Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mizzou President Backs Out Of Signed Global Warming Promise

Over the past couple years, 662 college and university presidents nationwide have signed onto a document calling for urgent action to address the imminent threat of climate change. The American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment is seen as a symbol of the growing recognition by academic leaders (e.g., college presidents) that future generations (their students) will lose out on the new energy jobs of the future and suffer the worst effects of global warming unless we cap carbon pollution.

Among the signers of this historic commitment is Gary Forsee, president of the University of Missouri System. The text of the document he signed reads:
We, the undersigned presidents and chancellors of colleges and universities, are deeply concerned about the unprecedented scale and speed of global warming and its potential for large-scale, adverse health, social, economic and ecological effects. We recognize the scientific consensus that global warming is real and is largely being caused by humans. We further recognize the need to reduce the global emission of greenhouse gases by 80% by mid-century at the latest, in order to avert the worst impacts of global warming and to reestablish the more stable climatic conditions that have made human progress over the last 10,000 years possible.

While we understand that there might be short-term challenges associated with this effort, we believe that there will be great short-, medium-, and long-term economic, health, social and environmental benefits, including achieving energy independence for the U.S. as quickly as possible.
So Missouri students and college presidents nationwide are understandably scratching their heads at this article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which quotes at length from a letter Forsee penned to Missouri's Congressional delegation arguing vehemently against the cap-and-trade system to cut carbon pollution because of what he predicts to be the short-term costs.

In other words, after signing a document stating that he supported measures to fight global warming despite the short-term challenges, Forsee then decided that the effort was indeed not worth the effort required to meet those challenges.

Unfortunately, Forsee hasn't been the only local big-wig to disappoint on the issue of clean energy. Rep. Blaine Leutkemeyer, whose district includes the Columbia campus, voted against the American Clean Energy & Security Act earlier this year. Additionally, the first-term congressman is a chief sponsor of legislation that would cut off funds for the UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Instead of supporting new clean energy jobs for Missouri, Rep. Leutkemeyer is siding with Big Oil and other corporate polluters.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fiorina's Climate Skepticism At Odds With Former Employer

It's the latest in a long line of public spats between failed former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and the company that fired her.

As Joe Romm of ClimateProgress observes, Fiorina's recent dance around the question of whether she accepts the peer-reviewed science on global warming puts her at odds with HP's public statements on the issue. In its most recent Global Citizenship Report, HP asserts its strong belief in the soundness of global warming science:
Our planet’s climate is changing, and scientific consensus is that greenhouse gas (GHG)1 emissions are the main culprit. The effects are forecasted to be far-reaching and substantial. The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, published in 2007, warned that unmitigated climate change would likely trigger a range of environmental problems threatening agriculture, natural habitats and communities in low-lying coastal areas.

The economic toll will be high as well. The cost of responding and adapting to unmitigated climate change could reach between 5 and 20 percent of annual global gross domestic product (GDP), according to the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change.
And that's not all. The good folks at HP have a very specific recommendation that might sound familiar to clean energy and climate bill advocates:
HP also joined more than 140 leading global companies in signing a communiqué from the Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change at the Poznan negotiations in December 2008. The communiqué called for a treaty to be agreed in Copenhagen in December 2009 to be based on targets for emission reductions by 2050.
A Copenhagen treaty, you say? That's funny, because that's the sort of international agreement that Fiorina endorser and fellow climate science skeptic Sen. James Inhofe has been attacking ad hominem, including with a planned "truth squad" of science deniers to Copenhagen himself in order to derail negotiations.

While it's certainly not the most embarrassing thing Fiorina has ever done to HP, questioning the science that the company has integrated into its long-term business plan certainly can't be what HP was hoping for from its former CEO.

19 Deep-Pocketed Donors Contribute One Third of U.S. Chamber's Funding

The gap between how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would like to be perceived and how it's actually perceived is growing.

As R?S? reported in October, the Chamber was forced to walk back its claims to represent more than 3 million U.S. businesses, eventually dropping the number in public statements to just 300,000 -- a 90% decrease.

Now, fortunately for Chamber-watch enthusiasts who were concerned the soap opera that is the nation's largest lobbying group was growing stale, we learn (per Greenwire) that of those 300,000, only 19 -- or .000063% of the Chamber's membership -- were responsible for contributing more than a third of the Chamber's funding in 2008. Just three of those donors contributed more than 17% of the Chamber's total budget, at $15.3 million, $8.2 million and $2.9 million respectively.

Why does this matter? Two reasons:

First, as Chamber spokeswoman Tita Freeman admits in the article, the lobbying group raises money from its corporate members for lobbying efforts specifically related to those companies' public policy interests:
"Like other associations, we do fundraise around issues, so one company might give to our transportation and infrastructure efforts, while another might give to intellectual property," Freeman added.
Or, as she could have easily added, companies like Exxon and Chevron might give to the Chamber's "efforts" around clean energy and climate legislation.

Second, it matters because an anonymous Chamber official told E&E News [subsription req.] back in October that the size of a company's donations does matter when it comes to formulating the Chamber's positions on public policy issues:
"Companies with the largest contributions tend to hold more sway with chamber staff on setting final policy positions," the official added.
So put two and two together and you get a pretty clear picture of how the Chamber likely decides to react to new public policy proposals: it flips through its donor rolls, finds the "big shots," and picks up the phone.

Still in doubt? Per the Times article, a recent NRDC analysis of the Chamber's Board of Directors, which is comprised of representatives of companies who want to take an active role in plotting the Chamber's course, found that on-the-record proponents of clean energy and climate legislation outnumber opponents nearly 5:1. And yet the Chamber's still spending heavily to defeat the bill. No wonder so many of those companies favoring clean energy legislation have quit the board, or the Chamber itself.

Maybe it's time the Chamber told us who its fat-walleted friends are, because they seem to have the biggest seats at the table.