America's Climate Change Future – Session 4: Pushing against climate denial and defending science - Lake Harding Association

America’s Climate Change Future – Session 4: Pushing against climate denial and defending science

America’s Climate Change Future – Session 4: Pushing against climate denial and defending science

By Micah Moen 9 Comments September 13, 2019


[MUSIC PLAYING] So this final panel
is a little different. It’s organized
around a paper that was published in Nature
Climate Change that deals very much with the issues
raised in the prior panel. And my job, such as I have
one, is to moderate this, but it’s very hard because
I don’t really know anything about this topic at all. So in the interest
of framing this panel and trying to broaden
it out a little bit, so a few years ago I wanted
to learn about bond markets and I didn’t really know a
lot beyond the textbooks. So I started hanging out
with bond traders, which was interesting. And then I started going
to their conferences. And then I figured out
an even better gig, which is to get invited as a
speaker at their conferences. And then you get to
know lots of stuff. So now that I want to
know lots of things about the environment, I decided
to organize an environment conference. So this is purely
selfish and educative in terms of my own education. So thank you for being
here and doing this. It’s great. Now, when I started
today, I said this– Mark paid the bill. I just want to make that clear. Yeah, I also paid the bill. That’s what I mean by organizing
the conference, right? So there we go. Now, I started the day by saying
this controversial claim which was designed to
infuriate economists in the language of
externalities is not enough. And it was great. Everyone immediately went,
what did you just say? And of course, President Paxson
came up and said, that’s silly. And Norman– where is he? Norman said the same thing. Now, there was a
reason for doing this, and it’s not because I’m
actually, you know, an idiot. I may be, but that’s
not the reason. It’s because I’m
interested in language in politics and the way
that we talk about things. And if you think about
our discourse today, it’s been very much a
discourse, particularly in the first half– not
to brag on the economists, but it’s a technical language. It’s a very precise
technical language that talks about Pigovian taxes
and externalities, et cetera. And then in the second one,
it’s about data and evidence and so on and so forth. And you would expect that. That’s what we do. We’re social scientists, right? We care about
these things and we should care about these things. But there’s a bit of a
problem because the other side doesn’t care about this at all. So we talk about the price of
carbon and so on and so forth, right? And they don’t give a damn
about the price of carbon, theoretically or otherwise. And then there’s a
problem of translation. What do you care about? So much of politics is about
affect, rather than facts. How does it make you feel? And you know, we’re not
very good as a species at dealing with large,
slow-moving sort of convexities that just seem to get more
and more terrifying over time. So we’re kind of
built into not dealing with this sort of stuff. And we try, as we always
do as social scientists, take the veil away. Let’s talk about the facts. Let’s find things
as they really are. But if we look at the
adverts we were shown, it’s a very old game to just
ignore the facts completely and to concentrate on affect. I mean, the fuels of
tomorrow are here today? What does that even mean? Have you got a time machine? I mean, it’s just bullshit. And then they’re saying,
well, I’m in favor of growth. Are you not in favor of growth? I don’t know. Can I not be in favor of growth? So one of the things I do when
I’m not hanging around here is I’m a big football fan, by
which I mean soccer, right? That thing you’re
doing this weekend, I have no idea
what that’s about. But I hang out with soccer
fans and I try and explain to them these things. And I find when I use my
social science language, I might as well just
literally be beyond banging my head off a brick wall. But when I use a
politics of affect, when I talk about how
these things make you feel, they understand it and they’re
deeply concerned and deeply worried, but don’t have a
language to articulate it. So there’s a disconnect
between our descriptions and our ambitions and what
is there in terms of building a movement, which really
could make a difference. Couple of examples,
just to frame this out, and then I’ll be quiet. So when I was doing my
work on bond markets– as I mentioned earlier,
I’m married to a German and I speak German,
albeit badly. And the German word
for debt is [GERMAN],, which is the same
word for guilt. That will tell you
all you need to know about why they think Greeks
and money are a bad idea. It’s written into the language. The Italians– the
Italian word for belief is [ITALIAN],, as any
Catholic will tell you, from the Declaration
of Faith, which goes to full faith and credit. So the way that we
talk about things, how they have those
affectual dynamics, are incredibly important. And no more so than, I think,
honestly, in the 2016 election. In the 2016 election we had
a presidential candidate whose campaign was
all about facts. You want policies? I’ve got a list of policies. I’ve got a policy
for everything. I’ve got the RCT that scores
how effective the policy is. You can look it
up on my website. The other one had a big
red heart and a slogan. The big red and the
slogan wins every time. So this session that
we have is called “Pushing against climate
denial and defending science,” two things I am
completely committed to. But my question is,
how best to do this? Because if we rely on simply
more facts, more clarity, more unearthing the
truth, it presumes that the information deficit
model is the way to go and if we push more
information into the system, it will make a difference. I think it does. I don’t want to discount that. I think it’s important. But we only ever really get
these changes when people care. When you get to that moment
where civil rights becomes something that someone
who’s not directly affected by that type of
discrimination and power can be affected by it. And that’s where
we need to get to. So my challenge
for this last panel is not just to talk
inside that box, but to talk about
what we need to do to take it to the next step. So who’s first? We’re going to start with a
summary of this paper which appeared in Nature Climate
Change just like weeks ago, right? Like, yeah, a week or two. A week ago. It’s called “Evidence-based
strategies to combat science misinformation,” Justin
Farrell, Kathryn McConnell, and Robert Brulle. And they’re all here and
they’re going to come up. And then we’re
also going to have Kert Davies from the Climate
Information Center and Rhode Island Senator
Sheldon Whitehouse. I’ll be very brief. So Katie was a
co-author, and also Bob. And yeah, it just came out. I think some of you
may have read it. It was sent around. But I wanted to just
briefly summarize the four main sections of this paper. And within the academic world,
as we just were talking about, there has been a
growing body of research on climate contrarianism,
the counter movement, denial, whatever you want to call it. And it’s spread across
multiple fields, but mostly in sociology. And I felt like last year– last year we were in DC for
some meetings, and some of us were talking and we sensed a
need for a synthesis of work that’s been done. But not just a dry review
of the academic literature, but actually a synthesis that
moves us towards something, towards strategies
for starting to combat these sorts of things. And this we thought might
be helpful for those in politics, those
running organizations, just kind of whoever. So it’s a very bird’s-eye view
article and very practically oriented in an applied way. But off the top, I do want
to say much of this work is indebted to people
like Kert Davies and organizations like his. And a lot of us are just
building off the work that they’ve been doing
for almost decades, really. And so I wanted to say thank
you, Kert, for the work that you’ve done
for the organization and for allowing us and giving
us really sort of a platform. But also having given us data– nowadays with digitizing
data and all of that. So I wanted to make
sure to mention that. So based on the best social
science research, we group our, quote, “findings” or
this research in this area into four different sections. And the first is– and
I have them listed here and then I left room for another
just to kind of stimulate conversation here as well. So the first we identify– there’s been a growing body of
research on public inoculation. So there’s some folks,
and I think mostly in psychology, who are
drawing on medical principles about preventing infection
through the use of vaccines. So they’re testing these ideas
of attitudinal inoculation, essentially giving the public
information that exposes them to these arguments
and these lies that they’re going to hear
before they hear them, in hopes that they’ll
recognize them and refute them. And that includes
telling them the sources of that information. And so that’s one line of
work that’s very early on, but it’s growing
and it’s promising. And they’re starting to do
experiments in that arena. I will say, within
this section also, we cover challenges to what
one person mentioned earlier as the information
deficit model. It’s commonly
referred to as that, in terms of slamming people
in the head with more and more information,
as you’re saying, and hoping that they’re
going to change their mind. I’m originally from
Wyoming and my father worked for Union Pacific
for 40-some years, and a lot of what they
do is transport coal. I’m never going to change my
dad’s mind about coal or even about climate change, right? And so I don’t even really try. I’m not going to
show him graphs of– that we saw earlier, or
climate science, really. And so I think that
we need to keep in mind that a lot of this,
a lot of people’s views of climate is due
to cultural context, due to experiences
and things like that, not due to information. Due to stories, to narratives,
those sorts of things. So we’ve used some of that work. Second would be
legal strategies. So lawsuits that target
bad faith actors– their liability, what they knew. I won’t go into all of that. It’s pretty self-explanatory. But we also highlight
that research can help when scientists come
under attack, as some climate scientists have. We’ve received plenty of
hate mail over the years. Nothing like some people have. But research can help
defend those folks as well. Third is the
political mechanisms. And so we identify
social science research that’s helping with
public vigilance to better understand how and
when the political process is being manipulated in these ways. We have one example
in the paper that I found to be real interesting. Back in 2018, the
Entergy Corporation, which is an energy
company down in Louisiana, they acknowledged, according
to their own internal investigation, actually,
that they paid 50 actors to appear at a New
Orleans city council hearing on a controversial
new power plant. So they gave them
bright orange T-shirts printed with “Clean Energy. Good Jobs. Reliable Power.” And these were performers. And they were hired to create
the mirage of public support for their bid to
build this plant. The actors, they were posed as
obviously grassroots activists, but they signed a
nondisclosure agreement. They were given
a financial bonus if they delivered a
pre-written speech, up on stage but at the podium. And they were instructed to
applaud every time someone at the meeting disparaged
renewable energy. So those are the sorts of
things that are happening and we identify some
of that research on those sorts of things. And then, second within
this “political mechanisms” are divestment, and some
institutions engaging in that or considering that. We find that as a
strategy, obviously. And then third, targeting
geographic areas who are going to be hit the
hardest in the near term by climate change. And for example, Florida,
Alaska, obviously Rhode Island. And so focusing efforts in
particular areas we think might be useful strategy,
based on research. And then lastly, the
financial transparency piece, which might be the
most difficult, and the “pie in the
sky” is obviously there are better
transparency laws. So at least for researchers,
we can track and understand these institutional
networks and these actors and bring that to light. And so that’s kind of, again,
a “pie in the sky” thing, but who knows? And so I think I’ll
just leave it here. I also, again, put a
fifth category as “other.” Maybe we can’t add
it to the paper, but maybe we can talk about it. Thanks, Justin. Mark, you’re moderating. From the wrong side of the room. You got a microphone there. Why didn’t you give
back to a moderator? Well, I want to make sure
we get Kert Davies right away into this discussion. I’m sure he has reflections
on each of these points. How about that, Mark? OK. [INTERPOSING VOICES] Blinded by the slide. So you go ahead and
I’ll work on this. Well, first of all, on that– just that last notion
about the actors being hired, the
same company that was hired by Entergy,
Hawthorn, a PR company, was hired in the
Waxman-Markey 2009 fight. Hired a subcontractor who wrote
fake letters to congressmen from the NAACP– as if, from the NAACP– on faked letterhead,
opposing the climate bill. And they were caught. And now Senator Markey
wrung them up in a hearing and showed that this,
you know, this conspiracy to fake support from the left– or opposition from the left. So there’s some dirty plays
that go down in this stuff. But that didn’t come out
until after the bill was already defeated, or something? Correct. Yup. So that’s the stuff. It worked. It didn’t work. I mean, Perriello was
one of the targets and he voted with the bill. But it was intentional. We don’t know if it
worked, actually. There’s a null set there. I don’t know. So where to start? So my work, I started
on climate 21 years ago, and then went to Greenpeace
for 13 years, where I was research director there. The thing I’m most
proud of was a project called “ExxonSecrets,” which
is 15 years old this year. And it’s sort of a proto-mapping
program with a database of individuals and organizations
that is dwarfed by modern technology, but it’s
a flash-driven– you know– I’m glad
the academics are nodding as if it’s valid. But you know– [LAUGHTER] That inspired my work
for those two articles. That’s why I did all that. Excellent. So that’s all I– that’s– I can go home. I’ve done my job. It’s in Yale now. So that project, what
we were intending to do was actually teach
journalists that they were being duped by
these professional hired guns of the fossil fuel industry
that started in the late ’90s. That spike in your work
is really remarkable, that starting in 1997
through the early 2000s, for many people the
climate denial story is all about the Global
Climate Coalition in the ’90s. The funding from Exxon actually
increases after the year 2000 and they’re targeting Senator
McCain in the beginning, heavily targeting the
McCain-Lieberman bills. The funding to Competitive
Enterprise Institute peaks in 2004. And then we added it,
and they were shamed into stopping funding CEI. They gave them $2 million from
’97 through 2005, I believe. They ended it. And Cooler Heads Coalition. Myron Ebell, who is
mentioned in this book– I mean, in this paper,
ran something called the Cooler Heads
Coalition, which we now know, we’ve just discovered
in the last couple of years, a new grant from Exxon
in 1997, Exxon Foundation to the Competitive
Enterprise Institute that’s called “climate change”
in the Exxon Foundation report. And it was $90,000, we think,
started the Cooler Heads Coalition. Cooler Heads Coalition
runs symposia on Capitol Hill whenever
they can and puts out newsletters echoing the whole
denial machine’s message. So they’ve been inoculating
proto-President Trump for 20-plus years. I mean, there’s a great article
in “The Washington Post” by Bob O’Harrow, sort of
tracing the Cooler Heads Coalition, 1997, to the Rose
Garden killing of the Paris Agreement, and Myron
Ebell, all along the way. And this is the guy who ran
the transition team at the EPA, by only a stroke of luck
called Donald Trump did he ever get that opportunity. Otherwise he’s sort of
marginalized, at least we hope. But heavily funded by money
that we don’t even know anymore. After Exxon drops
them, we know there were some individual rich people
funding Competitive Enterprise Institute, but they
didn’t go broke. They’re still getting paid a
lot of money to do this work. So that’s one thought I had,
based on this paper, was– the question I thought
was the most interesting in the beginning of it
is how, over the course of the ’90s and the 2000s,
that half the American public and a large majority of
Republicans become deniers. And I think it was systematic. I think that we can
show– you know, your work shows that it was
a systematic and expensive, but relative to their
profits not very expensive, program of inoculation. They put these words out
through other voice boxes like Rush Limbaugh
and other senators, like Senator Inhofe,
your colleague, to make this a reality,
an alternative reality. And our side thinks that
the facts are going to win. We think that we can have a
logical, moral, ethical world where these things will happen. If that were true,
we would listen to people like the economists
that presented today. We would put a price on carbon. We would have gotten this done. But I want to read
one thing that I think is a bipartisan motivator. Nobody likes to be lied to. Doesn’t matter if you’re
right, left, or center. No one likes to be lied to. And we’ve discovered–
we put out a year ago, I think in March, a bunch
of documents from Shell Oil Company going back to the ’80s. And in one of them, it turns out
that Shell, while not informing its shareholders at all,
ran an internal study of the greenhouse
effect starting in 1981 and concluding in ’85. And we don’t have any evidence
except for a 1988 memo about that study, in
which they talk about how, quote, “with very long
time scales involved, it would be tempting for
society to wait until”– you know, we feel climate
change, to do anything. But “the potential
implications for the world are so large that
policy options need to be considered much earlier.” Sort of espousing a
precautionary principle, in a way, and that
uncertainty should not block us from acting. They go on to say, “By the
time the global warming becomes detectable, it could
be too late to take effective countermeasures
to reduce its effects or even to stabilize
the situation.” So this is 1988. There is not even a shard of
possibility of regulation yet. Or maybe there is– Hansen. But they did this study in ’81. So Reagan’s in office. There is no regulation. There’s deregulation. There’s not even a
hope or a thought. We’re focused on
the ozone layer. We’re not doing
anything about climate. And in this paper,
internally they know regulations are coming. We have another, from Exxon, we
have similar information now. And when I say that
to people in the dog park in my neighborhood,
did you know Exxon had a whole team
working on climate in 1981? You know, the other
amazing piece of evidence is this, the Tuna gas
field in Indonesia. So Exxon discovers
this enormous bunch of gas off of Borneo
in the ocean there. But they discover it’s
70% carbon dioxide in with the methane, in
with the natural gas. So they figure, we have to
deal with this carbon dioxide because we can’t sell it. So we can either dump it
in the ocean– oh, that would acidify the entire sea. We can vent it. And we just got a
hold of a document. This was in the InsideClimate
News reporting the “Exxon knew” series– required reading, everybody. Came out in the fall of 2015. But we got a new document
where one of their PR people within Exxon is saying,
yeah, I went to the meeting and it turns out we would
be the largest source of CO2 emissions on Earth. 1984. You don’t use the
word “emissions” unless you’re talking
about pollution. Another Exxon document, Brian
Flannery, their scientist, calls it the largest single
point source of carbon dioxide. That’s only a term
of art in pollution. So this is, again, well before
any regulatory regime is even on the horizon, Exxon knows
that it’s probably a bad idea to be the largest single
point source of CO2. And this, again,
would be just venting natural CO2 that’s trapped
in with this natural gas. They abandoned the
project because of this, because they can’t
deal with the CO2. I think it’s the
most stark example of pre-regulatory
awareness of the liability. Then they go on to fund
Competitive Enterprise Institute and lie to all
of us through surrogates about the urgency
and the matters that we need to deal with. So this is just some of
what I obsess about, is getting these documents out. We have a site called
ClimateFiles.com that we built in the
last couple of years. We have now over 250 documents
totaling 3,500 pages-plus of the– we call it the files that are
hard to find anywhere else. So we’ve just assembled
the best documents showing this legacy in one place. They’re all on Document Cloud. They’re searchable,
downloadable. They’re annotated. And then we write about them. Lawyers are using them. It’s working. And if you have any documents
or you know anybody, any oil industry
retirees that we could meet who might have
documents in their basement, call me. Otherwise, we know this
is being used on the Hill and by journalists
and by lawyers. So that’s a long-winded
opening salvo on this important subject. What’s the website again? ClimateFiles.com. I have to tell a story. Before I taught at Brown, I
taught at William and Mary for 10 years. And I would load up
12 undergraduates in a 12-passenger van and
drive them up there to DC. And there I would set up
an afternoon of sessions, usually with a government
person, an industry person, and an environmental
person, and let them go at it. Well, the one that– I had Kert Davies in about 15
years ago, it must have been. I also had Myron Ebell, who
was the person he was just describing, who is at the
Competitive Enterprise Institute, was Donald
Trump’s transition team person for the EPA. And Kert Davies pulls out a copy
of one of these leaked memos. And this one was
for the Global– what’s it called? The ’98 memo? Global– yeah– change– “Global Climate Change
Communications Plan.” Yeah. “Global Climate Change
Communications Plan” from this ad hoc coalition
called the Global Climate Coalition, an
industry group largely funded by Western Coal
Companies, et cetera, right? API and– API. Behind some membership. American Petroleum Institute. And he said to Myron
Ebell, you were one of the drafters of this. And in this plan, it says
that one of the goals is to create doubt in the public
about the reality of climate change and to stop action. Explicitly. To make it normal for them
to say that there’s not certainty about this problem. And it actually says
that he’s being paid, he will be paid to talk
to college students and to turn their opinions
about climate change and create doubt in them. And Myron Ebell just did not
deny a single word of it, and just sort of let it
pass by, and then went on to his next talking point. And the students’ jaws
were on the floor. They’re like, wow,
this guy is not denying that he’s been paid
to lie to us about the biggest problem the planet faces. It was a stunning moment and I
think it really showed to me– I wish it was on tape. I wish I had it on tape. It’s on tape in my
mind, so anyway, I think it’s one of
the key moments. So they, I hope,
were inoculated. But I think we should talk about
these different strategies. It’d be great to hear from the
senator about these strategies, unless, Mark, you have another
idea on how we’re going. Nope. OK. We want to make sure that
our authors of the paper can speak up. I was hoping– you
guys have the way. Other than carbon emissions,
the dominant byproduct of the fossil fuel
industry is lying. They do it very effectively. They’ve done it for a
very, very long time. And for that reason, many of
the corporate institutional safeguards that prevent
corporations from lying have been eroded or bypassed. So there are very few
stops on their lying. But one thing that
they do very sincerely, and that we should take a
lesson from, is that they hide. That tells you a lot. They know they need to hide. So transparency is their
chosen countermeasure for us. They don’t hide
for the fun of it. It’s very expensive
and complicated. You’ve got to set
up all these groups. You’ve got to be able to move
your message through dozens of them so that nobody gets wise
to who you’re hiding behind. There is a very considerable
operation to this. But they tell you a lot when the
most sincere thing that they do is to hide. So that’s a pretty
strong signal to us. So what should we do
specifically about that? One thing is that the
academic work that you all do is incredibly
valuable, but there is a chasm between academia
land and public land. And much of that never
gets across the chasm. It’s the Valley of Death. It’s the Valley of Death. Thank you. It is. We don’t know how to cross it. Nobody has ever been across it– [LAUGHTER] –and come back alive. I mean, InsideClimate News
and others, your group, Kert, do a good job of trying to
intermediate and get some of that information across. But everybody who
works in this space needs to have an asterisk
next to all of their projects that thinks, OK, how do I
get this out of academia land and into the rest of land? Bob Brulle is working
on trying to take a full volume of a journal
that I had never heard of– I’ve never heard of it. –I think it’s called
the Journal of Memory and Cognition– on the way in which
fossil fuel interests manipulate speech and
communication in order to communicate their message. It’s about eight or
nine different articles. It is impenetrable to
the ordinary mortal, but it has very
powerful messages in it that can be
backstopped into quotes in these peer-reviewed articles. But somebody has to go through
the effort of doing that. I did it for a climate speech. I can’t do that very often. I am exhausted after
doing that one. So how do you translate
academia-land work into the public domain? Very important for
you guys to figure out and to make it a focus. Second, we’ve got to out the
intermediaries, the surrogates. They get away with
murder by pretending that Heartland
Institute has something to do with the heartland. Or that the Competitive
Enterprise Institute has something to do with
competitive enterprise. These are front groups. These are shams. They were set up to do
this, or in some cases, inherited from the tobacco
industry to move forward and do this. And with a little
bit of effort, we can out the intermediaries
and the surrogates. Quick story. 17 of us went to the
floor of the Senate to make fun of what we
called the web of denial, all these phony-baloney groups,
and we spread them out amongst 17 senators
and took them on in different
ways over two days. So it was a pretty
concerted blast. Not only are they signaling
you when they hide, their response was a
very strong signal, too. They went bats. They went bats logically. Our number-one argument
was that they are not independent groups, they are
a consolidated, coordinated entity with just tentacles. So how did they dispute that? By sending us a single letter
with each of their letterheads on the single letter. Clearly they have lost their
logical minds in their upset to send a letter like that. And then, if I recall
correctly, one entire paragraph was, shame, comma, shame,
comma, shame, exclamation mark. And lots of talk about tyranny. So they clearly had lost
their emotional grip as well. So this is a really good sign,
that when you go after them it hurts. So we need to go after them. The biggest thread connecting
all this is the dark money. That’s how ExxonMobil,
by running money through donors’
trust, can pretend that it doesn’t fund
Competitive Enterprise Institute, or whomever. So we’ve got to undo
those dark-money channels. Here is the good news. Dark money enjoys
no legal privilege. It’s not an attorney client. It’s not a spousal
communication. It’s just not by law disclosed. But that doesn’t mean
that it’s not amenable to, for instance, a House subpoena,
or a subpoena in litigation. So there are ways
that we can start, now that we control the House,
digging into whose funding is where. We’ve got to be smart
about how we do it, and they’re going to
fight back like panthers. I mean, this is like a
deep-sea diver with his hose to the surface. You start messing with that
hose, that deep-sea diver’s going to go berserk. It is their full source
of livelihood and support. So you’ve got to be
prepared for that. We’ve got to be smart about it. But, oh my, what
an opening exposing some of these selective
dark-money channels it’s going to be
through subpoena. Discovery is going
to be the same way. That’s a separate thing. You’ve got to be a
litigant to get there, but that’s what broke the
back of the tobacco industry. It’ll be the same for them. And I’ll close by saying, in
all of these things, it’s fun to be on offense. It is fun to be on offense. And it’s telling
a detective story that people will
be interested in. So we’ve got a really big
opportunity in front of us, now that we’ve got
the opportunity to dig out some of this. We do have to organize
to make it happen. We do have to be persistent. It can’t be each scientist for
themselves trying to figure out how to counter-attack the
science-denial apparatus, or how to get their
incomprehensible piece in the
Journal of Semiotics and Nobody Ever Read It
into the public domain. But with a little
bit of structure and a little bit of
persistence, we can do this. We can win. And we can have such
a great time doing it. Wow. Yeah. I mean, what do
you say after that? It’s going to be– And where shall we go? [LAUGHS] You can tell what gets– I like my job. –gets him up in the morning. So I had a few things– [INAUDIBLE] –and I hate to do– yeah, well, you’re
the moderator. There’s a microphone
right there behind it. It’s all my fault. Some of the– Get your microphone. [INAUDIBLE] using the mics. Why not? So the question. You were a prosecutor, correct? I did. Exactly. Now, I’m thinking
about your conversation this morning about basically
you’re not really telling the truth to shareholders. You’re burying risk,
all the rest of it. And dark money through
these channels is– I’m reminded of the career
of the wonderful mayor of Providence, Buddy
Cianci, in the sense that Buddy finally went to
jail without actually having a charge of against him proven. He was rolled up in a RICO. And I’m beginning to think that
this smells awfully like RICO territory. I don’t mind wildly
off base, here. Is there any way
that those statutes could be brought to bear? Not only are they
potentially relevant, but it was precisely
the RICO statute. And specifically– What’s it stand
for and what is it? Racketeering Influenced
and Corrupt Organizations. And it’s– Sounds kind of relevant! [LAUGHTER] And within the RICO statute,
there is a civil RICO count, or authority, that allows the
Department of Justice to bring a civil lawsuit– not a
criminal prosecution– to get an order requiring
the racketeering entity to cease its fraudulent activity
and to make appropriate amends. Under President Clinton,
and then President Bush, the United States
Department of Justice brought exactly that civil
RICO case against the tobacco industry for its
persistent fraud, using the exact same
apparatus that the fossil fuel industry then went and
borrowed and morphed up. And they won. They won the trial,
they won on appeal. The Supreme Court
wouldn’t take it up. It is good law. And the complaint is that– anybody who cares about climate
can read that complaint, and all you have to do is
switch health care for climate, and tobacco for fossil
fuel, and it’s kind of right there in front of you. It’s distressing to me
that under President Obama, nobody would even
take a look at that. It was given a decent burial
deep within the FBI someplace with no prosecutor or lawyer
evidently looking at it. But it merits, I think, a look,
because the government did that case and won that case. And once you’re in, guess what. You get discovery. And now you’re
under their files. And I think these companies
know how bad their files are for them. I think they’ll fold
like a cheap suitcase, once you’re into their files. Which company says that,
that you were talking about? Those are the oil companies,
or those are the– False reporting. The tobacco companies were
the ones that did this. You’d have to be careful
about picking your defendants in this, but presumably some
of the big oil companies would be liable. What would be
interesting would be to go into some of the
support entities, particularly the public relations entities. Because law firms are tough to
wrestle with because everything is, like, privileged and
hard to get out of them. But there is no privilege for
what you tell your PR hack. And if they’ve got
files, or if they have– can be shown to have
deliberately destroyed files as part of it, that’s another
really terrific window into this game. So I just– before we
open it up– well, no. Here we have one of the
authors of the paper. So pass the mic back there. Here, Bob. I’m curious to hear from
Senator Whitehouse and Kert’s perspective, what your
sense of the, like, what we would call the
literature gaps are. So we have our sense of,
from reading these journals, where we think the holes are
in the work that we want to do. But I’m curious from
folks who are working more out in the rest
of the world, what work would be helpful for us
to start doing more actively. Is that for both of them,
or just for the senator? Valley of Death,
first and foremost. It doesn’t work if it gets
buried in academic journals and never makes the transit
into popular knowledge. Assuming we can get
over the Valley. What should we be doing? I think that the role of some
of these other companies that do support work for the denial
thing, but aren’t the fossil fuel industries themselves. Like PR? That– PR firms, and, yeah– Legal. I think they’re– legal,
again, gets complicated. PR firms and advertising firms
and things like that are, I think, very helpful. Lobbying firms, although
now you’re getting– Not the [INAUDIBLE] –nearer to
lawyering, but it’s– and then I think that it would
be great to have more work on the discrepancy between
corporate America’s– the good guys, not the
fossil fuel scoundrels– their public description of
their care about climate change and so forth, versus their
lobbying and electioneering presence. And what you’ll find is that– because we’ve done
the work ourselves– Coke and Pepsi are probably
two of the better companies in terms of being
forward on climate stuff, doing good sustainability
stuff in-house, worrying about their supply
chains and all of that. They’re good citizens. They don’t raise this
issue in Congress. They run a trade association
called the American Beverage Association, that doesn’t lift
a finger on doing anything about climate change. And they run money through the
American Beverage Association to the US Chamber of
Commerce, which is probably our most powerful and inveterate
adversary on getting anything done on climate. So it’s a specific
example of how these two companies,
which are good on climate, and Congress are the opposite. They actually have
a huge discrepancy between their stated
principles and their lobbying and electioneering practices. That’s not a good place
for companies to be, public-facing companies,
and it’s not a good place morally for people to be. So spotlighting that, I
think, would be very helpful. And then to the
extent you can dig into why the National
Association of Manufacturers is a climate-denying group when
there is a lot of manufacturing in green and renewable energy. I think those things that
you put the solar panels on have to be manufactured,
and the things that the wind vanes are
attached to, and all the wiring. That all has to be manufactured,
so what’s going on there? And to the extent that people
can investigate some of that, that would be interesting
to poke and probe at. Because the good guys have
a lot of crimes of omission. Kert, did you want to
reflect on that one? I wonder if the
language software, the machine-learning
and scanning magic that you guys are
doing, could be put to look at– well,
anecdotally, I know, from someone who probably
couldn’t provide evidence, but knew that most, if not all,
of the op-eds opposing climate action in the ’90s were
ghostwritten and were placed. I mean, that’s not uncommon. I mean, op-eds are
ghostwritten all the time, right, left, and center. But if there was a way to trace
specific language and phrases, and you know, with
plagiarism software, with something that would show
a lineage of the output in a way that we could go back
to figure out the origin points of certain word choices,
or certain things that would– because it was
very artfully done. You know, they would
put out in surrogates from different voices, including
probably even senators, these op-eds pop up even today. Like, opposing carbon
tax out of the blue. And I don’t think the
senator wrote it, you know, whoever comes out with it. So you– not accusing a
senator of plagiarism, or, I mean of
being ghostwritten. But, you know, if we have an
interest in getting something out and you think, it’d be great
if I got so-and-so to say this and somebody wrote it. I don’t know if that is close
to what you guys could do, but– I could actually– [INTERPOSING VOICES] –one wee bit closer
onto something. I asked Attorney General
Lynch about civil RICO in the Judiciary
Committee in a hearing. There was– my office
collects my clips, so I know what’s said about
me out in the press world. So nobody covered that. There was zero press
attention to that whatsoever. But after about
four days, my clips started to light up with op-eds
about what a wretched person I was to ask such a
wretched question, and how it was trying to
criminalize free speech, and blah, blah,
blah, blah, blah. And over the next couple of
weeks, there were 50 of those. And I was a little bit annoyed,
so then I wrote an op-ed piece in “The Washington
Post,” saying, we really ought to look at
civil RICO and the racketeering statute, and whether
the tobacco case is a model for a case in
the fossil fuel space. Again, you know, they get
this stuff all the time. There was no secondary coverage. It went up on the
paper, went down, and for days there
was no press reaction. And then, poof! What do you know? On came the op-eds. Again, 50. And I think– I read every single one of them. And if you do, it does not
take artificial intelligence. Even my simple
mortal intelligence could tell that there
was a master script that they were working off of. But the more you
can– a template. But the more you can follow that
up and prove that, the better. Justin has some research he
can tell someone on this. What he said. And by the way, thank
you for this article. I got it, I read it,
I highlighted it. I sent it out to my staff. I loved it. You guys are terrific. Good. Yeah, actually– is this on? In another article in
Nature Climate Change I used semantic similarity
analysis, which is essentially plagiarism detection,
and you can get actually a score between two documents
for how similar they are. I was looking at how denial
texts were showing up in like “The Wall
Street Journal.” So I collected all “Wall
Street Journal” articles that mentioned climate
change or global warming. I was just looking at it. It was the language that
“The Wall Street Journal”– You went out. You lost your mic. –coming– OK. Now it’s back on. –was it coming from
denial organizations and what they were writing? And so it’s really
interesting that you can quantify exactly how
close two documents are, and even look at usage of
specific sentences or phrases. And you can get some
granularity there. And what did you find, Justin? Well, I didn’t look
at between denial– like, [INAUDIBLE]
was the same person writing the same document. I just looked in “The
Wall Street Journal.” And over time, a lot of
the words and phrases in the documents
became more similar. So it was this sort of a
uniform movement, I guess. Another anecdote on this, or
another time when I wish I knew how to do this, was
we were campaigning– when I was at Greenpeace, we
were campaigning in Florida during the Jeb-Reno– Jeb Bush-Janet Reno race. And we ran a campaign called
What’s Up, Sunshine State? Because there’s no solar– pro-solar policy down there. We were just doing– basically running around
giving them grief, like Sunrise is doing now,
but amateur hour compared to what they’re doing now. But we did get them
both to respond. And we got Jeb to start
talking about solar power and got a meeting, even. And suddenly we got a
couple of positive articles in “The Miami Herald.” And we threw a party, you
know, we thought we had won. And literally a
couple days later, this Texas-based
Exxon-funded, I learned later, organization writes a letter
to the editor attacking solar as useless technology,
not ready for prime time, we’ll never do
anything, you know. What do you do at night? Yeah, just go away. Like, literally,
I’m like, why is someone from Texas reading “The
Miami Herald,” first of all? Or who gave them
the marching orders to write that letter
to the editor? And how many of those,
how many other of those would you find if you found
pro-renewable articles in a paper and then
found this backlash that was someone’s job, right? That was someone’s stated job. In this case, it was
get 50 letters out. And they’re like, check, check. And they’re going to report
that to the trade organization. So I want to just raise a couple
of points on this article, and I don’t want it to be– I mean, you’ve really
sort of got us fired up, so I hate to be a little
bit of a wet blanket here– Oh, come on. –but I feel like I have to. [LAUGHTER] And then, maybe, you know,
like I’m from a big family so I’ve got to somehow
bring these economists back into the discussion. So I’m worried about the
public inoculation, because– that is, there is
going to be pushback. For every action, there’s this
equal, or opposite, and maybe much stronger reaction. So there’s– I think
if you’re inoculating, there’s already been
inoculation on the other side. It’s going to be a
back-and-forth battle, I think, so many times. The surveys– for example,
there’s a recent survey that we talked about
recently, showing that when people
hear that they’ve been lied to about
climate change, then their belief in the reality
of the problem goes up by 9%. You know, like, that
is, not individuals, but the population goes
from like 61% to 70%, right, or that believe that
climate change is real and human-caused. Across all parties. Across all parties. So it’s very substantial
effect of being told you’ve been lied
to on climate change, and it was systematic. But what I’m concerned about
is that that was a survey that doesn’t account for
the pushback that’s about to come as soon
as these companies, then, you know, launch
yet another more– yet more sophisticated campaign
of public opinion shifting. So they will actively
go after the people who told you you were lied to. They will say that
they’re liars. You know, I’m not
a liar, they’re liars, or something like that. In some ways, that’s kind
of the Trump specialty, is calling somebody a liar when
they’re calling you a liar. So anyway, I’m a little
bit worried about that. I’d love to be told why I’m
wrong on any of these points. On the legal strategies, I do
think they’re very promising, and yet they’re slow. I mean, they’re taking
years and years. Many have been thrown
out, of the lawsuits. And they are kind
of demobilizing. That is, you’re
kind of left as– you know, the
social movement that is needed to get this country
moving on climate change, if they’re waiting
around for the lawsuit to grind its way
through the circuit courts, and the next
circuit, and then the Supreme, and the appeals,
and the Supreme appeals courts, and the appeals– anyway, you get the idea. I’m worried about that. That is, this happens often
in environmental justice communities, that they
turn to a legal strategy. There’s a lot of reasons
why social movements turn to legal strategies in America. And yet, many of
those are demobilizing and they end up actually
sometimes even dividing the communities that put
forward the lawsuits. So I have great hope for them,
but I’m worried about those two factors. On the Valley of
Death for academics, there are almost no incentives
for academics in America to try to cross that valley. I mean, there are
some– you know, we get sort of personal
satisfaction out of our number of
Twitter followers, or getting quoted in “The
New York Times” or something. That’s great. But sometimes our
colleagues are even wondering if we’re doing
our job if we get that. Like, what are you doing
wasting your time on Twitter? Why are you talking
to reporters? I mean, I’m
exaggerating slightly, but especially for junior
faculty it’s a risk. So, and to be a junior
faculty, I mean, everybody maybe knows this,
it takes seven or eight years. You’ve got to walk through
that Valley of Death to get to the other side,
when it’s like more OK for you to be political in the
sense of actually building a public profile. So anyway, the
[? incentives ?] are terrible. And what this means is
really reorganizing academia and changing the rules of how
we get reviewed for our salary reviews, for our tenure cases,
for even hiring and firing. And that is valuing
public engagement and what we call in sociology,
public sociology, or public social science. So it means a lot of change
for our institutions. And I hope that they’re coming. I see a little bit of progress. I’ve been in academia
almost 30 years now, and I think there’s a
little bit of change, but not as much
as one would hope. And then finally
on transparency– I am being a total
wet blanket, aren’t I? [INTERPOSING VOICES] Fortunately it’s early enough
that people can beat me up. So on transparency. So I’ve been studying
transparency for about, over 10 years in
the UN negotiations. And the argument that
we make is that if there was better data on who is giving
how much funding to developing countries to help them
deal with climate change, then there would be better– we would be able to
learn what’s working. That people giving the
funding would actually feel competent that what they
were giving the money for would– that it was being used
for what they said it was going to be used for. And therefore the funding
would continue to flow. Anyway, a series of
arguments like this, that it would be more
justly managed, that there would be more democracy. That transparency would
really help subordinate– that is, the groups
that have less power– to have more power
in the system, right? That lack of transparency,
hiding, as you said, helps the powerful. Which I– you know, I’ve
spent 10 years on this and I believe that on sort
of an emotional level. But I’m worried about it. That is, it takes
a lot of capacity to be able to use information. And so what I’m
worried is that we have to have better
transparency on financial flows. It will help the research. But there’s going to have
to be capacity set up to analyze that information,
to make it digestible, to get it across
the Valley of Death, to make it usable by those
very social movements who can mobilize around it and say,
look, we are being lied to. Look where this
money is flowing. And there needs to be
resources, not just on sort of the academic side, but
also on the understanding what the information means on
the side of communities and social movements and so on. So in other words,
it’s not so simple. It’s not that bad. Supposedly I get to respond. For your team. Which is always
good, because I can– we– Timmons and I
argue all the time. Is this on? Yeah. You just have to point
it at your mouth. [INAUDIBLE] Point it at your mouth. Now I turned it off. I have to be smarter
than the equipment. So Timmons makes– You actually do have to
point it at your mouth. Oh, like this? OK. I’m slowly [INAUDIBLE]. That’s not a slogan. OK. All right, so Timmons
makes four arguments. Counter-publicity, social
movements versus court cases, Valley of Death, and
transparency, right? OK. So, counter-publicity. You’re right. The ratio will be 20 to 1. For every commercial
that Al Gore put out, ExxonMobil, API, et
cetera, will put out 20. Lobbying, we’ll have one
lobbyist shopped out of 10. OK. This resource imbalance
isn’t going away. Now, my point is, right now on
the advertising, it’s about 20 to zero. Is that the climate movement
has a serious amount of money. There is a lot of
money in the Energy Foundation, the [INAUDIBLE],,
all these different things, but they don’t want,
they don’t even think about the
advertising efforts at all. I’ve reviewed their
internal planning documents. They’re all about, how do we
get more renewable energy? How do we better do
scientific communication? And nothing, not
even a recognition of the fact that there’s
opposition to their activities. So the climate
movement itself is just like, we don’t want to go here. We don’t want to look at this. We don’t want to think
about it, much less divert some of the
internal resources we have to debunking it. Now, I would argue
that everybody in this room that
saw those ads and saw my presentation will
never look at those ads the same way again. And that was just one time, and
ExxonMobil can run their ad, and API can run
their ad 500 times. And every time you’re going to
go, here they go lying again. There’s no way that they
can kind of pull it back. And that’s the power of
the inoculation strategy, is that once you demonstrate
to people that they recognize that, it is a vaccine. And so all you need
is one vaccine. You don’t need to
vaccinate every time. You don’t need a
hundred vaccinations for a hundred commercials. You need one, and
that’s probably good for a thousand
or 2,000 commercials. So my point on publicity
is that a little bit of publicity in the
inoculation campaign can go a hell of a long way. OK. Point two. Movement versus court cases. I would argue that getting
rid of the obstruction of the climate disinformation
campaign, an obstruction campaign, is a necessary
but not sufficient step to create a sustainable society. Is that getting rid
of the obstacles doesn’t solve anything. We’ve just gotten rid
of the people that are standing in
the way, and that means that the Green New Deal
and all of the effort that goes into that, building
community support for sustainability, is something
quite different from the court cases. But what the value
of the court cases are, for me, in the long
run, is that it shows– it removes the social license
that these corporations are actually acting
in good faith and can be trusted in
the long run for the best interests of the country
and not for their own best interests of
the corporation. And so by showing
the court cases and showing the documentation
that they lied to you, one, it educates people about that. And it starts to move
them out of the way so that the social movements
can concentrate and focus on alternatives to building
alternative practices. It enables them to actually
do something on an open field, instead of trying to– just to try to get
their voice out. The Valley of Death, I’m
afraid that that’s just almost a total problem. Because the amount
of time that you have to take to first
educate a reporter about what your thing is
doing, I will spend four hours with
some press people to get one line
in a press story. And the reward for that is,
in the academic world, zero. Almost negative. And that’s something that
the deans and provosts have to address, is that if they want
to have these kind of impacts, they have to reward
that kind of behavior. I mean, I can do it because
I’m a senior full professor. I don’t care, you know. I can do whatever I want. But for junior and for associate
and assistant professors, that’s time taken away
from research things that they will get rewarded
for or they have to do. And that’s something that
the academic world needs to actually really think about. The other thing– Bob, Bob, Bob, Bob,
let’s bring all those in. All right. But my last point. On the research capacity
and transparency, it would be nice if
we had some funding. Because right now,
all this is kind of voluntary effort by part-time
people who just want to do it. And that’s not a way to
build an academic field. Let’s open– shall we open up? Yes. Open away. OK. And here. I did not succeed at bringing
the economists back in. I want to ask a question, add on
to the discussion of the Valley of Death, which is, I think
another dimension that’s challenging for us is that
we’re trained to be so cautious and present many caveats
and be the biggest skeptics of our own work. And then in talking to
journalists or policymakers, it becomes really
scary if we feel that we have to make a
definitive statement, or a numerical prediction,
that we normally wouldn’t be comfortable
making so definitively. Can we be useful while
maintaining our precision and caveats? Do we have to find a different
way of talking about research in order to cross the
Valley and be useful? What’s your advice? There’s a lot of
trainings that have been going on now to help
natural scientists talk about climate change. Because indeed they are
saying, well, there’s a 98% chance of X,
and our best evidence suggests that this is true. So I think there’s not
been that kind of training for social scientists
to talk about what we’re researching on climate change. So I think there’s that. And so there’s
giving the confidence to learning how to say what
we found with less caveats, and say, this is the
general trend that I found. I’m not an expert
on communication. I think that yes, there
is a lot that can be done. Also, it doesn’t have to be you. If your house catches fire, you
don’t have to put the fire out. You call the fire department. If somebody breaks
into your car, you don’t have to
figure out who did it. You call the police department. If the Russians come
ashore in Maine, the Marines go and deal with it. You’ve got people who have that
job and are trained for it. In academia, there’s nobody
that I can find who has the job and is trained for getting stuff
across the Valley of Death. And I think frankly,
if our response to this is, well, that’s going to be up
to every individual scientist to master this on their
own, forget about it. Universities,
scientific organizations have to take this on
as a problem and say, where we are being
persistently lied about, we have to create the Marines
or the fire department or whomever to translate. And that way, the
scientists can keep knocking away at their
research and doing what they do best and don’t have
to get an amateur sub-degree in public relations, which a lot
of people aren’t suited for it. Just not why they
went into science. But somebody is doing it. Even if it’s simple as getting
Bob’s work into the Brown alumni magazine, that’s going
to get out to tens of thousands of influential people. And if the alumni
magazines all did that, that would be a pretty big deal. And if the American Society for
the whatever you’re member of, you know, they have
publications that now focus internally but could
just as easily be adapted to have a component that is the
broadcast component of what’s cool, what’s good,
why this matters, how we’re being lied
about, and by whom. And the conservative
movement has think tanks playing that role. Yeah. You know, translating
academic research, actually developing it. And lying about yours. Getting it out there. And add one thing on that. I think there is an
audience question. Because at Greenpeace,
you couldn’t get away with designing a campaign
on unsustainable seafood, for example, and say, my
audience is the public. In that case, more
likely because you’re talking about consumers,
but actually the audience would be investors
in supermarkets or the board of something,
a more strategic audience. But I think there’s a– there are professionals
who do communications. And if your audience is young
people, you team up with RISD and do a comic-book
version of your story. If your audience is– well, see? Your eyes lit up. That’s good. [INTERPOSING VOICES] When I saw, Matthew,
your presentation was cut short on the
surviving cities. Holy crap. I mean, that’s a
headline in every city. If I was a public interest group
and I had that kind of data, and I could say, turns out
Tampa might not– you know, has an X percent chance of not
being here in X years, that’s a real finding. And pretty stark, because people
think everything’s permanent and it ain’t. So that could be easily
turned into a public interest piece of work with
a lot of legwork talking to editors and
journalists in those towns. But it’s pretty hot work. I mean, in terms of publicly
available information, your city might not be here
in this many generations is a real finding. Some of it’s a little harder. Like your work is a little
bit denser and harder to turn into a comic
book or a headline, but there’s an
audience that wants to hear that the system’s broken
and the adaptation funding is not working. And that’s maybe
more specifically through a hearing to a
specific business audience. Or the American Association
of City Planners, or of– Correct. So they’re the national– the mayor– you know,
you present at a target. So I think that’s the
Valley of Death answer. But– We got Barnaby in the wayback. Yeah. No, hold on. We need the microphone. I’ve got someone
else here first. In a moment, Barnaby, thanks. Thank you, Kert,
for pointing out that this kind of communication
can be managed and can be done. Early in the morning,
we heard about it was important to have a
multidisciplinary team, that it isn’t something that
one individual acting on her own or his own
can really manage. And it sounded a little bit
like we were leaving out intentionally the
interaction between the press and the scientists,
the academicians. Yet the press
really is the tool. Now, there’s the
print press, that is in the process of losing
its circulation, progressively dying. And then, as you bring
up, the more youthful mechanisms of this. And so I think we
should really maintain a working and
progressively more powerful relationship with
the press of today, because they’re the ones
that the younger voters will be paying attention to. Thanks for considering the
reporters as potential friends, and not just obstacles
to academic careers. And social media, I mean, it’s
just, it’s a whole new game, right? So if you had someone who was
working with your lab, Timmons, who was good at
graphics, or at videos, or at short graphic
presentations of the findings, and you get them out on
Facebook, on Twitter, as graphics, that’s
what people digest. You know, they’re
not reading papers. They’re not reading
anything, actually. Short lines of
substance with graphics. So that’s it. And it’s so experimental,
it’s so easy to see what works because
you see what people click on. And then you do more of that. You don’t waste money running
multimillion-dollar ads during the Super Bowl. You run hundreds of
dollars’ worth of ads on Facebook, or on promoting
something on Twitter, and you get a
response like that. It’s an instant
mechanism of feedback. And to date, climate change
doesn’t get very many clicks. Well, you know, I would
quibble with that. I think– I’ve seen polling
that it’s more than coming. It’s a prominent issue now. And it is growing. I think you can blame the
political establishment for a lot of that. Republicans don’t
want to talk about it because they know they’re
trapped between reality and– The Koch brothers. –ideology, and donors
and the Koch brothers. So they have a real problem. And we, as Democrats, have
a particular, I think, disability of being in kind
of a poll-chasing cycle. I think every candidate is told
by their stupid consultants, here are the top three issues
the polling says the people care about. So you talk about those three. And then you’re told by
your focus group what the way is that the
public most likes to hear you talk about them. And you come out the
end of that sounding like an automaton or a robot
or a machine of some kind. You’ve lost your
authenticity and you’ve lost your ability as a party
to show real leadership. I mean, for Pete’s sake,
look what the Republicans did about the estate tax. One person in, like,
50 million was ever going to pay the estate tax. It’s at the bottom of
everybody’s priority list. But their political
leadership talked about it and drove it up
to the point where some guy making $30,000
a year goes, yeah, we got a big win on the estate tax
that I’m never going to pay! [LAUGHTER] I mean, if they can do
that with the estate tax, think what we could
do with climate change that 73% of the
population cares about. If we got out of the
poll-chasing cycle and actually were strategic
and went for wins. And there’s been a breakthrough,
even in the last year. Sorry to vent. All of these
catastrophic events, from the fires in California
to the multiple storms, the polar vortex,
people are waking up. The planet is waking us up. And then you have the
Weather Channel putting out a video beating on Trump. So that’s a shift. That didn’t used to happen. And where does everybody
go when they’re about to be hit by a hurricane? The Weather Channel. And there’s
scientists– and there are meteorologists on there
saying, “and climate.” And it’s become
required, almost. So that’s a real shift. Having worked on this
in the late ’90s, when we would literally
buy a case of beer and throw a party when
there was one article, we got one article in the
paper about climate science, we would throw a party. It was that infrequent. Even after Kyoto, it
really was not news. Bush made more news rejecting
the Kyoto Protocol in 2001 than the Kyoto Protocol
itself made in 1997. That was true with
Paris, actually, too. And Paris, right? And it’s– With the withdrawal. It’s almost like, and
people were like, what? We had a treaty? And now it’s been
killed by Trump? Now I know about it. Right? They didn’t know about
it to begin with. And the same with these– so I think there’s a– we’re at a moment. And you know, sunrise is
stepping into this moment with gusto, pushing us. And it’s not, you know,
it’s never been here before. Like, we’re in brand
new space and I think there’s opportunity in that. Following on that,
I think it’s really constructive– this last
afternoon has really looked at the area we
particularly need to look at. The sociology, the psychology,
the group psychology. And the rhetorical advantage. It wasn’t the estate
tax they got rid of, it was the “death
tax,” which was a rhetorical little
flourish which caused it to be effective. So it’s about communication
strategy as well. And on the Valley
of Death, I just wanted to announce that
most of the presidents, and I think all of them, of
all the institutions of higher education in Rhode
Island have agreed to form a convocation
where their expertise and their departments
and their students can cooperatively work
to bring this message to the citizenry and the voting
public in a constructive way. And finally, I want to
re-emphasize what Senator Whitehouse said during lunch. One of our big challenges is
this circular firing-squad mentality, where in trying to
fine tune particular things, sometimes it’s the
attacks we incur within the environmental
community that then got leveraged and advantaged for
part of an opposition message. And I know there’s
a lot to be debated and there are a lot
of issues there. But I do have a
positive sense of it, and we do need to bring
everyone from the arts, to the universities,
to communication, and to translation from
the academic articles on the science to
public understanding. How about Joe? Mark, wait. Joe’s been waiting up here. So a quick comment about
how we as academics can try to cross
this Valley of Death. I’m in the system. I understand there’s
virtually no reward. And there’s a good bit
of cost because we really don’t know how to write 800
words for an op-ed effectively, or we don’t really know how to
talk to reporters effectively. And I think that we have
seen in recent years a couple of vehicles become
available for academics. I write for “The Conversation,”
which is a nonprofit. They get a lot of money
from the Sloan Foundation. And their job is to have about
a half dozen academics a day on a whole array of topics,
but they have an environment and energy editor. So they try to have three
to four of these a week, where it is written
by an academic, but it is in the
style of an op-ed. And importantly, that
editor does a heavy edit, because we’re lousy
op-ed writers, and makes it
dramatically better. And it has two
really nice things. One is because it’s online– three nice things. One, because it’s
online, you can hyperlink to your original
study so you’re actually getting some people
who read this who may see your original work. Two, their business model
is, anybody can reprint this. So I’ve had things reprinted
in everything from The Chicago Tribune online and The
San Francisco Chronicle, to a random paper in West
Texas I never heard of. But as it turns out, they
have an ethanol plant and they really didn’t
like Administrator Pruitt, and I was criticizing
what he was trying to do on the health
benefits of reducing air pollution. And if it meant I was
criticizing Administrator Pruitt, they liked it. They republished that 15
minutes after it went online. [LAUGHTER] So the thing is, you
can start to get away– these things get republished
in a lot of different kinds of places, where people
you wouldn’t normally be able to reach
can actually see it. And the third is
I’ve actually had a number of press
calls by people who are reporters in this space. This is how they’re trying
to get smart on stuff. And they use this as a
way to reach out to you. So it has actually
helped build out a network of reporters
who are like, oh, wait. You wrote something in
English on something I’ve been trying to understand. Can we talk about it
a little bit more? So I think, you
know, again, this doesn’t help deal with the
rewards in which they’re internal. It’s this, I do
research, I want to have an impact in the world
with the research, and this is a vehicle
for doing that. But it does lower
the cost and I think increases our
effectiveness when we’re trying to communicate that. So it’s worth– you know, for
those academics in the room, we’re sort of looking out
for these kinds of vehicles to get your work out there. It’s like functioning basically
like a think tank, I suppose. Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s absolutely critical
to get John Q. Public on board. You know, the average
factory worker does not read The Wall Street
Journal or academic articles. And the best way to do
that is through the wallet. And I encourage the
climate economists here to put a dollar value on what it
will cost communities in Rhode Island and Connecticut to
rebuild their storm sewer systems that are right now
overwhelmed by the increased intensity storms we’re getting. The fishermen in
Point Judith have to deal with migration
of the fish stocks. In Connecticut, the
lobsters have moved. If you’re a soybean
farmer out West somewhere, you may not be able to
plant soybeans much longer. And I think we have to put a
dollar value on these things. What will it cost Miami to move? And once the public understands
the actual dollar value and how that impacts
them personally, I think they will be
a lot more supportive and you will get their vote. I’m going to put in two
cents, now, while I’m here. Great conversation. It’s been really good. So there’s one other aspect
about highlighting this. There’s a wonderful
book, I think it was the PhD dissertation
of the economist John Kenneth Galbraith, and it’s about
the great crash of 1926. And apart from the
fact that Chapter 4 is called “In Goldman
Sachs We Trust”– seriously, nothing ever changes. In Chapter 5 he has
this wonderful bit about being at a dinner
party and knowing when a bubble’s here. And the answer
is, because people who know nothing
about the subject are talking authoritatively
with other people who know nothing about the
subject, about this thing that they know nothing about. And that’s sort of the
great marker of a bubble– Welcome to Congress. Yeah, sounds like it. But– That’s academia, I
was going to say. But it also says that
the weak point in that is precisely where we
are, which is, come on, the arguments of the other
side are just rubbish. I mean, they’re simple rubbish. There’s no standard. Let’s not debate that. You’re just making stuff up. This is just nonsense. And that moment of revelation
can be incredibly powerful. And all you will need to
do is just call them on it. So just as a personal
anecdote on this. A few years ago–
there’s a thing called the International Swaps
and Derivatives Association. And that’s basically
derivatives trade association. And I was doing something
with one of their members, and we’re at this conference. And I made some
suggestion about, derivatives might
actually have been a bit of a problem in
the financial crisis. And this guy turned around
at me and shot at me, like, well, you don’t want
to hurt liquidity, do you? And it was like this,
drop this word, liquidity. You know, we all
know what it means. No, we don’t know
what it means, right? But when you say that,
that just shuts you up. It’s an authority play. So I said, well, actually we do,
because all that liquidity is, it means that you get to do
more of these trades which are dangerous. And once I’d called him on
it, he had nowhere else to go. Right? And I think that’s exactly
where this conversation is. Their other point is
the trenches, right? But behind the trenches,
there’s a firing squad wall. Yeah. That’s what’s happening. They’re being flunked. The lady in the back. Anyone else? Over here. There’s some behavioral things
that distinguish you as well. If you’re a scientist
and you are attacked, and the person who
attacks you is correct, you correct what you said. If you are them and
you are attacked, you don’t correct what you said. You say more of it. Because this is a hydraulic
exercise in information saturation. And you can even kind of
step back a little bit from what rubbish the
message itself is, to what rubbish their
saturation techniques are. I mean, there’s multiple
layers upon which the rubbishing of the
other side can work, if we do a deliberate job of it. So I want to follow up with
that, because I think that– this session is called
“Pushing against climate denial and defending science.” I think– I’m going to talk
about data, because I think we really need to defend data. Data is under threat. My data, the kind of
data I work with is– Can you hold the mic– Sorry. Sorry. The kind of data I
work with is produced by the federal government
and the Census Bureau. And there are very active
conversations there right now about restricting access
to population data. They can’t limit
it, but they make– well, they will
make people like me have to travel to Boston or to
one of 30 census research data centers in the country
in order to access data that we’ve had free access
to for a very long time. Climate scientists are also
facing this sort of challenge to their access to data at NOAA. And there are other
federal agencies, like the EPA, that collect data. All of these institutions
are under attack by the Trump administration. They want less data
collected so that they can make up more facts, and keep
us from presenting evidence. So I think that’s
something that needs to be addressed as well in this,
any follow-up papers about how do we defend science. We need to defend data. It sounds a little
boring, but you know, data is really our lifeblood. It’s also, for us in politics,
quite an easy pushback on these agencies. It’s very hard for
them to defend that. When the EPA pulled
this embarrassing stunt of telling the regional
scientists that they couldn’t present at the Narragansett
Bay conference, that blew up in their face
in a terrible, terrible way. And they were backpedaling
and hemming and hawing like you would not believe. So when those kind
of things happen, don’t hesitate to come
and ask people like me to send a letter to
get that sorted out. Because of all the things
that we can and can’t do with this administration,
that’s one of the easier things to get done. It is very hard for them. It’s easier for them to say,
oh, goddamn it, we got caught. We’ll go ahead and go back
to what was done before, rather than have to defend
that and get a whole new blast of bad publicity. So you’re on high ground in
terms of challenging that, and we don’t even
have to know it’s you, so you don’t get the kickback. As long as we know there’s
a problem, we can solve it. So don’t hesitate to go to your
local congressman or senator. I wanted to– I’m still
trying to– oh, wait. We have a hand. OK, good. A new person. [INAUDIBLE] the mic? Yeah. Two mics are going to
arrive at the same time. Gonna beat you. Stereo. So I feel like I
have to frame this. Timmons, I definitely came
in at the basement level. And I’m hitting that 13th
floor of the elevator, trying to get up to speed
as quickly as possible. I feel what I’ve
heard here today– I like the analogy of
the chasm, that we’ve got facts and university
research over here, this big chasm, and citizens. And in the middle is
this erosion of trust. And it is a full-time
job as a citizen to try to figure
out what is factual. I have a new understanding
of dark money and how it’s really
driving policy. And if the dark
money stays, and we don’t have these tax
incentives, and nothing else changes, who will be the
true agents of change if we have another six
years of Republican Party? Is it the Patagonias? Like, who should we be
giving this data to? What corporations that
are just going to do good, in the interest of doing good? That was scary. Well, I mean, it’s
really, really scarce. It’s really, really scarce. Patagonia has really
stood out as people who were willing to kind
of lean in a little bit on environmental issues
and do so politically. I don’t know if
they’re publicly traded or if they’re privately owned. I don’t know what their
shareholder vulnerabilities are. But I’ll elucidate what you’re
saying with a personal story. We got summoned over to
a group called TechNet, which is the trade group for
Silicon Valley, the trade association. So it’s Apple, Google,
Microsoft, Facebook, Salesforce, and a whole bunch of
green energy companies as well. And they’re also
rich and powerful, but instead of coming to
our offices, they say, we will be in this
room on this date. Summon you. Do come and let us tell
you what we want you to do. So I showed up, and
they had this handout, which is beautiful. I mean, it’s like as glossy
as those ads that you saw. And despite the fact that
Salesforce and Sunrun and other green energy
entities are in their brochure, there’s no mention
of clean energy. There’s no mention
of green energy. There’s no mention
of climate change. These are the biggest and most
powerful companies in America. So I yelled at them about it. I was an unpleasant visitor. And they fussed and
fussed and fussed, and they did it a second year. And I yelled at them
again, and started writing letters to
all their companies and raising hell about this. And the third time,
they came back, and now they had a
mention of climate change. But it still wasn’t
in their priorities. You know, they’ve got bullets,
[INAUDIBLE] set of priorities. You know, get more
foreign engineers, and stay out of my iPhone
with your technologies, and whatever. Don’t worry about what
we’re doing with privacy. We’re all going to be fine. All that kind of stuff. So when you have
companies that are so green, actual green energy
companies, so big, so powerful, and they come to lobby
us and they don’t even mention this issue,
there’s a big Valley of Death between what
they’re saying to the public and what they’re
doing, and how they behave in Congress as well. So that’s something we just
really have to keep working on. Patagonia can’t be
the only company. Nobody will listen to them. And when the biggest and
most powerful companies in the country, organized
together into the full Silicon Valley power clout are too
chicken to mention this, because they think that some
Republican speaker is going to counter-slap
them with something they don’t like because they
dared to speak the unspeakable, something’s gotta change. And part of it is
corporate America having to grow a
conscience in Congress, not just when they’re
public-facing their consumers. I think this is vital. And you know, back to
the National Association of Manufacturers. So this is everything
manufactured, from cars to you name it. And while Koch and
Exxon are in there, Koch in there
because they make– Koch. K-O-C-H. Yeah, sorry. Right. Koch Industries, who
owns Georgia Pacific, that makes Brawny towels
and Dixie paper cups, as well as a whole lot
of plywood and 2-by-4s, and they own INVISTA, which
makes Spandex and Lycra. So they make a lot of the
stuff that you didn’t even know they made. And so this is a
group that is now running the counter-attack
on all these lawsuits through a thing called the
Manufacturers’ Accountability Project that says these
lawsuits and other lawsuits against products are frivolous. So it’s totally an
anti-climate-progress campaign run within NAM. By the way, NAM is where
the Global Climate Coalition was born in 1989, after
the famous summer of ’88 and Jim Hansen’s testimony. The first counter-campaign
was run out of NAM. And it was not Exxon,
but it was heavy industry and electric utilities,
coal-vested interests that ran the first counter-attack. So also in NAM are
Pella Windows, and 3M, and Honeywell, that makes
programmable thermostats. Those companies would get
rich with climate policy that made sense. We’d all want better windows,
better thermostats, better insulation, and they’re sitting
there like the three monkeys, you know, with Exxon
running NAM, basically. So that needs to
be shown and told, and they need to be shamed. And you know, some consumers
need to explain to them, you can’t hang out
with these fossil thugs and think you’re clean. So that’s a really key point. I think the corporate– and then
furthering that, I think back to the lawsuits. Right now the
lawsuits are mostly about naming fossil
fuel companies, mining, and drilling companies. But there are a whole lot
of other corporate entities that have been involved for many
years in the denial machinery. And then some of them
snuck out of the door, like Ford Motor Company
in the late ’90s left the Global Climate Coalition. Bill Ford Jr. said,
I’m going to see the end of the
internal combustion engine in my lifetime. And this is no longer
a place we can hang out because they’re saying
it’s not a problem, and I know it’s a problem. But they didn’t get– they
weren’t held accountable. If they’re drawn into this
question about liability, they’re going to throw the
other guys under the bus. They’re going to talk about who
was the ringleader on denial. And we already have
a pretty good idea. But when we start
pushing them together, they will repel like
opposite magnets. So this really gets
back to the question that we started the day
with a long time ago. I’m so impressed, like,
50 of you are still here. This is like a record. So why isn’t there
a science-based– But they all work for Exxon. [LAUGHTER] I know that half
the viewing audience is paid for from those
dark-money channels. So we’d like to say
hi to those people, you know, like Arlo
Guthrie, you know, and some. So why isn’t there a
science-based policy on climate change in the US? So it’s not just
the denial side, but the failure
of the other sides to show up this problem
of the Valley of Death of the information
about the risks not reaching the people
making economic decisions, and a whole list
of other things. Lack of transparency, and so on. So anything else,
mark, you want to add? No, no. I think there’s
one last comment, if we can keep it short. From the former administrator? One very quick comment. You all need to know
how unbelievably lucky we are to have a senator
sit with us all day– Absolutely. –and give those
kinds of insights. [APPLAUSE] And a chance to meet
the New England crew. And not all of
them would sit here that long, although our
senator from Connecticut would. But anyway, thank
you very much, sir. And secondly, this
Valley of Death– I just want to remind
everybody, a lot was accomplished in the
environmental movement in the ’90s. And we had scientists part
of our team at Save the Bay. And I can tell you,
back in 1985, people did not understand estuarine
science across this community. So there are opportunities. What is frustrating
is there’s more there. I’d love to mine the
universities when I was in that job more than I did. But I think there
are opportunities, and I invite science people. Just as Senator said,
we were plumbers, we were translators
at Save the Bay. We’re the people who could
explain all this stuff to people. And we had key scientists
who were part of it. And we would never have
achieved what was achieved, but for that. So I encourage any scientist
to get involved with a group, help them understand the issues. And they are pretty good at
talking about these issues. And I agree completely. We’re in a moment of disruption. Grabbing this morning’s
panel and kind of bringing it forward, we’re
in a moment of disruption. This is going to
come unraveled here. And making those key
connections, oh my gosh, it’s going to be very exciting. I’m with the senator, very
excited for all of this. It could be great. That’s a nice wrap there. Good wrap-up. Optimistic. [APPLAUSE]

9 Comments found

User

Drive A Good Man Bad

climatefiles.com is the website where the info is up online. (To: Mark and his helpers, please put this info in the video notes in the future ).

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User

Frank

Mark is miles ahead of everyone else in the 'bigger picture' race.

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User

Peter Knopfler

Watson IBM computer named after Watson the CEO of IBM friend of Hitler received gold medal of honor from Hitler. You do know what Watson did for the holocaust, yes the tattoos, the numbers for recordation. Think about that .

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User

Peter Knopfler

World is Stuck on Stupid from OIL addiction lifestyle. We deserve extinction.

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User

Peter Knopfler

Reverse engineer, the social construct of reality. To help folks understand the urgency. Attack the wealthy and take their money for the possible solution. Wake up folks. In the end,, JUST DO IT.

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User

The Euphio Answer

Thank God for Mark Blyth!

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User

Amere Mortal

We need to elect progressive politicians. It’s the only way. We need to take money out of politics before anything can get done. We need a Revolution…

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User

Richard Pauli

This is an excellent, important video of a vital academic meeting.. thanks for posting

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User

lynn allen

Their is no climate change emergency
You climate kooks are just that 😜
We need more oil production & drilling in the gulf of mexico

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