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Climate Scientists: Coal-funded #Fakexpert Willie Soon was Never Credible.

  • Posted on: 24 February 2015
  • By: Connor Gibson

Illustration by Thomas Avila for Greenpeace's Dealing in Doubt report (Cindy Baxter, 2013).

"The science that Willie Soon does is almost pointless."

- NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, to the New York Times

 

Recent revelations regarding Smithsonian scientist Willie Soon's financing and coordination with fossil fuel companies for studies undermining the science of climate change has received quite a bit of attention. Our friends at the Climate Investigations Center have links to source documents, letters to the IRS and Congress, letters to journals that Soon appears to have mislead, and some of the press covering all of this.

The drama has largely outshone the main point among most scientists: Willie Soon's work is vastly discredited. For those who aren't familiar with Willie Soon's fossil fuel company contracting over the last fifteen years, there is probably a legitimate question of whether or not this guy deserves to be in his current pinch.

Frankly, he had it coming.

Scientists and science reporters have often had to waste their time addressing the interference of Soon and his cohorts, who take advantage of the public's general unfamiliarity with scientific nuance. 

But scientists too are talking about Dr. Soon's work and what it means for the troubled peer-review process that the most stringent journals usually adhere to. Here is a summary of some of the most interesting conversations in science publications about Willie Soon's #Fakexpert scandal.

First, Soon's manager at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Charles Alcock, has time and time again said that neither he nor Smithsonian support Soon's fossil-funded conclusions. From E&E Publishing's ClimateWire:

"I'd have to say that I've reached my conclusions independent of Dr. Soon's work," Alcock said. "Dr. Soon is not actively engaged in actually gathering new data. He's principally disputing the interpretation of data gathered by other people. And I think this is an area where most of the progress will be made by people who collect new [climate] data or who build new models."

Soon's industry-financed papers have been debunked by climate scientists over and over. Just last month, Soon co-authored a paper claiming to debunk decades of science using a "simple" model of long term temperature projections. Scientists worldwide noted that Soon's methodology was grossly oversimplified, ignoring key factors that scientists have warned will lead to unprecedented temperature increases in the coming decades.

The Heartland Institute, a think tank with ties to the fossil fuel industry, paid to promote this paper in Science Bulletin, a journal published by the Chinese National Academy of Sciences. Heartland has misrepresented the Chinese NAS for political purposes before, and Science Bulletin was the latest victim of Dr. Soon's serial lack of disclosure of fossil fuel funding to science journals. Science Insider - published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) - interviewed editors at science journals who appear to have been fooled by Dr. Soon's non-disclosure of his industry payments.

But Soon's work was widely disregarded before his controversial 2015 paper in Science Bulletin. The prestigious science journal Nature notes that Dr. Soon's haggard relationship with science isn't new:

The scientist has published numerous papers that go against mainstream climate science. Most famously, in 2003, Soon co-authored a paper in the journal Climate Research that questioned the standard interpretation of climate change over the past millennium and argued that recent warming is not unusual by historical standards. Subsequent controversy led to the resignation of several of the journal’s editors. In that case, the controversy revolved around scientific issues, not disclosure of funding sources. [More on this scandal in our profile of Willie Soon]

NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt for RealClimate re-starts, giving Soon the benefit of the doubt (select clips):

However, a valid question is whether the science that arose from these funds is any good? It’s certainly conceivable that Soon’s work was too radical for standard federal research programs and that these energy companies were really taking a chance on blue-sky high risk research that might have the potential to shake things up. [...]

It is most succinctly highlighted in an article Soon wrote ‘It’s the Sun, stupid’ (not sure if it was ever really published anywhere, but he did send it to his contacts at Koch Industries). Towards the end he states:

The evidence in my paper is consistent with the hypothesis that the Sun causes climatic change in the Arctic.

It invalidates the hypothesis that CO2 is a major cause of observed climate change – and raises serious questions about the wisdom of imposing cap-and-trade or other policies that would cripple energy production and economic activity, in the name of “preventing catastrophic climate change.”

It is the leap from the first to second sentence that drives Soon’s research – the notion that if you can find enough correlations to solar forcing, the impact of CO2 must be diminished, if not obliterated altogether. But this is a fallacy. It is equivalent to arguing that if total caloric intake correlates to weight, that exercise can have no effect, or that if cloudiness correlates to incident solar radiation at the ground, then seasonal variations in sunshine are zero.

If you're feeling masochistic enough to read more from scientists into the documented gap between reality and Willie Soon's research, check older RealClimate posts on Dr. Soon here, here, and here, and this generously-detailed debunk of Soon's presentation at the latest Heartland Institute climate denial conference by ecologist Richard Telford.

Telford isn't the only scientist baffled by Soon's awkward presentations. University of Rochester astrophysicist Adam Frank details his "depressing" encounter with Willie Soon, at an event and a personal encounter, from NPR:

When it was announced that Soon was giving a talk at the University of Rochester, I knew it would be interesting. I was more than willing to hear what the man had to say. The whole point of being a scientist is, after all, to try to leave your preconceptions at the door and let the work speak for itself. I also wanted to understand Soon's own thinking about the role he was playing as a public skeptic.

On all counts I was disappointed.

Taken as nothing more than a scientific talk, Dr. Soon's presentation was, in my opinion, pretty bad. I watch a lot of these things. It's part of my job. If Soon had been giving a Ph.D defense, he would have been skewered. I was left without a clear line of argument or clear justifications for his claims. More importantly, for a topic this contentious there was insufficient discussion of the voluminous and highly detailed response critics have offered to his claims that solar activity accounts for most observed climate variability. Many of my colleagues listening to the talk said they felt the same way. I came away thinking, "Is that the best they have?"

The presentation that Prof. Adam Frank found depressing was focused on Soon's long-since-discredited thesis that the Sun, not industrial pollution, is responsible for climate change. Citing peer-reviewed material on Skeptical Science, science reporter Chris Mooney re-examines how Soon's primary argument is debunked, for the Washington Post: 

[T]he idea that the sun is currently driving climate change is strongly rejected by the world’s leading authority on climate science, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which found in its latest (2013) report that “There is high confidence that changes in total solar irradiance have not contributed to the increase in global mean surface temperature over the period 1986 to 2008, based on direct satellite measurements of total solar irradiance.”

The IPCC “basically says that global warming is not caused by the sun,” says Gerald Meehl, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “The strongest evidence for this is the record of satellite measurements of solar output since the late 1970s that show no increasing trend in solar output during a period of rapid global warming.” [...]

recent scientific review article on climate and the sun similarly notes “the lack of detection of an underlying irradiance trend in the past three decades,” and concludes, in rather strong terms, that:

Claims that the Sun has caused as much as 70% of the recent global warming … presents fundamental puzzles. It requires that the Sun’s brightness increased more in the past century than at any time in the past millennium, including over the past 30 years, contrary to the direct space-based observations. And it requires, as well, that Earth’s climate be insensitive to well-measured increases in greenhouse gases at the same time that it is excessively sensitive to poorly known solar brightness changes. Both scenarios are far less plausible than the simple attribution of most (90%) industrial global warming to anthropogenic effects, rather than to the Sun.

So in sum: It’s not that the sun can’t influence climate. It can, and it does. And climate scientists have accordingly been studying the influence of the sun for many years.

Discover Magazine has a similar rundown of Soon's debunked "it's the sun" thesis, based on a video of a presentation Soon gave to a Koch-funded student group.

Even Koch-funded scientist Richard Muller has abandoned Soon's solar theories in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, as Brad Friedman reminds us, in a study that Charles Koch Foundation itself helped finance (oops).

While most scientists may agree that Soon's work is nothing to bat an eyelash at, Soon's corporate funders aren't trying to influence scientists - they're trying to influence policymakers, and the people who vote for them. The Scientist quotes Harvard's Naomi Oreskes, author of Merchants of Doubt, a book documenting corporate manipulation of science that is now being released as a critically-acclaimed movie (trailer here):

Though the vast majority of climate scientists agree that the Earth’s climate is changing as a result of human activities that increase the amounts of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, researchers like Soon foment debate by publishing alternate hypotheses or denials. “The whole doubt-mongering strategy relies on creating the impression of scientific debate,” Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard, told the Times. “Willie Soon is playing a role in a certain kind of political theater.”

And the implications for this? Jay Michaelson at the Daily Beast has a brilliant summary of why these climate deniers matter, when their work is so discredited and marginalized in the scientific community:

Yet unlike 9/11 trutherism, and Obama-is-a-Muslim trutherism, the Climate Truther campaign has an air of respectability, a unanimous adherence among Republican presidential candidates. How is that possible?

The answer is money. Lots of money. Billions of dollars, in fact, spent to create an entire industry of scientists, publicists, think tanks, and legislative organizations.
 
Willie Soon, for example, should never have been given much credence in the first place. Like nearly all of the Climate Truthers’ scientists, he is not a climate expert. He’s not even an astrophysicist, as he is often presented. As the New York Times revealed, “He is a part-time employee of the Smithsonian Institution with a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering.”
This type of industry-funded public relations has frustrated legitimate climate scientists for a long time. Science writer Greg Laden sought comment from renowned climate scientist Michael Mann, whose work has been attacked by Soon and just about every other person in the fossil fuel rolodex. Quoting Mann:
“Willie Soon (as amply documented in my book “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars”) was instrumental in the early attacks on the Hockey Stick by James Inhofe and other fossil fuel industry-funded politicians. Now we know for certain that his efforts were a quid pro quo with special interests looking to discredit my work as a means of calling into question the reality and threat of climate change.” 
Most of this denial is implemented through the vast web of Koch-funded front groups in the State Policy Network, with presence nationally and in all 50 states.
 
For a look at how SPN uses science denial in the policy arena, check out Willie Soon's climate denial testimony to Kansas legislators from January, 2013. This dismissal of climate science to Kansas legislators marked the opening of a nationally-coordinated attack on Kansas' clean energy incentives by SPN members. In that case, Dr. Soon failed to disclose his payments from the nonprofit Charles Koch Foundation for his work, which he cited in the Kansas statehouse.
 
Hence our letter to the IRS, asking about potential violations of law. The Charles Koch Foundation funded most of the groups working to attack the clean energy law, Koch Industries itself was lobbying against the law, and rumor has it that Willie Soon was flown in on the dime of Americans for Prosperity, a group founded, financed and governed by the Kochs.
 
PolluterWatch has more on the history of Willie Soon, whose denial isn't limited to temperature changes, but the hazards of mercury pollution from burning coal, ocean acidification and polar bears' increasing struggle to survive as their habitats melt. I'll leave you with an image from InsideClimate News, which has done in-depth reporting on Soon:

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The Koch Primary (and What It Means for Climate)

  • Posted on: 3 February 2015
  • By: Connor Gibson

Greenpeace's airship flying over a Koch brothers donor summit in January, 2011 near Palm Springs, California.

Written by Rachel Rye Butler, crossposted from Greenpeace.

News leaked this week that the Koch brothers’ billionaire network plans to spend nearly $900 million in fossil fuel and other corporate money to try to get their way in the 2016 election-- in other words, the Kochs and their cronies are planning to spend astronomically to prevent action on climate (as well as income inequality, voting rights, affordable healthcare, and many other issues of importance to the 99%).

The $889 million the Kochs plan to spend is more than the 2012 campaign budget for either the Democratic or the Republican party, and more than the Obama campaign spent in 2008, marking a shift in US politics that’s been underway since Citizens United.

Welcome to the Koch Primary

Candidates who want access to this giant hoard of campaign cash have to line up to protect the Kochs’ fossil fuel interests and prevent action on climate change. Some are calling this the Koch Primary, where candidates compete to show that the interests of the fossil fuel billionaires are at the top of their agenda.

Last weekend, the Kochs hosted the first of their twice-yearly secretive meetings for their corporate billionaire friends, during which they shared their $889 million election plans. A number of Republican presidential hopefuls-- Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Scott Walker-- attended the conference.

Hedging their bets against action on climate

So why would the Kochs and their network be motivated to spend so heavily in 2016?

Despite the fact that the Kochs are certainly a key piece of the Republican machine, helping the party elect candidates across the country, the Kochs aren't actually motivated by the interests of the Republican Party or any party. They are motivated by protecting their oil and chemical empire from regulation, no matter what.

When a supermajority of the public wants action on climate, it’s worth it for the Kochs to buy the allegiance of candidates who will walk the climate denial line, work to protect fossil fuel subsidies, and rubber stamp pet fossil fuel projects like the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

In outspending the party machinery, the Koch network is hedging their bets against the fact that the public wants action on climate while providing a major incentive to candidates and congressional allies to not only hold the line on climate denial but hamper any actions or proposals coming out of the EPA or the White House.

Meanwhile, the Republican party and fossil-backed Democrats will struggle to both please their super-rich donors and appeal to voters who aren’t buying the “I’m not a scientist” climate denial dodge.

The Koch strategy to destroy democracy

Looking beyond the headlines, the Koch Primary and their $889 million campaign budget is the result of the Koch strategy at work.

To protect their fossil fuel interests, which are at odds with the public’s desire for a safe climate, clean water, and healthy air to breathe, the Kochs have spent the last several decades radically changing the face of American democracy, and investing major amounts of money in think tanks and other outlets involved in climate denial.

They’ve also worked long and hard to tear down laws and protections that limit corporate control of our elected officials, dumping ever more money in politics, along with campaigns and strategic litigation designed to suppress or disenfranchise key groups of voters, especially low-income and people of color. The goal is a world where candidates serve the interests of oily billionaires and their super-rich friends rather than those of the people.

In the Koch strategy to protect their fossil fuel interests, democracy has to go, and what’s at stake is our climate, and our very ability to survive on this planet.

We the People

The people, however, know what’s going on. They know that Koch and other fossil fuel money are behind Congress’s votes to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and protect tax breaks for polluters. They can hear the “ch-ching!” of fossil fuel cash every time a candidate says the words, “I’m not a scientist,” or “Climate change is a hoax.”

The Kochs are hoping that the people won’t believe that it’s possible to take back our democracy from the super-rich and will simply give up. They’re hoping that the people won’t turn out to vote while at the same time they’re working to make it harder to do so (check out voter ID laws and other dirty tricks.)

They’re hoping that people will just accept this brave new world-- and this is where they’re wrong. Literally millions of people across the US are fed up with corporate control and are calling for our democracy to be returned to the people. Four hundred thousand marched at at the People’s Climate March in September 2014. Five million plus have called for Citizens United to be overturned. Organizations representing millions of members from environmental, civil rights, labor, and other organizations are banding together in a new coalition to take back our democracy. And we also know that to take back our democracy, we need all of us. (One way to start is to add your name to the 5 million calling for an overturn of Citizens United.

What if

The overwhelmingly majority of Americans don't accept the Koch takeover of democracy. The Kochs have a lot to lose, or they wouldn’t be spending so much to keep their candidates in line. Because for the Kochs, what would happen if millions of people got together to ask the question, “Who do you really represent?”

We might get the democracy-- and the climate action-- we deserve.

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WATCH: Rachel Maddow on Climate Denial & Tin Foil Hats

  • Posted on: 26 September 2013
  • By: Connor Gibson

Last week, six Greenpeace activists attended a U.S. House Energy & Power Subcommittee hearing on President Obama's climate change action plan. We stood out--we wore tin foil hats to highlight the insanity of denying global warming, as some members of Congress continue to do here in 2013.

Last night, Rachel Maddow asked U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy about the tin hats and the significance of policymakers that deny a top priority problem for the EPA:

Here's the teaser that led into that clip:

The U.S. public is increasingly wising up to the reality of global warming. We're being hit by more and more multi-billion dollar climate & weather disasters like hurricane Sandy, the recent Great Plains heat waves and (most likely) ongoing "unprecedented" flooding in Colorado--disasters pushed beyond their natural variability by the changing conditions of our new climate. The latest science tells us to expect more of this, and to expect things to get worse.

The people who are paid to professionally deny climate change need to be continually exposed. The politicians who prioritize their fossil fuel donors over their constitutents need to be exposed.

The tin foil hats were one portion of Greenpeace's ongoing effort to hold climate deniers accountable for their wildly irresponsible behavior. Stay tuned for more.

More coverage of the tinfoil hat hearing can be found on MSNBC's The Ed Show, the National Journal, the Atlantic Wire, Climate Progress and Buzzfeed.

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Climate Denial and Tin Foil: Calling out Congress

  • Posted on: 18 September 2013
  • By: Connor Gibson

Greenpeace activists put on tin foil hats when Congressional climate deniers spoke at yesterday's Energy & Power subcommittee hearing. More photos.

Written by Greenpeace's Bonnie Barclay with input from Connor Gibson.

It might surprise quite a few who know me, but I'm actually quite a shy and introverted person. So what exactly moved me to show up at a Congressional hearing and put on a tin foil hat? Two words: Climate Deniers.

Denying climate change is as bizarre and out-of-touch as tin foil hat conspiracies. Congressional climate deniers need to accept the science and bolster the President's actions with a tax on carbon pollution. That's why we brought our tin foil hats to yesterday's hearing, called together by the U.S. House of Representatives Energy & Power subcommittee chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY). It focused on the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan, with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Earnest Moniz testifying.

Whenever the members of Congress started saying false things about climate change, we tossed on the tin foil hats. By the end of the three-hour hearing, the silly tin hats were on our heads for almost half of the entire event.

Of all the politicians in yesterday's hearing who are known climate change deniers, West Virginia Rep. David McKinley gets the tin foil hat award for his completely false assertions about climate change science. Check out this CSPAN clip, starting at 2:01:26.

First, Rep. McKinley said, "Over the last forty years, there's been almost no increase in temperature." He was attempting to undermine the reliability of climate models, which in reality have underestimated climate change.

Worse, my jaw dropped when I heard Rep. McKinley claim that Arctic sea ice increased by 60% from last year to this year, a false figure he apparently got from a typo in a bad newspaper article! H/T @RLMiller--see NASA for the facts on how consistently and rapidly the ice cap has melted in recent years.

Finally, McKinley completely misrepresented the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), saying, "Most experts believe by 2083--in 70 years--the benefits of climate change could outweigh will still outweigh the harm."

Ummm...that is completely wrong. The IPCC has made it crystal clear that global warming is a very serious problem that demands immediate policy action if we have any chance of solving it. Perhaps the $391,000 McKinley has received from the coal industry explains some of his scientifically-irrelevant opinions--McKinley wrapped his speech up by promoting the coal industry.

My first Congressional hearing....

This being my first Congressional hearing I've attended, I found myself surprised by a few things that didn't make sense to me and probably wouldn't to an ordinary citizen: 

  • Climate deniers in Congress make their points not by stating factual information from peer-reviewed studies, but by quoting newspaper headlines. I'm pretty sure those were meant to sell newspapers, not settle a debate. 
  • The hearing was packed. People do care about what Congress is OR isn't doing on climate change. 
  • It's actually not the "do-nothing Congress," as Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) pointed out, it's much worse! "On Climate we're doing worse than nothing--we are affirmatively obstructing progress." [CSPAN, 38:25].

Luckily there were a few members of Congress who seem to get it, including these three:

  • Representative Waxman called out his elected peers for their obstruction and no serious proposals to solve the problems posed by global warming:
    • "What's your plan? It's easy to criticize other people's solutions, but if all you did is criticize you're either a climate denier because you don't think anything needs to be done--'the science doesn't warrent it, it's not happening'--or, they're [sic] ignoring the warning of scientists." [CSPAN, 42:35]
  • Representative Eliot Engle (D-NY):
    • "It's time for us to act and Congress has been ducking this issue, even going so far as to deny the basic science behind climate change. I've seen the devastating effects right in my area when hurricane Sandy hit New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. My district suffered huge devastation. Rising seas, stronger storms and flooding will only increase if we choose to do nothing[...]." [CSPAN, 2:55:35]
  • Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA) pointed out the key logical disconnect with the naysayers who try to scare us into inaction:
    • "My Republican colleagues are quick to argue that tackling climate change will hurt the economy. But in reality, climate change itself poses an enormous economic risk and failure to address it could be disaster to the global economy." [CSPAN, 1:59:43]
And she's right. A 2012 report commissioned by 20 governments written by "50 scientists, economists and policy experts" concluded that global warming already costs the world $1.2 trillion every year, and contributes to 400,000 annual deaths.
 

Climate Change Denial and Extreme Weather

In a week where we're seeing people's lives lost and communities devastated in Colorado by extreme flooding, the type of disaster we can expect more frequently thanks to climate change, one would think the urgency to act to avoid future economic devastation and loss of life would become crystal clear to those who we elected to represent us. Unfortunately, nothing seems to cause Congress to take action. It's like they missed the last year of weather events!

You can see the distortion of climate denial in Greenpeace's recent report, "Dealing in Doubt", which summarized how industrialists like the Koch brothers have funding fake science and sheer misinformation to make us question the hard truth about climate change. So it comes as no surprise that Koch Industries is the second highest donor this election cycle to the chairman of yesterday's hearing, Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), as well as other Representatives on the subcommittee, like Koch's hometown favorite Mike Pompeo, and Texas politicians Joe Barton and Pete Olson.

I'm tired of seeing members of Congress put their head in the sand and deny climate change. It's an appalling manipulation of our future potential by people who are meant to represent us and do the right thing.

So why'd I show up for the hearing yesterday? People's lives and livelihoods are on the line. The strength and future resilience of our country and our communities and all we've built as a nation are at risk if we don't do anything. We're not do-nothing people. We're Americans. We lead. We work. We improve. We build. We innovate.

We need to stop the perpetuation of ignorance and denial. It will take some work to get there, so we need your help too. I hope you stand with me--extrovert or introvert--and join in saying enough is enough its time for action. There is no greater moment than now for us to come together and do the right thing on climate change.
 
Check Greenpeace.org for more Koch Facts.
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Chris Stewart, head of congressional commitee on climate change, confronted about his climate science denial

  • Posted on: 5 April 2013
  • By: JesseColeman

Utahn questions Rep. Chris Stewart on climate change

Representative Chris Stewart (R-UT) is the chair of the subcommittee on the environment, the congressional group in charge of the EPA, climate change research, and “all activities related to climate.” It is therefore extremely troubling that Stewart denies the basic findings of climate science. Stewart has said that he is “not convinced” that climate change is a threat, despite the fact that the EPA, NOAA, and all of the climate science and scientists that he now oversees, disagree with him. In fact 98% of actual climate scientists disagree with his views on climate science.

At a recent town hall meeting, a group of activists confronted Stewart on his ill-informed views on climate science. The activists, working with the group Forecast the Facts, presented Stewart with a 17,000 signature petition demanding “the Chairman of the Science Committee's Subcommittee on Environment stop using his seat to promote climate denialism.” They also held up banners reading “Believe It Or Not Climate Change Is Not Going Away,” “97% of Say Climate Change is Human Caused. We Trust Them,” and “Stewart Denies While Utah Burns."

The group of activists included high school student Sara Ma. "Many people think climate change is a future problem for my generation to solve later, but it’s not. The data shows that it is here, it's happening and it has a cost," said Ma, a 17-year-old senior at West High School. Utahns are particularly upset by Stewart’s ignorance on climate issues due to the record wildfire season they endured last year.  Wildfires did over $50 million dollars in damage to Utah in 2012.

Stewart's climate denial is made more suspicious by his close ties to carbon polluting industries. His brother and campaign manager, Tim Stewart, is a Washington, DC lobbyist for fossil fuel corporations.  In addition, he has received more campaign donations from oil and gas companies than any other single source.

See more pictures from the confrontation with climate science denier Chris Stewart

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Year 4 Obama Team Battles Climate Progress

  • Posted on: 4 December 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

Written by Kyle Ash, crossposted from Greenpeace blogs.
 
We can say happy anniversary to the self-flattery and continual sabotage of the UN climate negotiations by President Obama's climate team. The tone remains the same. Exactly one year ago in the climate conference, Greenpeace distributed "Games and Puzzles for Durban" with this caricature above of the Deputy Special Envoy, Jonathan Pershing, who works for Special Envoy, Todd Stern. If Secretary Clinton retires, this political delegation would have to be reappointed.
 
We are well into the second and final week of the UN climate talks in Doha, but the outcome is still far from certain. Almost all major negotiation topics remain and we see little progress on overarching objectives. Environment Ministers and heads of delegation arrived this week to pick up the mantle. They must improve the negative trend.
 
In Durban, the global community, with the exception of the self-ostracized government of President Obama, agreed the Kyoto Protocol would continue. In part because the United States is not intervening, many countries generally expect success on this objective for Doha. Kyoto commitments end this year, so Kyoto Parties must agree on a new commitment period to start on January 1, 2013.
 
However, countries have yet to even sort out the length of the second period (five or eight years) and many have offered no pollution targets. Most of the 2020 targets so far are pitiful, such as the business-as-usual (BAU) 20% from the EU and the 0.5% from Australia.
 
Loopholes plague the integrity of Kyoto, but countries like Poland grapple to maintain the carbon market's large surplus of polluter 'rights' or AAUs (assigned amount units – dubbed hot air). This inspires despondence for the next conference, likely to be in Poland, particularly when the EU seems almost content with the Polish position.
 
The second over-arching objective was to finalize the negotiations that started in 2007 in Bali. Ideally, this was to end in a legally-binding agreement in Copenhagen, but the US killed that idea.
 
The Obama government's intransigence has postponed culmination every year since. All negotiation issues must either be agreed, or intentionally placed into a new negotiation track as was decided in Durban (the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform – or ADP).
 
And we should see a work plan for the ADP leading to a legal agreement in 2015.
 
Despite having had three additional years to negotiate, almost every important issue is stuck between the will of countries demanding strong action and countries like the US that are visibly irritated at claims they offer almost nothing.
 
The US stands out as a culprit against progress on most issues and the self-righteous claims rattle hopes. The US delegation continues to argue US commitments on finance and pollution reductions are both sufficient and being met. On climate finance, the US continues to block debate on how to fill the Green Climate Fund, which is meant to support developing country efforts. We have seen an aversion to even agreeing to discuss how to increase ambition on emissions targets.
 
On issues where the US needs to invest little political capital at home, the US has blocked debate, for example, on how to establish common rules to account for pollution reductions. Common accounting rules are vital to understanding if collective efforts are enough. The US also remains a top blocker on negotiations to provide additional short-term financing for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). REDD stands to address 20% of global emissions.
 
It is not in the national interest of any country to allow catastrophic climate disruption. The hard bargaining, the specious evaluations of domestic progress, and the foot-dragging must stop.
 
We need to see a strong second phase of the Kyoto Protocol, and we need to see a workable plan that ensures a legally-binding agreement in 2015. Countries have only a few days left in Doha to show the world that there is still hope for a habitable planet.
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Climate Romnesia: I was there when Romney had a “Climate Protection Plan”

  • Posted on: 5 November 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

While Governor of Massachusetts, Romney was so concerned about climate change he ordered a Climate Protection Plan.

This is a guest blog from Jane Bright of Healthlink, a local environmental health citizens group in Salem, Massachusetts. Crossposted from Greenpeace Blogs.

Have you seen Romney’s 50 page “Climate Protection Plan”? No? Well there’s a reason for that: He doesn’t have one and he is hiding from the issue on the campaign trail. Romney mocked climate change at the Republican National Convention in August and his campaign website reads:

“Mitt Romney will eliminate the regulations promulgated in pursuit of the Obama administration’s costly and ineffective anti-carbon agenda.”

So Romney’s only current "climate plan” is to attack the Obama EPA and its efforts to cut global warming pollution from power plants and other sources. Just eight years ago, in 2004, Romney was so concerned about climate change that he implemented a comprehensive “Massachusetts Climate Protection Plan”.

  

 

Then-Governor Romney summarized the issue as effectively as any statement I’ve read, evoking stewardship, science and risk.

“The world’s dramatically shifting weather patterns are in part attributable to the often-heedless development patterns of the past. Our houses, schools, shops, industry, cars and transit vehicles all consume energy and generate emissions, which too often have taken a disturbing cumulative toll on our fragile and finite natural resources.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What the heck happened? He was threatened by the hard right. Rush Limbaugh and others said he was 'unelectable' if he was a climate change believer. In fact, after Romney addressed global warming as a reality in 2011, Rush said "bye bye nomination."

For people in Massachusetts and other states this is serious. Superstorms like Hurricane Sandy, sea-level rise and other climate impacts have great consequences for the state.

For me, this is very personal. My picture and story were included in the state published report that launched the Massachusetts Climate Protection Plan.

 

 

 

During Romney’s governorship, I was recognized by the state for my volunteer work to reduce air pollution in Massachusetts battling a coal fired power plant in Salem. Our effort supported an aggressive statewide commitment to address climate change and was part of a successful regional multi-state program using financial incentives to help power plants cut carbon emissions, a strong model for national climate protection strategies during the Bush years.

As soon as Romney decided to run for president, even while he was still Governor, he stopped supporting carbon pollution reductions and started ridiculing climate change as an issue. Climate Romesia?

Those of us who have watched him over the decades don’t know who he is or what he stands for anymore. He clearly is not the 2004 version of Mitt Romney.

I suspect Michelle Obama is right: “The presidency doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.”

What would a Romney presidency reveal? No one, probably including Romney, knows where he would stand on too many issues critical to the American economy, our environment and our safety. Those of us in Massachusetts concerned about the environment are shaking our heads. We only hope the rest of the nation is paying attention, too.

Jane Bright is on the board of HealthLink, a grassroots citizen group dedicated to improving health by reducing or eliminating toxins and pollutants from our environment through research, education and community action. She partnered with Governor Romney’s administration to toughen emissions regulations in Massachusetts. 

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VIDEO: Romney confronted in Ohio, "Do you still think the rising of the seas is funny?"

  • Posted on: 3 November 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

Romney confronted in Ohio, "Do you still think the rising of the seas is funny?"

At a campaign event today in Etna, Ohio, Governor Romney was asked, "Do you still think the rising of the seas is funny?" Romney responded, "I never imagined such a thing is funny," despite using rising sea levels as a punchline in his speech to the Republican National Convention.

Woman: "Do you still think the rising of the seas is funny?"

Romney: "I never imagined such a thing is funny."

Man: "Is climate change still a joke to you?"

Romney: "As a matter of fact, if you'd like to - I know you're filming - if you'd like to see my view on global warming, I wrote a book, and there's a chapter on global warming and you'll see what I think we can do to deal with it."

Man: "What are you going to do to address global warming?"

This confrontation marks the fifth time in two days that Governor Romney has been questioned about climate change. On Thursday, a protester interrupted Romney during a speech in Virginia Beach, shouting "Romney! What about climate? That’s what caused this monster storm! Climate change!" Also yesterday, student activists asked Romney about his plan to address climate change at three different campaign stops, in Roanoke, Doswell, and Virginia Beach, VA. Romney dodged the question each time, referring the voters to his book.

Despite Governor Romney and President Obama's reluctance to address climate change during the presidential campaign, Hurricane Sandy and Mayor Michael Bloomberg's endorsement of President Obama has renewed attention to the impacts of climate change on the United States, and the candidates' plans to address the crisis.

In addition to a warming atmosphere and oceans that are loading storms with more energy and rainfall, global warming is raising sea levels and increasing the damage from storm surge and coastal flooding. A US Geological Survey report found that sea levels are rising three to four times faster on the Atlantic Coast than globally, putting several major US cities at greater risk.

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"It's in my book!" Mitt Romney's Robo-Response to Climate Change and Hurricane Sandy

  • Posted on: 2 November 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

Romney Dodges Climate Change Question, Again

With the election at hand, Greenpeace has been particularly concerned about the lack of action to address global warming from President Barack Obama as well as his challenger, Governor Mitt Romney. Both candidates have been asked for months to break the climate silence, yet we have heard very little from either candidate even after hurricane Sandy, the "Frankenstorm," wrought havoc on the U.S. east coast (see pictures).

If you missed the first two times Mitt Romney was asked on camera about how he plans to address the global crisis of climate change now that superstorm Sandy has, check out the video in our previous blog. Asked three times about global warming, Governor Romney seems to have deferred to the instructions of his campaign managers and public relations advisers: tell 'em to read your book!

Beyond dodging questions from attendees at his recent campaign events, governor Mitt Romney also bit his tongue during a speech in Virginia Beach yesterday, when a protester holding a "End Climate Silence" banner for CNN's camera's interrupted Romney's speech, asking "Romney! What about climate? That’s what caused this monster storm! Climate change!" That video is available here:

Check out this interactive graph of how both candidates positions and actions have been notably inconsistent on solutions to climate change, or even its scientific basis.

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