There is a massive and escalating misinformation campaign being waged against America by the corporate right. This campaign is aimed at undermining environmental protections on all levels and at protecting the right of corporations to deceive the public and to pollute. We believe that the best way to fight misinformation is with the truth. Our new and hopefully regular feature Environmental Clearninghouse will arm our readers with true sound science to aid in countering the pseudoscience propaganda of the rightwingers. Here is our first installment!
[RETRACTION: In the below column, the Democrats.com contributor made ill-considered and spurious assessments of Mr. Nick Moretti's editorial position, based on his first column as an editor of Pollution Engineering. In subsequent columns, Mr. Moretti clearly demonstrated his pro- environment stance (See the following articles by Mr. Moretti at I, II ,III, IV, and Letters to the PE Editor at V).
We sincerely apologize to Mr. Moretti for misjudging his political point-of-view as well as his editorial oversight. We also apologize to Pollution Engineering for any suggestion that it is other than a non-partisan publication--Ed]
Environmental Clearinghouse: Democrats.com's Anti-Misinformation Campaign
As you no doubt now know, there is an insidious, well funded and ever-escalating misinformation campaign being waged against America by the corporate right. This campaign is aimed at undermining environmental protections on all levels and at protecting the right of corporations to deceive the public and to pollute. We have exposed many operations in our links and commentaries. For example, we unmasked the Greening Earth Society for what it is - an anti-Kyoto, anti-pollution regulation sham put out by the coal industry posing as an 'environmental science' resource. We also exposed John Stossel's industry-funded subversion of the media and manipulation of kids to further his anti-environmental agenda and laid bare the environmental outrages of Henry Kissinger's Freeport-McMoRan Gold Mining Co. in Indonesia. We helped change the selection process for some Internet search engines and educational sites by tipping them off to the Trojan horse infiltration by the right and have tried to arm our readers with real sound science they can use to counter the pseudo science arguments of propaganda-pushing rightwingers.
We believe that the best way to fight misinformation is with good information and by exposing deceptions. It is also very important for policy makers to have access to good information, as otherwise there will be no way to counter the misinformation with which they are bombarded by industry lobbyists - many of them disguised as citizens' groups.
For us to wage an effective anti-misinformation campaign and to maintain an active, ever-updating clearinghouse of solid environmental information, we need to find a way to budget this feature. As it is, we are relying on donated efforts, which has prevented us from expanding our campaign in a way that could make even more of a difference.
Thus, we are calling on all readers who want to see our Environmental Clearinghouse turned into a force to be reckoned with to make a special donation for this project through Democrats.com (attach a note earmarking the funds for the Clearinghouse).
Here is our goal:
1. A weekly digest of important environmental information based on scientific studies and 'crash courses' in key concepts. This info is an invaluable resource for activist 'civilians' and for legislators.
2. Updates on pending and ongoing legislative issues, including directed actions.
3. Information-packed feature articles and commentaries on key issues such as global warming, ANWR, the oil industry, farmland conservation, endangered species, human rights/environmental issues, alternative energy, and many others.
4. Web 'Hotline': a resource for readers with queries on environmental issues. We will give you an answer or direct you to the appropriate resource.
So, please be as generous as you dare! We're in the information trenches for you!
Researched and written by Cheryl Seal (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sept. 10, 2001: Corporate Right Infiltrates Science Journals; Global Warming News (including Crash Course in Climate Models); Turning Carbon Storage into New Hope for Depressed Mining Communities
Disturbing Trend: 'Environmental Journals' Being Subverted by Corporate Right
As an abstractor who regularly reads scores of different technical journals on a regular to semi-regular basis over the course of a year, I am in the position to notice shifts in editorial tone and journal content. So, it has been disturbing to notice, since Bush's inauguration, that some journals that had a solid track record on environmental issues are now tipping toward the right, some more obviously than others.
[See RETRACTION at top of this webpage regarding below paragraphs about Nick Moretti and Pollution Engineering-Ed]
One of the most glaring cases in point is 'Pollution Engineering', the trade journal of experts in the field of pollution control systems and equipment. Soon after Bush took over, the magazine was bought by Business News Publishing Co. Both the editor and managing editor were replaced. In his photo, the new editor, Nick Moretti, looks as if he recently graduated from Yale with an MBA. His first editorial is well-dosed with freemarketer terms - he wants the magazine's new focus to more on 'cost effectivness' and 'bottom line' rather than science (which is not mentioned at all!). Instead of pledging a commitment to helping readers achieve new heights in pollution control, Moretti tells readers to 'count on our presence at all the relevant industry trade shows.'
There are only two letters to the editor in Moretti's debut issue: One states that it is a "fact" that global warming is 'hypothetical', and refers to 'so-called greenhouse gases.' The second letter systemmatically presents all the rightwing arguments against global warming and sounds as if had been commissioned by the 'Greening Earth Society,' a front group for the fossil fuel industry. The writer (no credentials given) describes the Kyoto Protocol as 'Draconian' - another favorite freeper term.
In talking to an editor at a major news wire service, I discovered that corporate front folks routinely swamp editorial page editors with propaganda disquised as 'letters from readers.' So, between genuine letters being blocked by rightwing editors with an agenda and honest editors being flooded by 'plants,' the freepers are subverting the entire free press system, right down to professional journals.
Another example of manipulated science journaldom can be found in July's issue of 'Sea Technology,' which specializes in marine technology and oceanographic issues. I could scarcely believe my eyes when I saw the July editorial. This page is usually a modest, low-key offering, as in most mags, professional or otherwise. But not this editorial - it was splashed across an entire page with great big letters skeptically proclaiming: 'Global Warming a Threat?'
The editorial sounded just like a 'Greening Earth Society' brochure and was filled with inaccurate information - this from the editor of a professional journal! It describes in grammar school terms how the sun's radiation is trapped by 'so-called greenhouse gases.' This extra trapped radiation, says Wilson, keeps Earth 'hotter than it would otherwise be. This is the greenhouse effect. This is not all bad, without it our Earth would not be warm enough to support life.' (huh???)
It gets worse! He says vaguely (the favorite approach of pseudosciencers) that 'some leading scientists' think the current evidence does not support global warming. Of course, 'leading scientist' could refer to experts in any field from podiatry to astrophysics!. He refers disparagingly to a report in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2001 as 'the most recent doomsday headlines.' (not mentioning of course that the IPPC reports are the collaborative achievement of several hundred leading experts in fields related directly to climatology.)
Wilson goes on to say that John R. Christy - the darling of conservative politicians as he will faithfully show up at every hearing to cast doubt on all the other climate researchers in the world - is the 'one calming voice' in this hysteria. He also says Christy is a 'lead author of the IPCC report.' This is completely false. Christy was one of a few hundred contributors to the FIRST report some years back and certainly not a lead author. I don't think he played much of a part at all in the latest report. As to whether he is 'one of the world's most respected climatology experts', this would be hotly debated by most other climate experts!
Wilson describes work on satellite temperature readings that Christy was involved in that shows a discrepancy in temperature measurements between Earth's surface and troposphere. This tired old study - which has been superceded by scores of subsequent studies and measurements and models that show how and why various temperature measurements may conflict, is so oft repeated by rightwingers that it has taken on a life of its own.
But the bottom line is, this wheelbarrow full of misinformation was dumped in a science journal. But an ever-growing number of editors of all publications, be they newspapers or science journals, have no background in the field they are editing - many have only the most limited journalism background. Instead, a dismaying percentage are business school graduates whose training revolves entirely around marketing and bottom line.
A New Clean Industry for Coal Mining Counties?
On a more positive note...
These is just no way to sufficiently reduce the load of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by a gradual phase out of fossil fuels alone. Instead, the carbon produced in fossil fuel burning must be sequestered (stored in a nonpolluting way) BEFORE it can reach the atmosphere. Many types of carbon sequestration have been proposed, including increasing tree cover and pumping it into sediments in the deep ocean. However, trees cannot grow overnight and ocean pumping schemes are both costly and uncertain (no one really knows what carbon dioxide will do in the rather exotic environment of the deep sea floor over the long term).
Now a new scheme for sequestering carbon has been proposed that would be easy to implement, has an available infrastructure already in place, and is environmentally safe in both the short and long term: pumping CO2 into abandoned or unprofitable underground coal mine networks. It is estimated that such networks could hold hundreds of gigatons of carbon. The technology for injecting the gas into the ground has already been well-established by the oil industry (which uses gas injection to enhance oil recovery).
Once in a coal seam, the CO2 will diffuse through the coal's pore structure and bond to it through a process called adsorption (i.e., ashes to ashes, carbon to carbon!). This process is similar to the removal of pollutants from air or water by activated charcoal. It has also been suggested that CO2 could be used as an extremely cheap way to help recover methane found in coal beds.
One of the best features of this scheme is that it will revitalize depressed coal-mining regions like the Ohio Valley in West VA, Penn, and KY. and provide good, meaningful HEALTHY jobs with a future for former miners.
Science Update on Global Warming
CRASH COURSE IN: CLIMATE MODELS
Climate models are absolutely necessary in climate prediction. Why? Because the different variables that shape climate trends are far too complex and interdependent to be analyzed by researchers using pen and pencil and day to day observations - unless of course you had a few hundred years to spare. Such variables include patterns of circulation in both the oceans and in the atmosphere (which have different characteristics from hemisphere to hemisphere), temperatures at Earth's land surface, sea surface, trophosphere, and stratosphere, short and longer term cycles such as El Nino and the North Atlantic Oscillation, sea salinity, land cover (urban, desert, forest, etc.), topography of a region (mountains influence weather patterns), solar fluctuations, amount and type of pollutants in the atmosphere, orientation of Earth's poles over time, etc. etc. etc.! Any two or more of these variables may interact to produce a combined effect (called coupling), which must also be considered.
Using certain guidelines ( called parameters) that describe the specific type of interactions that are of greatest importance in a given situation, a computer can process huge amounts of data and come up with the most likely outcomes for that situation. Rightwing critics dismiss model results by claiming models shouldn't be trusted because they are only as good as the researcher's input. However, to pass muster (and keep the researcher's job) input must consist of data based on very sound principles - notably the laws of physics! - which don't change, no matter what the researcher's political affiliation may be. Among the data used to shape programs (in addition to the general guidelines layed down by the laws of physics) are: temperature and precipitation measurements made at stations around the world dating back as far as records have been kept, satellite measurements of different layers of the atmosphere (temperature, pressure, radiation levels and types, etc.), oceanographic data obtained from various instruments, including subsea sonar units and high-tech scientific buoys that continuously monitor sea surface temperature, current and other factors, the chemical and organic components found in ice or sediment cores (which represent a record of hundreds or thousands of years of climate change), geothermal measurements (which can give clues as to Earth's surface temperature in the distant past), and many, many more sources.
Models are thus not fanciful abstractions that are routinely tweaked by devious manipulators. What's more, in every modeling study, a model trial is usually conducted before the model is used to make larger-scale future or retrospective predictions. These trials consist of running a sample prediction for a period of time for which the actual outcome is known. For example, the model may be used to predict what kind of climate changes occurred between 1900-1950 in a given zone. By comparing the results with the known climate facts for this time period, researchers can tell if their model is on the mark. If so, then they can then run a program (called a simulation) that makes predictions about the future climate.
Thus model simulations which make it as far as an article in 'Nature' or 'Geophysical Research Letters' aren't likely to be way out in left field. Failures do occur, but what is most likely to happen is that the results may be misinterpreted by the researchers, some key variables may be given too much weight or too little weight, or the sampling of data may be too scanty. However, these deficiencies are always readily apparent to other researchers - hence the importance of peer review.
One of the most powerful climate change models ever developed is the HadCM3, found in the UK at the Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research. This modeling system, which has been rigorously tested, has recently produced a series of simulations which indicate that global warming will continue its uphill course for the next several decades, collectively rising a total of 3Â° C over the period 1880- 2100. The model shows that the warming was due both to human and natural effects. Without the human effect, however, the warming would probably not be sufficient to pose a global threat. Also, the human component of warming in the form of greenhouse gases and systemmatically changed land cover (deforestation, huge areas covered with fields and cities) have introduced elements that have never been present as a climate factor in Earth's history until the past few centuries.
GLOBAL WARMING SHORT NOTES
A leading German insurance company called Munich Re that specializes in natural disaster financial analysis, has determined that global warming effects around the world (drought, flooding, and more intense storms) will cost about $300 billion annually by 2050.
Another study, this one by the University of Maryland, suggests that the more intense storms and flooding associated with global warming could increase the problem of toxic pollution. How? The researchers found that heavy metals such as zinc and lead that have been trapped in sediments of rivers and bays, and thus largely taken out of action may be re-released into the environment when water flow is high and strong enough to erode and disperse contaminated sediments.
A recent study by researchers at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, WA shows that spring is now coming earlier to the Bering Sea (a western section of the Arctic Ocean). The loss of ice cover earlier in the season may cause a potentially disastrous chain reaction in the Bering sea ecosystem. No ice at this critical spring period means no hunting platform for the walrus, polar bears, and northern human natives. No ice means longer and fewer trips to feeding areas for whales, seals, and other marine mammals. No ice at the normal time also means that the timing of a critical plankton bloom is disturbed, which in term, will impact the food chain and may reduce fisheries for years to come.