the problem."

Pruitt, under pressure from a Fox News host on Sunday, acknowledged that humans are contributing to climate change. "There's a warming trend, the climate is changing and human activity contributes to that change in some measure," Pruitt was forced to concede, before adding: "The real issue is how much we contribute to it and measuring that with precision."

There is a crude self-interest for Putin with climate change. The more the Arctic region melts, the more he believes it could be exploited for oil. While other leaders at the Arctic meeting warned of the dangers of climate change, for example the Finnish Prime Minister Sauli Niinisto labeling it a "serious threat," Putin argued that global warming brings "more propitious conditions for using this region for economic ends."

He added that the melting of the Arctic was beneficial to Russia's GDP and "improves the economic potential of this region."

And you can see why Putin thinks climate change is good. As an article in the New Scientist pointed out last month, "Russia's economy is a basket case. Apart from oil and gas, it produces little anyone wants to buy … Without restructuring, a global clean energy revolution will likely put the Russian economy in a death spiral."

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What the IEA Got Wrong on Its Energy Outlook

By Greg Muttitt

We welcomed last week the first step by the International Energy Agency (IEA) towards describing how energy would look for the world to meet one of the Paris Agreement goals, to keep warming well below 2°C. Specifically, it looked at emissions being limited enough to give a two-in-three chance of staying below 2°C.

The report was co-published by IEA and its clean energy counterpart, the International Renewable Energy Agency, and commissioned by the German government. The two agencies are also working on a 1.5°C scenario, to be published in June.

But there's a problem with the IEA's new climate scenario: It describes a slower decline in fossil fuels than our analysis of what the climate science actually requires. Here's the key table:

Remarkably, the IEA foresees significant coal use in 2050 and gas barely declines from current levels. Let's look at how the IEA reaches this outcome.

The new report starts off well: It takes the carbon budget from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as we did in our report The Sky's Limit: 880 gigatons (Gt) of carbon dioxide can be emitted from 2015 onwards. But the IEA then does three things that inflate the space for fossil fuels within that budget:

  • It understates the potential non-fossil fuel emissions (primarily cement and land use emissions);
  • It assumes a major breakthrough in carbon capture and storage (CCS);
  • It allocates a disproportionate share of the carbon budget to the pre-2050 period—deeper emissions cuts are hidden outside the period of study.

The combined effect is to inflate the emissions from fossil fuels by about 180 Gt—the equivalent to running an extra 1,500 coal plants from 2015 to 2050. Here's how the math works:

Disappearing Non-Fossil Emissions

The 880 Gt carbon budget is the total cumulative amount of CO2 that can be emitted from all sources in the future. While fossil fuels are the largest source of CO2 emissions, they are not the only source. The others are the calcination reaction in making cement and land use changes (such as agriculture and deforestation). So an estimate of these other sources must be deducted from the budget, to see how much room is left for fossil fuel emissions.

The IEA's estimate of land use emissions (zero) is only slightly smaller than ours: We estimate 20 Gt over the century (when you take into account absorption of CO2 as well as emissions—based on a median of IPCC scenarios).

But the IEA assumes only 90 Gt of cement emissions over the century. Cement emissions are current 2 Gt per year; the IEA scenario projects them peaking in the 2020s and falling to 1 Gt by 2050, due to material efficiency and CCS. Our estimate is 160 Gt, based on an optimistic reading of the IEA's own figures. The difference can only be squared with a very optimistic assumption on CCS, to which we turn next.

So the IEA assumes that only 90 Gt of the carbon budget must be deducted, leaving 790 Gt for fossil fuels. Our already-optimistic assumptions would require 180 Gt to be deducted and it could be a lot more than this. So at 790 Gt, fossil fuels are getting too much of the global carbon budget.

Burying Carbon Out of Sight

The new IEA scenario assumes that CCS will be quickly ramped up in the 2020s, capturing 3 Gt per year of fossil fuel emissions by 2035, not counting the more than 1 Gt per year of cement emissions.

This seems highly unlikely, given that both companies and governments (including the UK and the U.S.) have pulled out of investing in CCS in the last couple of years. The IEA itself has noted that "deployment has stalled." A major reason is that CCS-equipped coal or gas power—while obviously attractive to the fossil fuel industry—is significantly more expensive than wind or solar power. The IEA does not explain how it expects a turnaround to occur.

The IEA sees more than 600 GW of CCS-equipped power plants being installed by 2050, equivalent to nearly 20 percent of today's coal and gas capacity. Given the long life of power stations, the IEA believes a significant portion of this will be achieved by retrofitting existing plants—which is even more expensive than installing CCS in new plants.

The effect of the IEA's CCS assumption is to inflate the available carbon budget by around 60 Gt before 2050 and up to 200 Gt over the century, based on an expensive technological fix that has no track record to date.

Hiding Emissions Cuts Off the Page

The new report describes the energy system from 2015 to 2050. But the carbon budget stipulates how much the world can emit over all time (until atmospheric concentrations stabilize). So a key part of IEA's calculation is to decide how much of its 790 Gt budget to allocate before 2050 and how much after. The IEA opts to save just 80 Gt of the budget for post-2050 and 710 Gt for pre-2050.

This would require a sudden change in the rate of emissions once we reached 2050, as the graph shows.

Since the scenario forecasts only up to 2050, it understates the emissions reductions—and overstates fossil fuel use—during that period. Like a magician's trick, the real action is happening out of sight.

If emissions fell at a steady rate after 2020, rather than postponing some reductions until after 2050, they would have to decrease by 5 percent per year. On this basis, the IEA's pre-2050 carbon budget for energy would fall from 710 to 635 Gt. Compounding this with our more reasonable assumption on non-fossil emissions, we would start with an all-time budget of 880 – 180 = 700 Gt. Reducing emissions at a constant rate after 2020 would allocated 590 Gt of this to pre-2050. In comparison, the IEA has taken a pre-2050 budget of 710 Gt and inflated it with CCS to about 770.

The IEA's three distortions buy an extra 180 Gt for fossil fuels (see table). Over the 35 years of the scenario, that's the equivalent of an extra 1,500 average-sized coal plants.

Wrong Conclusions

Without these distortions, the IEA would reach the same conclusion that we did in the Sky's Limit: that there is no room for new fossil fuel development. Instead, it calls for new investment in fossil fuels—including $200 billion a year of investment in fossil fuel extraction as late as 2050—investment that will either be wasted or will drive devastating climate change.

Governments and investors routinely use IEA scenarios to inform energy decisions, especially the scenarios in its flagship World Energy Outlook, published every November. But as we've seen, even in its new climate scenario, the IEA overstates the future of fossil fuels, due to flawed assumptions and hidden distortions.

It is time for the IEA to come clean. First, the IEA must drop its outdated 450 Scenario and replace it with one in line with Paris. Second, it must fix these distortions, to give a clear picture of the action that's really needed.

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Robert Mercer playing in the World Poker Tour on May 21, 2012. Photo credit: World Poker Tour

The Reclusive Climate-Denying Puppet Master Behind Trump

By Andy Rowell

When President Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp, many of his supporters hoped he would take on the political and media establishment and radically shake them both up.

In that process they might have assumed he was going to clean up politics by removing the Beltway insiders and the corporate lobbyists who have often pulled strings in Washington.

While the former has happened, the latter has not.

It is increasingly becoming clear that the swamp is being refilled by an oligarchy, where the ultra-rich who fund Trump control what is going on.

Two recent exposés—a brilliant one by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker and one in the Washington Post—focus on Robert Mercer, the reclusive brilliant computer programmer and hedge fund manager and how his money helped propel Trump into power.

Mercer, who is famous for being shy and reclusive, lives on Long Island and made his millions as co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies, seen as one of the most profitable hedge funds in the U.S.

But for years now, Mercer has been shaping the political and public arena in the U.S. by pouring tens of millions into causes that resonate with his libertarian views, which include climate denial.

He is one of the main stakeholders and funders of Breitbart news, the standard bearer of alt-right conspiratorial news on the Internet of which Trump's chief of staff, Steve Bannon, was executive chairman, before joining Trump's team. Mercer has poured more than 10 million dollars into the venture. Bannon and Mercer are close. For the last five years, Bannon has acted at Mercer's de facto advisor.

But Breitbart is just the tip of the iceberg of Mercer's hidden influence.

Between 2008 and 2016, the Mercer family foundation pumped at least $77 million in political donations and gifts into what the Washington Post called "a vast universe of causes across the conservative landscape."

Mercer's millions have completely skewed the political debate in the U.S. and he is one of a number of key puppet masters now pulling Trump's strings. Indeed, as the Post noted, the Mercers "are now arguably the most influential financiers of the Trump era."

Not everyone is happy about Mercer's growing influence, including some of his colleagues. Earlier this year a colleague at Renaissance, David Magerman, published an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

He outlined the close connection between Mercer and Trump's closest advisors Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway: "Stephen Bannon came from Breitbart News, of which Mercer owns a significant percentage and Kellyanne Conway came from Mercer's circle of political foundations. And, of course, Mercer's daughter Rebekah represents his interests and his worldview with her presence on the transition committee and her close relationship with Bannon and Conway."

Magerman also asked, "What did Mercer's investment in Trump amount to? He was effectively buying shares in the candidate and Robert Mercer now owns a sizable share of the United States Presidency."

Others are outraged too. Nick Patterson, a former senior Renaissance employee, told the New Yorker: "Bob has used his money very effectively. He's not the first person in history to use money in politics, but in my view Trump wouldn't be President if not for Bob. It doesn't get much more effective than that."

Rebekah Mercer, one Robert's daughters and an ex-Wall Street trader, has become central to Breitbart and then later to Trump, with her sitting on Trump's transition team.

"She is the First Lady of the alt-right," Christopher Ruddy, the owner of the conservative outlet Newsmax Media, told Jane Mayer at the New Yorker. "She's respected in conservative circles and clearly Trump has embraced her in a big way." Rebekah Mercer is now leading a group called Making America Great to support Trump's agenda.

There are even those that believe that the Mercer funding of Trump may have broken the law. The New Yorker quoted Brendan Fischer, a lawyer at the Campaign Legal Center, who said that the Mercers' financial entanglement with the Trump campaign was "bizarre" and potentially "illegal." The Campaign Legal Center has filed a complaint at the Federal Election Commission.

The New Yorker recalls how one of the issues that Nick Patterson clashed with Mercer is over climate change.

When Patterson tried to engage Mercer over climate, the later responded by sending Patterson an article by Arthur Robinson, a biochemist and climate denier. Mercer has long been a supporter of Robinson and the Mercer foundation has donated at least $1.6 million to Robinson's Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. According to the New Yorker, Robinson's Institute dismisses climate change as a "false religion."

Robinson's article was a classic climate skeptic's argument that climate change would lead to "far more plant and animal life," Patterson told the New Yorker: "It looked like a scientific paper, but it was completely loaded with selective and biased information."

Robinson has been working on climate denial for years. The New Yorker noted: "A petition that he organized in 1998 to oppose the Kyoto Protocol, claiming to represent thirty thousand scientists skeptical of global warming, has been criticized as deceptive."

Despite this, the petition is still widely circulated on Facebook.

Patterson believes that climate change is a threat to Mercer's libertarian ideals. "I think if you studied Bob's views of what the ideal state would look like, you'd find that, basically, he wants a system where the state just gets out of the way," Patterson told the New Yorker. "Climate change poses a problem for that world view, because markets can't solve it on their own."

After Trump won the election, Rebekah nominated the climate denier, Arthur Robinson, to be national science adviser, although this recommendation has not been taken up.

The Mercers' link to climate deniers goes deeper, too. According to a 2013 study by Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle, Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations, the Mercer Foundation spent nearly $4 million directly funding groups funding climate denial between 2003 and 2010. Others have the figure much higher. Earlier this year, DeSmog estimated that the Mercers had pumped at least $22 million into climate denial organizations.

Take two quick examples:

By 2011, the Mercers were working with the notorious Koch brothers, who have poured tens of millions into think tanks who fund climate denial and over the next few years, the Mercers donated more than $25 million to the Koch brothers to fund to try to oust Barack Obama. Mercer was out-funding the Kochs on the Koch campaign. In 2014, Bloomberg News ran the headline: The Man Who Out-Koched the Kochs.

The Mercer Foundation, which is run by Rebekah, has also donated $5 million to the leading skeptic think tank, the Heartland Institute. In three days time, Heartland will hold its 12th climate denier conference. Many of the usual climate skeptic suspects will be there.

Heartland bragged: "The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States already is having a profound effect on U.S. climate policy. Meet the scientists, economists, engineers and policy experts who persuaded Trump that man-made global warming is not a crisis."

Aside from Heartland, the sponsors are the Media Research Center, which received $13.8 million from the Mercer Foundation from 2008-2014 and the Heritage Foundation, which has received $1 million over the same period.

As the Washington Post noted: "What sets the Mercers apart is their interest in finding new ways to shape the environment in which policy issues are debated" and that is exactly what the Mercers are doing on climate and the wider pro-Trump campaign.

Climate denial has long been synonymous with Exxon and the Koch-brothers, but now we have a new name on the list:

Robert Mercer, the man who swung the election for Trump.

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Photo credit: Rob Wilson Photography / Facebook

Tom Goldtooth: 'They Cannot Extinguish the Fire That Standing Rock Started'

By Andy Rowell

Once again Big Oil has been forced to rely on brutal militarized force to bludgeon, bully, beat and intimidate peaceful water protectors fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline.

But in the face of such violence and intimidation, the growing movement against new fossil fuels will not be intimidated, it will only grow.

The latest violence was Thursday morning. In highly distressing scenes for anyone who has been involved fighting the highly controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, highly militarized law enforcement—some carrying guns, riot gear and backed up by Humvees and bulldozers—moved into the Oceti Sakowin camp near the pipeline route.

Their aim was to officially shut it down and clear it. Only the last hundred or so defiant protectors remained. Some 46 people, including journalists, veterans, elders and other water protectors who had remained were said to have been arrested. Many others had left the camp voluntarily the day before, marching in solidarity arm in arm out of the camp.

Journalist Ed Higgins being arrested during the raid on the Oceti Sakowin Camp—his press badge clearly visible.Rob Wilson Photography / Facebook

Last week, the North Dakota governor had given a deadline of mid this week for people to leave. By Wednesday, the camp had been surrounded by police and military. As they left many people burned their tents, teepees and shelters in a symbolic act of defiance.

Chase Iron Eyes of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said: "It reminded me of pictures or maybe memory in my DNA, of the massacres, when you see teepees and structures burned; it was extremely traumatic, a heavy feeling."

There was outrage at the over-use of force Thursday. "Knifing tipis and pointing loaded rifles at the occupants. It's the 1800s all over again," tweeted Ruth Hopkins, a former judge for the Spirit Lake Nation and Crow Creek Sioux Tribe.

The activities by the authorities Thursday are just not acceptable.

However, from the ashes of the camp, comes a new empowered movement that will resist this horrendous Trump assault on the environment and on Indigenous rights.

Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said the forced evacuation was a "violent and unnecessary infringement on the constitutional right of water protectors to peacefully protest and exercise their freedom of speech."

However, Goldtooth, added: "Our hearts are not defeated. The closing of the camp is not the end of a movement or fight. It is a new beginning. They cannot extinguish the fire that Standing Rock started."

Others were equally angry: James T. Meggesto, a member of the Onondaga Indian Nation, told Salon:

Today is a sad reminder that at its core, this dispute has always been about environmental justice and the lack thereof in Indian country, because once again Indian people are literally being forced to accept a dangerous oil pipeline directly upstream of their water supply that was rejected by a non-Indian community for precisely this reason.

After watching the events unfold, Chairman Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux said:

What I have witnessed today is pretty sickening. Really disappointed. Like in our history we will rise again. I feel more defiant than ever. There are a lot of things that North Dakota have done that they need to pay for. To destroy sacred sites, ceremonial lodges. They have to be held accountable … They have no respect for our way of life and for all the people in the camp.

In a defiant post on Facebook Thursday, one of the activists and community organizer, Lyla June, said:

They might have buried things, but we have planted seeds and we have planted seeds all across the world. We have inspired and awakened people to see what in a new way. To see what as life. We have united things that were never united before...

She continued:

We united people from all races behind a common dream and that is a win ... And we fought in a manner that was so beautiful, with so much honor and dignity .. The other win is that we gave our bodies on the line, we fought in courts, we fought financially, we have done everything in our power to protect our water and that is a win. We are going to continue by taking the money from Wells Fargo and other banks.

And as if on cue, Thursday the German bank BayernLB, which has $120 million invested in the pipeline announced they will "withdraw from the financing contract at the earliest possible date." Furthermore, they will not be renewing their contract with Energy Transfer Partners.

The move came after a petition had been handed to the bank with more than 300,000 signatures opposing the pipeline.

So the camp may be gone. The fight will continue. The seeds have been planted. And they will continue to grow. We will resist Trump and his fossil fuel cronies. This is not the end, just a new beginning of resistance.

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