Vancouver's DeSmog Blog is a critical piece of climate change response infrastructure. Because, as we've mentioned before, one of the biggest problems we currently face in terms of responding to climate change is neither scientific nor technical: it is the on-going campaign of lies and misinformation, the black spin, put forward by the Carbon Lobby (primarily oil, coal and auto companies). DeSmog tackles that spin with the insight that only a team of experienced PR professionals can bring. DeSmog is, essentially, doing PR for the truth.
We had a chance to sit down with the DeSmog team on our recent trip to Vancouver. Founder Jim Hoggan explained that he started the site because he was convinced that the science on climate change was unequivocal, but "politics at its dirtiest" had kept the debate stalled in uncertainty. His experience in PR lead him to believe that carbon interests saw that a public perception that the science was undecided was the best weapon they had: "if you can keep the public scratching its head about climate change... everything gets slowed down and nothing will change."
Worse yet, by engaging "skeptics" in debate, credible scientists actually reinforce the PR message that carbon interests want heard, because we are all trained to believe that where a debate is engaged in our media, there are two credible sides. Even attacking completely false or misleading claims then gives the opposition the chance to demand a rebuttal.
The only answer, the DeSmog team decided, is to go after the credibility of those attempting to create confusion around climate change, something they have done with relish and great effect, doing investigations into the backgrounds of prominent skeptics, pointing out how often they are in the employ of industry, or lack climate credentials, or are known extremists ideologically ("some of these guys are very... unusual people, so to say"), and then sharing that information with the media through outreach and Google-bombing campaigns. They've been doing an increasingly effective job of destroying the credibility of denialists, helping to defang what may be one of the most morally criminal PR campaigns in world history.
And they're happy to be doing it. "The world scientific community agrees," Hoggan says. "There are many questions to answer, but whether or not climate change is happening is not one of those questions. People in PR have a lot to answer for on this issue."
I so completely agree with this statement, "One of the biggest problems we currently face in terms of responding to climate change is neither scientific nor technical: it is the on-going campaign of lies and misinformation, the black spin, put forward by the Carbon Lobby (primarily oil, coal and auto companies)."
Of course, it isn't only the media or PR which misleads and misinforms the public. The infrastructre which guides most peoples lives (from schools where we spend most of our childhoods to jobs where we spend most of our adulthoods) is designed without people or planet in mind. When this critical infrastructure is out of sync with the planet and runs counter to human needs, it isn't difficult to see why most people grow up being ecologically illiterate and spiritually bankrupt.
I honestly believe that the most important things we can do as active citizens is to get involved in the rethinking and redesigning of the infrastructure and the institutions that guide most peoples lives. The three most important institutions that need Worldchanging are: Media, Education, and the Economy.
Without changes in these areas, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to deal with the ecological crisis we are faced with.
The effort is especially important coming from some fellow Canadians. I've been yelling for a few years know about how dome general complacency, or laziness, after Kyoto was ratified. It not only led to ineffective federal policy, it allowed a re-emergence of some old, tired arguments of what you call "skeptics". The supposed battle over climate science should have been won several years ago.
I agree with the idea that dignifying some of the ridiculous sceptical arguments out there gives undeserved legitimacy, but these arguments do get prominent display in major op-eds and US senate testimony etc, so they can not go unanswered.
This is why I agree that what DeSmogBlog is doing is necessary and completely legitimate and a good resource to go along with those us who still try to debunk the bunk.
I would add to Jeremy's list the issue of urban planning, though that may follow especially from education and media.
The absurdity of fossil fuels:
Millenia ago, according to deep ice core
samples, the CO2 levels in the atmosphere
where drastically higher then today. The
difference back then was that the planet was
able to allow nature to control this CO2 by
letting plant life run rampant. This plant life
then absorbed the excess CO2, died off and became
fossil fuels. Today, man is disrupting this
natural balance by both burning these fossil
fuels and destroying the plant life thereby
preventing it from both absorbing and re-
absorbing the CO2 present and released. This to
some degree is re-creating the high atmoshperic
CO2 levels of the past while reducing or
eliminating nature's ability to deal with the
Sadly, the use of fossil fuels for ANY REASON was
all but vanquished with the advent of The Fast
Neutron Breeder Reactor (FBR)in 1947. This
reactor technolgy has the capability to use
99.5% of the energy contained in uranium as
opposed to only 1% in conventional nuclear
reactors in use world wide today. As purified
uranium contains 850,000 times MORE energy per
unit volume then does oil, this difference is
significant to say the least. According to a
recent report titled "Nuclear Energy For The
Future" (2005) authored by The University of
California and General Atomics Corp, FBR's hold
the promise of limitless energy forever: "At the
estimated year 2050 per capita energy-
consumption rate of 2x1028 (10 to the 28th power)
erg/year, this energy source would last for
2.8x109 (10 to the 9th power) years, which is a
large fraction of remaining human life on the
planet with needed energy supplies for 10
billion people enjoying the US standards of
living of the year 2000 provided the human
population remains unchanged and 40% energy
conservation can be implemented."
This is just using the KNOWN planetary uranium
reserves and does not include thorium which can
also be used as fuel in FBR'S making the energy
sources essentially inexhaustable! As
the "burnup" inside of FBR's is basically
complete, the resulting waste product is very
minimal in quantity and has a radioactive half
life of between 150 and 300 years. Not the 10s
of thousands of years of current reactor waste.
Additionally, it is the current reactor waste
AND current nuclear weapons stockpiles that
FBR's will use as fuel for the first several
hundred years or so, making the mining of new
resources unnecessary till then.
There is no technical reason why FBR's aren't
in widespread use today. The reasons a purely
greed and politics.
We either have to get smart or get dead and our
planet along with us.
Longevity and serendipity...