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How a Misinformation Campaign Altered the Debate on Climate Change

Thirty years ago global warming became front-page news — and both Republicans and Democrats took it seriously

James Hansen at an event in 2012. His appearance before Congress in 1988 sparked the national debate over climate change, one that has turned bitterly partisan.
Image Credit: Josh Lopez / Chesapeake Climate Action Network via Flickr

By ROBERT BRULLE

June 23, 1988, marked the date on which climate change became a national issue. In landmark testimony before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Dr. James Hansen, then director of NASA’s Institute for Space Studies, stated that “Global warming has reached a level such that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause-and-effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and observed warming … In my opinion, the greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now.”

Hansen’s testimony made clear the threats posed by climate change and attributed the phenomenon to human exploitation of carbon energy sources. Its impact was dramatic, capturing headlines in The New York Times and other major newspapers. As politicians, corporations and environmental organizations acknowledged and began to address this issue, climate change entered into the political arena in a largely nonpartisan fashion.

Yet despite decades of public education on climate change and international negotiations to address it, progress continues to stall. Why?

One reason for the political inaction is the gaping divide in public opinion that resulted from a deliberate — and still controversial — misinformation campaign to redirect the public discussion on climate change in the years following Hansen’s testimony.

Just as predicted

Four years after Hansen testified to Congress, 165 nations signed an international treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. They committed themselves to reducing carbon emissions to avoid dangerous disruption of the Earth’s climate system, defined as limiting future temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius. The signatories have now held 25 annual UNFCCC conferences dedicated to developing goals, timetables and methods for mitigating climate change, the most consequential of which are encompassed in the Paris Agreement of 2015.

But as of today, not one single major northern industrial country has fulfilled its commitments under the Paris treaty, and the nonprofit Climate Action Tracker has rated the United States’ plan to achieve the Paris goals critically insufficient.

There have been more than 600 congressional hearings on climate change, according to my calculations, and numerous attempts to pass binding limits on carbon emissions. Despite those efforts, the United States has yet to take meaningful action on the problem — a discrepancy compounded by President Donald Trump’s decision last year to withdraw from the treaty altogether.

In the three decades since Dr. Hansen’s testimony, the scientific certainty about the human causes and catastrophic effects of climate change on the biosphere and social systems has only grown stronger. This has been documented in five Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment reports, three U.S. National Climate Assessments and thousands of peer-reviewed papers.

Yet CO2 levels continue to rise. In 1988, atmospheric CO2 levels stood at 353 parts per million, or ppm, the way to measure the concentration of CO2 molecules in the atmosphere. As of June 2018, they have reached 411 ppm, the highest monthly average ever recorded.

The effects of these increased concentrations are just as Hansen and others predicted, from disastrous wildfires in the western U.S. and massive hurricanes associated with historical flooding to extended droughts, rising sea levels, increasing ocean acidification, the pervasive spread of tropical diseases and the bleaching and death of coral reefs.

Massive gap on public opinion

Future generations will look back on our tepid response to global climate disruption and wonder why the world did not act sooner and more aggressively.

One answer can be found in the polarization of public opinion over climate change in the United States. The latest Gallup Poll shows that concern about climate change now falls along partisan lines, with 91 percent of Democrats saying they are worried a great deal or fair amount about climate change, while only 33 percent of Republicans saying the same.

Republicans and Democrats hold very different views on climate change, as this 2018 survey shows.

Clearly, a massive gap between Republicans and Democrats has emerged regarding the nature and seriousness of climate change. This partisan divide has led to an extreme political conflict over the need for climate action and helps to explain Congress’s failure to pass meaningful legislation to reduce carbon emissions.

Polarizing public opinion

The current political stalemate is no accident. Rather, it is the result of a well-financed and sustained campaign by vested interests to develop and promulgate misinformation about climate science.

My scholarship documents the coordinated efforts of conservative foundations and fossil fuel corporations to promote uncertainty about the existence and causes of climate change and thus reduce public concern over the issue. Amplified by conservative media, this campaign has significantly altered the nature of the public debate.

These findings are supported by recent investigative news reports showing that since the 1970s, top executives in the fossil fuel industry have been well aware of the evidence that their products amplify climate warming emissions. Indeed, industry scientists had conducted their own extensive research on the topic and participated in contemporaneous scientific discussions.

The American Petroleum Institute, an industry trade group, even circulated these research results to its members. By 1978, a senior executive at ExxonMobil had proposed creating a worldwide “CO2 in the Atmosphere” research and development program to determine an appropriate response to growing evidence of climate change.

Unfortunately, that path wasn’t taken. Instead, in 1989, a group of fossil fuel corporations, utilities, and automobile manufacturers banded together to form the Global Climate Coalition. The group was convened to prevent the U.S. adoption of the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In its public statements, the coalition’s official position was to claim global warming was real but that it could be part of a natural warming trend.

The corporate drive to spread climate misinformation continued beyond fighting Kyoto. In 1998, API, Exxon, Chevron, Southern Company, and various conservative think tanks initiated a broad public relations campaign with a goal of ensuring that the “recognition of uncertainties of climate science becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’”

While that coalition disbanded in 2001, ExxonMobil reportedly continued to quietly fund climate misinformation, funneling donations through conservative, “skeptic” think tanks such as the Heartland Institute, until 2006, when the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists exposed its funding scheme. ExxonMobil — the nation’s largest and wealthiest company — continues to work with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a self-described public-private partnership of corporations and conservative legislators, to block climate change policies.

Holding fossil fuel companies responsible

ExxonMobil’s conduct — promoting uncertainty about climate science it knew to be accurate — has generated public outrage and led New York’s attorney general to initiate an investigation into whether the company has illegally misled the public and its investors about the risks of climate change. This trend in litigation has expanded, and there are now several ongoing climate litigation suits.

While important, lawsuits cannot fully address the larger issues of corporate social and political responsibility to acknowledge and address climate change. Just as Congress investigated efforts by the tobacco industry to dupe the public into believing its products were harmless in the 1990s, I believe a full and open inquiry is needed now to unmask the vested interests behind scientific misinformation campaigns that continue to delay our efforts to mitigate a global threat.

At a minimum, the U.S. needs to change the system of hidden funding, in which companies such as ExxonMobil or the Koch brothers use pass-through organizations to camouflage donations to climate denial efforts. Current U.S. tax rules for nonprofit organizations, including climate-denying think tanks, do not require them to reveal their donors, enabling them to support large-scale political activities while remaining unaccountable. American voters deserve to know who is behind climate disinformation efforts, and revising nonprofit reporting laws is a good place to begin.

In my view, the central concern here is nothing less than the moral integrity of the public sphere. The Declaration of Independence states that governments “derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” But when vested interests with outsize economic and cultural power distort the public debate by introducing falsehoods, the integrity of Americans’ deliberations is compromised.

So it is with the fossil fuel industry’s efforts to distort public discourse on the urgent subject of climate change. If corporations and public relations firms can systematically alter the national debate in favor of their own interests and against those of society as a whole, then democracy itself is undermined. I believe Congress can and should act to investigate this issue fully. Only then can we restore trust and legitimacy to American governance and fulfill our society’s moral duty to address climate change at a scale commensurate with its significance.

Robert Brulle is professor of sociology at Drexel University. This post originally appeared at The Conversation.

30 Comments

  1. John Clark | | #1

    Both sides employ Joseph Goebbels-esque
    methods to fulfill their desires. When people start setting themselves on fire (see link below) in protest against "ecological destruction" you know the propaganda is working.

    Seriously though there are more important things to worry about like population growth and pollution.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/charred-body-found-prospect-park-walking-path-article-1.3933598

  2. But Why? | | #2

    in 1989, a group of fossil
    in 1989, a group of fossil fuel corporations, utilities, and automobile manufacturers banded together to form the Global Climate Coalition. The group was convened to prevent the U.S. adoption of the Kyoto Protocol

    ...so in 1989, a group was formed to oppose the adoption of an agreement that wasn't reached until 1997..............

  3. User avater
    Dana Dorsett | | #3

    Kyoto was just the finale @ But Why
    >...so in 1989, a group was formed to oppose the adoption of an agreement that wasn't reached until 1997..............

    That's still a credible assertion- don't get hung up on the naming conventions. Any fact checker would list this under "mostly true".

    The 1997 Kyoto Protocol was the culmination of the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change that came out of the UN Conference on the Environment and Development held in 1992, but the effort to organize international agreements on the topic clearly predated 1992.

    Just because it wasn't called the "Kyoto Protocol" in the early days, doesn't mean there wasn't organized efforts to prevent the agreement that later became known by that name, or that organized efforts to prevent regulation of global drafting & adoption of a international treaty didn't precede 1992 when the Framework Convention on Climate Change was formalized. It doesn't become a topic of importance the UN Conference level overnight.

    The express purpose of the Global Climate Coalition was to oppose policy action & regulation of global warming issues. That mission wasn't limited to international regulations/agreements, but the Framework Convention on Climate Change / Kyoto clearly became the largest single regulation target to go after, even though it wasn't the sole subject.

    So, sure, it's not a 100% accurate & precise assertion, but we can probably settle for 90% here.

  4. Eric Habegger | | #4

    @John Clark
    Seriously John, as someone who has followed you and your arguments on this site for a long time I'm surprised you still attempt to play this game. We already know where your logic and sympathy lie. You demonstrated that very clearly after the full details of how the Flint water was poisoned by lead was exposed and you argued here that the municipality and the people of Flint were to blame. It wasn't the group of bureaucrats that subverted the town's local democracy according to you. After that do you really expect people that know you and have followed you here to be influenced by your views?

    Or are you going to call foul over this comment and run to Martin go get me banned as you did to my response to you that time?

  5. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #5

    Response to Eric Habegger
    Eric,
    I'm not aware of anyone having "run to Martin" concerning this type of comments. When issues arise, I simple re-state Taunton policy.

    Anyone is welcome to debate political issues or green building issues, but our policy prohibits attacks on the character or personality of other GBA readers. So, Eric: stick to the facts, and try not to make any more allusions to anyone's personality or character.

  6. Eric Habegger | | #6

    @Martin
    I certainly have a very good memory of the facts Martin. You banned me for two weeks after that exchange because of my response to John's accusations on the poor character of Flint's residents. That is a fact. This is a fact. You responded to me in a way you would never respond to someone who was being bullied. I was trying to defend people who were terribly victimized already and stop John, (the bully) from doing it further. I had a great feeling of empathy for them, it wasn't something I was doing for show. But you mistakenly took my position of trying to protect the bullied, as my being a bully myself.

    Also, it is very relevant that John said in his argument just now that there are more important things like pollution than (according to him) the non proven global warming. I'm bringing up the very relevant fact that John wasn't particularly concerned with pollution to the residents of Flint. You seem to be acting very myopically Martin when it comes to me merely pointing out outrageous contradictions by John Clark over the years.

  7. John Clark | | #7

    @Eric
    Please accept my apologies as I'm not interested in playing any games. If you're interested in where my perspective comes from perhaps I can encourage you review the essay titled The Law by Frederic Bastiat. (published 1850).

    https://fee.org/media/14951/thelaw.pdf

  8. But Why? | | #8

    @Dana
    The group was not convened to prevent US adoption of the Kyoto Protocol.....unless you can prove through minutes of their meetings or direct testimony of one of the involved actors...are you arguing that they had a crystal ball?

    The group might be said to have opposed the Kyoto Protocol or perhaps you could say that group was convened to oppose regulations such as the Kyoto protocol.

    Saying the group formed prevent a specific thing 8 years prior to that coming into existence is mostly if not wholly false.

    Its like saying the US Army was formed to fight the war of 1812.

  9. Eric Habegger | | #9

    @John
    I would like to accept your apology because I hate these dispute also. They don't make me feel good at all. The problem is that facts are stubborn things and I see over and over again that a strong belief in a philosophy, like libertarianism, lets those facts be distorted by the lens of the philosophy they are being seen through. It is very easy to let facts and statements be molded over time to what is convenient to one's philosophy. I feel like it's a responsibility to identify if one's personal philosophy is having an effect on one's representation of truth. It can most easily be seen by juxtaposing contradictory interpretations of events over time to see it it's being done to suit one's overall philosophy. I do it with myself also; it's not a game to me to do that.

  10. User avater
    Dana Dorsett | | #10

    Not an important distinction in this context @ But Why
    The Kyoto Protocol is a subset of the policy & regulations the group was formed to fight.

    The US Army was indeed formed to fight the wars for the US, including the War of 1812, and wars that came both before & after the war of 1812.

    The lack of precision in that assertion is why it might be only 90% true- it wasn't formed specifically to fight the Kyoto Protocol in reaction to the creation of that protocol. But it was indeed formed to fight/delay/prevent all regulations & policies comparable to the Kyoto protocol.

    Capital-T "Truth" is not a simple binary function. Parsing the facts that finely here isn't particularly useful or enlightening. The fact that it wasn't exclusively about, and indeed preceded the Kyoto Protocol it doesn't materially change the authors' characterization of the Global Climate Coalition's purposes and goals.

  11. But Why? | | #11

    The US Army was CONVENED on
    The US Army was CONVENED on June 14, 1775 to fight the American Revolution....they DID NOT form the US ARMY to fight the war of 1812. They could have easily disbanded the Army once the Revolution was over and indeed there was significant debate at the time of maintaining a standing Army due to the original colonies fear and distrust of that army being wielded against the States.

    The US Army was sustained to fight future wars such as the War of 1812 but it was never formed to fight an UNKNOWN, UNNAMED UNIMAGINED war 37 years in the future.

  12. User avater
    Dana Dorsett | | #12

    Really? The author's case is better than the Army/1812 @ #11
    It didn't take a crystal ball in 1989 to notice that serious people within & between governments (and outside of governments) were openly discussing the possibility of regulating greenhouse gases, in a similar manner to the Montreal Protocol of 1987 that regulated ozone destroying gases. (The formation Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that first convened in 1988 was a major clue that they had some work to do.)

    Organizing to fend off regulations & policies, including the specific treaty that eventually emerged known as the Kyoto Protocol was the specific reason for forming the Global Climate Coalition.

    This was much more specific than any US Army's mission & goals.

    It only would have take a crystal in 1989 to know that the international agreement that eventually came to pass would have been called "The Kyoto Protocol".

    Maybe I was short-changing it by giving in only "90% true"- it probably deserves a 95%.

  13. motoguy128 | | #13

    I think a compromise is ot
    I think a compromise is ot focus on energy effeciency and conservation as it has financial and strategic benefits and ultimately sustains the US position of long term global influence, innovation leaders and control. IF we put our heads in the sand and stop innovating and being more economical with our resources, we will fall behind.

  14. Tyler Ross | | #14

    @ John Clark
    In The Law, Bastiat mentions both slavery and tariffs are forms of legal plunder.
    “There is no country in the world where the law is kept more within its proper domain: the protection of every person's liberty and property. As a consequence of this, there appears to be no country in the world where the social order rests on a firmer foundation (I wonder if he would still think this today!) But even in the United States, there are two issues — and only two — that have always endangered the public peace.
    What are these two issues? They are slavery and tariffs. These are the only two issues where, contrary to the general spirit of the republic of the United States, law has assumed the character of a plunderer.
    Slavery is a violation, by law, of liberty. The protective tariff is a violation, by law, of property.”
    Bastiat was wrong. The US has many issues, most resulting from the ignorant adherence to primitive property rights and rigid individual liberty.
    “Is not this a free country?”
    “Yes, sir.”
    “Have not I a right to swing my arm?”
    “Yes, but your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins.”
    One man burning oil to turn his pistons hardly encroaches on another. But an entire global society (recall the exponential population growth since 1850 that you’ve eluded to) setup to run on oil is another matter. "Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit -- in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.” (Tragedy of the Commons, Garrett Hardin (1968))
    Your air and water is my air and water. The fait of a collective resource requires a collective stewardship.
    Naive faith in oversimplified and outdated doctrine blinds us to this reality as it contradicts our comfortable illusions.
    Or as Hardin put it "practical recommendations deduced from ecological principles threaten the vested interests of commerce; it is hardly surprising that the financial and political power created by these investments should be used sometimes to suppress environmental impact studies. However, I think the major opposition to ecology has deeper roots than mere economics; ecology threatens widely held values so fundamental that they must be called religious. An attack on values is inevitably seen as an act of subversion.”

  15. John Clark | | #15

    @Tyler
    If you and I had adjacent land and shared a river. Neither of us would have the right to pollute or purchase water at a subsidized lower price simply because of a preferred relationship with the State. Collective stewardship creates these preferred relationships and it becomes a tragedy of the commons.

    In any case we're not talking about pollution. The argument over Climate Change isn't about pollution and access to resources. The real argument is over the estimation of the cost of a potential outcome based upon, for all intensive purposes, an infinite number of variables. It is an impossible task.

    If we're worried about Climate Change then we should not allow govt to subsidize behaviors by distorting prices. In the US we could start with energy subsidies (Oil/Gas, Solar, etc), farm subsidies (over production) and housing (ie Flood Insurance).

    As I've said before, population growth and the associated pollution are the real problems. Take Florida for example. The population was ~5 million people in 1960 whereas today it's over 20 million. This growth, due to the subsidies which encourage people to live there, are primarily responsible for the cost increase of hurricane associated damages. Not alleged climate change induced hurricanes.

  16. DAN VANDERMOLEN | | #16

    European output of CO2 up ours down
    I recently read that Europe's CO2 output increased 1.5% while ours decreased .05%. According to the U.S Energy Information Administration energy report from 2005 to 2017 U.S energy related emissions of carbon dioxide plunged by 861 million metric tons a 14% drop. 14% seems pretty good to me.
    I hope all the effort we are taking on reducing energy usage has had some payoff. Hybrid cars, electric cars, solar energy, wind energy, LED bulbs, stricter building codes,net zero homes... If we have taken all these steps and are in as bad a situation as ever then maybe all the cures we are being sold are just snake oil.

  17. Jon R | | #17

    energy usage
    Try to avoid the inaccurate proxy of energy usage and concentrate directly on what makes a difference - CO2, environmental impact, cost, etc.

    Unfortunately, every college student I've asked has no idea what "tragedy of the commons" is. Review should be mandatory in high schools.

  18. User avater
    Dana Dorsett | | #18

    0.05 % or 14% of a much larger number mayhaps @ Dan Vandermolen
    The CO2 emissions per capita (all uses, not just energy) in the US is currently about 15-16 metric tons per person, to the European average & China's ~6-7 tons. It's clear the US has more low hanging fruit to pluck than most (but not all) of Europe. A fall of 0.05% buys no bragging rights- neither does 14%, when you consider the disparity in the raw numbers, not just the percentage difference.

    Individual countries within Europe have drastic differences, in part due to policy differences. Denmark emits less than 0.1 tons per person, the Netherlands about 0.2 tons per person. If either of those countries made a 50% cut it would be comparable in magnitude on a per-capita basis to a 0.05% cut in the US. That is in stark contrast to countries like Latvia's ~23 tons, (even as neighboring Estonia is putting out ~0.1 tons per person.) Even major coal-burner countries like Germany & Poland & Russia are emitting less than 2/3 the US average (Poland, less than half per-capita, Russia pretty close to 2/3.)

    It's also clearly NOT the case that "...we have taken all these steps..." such as "...Hybrid cars, electric cars, solar energy, wind energy, LED bulbs, stricter building codes,net zero homes...", not even close. Denmark is much further along the implementation path than most, but it would be mistaken to suggest that they're all-in just yet.

  19. John Clark | | #19

    @Dana
    Quick question: I wonder were we'd fall if CO2 emissions generated by the US Military were omitted?

  20. User avater
    Dana Dorsett | | #20

    Beats me @ John Clark
    I'm not sure what the hard figures are, but some estimates from 2017 are that the US military emits about 35 million metric tons based on fossil fuel purchases, most of which is for transport & space heating, not much electricity. If we took a WAG and up-sized that to 50 million tons to include the emissions, that's about 10% of the US total emissions. That's probably the right order of magnitude, but a very crude imprecise accounting. I haven't seen a really good analysis of the total emissions of the US military.

  21. DAN VANDERMOLEN | | #21

    Canada nearly = to USA @Dana
    Thanks for the insight. It inspired me to dig deeper. Who would have guessed the CO2 per capita in Canada is nearly equal to ours. I would have thought Canadians were more progressive and thus would have a similar output to a European country.

  22. DAN VANDERMOLEN | | #22

    Caring doesn't equal action
    Does the climate change denying blue collar republican living in a trailer in the Midwest have a larger carbon foot print then a Silicone Valley liberal true believer living in a 8000 square foot house?
    Just because someone self reports as "caring" about something doesn't mean there actions match their words.
    I would bet the latest and greatest McMansion in my neighborhood is just as likely to be owned by a Democrat as a Republican.
    Consider the liberal change to legalize marijuana in states. The results is a 2-3% increase in electric consumption. Our local electric utility has an energy efficiency program where they pay to pick up old working refrigerators trying to reduce the number of second refrigerators in use. At the same time pot growers are plugging in the equivalent of 12 refrigerators to grow one plant!
    The democrat party cared a lot about health insurance. They created the Affordable Care Act. My health insurance more then doubled in cost. My plan use to allow me access to the same hospitals that the most successful CEO or elite entertainer could go to. Now you can not buy a plan that includes the 4-5 teaching hospitals within 20 minutes of my home. All their "caring" destroyed my health insurance. I'm tired of equating caring with actual results.

  23. Jon R | | #23

    CO2 per capita
    To illustrate Dana's point:

  24. John Clark | | #24

    I really don't like per capita because it doesn't take into
    account economic productivity. CO2 per GDP is probably a better representation.

  25. User avater
    Dana Dorsett | | #25

    CO2 per GDP isn't great or universal either. @ John Clark
    Some really low GDP countries have effectively zero industry and zero fossil fuel emissions to boot, with extremely low CO2/GDP. But developing countries have greater GDP aspirations, which could lead to a higher CO2/GDP than their current numbers. How their energy sources develop as their GDP expands makes it or breaks it.

    China's high CO2 per capita gives them an even higher CO2 per GDP figure, but there are lots of reasons for that. The emissions from all the steel & concrete needed for the rapidly expanding economy. That's likely to moderate as China's growth patterns moderate.

    In CO2 per GDP the US is just slightly below the world average very close to team India, slightly above Japan, WELL well above the EU average, but only half that of China, and well below Russia. See the graph on the right side of this page:

    http://www.pbl.nl/sites/default/files/cms/afbeeldingen/005g_muc15_en.png

    OK, so team USA isn't as "bad" as the Russians & Chinese, but nearly twice as bad as the EU. The Chinese have the rapid expansion "excuse", but team Russia has an economy as volatile as international fossil fuel pricing (not high growth), but unduly influenced by the major part of their economy that inspired Senator McCain's "gas station masquerading as a country" description a few years ago.

    Other petro-states of the middle east & elsewhere with outsized fossil fuel industries probably have comparably high or even higher CO2 per GDP than Russia. For those countries the CO2/bbl doesn't change much with price, but the CO2/GDP is a number that looks a lot worse when oil is trading at $40-50/bbl than it does at $90-100/bbl.

    So, what does CO2 per GDP really indicate? It's a bit complicated, to say the least, but doesn't make for clear apples-to-apples comparisons of a country's productivity. Is India REALLY about as productive as the US as the nearly identical CO2/GDP numbers would have it? Is the EU even as productive as the US, as their lower CO2/GDP numbers might indicate?

    Fortunately wind & solar electricity is now cheaper for most of the world than centralized fossil (or light water nuclear), and much more scalable to boot, making it an optimal choice for much of the developing world.. The future of transportation fuel is important for the soon-to-be-driving parts of the developing world. But now that India is sales of internal combustion engine cars and light trucks by 2030 and has a massive renewable electricity program their CO2/GDP will likely drop over time, even as their GDP continues along a high growth trajectory.

    In the past couple of years the world economy has become somewhat uncoupled from both energy use & CO2 emissions, and that is likely to continue. But the recent changes that made it so haven't been by accident or "natural" free-market economics- policy actions of nations still matter.

  26. User avater
    Dana Dorsett | | #26

    Order of magnitude error in my response #20
    If my 50 million metric ton WAG is correct, the US military's greenhouse gas emissions would on the order of 1% of the US total, not 10%. (I guess I need more coffee on a Friday afternoon? :-) )

  27. User avater
    Dana Dorsett | | #27

    Reponse to Dan Vandermolen #22
    There's a fairly high correlation to higher CO2 per capita on the red side of the red/blue divide, but it's not a simple as about "caring".

    Conservatives/Republicans are far more apt to be rural than Progressives/ Democrats. Living on the acreage automatically comes with higher fossil fuel use for transportation & agriculture than most of what happens in or near the urban centers, independently of how big the McMansion is.

    Take the Obama voters for instance:

    http://politicsthatwork.com/graphs/carbon-emissions-politics

    Or the compare red state vs. blue state 2016 map to the per-capita emissions map:

    https://static01.nyt.com/images/2016/11/09/learning/2016mapLN/2016mapLN-superJumbo.png?quality=90&auto=webp

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions

    There are some higher emissions per capita states that went Blue in 2016 (eg New Mexico, Nevada), and lower emissions per capita states that went Red in 2016 (eg Florida & Nebraska). At the extremes the highest emissions per capita states all trend Red, and the lowest emissions per capita states all trend Blue. But that's not to say it's all about "caring" or progressive vs. conservative. Whether attributable to "caring" or not, those are the "actual results"

    The rural-conservatism factor is one aspect that correlates conservatives to higher emissions, but the types of major industries can also play a huge part. Rural North Dakota and Wyoming both host large fossil fuel industries skewing the numbers to the highest end of the range. Comparatively speaking almost nobody lives there (about 10x as many people reside within the city limits of New York City as North Dakota & Wyoming combined), but they produce a LOT of fossil fuel. Both the higher population density of New York (state) with a largely service industry economy skews their carbon numbers per capita downward in comparison.

    Canada is largely rural, independently of where they would fit on the political spectrum, and is the home of one of the MOST carbon-emissions intensive fossil fuel industries, namely the oil-sand biz. That said, Canada's carbon per capita is still somewhat lower than in the US, despite the "miles and miles of miles & miles" of the Canadian midwest, and the deeper-longer heating season (Vancouver's temperate climate notwithstanding.) At least part of that is policy driven.

    Regarding the carbon footprint of legalized cannabis, in progressive Blue state Massachusetts there are regulations limiting the energy intensity (if not strictly carbon intensity) of the industry. It's a fairly new industry in that state, but they have the experience of other states to draw upon for making those regulations and foreseen is forearmed- it's unlikely that they will end up with the 2-3% bump in electricity that has been experienced in some other legal-cannabis states.

    http://www.wbur.org/bostonomix/2018/06/29/marijuana-energy-usage

    https://cabaus.org/2018/03/07/recent-cannabis-regulations-take-energy-efficiency-higher-level/

    Of course there those consider that to be overbearing nanny-state job-killing regulation, but there doesn't seem to be much push-back. The state's other electric utility regulations and other regulations have been reducing electricity use by 2-3% per year for a decade or more. Even if a bump in power use from the new industry were to occur it would be "in the noise", absorbed by the longer term efficiency trend.

    It's just a start, but the region as a whole is committed to decarbonizing the energy supply (transportation included), as are most of the rec-legal cannibis states. Most (but not all) of those are lower emissions per capita states, when maps are compared:

    http://www.governing.com/gov-data/state-marijuana-laws-map-medical-recreational.html

  28. Thomas Peterson | | #28

    Real issue summarized for Dan Vandermolen & others
    When 1) hybrid, if not electric cars, are standard personal transportation, 2) when solar energy and wind energy are being fully exploited, 3) LED bulbs are the only ones sold, and 4) stricter (minimum) building codes are replaced by new and retrofitted net zero homes; then we will know if we have saved our environment. Until then, I will see Dan Vandermolen's comment about them all being “snake oil” as simply his use of “snake oil” to obfuscate the factual situation.

    We can argue forever about “how many angels can sit on the head of a pin”, but taking action ASAP is needed if we are to save the environment for our human existence. If nothing else taking those actions will lead to considerable economic advantages for the average citizen (cleaner, lower costing, and less use of energy). Of course that points to the real issue, these advantages will come out of the profits of Big Energy companies that very effectively buy our government.

    A partial solution: http://www.iseeb.us

    Remember the simple truism, “those not part of the solution are part of the problem”.

  29. Wes Stewart | | #29

    The words may be different but the melody is familiar
    "The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate..."

    So said "expert" Stanford Professor Paul R. Ehrlich, PhD. Now we have new "experts" predicting more calamity.

  30. frozenflyboy | | #30

    Pick your religion
    This whole debate in my estimation is which religion do you subscribe to;
    the religion of the Oh My Goodness we're all gonna die unless we do as Al Gore screamed from the rooftops or
    the religion of suspicion of governments looking for ways to increase taxation. According to the poll, Democrats are the gullible ones (in my estimation)

    I won't get into all of the pros and cons of this endless argument, but a few things that are really suspicious to me is that the so called developing countries where the captains of industry all moved to, to take advantage of slave labour, no environmental and safety regulations in India and China etc. where these same captains just happen to be tax-free both personally and corporately ('frinstance' China dropped corporate tax to companies to 0% recently if they agreed to their conditions ie. Apple passing over passwords of customer's iCloud accts etc) No unemployment insurance, OSHA, EPA, etc.

    Then the country that they moved to ships out the goods to North America and it comes in duty-free or close to it, so the tax burden of the countries ie Canada and the US fall to the citizens not the businesses outside the country. On top of that now the so-called first-world countries are expected to pay a tax just for breathing. (carbon tax) China and India have a 13 year holiday (with an 'extension indefinitely' clause) on paying anything according to the deal (if you can call it that) In the meantime Chine is in the process of building coal powered power stations and has more in the works and they pay no carbon tax.... what's that all about??? Sounds like something is rotten in Denmark or is it Paris.

    Then there is the problem of all of Al Gore's famous "The sky is falling predictions" that actually never came true. It was so bad looking that they had to change it to "climate change" because the heat thing just fizzled out. Then there is the impossibility of "all scientists" agreeing to anything. Not going to happen. Really what happened is better described in other detailed accounts of this fraud.

    Then there is the Inconvenient Truth of Al Gore owning two massive mansions and jetting around the world rather than doing coach like the rest of the plebs and the really telling one where he bought waterfront property in California with his windfall from the movie/book/speaking engagements and then there is the suspicious floating a company on the Chicago Stock Exchange to trade 'Carbon Credits' and when the POTUS decided 'maybe not so much' to the Paris Treaty he jetted over to list it in London. Hmmm...

    Then there is the data that NASA 'oops' lied about and the dishonesty of the figures in the first place.

    There is so much hocus pocus surrounding this that I am appalled that us Canadians have now been taxed on it and the politically corrupt leader here just puts it into "General Revenues" so he can pass it out quietly to his friends in the banking biz or wherever.

    Mercury bulbs in my estimation are foolish and dangerous owing to mercury being one of the most powerful neurotoxins on the planet and also they and LEDs produce prodigious amounts of dirty electricity (Sam Milham's book on that topic.) I got rid of most of mine.

    If someone wishes to believe that the sky is falling, no problem let him buy the skyhook.

    For the record, my wife and I bike/walk most of the time, we are 65 and 72. We keep the heat low in the winter, I drive slowly as my career as a pro pilot taught me to take care of equipment and I read this site so I can figure out how to save money on power and build more intelligently etc. because I am parsimonious... generally... like most PPL.

    As far as the world is too populated I used to buy that myth also.

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