Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Well Disarmed Skeptic - How Climate Change Denialists Use Front Groups to Lie About the Science

Climate denialists like to argue that they are "well armed" to deny the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. And in some respects they are, because these non-science free market lobbying groups have a long history of setting up fake front organizations and now blogger networks to saturate the public domain with intentional misinformation. They did it to deny that smoking caused cancer, that CFCs affected the ozone hole, that smokestacks in Ohio caused acid rain in New England, and that killer smogs were the result of pollution. In all cases the denialists were wrong, the scientists were right, and policy-makers finally made decisions that helped to fix the problems. In fact, some of the current climate change denialists are the very same people and lobbying groups that denied the earlier science.

Some of the recent articles here on Gather have suggested the following as sources of denialist misinformation. Too bad they aren't scientific at all. For example:

The Climate Skeptics Handbook: This is a comic book written by Joanna Nova, a performance artist in Australia, who has a deal with Heartland Institute to produce and distribute this comical presentation of false information. One of the handy tips is to whine of "personal attacks" whenever a real scientist rebuts the shoddy "science." So demonstrations that they are wrong are somehow made into "dismiss and demean" (which is a transparent attempt to deflect from the fact that they are wrong). Besides not being a scientist, Nova is hooked up with David Evans, an electrical engineer who also writes for the Australian version of Heartland Institute and yet has done no science research. The two of them sell software designed to speculate in gold. No climate science research or experience at all for either of them.

Climate Depot
: This is a blog run by Marc Morano for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, a non-science free market lobbying group. This is the same Marc Morano who was James Inhofe's hit man when Inhofe was Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee in the Senate (before the Democrats got the majority). Morano has zero science training of any kind. For Inhofe he compiled through Google searching a "list" of "climate skeptics" that consisted solely of blog clips, which he helped orchestrate. Besides his scam with Inhofe, Morano was the Washington attack dog for his old boss Rush Limbaugh. Morano also was the one who distributed and pushed the Swiftboating of both Senator John Kerry and Representative John Murtha, disparaging both war veterans for their service. Morano never served in the military. Despite having no science training at all, Morano is one of several hired writers listed as a "global warming expert" by Heartland Institute.

Icecap: Icecap is a blog that takes stories from other blogs and online news sources and disseminates them to their network of denialist bloggers and willing lackeys like those on Gather who further plagiarize their posts. It is run by Joseph D'Aleo, a retired TV meteorologist and the first director of meteorology at the weather channel. While he was a meteorologist and businessman, he never did any climate research (TV weather is not climate science). D'Aleo is also associated with the Heartland Institute. Icecap intentionally sets up its web page to blur the lines between stories so that it can discount anything that is actual climate science by attaching a denialist story to it. It even writes fake headlines to dismiss stories that don't support their view.

CO2 Science: This blog is basically the same disinformation blog series that keeps changing to keep ahead of its discredited stories and founders. It's run by Sherwood and Craig Idso (and another Idso or two), who are well-known for setting up fake front groups for such organizations as ExxonMobil and the Western Fuels Association. The goal of the blog is to distribute disinformation on carbon dioxide like "carbon dioxide is taken up by plants so it can't be bad in the upper atmosphere" [how many plants do you see growing in the upper atmosphere] and "global warming is good for us" [unless you live along the coasts that will be flooded, the interior areas that will become dust bowls, etc.]. Not surprisingly, Craig Idso is also associated with the Heartland Institute.

SPPI: Another front group for industry free market lobbyists. Started by Robert Ferguson, a non-scientist (with a BA in history and MA in legislative affairs) who set up SPPI after also serving as director of another front group CSSP. Both are heavily funded by ExxonMobil and associated with free market lobbying groups. Ferguson was a speaker at Heartland Institute's denialist marketing event in 2009, but is mostly known for his 26 years working for Republican congressmen on the hill. The site relies mostly on the rantings of another non-scientist, Lord Monckton, who was a former journalist and adviser to the conservative party in Britain. He has zero science background.

So, some common themes arise from these sites denialists and their lackeys like to cite as sources for "climate science."

- Most are run by people with no scientific training at all, and none by anyone who has ever done any climate research

- Most have some connection to the conservative party (conservative = like the status quo)

- All are associated with the Heartland Institute or the Australian counterpart to the Heartland Institute, the non-science free market lobbying group whose mandate is to protect their industry membership from regulations (the kind of regulations that the science says are needed)

- All are not even close to being valid sources for science

Keep in mind that these are the "experts" that denialists and their lackeys put forth. This is the best they can do - free market associated front groups.

In the end, it comes down to whether we should listen to the scientists who study the science, or the non-science free market lobbying groups whose mission and long history is to deny any science that might lead to policies they don't like.

The answer is pretty clear.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Companies Agree to Stop Using DecaBDE Flame Retardant in Consumer Products

The US EPA has reached an agreement with three manufacturers of the brominated flame retardant, decabromodiphenylether (DBDE or DecaBDE) to voluntarily phase out its production within three years. Chemtura, Albemarle and ICL Industrial Products will stop making DecaBDE, which is used in consumer electronics (e.g., computers), furniture, textiles, and other items as a flame retardant.

Two other related chemicals, PentaBDE and OctaBDE, were banned previously but DecaBDE was assumed to be too big to be toxic. Subsequent research has proved this assumption to be questionable, with DecaBDE found to be a potential carcinogen as well as toxic to the nervous system. It also is persistent in the environment and has been found in the blood of humans, including in the recently released biomonitoring report by the Center for Disease Control.

The three companies agreed to end production, importation and use of the chemical in all consumer products by December 2012. That would be followed by a full ban a year later. Several US states, other countries and the EU have already banned all three forms of the flame retardant. The one limitation of the agreement is that a fourth manufacturer, based in Japan, did not sign the agreement and thus as of this writing plans to continue to export products containing DecaBDE to the US.

This last fact is another reason why the current chemical control law in the US, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is deemed insufficient by virtually all stakeholders and is expected to be "modernized" in 2010.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) Ready for 2010 Chemical Registration Deadlines - They Hope!

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki, Finland, is working hard to get prepared for the expected onslaught of registration dossiers that will be submitted in 2010. ECHA is putting some contingency plans into place as the first deadline for registrations - for high volume and high hazard chemicals - comes due on November 30, 2010.

While that seems like a long time from now, it isn't. Companies have been working hard for the last 2 years trying to get organized and coordinate with other companies that manufacture or import the same chemicals into Europe.

Two of the contingencies are a "back-up" IT system and a task force to monitor SIEF activity.

Currently all legal entities are required to submit their dossiers through ECHA's online REACH-IT system. Given that the system became overloaded and hard to access during the pre-registration period in 2008, where 2.4 million pre-registrations were received when only about 400,000 were expected, a back-up system is probably a good idea. ECHA has invited bids from three consortia for a contract to develop the back-up in the event of a total collapse of its REACH-IT system.

Another contingency is to appoint a team to monitor the activity of lead registrants and substance information exchange forums (SIEFs). SIEFs are the forums mandated by REACH in which all manufacturers, importers, and "only representatives" are required to work together to share data so as to limit unnecessary animal testing. Once hired and trained, the team will assess various scenarios ranging from a low number of submissions to a very high number of submissions. They will also be empowered to deal with any problems arising in the SIEFs that might endanger successful registrations by the deadlines. Given the ongoing problems many SIEFs have had getting organized and forming consortia, a little help from ECHA is likely to be very much appreciated by industry. In fact, industry has been pushing for more help in meeting deadlines for a long time.

Another welcome sight was last week's release of much anticipated "technical completeness check tool." The TCC tool will enable registrants who have prepared the data in the IUCLID5 database to run the same automated check that ECHA will run once the registration dossier is submitted. To date, many of the early registration dossiers have failed to pass the completeness check, which automatically rejects dossiers even for minor deviations. Pre-checking with the TCC should mean most dossiers will pass the ECHA check quickly, and minimize any bottle-necking as companies find that everyone else is also trying to submit their dossiers at the last minute.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Debbie Edwards Steps Down from Office of Pesticide Programs

Those in the pesticide registration business have heard of Debbie Edwards, Director of the Office of Pesticide Programs at the USEPA since April 2007. A few days ago she announced her retirement, which is seen as a loss by industry because she was considered to be reasonable and effective in moving decision-making forward. The following is the email that is being distributed widely around EPA and the regulated community.

From: Debbie Edwards/DC/USEPA/US


Cc: xxxxxxxxxx

Date: 12/17/2009 04:53 PM

Subject: A message from the OPP Office Director

Dear Colleagues,

I have decided to retire from Federal Service to pursue other interests and to spend more time in Latin America. My last day in the office will be January 14, 2010. I have worked in the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs since November of 1985 and have enjoyed a very fulfilling career. The work of OPP is challenging, always interesting and, in my view, of great importance to our society. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work closely with so many of you over the years in meeting and advancing our environmental protection goals. I leave with mixed emotions, as I believe it is a very exciting time to be in OPP. Through your efforts, the program is well on its way to increasing transparency; addressing long-standing environmental justice and children's health issues within the farmworker community; focusing greater attention on ecological risks and endangered species protection; bringing IPM practices to urban environments, including schools and day care centers; implementing the endocrine disrupter screening program; transitioning to 21st century toxicology and decreased animal testing; addressing human health risks associated with spray drift and volatilization; developing a framework for regulation of pesticide products that contain nanomaterials; more effectively incorporating human epidemiology data into the risk assessment process, and much more. I am confident you will continue to bring all of your energy, enthusiasm and expertise to bear in these challenging areas and that the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs will continue to be a world leader in pesticide regulation. I wish all of you the very best, both personally and professionally, in the years to come.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thomas Friedman and the Earth Race - How to Combat Climate Change and Use the Market to Build a New Energy Future

For those who know of Thomas L. Friedman, they know that he is an award winning writer and journalist, and also someone who knows more about the world than most folks. His best-selling book The World is Flat is just one of several books in which he shows his keen insight into the future.

Friedman now offers his thoughts following the recently completed United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. While he says that the "Earth Day" approach accomplished some goals, we need to shift more into what he calls and "Earth Race" approach.

The Earth Race

He suggests:

Therefore, the goal of Earth Racers is to focus on getting the U.S. Senate to pass an energy bill, with a long-term price on carbon that will really stimulate America to become the world leader in clean-tech. If we lead by example, more people will follow us by emulation than by compulsion of some U.N. treaty.

He says that:

In the cold war, we had the space race: who could be the first to put a man on the moon. Only two countries competed, and there could be only one winner. Today, we need the Earth Race: who can be the first to invent the most clean technologies so men and women can live safely here on Earth. [my emphasis added]

He suggests that what President Obama should have done in Copenhagen is to:

"...look China’s prime minister in the eye and say: “I am going to get our Senate to pass an energy bill with a price on carbon so we can clean your clock in clean-tech. This is my moon shot. Game on.”

An interesting concept. The US should unilaterally say, hey, we're going to beat your pants off in this Earth Race, coming up with new energy technologies that leave you (China) in the dust, and you (OPEC oil barons) wondering what you're going to do with your oil, and you (Russia) doing whatever it is that you are doing today, begging us to share the new technology with you. Which we will do....for a price.

So, anyone think this will work?