The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Sen. Whitehouse Calls Out ALEC for Role in Funding Climate Deniers
Despite the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in helping billionaires, Big Oil, Coal, Tobacco, the gun lobby and other dubious corporate interests to infiltrate our state lawmaking processes, it’s not every day you hear U.S. Senators name-drop ALEC during hearings.
This week, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) took a swing at ALEC’s role in helping the fossil fuel lobby deny the science of climate change, during his weekly "Time to Wake Up" speech in the Senate. This comes at an interesting time, as climate denier Willie Soon has been exposed for promising “deliverables” in the form of Congressional influence to coal utility giant Southern Company, to billionaire Charles Koch and to ExxonMobil that paid for Dr. Soon’s climate denial “research.”
With climate deniers on the defense, Sen. Whitehouse has reminded us that Exxon, BP, Shell, Chevron and their lobbying organization, the American Petroleum Institute, have funded scientists like Willie Soon and front groups like ALEC to peddle climate misinformation to the public. Here’s a transcript of highlights from this climate call-out, which earned a favorable fact-check from PolitiFact.
“Chevron, BP, Shell and ExxonMobil also support something called the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ‘ALEC.’"
“ALEC is an organization which works to undercut climate science and undermine climate progress at the state level, interfering in our state legislatures. ALEC has tried to roll back state renewable fuel standards and has handed out model state legislation to obstruct and tie up the President’s Clean Power Plan.”
“Major companies like Google, eBay, Facebook, Yahoo and believe or not even Occidental Petroleum, have disassociated themselves from ALEC because of its destructive position on climate. Google CEO Eric Schmidt has said of ALEC, quote ‘they are literally lying’ end quote. They are literally lying about climate change but they keep getting funding from Chevron, BP, Shell and ExxonMobil.”
These fossil fuel giants certainly have ALEC busy—with help from the other front groups that affiliate with ALEC through the “State Policy Network.”
Koch-funded university departments at Utah State University and Suffolk University are cranking out debunked studies to justify attacks on clean energy incentives in Kansas. Koch’s State Policy Network tried this before, and repeatedly failed. This year, they are trying again to get Charles Koch what he wants: to leave incentives for Koch Industries alone while attacking support for his clean energy competitors.
As Sen. Whitehouse mentions, while ALEC and the State Policy Network attack clean energy competition to Koch, Exxon, and other fossil fuel giants, they are simultaneously creating red tape for states trying to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan – our first ever national effort to curb carbon pollution at coal plants, the top sources of emissions that cause global warming.
Richard Berman, aka Dr. Evil, is lending a hand to ALEC and SPN, living up to his promise to oil executives to funnel their money anonymously into the groups that are attacking environmental protections.
Senator Whitehouse called attention to the broader influence of money in politics, which the Koch brothers and their billionaire allies have pushed for decades in an effort to increase their own influence and ability to make money (they call it “freedom”). From his speech:
“The effect of Citizens United has been particularly clear here in the Senate. There once was an active heartbeat of Republican activity on climate change. Senator [John] McCain ran for president on an active, robust program of addressing climate change. Senator [Susan] Collins did a bipartisan bill on climate change. Senator [Mark] Kirk voted in the House for the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill. Senator [Jeff] Flake wrote article supporting a carbon fee as long as the taxes were reduced elsewhere to offset the increased revenue from the carbon fee ... and on and on. My first exposure to this was the Warner-Lieberman bill, and the “Warner” was a Republican Senator, John Warner.
“Well, that’s been a while. Since 2010, the year that Citizens United was decided, this honest debate about how we address this problem for the benefits of the American people has flatlined. Now since 2010, the evidence of climate change has only become stronger.”
This is why Greenpeace has worked to expose the secretive coordination of these dirty companies. It turns out that sunshine is both the best disinfectant in a struggling democracy, and it’s a business threat to the companies still extracting 20th Century energy at the expense of our health and our climate.
Courtesy of InsideClimate News, whose recent reporting on Dr. Willie Soon has been second to none, here is an image of some other members of Congress who chose to ignore their colleagues like Sen. Whitehouse, instead doubling down on debunked denial coming from the likes of Dr. Willie Soon and ALEC.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.