19 Senators Expose 'Web of Denial' Blocking Action on Climate Change
By Brendan DeMelle
Nineteen U.S. Senators who understand the need to clear the PR pollution that continues to block overdue climate policy spoke out on the Senate floor Monday in support of the Senate Web of Denial Resolution calling out the destructive forces of fossil fuel industry-funded climate denial.
Championed by Senators Whitehouse, Markey, Schatz, Boxer, Merkley, Warren, Sanders and Franken, the resolution condemns what they are calling the #WebOfDenial—"interconnected groups—funded by the Koch brothers, major fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil and Peabody Coal, identity-scrubbing groups like Donors Trust and Donors Capital and their allies—developed and executed a massive campaign to deceive the public about climate change to halt climate action and protect their bottom lines."
Joined in the House of Representatives by Congressman Ted Lieu (D- CA), these champions for climate action and accountability in the Senate are calling out the use of think tanks and denier-for-hire front groups to create doubt about climate science.
According to a press release issued Monday morning, the resolution condemns the "efforts of corporations and groups to mislead the public about the harmful effects of tobacco, lead and climate. The resolution also urges fossil fuel corporations and their allies to cooperate with investigations into their climate-related activities."
As DeSmog Blog, ExxonSecrets, Climate Investigations Center and others have documented repeatedly over the past decade, the oil and coal industries and their friends have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on an immoral and potentially fraudulent campaign to deceive the public about the scientific consensus on manmade global warming and the need for urgent action to curtail fossil fuel pollution.
Just last week, DeSmog Blog published the latest round of Exxon's funding of climate denial groups still peddling doubt, bringing the total known funding from Exxon to nearly $34 million over two decades. Add to that the nearly $90 million pumped into the denial machine by the Koch Family Foundations, as well as the largesse emanating from the dark money ATM, Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund.
Think tanks and front groups involved in climate denial include the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), U.S.Chamber of Commerce, Heritage Foundation, Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Kochs' Americans for Prosperity, the Heartland Institute and many more.
Champions in the U.S. Congress are now putting the denial machine on notice with this resolution and a series of speeches that took place last night from 4:45 -6:45 p.m. EDT, and will also take place today from 5 - 7:30 p.m. EDT on the Senate floor.
Here are updates to this post from the speeches last night:
7:35pm EDT: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse spoke last tonight and highlighted many of the points made by his colleagues throughout the day during the #WebOfDenial speeches. Whitehouse praised the peer-reviewed research into climate denial by Robert Brulle, Justin Farrell, Riley Dunlap, Aaron McCright, Constantine Boussalis and Travis Coan.
He thanked the many authors of books about climate denial, including Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway and noted that the film version of their book Merchants of Doubt is showing tonight on the Hill.
And Sen. Whitehouse called out many groups and outlets that have worked to expose climate denial and industry misinformation, including Greenpeace's ExxonSecrets and PolluterWatch, set up by Kert Davies who has gone on to found the Climate Investigations Center, also named. He thanked the journalists at Inside Climate News and their must-read "The Road Not Taken" series. He thanked David Brock's group American Bridge and Climate Nexus for its work to expose the Wall Street Journal's peddling climate denial on its editorial page (and the Partnership for Responsible Growth for correcting the record in the Wall Street Journal). He thanked ProPublica, the Union of Concerned Scientists and more.
He highlighted author Jeff Nesbit and his new book Poisoned Tea, Jane Mayer and her book Dark Money, Steve Coll and his book Private Empire on ExxonMobil as well as his role as Dean at the Columbia School of Journalism.
Sen. Whitehouse also heaped much-appreciated praise on us at DeSmogBlog, mentioning our Time Magazine "Best Blogs" accolades as well as highlighting our news coverage and our Disinformation Database. (In turn, we thank the Senator for his leadership on this issue and his colleagues for speaking about the subject of climate denial which we've focused on for the past decade.)
In closing, Sen. Whitehouse said:
"The scholarship of all these academics, all these organizations and all these authors—the detectives who are exposing the web of denial—have shined a bright light into its dark corners and illuminated its concerted effort to dupe the American public and sabotage climate action in America, all to protect the fossil fuel industry that funds it. It's sickening, but it's big. The denial web is designed to be big and sophisticated enough that when you see its many parts, you're fooled into thinking it's not the same beast. But it is. Like the mythological Hydra, many heads, same beast. …
Welcome to the Web of Denial. And thank you to those who are working to expose it. It is a filthy thing in our democracy."
7:10pm EDT: #WebOfDenial is Trending on Twitter.
7pm EDT: Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) spoke about the overlap of tobacco industry attacks on science and the "fossil industrial complex" that has similarly attacked climate science to evade accountability. He also discussed the Heritage Foundation, Art Pope, Cato Institute and the forged letter scandal orchestrated by Bonner and Associates for the Hawthorn Group and its coal industry client ACCCE. Merkley highlighted the work of Justin Farrell from Yale and the money flows from Donors Trust and the Koch Brothers. "A powerful, moneyed interest has spun a web of deceit. We know that these groups are backed by special interests. All we have to do is follow the money," Merkley said.
He mentioned the more than $30 million from ExxonMobil and the denial funding from Peabody Energy revealed in its bankruptcy fillings. Merkley saved special mention for the Koch Brothers: "But as much as the fossil fuel companies have contributed to these efforts over the years, the titles of the mastermind and the kingpins of climate science denial—those titles rest with Charles and David Koch."
6:25pm EDT: Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) spoke about the Mercatus Center, which he said "should be called the Koch Center" due to its massive Koch funding. He discussed the connections to the tobacco industry's attacks on tobacco science and the overlap with the Koch-funded Mercatus Center.
5:55pm EDT: Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) spoke about the Virginia Institute for Public Policy and the CO2 Coalition and theCornwall Alliance for the Stewarship of Creation and mentioned DeSmogBlog's research in his #WebOfDenial speech. He also talked about the funding from Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust to denier organizations.
5:40pm EDT: Sen. Elizabeth Warren spoke about the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI), Willie Soon and Christopher Monckton's Hitler Youth outrage and claims to have a cure for AIDS and other "completely made up" Monckton-isms.
5:25pm EDT: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse spoke about the #WebOfDenial and the $700 billion in global subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, annually. He highlighted the work of Drexel University professor Robert Brulle to expose the climate change counter movement and what the Senators are calling the climate #WebOfDenial.
5:15pm EDT: Sen. Tom Udall spoke about the front groups Greening Earth Society and the Information Council on the Environment (ICE) and the web of denial.
5:10pm EDT: Sen. Christopher Coons spoke about the historical denial efforts of The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC)
5pm EDT: Sen. Cardin spoke about the attacks on climate science by the defunct group Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy which received funding from ExxonMobil and the tobacco industry. He was introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who was thanked for leading this effort. Whitehouse delivered his 144th statement on the need for climate action and discussed the influence of the web of denial blocking action.
Update 4:30pm EDT: Senator Reid kicked off the action on #WebOfDenial, railing against the Koch Brothers and Exxon for dishing out millions to fund climate denial organizations. Reid named Heartland Institute, Cato Institute and Americans For Prosperity, among others. You can watch the action on C-SPAN2.
"It's inspiring to see Senators join the movement to hold the likes of Exxon accountable for their decades of deception," Jamie Henn, 350.org communications director, said. "Big Oil robbed us of a generation's worth of climate action and to this day are still sowing doubt and misinformation — prioritizing profit at the expense of our climate and communities. The last 14 consecutive months have been the hottest on record, making it ever more pressing for our elected officials to bring this extensive web of climate denial to light."
Last week, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse delivered his 143rd speech about climate change and focused on the issue of climate denial and the front groups involved in peddling doubt. Watch here:
The U.S. District Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 Tuesday saying that the Federal Environmental Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) failed to adequately review the environmental impacts of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the fracked gas Sabal Trail pipeline, which runs more than 500 miles through Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
As ocean waters warm and acidify, corals across the globe are disappearing. Desperate to prevent the demise of these vital ecosystems, researchers have developed ways to "garden" corals, buying the oceans some much-needed time. University of Miami Rosenstiel School marine biologist Diego Lirman sat down with Josh Chamot of Nexus Media to describe the process and explain what's at stake. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What is killing coral?
I wish we had an easy, straightforward answer for what's killing corals. We know there are many, many different factors influencing coral abundance, diversity, distribution and health these days, but I think the specific answer varies based on where you are.
Temperatures play a major role at global scales, and then you have all of these other, more local factors like disease, physical impacts of storms, or ship groundings.
Researcher Stephanie Schopmeyer prepares to out-plant Staghorn coral onto a Miami reef. Rescue-A-Reef, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
We had the dredging of the Port of Miami channel a couple of years ago and that caused a lot of localized mortality due to sediment burial and sediment stress. You also have land-based sources of pollution that can damage by location and nutrient influence that causes algal overgrowth of corals.
Local factors are superimposed on regional factors directly related to global climate change. Changes in temperature, more temperature extremes, acidification of the water, changes in storm frequency and sea level rise— all are at different scales — but they all combine to cause coral mortality.
Factors vary both spatially and temporally, but the outcomes are all the same. Regardless of where you are, we've lost a tremendous amount of coral.
Nursery-raised Staghorn coral out-planted onto a reef by a citizen scientist.
In the face of all those threats, can restoration work?
Historically, restoration was developed and used for acute disturbances. A ship runs aground, and so then there's a recovery, and funds are allocated to recovering the reef structure at a given location, and then corals are planted on top of that. But as global conditions decline for coral reefs, there's now a need to scale up. So, we're not just dealing with the localized impact—we're looking at species declining throughout their range.
We need other tools at larger scales, and that's where coral reef gardening has come into play, because it works at larger scales compared to just dumping cement and rebuilding reef structures, costly endeavors that recover just a very small footprint. We're growing and planting these organisms.
Do you worry about planted coral dominating the reefs?
Initially, these techniques were developed for fast-growing corals. The genus that we're focusing on, Acropora, is threatened, so these are very important reef-building species.
When abundant, they monopolize shallow environments. They form thickets, extensive areas of high-density colonies. That's the way they used to grow, until about three to four decades ago when they got wiped out by disease and other factors. The branching corals that we're working with grow between 10 and 15 cm per branch per year, so that's very fast growth.
Through recent advances in coral aquaculture, we're now also able to grow massive species, the ones that grow very slowly. Mote Marine Lab has developed microfragmentation techniques where they can cut coral colonies very, very small and make them grow very, very fast. Although we focused on branching corals initially, now most of the programs, especially here in Florida, are expanding onto other threatened species.
Citizen scientists plant coral. Rescue-A-Reef, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
Can these efforts solve the problem, or are they a placeholder until climate stabilizes?
You hit the nail on the head. One of the early criticisms of reef restoration was the scale issue and spending a lot of resources working on a very small footprint.
We've dealt with that now, over the past 10 years we've expanded to the point where we're growing thousands and thousands of corals—we're planting thousands and thousands of corals—so that issue of scale is no longer a valid criticism.
The other major criticism is that, even though we're planting a lot of corals, we're planting them onto environments where the same stressors that caused their initial mortality are in place. Now there is ocean acidification and increased temperatures, so things have gotten, in some cases, progressively worse.
Staghorn corals create a sustainable source of corals for use in restoration. Rescue-A-Reef, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
That is a valid concern if we were just planting corals, but we're not just doing that. We're still concentrating on all of the other aspects of reef restoration, setting up marine protected areas to protect fish stocks and coral impacts, working to curb land-based sources of pollution, and setting up sedimentation and nutrient controls. And then, on a much larger scale, we're all trying to curb carbon emissions, trying to limit the greenhouse impacts and acidification impacts. All these tools just help us buy time.
We're also doing a lot of genomics work to see how corals can increase their resilience. A colleague of mine here at the Rosenstiel School at University of Miami, Andrew Baker, is stress-hardening corals. He works on coral symbiosis, and he found that by applying a little bit of non-lethal stress, he can make corals shuffle their Zooxanthellae, which are the endosymbiotic microalgae that provide energy to the corals. In that process, they're able to uptake Zooxanthellae that are more thermally tolerant. So, through the forced shuffling of symbionts, you may be able to buy these corals one or two degrees of tolerance, so that they become more tolerant to bleaching in future years. That is cutting-edge science.
We're trying to actually find out what makes corals survive, and trying to beef up their defenses and their resilience over time. And that's because we have access to all these coral genotypes through the active propagation from coral gardening.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.
By Karen Perry Stillerman
This job has responsibility for scientific integrity at the USDA, as well as oversight of the department's various research arms and multi-billion dollar annual investments in agricultural research and education that are essential to farmers and eaters alike.
The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club lodged formal comments with the federal government Monday opposing a massive gas fracking project that spans 220 square miles of public land in Wyoming south of Yellowstone National Park.
The Normally Pressured Lance gas field would destroy wildlife habitat and worsen ozone pollution, a major cause of childhood asthma, in areas already suffering from extreme air pollution.
Sierra received complete surveys from a record-breaking 227 schools—in 36 states, the District of Columbia, and for the first time ever, Canada.
By Andy Rowell
The decades-long struggle for social and environmental justice in the Niger Delta continues, largely unseen by the wider world.
On Aug. 11, hundreds of people from the Niger Delta stormed the Belema flow station gas plant owned by Shell in the Rivers State region of the Delta. The plant transports crude oil to the Bonny Light export terminal, from where it is shipped overseas.
The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine said in a statement the Interior Department has directed it to cease its study on the potential health risks for people living near surface coal mines in Central Appalachia.
The Interior Department, which committed more than $1 million to the study last year, has begun an agency-wide review of grants over $100,000 because of the "Department's changing budget situation."