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The Anti-Environmental Archives launch on Earth Day 2015

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To celebrate 2015 Earth Day, we have just released a huge, online, and searchable archive of documents on anti-environmental campaigns, individuals involved in these campaigns and the corporations that back them.

The Anti-Environmental Archives, now live on Polluterwatch.com, is a unique archive that reveals the plotting and scheming by industry and industry-funded think tanks and coalitions against a range of environmental issues of the time – from global warming to ozone depletion, spotted owls, national parks – and the environmentalists fighting for regulation.  

The 27,000+ page, text-searchable archive documents more than 300 groups in 3500 documents. The documents themselves are mounted on the great DocumentCloud platform built for journalists with a grant from the Knight Foundation in 2009 and now run by the organization, Investigative Reporters and Editors.

This will be an ongoing project, with documents added from additional paper archives in coming months.

The files released today are mostly archives collected during the 1990s by an organization called CLEAR (Clearinghouse on Environmental Advocacy Research) that was part of the Environmental Working Group at the time, later curated by Greenpeace’s Research Department.  Finally, they’ve been transferred from their full 15 linear feet of hardcopy files that sat in a dark room into something far more useful.

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Even before CLEAR was formed, Greenpeace published its paperback “The Greenpeace Guide to Anti-Environmental Organizations” in 1993 - a tight reference guide that listed 54 different groups and organizations campaigning against environmental regulation, but alas the footnotes and research files are lost to time.  We have the Greenpeace Guide scanned and up on the Anti-Environmental Archives, or see if you can find a copy on Amazon.

 

Turning dusty old paper files into text searchable digital files is a magical trick and a whole lot of work...

What did we find? Let’s start with at Earth Day, seeing as we’ve released this archive on the occasion. 

On Earth Day in 1996, the Heartland Institute published its “Free Guide for Saving the Planet” outlining the “sound science” that put paid to various environmental issues of the day – ozone depletion isn’t happening, neither is global warming, second hand smoke is good for you, oil isn’t running out… you get the picture.  They apparently distributed this paper nationwide on campuses and elsewhere.  It includes:

  • Climate denier Dr. Sallie Baliunas, writing here for the George C. Marshall Institute an article titled  the "Cold Facts on Global Warming", calling for a five year delay on any government action and concluding, "The entire hypothesis of a disastrous manmade global warming is suspect."
  • Dr. Fred Singer this time questioning the dangers of ozone layer depletion and the role of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons)
  • An article questioning the EPA's assessment of the health impacts of secondhand smoke, a hot topic for the tobacco industry at the time.
  • Another article by Joe Bast of Heartland bragging about reduced pollution from automobiles since the 1970s, without mentioning that these gains were forced by environmental regulations.

Consumer Watch’s Earth Day 1997 document was just as good: "A Vision for our Environment, Our Children, Our Future" offered "Principles for New Environmental Policy" including:

  • Economic Growth is Prerequisite for Environmental Progress
  • Land and Natural Resources are Best Managed by Private Owners
  • No Regulation Without Representation

Signatories included most of the anti-environmental organizations and individuals of the day.  Some of them, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are still very much in action.

In 2005 there was the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Earth Day “The sky isn’t falling” release, proclaiming the earth’s future was “as green as ever.”

The sad and important thing is that some of these organizations are still banging the same drum, with the same arguments, 20 years later.

These documents paint a portrait of the days of early climate denial.

It was around the mid-90’s that Philip Morris and PR company APCO were employing Steve Milloy for the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition. Milloy turns up a lot in these papers, from his book, “silencing science” to his involvement in Consumer Alert and his Op Eds.

The Kyoto Protocol hadn’t yet been agreed, but the Global Climate Coalition was up and running with its “Global Climate Information Project”

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The best books written on this period of raging anti-environmentalism during the  Clinton presidency were David Helvarg’s “The War Against the Greens” (1994, with an updated version released in 2004) and Andy Rowell’s 1996 book, Green Backlash, both documenting the birth of the so called Wise Use Movement, a term appropriated by Ron Arnold from Gifford Pinchot, the first head of the US Forest Service who coined the term "conservation ethic".  These books also document the role of multiple front groups being set up by PR companies such as Burson Marstellar

The archive has a trove of documents from the George C. Marshall Institute, one of the early think tanks funded by corporates, and a large focus of Naomi Oreskes’ book – and now film - “Merchants of Doubt.” 

The Marshall Institute’s resident senior scientist was Sallie Baliunas, who 

published a “study” that attacked the models of global warming, argued temperature records were wrong, and that it had all happened before.  Baliunas worked closely with the Cooler Heads Coalition, in 1998 publishing another paper we found in these files.

Baliunas was an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and would later take on a protégé, Willie Soon. Together, they would take millions from the fossil fuel industry for work to counter the climate science consensus.

There is a Competitive Enterprise Institute brochure from the 90’s where they actually admit who funded them.  Also within the archive are documents from the 2000s via research and FOIA's conducted by Greenpeace Research Department, including that somewhat famous memo from Myron Ebell and Chris Horner of CEI to the Bush White House CEQ’s Phil Cooney pushing back on the Bush Administration moving forward at all on climate and imploring Cooney not to quit the White House after it was revealed that he was editing EPA reports on climate change, an episode made famous by Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth.

There are hundreds of documents from organizations pushing anti-environmental legislation, and seven pages of documents on the issue of "property rights". There are copious documents on the fight against Federal control of land in the West, managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Manangement and other agencies including grazing permits, mining permits and national forest leases.  This fight is still going-to take Federal public land away from the government, including the ALEC assisted push by Ken Ivory of the Americans Land Council.  More coming on this thread.

These are just some of the documents we’ve found when going through these files with the new search engine capability. 

What will you find?

Please contact us with research questions, ideas and comments at Info@ClimateInvestigations.org

And contact us if you have useful documents to add to the archive to P.O Box 91, Alexandria ,VA 22314




Are Climate Deniers Retreating or Doubling Down? Heartland and ALEC can't decide

Screen_Shot_2015-04-09_at_6.32.44_PM.pngAre climate deniers in retreat? We think not. But Heartland and ALEC seem to be speaking from both sides of their mouths the days.  Flip flopping for sure.

This week has seen a bizarre collection of some climate deniers denying their own denial, while others are denying they’re no longer deniers.  It's getting weird inside the Denial Machine.  Corporations, politicians and this week non-profit organizations are suddenly trying to either run from climate denial, deny their own history of denial or double down on denial.  

It all started with the recent revelations that ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) had sent “cease and desist” legal letters to a random selection of organizations (Common Cause, League of Conservation Voters and CREDO), calling on them to stop saying ALEC denied the science of climate change.   The Washington Post broke the story Monday.

But wait, said experts, ALEC does deny the science of climate change:  it regularly invites longtime hard core science deniers like Heartland’s Joe Bast, former Peabody Coal employee Craig Idso, CFACT's Lord Christopher Monckton and Marc Morano to speak at its meetings.  

That was strange enough.  Why would ALEC bring attention to its obvious climate denial?   Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Google had already left ALEC, citing its climate denial as a central reason.  

ALEC pointed interested parties at its statement on climate change and renewables

At this point it really started to get weird.  In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Dana Milbank announced his theory with the headline “Climate Change Deniers are in Retreat.”  Fair point and supposition, given ALEC’s flurry of legal letters.

He also pointed to a little-read blog by Heartland Institute blogger and editor, Justin Haskins, late last year on a conservative Justin.jpgwebsite.   Haskins made what some would call a substantially “off message” (for Heartland) series of statements about climate change (bold emphasis added):

The real debate is not whether man is, in some way, contributing to climate change; it’s true that the science is settled on that point in favor of the alarmists.

Haskins, who was only hired by Heartland last year, also put forward the usual argument that nobody knows the extent of how much climate change is human-caused and argued that warming would take a very long time.  But he’s clearly been doing some personal thinking about this issue, heading way out on the limb he was already balancing precariously on:

“However, if climate change is occurring, even if it’s occurring at a very slow rate, the world must take the potential dangers related to this problem very seriously—more seriously than many of the global warming skeptics are currently willing to agree to.

 And this statement that might as well be from Greenpeace:

 “It’s a rather extreme position to say that we ought to allow dangerous pollutants to destroy the only planet we know of that can completely sustain human life.” 

It was on these words that the Washington Post's Dana Milbank quite reasonably based his pretext about deniers being in retreat. 

And these are also some of the core arguments Heartland has been fighting against for at least a decade, the organization’s main message.  Heartland would never say "the alarmists" (our side) has won even a point.  Maybe they do internally however and that's where young Justin picked it up.

So.  Has the Heartland Institute changed its tune? 

It seems that Haskins is somewhat of an outlier within his organization.  Joe Bast, Heartland's director shot back at Milbank quiet venomously on the Heartland website, arguing somehow that Haskins’ view was very outdated, being from a whole four months ago.  Bast hastened to tell everyone that no indeed, the Heartland Institute hadn’t changed its view:

“The man-made global warming paradigm is crumbling, public support is vanishing, and except for a few last hold-outs at the Washington Post and New York Times, the whole world knows it. Human activity is not causing a climate crisis.”

Bast noted “I would have phrased it a bit differently, but I don’t disagree with the points Haskins made.

Which points exactly, Joe?  We’re confused. The ones that say the “alarmists” have won the debate about climate change being human-caused, or the one where Haskins calls carbon dioxide a “dangerous pollutant”?

Just in case we hadn’t heard him, Bast enlisted his mate James Delingpole at Breitbart (which appears to be the new Heartland mouthpiece, having run a series of frothing-at-the-mouth defences of Willie Soon), who also lambasted the Washington Post for getting it wrong.

Back to ALEC, where Bast, an invited speaker, told their 2014 summer annual meeting among other things:

“there is no scientific consensus on the human role in climate change."

The benefits of man-made global warming exceed the likely costs.

Global warming is not a crisis.  The threat was exaggerated.  

There is no need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and no point in attempting to do so."

Are they all trying to have it both ways?  Is Heartland in retreat?  It seems not, neither is ALEC, although the difference is that ALEC is trying to look like it is, whereas Heartland is trying to look like it isn’t.

We look forward to this year’s ALEC annual meeting where perhaps they might like to hear from some of the 97% of scientists who agree that humans are causing climate change - instead of their usual rollcall of Bast and his cronies.  

Meanwhile it’s going to be difficult to see Heartland’s Haskins being allowed out of his blogger box on climate change for some time, if he keeps his job at all.

 

 




Southern Company Dumps Climate Denier Willie Soon

The Washington Post broke the news yesterday that Southern Company confirmed it is dropping the contract with Dr. Willie Soon at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.  But not immediately...at the end of the current 2015 contract.

Southern Co. has not issued a public statement or explanation, only sparse email responses to reporters.  

Before this week, Southern's response was a lot of avoiding the question.  As in this response to the New York Times in late February:

“Southern Company funds a broad range of research on a number of topics that have potentially significant public-policy implications for our business,” said Jeannice M. Hall, a spokeswoman. The company declined to answer detailed questions about its funding of Dr. Soon’s research.

Inside Climate News reports an email confirmation today from Southern Company

"Our agreement with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory expires later this year and there are no plans to renew it," Southern spokesman Jack Bonnikson said in an email.

Hidden within Monday's Washington Post article on American Legislative Exchange Council is this Willie Soon news:

In a separate example that echoes ALEC’s plight, Southern Co., the country’s fourth-largest electric utility, recently decided to quietly drop its funding for controversial scientist Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, a solar physicist at the the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory...
The company had been underwriting Soon’s research through a grant to the Smithsonian-affiliated laboratory where the scientists works, but the company has decided to end the relationship later this year, a spokesman confirmed. Soon declined a request to comment.
(Bold emphasis added)

What Southern Company Knew and When They Knew It

We have known this fact for some time, hearing through the grapevine that high ranking Southern Company executives were reaching out to multiple "stakeholders" immediately after the Willie Soon story broke in late February.  
The executives claimed ignorance of the Soon contract, calling it an artifact of a bygone era, some remnant contract, some other guy, etc.  We know this to be somewhat false. The Southern Co. PR/media team at least has been aware of that their covert relationship with Soon for at least four years, back to spring of 2011, when there was a round of coverage about Willie Soon's fossil fuel funders.
In fact, Southern Company was on the record in 2011 and just as cagey about the relationship, with a non-answer response about their broad research spending.
In 2011 when Greenpeace got the first return on its Freedom of Information Act request (detailing grants from Southern Company, ExxonMobil, Charles Koch Foundation, Donors Trust and others) Southern was questioned by Tim Gardner of Reuters and stated that they "did not fund Soon last year."  

"Southern gave Soon $120,000 starting in 2008 to study the Sun's relation to climate change, according to the FOIA documents. Spokeswoman Stephanie Kirijan said Southern has spent about $500 million on environmental research and development and funding and did not fund Soon last year.

Southern funded Soon for studies of solar variability but not to deny that mercury emissions are dangerous, she said."

At the time we only had funding data from Smithsonian through 2009 since the original FOIA was filed in 2009.  We now know Southern took a break in 2010 for some reason, then began funding Soon again in 2011 and continued through 2015, racking up over $400,000 in checks to Dr. Soon. 

We also know the Soon contract was run out of Southern Company Services, Inc. a subsidiary that does contract work for Southern, hires lobbyists etc.  Southern describes the subsidiary this way: "SCS is the system service company providing, at cost, specialized services to Southern Company and its subsidiary companies."

You can bet Southern Company HQ knows what Southern Company Services does... like take Federal grants to build the over budget underperforming Kemper "clean coal" plant, like sue whistleblowers who want to talk about Southern's "clean coal" plant, like hire Haley Barbour's lobby firm BGR to do the company's bidding...

More questions for Smithsonian and Southern Company

Some intrepid reporter or investigator might push Southern for more comment and explanation:
  • Has Smithsonian been notified by Southern Company on the termination of the contract?
  • Are there modifications to the existing contract with Southern Company through 2015?
  • What are the expected "deliverables" from Soon to Southern Company for 2015?
  • We also have not seen the "deliverables" or "Year End Reports" from Soon to Southern for the 2013 or 2014 contracts. (Inside Climate News reports that there is an expected report for the 2015 work)
Or to ask Southern Company the same questions:
  • Why wait until the end of the year?  
  • Why not end the contract with Soon immediately?  

This story will continue until we stop.




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