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Tips for Responding to Climate Change Denial and Anti-Clean Energy Attacks in the Media

It is becoming more and more obvious that powerful economic interests associated with the harmful fossil fuel industry often spread anti-scientific, anti-factual misinformation relating to climate change and clean energy in the mainstream media. This post will explore some recent examples while providing you with a few simple methods for countering what is essentially a PR industry of lies for profit.

(Day after day we can see The Madhouse Effect in action in the form of major media sources providing a platform for the agents of the fossil fuel industry to cast doubt and aspersions on both science and clean energy.)

Typically, it would fall to a responsible government to reign in bad media actors that spread such fraudulent reports in the press. Reports by paid industry agents that masquerade as news and fact, but are just the opposite. Daily we are inundated with false and misleading attacks on clean energy leaders like Tesla even as major sources baldly spread the anti-factual claims of climate change denialists.

But despite a broad assault against basic reason enabled by some of the most powerful media outlets in the land, the tools are there for us regular folks to counter such attempts to spread doubt, uncertainty, and fear (FUD). We just require the will and the wherewithal to use them. Today, I’m going to pull two blatantly false reports — one from the Wall Street Journal, and one from Politico — to provide examples of the variety of crud we are subjected to every single day.

But before I do, I’m going to share with you my simple little method for dealing with the nonsense. In short — QUADS is a good basic rule of thumb:

  1. Question strange claims.
  2. Ask a scientist who works in the field.
  3. Do the research.
  4. Speak out.

The Wall Street Journal Makes the Ridiculous Statement that Sea Level Rise isn’t Caused by Global Warming

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published this ludicrous article written by known climate change denier S. Fred Singer. The article, entitled ‘The Sea Level is Rising, But Not Because of Climate Change’ is quite frankly not worth the paper or the electrons used to bring it to our eyes. Simply put, Singer baselessly casts doubt on long established scientific facts related to sea level rise caused by climate change. Then he makes the equally baseless claim that we can’t do anything about it but build dikes (Fred has long attacked policies promoting carbon emissions reductions — like those that advance the needed transition to renewable energy).

These are indeed strange claims worthy of questioning. And if we were to ask an actual climate scientist, we would find this to be the response:

Doing a little research we find that NASA states:

Sea level rise is caused primarily by two factors related to global warming: the added water from melting ice sheets and glaciers and the expansion of seawater as it warms.

A statement of fact that is validated again and again and again across the field of climate science by such luminaries as the World Meteorological Organization, the Met Office, the IPCC, NOAA, JAXA and ever other major climate science body known to man.

Facts that put Mann’s rebuke to Singer in the context of yes, this guy just basically said the climate science equivalent of ‘objects are falling, but not because of gravity.’ Making Singer here more than just a bit of a voice in the wilderness. Which begs the question — why would the Wall Street Journal give him such a large platform from which to project his nonsense statements?

Turning our ‘do the research’ focus back to Singer we find that he’s a big name among the usual suspects of climate change denial nonsense. According to Desmogblog:

Singer founded the Science & Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) in 1990, a 501(c)(3) “educational group” focusing on global warming denial….Leaked documents obtained by DeSmog revealed that Fred Singer has also been receiving $5,000 a month from the Heartland Institute(emphasis added).”

For those who don’t follow climate deniers, the Heartland Institute is an organization that feeds off the money of fossil fuel donors (like Exxon) and then turns around to publish numerous anti-scientific and anti-factual reports that attempt to fog the issue of climate change. This serves the simple polluting industry purpose of delaying or denying helpful government policy, business and social action meant to address climate change. Which is the main reason for the existence of Fred Singer as a media figure and for the endless repetition of his quack-quackish statements.

Politico Says Electrical Vehicles Increase Air Pollution — Which is a Complete and Utter Bullshit Claim

In a similar vein, but along a different tac, on the same day the major media source — Politico — published an equally ridiculous report by the appropriately named Jonathan Lesser falsely stating that electrical vehicles increase air pollution. Our response to Lesser and Politico calls them out for what amounts to publishing a gigantic stinking heap of nonsense:

Digging into actual research and looking at what actual scientists at The Union of Concerned Scientists have to say we find that:

Electric cars and trucks are powered by electricity, which as an energy source is cleaner and cheaper than oil. Even when the electricity comes from the dirtiest coal-dominated grid, electric vehicles (EVs) still produce less global warming pollution than their conventional counterparts, and with fewer tailpipe emissions (or none at all).

Such widely varied and notable institutions like the Department of Energy  and NRDC agree.

So how did Jonathan Lesser produce his claim? In short he double counted the impact of electricity based emissions, assumed all electricity comes from coal (just 30 percent and falling comes from coal in the U.S.), ignored the fact that EVs produce zero tailpipe emissions, overlooked the massive efficiency gains that come from EVs, and ignored the fact that EVs mated with wind and solar produced zero emissions in use. Further, Lesser seems to have fiddled with material lifetime emissions results to generate the most pessimistic view imaginable. One that has no basis in actual fact or reality.

(According to this report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, EVs keep getting cleaner and cleaner at a pace that is impossible to match by their fossil fuel based counter parts. See comparison tool here.)

To be clear, if EVs were only plugged in to coal power plants on net, then it is likely that we would see some specific instances of particulate pollution rise (which Lesser appears to be cherry picking). And when more EVs are used, electrical power demand increases. But not all power generation comes from coal. In fact, coal plants are being shut down all over the world due to an inability to compete with renewables and natural gas. And as cleaner sources of energy keep getting added at higher rates, total life cycle emissions from EVs, which are already lower than ICEs keep falling.

On a net basis, the Union of Concerned Scientists is correct. Due to the simple fact that an electrical motor is x2 to x3 more efficient than an ICE, simply switching the motor results in considerable emissions reductions. However, add in the battery and you have a vehicle that is capable of zero emissions in use when mated to wind and solar.

Moving on, we find that Johnathan Lesser happens to be a rather biased source of information. According to both Politico and Desmogblog, Lesser is a writer for the Manhattan Institute. According to Desmogblog:

The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, originally known as the International Center for Economic Policy Studies, was founded in 1978 by Anthony Fisher and William Casey and in recent years has promoted climate science contrarianism while defending policies supporting the development of fossil fuels (emphasis added).

The Institute notably receives most of its funding from fossil fuel related interests. Including 1.7 million from the Mercer Foundation, 1 million from Exxon Mobile, and 2.7 million from the Koch Brothers. So reading Lesser’s article is like getting a direct shot of fossil fuel industry PR messaging. In other words — not an honest report devoid of serious conflict of interest related issues.

Speaking Out is Necessary to Expose Bad Actors

It’s understandable that individuals may feel powerless in the face of vast media empires like Politico and the Wall Street Journal who brazenly publish the slanted and unscientific views of fossil fuel industry shills without even providing responsible warning or qualification. However, each of us has a voice with its own degree of power as well. A power that is lost if we stand silent. But one that is enabled if we lift our voices and speak out. The truth itself is a powerful tool. And if we first learn what is true and then communicate that truth, we can have a shot at overcoming the harmful interests who’ve generated such a vastly damaging, short-sighted, and self-serving fire-hose spume of misinformation.

 

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42 Comments

  1. PlazaRed

     /  May 16, 2018

    So Good you said/wrote all that.
    Its not that most of the people on here need much reminding of the content but its a really good article to link to those who have not got a clue whats going on?
    Thank you for writing the article Robert.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    • I’ve typically leaned away from de-bunking minor sources directly. But here we have some major platforms that I’m calling out as examples of what we’re dealing with. Hopefully the article/video will be helpful to those outside the choir, as it were. And, in any case, these folks need to be held to account.

      Liked by 3 people

      Reply
      • PlazaRed

         /  May 16, 2018

        I think the writing is on the wall for all the portrayal’s of denial trash.
        Its not that they have any problem now finding listeners who want to believe anything that doe’s not need much reasoning, its that they themselves are walking on a knife edge. The whole thing about lies is that they can not be maintained when the truth is lapping around the feet of those who have been lied too.
        Hence as the sea levels creep upwards and the rivers flood more and more, then the numbers of “believable” explanations will decline until the point is reached where nobody is going to accept some made up story about an “anomaly” that is not going to occur next year!
        Its all a question of time and as we have seen with everything; from the earth being the center of the universe, to simply build a wall higher to keep the seas out. Time will tell and it won’t be a lot of time until “it tells!”

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        • hatrack

           /  May 17, 2018

          Yes, but they won’t really care, will they? They’ll be dead soon, and their sponsors will have been able to delay costly, meaningful action, profitable quarter after profitable quarter.

          It’s 30 years next month since Hansen went to Capitol Hill, and what has happened since? Well, we were at 353.72 ppm in June 1988; we’re now at 410.26 ppm for April 2018. Plenty of articles and lies, plenty of profitable quarterly statements and even more CO2.

          Liked by 1 person

        • The fossil fuel interests have been the cause of much delay in acting to reduce emissions and prevent damage. The slower response in decarbonization is why annual CO2 increases have not yet peaked. However, we are far more capable now of enacting an energy transition than we were when Hansen made his first speech. OF course, the fossil fuel interests still stand in our way. But they are not the only players on the field at this time.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. rhymeswithgoalie

     /  May 17, 2018

    It’s important to count all of the pollution on the ICE side. Here’s a UK perspective from a few years ago:

    Liked by 4 people

    Reply
  3. Abel Adamski

     /  May 17, 2018

    I must admit to having put in my 2c worth on the WSJ (I refuse to pay , but tried registering and got away with it for a few comments, however unable to respond to the responses as “problem with my account” under Frank (the Facebook account that was Wendies))
    With apologies RS I quoted directly from yourself without attribution as I guessed the post would not have appeared with reference to this site or yourself

    Like

    Reply
  4. It’s helpful when people who are really knowlegable about fossil fuel reserves and the “get rich quick” industry speak up. Again, the reference to Orwell…

    http://vancouversun.com/opinion/op-ed/david-hughes-politics-versus-the-future-canadas-orwellian-energy-standoff

    Like

    Reply
  5. Jim

     /  May 17, 2018

    “…by the appropriately named Johnathan Lesser”. Ha! I thought the same thing myself.

    Both of these articles were sent to me by people asking what’s up with the increase in climate denial. I’m wondering if it’s the Koch brothers 2017 announced pro-petroleum, anti-EV initiative ratcheting up to full speed.

    As for the Lesser report, I read through it briefly. The basic message is “let’s get rid of EV subsidies” because it’s unfair to poor people, interspersed with the CO2 and emissions red herrings. The calculations for things like air quality and CO2 are based on Energy Information Association (EIA) forecasts that aren’t taken seriously outside of the energy industry.

    While the EIA has some very good and accurate historical data – when it comes to forecasts, the role of the EIA seems to be to provide plausible deniability for the fossil fuel industry. For example despite the huge number of recent coal plant retirements, the EIA says there won’t be any more retirements through 2050 – another 32 years! – despite a current average fleet age of 39 years (out of a 50-year design life) and the advent of lower-priced wind and solar. Hence the claim that electric power generates more PM 2.5, sulfur oxides, and NOX, than vehicle exhaust. This is all despite Duke Energy’s plan to close multiple coal plants, and Southern Company’s plan to drive to zero CO2 emissions in electricity generation by 2050.
    The forecast assumptions do not hold water, and therefore the conclusions based on the assumption should not be believed.

    Similarly, the oil majors (most notably Exxon Mobil) use their forecasts in investor presentations to bolster the case that oil demand will increase through 2040. This despite the hundreds of billions of dollars being spent globally on EVs, renewables, and policy changes like Norway, India, and China’s pending ICE bans. Again based on supposedly “independent EIA and IEA analysis”, that conclude EVs won’t take off until after 2040. While reasonable people can debate the rate of change, denying that change is occurring is sticking your head in the sand.

    My sense it the fossils are beginning to circle the wagons as every day it becomes clearer that moving to clean energy sources is not only necessary but more cost-effective. That’s an untenable position to argue from, hence the FUD. The last thing they want is for broad sections of the public to understand we can simultaneously affect positive change AND save money.

    If you want a chuckle read IEEFA’s article on how unhinged from reality and bizarre EIA’s coal forecast really is.

    http://ieefa.org/ieefa-update-the-u-s-energy-information-administration-continues-to-miss-the-mark/

    ~ Jim

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    • One of the best things, in my opinion, that wealthy people could do to help poor people is to buy an EV, go solar, get home storage, and invest in renewables/divest from fossil fuels. All will generate more access to renewable energy through economies of scale and all will reduce the amount of poverty generated by lessening the impact of climate change.

      Liked by 4 people

      Reply
      • wharf rat

         /  May 17, 2018

        Rat’s not wealthy, but I gave some money to my granddaughters’ school to help them go solar, and so did my son..

        Liked by 5 people

        Reply
        • Thanks for doing what you can to help out, Rat. Every school should have a solar roof at this point. It’s education, setting a good example, dedication to future generations, and contributing to the future all in one.

          Liked by 2 people

  6. Greg

     /  May 17, 2018

    Watch out Peter Sinclair! Robert is rapidly gaining video expertise. Now the deniers should just fold up and crawl back in their empty wells. Nice piece. Thank you, as always, Robert.

    Liked by 4 people

    Reply
  7. redskylite

     /  May 17, 2018

    For all the vulnerable, and for the health of our children . . . . this from the American Lung Association.

    Report Says Climate Change Pushing Up Ozone Levels

    Ozone pollution has grown to higher levels as climate change has made the climate hotter, according to the American Lung Association’s 2018 State of the Air report.

    Seven of the 10 worst polluted areas for year-round particle pollution were found in California. The leader in this group is Fairbanks, Alaska. The Lung Report says that past records were under-reporting Fairbanks. However, new equipment presents a true picture of the situation.

    http://www.independentnews.com/news/report-says-climate-change-pushing-up-ozone-levels/article_0b0b5a30-595d-11e8-92dd-f3fe8fd3012d.html

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  8. Abel Adamski

     /  May 17, 2018

    Slightly OT but a major advance in Solar energy – storage as heat – 90% efficiency on conversion from sunlight and functional up to 700C as well as extremely long lasting (Years at least , decades likely.
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141029095454.htm

    Utility storage here we come, no need for those complex concentrators with all their issues and maintenance, though could still be used

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • Date on the report is 2014.

      However, ARPA-E has been helping to push the solar storage and cost curves for thermal solar plants (a separate renewable power source from PV). Most of the action is still in PV, but it appears that solar thermal plants are starting to out compete nuclear on cost.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  9. wharf rat

     /  May 17, 2018

    Utah now officially recognizes climate change

    SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) The Utah Legislature officially recognizes climate change.

    Governor Gary Herbert ceremonially signed a landmark climate change resolution Wednesday at the State Capitol.

    House Concurrent Resolution 007: Resolution on Environmental and Economic Stewardship recognizes the impacts of changing climate and its affect on Utah citizens.

    It also acknowledges the need for “responsible stewardship and prudent management o natural resources.”….

    HEAL Utah, an environmental advocate and watchdog organization, says Utah is the first conservative state legislature to pass a resolution acknowledging the existence of climate change, its causes, and the need for solutions.

    http://www.good4utah.com/news/local-news/utah-now-officially-recognizes-climate-change/1184092980

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  10. Two websites debunking climate change myths:

    => Climate Denial Crock of the Week

    => Skeptical Science

    Liked by 4 people

    Reply
  11. Vaughn An

     /  May 17, 2018

    Robert, thanks for a clear pathway to spread the truth.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  12. Rising emissions of ozone-destroying chemical banned by Montreal Protocol.
    University of Colorado at Boulder https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180516162520.htm

    . . . Trichlorofluoromethane, or CFC-11, is the second-most abundant ozone-depleting gas in the atmosphere and a member of the family of chemicals most responsible for the giant hole in the ozone layer that forms over Antarctica each September. Once widely used as a foaming agent, production of CFC-11 was phased out by the Montreal Protocol in 2010.

    The new study, published today in Nature, documents an unexpected increase in emissions of this gas, likely from new, unreported production.

    Because CFC-11 still accounts for one-quarter of all chlorine present in today’s stratosphere, expectations for the ozone hole to heal by mid-century depend on an accelerating decline of CFC-11 in the atmosphere as its emissions diminish — which should happen with no new CFC-11 production.

    Despite the increase in CFC-11 emissions, its concentration in the atmosphere continues to decrease, but only about half as fast as the decline observed a few years ago, and at a substantially slower rate than expected. This means that the total concentration of ozone-depleting chemicals, overall, is still decreasing in the atmosphere. However, that decrease is significantly slower than it would be without the new CFC emissions.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  13. redskylite

     /  May 17, 2018

    Talk about denial and obfuscation – bright spark puts sea level rise down to crumbling “White Cliffs of Dover” – completely ignores all the glacier and ice cap data – duh

    Republican Mo Brooks of Alabama pushed back at the notion that rising sea levels were the result of global warming in a hearing of the House Science, Space and Technology on Wednesday.

    Instead, Brooks pointed to silt deposition as well as erosion as a cause of rising sea levels. Questioning scientist Phil Duffy of the Woods Hole Research Center, Brooks postulated that silt and mud washed by rivers into the ocean caused water levels to rise as it settled on the sea floor. “Now you have got less space in those oceans because the bottom is moving up,” he said.

    He went on: “What about the White Cliffs of Dover …

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/17/republican-congressman-mo-brooks-sea-level-rise-rocks

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • redskylite

       /  May 18, 2018

      Having said that don’t play around on top of the cliffs – they are crumbly . .

      Warning for walkers on White Cliffs of Dover after Maritime and Coastguard Agency sees photo of adults and children on a brink

      http://www.kentonline.co.uk/dover/news/edge-of-madness-182676/

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
    • redskylite

       /  May 18, 2018

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
    • kassy

       /  May 18, 2018

      Someone actually did the calculations:

      As you might imagine, Brooks’ initial remark about rising sea levels seriously raised eyebrows. Shortly after news of Brooks’ theory spread, the Washington Post, for instance, calculated just how big of a rock would be needed to cause sea levels to rise that much. By its calculations, to make the level rise by 3.3 millimeters, a “sphere of earth” would need to be 8 miles in diameter and weigh 6.6 quadrillion pounds. It goes without saying that’s an unrealistically gigantic rock.

      https://www.bustle.com/p/rising-sea-levels-are-a-result-of-rocks-just-falling-into-the-ocean-according-to-this-gop-lawmaker-9128418

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      • So these graphs show annual mass loss rates for Greenland and Antarctica. For reference, 1 cubic kilometer of ice = 1 gigaton of mass. Recent years have shown average loss rates in the 400 GT per year globally.

        That’s a hell of a lot more than a few rocks crumbling off the cliffs of Dover.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        • kassy

           /  May 19, 2018

          So a hell of a lot more comes to 66 million times: 🙂

          So, are Earth’s coastlines losing 6 and a half quadrillion lbs. of stuff to the sea every year? That’s highly unlikely. To put it in terms of one of Brooks’ own examples, the Cliffs of Dover dumped an estimated 100 million lbs (45 million kilograms) of chalk into the sea after a sudden collapse last year, the BBC reported. That’s a lot of chalk — but avalanches like that would have to happen 66 million times every year (or 180,000 times a day) in order to raise the entire sea level by 3.3 mm.

          https://www.livescience.com/62613-erosion-causes-sea-level-rise-mo-brooks.html

          Liked by 1 person

        • There’s no scientific evidence for the rocks claim. Never in geological history have rocks resulted in significant sea level rise.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Jim

         /  May 21, 2018

        Seriously? Well after reading the article I think we should sentence Representative Mo Brooks to remove and store ocean water equivalent to the mass displaced by falling rocks. That should keep him out of trouble for a while. And if it feels like it’s getting hotter while he’s working, that’s just his active imagination…

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
    • The idiocracy is in a frenzy.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      • kassy

         /  May 20, 2018

        One more comparison and the actual sedimentation rate as a bonus:

        To give a sense of scale, the US has an area of about 4 million square miles. To get the necessary volume, you’d have to scrape off the top four inches of soil from the entire country. That’s a lot of dirt.

        And the world’s oceans don’t experience anywhere near that kind of sedimentation. The amount of sediment carried to the sea by the world’s rivers is about 14 billion tons a year, which works out to be about 1.2 cubic miles (five cubic kilometers) of rock, or 0.5 percent of the amount required to raise the sea level by the observed eighth of an inch (3.3 mm) per year.
        So, rocks falling into the ocean and silt from rivers isn’t the cause of sea level rise.

        https://us.cnn.com/2018/05/20/opinions/erosion-sea-level-rise-scientific-analysis-lincoln/index.html

        Like

        Reply
  14. wharf rat

     /  May 18, 2018

    Much of the globe had warmer-than-average conditions during April 2018. The most notable warm temperature departures from average were observed across southern South America, central Europe, eastern Russia, and Australia where temperatures were +3.0°C (5.4°F) or higher. Record warmth was present across southern South America, central Europe, and scattered across all oceans and parts of Australia. The most notable cooler-than-average temperatures during April 2018 were present across much of Canada and the contiguous U.S., where temperatures were -3.0°C (-5.4°F) or cooler. Record cold temperatures were limited to parts of the Midwestern contiguous U.S. According to NCEI’s Regional Analysis, four of six continents had an April temperature that ranked among the five warmest Aprils on record, with South America and Europe having their warmest April on record.

    Averaged as a whole, the temperature across global land and ocean surfaces for April 2018 was 0.83°C (1.49°F) above the 20th century average of 13.7°C (56.7°F) and the third highest April temperature since records began in 1880. Only April 2016 (+1.08°C / +1.94°F) and 2017 (+0.89°C / +1.60°F) were warmer. Nine of the 10 warmest Aprils have occurred since 2005. April 2018 also marks the 42nd consecutive April and the 400th consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th century average. The April global land and ocean surface temperature has increased 0.07°C (0.13°F) per decade since 1880; however, the rate is more than double since 1980

    https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/201804

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  15. PlazaRed

     /  May 18, 2018

    Possible big rises in the price of Diesel. Could aid the sales of Electric vehicles?
    Below is an article about the reasons for price rises probably in the pipeline, along with a bit of info on the reduction of sulfur in marine fuel.

    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-why-diesel-prices-are-aiming-for-record-highs-2018-05-18

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  16. I would love to see these new videos aimed directly at disinfo factories like PragerU.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • Well PragerU is not a university. It’s a conservative YouTube Channel founded by a talk radio guy and funded by a billionaire.

      Like

      Reply
  17. Radio Eco Shock had the great Tony Ingraffia,Prof Emeritus Cornell on the show bad news https://www.ecoshock.org/2018/05/transition-through-a-fracked-climate.html

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply

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