Arquivo da tag: Conservadorismo

G20: Australia resists international call supporting climate change fund (The Guardian)

Exclusive: Europe and the US argue strongly that leaders should back the need for contributions to the Green Climate Fund, which helps poorer countries prepare for climate change, Friday 7 November 2014 00.51 GMT

tony abbottAustralia’s original position was that the G20 meeting should focus solely on economic issues. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Australia is resisting a last-ditch push by the US, France and other European countries for G20 leaders at next week’s meeting in Brisbane to back contributions to the Green Climate Fund.

The prime minister has previously rejected the fund as a “Bob Brown bank on an international scale” – referring to the former leader of the Australian Greens.

The Green Climate Fund aims to help poorer countries cut their emissions and prepare for the impact of climate change, and is seen as critical to securing developing-nation support for a successful deal on reducing emissions at the United Nations meeting in Paris next year.

The US and European Union nations are also lobbying for G20 leaders to promise that post-2020 greenhouse emission reduction targets will be unveiled early, to improve the chances of a deal in Paris, but Australia is also understood to be resisting this.

As reported by Guardian Australia, Australia has reluctantly conceded the final G20 communique should include climate change as a single paragraph, acknowledging that it should be addressed by UN processes. Australia’s original position was that the meeting should focus solely on “economic issues”.

The text that has so far made it through the G20’s closed-door, consensus-driven process is very general, and reads as follows:

“We support strong and effective action to address climate change, consistent with sustainable economic growth and certainty for business and investment. We reaffirm our resolve to adopt a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that is applicable to all parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties in Paris in 2015.”

Australia had previously insisted the G20 should discuss climate-related issues only as part of its deliberations on energy efficiency, but the energy efficiency action plan to be agreed at the meeting, revealed by Guardian Australia, does not require G20 leaders to commit to any actual action.

Instead it asks them to “consider” making promises next year to reduce the energy used by smartphones and computers and to develop tougher standards for car emissions.

But as the negotiations on the G20 communique reach their final stages, European nations and the US continue to argue strongly that leaders should back the need for contributions to the Green Climate Fund.

More than $2.8bn has been pledged to the fund so far – including $1bn by France and almost $1bn by Germany. More pledges are expected at a special conference in Berlin on 20 November. The UK has said it will make a “strong” contribution at that meeting.

It is understood the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which leads Australia’s negotiating position, is considering whether Australia should make a pledge.

Asked about the fund before last year’s UN meeting, the prime minister said “we’re not going to be making any contributions to that”. It was reported that at one of its first cabinet meetings the Abbott government decided it would make no contributions to a fund that was described as “socialism masquerading as environmentalism”.

The government also pointedly dissented from support for the fund in a communique from last November’s Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting – a stance backed by Canada.

Abbott told the Australian newspaper at the time; “One thing the current government will never do is say one thing at home and a different thing abroad. We are committed to dismantling the Bob Brown bank [the Clean Energy Finance Corporation] at home so it would be impossible for us to support a Bob Brown bank on an international scale.”

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Playing whack-a-mole with Australian adviser’s climate change myths (The Guardian)

Maurice Newman, business adviser to Australia’s prime minister, pops up with a litany of climate change myths and misrepresentations

Maurice Newman, the climate science denying business advisor to Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott.Maurice Newman, the climate science denying business adviser to Australia’s prime minister Tony Abbott. Photograph: Daniel Munoz/Reuters

Reading opinion columns from Australian prime minister Tony Abbott’s top business adviser Maurice Newman reminds me of those fairground whack-a-mole games.

You smash those cartoonish mammals over their fibreglass heads with a big rubber hammer as they emerge from little round holes, yet these little subterranean mammals never know they’re beat and just come up with the same grin somewhere else.

In this climate denialist version of whack-a-mole, the mammal is replaced with Newman’s upper torso clutching the latest truthy climate factoid he has plucked indiscriminately from the intertubes.

Just like at the fairground, when you whack-a-Maurice, he just keeps popping up with another myth.

The latest version of whack-a-Maurice comes in his new opinion column in The Australian newspaper, headlined “Inconvenient truths ignored by the climate propaganda machine”.

In the article, Newman attacks renewable energy, the IPCC, Australian Greens leader Christine Milne and climate science in general while telling us that coal is cheap and reliable and that we should put our self-interest in selling that coal above all else.

Newman misrepresents the latest IPCC study, misquotes experts, pushes debunked studies, claims the Scottish Government commissioned a report that it likely never actually commissioned and rounds off by putting his faith in an internet poll that was gamed by climate sceptics.

So join me for a game of Whack-a-Maurice®.

Whack time

In the article, Newman starts with three statements about energy prices and how renewable energy projects apparently “destroy jobs” and have been terribly bad news for places that have embraced progressive policies to encourage renewable energy.

Newman writes:

Clearly [Greens Leader Christine] Milne is unaware of the cost to California, Europe and Britain of their ultra green embrace.

The Golden State’s energy prices are 40 per cent above the US national average, plunging its manufacturing and agricultural regions into depression, with one in five living in poverty.

OK. While it’s true that Californians do have comparatively expensive electricity costs, they actually have among the lowest average electricity bills across the whole of the United States.

This appears due to a combination of the state’s mild climate and its aggressive energy efficiency scheme.

California does have a renewable energy target – recently expanded to push the state to get 33 per cent of its power from renewables by 2020.

The Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory in the US has studied the impact of renewable target schemes (known there as Renewable Portfolio Standards) in place across the US.

The 2007 Berkeley study (carried out before California upped its target) found these RPS schemes added an average of about 38c per month (about one quarter the cost of one take away coffee) to electricity bills. California’s scheme was among those having the lowest impact on bills.

In 2012, Californian’s had an electricity bill of about $87 per month.

Apparently, in Newman’s razor sharp climate policy mind, it is imposts like a 38c per month rise in electricity prices that is “plunging” the state’s agriculture industry into depression, rather than, say, one of California’s worst droughts in living memory.

El whack

So now to Spain. Newman writes:

Researchers at Spain’s King Juan Carlos University have found renewable energy programs destroyed 2.2 jobs for every green one created.

Newman is referring to a report titled: “Study of the effects on employment of public aid to renewable energy sources” that was published in 2009 and written by Gabriel Calzada Alvarez.

Alvarez is an associate professor at King Juan Carlos University, but Newman doesn’t mention that the study was actually co-commissioned by the “libertarian” think tank The Instituto Juan de Maria that Alvarez founded.

Alvarez has also presented at a Heartland Institute climate conference for “sceptics” and his institute has been a sponsor of one of those conferences.

Who were the other commissioning group?

This was the Institute for Energy Research, a US-based thinktank with strong links to the US Koch brothers, whose foundations have given about $175,000 to the think tank and funnelled millions into anti-climate action projects at similar think tanks. The IER recently claimed Alvarez’s study as its own.

But was the study any good?

The US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratorytook a studied look at it and, to put it mildly, tore the thing to bits. Here’s some of the choice parts of their critique

The analysis by the authors from King Juan Carlos University represents a significant divergence from traditional methodologies used to estimate employment impacts from renewable energy. In fact, the methodology does not reflect an employment impact analysis. Accordingly, the primary conclusion made by the authors – policy support of renewable energy results in net jobs losses – is not supported by their work …

Additionally, this analysis has oversimplifications and assumptions that lead to questions regarding its quantitative results. Finally, the authors fail to justify their implication that because of the jobs comparison, subsidies for renewables are not worthwhile. This ignores an array of benefits besides employment creation that flow from government investment in renewable energy technologies.

The Alvarez study came in for similar harsh criticism in Spain, as noted here on a blog from the US Natural Resources Defense Council.

Scots whack

And so now to whack-a-Maurice in Scotland. Newman writes:

A study by Verso Economics commissioned by the Scottish government concluded that for every job in the wind industry, 3.7 jobs were lost elsewhere.

Verso Economics? Commissioned by the Scottish government? Sounds impressive.

Indeed, when the report was published in March 2011, it was given extensive coverage in Scotland. And what did the Scottish government make of the study? A BBC report tells us the government’s view.

This report is misleading.

Does it seem odd that the Scottish government should condemn it’s own report?

Perhaps one reason is that there appears to be no evidence that the Scottish government actually commissioned the report that Maurice Newman says it commissioned (I have asked the author, an economist called Richard Marsh, for clarification, but the report itself makes no mention of a commission from the Government and, when Marsh gave evidence to a Scottish parliamentary committee the following year in relation to the report, he didn’t mention a government commission then either).

Verso Economics appears to have been a very small firm with only two employees, Marsh being one of them. This doesn’t necessarily make the arguments wrong, but it is curious that Newman would choose to use the name of a tiny consultancy once based in Kirkaldy that no loner exists (Marsh is now at another firm).

Where’s the next mole?

Whacking scientists

Newman has a crack at former Australian chief scientist Penny Sackett who, according to Newman, had said in 2009 we had only five years to avoid “dangerous global warming”.

Plainly if you read Sackett’s words from 2009, she was talking about a time frame to start radically reducing emissions to prevent “dangerous global warming” down the track and not, as Newman implies, a time by which we should all be frying in our own juices.

Equally, Newman brings up the bête noire of all Australian climate science denialists, Tim Flannery. Newman writes:

When climate commissioner Tim Flannery said that “even the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and river systems”, it was sobering, but soon we were donating to flood victims and -suspected he’d dreamt it up to scare us.

Again, Newman ignores the fact that Flannery was not talking about the present, but referring to a time decades into the future if emissions remained on their current path.

Whack. Next mole?

Whacking the IPCC

Newman claims that “temperatures have gone nowhere for 18 years” while ignoring that in those 18 years the world has experienced the hottest decade on record. According to the World Meteorological Organisation, 13 of the 14 warmest years on record have all occurred since 2000.

If Newman thinks warming has stopped, why is it that between 2002 and 2011, the two main ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland were melting at a rate of about 362 billion tonnes of ice a year – an almost six-fold increase in the rate for the previous decade?

Newman keeps popping up like our proverbial mole with a litany of myths.

He says the recent IPCC Synthesis Report “fails to mention” that the extent of Antarctic sea ice is the highest since records began.

The reason it fails to mention this, is that the record was broken well after the underlying reports were finished.

But yet, the Synthesis Report does mention the increase in Antarctic sea ice extent (read my post What’s going on with global warming and Antarctica’s growing sea ice? for more on this).


Bleak whacking

Newman writes:

In painting the bleakest picture they can, IPCC authors have projected CO2 levels reaching 1000 parts per million in 2100, largely through coal combustion…

Newman wants us to think that the IPCC authors are a bunch of doom merchants, and so ignores the fact that the IPCC report makes a range of projections for the future concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

As well as the admittedly “bleak” scenario of CO2 levels reaching 1000 parts per million in the atmosphere by the end of this century (delivering something like 4C of global warming), the report also projects CO2 levels at 720ppm, 580ppm, 530ppm and 480ppm.

Newman would have struggled to have missed this, given they all appear on the same chart.

We could go on an on whacking Maurice Newman’s climate denialist moles, and his column has several others, but at some point we have to stop.

Sciencey internet polls

But not before we dwell on Newman’s closing argument that 91 per cent of people think the IPCC is wrong that we’re heading for 4C of global warming.

I think you’ll agree that Newman’s source for this is beyond reproach. It’s one of those really sciencey internet polls carried out by the ABC.

So sciencey was the survey, that climate science denialist groups from Australia to the US were telling supporters to visit the poll.

This is when we have to remind ourselves that Maurice Newman is the chairman of prime minister Tony Abbott’s Business Advisory Council, handpicked by Abbott himself.

As Maurice Newman himself concluded, “Enough said”.

Occupy Democracy is not considered newsworthy. It should be (The Guardian)

Sleeping outside for an iPhone is OK, but do it in furtherance of democratic expression and you’re in trouble, Monday 27 October 2014 15.11 GMT

Occupy London demonstrationOfficers policing the Occupy Democracy protest in Parliament Square, London. Photograph: Jay Shaw Baker/NurPhoto/Rex

You can tell a lot about the moral quality of a society by what is, and is not, considered news.

From last Tuesday, Parliament Square was wrapped in wire mesh. In one of the more surreal scenes in recent British political history, officers with trained German shepherds stand sentinel each day, at calculated distances across the lawn, surrounded by a giant box of fences, three metres high – all to ensure that no citizen enters to illegally practice democracy. Yet few major news outlets feel this is much of a story.

Occupy Democracy, a new incarnation of Occupy London, has attempted to use the space for an experiment in democratic organising. The idea was to turn Parliament Square back to the purposes to which it was, by most accounts, originally created: a place for public meetings and discussions, with an eye to bringing all the issues ignored by politicians in Westminster back into public debate. Seminars and assemblies were planned, colourful bamboo towers and sound systems put in place, to be followed by a temporary library, kitchen and toilets.

There was no plan to turn this into a permanent tent city, which are now explicitly illegal. True, this law is very selectively enforced; Metropolitan police regularly react with a wink and a smile if citizens camp on the street while queuing overnight for the latest iPhone. But to do it in furtherance of democratic expression is absolutely forbidden. Try it, and you can expect to immediately see your tent torn down and if you try even the most passive resistance you’re likely to be arrested. So organisers settled on a symbolic 24-hour presence, even if it meant sleeping on the grass under cardboard boxes in the autumn rain.

The police response can only be described as hysterical. Tarpaulins used to sit on the grass were said to be illegal, and when activists tried to sit on them they were attacked by scores of officers. Activists say they had limbs twisted and officers stuck thumbs into nerve endings as “pain compliance”. Pizza boxes were declared illegal structures and confiscated and commanders even sent officers to stand over activists at night telling them it was illegal to close their eyes.

Finally, the fences went up, and the guard dogs appeared – ostensibly, for what officers insisted was scheduled cleaning that happened to continue each day of the occupation. Hundreds of participants were thus pushed into the tiny green strip to the north of the Churchill statue, and even then, it seemed like every time they sat down for a seminar on financial reform or planning a response to the housing crisis, they were interrupted by some new pretext for police intervention – someone had an “illegal” megaphone, there was what looked like camping equipment, some regulation might have been violated – and squads of police once again stormed in.

One could speak of many things here: the obvious embarrassment of the police, compared with the perseverance and cheerful good humour of the occupiers, who continually grew in numbers and spirit as the repression increased. But what I really want to talk about is the reaction of the media.

The reason that park occupations are so important is because everyone knows they are there. Activists constantly hear the same refrain from would-be allies: “I agree that there’s been an erosion of democracy in this country, that the money controls everything, what I don’t know is: what can I do?” Our usual reply is: meet with other like-minded people. When people get together, brilliant ideas invariably emerge. But it’s impossible to bring people together unless there is a location, a place where they can always go, 24/7, to meet people and begin to have conversations and make plans. This is precisely what our political authorities have decided that Londoners must never again be allowed to have.

To achieve this, the police and media must take what are ostensibly completely opposite reactions to any occupation. The police act as if the possibility of non-violent camping is an existential threat to the very idea of civil government; hundreds of police are mobilised in a near-panic reaction; hallowed public spaces are shut off.

Official media, on the other hand – and in this case the BBC and mainstream newspapers are acting as if they were an arm of government – take exactly the opposite approach, insisting that the events in question are so trivial and unimportant that there is no need to cover them at all. The very same press that provides wall-to-wall coverage of pro-democracy occupations and police repression halfway around the world, in Hong Kong, acts as if analogous events at home are of no interest. It’s hard to think of a more dramatic story than battles between police and non-violent protesters, or the erection of giant fences and mobilisation of attack dogs directly beneath the mother of all parliaments. Yet while I was in the square, the only TV cameras I saw were being carried by journalists from Iran, Russia and Qatar.

We need to ask ourselves what it means that police suppression of democratic assemblies is no longer considered news. Is the wall of silence, as most activists suspect, simply a continuation of the actual physical wall surrounding Parliament Square, another piece of the same strategy, or is it a token of ultimate cynicism? Britons no longer have the right to freedom of assembly. Sorry, that’s no longer news.

These Two World Leaders Are Laughing While the Planet Burns Up (New Republic)

OCTOBER 21, 2014

Meet earth’s worst climate villains


Canada once had a shot at being the world’s leader on climate change. Back in 2002, our northern neighbors had ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s first treaty that required nations to cut their emissions or face penalties. In 2005, the country hosted an international climate change conference in Montreal, where then-Prime Minister Paul Martin singled out America for its indifference. “To the reticent nations, including the United States, I say this: There is such a thing as a global conscience,” Martin said.

Australia, too, was briefly a success story. The government ratified Kyoto in 2007 and delivered on promises to pass a tax on carbon by 2011. The prime minister that year, Julia Gillard, noted her administration’s priorities to set “Australia on the path to a high-skill, low-carbon future or [leave] our economy to decay into a rusting, industrial museum.”

Today, the two countries are outliers againfor all the wrong reasons.

According to a 2014 Climate Change Performance Index from European groups Climate Action Network Europe and Germanwatch, Canada and Australia occupy the bottom two spots among all 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Among the 20 countries with the largest economies (G20), only Saudi Arabia ranked lower than them. Canada and Australia’s records on climate change have gotten so bad, they’ve become the go-to examples for Republicans, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who don’t think climate change exists.

How did these two nations go from leading the fight against climate change to denying that it even exists?

On the way to his first trip in the U.S., Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott stopped for a full day of talks with Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper in June. The Sydney Morning Heraldreported that Abbott was in Canada’s capital with the intention of building a “conservative alliance among ‘like-minded’ countries” to try to dismantle global efforts on climate change. At a press conference that day, Harper applauded Abbott’s efforts to gut Australia’s carbon tax. “You’ve used this international platform to encourage our counterparts in the major economies and beyond to boost economic growth, to lower taxes when possible and to eliminate harmful ones, most notably the job-killing carbon tax,” Harper said. He added that “we shouldn’t clobber the economy” by pursuing an emissions trading scheme or a carbon tax.

This is how Canada and Australia’s top leaders frame global warming. The two stress that they will always choose short-term economic gain first, disregarding scientific findings and even the interests of their political allies in the process.The countries’ abrupt shift on climate track conservatives’ rise to a majority in Canada in 2011 and in Australia last year.

In just a few years, conservatives have delivered blow after blow to the nations’ environmental progress. Canada withdrew from Kyoto in 2011 to avoid paying expensive penalties for failing to meet its promise to cut carbon 6 percent over 1990 levels (Canada’s emissions had risen by nearly 30 percent). Harper offered a less ambitious target instead, one that mirrored the U.S.’s commitment cut 17 percent of carbon pollution by 2020. But Canada will miss that target by a long shot, according to environmental groups who point to the aggressive development of the Alberta tar sands oil and expired clean energy subsidies. The commissioner of the Department of Environment and Sustainable Development noted in a recent report that Canada “does not have answers” to most of its environmental concerns. Australia, meanwhile, had the world’s highest emissions per capita in 2012topping even America’s. The government’s mediocre ambition of cutting emissions 5 percent by 2020 won’t happen either: It projects emissions to grow 2 percent a year, according to Inside Climate News.

The hostility toward environmental interests goes even deeper than energy policy. Harper has battled his own scientists, independent journalists, and environmental groups at odds with his views.

Climate scientists have reported that they are unable to speak to press about their own findings, feeling effectively “muzzled” by agencies that want to script talking points for them. In June, a government spokesperson explained that federal meteorologists must speak only “to their area of expertise,” which does not include climate change, according to a government spokesperson. Journalists sometimes face bullying, too. Environmental author Andrew Nikiforuk told ThinkProgress that “a government of thugs” slandered him and shut him out of events. But environmentalists may fare the worst. Seven environmental nonprofits in Canada have accused the Canada Revenue Agency of unfairly targeting them for audits. According to internal documents obtained by The GuardianCanada’s police and Security Intelligence Service identified nonviolent environmental protestslike people who oppose hydrofracking and the Keystone XL tar sands pipelineas “forms of attack” fitting the “number of cases where we think people might be inclined to acts of terrorism.”

Australia, for its part, has downplayed scientific findings. Abbott, along with his Environment Minister Greg Hunt, have rejected any link between extreme weather and global warming. Abbott, who once called the science of climate change “absolute crap,” said last year that UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres was “talking out of her hat” when saying that rising temperatures were driving more intense and frequent brushfires. “Climate change is real as I have often said and we should take strong action against it but these fires are certainly not a function of climate change,” he argued. Hunt defended his boss, citing Wikipedia as his proof. “I looked up what Wikipedia says for example, just to see what the rest of the world thought, and it opens up with the fact that bushfires in Australia are frequently occurring events during the hotter months of the year. Large areas of land are ravaged every year by bushfires. That’s the Australian experience.” He could have referred to his Department of Environment’s website instead, had it not earlier removed explicit references connecting climate change, heatwaves, and fires.

As the host of the G20 this November, Australia is in an awkward position. Australians have staged protests, while the U.S. and European leaders have pressured Abbott to put climate change on the agenda. He has refused. There’s no room for climate, he says, because the summit is about “economic security” and “the importance of private sector-led growth.”

What’s even more baffling about the rise of climate denial in both countries is that it’s apparently not the popular view in either country. According to the Pew Research Center, the majority of Australians and Canadians say climate change is a major threatas opposed to 40 percent of Americans who say the same.

Of course, the U.S. has reversed itself recently, too. President Barack Obama is making climate change a second-term priority, and has taken steps to cap carbon pollution from power plants. Such initiatives have put the U.S. on track to meet its pledge in Copenhagen in 2009 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020. At the same time, China, which faces internal pressure over air pollution, is looking a lot more serious about slowing down pollution; it will begin a national cap-and-trade program in 2016. Even India is redoubling efforts on clean energy, to meet the power needs of its growing population. Half the world plans to put a price on carbon.

It’s true that neither Canada nor Australia has much responsibility for the amount of heat-trapping gasses in the atmosphere. The United States, China, and India make up a combined 49 percent of the world’s carbon emissions in 2013. Canada and Australia, by comparison, emit 3.5 percent of total carbon emissions combined. But the critical requirement for an international climate change agreementwhich negotiatiors will try to hammer out in Paris next yearis that every country big and small make a commitment to greenhouse gas targets. Fortunately, the negligence of two smaller, industrialized countries won’t be the fatal blow to negotiations in Paris. Still, by ducking their own responsibility, Australia and Canada are ignoring their “global conscience”to borrow a former prime minister’s words.

A decade ago, our close allies due north and across the Pacific rightly shamed us on our poor response to climate change. Now, they’ve lost the moral high ground. At the September United Nations Climate Summit, the largest gathering of world leaders yet on the issue, both Abbott and Harper were no-shows. The ministers sent in their place also arrived empty-handed; Australia’s foreign minister suggested that only larger countries should be responsible for more ambitious climate action. Canada Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq repeated an already-public commitment that Canada would copy Obama’s fuel economy regulations requiring 35.5 miles per gallon. Afterward, in an interview with the Globe and Mail, Aglukkaq spoke of the unfairness of a global treaty. “It’s not up to one country to solve the global greenhouse-gas emissions. I mean, seriously now, it’s just not fair. We all have to do our part, big or small countries.”

That’s true. If only her small country would do its part, too.

Battle between NSF and House science committee escalates: How did it get this bad? (Science)

HOUSE COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE, SPACE & TECHNOLOGY. Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson (D–TX) and Lamar Smith (R–TX)

Four times this past summer, in a spare room on the top floor of the headquarters of the National Science Foundation (NSF) outside of Washington, D.C., two congressional staffers spent hours poring over material relating to 20 research projects that NSF has funded over the past decade. Each folder contained confidential information that included the initial application, reviewer comments on its merit, correspondence between program officers and principal investigators, and any other information that had helped NSF decide to fund the project.

The visits from the staffers, who work for the U.S. House of Representatives committee that oversees NSF, were an unprecedented—and some say bizarre—intrusion into the much admired process that NSF has used for more than 60 years to award research grants. Unlike the experts who have made that system work so well, however, the congressional staffers weren’t really there to judge the scientific merits of each proposal. But that wasn’t their intent.

The Republican aides were looking for anything that Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), their boss as chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, could use to support his ongoing campaign to demonstrate how the $7 billion research agency is “wasting” taxpayer dollars on frivolous or low-priority projects, particularly in the social sciences. The Democratic staffers wanted to make sure that their boss, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D–TX), the panel’s senior Democrat, knew enough about each grant to rebut any criticism that Smith might levy against the research.

The peculiar exercise is part of a long-running and bitter battle that is pitting Smith and many of his panel’s Republican members against Johnson and the panel’s Democrats, NSF’s leadership, and the academic research community. There’s no end in sight: The visits are expected to continue into the fall, because NSF has acceded—after some resistance—to Smith’s request to make available information on an additional 30 awards. (Click here to see a spreadsheet of the requested grants.)

And the feud appears to be escalating. This week, Johnson wrote to Smith accusing him “of go[ing] after specific peer-reviewed grants simply because the Chairman personally does not believe them to be of high value.”  (Click here to see a PDF of Johnson’s letter and related correspondence from Smith and NSF.)

Smith, however, argues he is simply taking seriously Congress’s oversight responsibility. And he promises to stay the course: “Our efforts will continue until NSF agrees to only award grants that are in the national interest,” he wrote in a 2 October e-mail to ScienceInsider.

Ask, answered

How did things get to this point? For the past 18 months, Smith has waged a very public assault on NSF’s storied peer-review system. He’s issued a barrage of press releases that ridicule specific awards, championed legislation that would alter NSF’s peer-review system and slash funding for the social science programs that have supported much of the research he has questioned, and berated NSF officials for providing what he considers to be inadequate explanations of their funding decisions.

NSF has defended itself at congressional hearings, in personal meetings with committee staff and the chair, and with a stream of letters and e-mails. White House officials, university leaders, and Democratic legislators have joined the fray, roundly criticizing Smith for what they see as an attempt to impose his political judgment on a process that draws upon the wisdom of scientific experts. But that nearly universal condemnation hasn’t stopped Smith, who was first elected to Congress in 1986 and last year was named chairman of the science committee.

Smith describes his growing frustration with NSF in a 27 August letter to NSF Director France Córdova. (The committee made this and another letter available to ScienceInsider.) Smith notes that he first asked for materials relating to several grants in the spring of 2013, soon after Cora Marrett became acting NSF director following Subra Suresh’s resignation to become president of Carnegie Mellon University.

But after being rebuffed by Marrett, Smith writes that he “set aside the request … until a permanent NSF director was installed.” Córdova was confirmed by the Senate this past March, and on 7 April Smith wrote her a letter containing a list of 20 grants that he wanted to examine.

Smith’s request created a major dilemma for NSF. On the one hand, Córdova knew that Congress has the authority to obtain information as part of its job to oversee the actions of federal agencies, a right that federal courts have repeatedly upheld. On the other hand, NSF constantly assures scientists that every aspect of the peer-review process will remain confidential. (NSF’s website contains abstracts of projects it has funded, and the public can obtain a copy of a successful application. NSF does not share any information about, or even acknowledge the existence of, proposals that have been rejected.)

Smith wanted the material shipped to his offices on Capitol Hill. But Córdova made a counteroffer that the Texas legislator grudgingly accepted. First, the committee staff could see everything related to the grant except for the names of the reviewers, which would be redacted. Second, the material would remain at NSF headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. Third, the staff could take copious notes, but none of the information could be photocopied or otherwise reproduced.

Judy Gan, head of public and legislators affairs at NSF, says the arrangement “preserves the integrity of the merit review process.” Even so, NSF officials have sent letters to the president of each university with a grant on Smith’s hit list, hoping to reassure them that everything is under control. NSF had no choice but to comply with the committee’s request, the letters explain. But NSF chose to tell each institution about the request “so that you may take appropriate action to inform your principal investigator and other potentially impacted parties about this production of documents.”

In many cases, NSF staffers had already sounded the alarm. Steven Folmar, a cultural anthropologist at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, recalls getting a call from his program manager last month alerting him to the science committee’s pending review of his 2012 grant, titled “Oppression and Mental Health in Nepal.” The 3-year, $160,000 award supported him and two colleagues in a study of how social status affects the mental health of Nepalese adolescents. Folmar has worked on and off in Nepal since 1979, and he says the country’s economic and cultural divisions are so striking that it’s an ideal place to measure the impact of discrimination on those in the lowest caste.

Folmar says that his first reaction after hearing that his grant had been singled out was to hunker down and keep quiet. “I felt like somebody in a war movie, with bullets whizzing over my head.” But after further reflection, he thinks that speaking up may not be such a bad idea.

“I’d tell [Smith] that our work has a great deal of relevance to this country,” he says. Measuring how social inequality can cause depression and anxiety is valuable information for U.S. public health officials, too, he explains, noting that some Nepalese victims display symptoms akin to post-traumatic stress disorder.

The project was a bargain, he adds. The grant covered several months of field work by three senior researchers and their graduate students, he notes, “all for about $50,000 a year. That’s pretty cheap science.”

Parsing the list

The scientific community is scratching its head over how Smith compiled his list of questionable grants. Many have also been flagged by other legislators, notably Senator Tom Coburn (R–OK), who issue annual lists of what they consider to be wasteful government spending. Research grants often appear on such lists. Decades ago, former Senator William Proxmire (D–WI) created what he called the Golden Fleece Awards to poke fun at such supposed boondoggles. In fact, the practice has become so widespread that 3 years ago a coalition of scientific organizations created a counterpoint, called the Golden Goose Awards, which honors federally funded basic research that later turned out to have huge societal benefits.

But Proxmire’s awards were never meant to fundamentally alter NSF’s peer-review system, according to Folmar. “This sounds like Golden Fleece with a much more dangerous twist,” he says.

Smith so far has asked to take a look at 50 grants. (Note: ScienceInsider was able to identify just 47 unique awards.) And the list is hard to characterize. One grant goes back to 2005, and 13 appear to have expired. The total amount of money awarded is about $26 million. The smallest grant, awarded in 2005, is $19,684 for a doctoral dissertation on “culture, change & chronic stress in lowland Bolivia.” The largest, for $5.65 million, is for a project that aims to use innovative education methods to educate Arctic communities about climate change and related issues.

More than half of the grants appear to involve work outside the United States. The largest number—29—were funded through NSF’s social, behavioral, and economic (SBE) sciences directorate. Of those, 21 came from SBE’s behavioral and cognitive sciences division, including a number of grants in archaeology and anthropology. But six of NSF’s seven directorates also funded grants on Smith’s hit list.

What the science committee expects to learn from its investigation is a burning question from scientists. A committee representative declined to answer repeated queries about the criteria used to select the grants. In his written statement to ScienceInsider, Smith said only that “there are many grants that no taxpayer would consider in the national interest, or worthy of how their hard-earned dollars should be spent. … The public deserves an explanation for why the NSF has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on musicals about climate change, bicycle designs, and a video game that allows users to relive prom night.”

Mont Hubbard is the “bicycle designs” grantee on Smith’s intended list of shame. An emeritus professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California, Davis, Hubbard received $300,000 in 2009 to study the feedback system that allows humans to control a vehicle, in this case a bicycle. And Hubbard has a ready answer to Smith’s question about how his research could possibly serve the national interest.

“It’s easy to learn to ride a bicycle, but it’s hard to explain how we do it,” Hubbard says. His broader research into operator control of mechanical systems has applications across many areas, he explains. Substitute “pilot” for “rider” and “airplane” for “bicycle,” he says, and it’s clear that helping humans do a better job of manipulating machines has the potential to greatly improve performance, reduce safety risks, and promote economic growth.

Present stalemate

What’s next? So far, neither side has shown any signs of backing down. In his 27 August letter to Córdova, Smith declares that “the current review work is 5% complete, which implies that this oversight initiative will span at least 12 months.” He accuses her of reneging on a promise to provide the committee with everything it requested and speculates that she “may be banking on a cumbersome, time-consuming federal court process” to back her up. That approach puts NSF “in an indefensible position,” he says, predicting that such tactics will ultimately fail and that NSF will be forced to give in to his demands.

In her reply 2 weeks later, Córdova denies withholding any pertinent information. “To the contrary,” she writes, “NSF has provided the Committee full and complete access to our files for each of the grants of interest.” She disagrees with his assertion that “NSF does not trust the Committee.” But she acknowledges that “we are balancing this access with the need to preserve the trust of the scientific community, whose participation in the merit review process occurs in a confidential environment.”

With such strong rhetoric on both sides, it’s hard to see a quick or quiet ending to this confrontation. Johnson certainly seems prepared to continue defending NSF and, in particular, its funding of the social sciences. “This campaign against NSF’s merit-review system is indefensible absent some compelling explanation of what you are trying to accomplish,” she tells Smith in her 30 September letter. “If your ultimate goal is to cut funding for social and behavioral sciences …I respect your right to try to make that case as Chairman. But please do not compromise the integrity of NSF’s merit review system as part of this campaign.”

WIth reporting by David Shultz.

Correction 3 October, 8:05 a.m.: Steven Folmar studies how social inequality can contribute to, not treat, depression.

Jon Stewart Obliterates Republicans By Highlighting Their Ignorance On Climate Change (Politicus USA)

Tuesday, September, 23rd, 2014, 10:09 am

jon stewart climate changeedited

On Monday night’s episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, host Jon Stewart devoted the first segment of his program to the subject of climate change. He discussed the People’s Climate March that took place in New York City on Sunday,where over 100,000 people took to the streets to bring awareness to the dangers facing our planet due to rapid global warming. Stewart pointed out that, while you would think people around the world are now acutely aware of the existence of climate change and its effects on the environment, this march was necessary because House Republicans continue to deny its existence.

The Daily Show host then directed his attention to a recent hearing by the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, where White House Science Director, John Holdren,spoke in front of the committee to discuss President Obama’s initiative to reduce carbon emissions 30% by the year 2030. Stewart lamented that Holdren had the unenviable task of “pushing a million pounds of idiot up a mountain.”

Below is video of the entire segment, courtesy of Comedy Central.

Stewart highlighted the various Republicans on the committee who peppered Holdren with idiotic questions or flat-out conspiracy theories. Confirmed moron Steve Stockman asked Holdren about global ‘wobbling.’ Stockman wanted to know why it wasn’t included in any climate models when he had read somewhere that it helped contribute to the last major ice age. Holdren patiently pointed out to Stockman that ‘wobbling’ refers to changes in the planet’s tilt and orbit and takes place over tens of thousands of years. It is very slow and has a tiny effect within a time scale of 100 years, which is the normal time frame for climate models.

Of course, the stupid wasn’t just contained to Stockman. A clip was played showing California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a well-known climate skeptic, tossing out a question about the dangers of carbon dioxide Rohrabacher wanted to know at what level does carbon dioxide become dangerous for human beings. When Holdren stated that he always enjoys his interactions with Rohrabacher, Stewart interjected, claiming Holdren meant it in the same way someone enjoys playing peek-a-boo with a baby or teasing a cat with a laser pointer. Stewart then showed Holdren’s response, where Holdren told Rohrabacher that his question was a red herring. As Holdren stated, the focus on CO2 is not about whether or not humans can breathe with increased levels, but if those increased levels trap heat in the atmosphere and rapidly change global temperatures.

However, the worst may have been Indiana Representative Larry Bucshon. The Congressman revealed himself as a full-fledged denier on the tin-foil hat variety during the hearing. He wondered why Holdren wasn’t listening to public comments on global warming. Holdren answered that perhaps Bucshon should read the scientific literature available on the subject instead of public opinion. As exasperated Stewart stated that Bucshon should read a climate science journal instead a teabaggers YouTube comments. Stewart then said Bucshon gave away the game when Bucshon told Holdren that he doesn’t believe scientists because it is their job to do these studies. In his opinion, scientists have a vested interest to create a hoax and therefore he won’t read what they produce.

After pointing out Bucshon’s idiocy, while also revealing that Bucshon’s biggest campaign donors are energy companies, Stewart then turned it back to Stockman to end the segment. He showed Stockman asking about the rise of sea levels and wondering how long it will take. Then, Stockman amazingly insisted that sea levels won’t rise because of displacement, using an example of melting ice cubes in a glass. This finally set Stewart off. Stewart tore apart Stockman’s lack of understanding of grade-school science by bringing out a glass of ice water and a bowl of ice. Stewart then proved the point that displacement only takes into account ice that is already in a body of water. However, if you take ice from elsewhere, say land, and put it in a body of water, that water level will rise.

All in all, this was one of Stewart’s best segments in a while. He tore apart the willful ignorance and Koch-funded denial of the Republican Party when it comes to the issue of climate change. The fact is, Republicans are placing us in great harm by refusing to act at all when it comes to global warming and the devastating effects it is having on our country and planet.

The ‘Wall Street Journal’ Parade of Climate Lies (Huff Post)

Posted: 09/06/2014 8:21 am EDT Updated: 09/07/2014 10:59 pm EDT


That Rupert Murdoch governs over a criminal media empire has been made clear enough in the UK courts in recent years. That the Wall Street Journal op-ed pages, the latest victim of Murdoch’s lawless greed, are little more than naked propaganda is perhaps less appreciated. The Journal runs one absurd op-ed after another purporting to unmask climate change science, but only succeeds in unmasking the crudeness and ignorance of Murdoch’s henchmen. Yesterday’s (September 5) op-edby Matt Ridley is a case in point.

Ridley’s “smoking gun” is a paper last week in Science Magazine by two scientists Xianyao Chen and Ka-Kit Tung, which Ridley somehow believes refutes all previous climate science. Ridley quotes a sentence fragment from the press release suggesting that roughly half of the global warming in the last three decades of the past century (1970-2000) was due to global warming and half to a natural Atlantic Ocean cycle. He then states that “the man-made warming of the past 20 years has been so feeble that a shifting current in one ocean was enough to wipe it out altogether,” and “That to put the icing on the case of good news, Xianyao Chen and Ka-Kit Tung think the Atlantic Ocean may continue to prevent any warming for the next two decades.”

The Wall Street Journal editors don’t give a hoot about the nonsense they publish if it serves their cause of fighting measures to limit human-induced climate change. If they had simply gone online to read the actual paper, they would have found that the paper’s conclusions are the very opposite of Ridley’s.

First, the paper makes perfectly clear that the Earth is warming in line with standard climate science, and that the Earth’s warming is unabated in recent years. In the scientific lingo of the paper (it’s very first line, so Ridley didn’t have far to read!), “Increasing anthropogenic greenhouse-gas-emissions perturb Earth’s radiative equilibrium, leading to a persistent imbalance at the top of the atmosphere (TOA) despite some long-wave radiative adjustment.” In short, we humans are filling the atmosphere with carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel use, and we are warming the planet.

Second, the total warming is distributed between the land and ocean surface on the one hand and the ocean deep water on the other. The total rise of ocean heat content has continued unabated, while the proportion of heat absorbed at the surface and in the deeper ocean varies over time. Again, in the scientific lingo of the paper, “[T]his forced total OHC [ocean heat content] should be increasing monotonically over longer periods even through the current period of slowed warming. In fact, that expectation is verified by observation …”. In other words, the ocean has continued to warm in line with predictions of just such a phenomenon seen in climate models.

Third, it is the “vertical distribution” of the warming, between the surface and deep water, which affects the warming observed on land and at the sea surface. The point of the paper is that the allocation of the warming vertically varies over time, sometimes warming the surface rapidly, other times warming the deeper ocean to a great extent and the surface water less rapidly. According to the paper, the period of the late 20th century was a period in which the surface was warmed relative to the deeper ocean. The period since 2000 is the opposite, with more warming of the deeper ocean. How do the scientists know? They measure the ocean temperature at varying depths with a sophisticated system of “Argo profiling floats,” which periodically dive into the ocean depths to take temperature readings and resurface to transmit them to the data centers.

So, what is Ridley’s “smoking gun” when you strip away his absurd version of the paper? It goes like this. The Earth is continuing to warm just as greenhouse gas theory holds. The warming heats the land and the ocean. The ocean distributes some of the warming to the surface waters and some to the deeper waters, depending on the complex circulation of ocean waters. The shares of warming of the surface and deeper ocean vary over time, in fluctuations that can last a few years or a few decades.

If the surface warming is somewhat less in recent years than in the last part of the 20th century, is that reason for complacency? Hardly. The warming is continuing, and the consequences of our current trajectory will be devastating unless greenhouse gas emissions (mainly carbon dioxide) are stopped during this century. As Chen and Tung conclude in their Science paper, “When the internal variability [of the ocean] that is responsible for the current hiatus [in warming] switches sign, as it inevitably will, another episode of accelerated global warming should ensue.”

Mr. Murdoch, and the Wall Street Journal, can it be any clearer than this?

*   *   *

The Wall Street Journal downplays global warming risks once again (The Guardian)

Monday 22 September 2014 14.00 BST

The periodical follows the Murdoch media pattern of sowing doubt about climate change threats

A photograph of the front page of the edition of the Wall Street Journal reporting on Rupert Murdoch's News Corp purchase of Dow Jones & Co.

A photograph of the front page of the edition of the Wall Street Journal reporting on Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp purchase of Dow Jones & Co. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

As has become the norm for media outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch, just before a half million people participated in the People’s Climate Marcharound the world, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece downplaying the risks and threats posed by human-caused global warming. The editorial was written by Steven Koonin, a respected computational physicist who claims to have engaged in “Detailed technical discussions during the past year with leading climate scientists,” but who is himself not a climate scientist.

Koonin did admit that the climate is changing and humans are largely responsible, and noted,

There is well-justified prudence in accelerating the development of low-emissions technologies and in cost-effective energy-efficiency measures.

This is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, Koonin’s editorial focused almost exclusively on the remaining uncertainties in climate science. Ironically, he stated,

Any serious discussion of the changing climate must begin by acknowledging not only the scientific certainties but also the uncertainties, especially in projecting the future.

But Koonin himself got the certainties wrong. For example, we know that humans are the main cause of the current climate change, responsible for about 100% of the global warming since 1950. However, Koonin’s editorial claimed,

The impact today of human activity appears to be comparable to the intrinsic, natural variability of the climate system itself.

This is simply incorrect. As climate scientist Michael Mann told Climate Science Watch in their thorough response to Koonin’s piece,

The fact is that the actual peer-reviewed scientific research shows that (a) the rate of warming over the past century is unprecedented as far back as the 20,000 years paleoclimate scientists are able to extend the record and (b) that warming can ONLY be explained by human influences.

Indeed, it is the RATE of warming that presents such risk to human civilization and our environment.

Climate scientists Michael Oppenheimer and Kevin Trenberth also took issue with Koonin’s assertion about the impact of human activity, saying,

Warming is well beyond natural climate variability and projected rates of change are potentially faster than ecosystems, farmers and societies can adapt to without major disruptions. Many details remain to be settled, and weather and natural variability will always mask some effects, especially regionally. But economic analysis of these risks supports substantial action beyond “no regrets” strategies. To argue otherwise as Koonin does is to ignore decades of research results.

Koonin primarily focused on the uncertainty in the specific impacts of continued rapid global warming. However, he glossed over the fact that those uncertainties range from generally bad impacts to potentially catastrophic impacts. Even in a best case scenario, climate science research indicates that we anticipate experiencing widespread coral mortality, hundreds of millions of people at risk of increased water stress, more damage from droughts and heat waves and floods, up to 30% of global species at risk for extinction, and declined global food production, for example.

Those are the anticipated impacts if we limit global warming to not much above 2°C warming as compared to pre-industrial levels. Accomplishing that would require intensive efforts to reduce human greenhouse gas emissions, and if we fail, the consequence will be far worse.

The good news is that slowing global warming can be accomplished with minimal economic impact. In fact, economic research consistently shows that reducing greenhouse gas emissions, if done right, is far cheaper than paying for the damages caused by unabated climate change. For example, a revenue-neutral carbon tax could create jobs and grow the economy. Two recent studies by the New Climate Economy Project and the International Monetary Fund likewise found that reducing carbon pollution could grow the economy, as summarized by The Guardian.

As Koonin noted in his piece, risk management is key in determining how to respond to the threats posed by climate change. On the one hand, we have a threat to the entire global climate on which every species on Earth relies, which humans are in the process of destabilizing at a rate more rapid than many species can adapt.

On the other hand, we have concerns about the impacts of climate policy on the economy. However, numerous studies have found that if done right, those policies can grow the economy, and will certainly be cheaper than paying for the damages of unabated climate change.

While uncertainties remain about whether the impacts of climate change will be bad, catastrophic, or somewhere in between, that’s precisely the kind of scenario in which uncertainty is not our friend. When faced with a risk to something so important, humans are usually smart enough to take action to manage that risk. For example, we buy home insurance, we wear seat belts, and fewer people now smoke than in previous generations who were unaware of the associated risks.

The climate contrarian guide to managing risk.  Created by John Cook.
The climate contrarian guide to managing risk. Created by John Cook. Photograph: Skeptical Science

It’s critical to grasp not just that there are uncertainties about the impacts of climate change, but what those uncertainties tell us about the range of potential outcomes. It’s easy to simply say “the impacts are uncertain,” but when those uncertainties range from bad to catastrophic, taking action to mitigate the threat is a no-brainer. Additionally, larger uncertainty means that we can’t rule out the most catastrophic potential impacts, and actually makes the case for taking action stronger, as a study published earlier this year showed.

The bottom line is that while there are and always will be uncertainties in climate science that require further research, it’s already been several decades since we’ve understood climate change well enough to justify taking serious action to solve the problem. The longer we wait, the costlier those actions become, and the worse the impacts of human-caused global warming will be. The hundreds of thousands of people who marched yesterday understand that, but the Murdoch media hasn’t caught up yet.

Global Warming Deniers Are Growing More Desperate by the Day (Moyers & Co.)

August 6, 2014

Fox News aired a report by the Heartland Institute purporting to "debunk" a top climate change report while obscuring the background of the organization, which previously denied the science demonstrating the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke. (Image: Media Matters)

Fox News aired a report by the Heartland Institute purporting to “debunk” a top climate change report while obscuring the background of the organization, which previously denied the dangers of tobacco. (Image: Media Matters)

This post originally appeared at Desmogblog.

The Heartland Institute’s recent International Climate Change Conference in Las Vegas illustrates climate change deniers’ desperate confusion. AsBloomberg News noted, “Heartland’s strategy seemed to be to throw many theories at the wall and see what stuck.” A who’s who of fossil fuel industry supporters and anti-science shills variously argued that global warming is a myth; that it’s happening but natural — a result of the sun or “Pacific Decadal Oscillation”; that it’s happening but we shouldn’t worry about it; or that global cooling is the real problem.

The only common thread, Bloomberg reported, was the preponderance of attacks on and jokes about Al Gore: “It rarely took more than a minute or two before one punctuated the swirl of opaque and occasionally conflicting scientific theories.”

Personal attacks are common among deniers. Their lies are continually debunked, leaving them with no rational challenge to overwhelming scientific evidence that the world is warming and that humans are largely responsible. Comments under my columns about global warming include endless repetition of falsehoods like “there’s been no warming for 18 years,” “it’s the sun,” and references to “communist misanthropes,” “libtard warmers,” and worse…

Far worse. Katharine Hayhoe, director of Texas Tech’s Climate Science Center and an evangelical Christian, had her email inbox flooded with hate mail and threats after conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh denounced her, and right-wing blogger Mark Morano published her email address. “I got an email the other day so obscene I had to file a police report,” Hayhoe said in an interview on the Responding to Climate Change website. “They mentioned my child. It had all kinds of sexual perversions in it — it just makes your skin crawl.”

One email chastised her for taking “a man’s job” and called for her public execution, finishing with, “If you have a child, then women in the future will be even more leery of lying to get ahead, when they see your baby crying next to the basket next to the guillotine.”

Many attacks came from fellow Christians unable to accept that humans can affect “God’s creation.” That’s a belief held even by a few well-known scientists and others held up as climate experts, including Roy Spencer, David Legates and Canadian economist Ross McKitrick. They’ve signed the Cornwall Alliance’s Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming, which says, “We believe Earth and its ecosystems — created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence — are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception.” This worldview predetermines their approach to the science.

Lest you think nasty, irrational comments are exclusively from fringe elements, remember the gathering place for most deniers, the Heartland Institute, has compared those who accept the evidence for human-caused climate change to terrorists. Similar language was used to describe the US Environmental Protection Agency in a full-page ad in USA Today and Politico from the Environmental Policy Alliance, a front group set up by the PR firm Berman and Company, which has attacked environmentalists, labor-rights advocates, health organizations — even Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Humane Society — on behalf of funders and clients including Monsanto, Wendy’s and tobacco giant Phillip Morris. The terrorism meme was later picked up by Pennsylvania Republican congressman Mike Kelly.

David Suzuki: The War on Climate Scientists


Fortunately, most people don’t buy irrational attempts to disavow science. A Forum Research poll found 81 percent of Canadians accept the reality of global warming, and 58 per cent agree it’s mostly human-caused. An Ipsos MORI poll found that, although the US has a higher number of climate change deniers than 20 countries surveyed, 54 per cent of Americans believe in human-caused climate change. (Research also shows climate change denial is most prevalent in English-speaking countries, especially in areas “served” by media outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch, who rejects climate science.)

It’s time to shift attention from those who sow doubt and confusion, either out of ignorance or misanthropic greed, to those who want to address a real, serious problem. The BBC has the right idea, instructing its reporters to improve accuracy by giving less air time to people with anti-science views, including climate change deniers.

Solutions exist, but every delay makes them more difficult and costly.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

The views expressed in this post are the author’s alone, and presented here to offer a variety of perspectives to our readers.

David Suzuki, co-Founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster.

Survey confirms scientific consensus on human-caused global warming (Skeptical Science)

Posted on 11 August 2014 by Bart Verheggen

This is a repost from Bart Verheggen’s blog.

  • A survey among more than 1800 climate scientists confirms that there iswidespread agreement that global warming is predominantly caused by humangreenhouse gases.
  • This consensus strengthens with increased expertise, as defined by the number of self-reported articles in the peer-reviewed literature.
  • The main attribution statement in IPCC AR4 may lead to an underestimate of thegreenhouse gas contribution to warming, because it implicitly includes the lesser known masking effect of cooling aerosols.
  • Self-reported media exposure is higher for those who are skeptical of a significant human influence on climate.

In 2012, while temporarily based at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), my colleagues and I conducted a detailed survey about climate science. More than 1800 international scientists studying various aspects of climate change, including e.g.climate physics, climate impacts and mitigation, responded to the questionnaire. The main results of the survey have now been published in Environmental Science and Technology(doi: 10.1021/es501998e).

Level of consensus regarding attribution

The answers to the survey showed a wide variety of opinions, but it was clear that a large majority of climate scientists agree that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are the dominant cause of global warming. Consistent with other research, we found that the consensus is strongest for scientists with more relevant expertise and for scientists with more peer-reviewed publications. 90% of respondents with more than 10 climate-related peer-reviewed publications (about half of all respondents), agreed that anthropogenicgreenhouse gases (GHG) are the dominant driver of recent global warming. This is based on two different questions, of which one was phrased in similar terms as the quintessentialattribution statement in IPCC AR4 (stating that more than half of the observed warming since the 1950s is very likely caused by GHG).

Verheggen et al - Figure 1 - GHG contribution to global warming

Literature analyses (e.g. Cook et al., 2013; Oreskes et al., 2004) generally find a stronger consensus than opinion surveys such as ours. This is related to the stronger consensus among highly published – and arguably the most expert – climate scientists. The strength of literature surveys lies in the fact that they sample the prime locus of scientific evidence and thus they provide the most direct measure of the consilience of evidence. On the other hand, opinion surveys such as ours can achieve much more specificity about what exactly is agreed upon and where the disagreement lies. As such, these two methods for quantifying scientific consensus are complementary. Our questions possibly set a higher bar for what’s considered the consensus position than some other studies. Furthermore, contrarian viewpoints were likely overrepresented in our study compared with others.

No matter how you slice it, scientists overwhelmingly agree that recent global warming is to a great extent human caused.


Consensus results - from Fig 3 Verheggen et al

The concept of ‘consensus’ has been discussed a lot lately. Whereas the presence of widespread agreement is obviously not proof of a theory being correct, it can’t be dismissed as irrelevant either: As the evidence accumulates and keeps pointing in the same general direction, the experts’ opinion will converge to reflect that, i.e. a consensus emerges. A theory either rises to the level of consensus or it is abandoned, though it may take considerable time for the scientific community to accept a theory, and even longer for the public at large.

Greenhouse warming versus aerosol cooling

By phrasing Question 1 analogously to the well-known attribution statement of AR4 we found something peculiar: Respondents who were more aware of the cooling effect ofaerosols in greater numbers assessed the greenhouse gas contribution to recent warming to be larger than the observed warming (consistent with the IPCC assessments). We concluded that the AR4 attribution statement may lead people to underestimate the isolated greenhouse gas contribution. The comparable AR5 statement is an improvement in this respect.

Media exposure

Respondents were also asked about the frequency of being featured in the media regarding their views on climate change. Respondents who thought climate sensitivity was low (less than 1.75 degrees C per doubling of CO2) reported the most frequent media coverage. Likewise, those who thought greenhouse gases had only made an insignificant contribution to observed warming reported the most frequent media coverage. This shows that contrarian opinions are amplified in the media in relation to their prevalence in the scientific community. This is related to what is sometime referred to as “false balance” in media reporting and may partly explain the divergence between public and scientific opinion regarding climate change (the so-called “consensus gap”).

Verheggen et al - Figure S13c - media exposure vs ECS estimate

Survey respondents

Respondents were selected based on a few criteria: Having authored articles with the key words ‘global warming’ and/or ‘global climate change’, covering the 1991–2011 period via the Web of Science. This is the same database used by Cook et al in their recent ERL study (PS: John Cook is co-author on this current study as well). Respondents were also selected based on inclusion in the climate scientist database assembled by Jim Prall, as well as by surveying the recent climate science literature. Prall’s database includes signatories of public statements disapproving of mainstream climate science. They were included in our survey to ensure that the main criticisms of climate science would be included. This last group amounts to less than 5% of the total number of respondents, about half of whom only published in the gray literature on climate change.

Survey questions

Detailed questions were posed about a variety of physical climate science issues, which are discussed in the public debate about climate change. Answer options reflected a variety of viewpoints, all of which were phrased as specific and neutral as possible. Before executing the survey, questions and answers (pdf) were reviewed by physical and social scientists and climate change public commentators with a wide range of opinions (see acknowledgements for a list of names), to minimize the chance of bias.

Comments on the survey by respondents varied: some said it was slanted towards the ‘alarmist’ side (“Obviously these questions were posed by warmists”), but more respondents commented that they thought it was slanted towards the ‘skeptical’ side (“I suspect this survey comes from the denial lobby”).


Reference: Bart Verheggen, Bart Strengers, John Cook, Rob van Dorland, Kees Vringer, Jeroen Peters, Hans Visser, and Leo Meyer, Scientists’ Views about Attribution of Global Warming, Environmental Science and Technology, 2014. DOI:10.1021/es501998e. Supporting Information available here. The article  is open access.

An FAQ for this article is here.

Harvard historian: strategy of climate science denial groups ‘extremely successful’ (The Guardian)

Professor Naomi Oreskes says actions of climate denialists are laying the foundations for the government interventions they fear the most

Thursday 24 July 2014 23.12 BST

Naomi Oreskes, Harvard University Professor of the History of Science

Naomi Oreskes, Harvard University Professor of the History of Science. Photograph: Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Public Affairs & Communications

In 1965, US President Lyndon Johnson had a special message for the American Congress on conservation of the environment.

Worried about the “storm of modern change” threatening cherished landscapes, Johnson said: “This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through… a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.”

The same quote appears at the beginning of the 2010 book Merchants of Doubt: How A Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming by science historians Erik Conway and Professor Naomi Oreskes.

Plainly the line – almost half a century old now – was picked to show just how long the impacts of fossil fuel burning have been known in the corridors of the highest powers.

The book explained the efforts since the 1960s of vested interests and ideologues to underplay the risks of pumping ever-increasing volumes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

One of the most startling revealing aspects of the book was how some of the same institutions and individuals who held out against a wave of scientific warnings about the health impacts of tobacco smoke became integral to efforts to block any meaningful policy response to greenhouse gas emissions.

Oreskes is a Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University and she has a new book out, again co-written with Conway.

The Collapse of Western Civilisation: A view from the future is written from the perspective of a historian living in the year 2393 and looking back at what went horribly wrong in the lead up to the “Great Collapse”.

Here’s my Q&A with Oreskes.

Q: Merchants of Doubt looked at the role of think tanks, vested interests and free market ideologies in attacking the science linking fossil fuel burning to climate change, smoking to cancer, pollution to acid rain and CFCs to the ozone hole. Four years later, has anything changed?

Not really. There are some new faces on the horizon, but recruiting “fresh voices” has been a tactic for a long time. So even the things that may look new are in fact old. The Heartland Institute has become more visible, and the George Marshall Institute a bit less, but the overall picture continues: these groups continue to dismiss or disparage the science, attack scientists, and sow doubt.

They continue to try to block action by confusing us about the facts. And the arguments, the tactics, and the overall strategy has remained the same. And, they’ve been extremely successful. CO2 has reached 400 ppm, meaningful action is still not in sight, and people who really understand the science—understand what is at stake—are getting very worried.

Q: How did you move from being a geologist working in Australia for the Western Mining Corporation to being a scholar of the history of science?

Oh this is a long story. I was always interested in broad questions about science. History of science gave me the opportunity to pursue those broad questions.

 VIDEO: Naomi Oreskes discusses the background to the 2010 Merchants of Doubt

Q: You were filmed for an ABC documentary that pitched a climate change “advocate” against a “sceptic”. You met Australian politician and climate science sceptic Nick Minchin – the key political kingmaker who engineered the leadership challenge that gave the now Prime Minister Tony Abbott the Liberal leadership. What were your impressions of Minchin?

Well, I think he is a basically nice guy who has fallen into a trap: the trap of imprecatory denial. He doesn’t like the implications of climate change for our political and economic system, so he denies its reality. But climate change will come back to bite us all. It is already starting to.

VIDEO: Naomi Oreskes meets former Australian politician and climate sceptic Nick Minchin. Clip from ABC documentary “I Can Change Your Mind About Climate” Produced by Smith&Nasht.

Q: So you worked in Australia as a geologist, toured here to promote Merchants of Doubt and had an academic role at the University of Western Australia, so you’ve seen a bit of how things have played out. How do you think Australia has been influenced by organised climate science denial?

Clearly. One sees all the same strategies and tactics being used there, plus a few additional ones (trotting out geologists to claim there are hidden underwater volcanoes that are responsible for the extra atmospheric CO2.) The Institute of Public Affairs in Australia has been very active trotting out skeptical and denialist claims with little or no basis in evidence. If you go to their web site, they link back to many of the very same groups whose activities we documented in Merchants of Doubt : the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, Competitive Enterprise institute, the Heritage Foundation.

It’s the same old, same old: defend the free market, deny the reality of market failure, block action that could actually address those failures. And of course, that is the point of the new book: by denying the reality of market failure, and blocking corrective action, these folks are actually undermining our economies, and laying the foundations for kinds of government interventions that will make them pine for the good old days of a carbon tax.

Q: Oh yes the new book – The Collapse of Western Civilisation: A view from the future. You’ve written it from the point of view of a historian writing about the “Period of the Penumbra (1988–2093) that led to the Great Collapse and Mass Migration (2073–2093)”. It doesn’t sound like there are too many laughs?

Not unless we are talking about black humour. Our editor, when he first approached us, said he found it funny in a Dr Strangelovian way. I took that as a huge compliment.

Q: Dr Strangelove – a character that apparently borrowed parts from the real life Edward Teller, the so-called “father” of the H-bomb. Your new book borrows much from real life events and modern science too doesn’t it (it’s a clunky segue, but I’m sticking with it)?

Yes of course. A good deal of the power of that film came from the fact that while it was farce, it was all too true in some ways—or at least, all too plausible. It was conceivable that the world would end not in deliberate, calculated aggression, but in stupidity, mistakes, and men and machines run amok.

Kubrick understood that. Fortunately, we escaped disaster in the Cold War, because enough people realized what was at stake. Erik and I have often discussed that, in this case—climate change—a lot of people, folks like Nick Minchin included—don’t seem to realize what is at stake.

They’ve dismissed the science. They’ve pooh-poohed the mounting evidence that disruptive climate change is already underway. They’ve assumed scientists were over-reacting, and that all environmentalists are watermelons. And that bodes poorly for our future. Because the longer we wait, the more plausible our “collapse” scenario, with its unhappy implications for western democracies, becomes.

Q: But what is it that you think drives the denial industry? How much of it is just pure self-interest? Is it fear of socialism – a kind of post-Cold War paranoia that you identified in Merchants of Doubt? Or is it ideological fervour like the kind you’ve witnessed amongst American Tea Baggers?

I think it’s a complicated mix. Certainly, there are some very cynical individuals and groups who are protecting their own self-interest, with little or no regard to the consequences for others.

There are also those who have bought into the watermelon argument—that environmentalists are green on the outside, red on the inside—and that climate change is just an excuse to bring in socialism by another name.

Then there are also many people who I think believe, or have persuaded themselves, that climate change is just another fad, exaggerated by scientists who just want more money for their research, or environmentalists who over-react to small threats or are unrealistic about where their bread is buttered.

Finally there is the power of rationalization—people whose bread really is buttered by the fossil fuel industry, or people who are heavily invested in the industry in one way or another, and just don’t want to accept that there is a fundamental problem.

Q: Is that a big issue – do you think? That the nuances of the science aren’t that widely understood and so it’s an easy job to confuse people about it?

Yes I think so. That’s one reason why these disinformation campaigns have been so successful. It’s always easy to find some aspect of the science that is uncertain, or confusing, and focus on that to the exclusion of the larger picture

Q: It sounds like an almost intractable situation. Is there something you think should have happened, that didn’t, that might have helped to combat that misinformation?

Well, it certainly would have helped if political leaders had not repeated that disinformation!

Q: What would you do about it?

What I am doing: writing and talking about it, so we can accurately diagnose the problem. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t know what it is.

Q: Researching denial and organised misinformation has been your thing for about a decade now. So what’s next?

A book about the solutions? How not to go down the road to collapse?

VIDEO: Naomi Oreskes in a 2014 TEDTalk explaining why people should trust science – just not for the reasons most people think.

Geoengineering the Earth’s climate sends policy debate down a curious rabbit hole (The Guardian)

Many of the world’s major scientific establishments are discussing the concept of modifying the Earth’s climate to offset global warming

Monday 4 August 2014

Many leading scientific institutions are now looking at proposed ways to engineer the planet's climate to offset the impacts of global warming.

Many leading scientific institutions are now looking at proposed ways to engineer the planet’s climate to offset the impacts of global warming. Photograph: NASA/REUTERS

There’s a bit in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland where things get “curiouser and curiouser” as the heroine tries to reach a garden at the end of a rat-hole sized corridor that she’s just way too big for.

She drinks a potion and eats a cake with no real clue what the consequences might be. She grows to nine feet tall, shrinks to ten inches high and cries literal floods of frustrated tears.

I spent a couple of days at a symposium in Sydney last week that looked at the moral and ethical issues around the concept of geoengineering the Earth’s climate as a “response” to global warming.

No metaphor is ever quite perfect (climate impacts are no ‘wonderland’), but Alice’s curious experiences down the rabbit hole seem to fit the idea of medicating the globe out of a possible catastrophe.

And yes, the fact that in some quarters geoengineering is now on the table shows how the debate over climate change policy is itself becoming “curiouser and curiouser” still.

It’s tempting too to dismiss ideas like pumping sulphate particles into the atmosphere or making clouds whiter as some sort of surrealist science fiction.

But beyond the curiosity lies actions being countenanced and discussed by some of the world’s leading scientific institutions.

What is geoengineering?

Geoengineering – also known as climate engineering or climate modification – comes in as many flavours as might have been on offer at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

Professor Jim Falk, of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute at the University of Melbourne, has a list of more than 40 different techniques that have been suggested.

They generally take two approaches.

Carbon Dioxide Reduction (CDR) is pretty self explanatory. Think tree planting, algae farming, increasing the carbon in soils, fertilising the oceans or capturing emissions from power stations. Anything that cuts the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Solar Radiation Management (SRM) techniques are concepts to try and reduce the amount of solar energy reaching the earth. Think pumping sulphate particles into the atmosphere (this mimics major volcanic eruptions that have a cooling effect on the planet), trying to whiten clouds or more benign ideas like painting roofs white.

Geoengineering on the table

In 2008 an Australian Government–backed research group issued a report on the state-of-play of ocean fertilisation, recording there had been 12 experiments carried out of various kinds with limited to zero evidence of “success”.

This priming of the “biological pump” as its known, promotes the growth of organisms (phytoplankton) that store carbon and then sink to the bottom of the ocean.

The report raised the prospect that larger scale experiments could interfere with the oceanic food chain, create oxygen-depleted “dead zones” (no fish folks), impact on corals and plants and various other unknowns.

The Royal Society – the world’s oldest scientific institution – released a report in 2009, also reviewing various geoengineering technologies.

In 2011, Australian scientists gathered at a geoengineering symposium organised by the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

The London Protocol – a maritime convention relating to dumping at sea – was amended last year to try and regulate attempts at “ocean fertilisation” – where substances, usually iron, are dumped into the ocean to artificially raise the uptake of carbon dioxide.

The latest major United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also addressed the geoengineering issue in several chapters of its latest report. The IPCC summarised geoengineering this way.

CDR methods have biogeochemical and technological limitations to their potential on a global scale. There is insufficient knowledge to quantify how much CO2 emissions could be partially offset by CDR on a century timescale. Modelling indicates that SRM methods, if realizable, have the potential to substantially offset a global temperature rise, but they would also modify the global water cycle, and would not reduce ocean acidification. If SRM were terminated for any reason, there is high confidence that global surface temperatures would rise very rapidly to values consistent with the greenhouse gas forcing. CDR and SRM methods carry side effects and long-term consequences on a global scale.

Towards the end of this year, the US National Academy of Sciences will be publishing a major report on the “technical feasibility” of some geoengineering techniques.

Fighting Fire With Fire

The symposium in Sydney was co-hosted by the University of New South Wales and the Sydney Environment Institute at the University of Sydney (for full disclosure here, they paid my travel costs and one night stay).

Dr Matthew Kearnes, one of the organisers of the workshop from UNSW, told me there was “nervousness among many people about even thinking or talking about geoengineering.” He said:

I would not want to dismiss that nervousness, but this is an agenda that’s now out there and it seems to be gathering steam and credibility in some elite establishments.

Internationally geoengineering tends to be framed pretty narrowly as just a case of technical feasibility, cost and efficacy. Could it be done? What would it cost? How quickly would it work?

We wanted to get a way from the arguments about the pros and cons and instead think much more carefully about what this tells us about the climate change debate more generally.

The symposium covered a range of frankly exhausting philosophical, social and political considerations – each of them jumbo-sized cans full of worms ready to open.

Professor Stephen Gardiner, of the University of Washington, Seattle, pushed for the wider community to think about the ethical and moral consequences of geoengineering. He drew a parallel between the way, he said, that current fossil fuel combustion takes benefits now at the expense of impacts on future generations. Geoengineering risked making the same mistake.

Clive Hamilton’s book Earthmasters notes “in practice any realistic assessment of how the world works must conclude that geoengineering research is virtually certain to reduce incentives to pursue emission reductions”.

Odd advocates

Curiouser still, is that some of the world’s think tanks who shout the loudest that human-caused climate change might not even be a thing, or at least a thing not worth worrying about, are happy to countenance geoengineering as a solution to the problem they think is overblown.

For example, in January this year the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a US-based think tank founded by Danish political scientist Bjorn Lomborg, issued a submission to an Australian Senate inquiry looking at overseas aid and development.

Lomborg’s center has for many years argued that cutting greenhouse gas emissions is too expensive and that action on climate change should have a low-priority compared to other issues around the world.

Lomborg himself says human-caused climate change will not turn into an economic negative until near the end of this century.

Yet Lomborg’s submission told the Australian Senate suggested that every dollar spent on “investigat[ing] the feasibility of planetary cooling through geoengineering technologies” could yield “$1000 of benefits” although this, Lomborg wrote, was a “rough estimate”.

But these investigations, Lomborg submitted, “would serve to better understand risks, costs, and benefits, but also act as an important potential insurance against global warming”.

Engineering another excuse

Several academics I’ve spoken with have voiced fears that the idea of unproven and potentially disastrous geoengineering technologies being an option to shield societies from the impacts of climate change could be used to distract policy makers and the public from addressing the core of the climate change issue – that is, curbing emissions in the first place.

But if the idea of some future nation, or group of nations, or even corporations, some embarking on a major project to modify the Earth’s climate systems leaves you feeling like you’ve fallen down a surreal rabbit hole, then perhaps we should also ask ourselves this.

Since the year 1750, the world has added something in the region of 1,339,000,000,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (that’s 1.34 trillion tonnes) to the atmosphere from fossil fuel and cement production.

Raising the level of CO2 in the atmosphere by 40 per cent could be seen as accidental geoengineering.

Time to crawl out of the rabbit hole?

The Pricing of Everything (The Guardian)

The Natural Capital Agenda looks like an answer to the environmental crisis. But it’s a delusion.

By George Monbiot, published on the Guardian’s website, 24th July 2014

This is the transcript of George Monbiot’s SPERI Annual Lecture, hosted by the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Sheffield. The lecture was delivered without notes, and transcribed afterwards, so a few small changes have been made for readability, but it’s more or less as given. You can watch the video here.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are witnessing the death of both the theory and the practice of neoliberal capitalism. This is the doctrine which holds that the market can resolve almost all social, economic and political problems. It holds that people are best served, and their prosperity is best advanced, by the minimum of intervention and spending by the state. It contends that we can maximise the general social interest through the pursuit of self-interest.

To illustrate the spectacular crashing and burning of that doctrine, let me tell you the sad tale of a man called Matt Ridley. He was a columnist on the Daily Telegraph until he became – and I think this tells us something about the meritocratic pretensions of neoliberalism – the hereditary Chair of Northern Rock: a building society that became a bank. His father had been Chair of Northern Rock before him, which appears to have been his sole qualification.

While he was a columnist on the Telegraph he wrote the following:

The government “is a self-seeking flea on the backs of the more productive people of this world. … governments do not run countries, they parasitize them.”(1) He argued that taxes, bail-outs, regulations, subsidies, interventions of any kind are an unwarranted restraint on market freedom. When he became Chairman of Northern Rock, Mr Ridley was able to put some of these ideas into practice. You can see the results today on your bank statements.

In 2007 Matt Ridley had to go cap in hand to the self-seeking flea and beg it for what became £27 billion. This was rapidly followed by the first run on a British bank since 1878. The government had to guarantee all the deposits of the investors in the bank. Eventually it had to nationalise the bank, being the kind of parasitic self-seeking flea that it is, in order to prevent more or less the complete collapse of the banking system(2).

By comparison to Mr Ridley, the likes of Paul Flowers, our poor old crystal Methodist, were pretty half-hearted. In fact about the only things which distinguish Mr Flowers from the rest of the banking fraternity were that a) he allegedly bought his own cocaine and b) he singularly failed to bring the entire banking system to its knees.

Where’s Mr Ridley now? Oh, we don’t call him Mr Ridley any more. He sits in the House of Lords as a Conservative peer. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how our system works.

It is not just that neoliberalism has failed spectacularly in that this creed – which was supposed to prevent state spending and persuade us that we didn’t need state spending – has required the greatest and most wasteful state spending in history to bail out the deregulated banks. But also that it has singularly failed to create the great society of innovators and entrepreneurs that we were promised by the originators of this doctrine, by people like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, who insisted that it would create a society of entrepreneurs.

As Thomas Piketty, a name which is on everybody’s lips at the moment, so adeptly demonstrates in his new book, Capital in the Twenty-first Century, what has happened over the past thirty years or so has been a great resurgence of patrimonial capitalism, of a rentier economy, in which you make far more money either by owning capital or by positioning yourself as a true self-serving flea upon the backs of productive people, a member of an executive class whose rewards are out of all kilter with its performance or the value it delivers(3). You make far more money in either of those positions than you possibly can through entrepreneurial activity. If wealth under this system were the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.

So just at this moment, this perfect moment of the total moral and ideological collapse of the neoliberal capitalist system, some environmentalists stumble across it and say, “This is the answer to saving the natural world.” And they devise a series of ideas and theories and mechanisms which are supposed to do what we’ve been unable to do by other means: to protect the world from the despoilation and degradation which have done it so much harm.

I’m talking about the development of what could be called the Natural Capital Agenda: the pricing, valuation, monetisation, financialisation of nature in the name of saving it.

Sorry, did I say nature? We don’t call it that any more. It is now called natural capital. Ecological processes are called ecosystem services because, of course, they exist only to serve us. Hills, forests, rivers: these are terribly out-dated terms. They are now called green infrastructure. Biodiversity and habitats? Not at all à la mode my dear. We now call them asset classes in an ecosystems market. I am not making any of this up. These are the names we now give to the natural world.

Those who support this agenda say, “Look, we are failing spectacularly to protect the natural world – and we are failing because people aren’t valuing it enough. Companies will create a road scheme or a supermarket – or a motorway service station in an ancient woodland on the edge of Sheffield – and they see the value of what is going to be destroyed as effectively zero. They weigh that against the money to be made from the development with which they want to replace it. So if we were to price the natural world, and to point out that it is really worth something because it delivers ecosystems services to us in the form of green infrastructure and asset classes within an ecosystems market (i.e. water, air, soil, pollination and the rest of it), then perhaps we will be able to persuade people who are otherwise unpersuadable that this is really worth preserving.”

They also point out that through this agenda you can raise a lot of money, which isn’t otherwise available for conservation projects. These are plausible and respectable arguments. But I think they are the road to ruin – to an even greater ruin than we have at the moment.

Let me try to explain why with an escalating series of arguments. I say escalating because they rise in significance, starting with the relatively trivial and becoming more serious as we go.

Perhaps the most trivial argument against the Natural Capital Agenda is that, in the majority of cases, efforts to price the natural world are complete and utter gobbledygook. And the reason why they are complete and utter gobbledygook is that they are dealing with values which are non-commensurable.

They are trying to compare things which cannot be directly compared. The result is the kind of nonsense to be found in the Natural Capital Committee’s latest report, published a couple of weeks ago(4). The Natural Capital Committee was set up by this Government, supposedly in pursuit of better means of protecting the natural world.

It claimed, for example, that if fresh water ecosystems in this country were better protected, the additional aesthetic value arising from that protection would be £700 million. That’s the aesthetic value: in other words, what it looks like. We will value the increment in what it looks like at £700 million. It said that if grassland and sites of special scientific interest were better protected, their wildlife value would increase by £40 million. The value of their wildlife – like the chalk hill blues and the dog violets that live on protected grasslands – would be enhanced by £40 million.

These figures, ladies and gentlemen, are marmalade. They are finely shredded, boiled to a pulp, heavily sweetened … and still indigestible. In other words they are total gibberish.

But they are not the worst I’ve come across. Under the last Government, the Department for Transport claimed to have discovered “the real value of time.” Let me read you the surreal sentence in which this bombshell was dropped. “Forecast growth in the real value of time is shown in Table 3.”(5) There it was, the real value of time – rising on a graph.

The Department for Environment, when it launched the National Ecosystem Assessment in 2011, came out with something equally interesting. It said it had established “the true value of nature for the very first time”(6). Unfortunately it wasn’t yet able to give us a figure for “the true value of nature”, but it did manage to provide figures for particular components of that value of nature. Let me give you just one of these. It said that if we looked after our parks and greens well they would enhance our well-being to the tune of £290 per household per year in 2060.

What does it mean? It maintained that the increment in well-being is composed of “recreation, health and solace”; natural spaces in which “our culture finds its roots and sense of place”; “shared social value” arising from developing “a sense of purpose” and being “able to achieve important personal goals and participate in society” enhanced by “supportive personal relationships” and “strong and inclusive communities”(7). So you put solace and sense of place and social value and personal goals and supportive personal relationships and strong and inclusive communities all together into one figure and you come out with £290 per household per year.

All we require now is for the Cabinet Office to give us a price for love and a true value for society and we will have a single figure for the meaning of life.

I know what you’re thinking: it’s 42(8). But Deep Thought failed to anticipate the advent of Strictly Come Dancing, which has depreciated the will to live to the extent that it’s now been downgraded to 41.

It is complete rubbish, and surely anyone can see it’s complete rubbish. Not only is it complete rubbish, it is unimprovable rubbish. It’s just not possible to have meaningful figures for benefits which cannot in any sensible way be measured in financial terms.

Now there are some things that you can do. They are pretty limited, but there are some genuinely commensurable pay-offs that can be assessed. So, for instance, a friend of mine asked me the other day, “What’s the most lucrative investment a land owner can make?”. I didn’t know. “An osprey! Look at Bassenthwaite in the Lake District where there’s a pair of ospreys breeding and the owners of the land have 300,000 people visiting them every year. They charge them for car parking and they probably make a million pounds a year.”

You can look at that and compare it to what you were doing before, such as rearing sheep, which is only viable because of farm subsidies: you actually lose money by keeping sheep on the land. So you can make a direct comparison because you’ve got two land uses which are both generating revenue (or losing revenue) that is already directly costed in pounds. I’ve got no problem with that. You can come out and say there is a powerful economic argument for having ospreys rather than sheep.

There are a few others I can think of. You can, for instance, look at watersheds. There is an insurance company which costed Pumlumon, the highest mountain in the Cambrian mountains, and worked out that it would be cheaper to buy Pumlumon and reforest it in order to slow down the flow of water into the lowlands than to keep paying out every year for carpets in Gloucester.

There were quite a few assumptions in there, as we don’t yet have all the hydrological data we need, but in principle you can unearth some directly commensurable values – the cost of insurance pay-outs, in pounds, versus the cost of buying the land, in pounds – and produce a rough ballpark comparison. But in the majority of cases you are not looking at anything remotely resembling financial commensurability.

So that is Problem One, and that is the most trivial of the problems.

Problem Two is that you are effectively pushing the natural world even further into the system that is eating it alive. Dieter Helm, the Chairman of the Natural Capital Committee, said the following in the same report I quoted from just a moment ago. “The environment is part of the economy and needs to be properly integrated into it so that growth opportunities will not be missed.”(9)

There, ladies and gentlemen, you have what seems to me the Government’s real agenda. This is not to protect the natural world from the depredations of the economy. It is to harness the natural world to the economic growth that has been destroying it. All the things which have been so damaging to the living planet are now being sold to us as its salvation; commodification, economic growth, financialisation, abstraction. Now, we are told, these devastating processes will protect it.

(Sorry, did I say the living planet? I keep getting confused about this. I meant asset classes within an ecosystem market.)

It gets worse still when you look at the way in which this is being done. Look at the government’s Ecosystems Markets Task Force, which was another of these exotic vehicles for chopping up nature and turning it into money. From the beginning it was pushing nature towards financialisation. It talked of “harnessing City financial expertise to assess the ways that these blended revenue streams and securitisations enhance the return on investment of an environmental bond.”(10) That gives you an idea of what the agenda is – as well as the amount of gobbledygook it is already generating.

What we are talking about is giving the natural world to the City of London, the financial centre, to look after. What could possibly go wrong? Here we have a sector whose wealth is built on the creation of debt. That’s how it works, on stacking up future liabilities. Shafting the future in order to serve the present: that is the model. And then that debt is sliced up into collateralised debt obligations and all the other marvellous devices that worked so well last time round.

Now nature is to be captured and placed in the care of the financial sector, as that quote suggests. In order for the City to extract any value from it, the same Task Force says we need to “unbundle” ecosystem services so they can be individually traded(11).

That’s the only way in which it can work – this financialisation and securitisation and bond issuing and everything else they are talking about. Nature has to be unbundled. If there is one thing we know about ecosystems, and we know it more the more we discover about them, it’s that you cannot safely disaggregate their functions without destroying the whole thing. Ecosystems function as coherent holistic systems, in which the different elements depend upon each other. The moment you start to unbundle them and to trade them separately you create a formula for disaster.

Problem Three involves what appears to be a very rude word, because hardly anyone uses it, certainly not in polite society. It begins with a ‘p’ and it’s five letters long and most people seem unable to utter it. It is, of course, power.

Power is the issue which seems to get left out of the Natural Capital Agenda. And because it gets left out, because it it is, I think, deliberately overlooked, what we are effectively seeing is the invocation of money as a kind of fairy dust, that you sprinkle over all the unresolved problems of power in the hope that they will magically resolve themselves. But because they are unresolved, because they are unaddressed, because they aren’t even acknowledged; the natural capital agenda cannot possibly work.

Let me give you an example of a system which doesn’t work because of this problem, despite high commensurability, simple and straightforward outputs and a simple and straightforward monitoring system. That is the European Emissions Trading System, which seeks to reduce carbon emissions by creating a carbon price.

I am not inherently opposed to it. I can see it is potentially as good a mechanism as any other for trying gradually to decarbonise society. But it has failed. An effective price for carbon begins at about £30 a ton. That is the point at which you begin to see serious industrial change and the disinvestment in fossil fuels we so desperately need to see.

Almost throughout the history of the European Emissions Trading System, the price of carbon has hovered around five Euros. That is where it is today. The reason is an old-fashioned one. The heavily polluting industries, the carbon-intensive industries, which were being asked to change their practices, lobbied the European Union to ensure that they received an over-allocation of carbon permits. Far too many permits were issued. When the European Parliament started talking about withdrawing some of those permits, it too was lobbied and it caved in and failed to withdraw them. So the price has stayed very low.

What we see here is the age-old problem of power. Governments and the Commission are failing to assert political will. They are failing to stand up for themselves and say, “This is how the market is going to function. It is not going to function without a dirigiste and interventionist approach.” Without that dirigiste and interventionist approach we end up with something which is almost entirely useless. In fact worse than useless because I don’t think there has been a single coal-burning power station, motorway or airport in the European Union approved since the ETS came along, which has not been justified with reference to the market created by the trading system.

You haven’t changed anything by sprinkling money over the problem, you have merely called it something new. You have called it a market as opposed to a political system. But you still need the regulatory involvement of the state to make that market work. Because we persuade ourselves that we don’t need it any more because we have a shiny new market mechanism, we end up fudging the issue of power and not addressing those underlying problems.

Let me give you another example: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity project, overseen by Pavan Sukhdev from Deutsche Bank. This huge exercise came up with plenty of figures, most of which I see as nonsense. But one or two appeared to be more more plausible. Among the most famous of these was its valuation of mangrove forests. It maintained that if a businessman or businesswoman cuts down a mangrove forest and replaces it with a shrimp farm, that will be worth around $1,200 per hectare per year to that person. If we leave the mangrove forest standing, because it protects the communities who live on the coastline and because it is a wonderful breeding ground for fish and crustaceans, it will be worth $12,000 per hectare per year(12). So when people see the figures they will conclude that it makes sense to save the mangrove forests, and hey presto, we have solved the problem. My left foot!

People have known for centuries the tremendous benefits that mangrove forests deliver. But has that protected them from being turned into shrimp farms or beach resorts? No, it hasn’t. And the reason it hasn’t is that it might be worth $12,000 to the local impoverished community of fisher folk, but if it’s worth $1,200 to a powerful local politician who wants to turn it into shrimp farms, that counts for far more. Putting a price on the forest doesn’t in any way change that relationship.

You do not solve the problem this way. You do not solve the problem without confronting power. But what we are doing here is reinforcing power, is strengthening the power of the people with the money, the power of the economic system as a whole against the power of nature.

Let me give you one or two examples of that. Let’s start on the outskirts of Sheffield with Smithy Wood. This is an ancient woodland, which eight hundred years ago was recorded as providing charcoal for the monks who were making iron there. It is an important part of Sheffield’s history and culture. It is full of stories and a sense of place and a sense of being able to lose yourself in something different. Someone wants to turn centre of Smithy Wood into a motorway service station(13).

This might have been unthinkable until recently. But it is thinkable now because the government is introducing something called biodiversity offsets. If you trash a piece of land here you can replace its value by creating some habitat elsewhere. This is another outcome of the idea that nature is fungible and tradeable, that it can be turned into something else: swapped either for money or for another place, which is said to have similar value.

What they’ve said is, “We’re going to plant 60,000 saplings, with rabbit guards around them, in some other place, and this will make up for trashing Smithy Wood.” It seems to me unlikely that anyone would have proposed trashing this ancient woodland to build a service station in the middle of it, were it not for the possibility of biodiversity offsets. Something the Government has tried to sell to us as protecting nature greatly threatens nature.

Let me give you another example. Say we decide that we’re going to value nature in terms of pounds or dollars or euros and that this is going to be our primary metric for deciding what should be saved and what should not be saved. This, we are told, is an empowering tool to protect the natural world from destruction and degradation. Well you go to the public enquiry and you find that, miraculously, while the wood you are trying to save has been valued at £x, the road, which they want to build through the wood, has been valued at £x+1. And let me tell you, it will always be valued at £x+1 because cost benefit analyses for such issues are always rigged.

The barrister will then be able to say, “Well there you are, it is x+1 for the road and x for the wood. End of argument.” All those knotty issues to do with values and love and desire and wonder and delight and enchantment, all the issues which are actually at the centre of democratic politics, are suddenly ruled out. They are outside the box, they are outside the envelope of discussion, they no longer count. We’ve been totally disempowered by that process.

So that was Problem Three. But the real problem, and this comes to the nub of the argument for me, is over the issues which I will describe as values and framing. Am I allowed to mention Sheffield Hallam? Too late. In response to an article I wrote that was vaguely about this issue last week, Professor Lynn Crowe from Sheffield Hallam University wrote what I thought was a very thoughtful piece(14). She asked this question: “How else can we address the challenge of convincing those who do not share the same values as ourselves of our case?”.

In other words, we are trying to make a case to people who just don’t care about the natural world. How do we convince them, when they don’t share those values, to change their minds? To me the answer is simple. We don’t.

We never have and we never will. That is not how politics works. Picture a situation where Ed Miliband stands up in the House of Commons and makes such a persuasive speech that David Cameron says, “You know, you’ve completely won me over. I’m crossing the floor and joining the Labour benches.”

That’s not how it works. That is not how politics has ever proceeded, except in one or two extremely rare cases. You do not win your opponents over. What you do to be effective in politics is first, to empower and mobilise people on your own side and secondly, to win over the undecided people in the middle. You are not going to win over the hard core of your opponents who are fiercely opposed to your values.

This is the horrendous mistake that New Labour here and the Democratic Party in the United States have made. “We’ve got to win the next election so we’ve got to appease people who don’t share our values, so we’re going to become like them. Instead of trying to assert our own values, we are going to go over to them and say, ‘Look, we’re not really red; we’re not scary at all. We are actually conservatives.’” That was Tony Blair’s message. That was Bill Clinton’s message. That, I’m afraid, is Barack Obama’s message.

Triangulation possibly won elections – though in 1997 a bucket on a stick would have won – but it greatly eroded the Labour vote across the intervening years. We’ve ended up with a situation where there are effectively no political alternatives to the neoliberalism being advanced by the coalition government. In which the opposition is, in almost every case, failing to oppose. It is in this position because it has progressively neutralised itself by trying to appease people who do not share its values.

As George Lakoff, the cognitive linguist who has done so much to explain why progressive parties keep losing the elections that they should win and keep losing support even in the midst of a multiple crisis caused by their political opponents, points out, you can never win by adopting the values of your opponents(15).

You have to leave them where they are and project your own values to people who might be persuaded to come over to your side. That is what conservatives have done on both sides of the Atlantic. They have been extremely good at it, especially in the United States, where they have basically crossed their arms and said, “We’re over here and we don’t give a damn about where you are. We don’t care about what you stand for, you hippies on the Left. This is what we stand for and we are going to project it, project it, project it, until the electoral arithmetic our stance creates means that you have to come to us.”

So what we’ve got there is a Democratic Party that is indistinguishable from where the Republicans were ten years ago. It has gone so far to the right that it has lost its core values. I think you could say the same about the Labour Party in this country.

This, in effect, is what we are being asked to do through the natural capital agenda. We are saying “because our opponents don’t share our values and they are the people wrecking the environment, we have to go over to them and insist that we’re really in their camp. All we care about is money. We don’t really care about nature for its own sake. We don’t really believe in any of this intrinsic stuff. We don’t believe in wonder and delight and enchantment. We just want to show that it’s going to make money.”

In doing so, we destroy our own moral authority and legitimacy. In a recent interview George Lakoff singled out what he considered to be the perfect example of the utter incompetence of progressives hoping to defend the issues they care about. What was it? The Natural Capital Agenda(16).

As Lakoff has pointed out, these people are trying to do the right thing but they are completely failing to apply a frames analysis. A frame is a mental structure through which you understand an issue. Instead of framing the issue with our own values and describing and projecting our values – which is the only thing in the medium- to long-term that ever works – we are abandoning them and adopting instead the values of the people who are wrecking the environment. How could there be any long-term outcome other than more destruction?

There’s another way of looking at this, which says the same thing in a different ways. All of us are somewhere along a spectrum between intrinsic values and extrinsic values. Extrinsic values are about reputation and image and money. They’re about driving down the street in your Ferrari and showing it to everyone. They are about requiring other people’s approbation for your own sense of well-being.

Intrinsic values are about being more comfortable with yourself and who you are. About being embedded in your family, your community, among your friends, and not needing to display to other people in order to demonstrate to yourself that you are worth something(17).

Research in seventy countries produces remarkably consistent results: these values are highly clustered(18). So, for instance, people who greatly value financial success tend to have much lower empathy than those with a strong sense of intrinsic values. They have much less concern about the natural world, they have a stronger attraction towards hierarchy and authority. These associations are very strongly clustered.

But we are not born with these values. They are mostly the product of our social and political environment. What the research also shows is that if you change that environment, people’s values shift en masse with that change. For instance, if you have a good, functioning public health system where no one is left untreated, that embeds and imbues among the population a strong set of intrinsic values. The subliminal message is “I live in a society where everyone is looked after. That must be a good thing because that is the society I live in.” You absorb and internalise those values.

If on the other hand you live in a devil-take-the-hindmost society where people, as they do in the United States, die of treatable conditions because they cannot afford medical care, that will reinforce extrinsic values and push you further towards that end of the spectrum. The more that spectrum shifts, the more people’s values shift with it.

People on the right understand this very well. Mrs Thatcher famously said, “Economics are the method; the object is to change the heart and soul.”(19) She understood the political need to change people’s values – something the left has seldom grasped.

If we surrender to the financial agenda and say, “This market-led neoliberalism thing is the way forward,” then we shift social values. Environmentalists are among the last lines of defence against the gradual societal shift towards extrinsic values. If we don’t stand up and say, “We do not share those values, our values are intrinsic values. We care about people. We care about the natural world. We are embedded in our communities and the people around us and we want to protect them, not just ourselves. We are not going to be selfish. This isn’t about money”, who else is going to do it?

So you say to me, “Well what do we do instead? You produce these arguments against trying to save nature by pricing it, by financialisation, by monetisation. What do you do instead?”

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it is no mystery. It is the same answer that it has always been. The same answer that it always will be. The one thing we just cannot be bothered to get off our bottoms to do, which is the only thing that works. Mobilisation.

It is the only thing that has worked, the only thing that can work. Everything else is a fudge and a substitute and an excuse for not doing that thing that works. And that applies to attempts to monetise and financialise nature as much as it does to all the other issues we are failing to tackle. Thank you.”


1. Matt Ridley, 22nd July 1996. Power to the people: we can’t do any worse than government. The Daily Telegraph.














15. George Lakoff, 2004. Don’t think of an elephant!: know your values and frame the debate. Chelsea Green, White River Junction, VT, USA.





Angry White Men and Aggrieved Entitlement (The Society Pages)

by John ZieglerNov 18, 2013, at 09:00 am

From Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his controversial raids on and detentions of immigrants to Rush Limbaugh and his rhetoric about “feminazis,” some white men, those sociologist Michael Kimmelterms “angry white men,” are resisting perceived challenges against their masculinity and historical experiences of privilege.

In his new book Angry White Men, Kimmel has interviewed white men across the country to gauge their feelings about their socioeconomic status in a sluggish and globalizing economy as well as the legal and social advances made by women, people of color, GLBT individuals, and others. Kimmel has coined the term “aggrieved entitlement” to describe these men’s defensiveness and aggravation that both “their” country and sense of self are being taken away from them. Kimmel writes in the Huffington Post,

Raised to believe that this was ‘their’ country, simply by being born white and male, they were entitled to a good job by which they could support a family as sole breadwinners, and to deference at home from adoring wives and obedient children…Theirs is a fight to restore, to reclaim more than just what they feel entitled to socially or economically – it’s also to restore their sense of manhood, to reclaim that sense of dominance and power to which they also feel entitled.


Cool dudes: The denial of climate change among conservative white males in the United States

Global Environmental Change

Volume 21, Issue 4, October 2011, Pages 1163–1172



We examine whether conservative white males are more likely than are other adults in the U.S. general public to endorse climate change denial. We draw theoretical and analytical guidance from the identity-protective cognition thesis explaining the white male effect and from recent political psychology scholarship documenting the heightened system-justification tendencies of political conservatives. We utilize public opinion data from ten Gallup surveys from 2001 to 2010, focusing specifically on five indicators of climate change denial. We find that conservative white males are significantly more likely than are other Americans to endorse denialist views on all five items, and that these differences are even greater for those conservative white males who self-report understanding global warming very well. Furthermore, the results of our multivariate logistic regression models reveal that the conservative white male effect remains significant when controlling for the direct effects of political ideology, race, and gender as well as the effects of nine control variables. We thus conclude that the unique views of conservative white males contribute significantly to the high level of climate change denial in the United States.

The real costs of public protest (

[Note from blog editor: this article shows new sophisticated PR strategies in the attempt to manipulate local communities and public opinion]

Public Strategy Group | June 26, 2014

A May 2014 joint report from the University of Queensland Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining and the Harvard Kennedy School confirms the real costs of public opposition to development.

Researchers analysed over fifty mining, oil and gas projects in India, Chile, Peru, Australia and Argentina to examine and total the costs of public opposition to their businesses. The results were staggering but not unexpected from industries often faced with costly cancellations and delays caused by public objection.

“There is a popular misconception that local communities are powerless in the face of large corporations and governments,” according to key study contributor Dr. Daniel Franks.

Franks asserts that this sentiment is false and concludes that the study’s findings “show that community mobilization can be very effective at raising the costs to companies.”

The study points out that project delays resulted in the most frequent source of costs to companies, with approximately $20 million per week wasted for mining projects valued between $3 billion and $5 billion.

However, project suspensions caused the most overall economic damage. One example the study referenced is a gold and copper mine established in Peru by the Newmont Mining Corporation. The mine, known as the Conga project, aimed to extract 350,000 ounces of gold and 120 million pounds of copper from Peru’s Cajamarca region annually.

But after some initial investments in the $5 billion project were made, local residents grew increasingly concerned that the mine could have negative effects on water quality in the area. Citizens’ concerns eventually lead to a series of protests that escalated into violence and a government order to halt all work at the mine. Two years later, the mine remains closed, leaving Newmont with a $2 billion loss on the investment.

Switching to an industry-wide perspective, in 2012 Swiss financial firm Credit Suisse found “environmental, social and governance risks” across the Australian mining, oil and gas sector to be worth $8 billion.

According Dr. Frank, this level of risk could be negated if companies focus more on investment in risk mitigation at the outset of projects rather than acting retroactively. Franks argues that companies should focus on “meaningful” dialogue at the outset of a project and that this attempt to reach out “is something that the best practice companies are doing at the moment, and something that the International Council for Mining and Metals argues that companies should be doing.”

Contributor Rachel Davis of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative notes that “it is much harder for a company to repair its relationship with a local community after it has broken down; relationships cannot be ‘retro-fitted.’”

What is the best course of action for companies going forward then? While there may not be one perfect formula, companies can start by taking a few important steps to formulate a strategy that minimizes public opposition.

Starting early

Strive to create an open environment for dialogue. Even if opposition appears limited, it only takes a few angry voices to change the atmosphere into one of intimidation and disapproval. Local residents may want a development to succeed, but not at the cost of angering their neighbors. Therefore, the moment a project is internally approved, project managers must have an infrastructure for communication ready, both on the ground and in cyberspace. This way, rapid communication to build an advocacy network can take place by the time opposition starts. Receptive citizens will then have the resources necessary to receive information and voice approval.

Reaching out

Those with new mining proposals must engage residents as their new neighbors by creating a dialogue and allowing residents to develop a sense of familiarity with the company coming to town. Successful projects inform and educate the community using a variety of communication vehicles, including phone calls, direct mailing, press conferences and releases, and open house information sessions. People are invested in their communities; they want to be informed and to know the assets and drawbacks a project will bring. If developers neglect to inform them, opposition groups will.

Furthermore, some locals may have very legitimate concerns that require in-depth answers. It is paramount that these concerns are answered in plain and direct language from the company itself. Rather than ignoring a citizen’s complaint, engage the resident even if a solution is not immediately feasible.

Keeping in touch

Companies must also build a database of supporters and call upon them.

Supporters want the success of the development, and they will help if asked. Let both advocates and the community know about the status of a project – where it is doing well and where it needs help. A few supportive voices at a town meeting will make a significant difference.

Additionally, social media cannot be neglected. Creative content that can be shared easily is an important digital dialogue facilitator.

Staunch opposition will never tire out in its public outreach, and neither can those putting forth the proposal.

Turning local support into legislative support

Finally, supporters must be made aware that success at the local level can be overturned at the state level.

Teach supporters how to engage most effectively with their local and state elected officials through the platforms upon which officials most frequently engage.

Make sure that every mining project is accompanied by a grassroots advocacy campaign that will keep the project popular both with locals and state governments. Politicians will be much more likely to stand behind the industry if it is backed by voting constituents.

With a strong local and legislative advocacy network built by an active grassroots campaign, mining projects will reduce the risk of project delays that can cost millions.

“Rollin’ Coal” Is Pollution Porn for Dudes With Pickup Trucks (Vocativ)

Diesel drivers in rural America have been modifying their trucks to spew out black soot, then posting pics to the Internet. They hate you and your Prius


Posted: 06/16/14 08:51 EDT

In small towns across America, manly men are customizing their jacked-up diesel trucks to intentionally emit giant plumes of toxic smoke every time they rev their engines. They call it “rollin’ coal,” and it’s something they do for fun.

An entire subculture has emerged on the Internet surrounding this soot-spewing pastime—where self-declared rednecks gather on Facebook pages (16,000 collective followers) Tumblers and Instagram (156,714 posts) to share photos and videos of their Dodge Rams and GM Silverados purposefully poisoning the sky. As one of their memes reads: “Roll, roll, rollin’ coal, let the hybrid see. A big black cloud. Exhaust that’s loud. Watch the city boy flee.”


Of course, there are things about diesel lovers and their trucks that the rest of us weren’t meant to understand. Like how the guttural noise of a grumbling engine sounds like music when the muffler is removed. Or how the higher the lift and the bigger the tires—the better the man. As Robbie, a 25-year-old mechanic at a diesel garage in South Carolina, puts it, “Your truck is not just something to get you from point A to point B. It’s who you are.” In other words, mushrooming clouds of diesel exhaust are just another way to show off your manhood.

Robbie has been rollin’ coal since he got his first truck 12 years ago, but he admits the allure is “kind of hard to put words on.” “It’s just fun,” he says. “Just driving and blowing smoke and having a good time.”

Rollin Coal 05

The pollution pageantry has its origins in Truck Pulls, a rural motorsport where diesel pickups challenge one another to see who can pull a weighted sled the farthest. In order to have an edge, drivers started modifying their trucks to dump excessive fuel into the motor, which gave them more horsepower, torque, speed and a better chance of winning. It also made their trucks emit black smoke, an affectation that apparently won the hearts of country boys everywhere. Today kids will spend anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 modifying their pickups for this sole purpose; adding smoke stacks and smoke switches (which trick the engine into thinking it needs more gas), or even revamping the entire fuel system.

Rollin Coal 02
A Dodge doing its part.
Rollin Coal 03

Aside from being macho, the rollin’ coal culture is also a renegade one. Kids make a point of blowing smoke back at pedestrians, in addition to cop cars and rice burners (Japanese-made sedans), which can make it dangerously difficult to see out of the windshield. Diesel soot can also be a great road rage weapon should some wimpy looking Honda Civic ever piss you off. “If someone makes you mad, you can just roll coal, and it makes you feel better sometimes,” says Ryan, a high school senior who works at the diesel garage with Robbie. “The other day I did it to this kid who was driving a Mustang with his windows down, and it was awesome.”

The ultimate highway enemy, however, are “nature nuffies,” or people who drive hybrid cars, because apparently, pro-earth sentiment is an offense to the diesel-trucking lifestyle. “The feeling around here is that everyone who drives a small car is a liberal,” says Ryan. “I rolled coal on a Prius once just because they were tailing me.”

Rollin Coal 04

According to the Clean Air Taskforce, diesel exhaust is one of the country’s greatest sources of toxic pollutants and leads to 21,000 premature deaths each year, but even that won’t deter the coal rollers. “I’m not a scientist, but it couldn’t be too horrible,” Robbie says. “There are a lot of factories that are doing way worse than my truck.”

It should be said that not all diesel drivers roll coal. Older enthusiasts call it a waste of fuel and think it gives their kind a bad name, but like a tobacco habit, the younger set are willing to overlook the risks. “It’s bad for the environment. That’s definitely true,” says Ryan. “And some of the kids that have diesel trucks can look like tools. And you can cause a wreck, but everything else about it is pretty good.”

Eric Eyges contributed Deep Web reporting to this article.

Até onde isso vai? “Deputados Ruralistas promovem debate sobre revogação da Convenção 169 da OIT” (Combate Racismo Ambiental)

Por , 01/06/2014 09:00

Foto: Claudia Andujar: Índio e a bandeira na Constituinte

Ação ruralista pretende retirar direitos já conquistados por quilombolas, indígenas e povos tradicionais. 

Terra de Direitos

Na próxima terça-feira, 3 de junho, a Comissão de Agricultura, Pecuária, Abastecimento e Desenvolvimento Rural da Câmara dos Deputados realizará audiência pública para debater sobre a revogação do Brasil à subscrição da Convenção 169 da Organização Internacional do Trabalho (OIT).

A Audiência pública foi requerida por Paulo Cezar Quartiero, Deputado Federal (DEM) ruralista denunciado pelo Ministério Público Federal por crimes cometidos contra indígenas em Roraima, principalmente durante o processo de desocupação da Reserva Indígena Raposa Serra do Sol, em 2008. Neste período Quartiero chegou a ser preso acusado de posse ilegal de artefato explosivo e formação de quadrilha. O deputado reponde ou já respondeu por pelo menos seis ações penais na Justiça Federal.

Foram convidados para a audiência pública Celso Luiz Nunes Amorim, Ministro de Estado da Defesa, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado, ministro de Estado das Relações Exteriores, General Maynard Marques de Santa Rosa, Oficial da Reserva das Forças Armadas, Lorenzo Carrasco, e o antropólogo Edward Mantoanelli Luz.

A Convenção 169 da OIT é uma conquista internacional dos povos indígenas e demais comunidades tradicionais cujas condições sociais, culturais e econômicas apresentam significativas diferenças quanto a outros setores da coletividade nacional. Vigente no Brasil desde 2004, quando foi aprovada pelo Congresso Nacional, a convenção garante a indígenas, quilombolas e povos tradicionais importantes direitos, como o direito à terra, à saúde, educação, a condições dignas de emprego e o direito fundamental de serem consultados sempre que sejam previstas medidas legislativas ou administrativas suscetíveis de afetá-los diretamente.

Para Fernando Prioste, advogado popular e o coordenador da Terra de Direitos, a iniciativa ruralista é um claro ataque a indígenas, quilombolas e povos tradicionais que lutam pela efetivação de direitos. “Muitos dos direitos previstos na convenção já estão assegurados em outras normas, inclusive na Constituição Federal. Contudo, existem direitos específicos que podem sofrer grandes retrocessos, como o direito de Consulta Livre, Prévia e Informada, além do direito à terra para povos e comunidades tradicionais”.

O advogado aponta que o princípio da proibição do não retrocesso social é um dos principais fundamentos contra a revogação da Convenção 169 da OIT no Brasil, já que os direitos assegurados por esse instrumento normativo são essenciais para a sobrevivência digna de indígenas, quilombolas e povos tradicionais. “Se de um lado o Governo Federal não tem atuado para assegurar a realização de direitos dos povos do campo e da floresta, por outro os ruralistas tentam derrubar as poucas leis que reconhecem direitos”.

Investida ruralista

A iniciativa ruralista faz parte de um pacote de medidas com o objetivo de retirar direitos fundamentais dos povos do campo e da floresta. Entre as tentativas de retrocesso está a Proposta de Emenda à Constituição – PEC 215, que visa transferir a competência da União na demarcação das terras indígenas para o Congresso Nacional, possibilitar a revisão das terras já demarcadas e mudar critérios e procedimentos para a demarcação destas áreas.

Também afetando diretamente os povos indígenas, a Portaria 303 da Advocacia Geral da União (AGU) quer restringir os direitos constitucionais dos índios e afronta tratados internacionais com a Convenção 169 da OIT, especialmente no que diz respeito à Consulta Prévia, Livre e Informada, e a Convenção Internacional sobre a Eliminação de Todas as Formas de Discriminação Racial.

As comunidades quilombos têm seu direito à terra questionada pela Ação Direta de Inconstitucionalidade (ADI) 3239, ajuizada pelo partido Democratas (DEM) em 2004, contra o Decreto Federal 4887/03, que trata da titulação de territórios quilombolas. A ADI teve o primeiro julgamento no Supremo Tribunal Federal-STF em 2012, quando o Ministro Relator Cesar Peluso votou pela inconstitucionalidade. Outros dez ministros do Supremo Tribunal Federal ainda deverão votar, por isso não é possível afirmar a posição do STF acerca do tema. Em dezembro de 2014 o Tribunal Regional Federal da 4ª Região (TRF4) decidiu pela constitucionalidade do Decreto.

POLL: Tea Party Members Really, Really Don’t Trust Scientists (Mother Jones)

The “science gap” between traditional Republicans and tea partiers is huge in a new survey of New Hampshire residents.


Tue May 20, 2014 10:46 AM EDT

Kevin Y

It’s one of the biggest trends in US politics over the last decade: A growing left-right split over the validity of scientific information. This “science gap” is apparent most of all on the issue of climate change, but the problem is much broader, encompassing topics ranging from evolution to the safety and effectiveness of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

Yet even those of us who know how politicized science has become may be surprised by some new polling data out of the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. There, survey researcher Lawrence Hamilton has run a new analysis of 568 New Hampshire residents, asking them a variety of questions including the following: “Would you say that you trust, don’t trust, or are unsure about scientists as a source of information about environmental issues?” Hamilton then broke down the responses by party, separating out members of the tea party from more mainstream Republicans. And look at the result:

Lawrence Hamilton, 2014.

This is pretty striking: The first three political groups—Democrats, independents, and non-tea party Republicans—all trust scientists on the environment. But then you come to tea party members, and suddenly, distrust in scientists soars. The numbers are stark: 60 percent of traditional Republicans trust scientists on the environment, versus only 28 percent of tea partiers.

Hamilton says he’s surprised by the strength of these results. “I didn’t realize it would be at the level of division that it was,” says Hamilton. He adds that while Republicans and tea partiers in New Hampshire aren’t precisely the same in all respects as they are elsewhere in America, “in general, New Hampshire is not drastically unrepresentative.” When it comes to tea partiers and more traditional Republicans on the national level, Hamilton says that he “would expect similar gaps to show up.”

So what’s going on with this plummeting trust in scientists on the ideological right? The main factor, Hamilton thinks, is that the highly polarized climate issue is leading climate deniers to break up with scientists in general. “Climate change is sort of bleeding over into a lower trust in science across a range of issues,” says Hamilton. That means the consequences are not limited to the climate issue. “The critiques of climate science work by often arguing that science is corrupt, and then that spills over to other kinds of science,” Hamilton observes.Prior research has found that watching Fox News, in particular, leads to a declining trust in climate scientists.

The new data on trust in science comprise just one part of Hamilton’s new report. The study also looked at partisan gaps on a number of other scientific issues, and compared the size of those gaps with those that exist on non-scientific issues. And again, the result was pretty surprising: In New Hampshire, there is a bigger partisan divide over climate change and whether environmental scientists are trustworthy than there is over abortion and the death penalty. Note that in this analysis, unlike in the earlier figure, Republican responses include both those of traditional Republicans and those of tea partiers. It is the latter who are driving much of the partisan gap on issues like trust in science:

Lawrence Hamilton, 2014

Last week, we got some of the scariest news about global warming yet: We may have already helped set in motion an irreversible destabilization of the West Antarctic ice sheet, thus locking in 10 or more feet of sea level rise over the coming centuries. It’s the kind of news that ought to serve as a wake up call for all Americans, causing them to stop and say: Enough. We’ve got to do something here.

But as these data make clear, when it comes to science, there’s no such thing as “all Americans” any more. There are highly polarized camps, divided over the very validity of the information.

Crazy Climate Economics (New York Times)

MAY 11, 2014

Paul Krugman

Everywhere you look these days, you see Marxism on the rise. Well, O.K., maybe you don’t — but conservatives do. If you so much as mention income inequality, you’ll be denounced as the second coming of Joseph Stalin; Rick Santorum has declared that any use of the word “class” is “Marxism talk.” In the right’s eyes, sinister motives lurk everywhere — for example, George Will says the only reason progressives favor trains is their goal of “diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.”

So it goes without saying that Obamacare, based on ideas originally developed at the Heritage Foundation, is a Marxist scheme — why, requiring that people purchase insurance is practically the same as sending them to gulags.

And just wait until the Environmental Protection Agency announces rules intended to slow the pace of climate change.

Until now, the right’s climate craziness has mainly been focused on attacking the science. And it has been quite a spectacle: At this point almost all card-carrying conservatives endorse the view that climate change is a gigantic hoax, that thousands of research papers showing a warming planet — 97 percent of the literature — are the product of a vast international conspiracy. But as the Obama administration moves toward actually doing something based on that science, crazy climate economics will come into its own.

You can already get a taste of what’s coming in the dissenting opinions from a recent Supreme Court ruling on power-plant pollution. A majority of the justices agreed that the E.P.A. has the right to regulate smog from coal-fired power plants, which drifts across state lines. But Justice Scalia didn’t just dissent; he suggested that the E.P.A.’s proposed rule — which would tie the size of required smog reductions to cost — reflected the Marxist concept of “from each according to his ability.” Taking cost into consideration is Marxist? Who knew?

And you can just imagine what will happen when the E.P.A., buoyed by the smog ruling, moves on to regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

What do I mean by crazy climate economics?

First, we’ll see any effort to limit pollution denounced as a tyrannical act. Pollution wasn’t always a deeply partisan issue: Economists in the George W. Bush administration wrote paeans to “market based” pollution controls, and in 2008 John McCain made proposals for cap-and-trade limits on greenhouse gases part of his presidential campaign. But when House Democrats actually passed a cap-and-trade bill in 2009, it was attacked as, you guessed it, Marxist. And these days Republicans come out in force to oppose even the most obviously needed regulations, like the plan to reduce the pollution that’s killing Chesapeake Bay.

Second, we’ll see claims that any effort to limit emissions will have what Senator Marco Rubio is already calling “a devastating impact on our economy.”

Why is this crazy? Normally, conservatives extol the magic of markets and the adaptability of the private sector, which is supposedly able to transcend with ease any constraints posed by, say, limited supplies of natural resources. But as soon as anyone proposes adding a few limits to reflect environmental issues — such as a cap on carbon emissions — those all-capable corporations supposedly lose any ability to cope with change.

Now, the rules the E.P.A. is likely to impose won’t give the private sector as much flexibility as it would have had in dealing with an economywide carbon cap or emissions tax. But Republicans have only themselves to blame: Their scorched-earth opposition to any kind of climate policy has left executive action by the White House as the only route forward.

Furthermore, it turns out that focusing climate policy on coal-fired power plants isn’t bad as a first step. Such plants aren’t the only source of greenhouse gas emissions, but they’re a large part of the problem — and the best estimates we have of the path forward suggest that reducing power-plant emissions will be a large part of any solution.

What about the argument that unilateral U.S. action won’t work, because China is the real problem? It’s true that we’re no longer No. 1 in greenhouse gases — but we’re still a strong No. 2. Furthermore, U.S. action on climate is a necessary first step toward a broader international agreement, which will surely include sanctions on countries that don’t participate.

So the coming firestorm over new power-plant regulations won’t be a genuine debate — just as there isn’t a genuine debate about climate science. Instead, the airwaves will be filled with conspiracy theories and wild claims about costs, all of which should be ignored. Climate policy may finally be getting somewhere; let’s not let crazy climate economics get in the way.

Loss Adjustment (

March 31, 2014

When people say we should adapt to climate change, do they have any idea what that means?

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 1st April 2014

To understand what is happening to the living planet, the great conservationist Aldo Leopold remarked, is to live “in a world of wounds … An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”(1)

The metaphor suggests that he might have seen Henrik Ibsen’s play An Enemy of the People(2). Thomas Stockmann is a doctor in a small Norwegian town, and medical officer at the public baths whose construction has been overseen by his brother, the mayor. The baths, the mayor boasts, “will become the focus of our municipal life! … Houses and landed property are rising in value every day.”

But Dr Stockmann discovers that the pipes were built in the wrong place, and the water feeding the baths is contaminated. “The source is poisoned …We are making our living by retailing filth and corruption! The whole of our flourishing municipal life derives its sustenance from a lie!” People bathing in the water to improve their health are instead falling ill.

Dr Stockmann expects to be treated as a hero for exposing this deadly threat. After the mayor discovers that re-laying the pipes would cost a fortune and probably sink the whole project, he decides that his brother’s report “has not convinced me that the condition of the water at the baths is as bad as you represent it to be.” He proposes to ignore the problem, make some cosmetic adjustments and carry on as before. After all, “the matter in hand is not simply a scientific one. It is a complicated matter, and has its economic as well as its technical side.” The local paper, the baths committee and the business people side with the mayor against the doctor’s “unreliable and exaggerated accounts”.

Astonished and enraged, Dr Stockmann lashes out madly at everyone. He attacks the town as a nest of imbeciles, and finds himself, in turn, denounced as an enemy of the people. His windows are broken, his clothes are torn, he’s evicted and ruined.

Yesterday’s editorial in the Daily Telegraph, which was by no means the worst of the recent commentary on this issue, follows the first three acts of the play(3). Marking the new assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the paper sides with the mayor. First it suggests that the panel cannot be trusted, partly because its accounts are unreliable and exaggerated and partly because it uses “model-driven assumptions” to forecast future trends. (What would the Telegraph prefer? Tea leaves? Entrails?). Then it suggests that trying to stop manmade climate change would be too expensive. Then it proposes making some cosmetic adjustments and carrying on as before. (“Perhaps instead of continued doom-mongering, however, greater thought needs to be given to how mankind might adapt to the climatic realities.”)

But at least the Telegraph accepted that the issue deserved some prominence. On the Daily Mail’s website, climate breakdown was scarcely a footnote to the real issues of the day: “Kim Kardashian looks more confident than ever as she shows off her toned curves” and “Little George is the spitting image of Kate”.

Beneath these indispensable reports was a story celebrating the discovery of “vast deposits of coal lying under the North Sea, which could provide enough energy to power Britain for centuries.”(4) No connection with the release of the new climate report was made. Like royal babies, Kim’s curves and Ibsen’s municipal baths, coal is good for business. Global warming, like Dr Stockmann’s contaminants, is the spectre at the feast.

Everywhere we’re told that it’s easier to adapt to global warming than to stop causing it. This suggests that it’s not only the Stern review on the economics of climate change (showing that it’s much cheaper to avert climate breakdown than to try to live with it(5)) that has been forgotten, but also the floods which have so recently abated. If a small, rich, well-organised nation cannot protect its people from a winter of exceptional rainfall – which might have been caused by less than one degree of global warming – what hope do other nations have, when faced with four degrees or more?

When our environment secretary, Owen Paterson, assures us that climate change “is something we can adapt to over time”(6) or Simon Jenkins, in the Guardian yesterday, says that we should move towards “thinking intelligently about how the world should adapt to what is already happening”(7), what do they envisage? Cities relocated to higher ground? Roads and railways shifted inland? Rivers diverted? Arable land abandoned? Regions depopulated? Have they any clue about what this would cost? Of what the impacts would be for the people breezily being told to live with it?

My guess is that they don’t envisage anything: they have no idea what they mean when they say adaptation. If they’ve thought about it at all, they probably picture a steady rise in temperatures, followed by a steady rise in impacts, to which we steadily adjust. But that, as we should know from our own recent experience, is not how it happens. Climate breakdown proceeds in fits and starts, sudden changes of state against which, as we discovered on a small scale in January, preparations cannot easily be made.

Insurers working out their liability when a disaster has occurred use a process they call loss adjustment. It could describe what all of us who love this world are going through, as we begin to recognise that governments, the media and most businesses have no intention of seeking to avert the coming tragedies. We are being told to accept the world of wounds; to live with the disappearance, envisaged in the new climate report, of coral reefs and summer sea ice, of most glaciers and perhaps some rainforests, of rivers and wetlands and the species which, like many people, will be unable to adapt(8).

As the scale of the loss to which we must adjust becomes clearer, grief and anger are sometimes overwhelming. You find yourself, as I have done in this column, lashing out at the entire town.


1. Aldo Leopold, 1949. A Sand County Almanac. Oxford University Press.

2. Read at







Lawmakers aim to restrict US agency’s social-science programmes (Nature)

11 Mar 2014 | 20:53 GMT | Posted by Lauren Morello

Posted on behalf of Jessica Morrison. 

Conservative politicians in the US House of Representatives are renewing their push to limit the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) support for social-science research. The agency’s social, behavioural, and economic (SBE) sciences directorate would see its recommended funding cut by 42%, under a proposal introduced on 10 March by Representative Lamar Smith (Republican, Texas), the chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

The legislation, which would reauthorize NSF for fiscal years 2014‒15, also seeks major changes to the peer-review process by which the agency awards its grants. Smith’s plan would require the NSF to provide written justification that every grant it awards — in all fields — is in the “national interest”. That is defined broadly as research that satisfies at least one of six goals: economic competitiveness, health and welfare, scientific literacy, partnerships between academia and industry, promotion of scientific progress and national defence.

Details of Smith’s plan first surfaced about a year ago, sparking fierce criticism from social scientists and the broader US research community that seems sure to renew with the release of the new bill. Smith and his supporters argue that in a time of limited budgets, focusing on research areas that produce the clearest benefits is wise. But critics worry that the “national interest” requirement will hobble NSF’s time-tested peer review process.

“We don’t build rockets. We don’t usually have patentable goods,” says Rick Wilson, a political scientist at Rice University in Houston, Texas, and a former NSF programme director. “For a lot of these folks, it may just be that they really don’t believe that what we do has scientific merit.”

The bill recommends a budget of $7.17 billion for NSF in 2014, the current fiscal year — equal to what the agency actually received in the budget deal enacted in January — and $7.29 billion for 2015. In an unusual move, the proposal also lays out a detailed plan for distributing that cash to NSF’s seven research directorates. For example, it seeks to cap SBE funding at $150 million per year in 2014 and 2015, well below the directorate’s actual 2014 budget of $257 million.

“I don’t understand the antagonism toward the social, behavioral, and economic sciences,” says Michael Lubell, director of public affairs for the American Physical Society in Washington DC.

Lubell also finds fault with provisos that would restrict principal investigators to no more than five years of funding for a particular project, and allow researchers to include just five citations in grant proposals.

The full text of the bill can be found here. It will receive a public airing on 13 March, when a House subcommittee plans to discuss and vote on the measure.

O reacionário está na moda (Geledés)

Quinta, 20 Fevereiro 2014

Não há veículo da grande imprensa que não tenha hoje um ou mais comentaristas dispostos a destilar o mais profundo catastrofismo, enquanto estimulam a ira e desprezam a dignidade humana em nome de uma hipotética Constituição de um único artigo: a liberdade de expressão absoluta

Marcelo Semer*

Não foi surpresa que logo após o comentário em que deu status de legítima defesa a justiceiros (relembre aqui), a jornalista Rachel Sheherazade tenha tido a oportunidade de escrever artigo no espaço mais nobre de um grande jornal.

Foi vociferando a altos brados, contra todas as formas de ‘esquerdismo’, sem sutilezas nem decoros, que Reinaldo Azevedo ganhou o status de colunista nesse mesmo diário.

Lobão foi guindado a uma revista semanal depois que minimizou a tortura dos anos de chumbo, desprezando quem se disse vítima por ter tido “umas unhazinhas arrancadas”.

Diogo Mainardi pulou da revista para a TV a cabo, apelidando semanalmente o presidente de anta.

Até humoristas que se orgulham de ser politicamente incorretos, sobretudo com o mais vulnerável, vêm emplacando programas próprios na telinha.

Se alguém ainda tinha dúvidas, elas estão sendo dissipadas: o reacionário está definitivamente na moda.

Não há veículo da grande imprensa que não tenha hoje um ou mais comentaristas dispostos a tirar o espectador da ‘zona de conforto’, e destilar o mais profundo catastrofismo, enquanto estimulam a ira e desprezam a dignidade humana em nome de uma hipotética Constituição de um único artigo: a liberdade de expressão absoluta.

Tamanha reação do conservadorismo extremo, pelos novos ícones da classe média, poderia indicar que, de alguma forma, o país anda no caminho certo.

Nenhuma redução de desigualdade, seja ela econômica, social, racial, de gênero ou orientação sexual, passa incólume à reação. Tradição e privilégios jamais se rendem sem resistência.

Mas há dois componentes neste jogo que complicam a equação e nos aproximam da intolerância.

Primeiro, o fato de que o catastrofismo sem limites, o derrotismo por princípio e o esforço de detonar o Estado de todas as formas e sob todas as forças, produz uma inequívoca sensação de que estamos sempre à beira do abismo. Mesmo quando evoluímos.

A estabilidade política é desprezada, sufocada pela ideia que resume toda política em corrupção –mas que, inexplicavelmente, considera o corruptor apenas uma vítima do sistema que patrocina.

Todo mal reside nos políticos, nos partidos, enfim no Estado –nunca no mercado ou nos mercadores.

A maior autonomia dos órgãos de investigação e a independência dos operadores do direito, somadas ao fim da censura, têm ligação direta com esse mal-estar da liberdade: a democracia não é pior porque produz mais monstros, apenas mais incômoda porque é impossível escondê-los.

O derrotismo desproporcional, que remete toda e qualquer política à vala comum, acaba por conferir a violência foros de alternativa.

A criminalização da política é, assim, uma poderosa vitamina da intolerância. E seus responsáveis são justamente aqueles que mais bradam contra a violência que ao mesmo tempo estimulam.


Mas não é só.

A política também tem perdido seu prestígio por estar sendo sepultada pelo fator eleitoral.

O pragmatismo sem freios destroça ideologias, pensamentos e valores e é um consistente obstáculo ao avanço civilizatório. Quando o poder é mais relevante que a política, os fins sempre servem para justificar meios.

A rendição à pauta religiosa, de governos e oposições, é um sintomático reflexo desse excesso de pragmatismo que comprime o espaço republicano.

A submissão rala à pauta punitiva, que ameaça inserir o país na lógica de um Estado policial, é outro indício. Como o instrumento penal é sempre seletivo, mais repressão significará mais desigualdade.

Esvaziar a política nunca é uma tarefa prudente, menos ainda quando o canto da sereia do reacionarismo está cada vez mais afinado.

Há 50 anos, nossa democracia foi estuprada por militares que deram um golpe, civis que o financiaram e reacionários que o justificaram, inclusive e fortemente na imprensa.

Que a efeméride, ao menos, nos mantenha vigilantes.

*Marcelo Semer é juiz de direito, escritor e edita o blog sem juízo

Sobre o caso Mr. Rodoviária

 Aeroporto ou rodoviária? (O Estado de S.Paulo)

10 de fevereiro de 2014 | 2h 05

José Roberto de Toledo

Uma professora-doutora da universidade da elite do Rio de Janeiro fotografa homem de bermuda e camiseta regata que vislumbrou no Santos-Dumont, e estampa-o no Facebook, sob a indagação: “Aeroporto ou rodoviária?”. Nos comentários, compara seus trajes ao de um estivador e arremata: “O pior é que o Mr. Rodoviária está no meu voo. Ao menos, não do meu lado. Ufa!”.

Outros integrantes da primeira classe acadêmica carioca se solidarizam nos comentários. “Esse tipo de passageiro fica roçando o braço peludo no seu porque não respeita os limites do assento.” “O glamour de voar definitivamente se foi.” “Isso é só uma amostra do que tenho visto pelo Brasil.” Sem perceber a autoironia, outra escreve: “O bom senso ficou em casa”.

João Santana não poderia sonhar com melhor roteiro de propaganda eleitoral gratuita e espontânea nas redes sociais. A máquina petista sacou a oportunidade e bombou a história através do perfil “Dilma Bolada”, no Twitter. Epidemia instantânea na rede.

Em 24 horas, a longeva carreira acadêmica da professora-doutora especializada em “português como segunda língua” estava relegada à décima página de resultados da busca pelo seu nome no Google. A primeira centena de links leva à história do Mr. Rodoviária – que se identificou e fala em processo. Mínima parte cita o envergonhado pedido de desculpas da professora-doutora.

O episódio é fascinante sob qualquer ângulo que se queira olhar. O mais óbvio é o efeito Big Brother. A sensação que o internauta tem de penetrar um círculo fechado e descobrir o que as pessoas realmente pensam e são capazes de dizer quando se acham dispensadas do politicamente correto e da mínima cortesia.

Soa exagerado de tão cru. Se fosse cena de novela, seria forçada demais e perderia credibilidade. Mas, como os personagens têm nome, cargo e página no Facebook, o exagero vira revelação: “Ah, é isso que eles acham”. Cai-se no estereótipo oposto. Se o emergente parece estivador, é peludo e ultrapassa os limites, a elite é demofóbica, cruel e segregacionista – sem exceções.

Talvez alguns dos personagens tenham escrito o que escreveram por pressão social, por vontade de ser aceito no grupo, de pertencer. Afinal, se o reitor e a doutora estão dizendo, essa só pode ser a norma, “a coisa certa” a fazer. É outro aspecto surreal da história: supostos guardiões da alta cultura disseminam e endossam preconceitos que deveriam combater.

Destila ainda do episódio uma ingênua nostalgia. A crença numa fantasia comercial. “Glamour de voar?”. Um voo de carreira é das experiências mais desagradáveis que há: fila de check-in, fila para despachar bagagem, fila para passar no raio X, fila para embarcar, para pegar a mala. Horas confinado em espaço apertado, respirando ar seco e, quando há, comendo comida requentada.

O tal glamour só existiu nas propagandas e nos filmes destinados a convencer o público de que pagar caro por horas de tormento é um privilégio. Poderia a elite intelectual sentir falta de algo que jamais existiu? Ou a nostalgia é uma metáfora? Será saudade de quando as divisões sociais eram claras, os espaços públicos eram exclusivos e as distâncias entre classes, intransponíveis?

Uma parte importante da sociedade brasileira incomoda-se com a novidade de um mercado de massa que nivelou o jogo via acesso quase universal ao consumo. Os incomodados não são os super-ricos, que continuam inalcançáveis. A aproximação dos que vêm de trás perturba quem já estava no meio e se sente igualado ou até superado por quem chegou agora e já quer sentar na janelinha.

Raras vezes esse conflito apareceu tão explícito quanto no caso da professora-doutora e seu Mr. Rodoviária. Mas a raridade tende a desaparecer mais rápido do que o glamour de voar. Como o mesmo episódio demonstrou, expor contradições e explorar divisões dá voto. Rodoviária e aeroporto viraram cabos eleitorais.

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‘O empregado tem carro e anda de avião. Estudei pra quê?’ (Carta Capital)

Se você, a exemplo dos professores que debocharam de passageiro “mal-vestido” no aeroporto, já se fez esta pergunta, parabéns: você não aprendeu nada

por Matheus Pichonelli — publicado 07/02/2014 13:20, última modificação 10/02/2014 11:01


Professora universitária faz galhofa diante do rapaz que foi ao aeroporto sem roupa de gala. É o símbolo do país que vê a educação como fator de distinção, e não de transformação. Reprodução

O condômino é, antes de tudo, um especialista no tempo. Quando se encontra com seus pares, desanda a falar do calor, da seca, da chuva, do ano que passou voando e da semana que parece não ter fim. À primeira vista, é um sujeito civilizado e cordato em sua batalha contra os segundos insuportáveis de uma viagem sem assunto no elevador. Mas tente levantar qualquer questão que não seja a temperatura e você entende o que moveu todas as guerras de todas as sociedades em todos os períodos históricos. Experimente. Reúna dois ou mais condôminos diante de uma mesma questão e faça o teste. Pode ser sobre um vazamento. Uma goteira. Uma reforma inesperada. Uma festa. E sua reunião de condomínio será a prova de que a humanidade não deu certo.

Dia desses, um amigo voltou desolado de uma reunião do gênero e resolveu desabafar no Facebook: “Ontem, na assembleia de condomínio, tinha gente ‘revoltada’ porque a lavadeira comprou um carro. ‘Ganha muito’ e ‘pra quê eu fiz faculdade’ foram alguns dos comentários. Um dos condôminos queria proibir que ela estacionasse o carro dentro do prédio, mesmo informado que a funcionária paga aluguel da vaga a um dos proprietários”.

Mais à frente, ele contava como a moça havia se transformado na peça central de um esforço fiscal. Seu carro-ostentação era a prova de que havia margem para cortar custos pela folha de pagamento, a começar por seu emprego. A ideia era baratear a taxa de condomínio em 20 reais por apartamento.

Sem que se perceba, reuniões como esta dizem mais sobre nossa tragédia humana do que se imagina. A do Brasil é enraizada, incolor e ofuscada por um senso comum segundo o qual tudo o que acontece de ruim no mundo está em Brasília, em seus políticos, em seus acordos e seus arranjos. Sentados neste discurso, de que a fonte do mal é sempre a figura distante, quase desmaterializada, reproduzimos uma indigência humana e moral da qual fazemos parte e nem nos damos conta.

Dias atrás, outro amigo, nascido na Colômbia, me contava um fato que lhe chamava a atenção ao chegar ao Brasil. Aqui, dizia ele, as pessoas fazem festa pelo fato de entrarem em uma faculdade. O que seria o começo da caminhada, em condições normais de pressão e temperatura, é tratado muitas vezes como fim da linha pela cultura local da distinção. O ritual de passagem, da festa dos bixos aos carros presenteados como prêmios aos filhos campeões, há uma mensagem quase cifrada: “você conseguiu: venceu a corrida principal, o funil social chamado vestibular, e não tem mais nada a provar para ninguém. Pode morrer em paz”.

Não importa se, muitas e tantas vezes, o curso é ruim. Se o professor é picareta. Se não há critério pedagógico. Se não é preciso ler duas linhas de texto para passar na prova. Ou se a prova é mera formalidade.

O sujeito tem motivos para comemorar quando entra em uma faculdade no Brasil porque, com um diploma debaixo do braço, passará automaticamente a pertencer a uma casta superior. Uma casta com privilégios inclusive se for preso. Por isso comemora, mesmo que saia do curso com a mesma bagagem que entrou e com a mesma condição que nasceu, a de indigente intelectual, insensível socialmente, sem uma visão minimamente crítica ou sofisticada sobre a sua realidade e seus conflitos. É por isso que existe tanto babeta com ensino superior e especialização. Tanto médico que não sabe operar. Tanto advogado que não sabe escrever. Tanto psicólogo que não conhece Freud. Tanto jornalista que não lê jornal.

Função social? Vocação? Autoconhecimento? Extensão? Responsabilidade sobre o meio? Conta outra. Com raras e honrosas exceções, o ensino superior no Brasil cumpre uma função social invisível: garantir um selo de distinção.

Por isso comemora-se também à saída da faculdade. Já vi, por exemplo, coordenador de curso gritar, em dia de formatura, como líder de torcida em dia de jogo: “vocês, formandos, são privilegiados. Venceram na vida. Fazem parte de uma parcela minoritária e privilegiada da população”; em tempo: a formatura de um curso de odontologia, e ninguém ali sequer levantou a possibilidade de que a batalha só seria vencida quando deixássemos de ser um país em que ter dente é, por si, um privilégio.

Por trás desse discurso está uma lógica perversa de dominação. Uma lógica que permite colocar os trabalhadores braçais em seu devido lugar. Por aqui, não nos satisfazemos em contratar serviços que não queremos fazer, como lavar, passar, enxugar o chão, lavar a privada, pintar as unhas ou trocar a fralda e dar banho em nossos filhos: aproveitamos até a última ponta o gosto de dizer “estou te pagando e enquanto estou pagando eu mando e você obedece”. Para que chamar a atenção do garçom com discrição se eu posso fazer um escarcéu se pedi batata-fria e ele me entregou mandioca? Ao lembrá-lo de que é ele quem serve, me lembro, e lembro a todos, que estudei e trabalhei para sentar em uma mesa de restaurante e, portanto, MEREÇO ser servido. Não é só uma prestação de serviço: é um teatro sobre posições de domínio. Pobre o país cujo diploma serve, na maioria dos casos, para corroborar estas posições.

Por isso o discurso ouvido por meu amigo em seu condomínio é ainda uma praga: a praga da ignorância instruída. Por isso as pessoas se incomodam quando a lavadeira, ou o porteiro, ou o garçom, “invade” espaços antes cativos. Como uma vaga na garagem de prédio. Ou a universidade. Ou os aeroportos.

Neste caldo cultural, nada pode ser mais sintomático da nossa falência do que o episódio da professora que postou fotos de um “popular” no saguão do aeroporto e lançou no Facebook: “Viramos uma rodoviária? Cadê o glamour?”. (Sim, porque voar, no Brasil, também é, ou era, mais do que se deslocar ao ar de um local a outro: é lembrar os que rastejam por rodovias quem pode e quem não pode pagar para andar de avião).

Esses exemplos mostram que, por aqui, pobre pode até ocupar espaços cativos da elite (não sem nossos protestos), mas nosso diploma e nosso senso de distinção nos autorizam a galhofa: “lembre-se, você não é um de nós”. Triste que este discurso tenha sido absorvido por quem deveria ter como missão a detonação, pela base e pela educação, dos resquícios de uma tragédia histórica construída com o caldo da ignorância, do privilégio e da exclusão.
Leia também

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Professora é afastada da PUC-Rio por ironizar passageiro (Estadão)

Por AE | Estadão Conteúdo – 23 horas atrás

A Reitoria da Pontifícia Universidade Católica (PUC) do Rio afastou “temporariamente” da Coordenação Central de Cooperação Internacional (CCCI) da instituição nesta segunda-feira, 17, a professora Rosa Marina de Brito Meyer, do Departamento de Letras. O motivo do afastamento foi um comentário feito pela professora em seu perfil no Facebook sobre a aparência de um passageiro no Aeroporto Santos Dumont. Considerada preconceituosa, a postagem gerou milhares de críticas e compartilhamentos.

No dia 5, Rosa publicou na rede social uma foto tirada com seu Iphone de um passageiro na sala de embarque do Santos Dumont, no centro do Rio, acompanhada de um comentário: “Aeroporto ou rodoviária?” Na foto, aparece em destaque um homem sentado de bermuda, tênis e camiseta regata. Amigo de Rosa, o reitor da Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio (Unirio), Luiz Pedro Jutuca, comenta: “O `glamour’ foi pro espaço.” Rosa responde: “Puxa, mas para glamour falta muuuitooo!!! Isso está mais para estiva.” Em seguida, ela comenta de novo: “O pior é que Mr. Rodoviária está no meu voo. Ao menos, não do meu lado!” A também professora Daniela Vargas complementa: “hehe. E sabe o pior? Quando esse tipo de passageiro senta exatamente a seu lado e fica roçando o braço peludo no seu, porque – claro – não respeita (ou não cabe) nos limites do seu assento.”

MEDIDAS LEGAIS – Com a repercussão do caso – no dia 6, o perfil Dilma Bolada divulgou uma reprodução das postagens -, o homem da foto foi identificado: é o advogado Marcelo Santos, de 33 anos, morador de Nova Serrana (MG), que estava de passagem pelo Rio, após ter participado de um cruzeiro. “A primeira reação foi de espanto, por achar inacreditável aquele tratamento ter vindo de pessoas ligadas à educação. Me senti vilipendiado e agredido. A conotação que quiseram dar foi esta. Vou tomar medidas legais contra todos os envolvidos”, afirmou ontem ao Estado o advogado.

No mesmo dia 6, Rosa publicou um pedido de desculpas: “Sabedora do desconforto que posso ter criado com um post meu publicado ontem à noite, peço desculpas à pessoa retratada e a todos os que porventura tenham se sentido atingidos ou ofendidos pelo meu comentário. Absolutamente não foi essa a minha intenção.” Ontem, ela não foi localizada. Daniela pediu desculpas pelo “comentário infeliz” em entrevista ao jornal O Globo, acrescentando que não tinha a intenção de ofender ninguém. O reitor da Unirio alegou que se referia ao estado dos aeroportos de maneira geral, mas também pediu desculpas a quem se sentiu ofendido.

Santos também disse ter ficado satisfeito com a repercussão positiva do caso e com as mensagens de apoio que recebeu. “Avião é simplesmente um meio de transporte. Aliás, muitas vezes é mais barato do que andar de ônibus.” O reitor da PUC-Rio, Josafá Carlos de Siqueira, que assina a portaria enviada ontem aos funcionários, informou que não daria entrevista por se tratar de uma “atitude pessoal” da professora. A PUC negou que Rosa Marina tenha pedido demissão. O professor Carlos Frederico Borges Palmeira, do departamento de Matemática, foi nomeado coordenador interino da CCCI. A coordenação é responsável pelos convênios que possibilitam, além do intercâmbio de estudantes, permuta de publicações científicas, realização de pesquisas conjuntas e intercâmbio de professores e pesquisadores.

Procurado, o Departamento de Letras não se pronunciou. No site da universidade, Rosa aparece como professora de quatro cursos, entre eles o de Aspectos Culturais do Português como Segunda Língua. Ela já orientou mais de 50 pesquisas, teses de doutorado e dissertações de mestrado. Rosa tem mestrado e doutorado em Letras pela PUC-Rio. Uma página criada no Facebook com o nome da professora para criticá-la tinha até ontem 27 mil “curtidas”.

Conservative Koch Brothers Turning Focus to Newspapers (N.Y.Times)

Tannen Maury/European Pressphoto Agency. Tribune’s newspapers, including The Chicago Tribune, have caught the interest of a number of suitors.


Published: April 20, 2013

Three years ago, Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists and supporters of libertarian causes, held a seminar of like-minded, wealthy political donors at the St. Regis Resort in Aspen, Colo. They laid out a three-pronged, 10-year strategy to shift the country toward a smaller government with less regulation and taxes.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images. The Los Angeles Times is the fourth-largest paper in the country.

The first two pieces of the strategy — educating grass-roots activists and influencing politics — were not surprising, given the money they have given to policy institutes and political action groups. But the third one was: media.

Other than financing a few fringe libertarian publications, the Kochs have mostly avoided media investments. Now, Koch Industries, the sprawling private company of whichCharles G. Koch serves as chairman and chief executive, is exploring a bid to buy the Tribune Company’s eight regional newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant.

By early May, the Tribune Company is expected to send financial data to serious suitors in what will be among the largest sales of newspapers by circulation in the country. Koch Industries is among those interested, said several people with direct knowledge of the sale who spoke on the condition they not be named. Tribune emerged from bankruptcy on Dec. 31 and has hired JPMorgan Chase and Evercore Partners to sell its print properties.

The papers, valued at roughly $623 million, would be a financially diminutive deal for Koch Industries, the energy and manufacturing conglomerate based in Wichita, Kan., with annual revenue of about $115 billion.

Politically, however, the papers could serve as a broader platform for the Kochs’ laissez-faire ideas. The Los Angeles Times is the fourth-largest paper in the country, and The Tribune is No. 9, and others are in several battleground states, including two of the largest newspapers in Florida, The Orlando Sentinel and The Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. A deal could include Hoy, the second-largest Spanish-language daily newspaper, which speaks to the pivotal Hispanic demographic.

One person who attended the Aspen seminar who spoke on the condition of anonymity described the strategy as follows: “It was never ‘How do we destroy the other side?’ ”

“It was ‘How do we make sure our voice is being heard?’ ”

Guests at the Aspen seminar included Philip F. Anschutz, the Republican oil mogul who owns the companies that publish The Washington Examiner, The Oklahoman and The Weekly Standard, and the hedge fund executive Paul E. Singer, who sits on the board of the political magazine Commentary. Attendees were asked not to discuss details about the seminar with the press.

A person who has attended other Koch Industries seminars, which have taken place since 2003, says Charles and David Koch have never said they want to take over newspapers or other large media outlets, but they often say “they see the conservative voice as not being well represented.” The Kochs plan to host another conference at the end of the month, in Palm Springs, Calif.

At this early stage, the thinking inside the Tribune Company, the people close to the deal said, is that Koch Industries could prove the most appealing buyer. Others interested, including a group of wealthy Los Angeles residents led by the billionaire Eli Broad and Ronald W. Burkle, both prominent Democratic donors, and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, would prefer to buy only The Los Angeles Times.

The Tribune Company has signaled it prefers to sell all eight papers and their back-office operations as a bundle. (Tribune, a $7 billion media company that also owns 23 television stations, could also decide to keep the papers if they do not attract a high enough offer.)

Koch Industries is one of the largest sponsors of libertarian causes — including the financing of policy groups like the Cato Institute in Washington and the formation of Americans for Prosperity, the political action group that helped galvanize Tea Party organizations and their causes. The company has said it has no direct link to the Tea Party.

This month a Koch representative contacted Eddy W. Hartenstein, publisher and chief executive of The Los Angeles Times, to discuss a bid, according to a person briefed on the conversation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the conversation was private. Mr. Hartenstein declined to comment.

Koch Industries recently brought on Angela Redding, a consultant based in Salt Lake City, to analyze the media environment and assess opportunities. Ms. Redding, who previously worked at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, did not respond to requests for comment.

“As an entrepreneurial company with 60,000 employees around the world, we are constantly exploring profitable opportunities in many industries and sectors. So, it is natural that our name would come up in connection with this rumor,” Melissa Cohlmia, a spokeswoman for Koch Companies Public Sector, said in a statement last month.

“We respect the independence of the journalistic institutions referenced in the news stories,” Ms. Cohlmia continued. “But it is our longstanding policy not to comment on deals or rumors of deals we may or may not be exploring.”

One person who has previously advised Koch Industries said the Tribune Company papers were considered an investment opportunity, and were viewed as entirely separate from Charles and David Kochs’ lifelong mission to shrink the size of government.

At least in politically liberal Los Angeles, a conservative paper could be tricky. David H. Koch, who lives in New York and serves as executive vice president of Koch Industries, has said he supports gay marriage and could align with many residents on some social issues, Reed Galen, a Republican consultant in Orange County, Calif., said.

Koch Industries’ main competitor for The Los Angeles Times is a group of mostly Democratic local residents. In the 2012 political cycle, Mr. Broad gave $477,800, either directly or through his foundation, to Democratic candidates and causes, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Mr. Burkle has long championed labor unions. President Bill Clinton served as an adviser to Mr. Burkle’s money management firm, Yucaipa Companies, which in 2012 gave $107,500 to Democrats and related causes. The group also includes Austin Beutner, a Democratic candidate for mayor of Los Angeles, and an investment banker who co-founded Evercore Partners.

“This will be a bipartisan group,” Mr. Beutner said. “It’s not about ideology, it’s about a civic interest.” (The Los Angeles consortium is expected to also include Andrew Cherng, founder of the Panda Express Chinese restaurant chain and a Republican.)

“It’s a frightening scenario when a free press is actually a bought and paid-for press and it can happen on both sides,” said Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan watchdog group.

Last month, shortly after L.A. Weekly first reported on Koch Industries’ interest in the Tribune papers, the liberal Web site Daily Kos and Courage Campaign, a Los Angeles-based liberal advocacy group, collected thousands of signatures protesting such a deal. Conservatives, meanwhile, welcomed the idea of a handful of prominent papers spreading the ideas of economic “freedom” from taxes and regulation that the Kochs have championed.

Seton Motley, president of Less Government, an organization devoted to shrinking the role of the government, said the 2012 presidential election reinforced the view that conservatives needed a broader media presence.

“A running joke among conservatives as we watched the G.O.P. establishment spend $500 million on ineffectual TV ads is ‘Why don’t you just buy NBC?’ ” Mr. Motley said. “It’s good the Kochs are talking about fighting fire with a little fire.”

Koch Industries has for years felt the mainstream media unfairly covered the company and its founding family because of its political beliefs., a Web site run by the company, disputes perceived press inaccuracies. The site, which asserts liberal bias in the news media, has published private e-mail conversations between company press officers and journalists, including the Politico reporter Kenneth P. Vogel and editors at The New Yorker in response to an article about the Kochs by Jane Mayer.

“So far, they haven’t seemed to be particularly enthusiastic about the role of the free press,” Ms. Mayer said in an e-mail, “but hopefully, if they become newspaper publishers, they’ll embrace it with a bit more enthusiasm.”

A Democratic political operative who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he admired how over decades the brothers have assembled a complex political infrastructure that supports their agenda. A media company seems like a logical next step.

This person said, “If they get some bad press that Darth Vader is buying Tribune, they don’t care.”

Signs of divine intervention for Republicans? (Washington Post)

By , Published: August 21, 2012

Has God forsaken the Republican Party?

Well, sit in judgment of what’s happened in the past few days:

●A report comes out that a couple dozen House Republicans engaged in an alcohol-induced frolic, in one case nude, in the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus is believed to have walked on water, calmed the storm and, nearby, turned water into wine and performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

●Rep. Todd Akin, Missouri’s Republican nominee for Senate, suggests there is such a thing as “legitimate rape” and purports that women’s bodies have mysterious ways to repel the seed of rapists. He spends the next 48 hours rejecting GOP leaders’ demands that he quit the race.

●Weather forecasts show that a storm, likely to grow into Hurricane Isaac, may be chugging toward . . . Tampa, where Republicans will open their quadrennial nominating convention on Monday.

Coincidence? Or part of some Intelligent Design?

By their own logic, Republicans and their conservative allies should be concerned that Isaac is a form of divine retribution. Last year, Rep. Michele Bachmann, then a Republican presidential candidate, said that the East Coast earthquake and Hurricane Irene — another “I” storm, but not an Old Testament one — were attempts by God “to get the attention of the politicians.” In remarks later termed a “joke,” she said: “It’s time for an act of God and we’re getting it.”

The influential conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck said last year that the Japanese earthquake and tsunami were God’s “message being sent” to that country. A year earlier, Christian broadcaster and former GOP presidential candidate Pat Robertson tied the Haitian earthquake to that country’s“pact to the devil.”

Previously, Robertson had argued that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for abortion, while the Rev. John Hagee said the storm was God’s way of punishing homosexuality. The late Jerry Falwellthought that God allowed the Sept. 11 attacks as retribution for feminists and the ACLU.

Even if you don’t believe God uses meteorological phenomena to express His will, it’s difficult for mere mortals to explain what is happening to the GOP just now.

By most earthly measures, President Obama has no business being reelected. No president since World War II has won reelection with the unemployment rate north of 7.4 percent. Of the presidents during that time who were returned to office, GDP growth averaged 4.7 percent during the first nine months of the election year — more than double the current rate.

But instead of being swept into office by the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression, Republicans are in danger of losing an election that is theirs to lose. Mitt Romney, often tone-deaf, has allowed Obama to change the subject to Romney’s tax havens and tax returns. And congressional Republicans are providing all kinds of reasons for Americans to doubt their readiness to assume power.

The Politico report Sunday about drunken skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee gave House Republicans an unwanted image of debauchery — a faint echo of the Capitol page scandal that, breaking in September 2006, cemented Republicans’ fate in that November’s elections. The 30 Republican lawmakers on the “fact-finding” mission to Israel last summer earned a rebuke from Majority Leader Eric Cantor and attracted the attention of the FBI. The naked congressman, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), admitted in a statement: “[R]egrettably I jumped into the water without a swimsuit.”

A boozy frolic at a Christian holy site might have been a considerable embarrassment for the party, but it was eclipsed by a bigger one: Akin’s preposterous claim on a St. Louis TV program that pregnancy is rare after a “legitimate rape” because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Republican leaders spent the next 48 hours trying to shut Akin’s whole thing down, but after a period of panic (a no-show on Piers Morgan’s show led the CNN host to show his empty chair and call him a “gutless little twerp”), Akin told radio host Mike Huckabee on Tuesday that he would fight the “big party people” and stay in the race.

The big party people had a further complication: In Tampa on Tuesday, those drafting theGOP platform agreed to retain a plank calling for a constitutional amendment banning abortion without specifying exceptions for cases of rape. In other words, the Akin position.

For a party that should be sailing toward victory, there were all the makings of a perfect storm. And, sure enough: Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service forecast that “Tropical Depression Nine” would strengthen into a hurricane, taking a northwesterly track over Cuba on Sunday morning — just as Republicans are arriving in Florida.

What happens next? God only knows.

Mário Scheffer: “Vivemos uma crise sem precedentes na resposta à epidemia de HIV/Aids” (

31 de julho de 2012

por Conceição Lemes

Mário Scheffer: “A condução é conservadora, defasada. A criatividade, a ousadia e o diálogo permanente com a sociedade civil  cederam lugar à arrogância”

Terminou nesta sexta-feira, em Washington, Estados Unidos, a 19ª Conferência Internacional sobre Aids. O Programa Nacional de DST/Aids, que até então era festejado e apontado como modelo para o mundo, sofreu críticas de especialistas durante toda a semana.

“A história de sucesso do programa brasileiro de aids entrou em declínio por fatores como a saída de recursos internacionais e o enfraquecimento da relação entre o governo e a sociedade civil”, avalia Eduardo Gomez, pesquisador da Universidade Rutgers de Camden, em Nova Jersey, EUA. “Historicamente, o programa brasileiro de aids tinha uma conexão forte com as ONGs, mas agora elas estão sem recursos e sem motivação. O governo precisa delas para conscientizar as populações difíceis de atingir.”

“O aumento da pressão de grupos religiosos e a redução das campanhas de prevenção junto às populações de maior risco são a maior ameaça ao programa brasileiro anti-aids”, pondera Massimo Ghidinelli, coordenador de Aids/HIV da Organização Panamericana da Saúde (OPAS). “Parece que, nos últimos anos, os grupos religiosos ficaram mais fortes e há uma menor intensidade na maneira pela qual o programa lida com questões de homofobia e sexualidade.”

Ontem, quinta-feira 26, ativistas brasileiros presentes à 19ª Conferência Internacional de Aids, em Washington, protestaram em frente ao estande do Ministério da Saúde contra o que definem como “retrocesso na resposta contra a epidemia”. O objetivo, segundo eles, foi mostrar ao mundo que o País “não é mais o mesmo” e “vive do sucesso do passado” no enfrentamento da doença.

“Até agora, as críticas eram principalmente de ONGs e ativistas brasileiros. Agora, são de especialistas estrangeiros renomados”, observa Mário Scheffer, presidente do Grupo Pela Vidda-SP. “O programa brasileiro de aids parou no tempo e não é mais motivo de orgulho nacional. Tivemos uma sucessão de perdas acumuladas. Vivemos uma crise sem precedentes na resposta à epidemia de HIV/aids.”

Ativista há mais de 20 anos e também professor do Departamento de Medicina Preventiva da Faculdade de Medicina da USP, Mário acompanha a epidemia de HIV/Aids desde o seu início nos anos 80. Além do olhar afiado e da expertise em saúde pública, ele conhece bem toda a trajetória do Programa Nacional de DST/Aids. Daí esta nossa entrevista:

Viomundo – Começou no domingo (22) e terminou hoje (27) em Washington a 19ª Conferência Internacional sobre Aids. No decorrer da semana, foram feitas várias críticas ao momento atual do programa brasileiro de aids. Você concorda com elas?

Mário Scheffer – Com certeza. Até agora, as críticas eram principalmente de ONGs brasileiras. Agora, são de especialistas estrangeiros renomados. Elas são a prova maior de que o programa brasileiro não é mais a principal referência internacional, perdemos a liderança e o ineditismo, não ousamos mais nas respostas excepcionais que marcaram nossa história de combate à aids.

Viomundo – As ONGs de aids sempre tiveram boa interlocução com o Ministério da Saúde. O que aconteceu?

Mário Scheffer — As ONGs e os ativistas pioneiros que são obviamente mais críticos não são mais ouvidos. O governo atualmente elege os interlocutores que lhes são mais convenientes e deslegitima muitos daqueles que deram contribuições históricas.

Sinal de que as coisas não vão nada bem por aqui é que tanto a crítica ao programa quanto o reconhecimento às ONGs e aos ativistas brasileiros têm que vir de fora.

Aliás, o presidente do Banco Mundial, Jim Yong Kim, em seu discurso na abertura da Conferência Internacional de Aids, domingo passado em Washington, fez um vigoroso elogio aos ativistas e citou especificamente as ONGs brasileiras. Disse que se hoje é possível falar em controle da epidemia e vislumbrar o seu fim, isso se deve fundamentalmente às ações desses ativistas.

Viomundo –  ONGs de aids estão fechando as portas no Brasil. Por quê?

Mário Scheffer – Vários motivos. Crise de pessoal, financeira, de sustentabilidade, não têm sede física, não têm dinheiro para pagar aluguel e telefone, têm que compor diretorias com apenas três pessoas  porque não há mais gente disponível. Também não conseguem mais montar  equipes para executar projetos, para chegar até as populações vulneráveis, o que só as ONGs são capazes de fazer.

Em outras palavras: algumas ONGs estão fechando as portas, como você disse. Mas está havendo também retração das atividades de todas elas.

Viomundo – Mas as críticas não se devem apenas à crise financeira e de pessoal das ONGs de aids?

Mário Scheffer – Essa é apenas uma das pontas da crise sem precedentes da resposta brasileira à epidemia, que também perdeu tecnicamente. Além disso, não há sensibilidade nem determinação do governo para perceber e para contribuir com a superação da crise das ONGs. Pelo contrário. Atualmente há uma crise política de relacionamento e mesmo de desprezo pela história das ONGs. O governo federal tem feito a opção — e isso não é só na área de aids — pela relação paroquial com a sociedade civil, uma política de cooptação e quebra-galho. Não ha mais crítica nem debate qualificado de ideias. Tivemos uma sucessão de perdas acumuladas.

Viomundo – Quais?

Mário Scheffer – Primeiro, perdemos a força do trabalho voluntário por meio do qual as pessoas participavam de nossas ONGs, exprimiam sua solidariedade, doavam tempo, trabalho e talento para a luta contra a aids. Não é mais uma causa mobilizadora e isso tem a ver com a imagem trabalhada pelo governo de que temos o melhor programa do mundo e que por aqui está tudo resolvido.

Segundo, com a ascensão das ONGs picaretas e bandidas, criadas para alimentar a corrupção em vários ministérios, cresceu o preconceito e foram impostas mais barreiras para as organizações sérias, que já tinham dificuldade em acessar recursos públicos.

Desde que realizado com critério, transparência, concorrência pública e rigorosa prestação de contas, as ONGs deveriam ter o direito de acessar fundos públicos para exercer o controle, a fiscalização e a participação nas políticas públicas, como acontece em várias democracias.

Terceiro, diante da imagem de que o Brasil hoje é um país rico e resolveu o problema da aids (o que não é verdade), acabou o apoio internacional às ONGs brasileiras de aids.

Resultado: sem ajuda de comunidades e empresas e com uma causa que não toca mais o coração de doadores e voluntários, passamos a viver a dificuldade crescente de assegurar recursos institucionais para a manutenção das ONGs. Com isso, arrefeceu o nosso ativismo e controle sobre as políticas públicas.

Viomundo – E os financiamentos governamentais vinculados a projetos?

Mário Scheffer – Eles fazem parte de um modelo esgotado em que as ONGs de aids foram reduzidas a mão de obra barata para prestação de serviços que o Ministério da Saúde e secretarias estaduais e municipais de saúde não conseguem realizar. Não bastasse isso, muitas vezes estados e municípios não repassam esse recursos às ONGs e quando o fazem, não há continuidade nem avaliação da eficácia das ações financiadas.

Viomundo – Um pouco atrás você falou que o programa brasileiro de aids perdeu tecnicamente. Em que medida? 

Mário Scheffer — Não houve renovação nem atualização dos quadros técnicos. Os desafios hoje são outros, mas a condução é conservadora, defasada. A criatividade, a ousadia e o diálogo permanente com a sociedade civil  cederam lugar à arrogância. Sem a força e a autonomia de outrora, os programas de aids —  o nacional e vários estaduais e municipais — estão isolados e enfraquecidos politicamente dentro dos governos.

Em São Paulo, por exemplo, muitos serviços municipais de aids estão sem médicos,   os estaduais, superlotados, sendo privatizados, fechando leitos, e os programas de aids sem nenhuma governabilidade sobre isso.

Já o programa nacional nem sequer dá mais as fichas sobre a produção nacional de antirretrovirais genéricos. Hoje é um processo sem transparência. O Ministério da Saúde não dá um passo sem o amém da Casa Civil e dos fundamentalistas religiosos que integram a base governista, o que emperra programas de prevenção de aids.

Viomundo – O que ONGs e ativistas da área de aids querem?

Mário Scheffer — Queremos ser respeitados e ouvidos mas em novos patamares de relacionamento. Ninguém desistiu da luta. Nossas ONGs querem continuar atuando nas diversas frentes, na prevenção, na assistência das casas de apoio, nas assessorias jurídicas, na defesa dos direitos das pessoas que vivem com HIV. Queremos continuar fazendo o mesmo ativismo que nos levou a conquistar o acesso universal aos medicamentos, derrubar patentes, lutar contra a exclusão de coberturas pelos planos de saúde privados, acessar os vulneráveis e alçá-los à condição de cidadãos.

O mesmo ativismo que nos leva a apontar que, diferentemente do que dizem, o acesso aos antirretrovirais no Brasil não é universal, pois o diagnóstico tardio é altíssimo e ainda existem desabastecimentos ocasionais. Que nos leva a dizer que não existe política de prevenção adequada a um perfil de epidemia concentrada em certas populações, como os homossexuais, atualmente os maiores negligenciados de prevenção em aids no Brasil.

Hoje estão ameaçados princípios essenciais que forjaram o combate à aids no Brasil, que um dia chegou a quebrar barreiras e tabus. Essa ousadia necessária deu lugar a um programa sem vida, covarde, que promove autocensura, se alinha com forças retrógradas, como no caso recente da campanha dirigida aos gays.

Um programa que se debruça sobre glórias do passado e exibe uma real incapacidade , lentidão e perda da capacidade técnica e política . Não tem conseguido dar respostas à altura das novas dinâmicas e desafios da epidemia e a comunidade internacional passou a perceber isso.

Neste momento de grandes mudanças, com esperança concreta da cura e controle da aids, novas armas para prevenção, necessidade de ampliarmos a oferta de testagem e tratamento a todos os infectados, o Brasil está paralisado, com seus indicadores de mortalidade e de novas infecções pelo HIV estacionados. O programa brasileiro de aids parou no tempo e não é mais motivo de orgulho nacional.