Three cheers for Bloomberg Businessweek for daring to connect Hurricane Sandy and climate change in their cover story. That’s something politicians won’t do.

Republicans dare not speak up because they are threatened by a powerful lobby group, the Heartland Institute – which has ousted Republican candidates who acknowledge the science of climate change. Democrats are too timid to take action. The corporate controlled media maintains a cautious science.

The Economics of Climate Change Denial

The Washington Post‘s James Downie points to what can rightly be called a conspiracy of silence:

…the media and political silence on climate change has been shameful. As Bloomberg’s article notes, we can’t yet gauge what effect climate change had on Hurricane Sandy specifically. (This is the dodge you will hear from climate change skeptics in the days ahead.) But we do know — and by “we know,” I mean “the vast majority of scientists agree” — that global warming makes “Frankenstorms” such as Sandy more likely. We know that global warming also makes other extreme weather events, such as record droughts and massive brush fires, more likely as well. And as my colleague Brad Plumer points out, we know that continued inaction has meant that rising sea levels are no longer a possibility, but a given.

Yet the news media has barely mentioned climate change in the aftermath of Sandy, even in the context of how to better prepare for future disasters. For the first time, the presidential debates had no questions about climate change.

He goes on to point that politicians performed even worse, with plenty of blame to spread between both parties. With the exception of fuel efficiency standards, President Obama and the Democrats have ignoredthe issue since the 2010 midterm elections, while Republicans have become increasingly shrill in their denial of “basic math and science.”

New Report Exposes The Money Behind the Madness

Downie quotes Bill McKibben of The New Republic who has exposed how the fossil fuel industry in particular has blocked progress “by buying one party, and scaring the other.” With such a dire outlook, he recommends that measures be implemented right away to wean us from fossil fuels to alternative energy. The economics are abundantly clear. The fossil fuel industry opposes an end to policies that enrich them at the expense of mother earth, and sundry other economic interests oppose a carbon tax.

An article in the Guardian by US environment correspondent  exposes the money behind the madness, highlighting a new report showing that some of America’s top companies are spending heavily to block action on or discredit climate science.

An analysis of 28 Standard & Poor 500 publicly traded companies by researchers from the Union of Concerned Scientists exposed the fact that companies have been quietly lobbying against climate policy or funding groups which work to discredit climate science. These findings are in line with an expose of the Heartland Institute, an ultra-conservative organisation that has devoted itself to discrediting climate science funded by a long list of companies.

The shocking new finding: these companies have public commitments to sustainability but fight climate science in secret. According to Francesca Grifo who heads the UCS scientific integrity program:

The thing we found most surprising in doing this research is just how all 28 companies expressed concern about climate change. But when we took a deeper look we found that a lot of the actions they took weren’t connected to the messages.”

Ms. Goldberg writes about some of the culprits:

The disconnect in this instance was especially stark in the researchers’ analysis of oil giants ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil, and the electricity company DTE energy. Caterpillar Inc, despite its public commitment to sustainability, also worked behind the scenes to block action on climate change. The company spent more than $16m (£10.3m) on lobbying during the study, with nearly five times as much of that spent lobbying to block climate action than on pro-environmental policies.

Peabody Energy Corporation, which produces coal, was ranked the most obstructionist of any of the companies. It spent more than $33m to lobby Congress against environmental measures and supporting trade groups and think tanks which spread disinformation about climate science, the researchers found.

Exposing Special Interests

DeSmogBlog, which monitors industry efforts to discredit climate science broke the story of the Heartland Institute, having received the confidential documents from an insider.  Unlike the hacking of emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit in 2009, which were extensively researched and found to contain no dishonest representations, yet helped sink the UN’s climate summit later that year, the Heartland documents are not private emails but actual policy statements that came from an insider at Heartland.Here’s an example of the kinds of activities they have sponsored:

  • Spending $100,000 for spreading the message in K-12 schools that  “the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science”, according to the documents.
  • Conferences and Internet Blogging: The Heartland Institute is infamous for providing a forum for climate change sceptics, especially “a series of lavish conferences of climate science doubters at expensive hotels in New York’s Times Square as well as in Washington DC.”
  • The group also spends $300,000 on salaries for a team of experts working to undermine the findings of the UN climate body, the IPCC.
  • Defeating Republican candidates who acknowledge climate science: For instance, they defeated South Carolina Congressman Bob Inglis in a Republican primary 79 to 21 percent.

Secretive Donors

The organisation has received support from a network of wealthy individuals including the oil rich Koch brothers and  corporations including Exxon Mobile, Microsoft and RJR Tobacco. In recent years these organizations have cut off their public funding to the group while the group continues to receive anonymous funding through a charitable donor organization.  Desmog’s website has posted confidential memos of Heartland’s climate science denial strategy, its 2012 budget and fundraising plan, and minutes from a recent board meeting. The fundraising plan shows plans to raise $7.7 million in 2012, up 70% from 2011.

Some Corporate Heros Stand For Truth

Still, some corporate heros stand apart – large and responsible corporations like Nike and NRG Energy Inc that have been lobbying in support of climate change policy and supporting conservation groups. Among the media, a Frontline special report titled “Climate of Doubt” exposed the Heartland Institute and the false claims against climate science.

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