Saturday, March 26, 2016

Guest Post: Free Press and Climate Change Deniers

To the Inbox of the Duluth Reader,
RE: Damages done;

The March 8, 2016 Superior Telegram, published an important guest editorial about the nature of a free press, and the requirements needed to suit a news source for libel.

A landmark case, (New York Times vs. Sullivan), does describe exceptions in cases when a defendant or defendants are charged with libel, but are not held responsible due to lack of “actual malice,” and because of not (deliberately) publishing false information.

Another pertinent exception is that public people are, (in a sense), the legal equivalent of public property, and as such, often need to be subjected to public scrutiny. Therefore, discussions about them cannot be denied, since the courts feel that free speech and freedom of assembly can guarantee our recognizing the tyrannies of governing authorities—so, even if not completely factual, the idea of reaching truth through rigorous debate, is generally considered more important than requiring completely truthful information!

But, what about the fact that various lies and misleading information are commonly published in our opinion pages under the guise of free speech and fair balance? Do climate change deniers not know that the things they claim to be true, are indeed, stated with deliberately malicious intentions, and are designed to discredit the very large body of intelligent, competent, and dedicated climate scientists who attempt to educate the public about the dangers of CO2 and other greenhouse gases every day? Can deniers be exonerated on account of the ignorance in their lies, and therefore be considered innocent of making malicious statements, or of engaging in (deliberate) attempts to harm scientist’s reputations, while falsely mischaracterizing the meticulous accuracy of the information they gather? In a word—NO! No one can deliberately cherry pick data, lie, or mislead the public, without first being aware of their own deceits. You must know what a chart listing global warming trends actually documents, before you can effectively alter and/or discredit the information it documents! And, you cannot mislead the public in any convincing way, unless you promote false arguments, which you are already aware of as being false. Unfortunately, far too many opinion page editors are without the aid of science editors, or have the time to do their own research into the claims made by deniers—which otherwise, could easily be proved false.

So, is it wrong to keep the public in ignorance, via either willful, or unwitting dissemination of false information in our newspapers, magazines, and our other media sources?

Before you answer, make no mistake about it—if you accept the many accomplishments of medical science, or, our knowledge about the laws of motion which have allowed us to successfully chart Apollo moon missions, the proliferation of digital technology, the methods of measuring and quantifying the vast distances between stars and galaxies in terms of light years, or the danger of destroying our Earth much more rapidly with tremendous amounts of energy released via nuclear fission and/or nuclear fusion, or accept the proven methods of dating extremely old artifacts and fossils, with the aid of carbon dating, as well as dozens of other dating technique which rely on the half-life rates of radioactive materials—then you must also accept the fact that we DO know that global warming is happening and that man is its primary cause—simply because all other forms of scientific knowledge are made possible by applying the same scientific method. Regardless of our current irreverence and public suspicions regarding real facts, facts are real, and do indeed, continue to exist!

Remember that the same knowledge about global warming is shared by thousands of scientists all over the world—though they be from entirely different cultures, political systems, and religious backgrounds. Yet, none of them denies the same objective knowledge just because they live under the laws of various rulers, or under different political systems.

Let’s look forward to the day when real science is no longer maligned, and when our “fact checking,” opinion page editors agree to at least place short disclaimers next to the letters of AGW deniers on their opinion pages, (stating quite accurately), that the vast majority of climate scientists, around the world disagree with the content of their letters, and in fact, that all major scientific bodies on Earth accept man’s primary role in causing global warming. Let the words of deniers be published! But for God’s sake, we also need help from those with the editorial integrity to properly inform the public that the views of deniers are NOT shared by the vast majority of legitimate climate scientists around the world?

Our American press does have a long history of standing up to those in power—if only it now realized that the vast power of the oil and coal industry, as well as other fossil fuel using and producing companies, are what it truly needs to stand up to, today!

Peter W. Johnson
Superior, WI.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Update on AGU-ExxonMobil Ties

The president of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), Margaret Leinen, sent out this update concerning the drive to have AGU sever ties with ExxonMobil. My email to her is included below.

UPDATE: Exxon, AGU, and Corporate Support

I would like to update you on some of the feedback and information we have received since my last post, including a discussion that took place at last week’s Council meeting. I also want to tell you about the plan for the upcoming Board meeting, where this issue will be discussed.

In addition to comments on the post itself, over the past three weeks we have received more than 100 emails, letters and phone calls, and countless tweets and comments on Facebook. And the letter referenced in the post, which calls for AGU to sever our relationship with Exxon, has since received additional signatures, growing from 71 AGU members and 33 non-members, to 136 members and 81 non-members (as of 15 March).

This feedback, from AGU members and others in our community and beyond, expressed a wide variety of views, ranging from requests to completely sever the relationship immediately to suggestions for how the relationship could be expanded and made more productive to the view that severing the relationship would violate our scientific integrity. While the social media posts and public comments have tended to be one-sided, the emails received directly from members have been more nuanced and diverse in views expressed. A major theme that emerged is a strong desire among our members to see this issue is treated thoughtfully and with integrity, and to ensure that our discussions be representative of all sides of AGU’s community.

Because we know how important this is, we encouraged you to send us your comments and any information you might have about current activities that contradict ExxonMobil’s public statements about their position and actions. We also shared as much information with you as possible about our previous actions and our plans for moving forward. Please be assured that we remain committed to being just as transparent about any decisions that are made, as well as the basis for those decisions and the deliberation that occurred.

In the spirit of that commitment to transparency, I want to tell you about how the Council engaged on this issue during their meeting last week. While I won’t go into great detail about their discussion here, I will say that the Council’s discussions and concerns mirrored, pro and con, many of those we heard from the membership.  The feedback gathered during those thoughtful discussions will be consolidated, with the major themes and suggestions highlighted, and shared with the Board for their April meeting.

In addition to the Council feedback, all of the information, documentation and other correspondence we have received to date, as well as any new information that is provided prior to the meeting, will be shared with the Board to help inform their discussion. The Board used a similar process when they considered an earlier letter on this matter from a representative of the Union of Concerned Scientists last year. The originators of the current letter have requested that they be allowed to provide the Board with a new report, and we will include that report with material we provide to the Board.

When the Board meets, it is possible that a decision will be made about whether or not AGU should maintain its relationship with Exxon. However, it’s equally possible that the Board may instead ask for further research, or other steps, in an effort to better inform a later decision. While we recognize that there is a strong desire to see this matter addressed quickly, we also recognize that a matter of this significance deserves thorough and deliberative consideration. We owe our members nothing less.

In the meantime, we continue to welcome and encourage you to send us your feedback and any information you might have on this issue:


I would like to express my opinion on the subject of severing ties with ExxonMobil.

To me, the only question to be addressed is if it is the right thing to sever ties, or not. All other issues are side notes and should not be considered in the larger view. We know ExxonMobil has funded lobbyists to undermine the science of climate change with the goal of blocking legislation that would damage their commercial interests. The company claims to have stopped doing this, but they continue to provide funds to dark money sources, such as Donors Trust, which then provides funds to those same lobbyists.

So, the board must ask itself, 'How does the AGU feel about being associated with an organization that behaves this way?' Is it the right thing to continue the ties? Or, should AGU distance themselves from these actions? Is the AGU prepared to take a stand on this issue? Or, would it prefer to turn a blind eye and continue to accept the funds provided by ExxonMobil?

To me, the answer is simple. You can tell a lot about someone by the company they keep. So, what company does the AGU keep?

Please sever all ties with ExxonMobil.

Dr. Christopher Keating

Saturday, March 5, 2016

More Americans Support Science on Global Warming

I read an article in the Texas Climate News this week and found what they said to be encouraging. On the issue of addressing climate change, the University of Texas Energy poll found there was "extremely wide support for such climate action in the U.S."

When provided several statements describing possible U.S. roles in addressing global climate change and asked which one best reflects their own opinion, 48% of the respondents selected one of the three following statements:

  • Twenty-seven percent chose this statement: “Because the U.S. is a global leader, it should set an example by doing more than other nations.”
  • Eleven percent selected this one: “The U.S. has a moral obligation to act and should do more than other nations.”
  • And 10 percent said this statement best reflected what they think: “Because the U.S. has contributed disproportionately more emissions, it should do more than other nations.”
Additionally, the largest single group, consisting of 43% of the respondents, picked the statement, “Climate change is an urgent threat and all countries need to take action equally.” That comes out to 91% of the respondents supporting action to address climate change. Only 2% selected "Do nothing."

Are the American people finally catching up with the rest of the world on this issue? It would be about time, if they are. Now, if we could get people to vote that way this fall, maybe Congress would get the message and start taking action.

We can dream, can't we?

Friday, March 4, 2016

Coal Emissions Put on Hold

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned an EPA regulation on mercury emissions from coal fired plants. The basis was that the EPA had failed to properly evaluate the cost of the regulations. The fossil fuel industry took this as a great victory, assuming SCOTUS was finding in their favor on the regulations. Of course, that is pure silliness and no logical person would make any assumption on how the court would decide on the merits of the regulations.

Well, we now have a better indicator.

Unbelievably, 20 states petitioned the court to overturn the regulations completely while waiting for the lower courts to rule on the issue. If the states had prevailed, the coal-fired plants would have been free to emit as much as they wanted.

Let me ask you something. Why in the world would 20 states be interested in allowing the air their citizens breath to be polluted with toxic fumes? Why in the world would 20 states want to allow the water their citizens drink to be polluted with toxic pollution? Why in the world would 20 states want the food chain in their states, and states down wind, to be polluted with poisonous waste? Do you think it might be because billionaires are making a pile of money off of it?

Well, bad news for the state governments and their billionaire supporters - SCOTUS turned down their request. Specifically, Chief Justice Roberts rejected their petition, keeping the EPA standards in place until a lower court rules on the merits of the regulations.

That's one for the people and environment.

More Trouble for ExxonMobil

The U.S. Department of Justice has sent a request to the FBI to investigate ExxonMobil on charges it violated federal law by misleading the public and share holders about climate change.

ExxonMobil is on record as stating that it not only knew about climate change due to work done by its own scientists, but has never misled anyone and they have always admitted AGW was real. The issue is the amount of funding it provided to anti-science lobbyists to deny climate change and to interfere with any action the various governments and government entities might take with regards to the problem. Exxon has been a major player in this campaign in the past, but states it has stopped funding these organizations. Again, things are not quite the way the corporation claims because they have continued to make donations to dark money organizations such as Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund. You can make donations to these organizations, who then provide the funds to anti-science groups in the form of grants. The original donor can then claim they did not make any donations to the lobbyists.

Exxon has clearly been in a campaign inspired by the tobacco industry's denial of the dangers of cigarette smoking, but with the twist they made statements climate change was real while funding denier groups at the same time. Will this be enough to keep them from being charged with various violations (SEC rules and RICO act to name just two)? I don't know, but it is interesting the DOJ sent the request to the FBI. I have to assume they would not have done this unless there was a compelling reason. It does not mean Exxon is guilty or will be charged, but it says to me the DOJ looked at the case and decided not to merely dismiss it as being without merit.

Let's hope this continues to develop.

Thursday, March 3, 2016