Fossil Energy Interests Buy Politicians – and they’re cheap says economist

[This interview with economist Robert Repetto (now at Yale) was published two years ago. It is more relevant than ever in showing how fossil fuel money influences politics and prevents real action on climate. — Stephen]

‘What else can you do with coal except burn it? Railways make a lot of money shipping coal’

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 2, 2011 (IPS)

Powerful fossil energy interests are preventing the United States from making the necessary transition to 21st century energy sources, one of the country’s leading environmental economists documents in a just-published book.

Fossil energy interests are spending “hundreds of millions of dollars” lobbying U.S. politicians in Congress and funding groups to confuse the public about the serious risks climate change poses, says Robert Repetto, author of  “America’s Climate Problem: The Way Forward”.

IPS climate and environment correspondent Stephen Leahy spoke with Repetto about his new book.

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: We’re running out of time. The latest science shows that climate change is coming faster and posing greater risks than previously thought. We are at risk of triggering positive feedbacks that will lead to uncontrollable climate change.

Meanwhile, America is locked in a climate-policy stalemate, with very few in the public comprehending the real risks climate change poses. Most don’t understand that climate change is happening now. They don’t link extreme weather events we’ve been experiencing with climate change. As a result they are not demanding that politicians take action.

Q: Why don’t most Americans understand the fact that climate change is already underway and poses serious risks? Continue reading

Violent Backlash Against Climate Scientists

By Stephen Leahy

From death threats to aggressive discrediting in the press, disaster has hit the IPCC, the global scientific panel dedicated to studying climate change – and it is now finding ways to regroup and respond.

[See also personal posting Scientists Face Death Threats, Democracy at Risk ]

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 8 (Tierramérica)

Climate change science is under full-scale attack in a last-ditch effort to delay or prevent action by the U.S. government against global warming, experts warn.

U.S. Senator James Inhofe, Republican from Oklahoma and climate change denier, in late February released a list of leading climate scientists he wants prosecuted as criminals for misleading the government. Those scientists are receiving hate mail and death threats.

“I have hundreds” of threatening emails, Stephen Schneider, a climatologist at Stanford University, told Tierramérica.

He believes scientists will be killed over this. “I’m not going to let it worry me… but you know it’s going to happen,” said Schneider, one of the most respected climate scientists in the world. “They shoot abortion doctors here.”

This backlash against the evidence of climate change and the scientists themselves is not just a U.S. phenomenon. It is happening in Canada, Australia, Britain, and, to a lesser extent, in Europe and elsewhere.

On the surface, this campaign is about a few errors in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2,800-page report released in 2007 and some 10-year-old personal emails stolen from Britain’s University of East Anglia.

But deeper down, this is the last big effort by the fossil fuel industry to delay action on climate change, just as the tobacco industry successfully delayed understanding of the harmful effects of smoking for several decades, says Schneider.

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“We’re up against the multi-billion-dollar fossil fuel industry and the haters of government. They spin and spin and cast doubt on the credibility of science,” he said. Continue reading