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How Divesting of Fossil Fuels Could Help Save the Planet

December 12, 2017 - 1:36pm

By Olaf WeberTruzaar Dordi, and Vasundhara Saravade of the University of Waterloo.

Recently, a number of institutional investors, including Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec in Canada and Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, announced their intent to reduce their exposure in investments linked to fossil fuels.

The announcements show that investors withdraw their funds to either mitigate financial risks or for ethical reasons. But the question remains whether divestment and divestment announcements have a financial impact on the share price of fossil fuel companies.

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Climate Denial Campaigner Hired by Lords’ Office Fails to Declare Lobbying Interest

December 12, 2017 - 3:00am

A leading lobbyist for a climate science denial campaign group has unfettered access to UK lawmakers by being registered as a “staff” member of an associated Lord, but does not declare his role in the official register of interest.

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ALEC, Corporate-Funded Bill Mill, Considers Model State Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protesters

December 11, 2017 - 3:19pm

At its recent States & Nation Policy Summit, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that connects state legislators with corporations and creates templates for state legislation, voted on a model bill calling for the crack down and potential criminalization of those protesting U.S. oil and gas pipeline infrastructure.

Dubbed the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, the model legislation states in its preamble that it draws inspiration from two bills passed in the Oklahoma Legislature in 2017. Those bills, House Bill 1123 and House Bill 2128, offered both criminal and civil penalties which would apply to protests happening at pipeline sites. Critics viewed these bills as an outgrowth of the heavy-handed law enforcement reaction to protests of the Dakota Access pipeline.

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Why Al Gore Fears Donald Trump – But Remains Optimistic

December 11, 2017 - 12:23pm

Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement – making America the only country on earth to opt out of the climate accord. Al Gore is captured in the new film An Inconvenient Sequel looking distressed at the election of Trump in 2016. Here, one of the film's directors tells The Ecologist’s Brendan Montague how Gore made it clear that he fears Trump is a danger to our planet.

Gore features in An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power – which is released on DVD on 11 December – and follows a decade after his Oscar winning blockbuster An Inconvenient Truth. The film shows Gore’s increasing despondency during 2016 as Trump successfully campaigns for the presidency.

The latest documentary is directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, who spent almost two years filming and speaking with Gore – including behind the scenes during the Conference of the Parties negotiations held in Paris at the end of 2015. 

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Former Environment Secretary Promotes Post-Brexit ‘Special Relationship’ with US Climate Science Deniers

December 11, 2017 - 3:00am

Former environment secretary Owen Paterson made the rounds with some of the top climate science deniers on a tour of the US this autumn to promote a “special relationship” post-Brexit.

The Shropshire MP travelled to Washington D.C. in October, DeSmog UK can reveal, where he met with infamous climate science deniers Lamar Smith, James Inhofe, and Myron Ebell. He also gave speeches at both the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and the Heritage Foundation – two libertarian think tanks known for promoting climate science denial and working against environmental regulations.

Paterson’s visits are the latest in a string of meetings between pro-Brexit UK politicians (such as international trade secretary Liam Fox) and US climate science denial groups.

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Introducing DeSmog UK’s Climate Disinformation Database

December 11, 2017 - 3:00am

This person has been in the press a lot but says some weird things about climate science – who are they, and what are their credentials?

This group seems very keen on fossil fuels, but their research looks legit – who are they, and who are they connected to?

This ‘global warming policy’ think tank is asking for a meeting, but I’ve never heard of them – who are they, and what is their agenda?

DeSmog UK’s Climate Disinformation Database, launched today, is a quick and easy tool for the public, policymakers, researchers, and journalists to check who they’re dealing with on climate science and policy.

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The Trump Admin’s Misleading Justifications for Repealing This Oil Train Safety Rule

December 10, 2017 - 8:02am

On December 4, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced it would repeal a critical safety regulation for modern braking systems on the same oil trains which have derailed, spilled oil, caught fire, exploded, and even killed dozens in multiple high profile accidents in recent years. 

The regulation, released by the DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in mid 2015, required that oil trains have modern electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking systems by 2021. However, in the latest iteration of its review process for this rule, the DOT is now doing an about-face.

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India May Ban Petcoke, One of Dirtiest Fossil Fuels Exported by Koch Brothers

December 9, 2017 - 9:14am

While U.S. power plants have considered petroleum coke or “petcoke to be too dirty to burn, India, on the other hand, has been importing this coal by-product of tar sands refining for years. However, it may be seeing its last days in the country which has served as its biggest importer.

In the aftermath of an Associated Press investigation published on December 1, India's Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has said the country is formulating plans to phase out petcoke imports. The AP investigation, filed from New Delhi, revealed that citizens who live near petcoke refining facilities have come down with a range of air pollution-related illnesses in recent months and years.

The AP also points out that among the largest exporters of U.S. petcoke are Koch Industries subsidiary Koch Carbon and Oxbow Carbon, the latter of which is owned by the twin brother of David Koch, Bill Koch. The advocacy group Oil Change International referred to petcoke as “the coal hiding in the tar sands” in a 2013 report documenting the carbon footprint of petcoke production and combustion.

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Australian Climate Science Denier Ian Plimer Follows Tony Abbott in Pushing Dodgy Science to London Think-Tank

December 7, 2017 - 9:04pm

Australians have been keeping the London-based climate science denial group the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) busy in recent weeks.

After former Prime Minister Tony Abbott gave the group’s annual lecture in October, it was the turn of one of Australia’s longest-serving deniers to empty another bucket of bunkum.

Professor Ian Plimer, an Australian director of multiple mining companies, is featured in a new interview with the GWPF to promote his latest subtly titled denial tome: Climate Change Delusion and the Great Energy Rip-off.

When it comes to climate change science, Plimer can be placed very firmly in the file marked “denial.”

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How American Cities and States Are Fighting Climate Change Globally

December 7, 2017 - 3:52pm

By Emma Lecavalier, University of Toronto

Since the Trump administration announced last June its intended withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, attention — and hope — has turned to America’s cities and states.

Many local and regional governments actively voiced support for upholding the United States’ pledges under the Paris Agreement. Initiatives that represented those commitments, including the U.S. Climate Alliance, the We Are Still In declaration and America’s Pledge were all active participants at November’s UN climate conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany.

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On Eve of Key Atlantic Coast Pipeline Decision, Here’s a Review of Dominion’s Ties to Decision-makers

December 5, 2017 - 7:39pm

Starting on Thursday, December 7, the state of Virginia’s Water Control Board will convene for three key meetings to decide the fate of a number of contentious pipeline projects. On the agenda: whether or not to grant a water quality permit to the Atlantic Coast pipeline, a 550-mile long, multistate fracked gas project led by Dominion Energy.

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The Obscure Federal Agency That Soon Could Raise Your Electric Bill: 5 Questions Answered on FERC

December 5, 2017 - 3:24pm

By Joshua D. Rhodes, University of Texas at Austin

Editor’s note: On or before Dec. 11, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected to take action on a controversial proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry that seeks to prevent noncompetitive coal and nuclear power plants from retiring prematurely. Depending on how such a rule is structured, analyses have estimated that it could cost ratepayers in affected regions up to several billion dollars yearly. Energy scholar Joshua Rhodes explains what FERC is and why it has so much power over energy markets and (indirectly) the prices consumers pay.

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Exxon’s First Amendment Claims in Climate Fraud Case Draw Judge’s Skepticism

December 3, 2017 - 1:45am

By Karen Savage. Crossposted from Climate Liability News.

Exxon’s quest to convince a federal judge that two state attorneys general are stifling their right to free speech is proving to be no easy task.

In a hearing Thursday in New York, U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni said the oil giant’s rationale involved “wild leaps of logic” in claiming New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey are infringing on the company’s First Amendment rights by pursuing climate fraud investigations.

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Renewable Energy Isn’t Perfect, But It’s Far Better Than Fossil Fuels

December 2, 2017 - 11:04am

In their efforts to discredit renewable energy and support continued fossil fuel burning, many anti-environmentalists have circulated a dual image purporting to compare a lithium mine with an oilsands operation. It illustrates the level of dishonesty to which some will stoop to keep us on our current polluting, climate-disrupting path (although in some cases it could be ignorance).

The image is a poor attempt to prove that lithium batteries and renewable energy are worse for the environment than energy from oilsands bitumen. The first problem is that the “lithium mine” is actually BHP Billiton’s Escondida copper mine in Chile (the world’s largest). The bottom image is of an Alberta oilsands operation, but it’s an in situ underground facility and doesn’t represent the enormous open-pit mining operations used to extract most bitumen.

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Virginia Won't Say Whether its Official Spoke at Gas Industry Panel on Curbing Pipeline Protesters

December 1, 2017 - 3:03pm

A high-ranking Virginia state official was listed as participating in a gas industry-sponsored panel that discussed strategies for confronting public opposition to new infrastructure projects, including the Atlantic Coast pipeline. Yet Governor Terry McAuliffe’s administration has refused to provide any explanation or even confirm the official’s appearance on the panel.

The panel took place during the American Gas Association’s (AGA) State Affairs Meeting, held in early October this year in Scottsdale, Arizona. Also presenting on the panel was a Dominion Energy executive, Bruce McKay, who shared his company’s experience in countering protests and engaging in what he called a political “campaign to elect a pipeline.”

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How do you Spot a Climate Science Denial Blog? Check the Polar Bears

December 1, 2017 - 11:31am

In an era of #fakenews, it can sometimes be tricky to work out what is legitimate scientific reporting, and what is, well, fake. New research suggests there's a handy rule of thumb for spotting the work of climate science deniers, however: look for the polar bears.

One of the most glaring differences between legitimate science-based blogs and those that deny the science on anthropogenic climate change is how they write about polar bears and Arctic sea ice.

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Fracking Expert: 'We Are Just Doing The Science, But We Are Being Criticised From All Sides'

November 30, 2017 - 2:10pm

Concerns over fracking are “not as bad as people may think”, but suggesting the technology is safe is “ridiculous”, according to a leading shale gas expert.

Professor Richard Davies, a petroleum geologist at Newcastle University, is used to engaging in difficult debates.  He has repeatedly come under fire from both sides of the fracking debate for trying to shed light on the environmental and social impacts of shale gas exploration.

Today, it has been announced that he is to receive commendation for the John Maddox Prize. The prize, handed out by campaign group Sense About Science, aims to recognise the work of individuals who promote science and evidence on matters of public interest despite facing difficulty or hostility in doing so.

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How the Mont Pelerin Society 'Neoliberal Thought Collective' Is Influencing Donald Trump's Presidency

November 29, 2017 - 5:53pm

After Donald Trump won the US election, analysts, researchers and journalists got to work to track how this apparent political outsider would suddenly gather a team.

Despite promising to “drain the swamp” of vested interests and lobbyists, it became clear Trump was intent on refilling it with figures and ideas from the well-established network of conservative and neoliberal think-tanks.

Suddenly, staff from groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation were helping to draw up plans for a Trump administration.

Last month, Trump thanked one of those groups personally, with an address to the Heritage Foundation's annual meeting.

But those think tanks, and the people who lead and run them, have strong links to another influential group that has been trying to bend governments around the world to a particular ideology for almost 70 years.

The Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) was established in 1947 by economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek — a man considered by many to be the godfather of modern free market thinking.

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Washington Agency Votes to Reject Vancouver Energy’s Massive Oil-by-Rail Terminal

November 29, 2017 - 1:29pm

In another major blow to the West Coast oil-by-rail industry, a Washington state agency voted unanimously to recommend Governor Jay Inslee reject the Vancouver Energy oil terminal. Proposed for construction in Vancouver, Washington, along the Columbia River, it would be the largest oil-by-rail facility in the country.

Washington State’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) has been reviewing the project since 2013 — reportedly the longest review period ever for the council. However, its November 28 meeting and vote on the final recommendation for the Tesoro Savage–backed project only took 10 minutes.

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Here's the Teacher-Friendly Antidote to Heartland Institute's Anti-Science School 'Propaganda'

November 26, 2017 - 9:57am

On a Monday morning at the end of October, Rob Ross asked a group of earth scientists and educators a question: How many of them had received copies of the Heartland Institute book Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming?

You could feel an immediate sense of frustration in the air. Roughly half of them raised their hands. The Heartland Institute is a Chicago-based think tank that rejects the scientific consensus that humans are changing the climate and has received funding from the conservative billionaire Koch brothers and fossil fuel industry.

In March, it mailed, unsolicited, a 135-page book and accompanying DVD to tens of thousands of science teachers at public high schools across the U.S., with plans to keep that up until the report was in the hands of every last one.

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