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By Sarah Lazare
Donald Trump's transition team is instructing the Department of Energy (DOE) to hand over the names of all of the agency's contractors and employers who have worked on key climate policies under President Barack Obama, raising concerns that a witch hunt is being orchestrated by the incoming administration.
The request was included in a 74-question internal document that was distributed last Wednesday. Bloomberg journalists Catherine Traywick and Jennifer Dlouhy first reported the memo, which was publicly posted by E&E News.
In the 40th question, the Trump administration requests a complete list of staffers who have participated in international climate negotiations. "Can you provide a list of Department employees or contractors who attended any of the IA Conference of the Parties (under the UNFCCC) in the last five years?" the document states.
During his campaign, Trump vowed to " cancel" the Paris climate agreement, which was negotiated by representatives of nearly 200 countries.
The 27th question in the document states, "Can you provide a list of all Department of Energy employees or contractors who have attended any Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon meetings? Can you provide a list of when those meetings were and any materials distributed at those meetings, EPSA emails associated with those meetings, or materials created by Department employees or contractors in anticipation of or as a result of those meetings?"
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other federal bodies use the Social Cost of Carbon to "estimate of the economic damages associated with a small increase in carbon dioxide," according to a statement from the EPA. The Obama administration has employed the metric to calculate the potential outcomes of policies aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
The tool has garnered fierce opposition from conservatives and climate deniers, including David Kreutzer, who is part of Trump's transition team for the EPA. A senior research fellow for the conservative Heritage Foundation, Kreutzer previously referred to the Social Cost of Carbon as "fundamentally flawed."
Question 29 states, "Which programs within DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama's Climate Action Plan?"
Furthermore, the document instructs the DOE to provide lists and information about lab researchers, including, "Can you provide a list of the top twenty salaried employees of the lab, with total remuneration and the portion funded by the DOE?" Teryn Norris, a former appointee to the DOE, noted on Twitter that "The questions on lab researchers—outside positions, prof society memberships, publications, websites—are extremely concerning."
That an incoming administration is requesting the personal information of all civil servants who worked on these key initiatives and research is raising alarm.
Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, declared in a press statement that "Creating lists of employees smacks of McCarthyism and should cease immediately."
"It looks like Trump and his administration are planning a political witch hunt which has no place in American government: purging or marginalizing anyone who has worked on the issue of climate change," John Coequyt, climate policy director for Sierra Club, said in a press statement.
"This action should not be viewed in isolation," Kimmel continued. "The Trump transition team is teeming with individuals with a proven history of attacking climate scientists and undermining climate science. Several transition team members now overseeing federal agencies have harassed scientists based on their research and have long signaled a desire to dismantle federal climate science research."
News of the questionnaire broke shortly before media outlets reported that the oil barron Rex Tillerson, current CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., is Trump's appointee as Secretary of State. Thomas Pyle, who leads Trump's energy transition team, is the president of the Institute for Energy Research, which was established by Charles Koch. He formerly worked as a lobbyist for Koch Industries.
In addition to pledging to tear up the Paris climate agreement, Trump vowed during his campaign to reverse environmental protections and approve more pipelines and oil and gas drilling. In 2012, Trump falsely stated on Twitter that "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."
Meanwhile, environmental campaigners and scientists have long warned that Obama's climate policies do not go far enough to address the crisis.
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
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Earlier this month, my co-author Tom Toles (the Pulitzer-winning editorial cartoonist for The Washington Post) and I published our new book, The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy.
Tom and I had a commentary excerpting parts of the book in Sunday's The Washington Post. In addition to calling out the most prominent current climate change denier of them all—Donald Trump, we profiled eight other leading climate change deniers in the world of politics, individuals whom—as the commentary notes—have been responsible for "clouding the climate change debate" and stalling action by participating in "a campaign of deliberate misinformation."
The Washington Post
Among the rogues gallery of leading climate change deniers are (from left to right, top to bottom): Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX), fossil fuel shill Steve Milloy, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, self-styled "Skeptical Environmentalist" Bjorn Lomborg, scientist-turned-denier-for-hire Fred Singer, the inimitable Sarah Palin, conservative funders Charles and David Koch (aka the Koch Brothers), and "swift-boat" architect Marc Morano.
Among other notable honorable mentions is U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.). Though Inhofe didn't make the rogues gallery above, he gets the attention he deserves in book.
From Chapter 6 of the book, "Hypocrisy, They Name is Climate Change Denial":
Consider Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, a recipient of extensive funding over the years from the fossil fuel interests including ExxonMobil and the Koch Brothers. He is perhaps best known for declaring that climate change is the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people" and for introducing a snowball on the U.S. Senate floor as ostensible proof against global warming.
And Inhofe, of course, gets the full TTT (Tom Toles Treatment):
When it comes to hypocrisy and irony, Inhofe is truly king. Under the heading of "you can't make this stuff up," there is, for example, this particular episode that we recount in the book:
Back in July 2011, Inhofe was selected as keynote speaker at the Heartland Institute's annual global warming denier "conference." He had to cancel out at the last minute however. He had grown ill swimming in a lake back in his home state of Oklahoma. The lake was suffering from an algal bloom as a result of the unprecedented heat and drought that Oklahoma experienced that summer—an event that scientists have determined was tied to climate change.
Though he quipped afterward, "the environment strikes back," he was obviously undeterred in his climate change-denying ways, remaining one of the most prominent advocates for fossil fuel interests in the U.S. Senate.
Which, finally, brings us to Inhofe's hometown newspaper, The Oklahoman, named the "Worst Newspaper in America," by the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) for "conformance to the right-wing political views" of the paper's owners and its "alleged racist hiring practices" among other things.
The Oklahoman has an unusually atrocious record on all things environment. As CJR notes:
Where else can you find a big-city editorial page—run by a Christian Coalition devotee plucked from Washington D.C.'s right-wing Free Congress Foundation—that not only demonizes ... environmentalists ...
And it hardly comes as a surprise that The Oklahoman, like Inhofe, is a major promoter of climate change denialism, acting as thinly veiled advocates for the fossil fuel lobby that dominates their state rather than a conduit of objective news for their readers.
So how low could they go, you might ask? This is how low.
Stan Glantz has been called the "Ralph Nader of the anti-tobacco movement." He has led the effort to expose how tobacco interests hid the detrimental effects of their product on human health from the public and has advocated staunchly for policies to reduce smoking.
Glantz has explicitly likened the fossil fuel industry's campaign to deny the science of human-caused climate change to the earlier campaign by the tobacco industry to deny the adverse health impacts of their product. Same modus operandi, even some of the same paid deniers-for-hire, like Fred Singer listed in the rogues gallery above.
Just last week, Glantz published a new high-profile study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) exposing how yet another industry tried to hide the adverse health impacts of their product. Glantz and colleagues found internal documents revealing that the junk food industry paid scientists to "play down the link between sugar and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the culprit instead."
So, how does The Oklahoman cover this development? You guessed it: by turning the entire matter on its head, attempting to use it as an opportunity to blame the government rather than the powerful corporate interests who were exposed by Glantz's research. And, for good measure, they attempt to use the episode to attack the science of climate change!
Indeed, they attack me specifically, resurrecting untruthful climate change denier talking points about the the discredited 'climategate' affair, and the widely debunked attacks on the famous "hockey stick" curve my co-authors and I published in the late 1990s (if you want to learn the truth behind all of this, consider reading my previous book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars).
It is possible that such a twisted viewpoint, wherein an obvious example of industry malfeasance is used to attack the scientific community, including climate scientists specifically, could arise purely from profound ignorance, rather than cynicism and malice. Yes, anything is possible.
But in the end, we see that Hypocrisy: Thy Name is Truly Climate Change Denial. Thy Nickname might just be The Oklahoman.
Michael Mann is Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Pennsylvania State University and author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change, and just out in September, The Madhouse Effect, with The Washington Post editorial cartoonist Tom Toles.
By Lauren McCauley
As residents of Louisiana this week struggle to recover from "one of the worst floods in modern history," there is a chance that federal aid may not be so forthcoming thanks to a trio of Bayou State Republicans, who back in 2013 voted against helping victims of another storm: Sandy.
Reps. Steve Scalise, Bill Cassidy and Sen. John Fleming all voted against Sandy relief in 2013.Andrew Harnik / Melinda Deslatte/ AP via NY Daily News
House majority whip Rep. Steve Scalise, Rep. John Fleming and Sen. Bill Cassidy all cast their votes against the $50.5 billion relief package because of their dogmatic adherence to austerity economics. At the time, Scalise said, "Paying for disasters and being fiscally responsible are not mutually exclusive."
But, as Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik and others noted this week, that decision may come to haunt them.
"No one is saying that the flood-stricken communities of Louisiana don't deserve all the assistance that the U.S. government can provide them," Hiltzik wrote. "But so did the residents of the Sandy zone. How do the lawmakers' 2013 votes to deny relief to those Northeast communities square with their demand for emergency flood assistance now?"
All three signed onto a letter sent to President Barack Obama earlier this month calling for a disaster declaration and requesting "that vital federal resources be made available in an expedited manner."
Though that aid has already been appropriated, the damages are extensive and will likely require supplemental funding from Congress.
"That extra money is going to be needed to cover costs that aren't met by insurance and to provide for other needs, such as providing vouchers to contractors who can gut houses,"The Advocate's Jeff Adelson reports. "But its availability is dependent on the willingness of lawmakers to go along with the plan, something that's hardly a sure thing."
Gov. John Bel Edwards' office has estimated 60,646 houses were damaged and 30,000 people rescued; other people escaped on their own. The [Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)] says 109,398 people or households have applied for housing help and 25,000 National Flood Insurance Program claims have been filed.
In a Tuesday op-ed, Louisiana Public Service commissioner Foster Campbell, who is running to replace Republican Sen. David Vitter, pulled no punches in laying blame on the GOP lawmakers.
"[I]f Congress denies Louisiana the aid funds necessary for recovery, it will be because some of our own congressional delegation turned their backs on the victims of Hurricane Sandy," Campbell said. "Our 'leaders' have forgotten that their actions have consequences beyond election day—they've abandoned common sense priorities for our people to promote the political message of the day."
Not only are Scalise, Fleming and Cassidy purveyors of "extreme, tea party ideology,"—as Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, who lost to Cassidy in 2014, put it at the time—they are also, as Hiltzik wrote
Climate change deniers, a sign that they're unable to process evidence in front of their own eyes. Fleming has claimed that evidence of climate change is the product of a "radical environmental agenda." Scalise has griped that it's an effort by radicals "to prop up wave after wave of job-killing regulations that are leading to skyrocketing food and energy costs." Cassidy in 2014 claimed that global temperatures had not risen in 15 years, which happened to be untrue. Remarkably, both Fleming and Cassidy are medical doctors.
As for how the Republicans reconcile their vote on the Sandy package with their current demands for assistance, T.J. Tatum, a spokesman for Scalise, told Hiltzig that the relief claims amount to "Apples and oranges."
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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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: