Climate Science Watch Update – January 31


Updates on some areas of interest: Earthbeat radio interview on White House scientific integrity guidelines;  Hot author Hertsgaard on climate preparedness: “Why Seattle will stay dry when your city floods;”  Radical right bankroller Koch brothers and their unregulated 300-million-ton carbon footprint;  U.S. cable carriers’ blackout of Al Jazeera English and its vital 24/7 international news coverage

Journalist Joseph A. Davis was interviewed on Earthbeat, the excellent syndicated radio program based at WPFW-FM Pacifica in Washington, DC, on issues raised in his Climate Science Watch series on the White House scientific integrity guidelines released in December 2010. The interview, aired on January 25, is posted here, and runs from the beginning of the show to about the 15:30 mark.

Davis’s four-part series, “On the White House Scientific Integrity guidelines,” starts here.  


Why Seattle will stay dry when your city floods,” by Mark Hertsgaard, which draws on his book Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth, was posted on Grist January 30.  Our review of Hot is here.  

Following the lead of former county executive Ron Sims, Kings County, Washington has pioneered a response to climate change that local governments across the United States and around the world would do well to study and learn from. A two-track climate strategy is needed: “We absolutely need to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, but we also have to adapt to the impacts we can no longer prevent,” Sims says. Looking at scientific projections of likely changes by 2050, work backward to figure out what we need to do now to prepare for those conditions. Think about climate change as it applies to many decisions, and link climate policy to a larger agenda of advancing social justice and economic development.


Brad Johnson at the Wonk Room took a shot at estimating the carbon footprint of Koch Industries, the corporate empire of the radical right-wing multibillionaire Koch brothers (300 million tons is the estimate). The Koch brothers’s vast corporate wealth and enormous personal fortunes are enough to fund, for what to them would essentially amount to petty cash, the political organizations, propaganda machine, and campaigns of elected officials that provide essential support for their interests.

“Koch Industries, the private company of the billionaire Koch brothers, is one of the primary sources of carbon pollution in the United States. However, the actual emissions profile of the diversified giant, with its oil and gas, chemicals, cattle, forestry, and synthetics holdings, is unknown, because of the lack of mandatory carbon reporting in the United States. …

“The virulence of the Koch brothers’ opposition to climate policy — to anything that would make polluters instead of society pay for the cost of their pollution — is purely a matter of self-interest. The immense profitability of their carbon holdings depends on their freedom to pollute without consequence — a toxic freedom they have sold to the American public, and particularly the Tea Party faithful organized by the various Koch front groups, as inherent to the American dream. … Just as their personal wealth is staggeringly greater than that of the average American, so is their damage to this planet.”

Also see: “Koch Industries Promises to Double Money Raised This Weekend”

Our first post on the Koch brothers, from March 2010:  “Koch Industries multibillionaire Koch brothers bankroll attacks on climate change science and policy”

Also:  “Americans for Prosperity president Tim Phillips: Next steps in the war on climate science”


No doubt many of our readers are aware of the 24/7 coverage of international news by Al Jazeera.  I view Al Jazeera English on digital cable in the Washington, DC, area, and also on the Al Jazeera English website, where it is live-streamed. Their coverage of the extraordinary events in Tunisia and now Egypt in recent days has been invaluable. And in general, Al Jazeera English provides a welcome and eye-opening alternative to the parochial, U.S.-centric, same-old-pundit-saturated, personality-oriented, commercialized type of coverage one sees so much of on U.S. cable news channels.

During the one-day climate summit in the UN General Assembly in September 2009, AJE covered the event at length during the day, including the airing of statements by President Sarkozy of France and other government leaders, and with discussion of climate change issues. In contrast, I noted that CNN covered the event for only a few minutes, just long enough to show President Obama’s address – after which they immediately cut away, and without further commentary moved on to another story, one that had a narrower U.S. focus and a strictly U.S.-oriented viewpoint.

I have appeared on AJE a number of times, commenting on climate change issues.  A few examples:

“Wouldn’t we do better to actually prepare for a catastrophic climate change?”

On the IPCC and recommendations for ‘fundamental reform’

On the UN Climate Summit: We’re very far from where we need to be

But while Al Jazeera English is available to hundreds of millions of viewers around the world, it is all-but-invisible on American television. Ryan Grim on Huffington Post talks about the disgraceful failure of almost all of U.S. cable TV to carry this uniquely valuable international news coverage:  Al Jazeera English Blacked Out Across Most Of U.S.

WASHINGTON – Canadian television viewers looking for the most thorough and in-depth coverage of the uprising in Egypt have the option of tuning into Al Jazeera English, whose on-the-ground coverage of the turmoil is unmatched by any other outlet. American viewers, meanwhile, have little choice but to wait until one of the U.S. cable-company-approved networks broadcasts footage from AJE, which the company makes publicly available. What they can’t do is watch the network directly.

Other than in a handful of pockets across the U.S. – including Ohio, Vermont and Washington, D.C. – cable carriers do not give viewers the choice of watching Al Jazeera. That corporate censorship comes as American diplomats harshly criticize the Egyptian government for blocking Internet communication inside the country and as Egypt attempts to block Al Jazeera from broadcasting.

The result of the Al Jazeera English blackout in the United States has been a surge in traffic to the media outlet’s website, where footage can be seen streaming live. …

Al Jazeera is the scourge of authoritarian governments around the Middle East, which attempt to block it. The network, however, covers much more than the Middle East, and now has more bureaus in Latin America than CNN and the BBC …

In Egypt, Al Jazeera’s camera equipment has been seized and its signal blocked by the military. AJE reports:

Six Al Jazeera English journalists, who were briefly detained in Egypt, have been released, however; their camera equipment remains confiscated by the military.

The move comes a day after Al Jazeera was told to shut down its operations in the country and saw its signal to some parts of the Middle East cut.

Following the arrest of the journalists a spokesman of the channel said Al Jazeera will not be deterred; “If anything, our resolve to get the story has increased.”

On Sunday, Al Jazeera expressed its “utter disappointment” with the blockage of its signal on Nilesat.

International press institutes have come out strongly against Egyptian authorities’ suppression of the media, following the withdrawal of Al Jazeera’s license in Egypt. …

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1 Response to Climate Science Watch Update – January 31

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