Losing The Climate Spin War
I don't really know what quite went on here, but TPM followed all day this effort to delay President Obama's environmental nominees, terming it "the first shot" in the battle against action on climate change. Elena Schor claimed that an anonymous Senator was holding up Nancy Sutley (for head of the Council on Environmental Quality) and Lisa Jackson (for head of the EPA), with the actual pressure being put on the "climate czar" Carol Browner:
... it's about Carol Browner, the incoming White House climate and energy adviser. As Sen. Jim Inhofe (OK), senior Republican on the environment committee and the leading fly in the climate change ointment, told the Washington Times:
"I'm quite concerned that [Sutley's] role has been diluted by the addition of former EPA Administrator Carol Browner as White House climate and energy czar. The new Senate-confirmed CEQ chair will be expected to have the full authority to represent the White House on all matters before this committee."
By holding up Jackson and Sutley, Senate Republicans are doing more than just signaling their discontent that they won't get to question and vote on Browner -- although Sen. Bob Corker [R-TN] suggests to the Times that Browner be called in for a "quasi-confirmation" hearing. They're previewing their strategy to knock down the climate regulation bill that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), environment committee chairman, will release later this year.
Then Schor claimed that Wyoming Senator Tom Barrasso was behind the delay; then it wasn't him; then the nominees could be cleared by tomorrow; and then, they were confirmed along with several other cabinet heads (I think only Geithner, Solis and Holder are left, though I could be missing one or two, and of course there is no nominee for Commerce Secretary).
Exactly what the hell happened here? Between Schor's over-reporting and Matt Cooper's thousand-word musings about Caroline Kennedy, I'm thinking of turning away from the new TPMDC.
However, it would be silly to ignore that the Republicans will stop at nothing to halt meaningful action on climate change. And, that they're winning. Not because nutcase James Inhofe says so, but because the issue is simply not a tangible enough concern to force it into Washington's power centers:
the latest Pew poll on priorities contains grim news for those of us who think we're rapidly destroying out planet: the public couldn't care less. Global warming, once again, ranks as the lowest priority from a list of 20, and the more general category of "protecting the environment" fell 15 percentage points from last year.
And as if that's not bad enough, Revkin also points to a new Rasmussen poll, which finds that 44% of U.S. voters don't believe humans are the cause of global warming, compared to only 41% who do. That's even worse than last year's results.
In one sense, this is because the economy and jobs have superseded the environment and everything else as the biggest concern. (People should listen to Van Jones more, who solves both of these vexing problems with the promise of green jobs). But the need for action grows larger every year, and yet the willingness to do so wanes. I think part of this is the PR machine being global warming denial. I mean, this memo from the coal industry tells you about everything you need to know:
A Virginia-based public relations firm called the Hawthorn Group sent out a newsletter to their "friends and family" outlining the work they did on behalf of a coal industry lobby group called the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.The newsletter outlines in quite a bit of detail about how Hawthorn spindoctored coal during the Presidential election.
The newsletter starts:
"We thought the most fixated of the political and communications "junkies" might find interesting some highlights of a recent grassroots campaign Hawthorn created and managed for the American Coalition of Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE)."
Hawthorn celebrates the fact that their coal-is-clean campaign was a success:
"In September 2007, on the key measurement question—Do you support/oppose the use of coal to generate electricity?—we found 46 percent support and 50 percent oppose. In a 2008 year-end survey that result had shifted to 72 percent support and 22 percent oppose. Not only did we see significantly increased support, opposition was cut by more than half. Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain addresses a crowd wearing "Clean Coal hats" in Pennsylvania."
Instead of actually demostrating that somehow coal is clean, Hawthorn used age-old PR tactics to create the image instead:
"Building on our existing 200,000-strong grassroots citizen army, we leveraged the presidential candidates' own supporters, finding advocates for clean coal among the crowd to carry our message. We got these on-the-spot advocates to show strong public support to the candidates and to the media, and enhanced that visibility by integrating online media that created even more of a buzz. We did this by sending "clean coal" branded teams to hundreds of presidential candidate events, carrying a positive message (we can be part of the solution to climate change) which was reinforced by giving away free t-shirts and hats emblazoned with our branding: Clean Coal. Attendees at the candidate events wore these items into the events."
Polluting industries have a huge megaphone and lots of money to deny the problem, deny that anything can be done, warn that job loss and economic contraction would ensue, and on and on. And yet with each passing day, the landscape is charred by the effects of a warming planet. The trees are dying, the ice is melting, the planet still has that fever. And we aren't gaining much traction to get us out of it.
President Obama, if you care about this, it's time for one of those stemwinders of a speech.