By Andy Rowell
Last Friday, the long-standing climate denier think tank, the Heartland Institute ran an advert featuring the Unabomber on a billboard in Chicago that read: “I still believe in Global Warming? Do you?”
The Unabomber advert was going to be followed by images of Fidel Castro, Osama Bin Laden and hostage-taker James J. Lee. According to Heartland, those who accept the science of climate change are essentially “murderers, tyrants, and madmen."
"What these murderers and madmen have said differs very little from what spokespersons for the United Nations, journalists for the ‘mainstream’ media, and liberal politicians say about global warming,” adding that “the people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society.”
So much critical analysis and great rebuttals have been written about this latest ridiculous attack on climate science that it’s difficult to know where to start.
It’s another deliberate attempt by the Heartland to distort the debate on climate change, which was widely criticised. Jamie Henn from 350.org said, “This is what desperation looks like. Comparing 97 percent of the world’s scientists, the pope and the president—all of whom believe in climate change—to mass murderers is a bit unhinged, to put it lightly.”
Such was the storm of controversy and criticism that Heartland pulled the advert arguing that the “billboard was always intended to be an experiment." That was another lie. If they had thought they would have got away with it, they would have run another one.
Before we are too shocked though, we should realise there is nothing new here to Heartland’s tactics. Indeed, Steve Zwick in Forbes magazine argues that “Far from being an aberration, this is just the latest in a long string of embarrassing acts that Heartland has carried out in public—and they’ve been at this for more than 25 years. Before they got into the anti-climate-science racket, they were in the anti-lung-science racket, where they helped the tobacco industry assuage our concerns over second-hand smoke.”
The good news is that some of the Heartland’s funders have pulled their funding, including State Farm, Diageo, XL Group, and the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers. “It was disgusting. It was revolting,” Brad Kading, president of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers, said of the ad in an interview over the weekend. “It was a terrible mistake.”
So if you haven’t signed the petition from Forecast the Facts asking for other funders to pull out, click here.
They join General Motors and AT&T that have recently ended their funding from Heartland.
Even some of the sceptics were dismayed. Ross McKitrick said in an a strongly-worded letter to Heartland: “I am absolutely dismayed. This kind of fallacious, juvenile and inflammatory rhetoric does nothing to enhance your reputation. You cannot simultaneously say that you want to promote a debate while equating the other side to terrorists and mass murderers.”
GOP climate denialist, James Sensenbrenner, also said he would not speak if the adverts continued. Donna Laframboise, a fellow Canadian sceptic has even pulled out arguing “Forget disappointment. In my view, my reputation has been harmed. And the Heartland thinks it has nothing to apologize for.”
Of course, Heartland won’t apologise.
But what it is also doing is making it more likely that physical violence will be used against climate scientists as it tries to make the debate around climate change even more toxic. As Howard Halpern, the president of the American Academy of Psychotherapists once wrote:
“Social psychologists and demagogues have long known that if ordinary citizens are to be provoked to violent actions against individuals or groups or fellow scientists, it is necessary to sever the emphatic bond with those to be attacked by painting them as different and despicable.
“We are unlikely to harm a friendly neighbour because she has strong views about equal rights for women, but if we call her a “femi-Nazi” she becomes “the other”—evil, dangerous, hated. We are unlikely to harm the couple down the block who are active on behalf of protecting endangered species, but if we call them ‘environmentalist wackos’ they become ‘the other’—weirdos who must be vilified and suppressed as enemies to ‘normal’ Americans. When our shared humanity with those whom we disagree is stripped away, it becomes acceptable to blow them up."
Other climate sceptics are effectively condoning the adverts by continuing to agree to co-sponsor or speak at Heartland’s annual sceptic-get together.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute and Reason Foundation, other leading denial organisations, are not withdrawing as co-sponsors. Vice President of Reason is Julian Morris from the London Based International Policy Network, who will be speaking at the conference, said that an “open debate and the exchange of ideas are vital to a free society."
How these adverts can been seen as contributing to an open debate on climate change is anyone’s guess.
The renowned climate sceptic MEP, Roger Helmer, who has moved so far to the political right he has left the Conservatives and now represents the UK Independence Party, will also be speaking at the conference and argues that “I am delighted that the Heartland campaign for the Chicago climate conference has succeeded in its purpose."
Maybe Helmer would be less delighted if the purpose of the adverts was to make the debate on climate change so toxic against leading climate scientists, that violence became more likely...
For more information, click here.
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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By Stuart Braun
"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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World's Richest One Percent Are Producing More Than Double the Carbon Emissions as the Bottom 50 Percent
A new report from Oxfam found that the wealthiest one percent of the world produced a carbon footprint that was more than double that of the bottom 50 percent of the world, The Guardian reported. The study examined 25 years of carbon dioxide emissions and wealth inequality from 1990 to 2015.
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