- Sen. Baucus (D-MT): "There's no doubt that this Congress is going to pass climate change legislation."
- Road to Copenhagen, Part 4: A New Social Contract
- One error retracted, 99 to go. Superfreaknomics authors will, in future editions, correct their claim that Caldeira believes "carbon dioxide is not the right villain"
- The GOP's phony excuse for delaying the climate and clean energy bill
- Media stunner: Newsweek partners with oil lobby to raise ad cash, host energy and climate events with lawmakers — while publishing the uber-greenwashing story, "Big Oil Goes Green for Real"
- Energy and Global Warming News for November 5: China Sets Its Sights on Green Cars; New business group backs climate-change bill
Posted: 06 Nov 2009 06:00 AM PST
Contrary to reports from many in the media, the prospects for a climate bill are as good as ever now that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has finished its work. E&E News makes that clear in a series of interviews with key Senate swing votes,"Senate moderates see an opening now that EPW gridlock is history" (subs. req'd):
As I had noted last week, while the media was quick to jump over some seemingly negative statements from the Montana Senator, in fact it was clear from his words that Baucus will be voting for the final bill.
While many key moderates made clear they would not vote for the Boxer-Kerry bill that EPW voted out of Committee yesterday, everyone realizes that the process is going to start anew with Graham, Kerry, and Lieberman, who "will be working closely with the White House" to develop a separate bipartisan climate bill that can get 60 votes.
And contrary to some reporting, the EPW process has not undermined prospects for the new bipartisan bill:
So Boxer delivered on her promise back in early February, as Greenwire reported (see "Breaking: Sen. Boxer makes clear U.S. won't pass a climate bill this year"):
Ideally Kerry and Graham and Leiberman and the White House will flesh out the key details of the new bill by Copenhagen, ultimately leading to a successful Senate floor vote in February, and a bill on the president's desk sometime in April.
Posted: 06 Nov 2009 05:26 AM PST
As we approach the climate conference in Copenhagen, politicians are balking and diplomats are burning the midnight oil, deprived of sleep. But we can take heart. Some unlikely new heroes may come to the rescue.
One prospective hero is The Citizen-Consumer. Consumers are not the first group that pops to my mind when I think about environmental leadership. Unbridled consumption without regard for consequences has much to do with the mess we're in.
Then came a poll by Time magazine over the summer. It found that nearly four of every 10 American consumers over age 18 regularly and deliberately choose products made by "socially responsible" companies. If conspicuous consumption got us into this mess, can it be that conscionable consumption will get us out? Maybe. Based on its poll and several other factors, TIME concludes:
We might be tempted to assume these green consumers – Time calls them the "responsibles" – come from the liberal wing of America's vast customer base. We'd be wrong. According to Time's poll, "responsibles" are almost equally divided between people who classify themselves as conservatives, moderates and liberals.
The second unlikely hero is The Corporation. New evidence suggests that companies around the world are beginning to discover that "green" is golden. A significant number of companies apparently are committing to social responsibility and sustainability.
For example, after interviewing more than 200 corporations that represent 75 percent of the $36 trillion equities market in the United States, Siemens and McGraw-Hill Construction concluded that "corporate America's embrace of sustainability has more than doubled in strength in the past three years with 76 percent of the largest U.S. firms reporting efforts and commitments that exceed those required by law."
After surveying nearly 1,600 business leaders around the world, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) reported this fall that 92 percent of the respondents said their companies are addressing sustainability in some way. Corporate interest in sustainability has remained strong even during the recession, BCG found, and there was a strong consensus among the business leaders it interviewed that companies "will play a key role in solving the long-term global issues related to sustainability."
McKinsey & Company reports that in its annual survey of business leaders last year, "executives for the first time were more likely to view addressing social and political issues as an opportunity than as a risk."
This view – social issues as opportunities — continued in this year's survey. McKinsey found:
Most executives polled by McKinsey believe that of all issues concerning the public, including health care and executive pay, climate change and other environmental issues are the most likely to attract the public attention and to affect shareholder value over the next five years.
In an interview with McKinsey the CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman, describes the business case for becoming a "values-driven" company:
The evidence of a growing green marketplace is accumulating so fast, TIME believes we're seeing "a new social contract among consumers, business and government". I don't know whether that contract really exists, but I am certain about one thing: It would be a very good thing if it did.
So let's write one. Let's invite corporations, governments and citizen-consumers to sign a win-win-win commitment. Its obligations would include these:
Government – Two of government's biggest roles in building a green economy are as consumer and regulator. The federal government is so large a consumer of energy and products, ranging from battleships to paperclips, that it has the power by itself to create large sustained markets for green products. President Obama has flexed that power in his Oct. 5 executive order, which requires federal agencies to reduce their carbon emissions, use less energy and water, and comply with new sustainability requirements. Every state and local government in the United States should follow suit.
Governments at all levels should follow Wal-Mart's example by greening their supply chains – i.e., requiring suppliers to comply with progressive standards that reduce their environmental footprints.
Federal, state and local governments can create their own social responsibility and sustainability plans and report progress annually with third-party verification. Among other things, these plans would detail how state and local governments are using their substantial existing authorities to promote sustainable practices in buildings (through building codes), power production (through utility regulation), transportation systems (through regional planning and the investment of federal transportation money) and urban design (through zoning, tax policies and infrastructure development).
Corporations: Despite the positive news from the business sector, corporations have a long way to go. The majority of respondents in the BCG survey said "their companies were not acting decisively to fully exploit the opportunities and mitigate the risks that sustainability presents." More than 70 percent said their companies have not developed a clear business case for sustainability.
Contradicting the Siemens' survey, BCG found that among the companies it surveyed, most sustainability actions are the minimum required by law. TIME's poll found that 40 percent of the 1,000 largest companies in the United States have not created publicly available environmental policies; fewer than 8 percent use third parties to verify progress on their corporate social responsibility policies.
In the new social contract, every company hoping to earn the loyalty of green consumers would create and regularly publicize its corporate social responsibility and sustainability policies. Companies would set clear stretch goals for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, improving their resource efficiency (including water and energy), using recycled content in their products, and replacing high-carbon with low-carbon energy.
In addition to setting environmental standards for their suppliers, certifying their progress and reporting annually, corporations would develop green labels that disclose the life-cycle environmental footprints of their products. They'd avoid green-washing by following the Federal Trade Commission's Green Guides on labeling.
And here's a big one: Corporations would promise to adhere to the same environmental standards overseas that they use in the United States.
Citizen-Consumers: Consumers would favor green and socially responsible companies not only in their purchases, but also in their investment portfolios. They would pledge to conserve energy, to recycle and reuse, and to support local investments in mass transit, hiking-biking paths, urban forestation and smart growth.
Who would manage such a contract and how would it be enforced? I have no idea. But the federal government could help by finishing work on a system to track national progress on sustainable development – an exercise that has been underway for years in the White House. That system could include indicators of how government, business and citizen-consumers are meeting the terms of the new social contract.
The cap-and-trade bill being considered in Congress would be a game-changer in the economy, for the first time creating price signals that discourage consumers from purchases that contribute to global warming. We need that, but we need a deeper change, too – a signal that we've changed our world view and consumption ethic as well as our price signals.
We need a global movement in which good government, good business and good citizenship are mutually reinforcing, with verifiable commitments to environmental and social responsibility. That would indeed be revolutionary.
– Bill Becker
Posted: 05 Nov 2009 06:13 PM PST
The outrage over — and debunkings of — the error-riddled book Superfreakonomics continue, even as coauthors Levitt and Dubner slowly concede their mistakes.
Perhaps the most scathing takedown to date comes from Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, the Louis Block Professor in the Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago, on RealClimate, in an"An open letter to Steve Levitt." Pierrehumbert accuses his U of C colleague of "academic malpractice in your book."
So far, Dubner has apologized to me for one false accusation in his Sunday, October 18 post attacking my accurate debunking of his book (see here). Now he has finally conceded on his blog that one of the many key errors I pointed out in his book — that climatologist Ken Caldeira did not believe or ever say that "carbon dioxide is not the right villain in this fight" (see here). He still has not retracted the countless other mistakes I and others have pointed out. Indeed, Berkeley economist Brad DeLong urged both authors to "abjectly apologize" for the whole chapter.
And Dubner has not retracted the claim that is still being parroted by the deniers and delayers around the web that I did a "smear" on the book. It is clear for all to see now that there never was a smear. Everything I wrote in my original debunking was accurate – see Error-riddled 'Superfreakonomics': New book pushes global cooling myths, sheer illogic, and patent nonsense — and the primary climatologist it relies on, Ken Caldeira, says "it is an inaccurate portrayal of me" and "misleading" in "many" places.
I challenge Dubner and Levitt to identify any errors in my critique. Yes, I used strong language in a private e-mail to Caldeira, though nothing near as strong as what Pierrehumbert has written in his public letter to Levitt. But I challenge either coauthor to identify what charges in that post are false and constitute a smear.
Ironically, by failing to retract the errors I pointed out in my post weeks ago, Levitt has brought upon himself the detailed and devastating takedown by his fellow U of C Professor, which focuses on the same exact errors I debunked. Pierrehumbert concludes:
I hope this forever puts to rest the notion that my post's far less sweeping language was somehow too harsh. Pierrehumbert accuses Levitt of multiple instances of "academic malpractice," questioning whether anything Levitt writes can now be trusted.
Anyone who knows climate science or anything about solar energy would have been as outraged as I was in reading the chapter. Anyone who knows Caldeira's work, anyone who had read his September comments in the Washington Post — "Geoengineering is not an alternative to carbon emissions reductions," he said. "If emissions keep going up and up, and you use geoengineering as a way to deal with it, it's pretty clear the endgame of that process is pretty ugly." — or anyone who had interviewed him recently on that very subject would have been as outraged as I was by how the Superfreaks misrepresented his work. And they still to this day don't get that. As award-winning journalist Eric Pooley wrote in his Bloomberg story, "Freakonomics Guys Flunk Science of Climate Change":
So every single aspect of my initial critique has been thoroughly vindicated by subsequent analysis and reporting, including what I wrote about the infamous "villain" line:
As award-winning journalist Eric Pooley wrote in his Bloomberg story, "Freakonomics Guys Flunk Science of Climate Change":
So finally, finally, Dubner writes a post acknowledging this error alone and promising to change it in future editions. He writes:
Here's Caldeira's full reply:
Since Dubner publishes this without disputing it, I assume he agrees with it.
But this response is 100% consistent with what I wrote — and what Pooley wrote based on his interview of Dubner and Caldeira. The only "just slight" difference, to use Caldeira's phrase, is whether this was "good faith." That is a matter of opinion. Caldeira is certainly entitled to his view. Note, by the way, that Caldeira coyly says, "I did receive a version in MSWord." Yes, but as Caldeira told me, he received it from Myhrvold, not the authors themselves, which is not standard practice for any book I've been involved with or any interview I've ever given, not from an author who was supposedly trying to get this important story right.
Pooley clearly doesn't see this as "good faith." And all I wrote was:
The first sentence is what happened. The first half of the second sentence is my theory, which no one has ever refuted and many have agreed with after reviewing the facts, including Pooley. Same for the final sentence. No smear there.
Now Dubner tries mightily in this latest retraction to leave people with the impression that Caldeira doesn't find any other errors in the book or that he doesn't think the the book misrepresented his work. But in fact, as Pooley's reporting shows, Caldeira did say, just as I reported, the book contained "many errors."
If you go to Caldeira's website (click here), he doesn't send people to the interview above, but rather writes:
For Caldeira, the Yale interview (which I wrote about here) is his comment for the public on the book (regular readers can skip this part, but I repeat this part for the record):
Which is what I wrote. Indeed, I knew this based on my previous interviews with him, which is why I asked him to make this point, which he did, writing:
And then after he emailed me that quote, I took the extra step of explicitly asking him if I could use it, and he said yes because it is what he believes.
So, I made no false statements or smears in my original post or the headline, although I probably should have put that quote in the first post, instead of merely excerpting in the headline. Dubner's original post falsely claims that Caldeira didn't actually say what I wrote in the headline. But he did. And, of course, he told the same thing to Pooley and Goodell.
As an ironic aside, a sharp-eyed reader pointed out to me (and sent this screen shot) that in the first version of the retraction Dubner published online this Wednesday, he actually introduced Caldeira's quote this way:
And Dubner mistakenly linked to the Yale e360 interview! So Dubner knows what was in the Yale interview — much as he knows what Pooley wrote, since Pooley talked to him at length — and thus knows that again it completely vindicates what I wrote.
Dubner still has not corrected his original, false claim that I smeared him, which he wrote on October 18 (emphasis added):
It is true.
And guess what, even your University of Chicago colleague came after you with the academic version of pitchforks, even noting "the way Superfreakonomics mangled Ken Caldeira's rather nuanced views on geoengineering." So have many others. Nobelist Krugman wrote, "in this crucial chapter, there's an average of one statement per page that's either flatly untrue or deeply misleading."
And Dubner's false charge against me launched a thousand more.
It is time for Levitt and Dubner to retract the smear charge and issue a bunch of other corrections in their book. It shouldn't be hard. They've already retracted one false charge , apologized to me, and agreed to one correction in the book.
Posted: 05 Nov 2009 04:32 PM PST
Our guest bloggers are Daniel J. Weiss, a Senior Fellow and the Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and energy team interns Jaren Love and Michael McGovern. This is a Wonk Room repost.
Senate Republicans are demanding lengthy economic analyses of progressive clean energy policy, despite having spent careers voting for and against major energy legislation without such delay. This week the Republican members of the Environment and Public Works Committee boycotted its debate on the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733), claiming that the Environmental Protection Agency's analysis of the economic impacts was not sufficiently thorough. Before they launched their boycott, committee ranking member Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Sen. George Voinovich demanded a "full analysis" that satisfied their particular requirements:
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate Republican Conference, piled on: "We want to participate in any clean energy bill, but we're not willing to do that until we know what it costs."
"It undermines the credibility of the process," said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH). "It's not constructive to the process to proceed without knowing what it costs."
On Monday, senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) joined Inhofe to demand a "complete and substantive analysis of any bill that attempts to address this issue" and "complete data and a thorough vetting" before the EPW Committee took action.
Yesterday, senators Gregg, Susan Collins (R-ME), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) sent a letter to the EPA saying, "We cannot support legislation" without "a clear picture of the bill's impacts on our economy," saying the EPA analysis needs to be completed "prior to any action in EPW."
Their arguments fall flat, however, because these and other senators routinely voted on energy and global warming bills without any analysis. Since 2001, the Senate has debated at least eight energy or global warming bills where there was no analysis by EPA, Congressional Budget Office or the Energy Information Administration completed in advance of Committee deliberations. In several cases, there was no full analysis before the bill was voted on by the entire Senate:
The fact that these and other bills moved through committees without any analysis sharply contrasts with the mountain of assessments of this year's clean energy legislation. Full EPA, EIA, and CBO analyses were conducted of the House bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), and the EPA has conducted additional analysis of the Senate legislation. The Republicans' interest in analysis is little more than an excuse for delay and defeat of clean energy legislation. In one of the boycotted hearings this week, Sen. Boxer noted that the "EPA has also indicated that this economic analysis reflects hundreds of thousands of pages of backup documentation" about the related House bill. Environmental Protection Agency Director of Congressional Affairs David McIntosh appeared before the Committee to reiterate that S. 1733 and H.R. 2454 were very similar:
Nonetheless, Republican boycotters wanted EPA to spend five weeks and $135,000 of taxpayer money to conduct a redundant analysis before they would agree to a vote.
Today, the committee approved the Clean Energy Jobs Act on an 11-1 vote. Every Republican was absent without leave.
Posted: 05 Nov 2009 01:08 PM PST
In September, I wrote a post "Newsweek gets duped by Big Oil — for real — in worst Big Media story of the year." The Newsweek piece by Rana Foroohar was titled "Big Oil Goes Green for Real" with greenwashing lines like "So how should we take the spate of new green announcements from the world's major oil firms?" Not.
What I didn't realize is that Newsweek was not getting duped by Big Oil — it was getting cash from the American Petroleum Institute in return for "access," as journalism and ethics experts told E&E News (subs. req'd).
I urge all lawmakers to shun this event.
TPM Muckraker also has a good story on part of this, "Newsweek And Oil Lobby Team Up To Host Climate Change Event With Lawmakers," which noted:
Remember, the API is spending millions to spread disinformation about the climate bill (see here) and create fake grassroots campaigns against it (see "Leaked memo: Big Oil manufacturing 'Energy Citizen' rallies to oppose clean energy reform").
The E&E story, "API's partnership with Newsweek raises ad cash and ethics questions," is so shocking that I will excerpt the rest of it at length below:
And they aren't just selling access to lawmakers, they are selling access to journalists. Hence the green-washing story I critiqued, "Big Oil Goes Green for Real."
So then it was just a coincidence that, as TPM wrote (linking to me):
Yes, as TPM notes, Newsweek has written some tough-minded stories on Big Oil, but nothing can compare to their September Big Wet Kiss to Oil [Note to self: That is one mixed metaphor!].
Back to E&E's story:
As the Old Media's business model dies, more and more publications are selling access.
Again, it doesn't matter that the conferences are public or the dialogue is on the record. As I've said, the access to big time reporters is as valuable as anything else Big Oil is buying.
Media watchdogs remain vigilant to expose these cash-for-access stories, stories that were, ironically, once the stock and trade of Big Media itself.
Kudos to TPM and E&E for breaking this important story.
Posted: 05 Nov 2009 12:12 PM PST
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