Union of Concerned Scientists

Thu, 2014-01-23 11:45Ben Jervey
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Tricks of the Trade: How Big Polluters Hide Climate Lobbying Behind Trade Groups

What do large companies do when they want to lobby against climate change and carbon mitigation measures without looking publicly like they're pro-pollution? According to a new analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists, they hide behind trade groups.

Groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers have essentially become puppets for the positions of the ventriloquist corporations they serve. Companies often position themselves publicly to suggest they support action to address climate change. But those promises are regularly contradicted by the lobbying activities of trade groups they are part of, such as the chamber, that fight against such policy action.

The Union of Concerned Scientists report, Tricks of the Trade: How Companies Influence Climate Policy Through Business and Trade Associations, doesn’t introduce this concept — organizations like 350.org have been calling out companies for their membership in the anti-science U.S. Chamber for years now — but its authors Gretchen Goldman and Christina Carlson take a deep, analytical look at the memberships of various trade orgs and dig into survey data from the companies to find some glaring contradictions.

Fri, 2013-10-11 11:00Steve Horn
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Union of Concerned Scientists Cites DeSmog's "Frackademia" Work in Major Report

The Union of Concerned Scientists' Center for Science and Democracy has released a new report titled “Toward an Evidence-Based Fracking Debate” and DeSmogBlog's “frackademia” work takes the center stage in the 53-page heavily cited document.

With chapters on the science of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), fracking's regulatory landscape (and lack thereof), industry transparency (and again, lack thereof) and many sub-topics in between, DeSmog's “frackademia” work is mentioned twice in the “Interference in the Science” subsection. 

“Industry interests have influenced the outcome of academic studies of unconventional oil and gas development,” wrote UCS in citing DeSmogBlog. “Such efforts have produced industry-friendly research results and reports coming from several universities, a circumstance that has been dubbed 'frackademia.'”

UCS cited our “frackademia” case study of State University of New York at Buffalo and its proposed Shale Resources and Society Institute. The proposal was met with resistance and furor, eventually shuttering operations before it ever officially opened its doors in late-2012. 

Careful to avoid coastal bias, UCS also mentioned our probe of University of Southern California's “Powering California” report

Wed, 2013-06-19 05:00Guest
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Corporate Counterfeit Science – Both Wrong and Dangerous

Asbestos Mine in Canada on DeSmog Canada

This is a guest post by Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). It originally appeared on the UCS blog The Equation.

Asbestos can kill you. We’ve all been warned about the dangers of breathing it in. That is why we test buildings for it and have rules to protect construction workers from exposure to it. But how do we know asbestos is harmful? Because scientists have done studies of the dangers it poses to our health. And I’m glad they have so we can avoid these threats.

Tampering with science behind the health effects of asbestos

For decades, however, some companies have fought efforts to regulate asbestos, even tampering with the science behind our understanding of its health effects. And, sadly, a recent court ruling indicates that the tampering may have been more widespread than anyone previously knew.

Recently, a New York Appeals Court ruled unanimously that that Georgia Pacific, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, must hand over internal documents pertaining to the publication of 11 studies published in reputable scientific journals between 2008 and 2012. At issue in the case: whether the firm can be held accountable for engaging in a “crime-fraud” by planting misinformation in these journals intending to show that the so-called chrysotile asbestos in its widely used joint compound doesn’t cause cancer.

Thu, 2012-12-06 23:34Graham Readfearn
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Freedom of Information Laws Used By Climate Sceptics To Rifle Through Scientists' Daily Emails

FREEDOM of Information laws across the world were introduced as a way to open governments and their agencies to public and journalistic scrutiny and to extract the kind of information that tends not to make its way into press releases and government pamphlets.

But seen through the eyes of some climate change scientists, it is a law which appears to have been hijacked by climate science sceptics and free market think tanks as a means to rifle through their inboxes in search of anything which, when taken out of context, might be used to make them look bad.

In the US, Penn State University climate scientist Professor Michael Mann - he of the famous 'hockey stick' graph -  recently fought off a long running attempt by the climate science denial think tank the American Tradition Institute to gain access to his emails.

As The Guardian has reported, the ATI, led by one of its directors Christopher Horner, has pursued several other scientists using FOI laws to gain access to their email inboxes. Mr Horner has also made specific requests for correspondence between scientists and journalists.

Mann has described such cases as an “abuse of public records and FOIA laws”, saying the efforts were “frivolous and vexatious”.  

Lawyer with the Climate Science Legal Defence Fund Jeff Ruch told The Guardian that the requests were “basically a spying operation” to “find material that is potential of use in discrediting a scientist.”

Wed, 2012-05-30 10:16Chris Mooney
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The Big Waffle? New Report Exposes Corporations That Try to Split the Difference on Global Warming

We hear a lot about the Koch brothers. And before them, we heard a lot about ExxonMobil.

In other words, we all know the names of the corporations, and the corporate leaders, who have sought to undermine public understanding about global warming—for instance, by supporting think tanks that misrepresent the science and, in some cases, literally launch attacks against top scientists.

But you don’t hear as much about the companies that kinda waffle on the issue. That maybe give a little money to conservative think tanks, but also support lots of environmental groups. That donate to politicians on both sides of the climate battle, and sometimes take apparently contradictory stances on the issue: either on the science, or on what we ought to do about it.

A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, though, appears to catch some of them in the act.

The UCS sought to analyze the influence of corporate America on the debate over climate science and climate policy. So it sampled a large group of S&P 500 companies that involved themselves in two major climate policy events of the past few years: Either they commented on the EPA’s 2009 endangerment finding on greenhouse gas emissions (pro or con), or they donated to the 2010 battle over Proposition 23 in California (either for or against the ballot proposition).

This yielded a sample of 28 S&P companies, including many expected names—ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Valero—but also some surprises (Nike). Then, UCS drilled down further by examining a host of other actions bearing on climate change that these companies have taken.

Tue, 2011-11-22 11:53Brendan DeMelle
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East Anglia SwiftHack Email Nontroversy Returns: What You Need To Know

The desparate attempt by climate change deniers to sully climate scientists returns today with the release of 5,000 emails stolen back in 2009 during the original “Climategate” hacking of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit email servers. 

Other than a great attempt at ruining another Thanksgiving holiday for American scientists, the bottom line conclusions on this story are identical to the 2009 release: 

1. There is nothing in these emails that in any way disproves the enormous body of peer-reviewed climate science. As even the Koch-funded BEST study recently showed, climate change is real, global temperatures are rising and human activities are responsible.

2. The 'new' emails appear to come from the same batch stolen from the University of East Anglia in 2009.  The denialosphere blogs are trying to frame it as ‘Climategate 2’. Cherry-picked quotes from the emails are once again being taken out of context by skeptic bloggers and irresponsible media like the Daily Mail in a last ditch attempt to smear climate science, and derail COP17 talks in Durban.

3. It's not a coincidence that this new release of hacked emails comes just days before the Durban COP17 climate conference, much as the first release from the hacked files came just before Copenhagen. When the world’s governments start to make progress toward climate action, the polluters panic and resort to desparate measures.

4. Remember that this was an illegal hacking of emails, and this second batch represents a continued breach of privacy of these scientists whose personal emails were released to the public.  The UK police investigation into the hacking is still ongoing, and this new episode should compel them to redouble their efforts to find out who these criminal hackers are, and bring them to justice.

Update: Richard Black at the BBC points to the real scandal that needs further investigation - why the UK police have done such an astonishly poor job investigating this criminal hacking, as evidenced by their tiny expenditures to date. From Climate Emails, Storm or Yawn?

I have been passed information stemming from an FoI request to Norfolk Police showing that over the past 12 months, they have spent precisely £5,649.09 [US$8843.64] on the investigation.
 
All of that was disbursed back in February; and all but £80.05 went on “invoices for work in the last six months”.
 
Of all the figures surrounding the current story, that is perhaps the one that most merits further interrogation.
 
Wed, 2011-03-02 10:03Chris Mooney
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Global Warming and Snowstorms: Communication Nightmare, or Opportunity?

The Union of Concerned Scientists, a group I greatly admire, has held a press conference (with attendant media coverage) to air an argument that is already quite intuitive to me, but is probably precisely the opposite for others: Namely, that global warming could mean more mega-snowstorms, of the sort North America has seen in the past several years.

On a physical level, the case is sublimely simple. One of the fundamental aspects of global warming is that it increases the amount of moisture in the atmosphere, because warmer air holds more water vapor. From there, it’s a piece of cake—more snow can fall in snowstorms than before.

Wed, 2010-12-22 08:00Chris Mooney
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A Critical Science Moment for the Obama Administration

For those concerned about ensuring the accurate use of science in U.S. politics and political decision-making—about stopping what everybody now calls the “war on science”—we now stand at a critical juncture. What happens next will be extremely important. That’s the topic of this post; but first, let’s review how we got here.

1. The Last Administration Misused and Abused Science To a Degree Unprecedented in Modern American Politics.

There are still a few contrarians who question this conclusion. But they’ve long since lost the argument.

A voluminous number of science abuse case studies from the Bush administration were investigated and documented by myself, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), and many others across the journalistic and NGO communities. Importantly, we demonstrated that a) during the Bush years, scientific information itself was regularly distorted for political reasons (e.g., these were not just disputes over policy, but over matters of fact and what is true about the world); and b) this happened on some of the most high profile issues of the day, where the scientific facts or scientific consensus was clear and the administration undermined them anyway (like stem cells and global warming).

How did we demonstrate this?

Thu, 2008-10-16 11:08Kevin Grandia
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Report outlines major risks of "clean coal"

The Union of Concerned Scientists has released a report today outlining the considerable risks associated with so-called “clean coal” and carbon capture and storage technology (pdf.)

Clean coal has been a persistent theme throughout the US election, with presidential candidates on both sides of the political ledger touting the message that coal is somehow clean. As coal industry commentator and author Jeff Goodell puts it best: 

Clean coal” is not an actual invention, a physical thing – it is an advertising slogan. Like “fat-free donuts” or “interest-free loans.”

Tue, 2008-06-03 12:51Bill Miller
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Does economists’ change of tune herald turning point on climate change?

The most interesting aspect of the 1,700 prominent signatories urging U.S. politicians to make immediate, deep reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions is that so many of them are economists.

Predictably, the statement by the Union of Concerned Scientists, issued on the eve of U.S. Senate debate on the Lieberman-Warner climate bill, affirms the long-standing scientific evidence for global warming.

But what was unusual, and surprising, was the prominent role of economists as measured by the statement that acting quickly to cut emissions “would be the most cost-effective way to limit climate change.”

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