Please click on the link above. You will need a PowerPoint program to view the slides – or you may download a free viewer here. The slides will display as set in your viewer. Explanations of the slides are in the notes section.
Please click on the link above. You will need a PowerPoint program to view the slides – or you may download a free viewer here. The slides will display as set in your viewer. Explanations of the slides are in the notes section.
The science Skeptics dispute almost every discovery by climate scientists, and the facts are often lost in the disputes. This is a guest article by Rachel Martin which summarizes nicely the AAAS report meant to separate what scientists know from the misinformation:
I’ve just found this great interview with Richard Alley, a glaciologist at Pennsylvania State University, and he is a delight to listen to. If I were making a movie about some impending catastrophic event which included a part for an honest and dedicated scientist whose role was to alert the human population, I would pick Richard Alley. He just really looks and acts the part which I realise is a dumb thing to say because he really is the part! I just think he does a great job.
The interview, which is less than 9 minutes, is a part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), What We Know initiative which is to try to communicate to the public that human-caused climate change is happening, that it carries dangerous risks and that the sooner we act the lower the costs will be.
The “What we know” initiative has three key messages they want to communicate:
1. Climate scientists agree: climate change is happening here and now.
2. We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts.
3. The sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost. And there is much we can do. Waiting to take action will inevitably increase costs, escalate risk, and foreclose options to address the risk.
The AAAS has released a full report specifically aimed at a large audience to address the myth that the scientific community is divided on the issue of climate change. It explains how climate change is and will affect your life. It can be read here.
“Any time a law discourages science, you can be sure there is a special interest behind it.”
The 113th United States Congress has been busy making sure that money is not spent on climate research and that the research is not used to make rational decisions. Here is a sampling of some of the recent bills.
Flood Insurance Rates: The House passed the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act (HR 3370) sponsored by Michael Grimm (R-NY) which would bar FEMA from increasing flood insurance premiums to reflect updated flood risk in certain areas or reducing subsidies for property that was insured.
You might wonder why Congress would wish to bar FEMA from doing its job. This is similar to a North Carolina law (HB 819) which imposed a four-year moratorium on any sea-level forecast to be used as the basis for regulations while the issue is studied. “North Carolina should not ignore science when making public policy decisions,” Governor Bev Perdue said. And then she ignored science by refusing to veto HB 819. Research on rising sea levels would predict that more of the North Carolina coastal region would be in a floodplain. It’s a sweet deal, the North Carolina developers and builders profit by building homes in the floodplain, and the federal government picks up the tab when the homes flood. Apparently the legislature is not going to let a little science interfere with that sweet deal.
Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The House passed the Electricity Security and Affordability Act (HR 3826), sponsored by Ed Whitfield (R-KY), which restricts the ability of the EPA to issue a rule under the clean air act to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from new fossil fuel fired power plants.
Fossil fuel companies now get a competitive edge on sustainable energy sources, as they do not have to pay for the true cost of carbon emissions. An EU funded research study, Externalities of Energys , found that including externalities would increase the cost of producing electricity from fossil fuels by a factor of 30% for natural gas to about 90% for coal, if costs to the environment and to human health were included. This law makes sure that the competitive edge for fossil fuels remains intact.
Social Cost of Carbon Emissions: This amendment to HR 2641, sponsored by David McKinley (R-WV), would bar regulatory agencies from using the social cost of carbon emissions as a factor when conducting environmental reviews of proposed construction projects. West Virginia produces a large amount of coal.
This law is designed to head off a new report on the social cost of carbon from being used in rulemaking. A special panel of scientists has just issued a 1,146-page draft report that details the social costs of carbon. The report describes how climate change is already disrupting the health, homes and other facets of daily American life. It warns that those disruptions will increase in the future and the social costs will grow unless we reduce our carbon emissions.
Defunding climate research: The Weather Forecasting Improvement Act (HR 2413), sponsored by Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), is designed to shift much of the funding of climate change research to weather radar research. Mr. Bridenstine apparently does not know or care that this would defund much of the climate and weather research vital to our national interest. The reason for this bill is clear, what you don’t know can’t be used as a basis for regulation of CO2 emissions.
Many more laws like these are coming down the pipeline. Any time a law discourages the use of scientific research, you can be sure there is a special interest group behind it.
(c) 2014 J.C.Moore
“The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society.” – AAAS
Similar statements have been adopted by every major scientific organization in the world, nearly 200 organizations. Yet, there are those who deny there is a scientific consensus as well as the evidence upon which it is based. They object to being labelled as “deniers” so writers often use “dissenters”, “contrarians”, or “Skeptics”, with the capital “S” denoting their skepticism is based more on financial consideration or ideology than reason. The scientists who investigate human behavior use the term “denial”, as it is correct.
Denial: In psychology, denial is an aberrant behavior exhibited by individuals choosing to deny reality as a way to avoid dealing with an uncomfortable truth. It is also a sociological concept, as author Michael Specter defined group denialism, “when an entire segment of society, often struggling with the trauma of change, turns away from reality in favor of a more comfortable lie.” Smokers, when confronted with the reality that their habit could shorten their lives, often denied the evidence – and the Tobacco companies were only too happy to provide the comfortable lies. They funded scientific study after scientific study that found no link between smoking and lung disease and made commercials with doctors, or actors playing doctors, assuring people that smoking was safe. The tactics worked, as people still smoke today, harming themselves and everyone who inhales their secondhand smoke.
In tobacco’s denialism, money and misinformation were distributed through an organization of Conservative think tanks and front groups. Those who wish to deny climate change use many of the same organizations and tactics, with improvements. They are better funded, support a far greater number of Skeptics and politicians, and use the Internet to widely disseminate their propaganda. Sociologists Riley Dunlap and Aaron McCright have investigated the denial system and named it the Climate Change Denial Machine . Its main components were examined and explained in their article in the Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society . Their diagram of the machine showing how all the components interact is below.
Corporations and Foundations: The climate denial machine is funded by wealthy corporations and foundations. It is difficult to track the funding as it is channeled through 501C(3) tax exempt organizations, which makes it difficult to trace the donors or the money. The front groups add another layer of anonymity for the donors and help distribute the money in what they claim to be charity and education expenses, justifying the corporation’s tax-exempt status.
The citizens watchdog group Opensecrets.org reported that during the last six years, fossil fuel companies spent an average of $152 million per year on lobbying alone. The corporations see the money as an investment, as last year the US subsidized the fossil fuel industry by $13.6 billion, about six times as much as subsidies to develop sustainable energy sources. Their lobbying efforts result in laws favorable to the industry and help them avoid taxes and regulation, essentially transferring health and environmental costs of pollution to the public. Since the lobbying money is funneled through tax-exempt organizations, taxpayers are helping fund the climate denial machine, a machine which is undermining our scientific and democratic institutions.
Motivated reasoning . Those who support the climate denial machine often justify it by “motivated reasoning”. A study of climate change deniers found they tend to hold general beliefs in free-market ideology and conspiracy theories. University of Western Australia psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky and two collaborators investigated the dynamics of science doubters. They surveyed visitors to climate change blogs and asked them about free-market ideology, their views on climate science, and their belief in conspiracy theories. The study, published in Psychological Science, found :
1. The more people believed in free-market ideology, the less they believed in climate science.
2.The more they accepted science in general, the more they accepted the conclusions of climate science.
3. And the more likely they were to be conspiracy theorists, the less likely they were to believe in climate science.
These results fit in with a longer literature on what has come to be known as motivated reasoning. Other things being equal, people tend to believe what they want to believe, and to disbelieve new information that might challenge them.
Think Tanks: The Conservative think tanks are misnamed as they present climate change denial as a conservative cause, but there is nothing conservative about advocating for policies which result in changing the climate of the Earth. Think tanks are the brains of the climate denial machine, as they plan the strategy and generate the misinformation and comfortable lies that are passed on to the public. They also coordinate the production of misinformation by fake scientists, such as Lord Monckton, and, even worse, produce misleading statements by science Skeptics, such as John Christy, Roy Spencer, Judith Curry, and a few dozen others who regularly attend the NIPCC (Not the IPCC) meetings sponsored by fossil fuel corporations.
The Sounding Board is in made up of politicians, media sources, and blog sites. Politicians, particularly those who claim to be conservatives, spread misinformation that ranges from “climate science is a hoax” to “scientists have not proved their case enough for us to take action”. The science Skeptics are invited to Congressional hearings where they cast doubt on the testimony of climate scientists and provide cover for the politicians. Politicians often speak at public gatherings and are quoted in newspapers, giving them many opportunities to spread propaganda.
Science Skeptics often present their ideas in interviews and op-ed articles in newspapers to bypass the peer review required by science journals. The media sources are complicit in this, claiming they are presenting both sides of the issue. This makes the Skeptic’s arguments, supported by little research, appear equal in weight to the arguments of climate scientist, supported by thousands of peer-reviewed research papers. A count of research papers from 1991 to 2012 found that 13,926 papers supported the consensus opinion, while only 24 rejected it.
Blog sites are one of the main ways that misinformation is spread to the public. Free from editors or peer review, the skeptics can, and do, distort information to suit themselves. Many of the science Skeptics have web sites which, along with sites like Wattsupwiththat and ClimateAudit, dispute the findings of peer-reviewed research. The misinformation they create is then picked up by other websites and Internet trolls who spread it across the Internet.
Astroturf organizations are fake grassroots organizations designed to make it appear that a cause has much more widespread support than it actually does. An example is an ad in support of clean coal that showed a large group with a banner reading “We Support Clean Coal”. The hoax was exposed when someone noticed that that the same photo was available on the Internet and that the clean coal banner had been Photoshopped in. The Internet can be used to create Astroturf organizations such as occurred on an Internet site protesting genetically modified food. A large number of bloggers in support GMO foods descended on the site to dispute the message and to shut down the discussions. The bloggers were exposed as trolls when their IP addresses were found to be registered to Monsanto – which sells genetically modified seeds, and ironically, also holds the patent for Astroturf.
Paid trolls are often called “sock puppets” as their message is controlled by those who create them. Paid trolls are often given a target site, a set of talking points, and a program which allows them to set up a number of fake identities for additional sock puppets, to make it appear that many support their arguments . Sometimes a troll will create a sock puppet with weak, easily refuted arguments, to make the troll’s arguments seem stronger. Sock puppets do not follow the rules of debate and are often uncivil, using personal attacks in an attempt to shut down reasonable discussion. Research shows that sock puppets, and even unpaid trolls, often enjoy what they do because of negative personality characteristics.
Trolls: A personality study correlated the activities enjoyed by Internet users with personality traits. The study explored whether Internet trolls’ behavior fell into the Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others). The chart below shows the results.
It shows that the Dark Tetrad traits were positively correlated with self-reported enjoyment of trolling. Of the traits, the researchers found sadism stands out among trolls. The internet has given sadistic trolls, those who think that hurting people is exciting, a broader and more anonymous outlet to express their behavior. We have certainly all run across these trolls on climate change articles.
Trolling works: Popular Science shut down its comment section because of trolls, citing a research report which showed that even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader’s perception of a story. The results of the study by Dominique Brossard and coauthor Dietram A. Scheufele was summarized by the authors in a New York Times article:
Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself. Those exposed to rude comments, however, ended up with a much more polarized understanding of the risks connected with a technology. Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they’d previously thought.
George Monbiot who covers environmental issues at the Guardian, wrote in Reclaim the Cyber-Commons, of the need to restore civility to internet discussions of climate change. In it he said:
“… two patterns jump out at me. The first is that discussions of issues in which there’s little money at stake tend to be a lot more civilised than debates about issues where companies stand to lose or gain billions: such as climate change, public health and corporate tax avoidance. These are often characterised by amazing levels of abuse and disruption.
The second pattern is the strong association between this tactic and a certain set of views: pro-corporate, anti-tax, anti-regulation. Both traditional conservatives and traditional progressives tend be more willing to discuss an issue than these right-wing libertarians, many of whom seek instead to shut down debate.”
His comments explain a lot about the motivation behind sock puppets and ideological trolls.
In Summary: A study by McKee and Diethelm titled, Denialism: what is it and how should scientists respond?, describe the five tactics used by deniers as a means to identify them. Their five tactics of denial were summarized very nicely on Rachel’s Blog which, with a few changes, are:
1. Identifying conspiracies. In climate science denial, people have argued that scientists are doctoring the temperature records to make it look like warming is happening when it is not. This idea must be incredibly hard to justify to oneself as it is ridiculous to think that thousands of scientists from lots of different countries could be in on some conspiracy theory which will not benefit them in any way and which all of us want to be wrong.
2. Using fake experts. This technique was employed by the tobacco industry which had a strategy of employing scientists whose views were at odds with the consensus in the field. The same tactic can be seen in climate change. From the McKee article: “In 1998, the American Petroleum Institute developed a Global Climate Science Communications Plan, involving the recruitment of ‘scientists who share the industry’s views of climate science [who can] help convince journalists, politicians and the public that the risk of global warming is too uncertain to justify controls on greenhouse gases’.”
3. Highlighting outliers. This happens in climate change when contrarians make a big deal out of research that claims figures for climate sensitivity lying outside the IPCC range. They are highlighting a few research papers that are outliers while ignoring the majority of evidence.
4. Placing impossible expectations on research. The repeated phrase that the “models failed to predict the pause” fits with this. No-one can predict the future exactly. Scientists do not work with ouija boards. Climate models – just like all models of physical systems – contain uncertainty and it is unreasonable to expect them not to. But although the model projections do a remarkably accurate job of making future projections of climate, contrarians still place unreasonable expectations on what they can do.
5. Using misrepresentation and logical fallacies. Logical fallacies include the use of red herrings, deliberate attempts to change the argument, and straw men, where the opposing argument is misrepresented to make it easier to refute. Other fallacies used by denialists are false analogy and the excluded middle fallacy (either climate change causes a wide range of severe weather events or causes none at all, so doubt about an association with one event, such as a hurricane, is regarded as sufficient to reject an association with any weather event).
To respond these tactics, the authors suggest it is important to recognize denialism when confronted with it. The normal civil response to an opposing argument is to engage it, in the expectations that the truth will emerge through a process of debate. However, this requires that both parties have a willingness to follows certain rules such as looking at the evidence as a whole, rejecting deliberate distortions, and acceptance principles of logic. They say, a ” meaningful discourse is impossible when one party rejects the rules. Yet it would be wrong to prevent the denialists having a voice. Instead, it is necessary to shift the debate from the subject under consideration, to instead exposing to public scrutiny the tactics denirs employ and identifying them publicly for what they are.”
Dealing with Trolls: Exposure would probably work with sock puppets, as those controlling them do not wish to be exposed. Those who troll for the fun of upsetting people would likely enjoy the diversion off topic, deny being a troll, and heap abuse on anyone who even suggested their motives were not pure. A good strategy is to just ignore trolls. If one wants to confront the lies and distortions, it is more effective to write a separate article refuting their premises. Running up a large number of comments on a troll’s article is simply “feeding the troll”, giving them more opportunities to respond and enriching paid trolls. Clicking on trolls’ links only runs up the hit count of denier sites, making them appear more important than they are and possibly adding to their advertising value.
In most cases, ensuring civility is up to the blog moderators. Blog sites can discourage trolling with good policies and strong moderation. Those who attack others or claim obvious lies as fact should not get posted. Repeat offenders should be banned or blacklisted. The trolls may claim violations of freedom of speech or censorship. If they do, invite them to resubmit their posts with valid references, in a civil manner, and without personal attacks. They will likely disappear. Don’t we wish?
(c) 2014 J.C. Moore
What do George Will, Cal Thomas, and Charles Krauthammer have in common? They all claim to be conservative, but it is not clear what they wish to conserve. It is certainly not the environment or people’s health. They are all against environmental regulations, scientific evidence that contradicts their ideology, and the Affordable Care Act. They do seem to have a keen interest in conserving money for corporations. Mr. Krauthammer’s recent article , The Myth of ”Settled Science”, certainly illustrates that point . Though he claims he is not a denier, he follows the recent denier’s tactics of casting doubt on the conclusions of science that could lead to actions which might cost fossil fuel companies and insurance companies money.
Mr. Krauthammer tries to make his points by assigning beliefs to scientists that they do not hold. Scientists will not agree, as Mr. Krauthammer claims, that all the issues pertaining to a scientific theory are settled, nor that their predictions 50 years into the future are absolutely correct. Predicting the future is difficult, but does he expect Ouija boards and crystal balls to be a better source of predictions than the scientific models based upon an understanding of the factors and variables that affect climate? Scientific hypotheses are accepted at the 95% confidence level, data is reported with an estimate of its precision, and scientific theories are modified when new evidence emerges. Who then, is claiming science is settled? Scientists do consider empirical evidence that is reproducible and supported by many independent investigations as facts that are settled enough to take action. He criticizes Pres. Obama for saying that “climate change is a fact”, but it is, in fact, a fact supported by empirical evidence from many independent investigations and one requiring action. The theory of gravity, for instance, is not and may never be settled, however, the effect of gravity is considered to be a fact by engineers who design airplanes, buildings, and bridges. If we had waited for the theories of science to be completely “settled” before we acted, then all of our advances in science, technology, engineering, and medicine would never have been possible.
Mr. Krauthammer offers as evidence that science is “not settled” a list of things that are all questionable. He says that hurricane Sandy was not a hurricane, though those who live along the East Coast of the United States would probably disagree. He offers up the opinion of a physicist who has not worked in climate science in 40 years. He claims that models are wrong because John Christy, who is miffed that empirical evidence disproved his models, says so. He says that that there has been no global warming in 15 years, but he ignores that while the warming of the atmosphere has slowed, the oceans have been warming faster. He claims that there is no link between climate change and severe weather events when scientists, and even insurance company Munich Re’s data , show that climate change has increased the probability of severe weather and the associated costs. He is probably unaware of Dr. Jennifer Francis’s research, which shows the disappearance of the Arctic ice has slowed the jetstream, increasing the probability of severe weather in the Northern Hemisphere. He claims that scientists are whores and those who believe them are sinners, a rather harsh claim from someone who receives money to write op-ed articles full of misinformation but favorable to corporations and insurance companies. He even claims that it is not a settled fact that mammograms are useful for reducing breast cancer. Say what?
You might wonder about that last one, but it illustrates Mr. Krauthammer thinking. He points to a 25 year long study in Canada which found that mammograms did not reduce deaths from breast cancer. You would think that since Mr. Krauthammer has a degree in medicine, that he would have noticed right away the problems with the study. The technology for detecting breast cancer by mammograms has improved remarkably over the time of the study making older data questionable. Also, both the experimental group and the control group included women who already had lumps in their breast, while mammograms are most useful for detecting cancer before lumps appear. And, measuring death rates is not an appropriate way to evaluate how effective mammograms are for early detection and treatment of cancer – which may be life-saving.
Mr. Krauthammer has a degree in medicine and took an oath that he would do no harm, but the way he presented this may harm many women if it keeps them from having a mammogram. He wished to use this as an example of science not being settled, but it is an even better example of him using one study to cast doubt on a larger body of research that shows that regular mammograms save lives. So why did he bring this up? The Affordable Care Act requires that insurance cover mammograms and Mr. Krauthammer objects to them being, as he said, “ free, even yet”. There are about 48 million mammograms performed each year in the United States, so the cost to the insurance companies amounts to about $10 billion. Could it be that insurance companies are pushing this study as a way of reducing their costs in providing mammograms and Mr. Krauthammer is helping them? For “free, even yet”?
So what is it that Mr. Krauthammer and his fellow conservatives wish to conserve? They apparently wish to conserve the status quo for the benefit of those who make money from it, but they are not very interested in conserving the environment or people’s lives. Demanding absolute truth before acting is just a stalling tactic promoted by those who do not wish to be regulated or who are profiting from the status quo. There is clear and convincing evidence that the climate is changing in response to man’s activities, and that is clearly the consensus opinion among scientists. Every major scientific organization in the world has adopted a statement agreeing with the consensus opinion and saying that immediate action is needed to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Even though Mr. Krauthammer is delivering a denier’s message, he says that “ the term ‘denier’ — an echo of Holocaust denial, contemptibly suggesting the malevolent rejection of an established historical truth.” Apparently, rejection of historical evidence is malevolent but rejecting scientific evidence is not. Finally, I wish to point out that Mr. Krauthammer has a degree in psychiatric medicine and should be formally addressed as Dr. Krauthammer. However, Dr. Jekyll had a another manifestation, Mr. Hyde, and it is apparently Mr. Krauthammer who wrote this article demeaning women’s health issues and climate science.
Note added on 02/28/2014: Forecast the Facts has fact checked and cited the evidence that the claims about climate science in Mr. Krauthammer’s article are false.
(c) 2014 J.C. Moore
Thanks to those of you who entered your nominations. The four top nominees for each award have been selected from those nominated by readers. Please help select the winner by voting for the nominee who you think has most affected the environment for good or ill. If you wish, please post a reason for your vote and a suggestion for other suitable gifts for your favorite candidate. Some great gifts have already been proposed. The author will buy the gifts from his copious blogging earnings, so please don’t worry about the expense.
Click here to vote, or put your choice as a comment.
Hall of Shame Nominees:
Ø Japanese Prime Minister Noda, for dumping the “Zero Nuke” policy. http://ex-skf.blogspot.com/2012/09/new-e…
Prize: A partly filled out employment application for work at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 where there is a labor shortage. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/06…
Ø The Professional ENGO, Green Washer/Opportunists, that use climate change as an agenda tool for political gain. Particularly those on this list which still invest in fossil fuels. Climate change is having dramatic effects on the oceans and fish, as well as all the lands of the Earth. Prize: Suggestions?
Ø Dr. James Wanliss (Cornwall Alliance) “for equating people who consider the Earth more important than SUVs with those who consider the Earth to be more important than God or our fellow human beings”. The Cornwall Alliance, who published Dr. Wanliss’ book , claims that stewardship is a Green Dragon trying to corrupt the true meaning of religion. Prize: An opportunity to clean up the mess they helped make of the Earth, as described in this article.
Ø Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, both who fund climate denial activities while allowing donors to remain anonymous and hide their vested interests. According to Robert Brulle on PBS Frontline in2012, “by 2009, about one-quarter of the funding of the climate countermovement [of climate change denial] is from the Donors Trust [and] Donors Capital Fund.” Prize: An IRS investigation of their of their tax-exempt status.
Hall of Fame Nominees:
Ø Dr. Jennifer Francis, for , for her ground-breaking work tying the loss of Arctic sea ice to a slowing jet stream, deep Rossby Waves, and the resulting (rapid) rise in stalled weather patterns. Article here. Paper here: Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes Award: (Suggestion?)
Ø President Barack Obama , for his efforts to protect the environment through executive action, such as mileage standards and addressing air pollution through EPA action. Award: A little cooperation from Congress, so please write your Representatives.
Ø Neven, an amateur scientist, for his Arctic Sea Ice blog . It is a highly-accessible blog focused like a laser on a major planetary system in rapid collapse – bringing it to the attention of an increasing number of people and the media. The Comments section includes amazing computer animations of Arctic satellite imagery and scores of insights from a good number of researchers. Award: A massive number of visitors to his blog.
Ø Arnie Gundersen, for having the courage to broadcast information being censored by main stream media about environmental problems caused by Fukushima nuclear reactors. http://fairewinds.org/category/media/fai… Award: A picture of Japanese girls with a signed note thanking him for standing up for them. http://fairewinds.org/media/fairewinds-v….
Nominations were taken from three sites, and the poll set up at the site below. Please vote for your choice for each award. The poll will close on September 15, 2013.
(c)2013 J.C. Moore
No, but environmental concerns and stewardship is becoming a part of most religions. Because of their concern for their fellow man and a commitment to the stewardship of God’s creations, many churches and religions have adopted policy positions on climate change , some specifically mentioning the threat of greenhouse gases. For example, the Presbyterian church had the foresight to adopt a policy in 1989, which it reaffirmed in 2008, stating its “serious concern that the global atmospheric warming trend (the greenhouse effect) represents one of the most serious global environmental challenges to the health, security, and stability of human life and natural ecosystems.” Recently, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ (UNCC) adopted a strong resolution on climate change that calls upon church members to “make shareholder engagement on climate change an immediate, top priority for the next five years”, to “demand action from legislators and advocate for the creation and enforcement of carbon-reducing laws.” , to “make lifestyle changes to reduce the use of fossil fuels in our lives, our homes, our businesses and our churches”, and to “to reduce the use of fossil fuels, our carbon footprint, and our complicity with the fossil fuel industry.”
Apparently, Dr. Stephen Carter is unhappy with the United Church of Christ’s resolution and severely criticized the church in an op ed article , Do unto Exxon as you would do unto yourself . He is a Professor of Law at Yale, where he has taught courses on law and religion, the ethics of war, contracts, evidence, and professional responsibility. Dr. Carter argues the matter as if he had taken on Exxon Mobil as a client. Apparently, Dr. Carter wants us to treat Exxon Mobil as our brother. Though he claims that he is “no climate-change skeptic”, his article would certainly win the praise of the network of Libertarian think tanks, fossil fuel funded foundations, front groups, and authors who have become part of the climate change denial machine . Perhaps the greatest evidence of this is that his arguments do not include things that he should know.
He has singled out the UNCC without mentioning that most major churches and religions have similar statements. He should probably know about that as the extensive list mentioned in the first paragraph was compiled by Yale University, where he teaches. Mr. Carter implies the UNCC is hypocritical for urging its members to take action against climate change while they are still using fossil fuels, criticizing “the suburban family that crowds into the SUV to attend Sunday services.” He finds it” perplexing that a church should take the view that it’s perfectly fine to demand regulation that might hurt working-class coal-mining families in West Virginia, but wrong to inconvenience its own members even slightly.” His is one of those all or nothing arguments, implying that if the church is committed to reducing the use of fossil fuels, it must give them up completely. He knows full well that being a “resolution”, it states a desire to improve future actions, and that, at present, few other energy alternatives are available. He seems to be unaware of the low pay, terrible conditions, and hazards that coal miners face, and that they might gladly change jobs if an alternative were available. Perhaps he, or the church, should take that up as a cause.
Dr. Carter’s main argument seems to be based upon the law of supply and demand. He expresses his “perplexity and sorrow” that the document “seems to place the blame for our heavy use of fossil fuels on the companies that produce them – not the consumers who demand them”. He thinks “the trouble is that the resolution – like the general idea of divesting fossil fuel investments – seems to confuse supply and demand.” Dr. Carter’s argument breaks down because the laws of supply and demand do not apply very well to fossil fuel companies. They have used their vast profits and political power to limit and inhibit technologies that might compete with them. They have helped create propaganda and policies that discourage the use of wind and solar energy, alternative fuels, and electric vehicles. Perhaps a coal miner would rather work in one of those emerging technologies, if given the opportunity. We subsidize fossil fuel companies by several billion dollars each year, though they are well-established and highly profitable companies, yet they oppose subsidies to growing companies that might compete with them. Let’s level the playing field and see what choices consumers will then make.
Surely Dr. Carter is aware that fossil fuel companies gain a competitive advantage as consumers do not have to pay the “true cost” of fossil fuel use, which should include environmental and health costs. Nicholas Stern, one of the world’s top economists, estimates the cost and risks of climate change is equivalent to losing at least 5% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year, and could rise to 20% of GDP or more in the future – and impose the additional risk of an environmental catastrophe. Taking 5% of the US GDP for 2010 would give an environmental cost of $727 billion. As to health costs, the American Lung Association estimates the cost of exposure to particulates alone are as much as $281 billion annually. Those two add up to about $1.08 trillion for the US alone, and will surely grow unless we reduce our fossil fuel use.
One would also have to wonder about Dr. Carter’s motives when he refers to the United Church of Christ as part of the “religious left”. One of the favorite tactics of fossil fuel companies is to label their critics as being leftists or liberals. The fossil fuel companies encourage the Cornwall Alliance, a religious organization based upon the doctrine of Dominionism, to try to stem the growing movements of conservation and environmental stewardship. The Cornwall alliance claims that stewardship is a Green Dragon trying to take over our churches and corrupt the true meaning of religion. Their videos feature a number of ministers who preach against mainstream stewardship. It seems wrong to use the power and respect that people have for ministers and Scripture to criticize Christians who believe in good stewardship. The Cornwall Alliance will not reveal its funding sources, but its mission is certainly in harmony with that of the fossil fuel companies.
Some Christians believe that what is happening to the Earth is God’s Will and that we can do nothing about it. Others believe that if we begin to destroy the Earth, God will step in and save us. However, that type of rhetoric clashes with the idea of free will and personal responsibility. Certainly, the many churches that have acted out of a concern for their fellow man and a commitment to good stewardship should not be unfairly criticized.
(c) 2013 J.C. Moore
The Climate Change Denial Machine is a multi-million-dollar machine designed to produce only one thing, doubt.
Every major scientific society in the world has adopted a statement like that of the American Chemical Society which says,” Careful and comprehensive scientific assessments have clearly demonstrated that the Earth’s climate system is changing rapidly in response to growing atmospheric burdens of greenhouse gases and absorbing aerosol particles. There is very little room for doubt that observed climate trends are due to human activities. The threats are serious and action is urgently needed to mitigate the risks of climate change.” A recent CNN poll found that 97% of scientists who are actively engaged in research in climate science agree that man’s activities are the main causes of global warming. In spite of the strong consensus among the scientists and the warning by all of our major science societies that urgent action is needed, little effective action has been taken.
Why hasn’t action been taken? The main cause of climate change is most certainly the 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide man is putting into the into the air each year by burning fossil fuels. If man is a major cause, then surely it should be possible for us to do something about it. But we haven’t. Perhaps it’s because the effects of climate change on the Earth have been subtle. Scientific research shows the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing, the temperature of the Earth is rising, the oceans are becoming more acidic, glaciers and polar ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, the probability of severe weather events is increasing, food supplies are threatened, and weather-related natural disasters are becoming more frequent and more costly. But couldn’t those things be from natural causes? Couldn’t the scientists be wrong? Couldn’t it be too costly?
If your is answer “yes” to the above or similar questions, then you probably have been influenced by propaganda created by the Climate Change Denial Machine. The Climate Change Denial Machine was patterned after the Tobacco Propaganda Machine and uses many of the same organizations and tactics. Almost 50 years after the Surgeon General announced that smoking had serious health consequences leading to premature death, many people still smoke, showing the effectiveness of the propaganda. The Climate Change Denial Machine is much better funded, supports a far greater number of science Skeptics and politicians, and has the Internet to widely disseminate its propaganda. While smoking only affected the smoker and those around them, climate change, if left unaddressed, will have serious consequences for everyone and everything on the Earth.
The workings of the Climate Change Denial Machine have been explained in an article written by Riley Dunlap and Aaron McCright, and their excellent diagram is shown below. It was published in Chapter 10 in the Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society, edited by John S. Dryzek, Richard B. Norgaard, David Schlosberg. It shows how money and misinformation flows from climate Skeptics and fossil fuel companies and is disseminated to the public. There is a link below the diagram to Chapter 10 of the Handbook if you would like to read the article .
During the 112th Congress, fossil fuel companies donated over $32 million to our Congressional representatives. You may find out if your Senator or Congressman was the beneficiary of their gnerosity at this website which tracks the flow of the money.
(c) 2013 J.C. Moore
“The authorities in New York are discovering what Egypt also learned — that it’s not as easy to regulate or arrest journalists when everyone is a journalist. But while that may make our lives a little more complicated, it is fundamentally a good thing for society,” writes Mathew Ingram in his post ‘What happens when journalism is everywhere.’
I think Mathew uses the word ‘Journalism’ only because there is no other suitable description for world citizenry finding a voice and articulating independent views about the environment from a strong personal perception. This is one important node where social media branches off from the mainstream media, which in today’s world is a corporate institution. The Arab spring reporters reported with mobile phones, with no formal journalistic training and without financial incentive.
But this citizen reporting, whether or not you credit it with journalistic neutrality has come to be reckoned with a credibility that is almost undisputed now. This is deeply linked with a wave of neo-democratization that mainstream media is riding instead of refuting. For example, we see media offshoots like BBC’s User-Generated Content Hub, Reuter’s partnership with blogging network Global Voices, and sites like PJ Media .
In the sea of blogs that piece through world events with views ranging from practical to outrageous, there are few that are slowly but steadily debunking the myths of power and politics in determining our world views. J.C.Moore’s story is one such silent reconstruction.
J.C. Moore is a native Oklahoman who earned his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Kansas State University. A retired professor of chemistry and physics, he is a member of the American Geophysical Union and Republicans for Environmental Protection. Dr. J.C. Moore is also a blogger who yielded key-board when people of his age and position would prefer spending time playing golf and not asking uneasy questions. He comes from the state whose legislature resolved to condemn invitation of Richard Dawkins by the University of Oklahoma because professor Dawkins is known for his stand against biblical genesis being taught as an alternative creation theory besides Darwinian Evolutionary theory in the state. J.C Moore also represents the same state that flaunts the Global Warming denier Senator James Inhofe – who recently proposed a law that would forbid funding for climate research.
Interested readers may find it worthwhile to check Dr. Moore’s blog JC Moore Online – a body of work that bespeaks of passion and rationality of appropriate mix. It’s not because I have been following his work for long now and come to respect his sincere efforts to engage Climate Change deniers with science and evidence, but because of his strength of conviction I find this man inspiring.
And such silent work should not go unnoticed for mostly the people for whom he is primarily concerned. Happily enough the review by Moore of Inhofe’s book ‘The Greatest Hoax’, a shorter version of which was also published in the Tulsa World recently became part of Senate debate between Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. James Inhofe, where Sen. Sanders quoted Moore’s lines to refute Sen. Inhofe’s views and policies. Here is the C-SPAN clip of Sen. Bernie Sander’s speaking.
This is citizen media at its best. It is inspiring to see my Think blogger colleague achieving something, which, considering his location and position corporate media will give a hand and a foot to do. And for J.C. Moore it neither takes fancy TV Channels nor high selling media campaign.
I missed the good fortune of interviewing Dr. J.C. Moore in person as we are half a world apart, but this is what he has to say about the above episode.
I wonder about what happens when there is one J.C.Moore in every society.
(c) 2012 Pabitraspeaks
Every person in the world should be concerned about the effect of global warming on the world’s food supply. A good place to begin addressing the issue in the U.S. Congress. Congressman Lucas represents the 3rd district in Oklahoma and is Chairman of the Agricultural Committee. This summer, his district and the entire state of Oklahoma was under severe to extreme drought conditions. But it wasn’t just Oklahoma, 65% of the United States and many of the lands of the Earth where food is grown were also experiencing drought. Food shortages abroad can pose humanitarian crises and national security concerns. Congressman Lucas has a responsibility to his district, to the United States, and to the world to protect our food supply. If you agree, then please sign the petition .
Congressman Lucas’ campaign ads point out he is trying to keep food prices affordable by opposing government regulation on the size of chicken cages. However, climate change is a much greater threat to food prices and to our food supply. Recent research has shown a direct link between climate change and the heat waves and droughts that we have been experiencing. Some may argue that more CO2 is better for plants, but no one doubts that extreme temperatures and droughts are devastating to the world’s food supply. A graph at the bottom of the article projects the worldwide damage to food production. As food production has fallen, shortages are beginning to occur, and prices are rising for food and animal feed. If you are worried about food prices, then please sign the petition.
Congressman Frank Lucas was asked at his town hall meeting if he would lead the Agriculture Committee in an investigation of the effect of climate change on our food supply. He said he would consider it, but over a year has passed and no investigation has been undertaken. Besides food prices, climate change will affect the availability of water and food in many parts of the world, particularly those most prone to drought and famine. In this century, water shortages, food shortages, and poverty related nutritional deficiencies will affect close to a billion people globally. We must start now to mitigate the effects of climate change in this century – and the Agricultural Committee is the most important place to start. One voice may be ignored, but a million requests will be heard. Please ask Congressman Lucas to investigate the effect of climate change on our food supply by signing the petition.