Helen of Marlowe's Blog

The Money Behind the Climate Debate

Posted in Environment by helenofmarlowe on June 30, 2014

In   Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming , James Hoggan reports and discusses dramatic stories of projects funded by the fossil fuel industry designed to confuse and mislead the public, to mislead reporters and newspaper editors, and to confuse and misinform our elected officials. The deniers want to confuse the public into thinking there is still scientific debate, when in fact, among scientists, there is no debate.  For years, this misinformation campaign has been largely funded by the oil and coal industries, often under the guise of industry front groups and fake grassroots groups.

A few of the cases Hoggan reported were so outrageous that I had to check them out for myself.  For example, there is The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, which describes itself as a small research institute, but is in reality a farm shed. They circulate online a deceptive “scientists’ petition”  signed by 31,000 “scientists” who are either skeptics or deniers of global warming.  The Oregon Institute lists six faculty members, two of whom are dead, and two others who are the founder’s 20-something sons.   Although they identify their six members as “faculty” they have no classrooms and no students.

The  31,000 endorsers of The Oregon Petition give only names, with no contact information or institutional affiliation.  Some of the names are in fact the names of legitimate climate scientists, who, when contacted, had no idea their names were on this petition and demanded their names be removed.  But the petition still circulates with a claim of more than 31,000 scientists.   You can see it  here http://www.oism.org/project/    (I wonder why the few scientists with recognizable names don’t sue.  Maybe they have, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s just too costly to challenge the legal staff of the oil and coal giants.)  The Oregon Institute’s news releases are treated by many newspapers as legitimate contributions to some ongoing debate.

At the bottom of their web page, you’ll see

Note: The Petition Project has no funding from energy industries or other parties with special financial interests in the “global warming” debate. Funding for the project comes entirely from private non-tax deductible donations by interested individuals.

In Climate Cover-Up, Hoggan says that the Petition Project was funded by  the Exxon-backed George C. Marshall Institute.  Much of the deliberate misinformation is promoted by Exxon. (See http://www.ExxonSecrets.org)

Other “scientific” papers published in editorial sections of small-town newspapers are authored by the climate deniers under different names. They instruct their people that, although they are not likely to get published in  major newspapers, if they can get their articles printed in enough small-town papers,  they can reach as many people as they  would in the Washington Post. And speaking of the Post, when George Will wrote a column incorrectly stating facts about global warming (such as, that sea ice is advancing, rather than retreating) critics called for a correction. The Post’s editor Fred Hiatt said that Will may be wrong – he’s not a scientist — but he has a right to voice his opinion. Critics responded that this is not a matter of opinion, it is a fact. But George Will didn’t offer corrections and the Post stood by him.

Hoggan tells stories of climate scientists whose reputations and careers have been damaged by fake “scientists” who not only challenge the climate research, but also defame the characters of the researchers, who often simply don’t have the time or financial resources to fight the legal battles funded by the oil industry. (See Siegfried Frederick Singer, but don’t question his integrity unless you have a bank account to match The Heartland Institute.)

One of the most outrageous of the stories Hoggan tells is the story of  Christopher Walter Monckton, the third Viscount of Brenchely, a British politician affiliated with the UK Independence Party. Though he has a degree in classics and a diploma in journalism, and no further qualifications, according to Hoggan, he is quoted by think tanks as an expert in the field of global warming.  In biographical information supplied to news media, he claims to have received a Nobel Peace Prize for correcting inaccurate information put out by IPCC (actually, it was the IPCC panelists who received the Nobel) and he says  “The right response to the non-problem of global warming is to have the courage to do nothing.”

At least as culpable as the fossil fuel industry in climate disruption is the livestock industry.  Methane from landfills and livestock, and the destruction of rain forest for cattle grazing are at least as much a cause of global warming as fossil fuels.  But Hogan doesn’t talk about the impact of the livestock industry on climate change, and I wonder why. Since we hear so little in “mainstream” media about the environmental damage of the meat industry, I wonder whether there is a similar funded cover-up.  If I had Hoggan’s ear, I would encourage him to discover and tell us why only those of us who care to do our own research are finding the facts on CAFOs and their substantial contribution to global warming.

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NC House Bill 1191 – Protecting Trees Not Allowed

Posted in "North Carolina" by helenofmarlowe on June 10, 2014

   Generally, Republicans pride themselves on fighting “big government” and keeping government out of local issues. I hope the Republican-controlled NC legislature will get back in touch with its history and tradition, and will not move forward with House Bill 1191, misleadingly named Authority To Adopt Local Ordinances. The bill actually does the opposite of what the name implies.

   Quoting from a column in the June 3 Winston-Salem Journal entitled Locals Should Control Local Environment, “this bill would prevent municipal and county authorities from creating and enforcing reasonable tree ordinances and landscaping standards developed to protect our quality of life.”

   In 2009, a committee of dedicated citizens worked for more than two years to draft recommendations for a tree ordinance for Winston-Salem, an ordinance which would prevent clear-cutting in large new developments, and require developers to plant shade trees in new parking lots. The City-County Planning Board drafted an ordinance based on the committee’s recommendations. The Sierra Club, home builders and realtors, the Neighborhood Alliance, and our City Council all supported our city’s tree ordinance, and the Council’s vote to adopt the ordinance was unanimous.

   And now comes House Bill 1191, stating that no county or city in NC shall adopt or continue in effect any ordinance, rule, regulation, or resolution regulating the removal, replacement or preservation of trees on private property within its jurisdiction.

   The North Carolina Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects sees the folly of this proposed legislation, and warns that this would eliminate the authority that cities and counties now have to enforce tree ordinances, including those involving the protection of trees during construction and the protection of historic and heritage trees from removal.

    Why does our NC General Assembly believe it is their business to prevent communities from passing and enforcing local ordinances?

   Trees in cities absorb stormwater runoff and help with controlling air pollution, as well as reducing heat-island effects in urban areas. Trees cool the city by shading houses and streets, and releasing water vapor into the air through their leaves. Trees reduce energy used for air conditioning, reduce soil erosion, provide canopy for wildlife.

   And many a summertime grocery shopper will choose the supermarket that has shade trees in the parking lot.

Looking for Time-Warner Service

Posted in "North Carolina" by helenofmarlowe on June 9, 2014

Sometimes I think I would vote for any politician, even a teaparty regressive, if they promise to pass a law requiring all businesses to have real people answering telephones.  It would help the economy, provide more jobs, and probably get votes from all except corporate persons.

   My Time Warner cable service has been spotty for years.

   Our internet connection is dropped at least once most days, several times some days. Sometimes for a couple of minutes, sometimes for a half hour or more.

   Years ago – 15 years? – we discovered one problem, after countless tech support people came out to the house and found nothing wrong. Seems when the service was installed, someone mismatched the connectors. So that it was building heat, getting too hot, cutting off, cooling down, getting too hot again …

   That went on for almost a year before one of the technicians discovered it. After that, I wrote a letter to Time-Warner telling them I want six months refund because it took them at least that long to discover that their incorrect installation was causing the constant outages. A woman responded with much sympathy saying they’d give me a one-month credit, but it never happened. Wish I could find that letter, but looking for it seems as pointless as calling their service number.

   And we continued to have outages, so they came out and dug a new cable. Not sure why. That was maybe five years ago. We still have outages.

   So occasionally I actually try to call the customer service number, but I never get to a real person and I don’t get to tech support.

   On Saturday, I thought I’d watch Michelle Obama speak at Maya Angelou’s funeral. Caught a few minutes of it, then the cable went out for about 25 minutes.

   This morning, I thought I would be clever, and instead of punching the number that I want technical support, I punched that I want to buy new services. I thought, yeah, they’ll have that one staffed. And I was right. A pleasant real-live human answered immediately. I told her that I don’t really want to buy new service, I just want to reach technical support, and asked if she can connect me to tech support. She said she can give me a number to call. I asked, can you give me a phone number that someone will answer? Well, no. She gave me the number I’ve been using. Said that’s all she can do.

   So here’s how it goes.

   After pressing one for English, I go through recursive steps of asking what I want. Do you hate speaking to a robot as much as I do? I keep repeating that I want to talk to technical service. The robot says, we are not showing any outages in your area. And then the robot thanks me and assures me that I’m important, and that their mission is to provide good services, and then disconnects.

   AT&T is available here, but I’m told by people who know more than I do that DSL is much slower than cable.  At least in USA — not in Europe.  Also, it’s a nuisance to have to change our email addresses.

   The AT&T web page tells me their highest speed is “Up to 6.0 Mbps” That’s pretty slow, even if we ignore the problem that “up to” could mean three.

   I’m pretty sure Time-Warner has a monopoly in my city. You want cable, you get it from Time-Warner.  So I’ll go back to watching the bird feeder in the back yard, or maybe the one in the front.  Always reliable entertainment there.

   Now, if I can find a snail-mail address to corporate offices, I’ll print this blog and mail it to Time-Warner.

   At least it will add fifty cents to the USPS revenue.

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