Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Consider the Source: ALEC scientist says ‘enriching’ the atmosphere with CO2 is good for tomatoes

Editor’s note: Beginning today I’m launching a new feature on the Lowdown called “Consider the Source.” I’ll examine an email or press release or memo and break it down so you know who is behind efforts to influence the press and the public.

In this week’s edition of “Consider the Source” we have an email bulletin from the Arizona-based, ExxonMobil-funded “thinktank,” the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change,  discussing one of the many “benefits” of excessive carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

Wouldn’t you know it? There’s a positive side to climate change, and it’s increased resistance to the tomato yellow leaf curl virus, a disease so devastating to the world’s tomato crop that Wikipedia doesn’t even have a page about it.

Here’s the top of the email:

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The vast majority of the world’s top climate scientists and economists agree that elevations in greenhouse gas levels the atmosphere are leading to a warming planet, and thus changing climate. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, of which University of Montana climate scientist  and Nobel Laureate Dr. Steve Running is a member, not only agree that the CO2 is warming the planet, but they think it is likely that human-caused increases in CO2 emissions are contributing to the problem.

I suspect Dr. Running, the author of the “Five Stages of Climate Grief,” would categorize this email from global warming contrarian Craid Idso under Stage 3, bargaining:

When they reach this stage many people (such as self-righteous radio talk show hosts) who used to be very public deniers of global warming begin making statements that warming won"t be all that bad, it might make a place like Montana "more comfortable."

Craig Idso is a member of a prominent family of global warming skeptics. In 2009 Mother Jones dubbed the Idso claim “the von Trapp family of climate change denial.”

Idso’s father, Sherwood Idso, in 1980 published a paper in Science concluding that doubling the planet’s CO2 concentration wouldn’t have a major impact on the global temperature, and thus “we should not be too quick to limit our options in the selection of future energy alternatives.”

Sherwood Idso and his colleagues at Arizona State University's Office of Climatology, which was headed by leading climate change skeptic Robert Balling, received more than $1 million in research funding from oil, coal, and utility interests.

In 1990, Sherwood Idso coauthored a paper with Balling funded by a coal mining company entitled "Greenhouse Cooling."

Craig Idso launched the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change in 1998. He also worked as the director for environmental science at Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company.

Craig Idso has a B.S. in geography from Arizona State University, an M.S. in agronomy from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, and a Ph.D. in geography from Arizona State University.

Not sure how that qualifies him to be a climate expert, but nonetheless he was a featured speaker at the 2011 American Legislative Exchange Council annual meeting for a workshop titled "Warming Up to Climate Change: The Many Benefits of Increased Atmospheric CO2."

The title was later changed to "Benefit Analysis of CO2."

ALEC is the industry-funded “bill mill” which pumps out pro-industry model legislation which legislators take back to their home states and try to pass into law.

According to the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch, almost 98% of ALEC's funding comes from corporations such as ExxonMobil, corporate foundations such as the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, or trade associations like the pharmaceutical industry's PhRMA and sources other than "legislative dues."

You can find a list of Montana legislators with ties to ALEC here.

Idso is also deeply involved with the Non-Governmental International Panel on Climate Change. The NIPCC, could be considered the anti-IGCC.

On their website you can:

  • “Discover the neglected pertinent science”
  • “Learn the benefits of atmospheric CO2”
  • and “Marvel at the resiliency of the biosphere

The NIPCC, which is sponsored by ALEC member and global warming denying Heartland Institute, is lead by Austrian-born American physicist Dr. Fred Singer. Singer, according to Scientific American, is best known for his denial of the dangers of secondhand smoke, and is tied to the Western Fuels Association, a “a cooperative enterprise operating on a not-for profit basis to provide coal and other services for the generation of electricity by consumer owned utilities.”

Western Fuels Association is also, you guessed it, a corporate sponsor of ALEC.

So before you go off thinking global warming is a good thing because it will make your gardening easier, you should consider the source and who is funding the research.

The world’s largest and most powerful fossil fuel energy companies want you to know their activities are making it easier for you to grow your tomatoes.

You can view the entire e-mail here.

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