On Climate Change, Money Trumps Common Sense

  • submit to reddit

These days, it seems as if there’s not a fact that can’t be ignored, rejected or altered if you throw enough cash at it.

Last week, the Associated Press reported “a troubling new milestone.” In the Arctic, levels of the heat-trapping gas, carbon dioxide, a key factor in global warming, have hit 400 parts per million, a level scientists believe has not been reached in at least 800,000 years.

“’The fact that it’s 400 is significant,’ said Jim Butler, global monitoring director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Lab in Boulder, Colo. ‘It’s just a reminder to everybody that we haven’t fixed this and we’re still in trouble.’”

“…The burning of fossil fuels, such as coal for electricity and oil for gasoline, has caused the overwhelming bulk of the man-made increase in carbon in the air, scientists say.”

The International Energy Agency recently announced that in 2011, global levels of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels were at a record high of 34.8 billion tons, up 3.2 percent.

Serious news. Yet the day before the AP report, the progressive website Think Progress took note of Republican opposition in the House to the military seeking alternative fuels “if they cost more than ‘traditional fossil fuel.'” This despite a U.S. Army study that, environmental concerns aside, “[a] fighting force that isn’t restricted by the reach of a tanker truck or weighted down by heavy batteries is more nimble and, as a result, more lethal.”

Think Progress quoted VoteVets.org chairman Jon Soltz:

“Why? That’s the question that must be asked. And the answer is pretty simple. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Oil and Gas interests have donated 88 percent of their political contributions to Republicans this cycle — nearly $18 million. That’s the highest percentage they’ve given to Republicans since at least 1990.”

Meanwhile, the Union of Concerned Scientists just released an analysis of “28 companies in the S&P 500 that participated in climate policy debates over the past several years. All of them publicly expressed concern about climate change or a commitment to reducing emissions through websites and public statements, but half (14) also misrepresented climate science in their public communications. Many more contributed to the spread of misinformation about climate science in less direct ways, such as through political contributions, trade group memberships, and think tank funding.

“…The report found that companies also utilized their considerable financial resources to oppose climate policy. Lobbying expenditures for energy sector companies increased by 92 percent from 2007 to 2009, when climate change bills were actively debated in Congress. Meanwhile, Valero Energy Corporation donated more than $4 million to the Yes on Prop 23 campaign, which sought to undermine California’s climate change law, but was ultimately rejected by voters.”

ExxonMobil, General Electric and oil giant ConocoPhillips were among those cited as companies that talked a good game, publicly extolling their clean energy policies while simultaneously fighting against climate change regulations. ConocoPhillips, Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones writes, “…while it was touting its supposedly green positions and alliances… also submitted comments to the EPA suggesting that there is a ‘high degree of uncertainty’ about the negative effects of climate change on public health and well-being…

“ConocoPhillips spent 15 times as much money electing anti-climate-action lawmakers as it did on pro-climate-action lawmakers. And it was a dues-paying member of groups like the American Petroleum Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that spent huge sums opposing climate action.”

But when it comes to sheer, bone-headed climate change denial in the name of the almighty dollar, Sheppard suggests — in a separate Mother Jones dispatch — a visit to the North Carolina legislature, where lawmakers are proposing “a new law that would require estimates of sea level rise to be based only on historical data — not on all the evidence that demonstrates that the seas are rising much faster now thanks to global warming.

“The sea level along the coast of North Carolina is expected to rise about a meter by the end of the century. But business interests in the state are worried that grim projections that account for climate-induced sea level rise will make it harder for them to develop along the coast line. So policymakers in the state plan to deal with that issue by writing a law requiring inaccurate projections.”

North Carolina legislators may want to add a new question to mortgage applications in the state: how well do you tread water?

  • submit to reddit