Hysterics at the right wing think tanks and their acolytes at The Washington Times, talk radio and the blogosphere, are foaming in apoplexy because I supposedly suggested that "all climate deniers should be jailed." Last week, that canard leapt from the wingnut echo chamber into New York magazine, which reported, under Jonathan Chait's by-line, that "Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. shares the opinion that climate denial should be criminalized." Chait was quoting the National Review's Kevin Williamson who made that outlandish claim at one of Heritage Foundation's annual "Conference for Kooks." Of course I never said that. I support the First Amendment which makes room for any citizen to, even knowingly, spew far more vile lies without legal consequence.
I do, however, believe that corporations which deliberately, purposefully, maliciously and systematically sponsor climate lies should be given the death penalty. This can be accomplished through an existing legal proceeding known as “charter revocation." State Attorneys General can invoke this remedy whenever corporations put their profit-making before the “public welfare."
In 1998, New York State's Republican Attorney General, Dennis Vacco successfully invoked the “corporate death penalty" to revoke the charters of two non-profit tax-exempt tobacco industry front groups, The Tobacco Institute and the Council for Tobacco Research (CTR). The two groups Vacco annulled were creatures of a decade long campaign funded principally by tobacco giant, Brown & Williamson to avoid costly health regulations that would diminish the profit margins of an industry that was killing one out of five of its customers. “Doubt is our Product," explained Brown & Williamson's notorious 1969 memo outlining the reptilian communications strategy that hatched its front groups.
Vacco complained that these companies were “[feeding] the public a pack of lies in an underhanded effort to promote smoking so as to addict America's kids." Attorney General Vacco seized their assets and distributed them to public institutions.
Laws in every state maintain that companies that fail to comply with prescribed standards of corporate behavior may be either dissolved or, in the case of foreign corporations, lose their rights to operate within that state's borders. These rules can be quite expansive and, in contrast to the U.S. Supreme Court's recent rulings on campaign finance law, companies, under state laws, enjoy far less protection than human beings. New York, for example, prescribes corporate death whenever a company fails to “serve the common good" and “to cause no harm."
Just as Big Tobacco funded the now moribund CTR and the Tobacco Institute to systematically deceive the public about the perils of cigarettes, the carbon cronies, with far larger profits at stake, have funded an army of front groups to persuade the public that global warming is a hoax.
For more than a decade, petroleum industry behemoths lead by Koch Industries and ExxonMobil, have waged a successful multi-million dollar propaganda blitz to mislead the public about global warming using the same techniques honed by Big Tobacco in its campaign to hoodwink the public about smoking.
In their efforts to impede state, national and international efforts to protect humans from the destructive climate chaos, both companies have engaged in massive spending sprees purchasing phony “junk" science devised to undermine the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming. Between 1997 and 2013, ExxonMobil, pumped more than $29.9 million into an elaborate network of more than 75 front groups to manufacture skepticism about the oncoming climate catastrophe. At the same time, Koch Industries has piped at least $67,042,064 to more than 50 groups that play central roles in the Koch-funded offensive against climate science.
Two decades after Brown & Williamson's notorious “Doubt is our Product" memo, the oil industry launched its own anti-science juggernaut replicating Big Tobacco's and utilizing many of the same corrupt scientists and PR firms. Two secret memos dictated the blueprint for Big Carbon's anti-science offensive. The American Petroleum Institute (API)—lobbyist for ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell and ConocoPhillips—was the spear tip of a multi-million dollar campaign to confound American citizens about climate science by manipulating the media. On April 3, 1998, API laid out its “Global Climate Science Communications action plan," the detailed blueprint of “tactics and strategies" for deceiving the American people and press by sewing doubts about climate science. The API team would create front groups and “educate" editorial boards and corporate CEOs to challenge “prevailing scientific wisdom." Under “recruiting and training," API outlines its plan for tapping neophyte—“read malleable"—scientists and tame journalists (“e.g. John Stossel," the memo suggests) to bamboozle the public. “Victory will be achieved," API promises, “when average citizens and the media recognize uncertainties in climate science;" recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the "conventional wisdom."
Four years later in 2002, conservative pollster Frank Luntz in an influential memo to President George Bush and oil patch lawmakers, applauded the industry for the success of the API campaign. “Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community." Nevertheless, he warned Big Carbon's indentured servants on Capitol Hill “the science [is closing against us] but is not yet closed." He advised, “therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate."
Over the next dozen years, a string of front groups conducted the deceptive anti-science campaign outlined in the API's 1998 plan and Luntz's 2002 memo and funded primarily by ExxonMobil and Koch.
Among the groups that have received millions from Exxon and Koch Industries are the Cato Institute, The Heritage Foundation, Cooler Heads Coalition, Global Climate Coalition, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Americans for Prosperity, Heartland Institute, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), George C. Marshall Institute, State Policy Network, Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
Like the Tobacco Institute and CTR, these front groups are snake pits for sociopaths. Run by venomous carbon industry toadies, they stable a craven menagerie of propaganda wizards, slick biostitutes, tobacco scientists, snake oil hucksters, voodoo economists and other so called “experts" employed to publish beguiling studies, appear on TV and radio, and write deceptive articles critiquing the “flawed science" predicting climate change. They broadcast zany theories to bolster policies that encourage increased energy consumption, torpedo renewable energy, attack pollution rules, maintain Big Carbon's obscene government subsidies and, in general, provide the philosophical underpinnings for a system of cushy socialism for the “dirty energy" tycoons and bitter, savage capitalism for the rest of mankind.
For example, CEI, which describes itself as being “a leader in the fight against the global warming scare," spent years denying that warming was real, and then, as the tsunami of evidence made that position untenable, pivoted to the more defensible posture that human beings are not causing it. CEI has more recently beat its final retreat to the terminal default position that global warming is great because it will “create a milder, greener, more prosperous world." The floods, fires, drought, rising oceans, disappearing ice caps, melting glaciers, drowned cities and refugees have not exactly been “mild." But things have been prosperous and “green"—if one means greenbacks—for the Koch Brothers and ExxonMobil, who are enjoying the biggest profits in world history. “You're Welcome, Planet Earth!"
AEI, one of the richest and most influential think tanks in the U.S.—and the high priest of climate denial—offered a $10,000 bounty in 2006 to any scientist or economist who could produce an article undermining the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. The IPCC report was the most comprehensive review yet of climate change science representing the scientific consensus among thousands of climate scientists comprising the leading and most prestigious and scientific stars from more than 130 participating nations.
Any state attorney general with the will, resolve and viscera to stand to up to the dangerous and duplicitous corporate propagandists, has authority to annul the charters of each of these mercenary merchants of deceit. An attorney general with particularly potent glands could revoke the charters not just oil industry surrogates like AEI and CEI, he or she could also withdraw state operating authority from the soulless, nationless oil companies that have sponsored “Big Lie" campaigns and force them to sell their in-state assets to more responsible competitors.
Koch Industries and ExxonMobil have particularly distinguished themselves as candidates for corporate death. No other companies have worked harder or spent more money to impede the government from taking action on global warming to safeguard public welfare. Both companies have employed artifice on a massive scale and spent tens of millions of dollars to purchase fraudulent junk science. The greedy, immoral, anti-social pathology behind ExxonMobil and Koch's mendacious crusade is even starker given the open acknowledgment since 2007 by the other major oil companies including Shell, Chevron and BP, that burning oil is causing climate change.
Though they like to invoke patriotic themes and drape themselves in the flag, the oil barons have persistently demonstrated their enthusiasm for putting corporate profits ahead of the public welfare.
“I'm not a U.S. company," Exxon's legendary former CEO, Lee Raymond told his board, “and I don't make decisions on what is good for the U.S.." These companies are not friends to America. They are enemies of mankind.
The notion that a state attorney general might actually execute one of these villains is not a pipe dream. State attorneys general have historically shown a willingness to stand up to American democracy's biggest corporate bullies including, Wall Street, Big Tobacco, coal burning utilities and the oil titans even in eras, like the present, when corporate money has subverted our democracy and extracted the spinal cords from most politicians. It was 46 courageous state attorneys generals who brought down the cigarette companies. It was nine northeastern state attorneys general who sued the coal burning utilities for damages to their citizens from airborne pollutants. And it was state attorneys general in New York, Ohio and Texas who, during the Gilded Age, dismantled the Standard Oil octopus, and restored economic democracy to America. That deadly Frankenstein monster, now reassembled and resurrected as ExxonMobil, poses an even greater threat today to our historical values and quality of life.
Let's all hope for and vote for a home state Attorney General candidate who promises to stand up against carbon's duplicitous proxies and fight for truth, justice and democracy, and to provide our children with safe, healthy, dignified and wholesome communities and the prosperity that should not be exclusive to the Koch Brothers and ExxonMobil.
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By Victoria Masterson
Using one of the world's problems to solve another is the philosophy behind a Norwegian start-up's mission to develop affordable housing from 100% recycled plastic.
Sustainable Homes<p>UN-Habitat says an <a href="https://unhabitat.org/un-habitat-aims-to-use-plastic-waste-to-support-housing-for-all" target="_blank">estimated 60% of people living in urban areas of Africa are in informal settlements</a>. At the same time, between 1990 and 2017, African countries imported around 230 metric tonnes of plastic, "which mostly ended up in dump sites creating a massive environmental challenge," the agency adds.</p><p>UN-Habitat deputy executive director, Victor Kisob, said the aim of the partnership with Othalo was to "promote adequate, sustainable and affordable housing for all."</p>
Artist's impression of an Othalo community, imagined by architect Julien De Smedt. Othalo<p>Othalo's process involves shredding plastic waste and mixing it with other elements, including non-flammable materials. Components are used to build up to four floors, with a home of 60 square metres using eight tons of recycled plastic. A factory with one production line can produce 2,800 housing units annually.</p><p>Following successful laboratory tests, Othalo's factory in Estonia has started producing components to build three demonstration homes for Kenya's capital, Nairobi; Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon and Dakar, the capital of Senegal.</p><p>Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti has been developing and testing the technology since 2016 in partnership with <a href="https://www.sintef.no/en/" target="_blank">SINTEF</a>, a 70-year-old independent research organization in Trondheim, Norway, and experts at Norway's <a href="https://en.uit.no/startsida" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">University of Tromsø</a>.</p>
Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti. Othalo<p>Almost <a href="https://www.un.org/development/desa/publications/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html" target="_blank">seven out of every 10 people in the world are expected to live in urban areas by 2050</a>. More than 90% of this growth will take place in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.</p><p>"In the absence of effective urban planning, the consequences of this rapid urbanization will be dramatic," UN-Habitat warns.</p><p>Lack of proper housing and growth of slums, inadequate and outdated infrastructure, escalating poverty and unemployment, and pollution and health issues, are just some of the effects.</p><p>Mindsets, policies, and approaches towards urbanization need to change for the growth of cities and urban areas to be turned into opportunities that will leave nobody behind, UN-Habitat says.</p>
Pioneers of Change<p>Reimagining cities and communities for greater resilience and sustainability was a key topic at the<a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020" target="_blank"> World Economic Forum's Pioneers of Change Summit 2020</a>.</p><p>The digital event brought together innovators and stakeholders from around the world to explore solutions to the challenges facing enterprises, governments and society.</p><p>Opening the summit, <a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020/sessions/opening-plenary-8f731cbc65" target="_blank">Stephan Mergenthaler, the Forum's Head of Strategic Intelligence and a member of the Executive Committee</a>, said: "We need to change the way we produce, the way we live and interact in our cities to make this transition to net-zero emissions a reality…</p><p>"And as this year has illustrated so dramatically, we need to make every effort that we keep populations healthy, if we want to avoid jeopardizing all this progress."</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/11/un-africa-recycled-plastic-housing/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649069252#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.