We Suspect Silence

What you don't say and what you don't do will define you.

“Clean Energy” is a Dirty Joke

“Clean Energy” is a rhetorical device of unprecedented scope. A poorly defined but effective shield for any pundit, mouthpiece or messaging agent to use when speaking of a seemingly uncertain energy future. “Clean Energy” has given its name to many formal processes, organisations, and campaigns. Our climate leaders use the term when they talk about targets, and renewables, and “low carbon” futures. And for whatever it may signify “clean energy” does have a Wiki page, but (at the time of writing Nov 14, 2016) it is unpopulated and redirects you to the Sustainable Energy Wiki page.

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As someone who is hellbent on finding a way to destroy fossil fools there is one thing that is certain, this juggernaut will not rest till it’s all gone. That’s how fossil fools have always played their cronyistic, monopolistic, deeply networked game. That’s how I look at motive and likelihoods.

When I discovered that some of the very same people who were presenting the most popular arguments for why we should #keepitintheground were also paving the way for carbon capture and storage I began asking questions about the development of this particular form of energy generation. Questions like: Why would organisations that are telling us about carbon bubbles, carbon budgets, unburnable carbon, and stranded assets be supporting the continued burning of gas, coal, and trees, and the expansion of geological storage of CO2 under the North Sea in old oil and gas fields owned by Shell and Statoil? Surely they care about ending the destruction?

I quickly realised I was asking the wrong questions. I shouldn’t be asking why, I should be asking how? How do fundamentally economic concepts like unburnable carbon, stranded assets, and carbon budgets work for the inevitable continuation of fossil fuel extraction and the wholesale destruction of forests? How much political will for carbon capture and storage is out there and how is it expressed? How are pundits, mouthpieces or messaging agents able to use “clean energy” to mask their support for energy that is in no way clean?

It’s impossible to answer these questions without going on the journey to understanding how conflated logics and rhetorical devices appear, are transmitted, and express themselves in language. This is the very heart of psychological warfare, the understanding of the spread and power of particular logics, and how the management of information, it’s architecture and the imperatives behind it’s production facilitates mass deception and behaviour change.

My broad methodology for understanding the messaging sphere and comprehending the logical underpinnings of key pieces of language is this: follow the money, interrogate the messaging, and analyse the networks.

LEADERS – Politicians, corporate executives, high level public servants and UN chiefs

 

This is my messaging interrogation methodology for leaders: When I hear a leader use the term “clean energy” I compare that to the policy, technology, and investment objectives for which they speak, vote, develop networks, and maintain silence.

Here are some very stark examples:

US Department of Energy, Research and Development webpage has “CLEAN ENERGY R&D” emblazoned at the top, near the bottom of the page is carbon capture and storage, and nuclear energy. US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has publicly thanked Senator Whitehouse for bringing forward a new bill aimed at providing tax credits for carbon capture utilisation and storage projects ( I’ll go into more detail later). Key projects funded by the US DoE involve CO2 scrubbed from coal-fired plants being used for enhanced oil recovery projects where CO2 is sequestered. Moniz has also publicly echoed James Hansen’s belief in nuclear energy as a key to “solving climate change”.

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Jeremy Corbyn talks a big “clean energy” game, but he also voted in support of the pro carbon capture and storage policies Labour took to last year’s election. He  once talked about reopening coal mines saying in an early interview

“The last deep mine coal mines in South Wales have gone but it’s quite possible that in future years coal prices will start to go up again around the world and maybe they’ll be a case for what is actually very high quality coal, particularly in South Wales, being mined again.”

In that same interview he responded in favour of CCS hinting at cost as a downside

“It’s complicated. At one level it looks very expensive but the advantages also look quite attractive”.

Of course he has since disingenuously distanced himself from his remarks about returning to coal mining saying “It was one question about one mine, I’m not in favour of reopening the mines.”

Canada’s environment minister Catherine McKenna stated in May this year that Canada’s carbon capture and storage projects were a

“real opportunity for Canada to export solutions”

and made her support absolutely clear saying

“So when you have carbon capture and storage, that’s certainly an innovative solution — a made-in-Canada solution,”

Compare those statements with her remarks at the Canada 2020 conference November 20, 2015, “And we’ll support progress in clean energy—because innovations in our energy sector can be commercialized, scaled up and exported. Done right, this will create good middle class jobs, grow our economy and reduce pollution, including greenhouse gases.”

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In my blog post of May, 2015 ‘The Climate Chief, the Summit, and the Silence’ I highlighted how then Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, in a Q & A session as part of the 2nd annual Australian Emissions Reduction Summit, derailed a question on “draw down” of CO2 (presumably through agricultural soil sequestration) to speak in favour of carbon capture and storage investment. I noted the absence of responses from the commentariat. One of the few organisations to take note of the climate chief’s words was called CO2-CRC a carbon capture and storage research project which is chaired by former Australian energy and mining minister Martin Ferguson. CO2-CRC are currently pumping sequestered CO2 under the Ottway Ranges in Victoria, Australia. Another organisation to take note (they actual used a meme I created without giving credit) was SaskPower CCS, the most advanced coal-fired CCS project on the planet.

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NON-LEADERS – Journalists, NGO and think tank spokespeople, celebrity spokespeople

 

Leaders represent institutions, corporations and political processes that impact on material change in the world. Non-leaders deal with ideas and supposed facts, and in essence seek to shape thinking for the better as they are paid to conceive it. As a representative of a media institution or a non-profit entity non-leaders are compelled to steer certain talking points, and observe relationships and platforms developed and defended by their particular institution or entity. Pointing out the contradictions between rhetoric and reality is simple, but if pointing out those contradictions helps to unpack or highlight an issue then non-leaders will largely ignore the contradictions, avoid unpacking the issue, and avoid engaging in meaningful discussion. Non-leaders with significant reach and networks are pivotal to the dissemination of talking points, conflated logics, and rhetorical devices.

My messaging interrogation methodology for non-leaders goes like this: When I read a piece from a key pundit/commentator/mouthpiece working with a media entity, think tank, or NGO I look for adherence to particular talking points and conflated logics. Most authors have sets of talking points suffused with conflated logics passed on to them through the media and through their networks of allies and affiliations.  My provisional assumption when reading a piece is that the author is not inclined to fully unpack an issue lest they stray into uncovering some inconvenient truths. Avoiding certain talking points signifies to me that the author would rather not give credence to those talking points. Silences are created by failing to speak to significant talking points. Silence is the hardest thing to identify and the most challenging component of messaging interrogation.

Non-leaders in the media employ what I call attending behaviour in avoiding certain talking points and triggers for unpacking inconvenient ideas and information. For the attending non-leader it’s all about speaking to an issue without really opening it up, not being utterly silent, erecting a defensible position which makes any real challenger seem petty.

Lets look at two non-leaders from the media, George Monbiot at The Guardian, and David Roberts at Grist and Vox.

Here’s a quote from a recent piece by Monbiot where he recognises the reality of increased demand for negative emissions and the role envisaged by many for CCS as a solution, then dismisses it – hyperlink to a story about last year’s cancelled 1 billion pound CCS competition in the UK.

“The only means of reconciling governments’ climate change commitments with the opening of new coal mines, oilfields and fracking sites is carbon capture and storage: extracting carbon dioxide from the exhaust gases of power stations and burying it in geological strata. But despite vast efforts to demonstrate the technology, it has not been proved at scale, and appears to be going nowhere. Our energy policies rely on vapourware.”

Reading this for the first time sent my head into a spin. Monbiot appears to be arguing that CCS would be alright if it worked. I tweeted Monbiot a bunch of memes with quotes which got the attention of the International Energy Agency, Green House Gas Research and Development Program Twitter account.

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Here’s a quote from a recent piece by Roberts called ‘No country on Earth is taking the 2 degree climate target seriously’.

“What is clear is that we are betting our collective future on being able to bury millions of tons of carbon. It’s a huge and existentially risky bet — and maybe one out of a million people even know it’s being made.”

In making his assertions on the state of political will for mitigation technologies like CCS, Roberts cites an obscure UNFCCC report from the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice titled: ‘Report on the structured expert dialogue on the 2013–2015 review’ It’s one hell of a document, I could sense that the delegates were drooling over the idea of pulping forests. Roberts is right in his conclusions about political will for bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and CCS, but – here’s where the attending behaviour kicks in – including a hyperlink to a document doesn’t constitute unpacking the political will. Not when the title of your article refers to inaction from countries, and countries have politicians who are on record giving their support for carbon capture and storage investment. There are any number of documents, links, and names he could have shared that would have revealed the punchline, but he didn’t. We can’t say he didn’t attend to the subject, but we can’t say he smashed that pinata.

Roberts’ article is ostensibly a response to a report released by Oil Change International (OCI) in September this year titled THE SKY’S LIMIT: WHY THE PARIS CLIMATE GOALS REQUIRE A MANAGED DECLINE OF FOSSIL FUEL PRODUCTION. Roberts  introduces the themes of “cognitive dissonance” and “psychological schism” at the state of the collective response to climate change. He then presents the OCI article stating “This cognitive dissonance is brought home yet again in a new report from Oil Change” Indeed the OCI report written with “collaborators” that you could only call “the usual suspects” (climate cartel) elicits cognitive dissonance for the sheer number of qualified statements on CCS in the context of carbon budgets. The phrase “in the absence of CCS” and other similar phrases appear on more than half a dozen occasions. The below quote summarizes the position of the world’s leading green groups on carbon capture and storage.

“If CCS is eventually proven and deployed, it might provide a welcome means of further lowering emissions.”

In the end the OCI authors cite prudence as the most important consideration.

“However, we take the view that it would not be prudent to be dependent on an uncertain technology to avoid dangerous climate change; a much safer approach is to ensure that emissions are reduced in the first place by reducing fossil fuel use and moving the economy to clean energy. Therefore, we apply that assumption throughout this report.”

My feeling about David Roberts who is a colleague of Bill McKibben at Grist.com is that his job is to postulate on the things Bill McKibben can’t (lest he be compelled to unpack). While I agree with the earlier quote and recognise that I am probably one of those “one out of a million people”, I find it concerning that David Roberts can comprehend that we are indeed “betting our collective future” on carbon capture utilization and storage, but not attend to who and what constitutes the political will. I’ve formed the opinion over time that David Roberts conforms to the same remit and talking points as Bill McKibben, and that he has permission to go as close as possible to the hard limits without triggering the unpacking of political will.

There is an endless array of non-leaders from think tanks and NGOs that we could explore, but lets look at someone who has piped up and finally given a clear message about investment in the lead up to COP22.

Nicholas Stern chairs the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment. This is the research institute/think tank that I alluded to earlier when I explained what set me off on the journey of discovery into how fossil fools are manufacturing continued demand. While I have been watching Grantham and their allies closely for the last 3 years, it was only recently that I was able to find a quote from the horse’s mouth (Stern) that was succinct enough to share. The following quote is from a speech given at The Royal Society on October 31, 2016. It’s a very telling quote because it comes from an entity that promoted and repeatedly supported the divestment movement as well as hashtags/campaigns like #keepitintheground, and yet it clearly pushes for investment in CCS as a negative emissions technology.

“What can be done to achieve negative emissions? Carbon capture and storage technology is key.”

Here it is in meme form. Feel free to share it.

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GRUNT WORK

 

Here’s a quote from The Principles of Psywar by Jay Taber. I’ve worked to these two fundamental principles since I first read them.

“The first principle of psywar is never repeat the talking points of your enemy. The second principle is to deny them a platform to misinform.”

I’ve found these principles are great for maintaining the discipline of staying on-message during difficult discussions and developing a more succinct communication style.

Applying these two principles has given me stamina and strengthened my resolve. Grunt work requires hours of immersion in deflating, boring, and propaganda riddled content. My enemies are manufacturing hope, and funding every avenue that leads to new people, cultures, and markets to co-opt. But I can be realistic about the enormity, pervasiveness, and shape of the enemy because I have a strategy against their constant destabilising tactics.

Grunt work is the true revolutionary work.

FEEBLE RESISTANCE

 

Putting up feeble resistance is a way of manufacturing silence. This is precisely what is happening this year in the US with critical pieces of legislation introduced to congress seeking to facilitate the growth of the carbon capture and storage sector with a particular interest in CO2 enhanced oil recovery (EOR). Here I will discuss two pieces of complimentary legislation that have received bipartisan support, support from industry, support from the Natural Resource Defense Council, and support from one of the largest union organisations in the US, the AFL-CIO. Both bills seek to modify provisions in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (bail out). I will show that the resistance is barely even visible. NGOs who claim to represent workers and/or the environment, organisations like the Labor Network for Sustainability have barely even acknowledged the existence of these new bills.

When Republican congressman Mike Conaway presented his bill the Carbon Capture Act in February 25, 2016 Brad Markell, Executive Director of the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Council had this to say as part of a “diverse coalition” which included Arch Coal, Peabody Coal, and Summit Power.

“CCS is absolutely critical to preserving good-paying jobs in manufacturing and industrial and energy production, while reducing the environmental footprint of these activities. The financial incentives in this legislation will also support much-needed construction jobs as we build projects and infrastructure for CCS. Representative Conaway has proposed a win-win for our economy and environment.”

Markell’s colleague D. Michael Langford, National President, Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO had this to say on the same press release.

“There are few real examples of technology that are both good for the economy and good for the environment. Carbon capture technology is one true example. Incentives to develop and deploy carbon capture will have a positive effect on our economy while at the same time, reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A permanent extension of tax credits for Section 45Q of the Tax Code will be essential in building a twenty first century economy that provides large numbers good paying jobs while addressing environmental concerns.”

I challenged Joe Uehlein, Founding President of the Labor Network for Sustainability (LN4S) and former AFL-CIO strategist to put the position of LN4S forward in response to AFL-CIO support but his response was flat, defensive, and not worth posting. It wasn’t until Democrat Senators Whitehouse and Heitkamp introduced their bill, the Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage Act, that the resistance went from virtually nothing to slightly more than nothing.

Senator Whitehouse’s press release announcing the introduction of his bill neglects to mention coal based carbon capture or CO2 based enhanced oil recovery. Instead the focus is put on non fossil fuel based processes like industrial water treatment and algae biomass projects. This is also the theme he lead with on social media as you can see from the below image.

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This is when Friends of the Earth US stepped in with a letter to congress calling the 45Q tax credit amendments for which both bills were created, a CO2-EOR subsidy. The closing sentence of the letter highlights that it’s not coal based carbon capture and storage or even the storage of CO2 in old oil reservoirs that FoE US and the long list of cosignatory NGOs (photo below) are taking issue with, but the purported increase in oil that can be recovered.

“Enhancing oil recovery is not a climate solution. Neither is further subsidizing the oil industry. In fact both are a step in the wrong direction. That is why we ask you to oppose any attempts to extend or expand the Section 45Q tax credit.”

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There are more than 30 co-signatory NGOs to the FoE US letter but when they went to social media it all fell flat. None of the usual cross promotional back patting and content sharing that allied NGOs are well known for happened.

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INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE AND NETWORKED STRUCTURES

 

There is a global group called the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) which holds forums, events and discussions for energy ministers and secretaries. Within this arrangement there is the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, this is where the real “clean energy” action happens. Below is a screen grab from the Carbon Capture Use and Storage page of the CEM website which you should have a look at. If you do you will see that details of their position on CCUS is buried away. Similar structuring-out exists in the US for the Clean Energy States Alliance which leaves the definition of “clean energy” to be determined by the vagaries of energy infrastructure development and regulation for each state.

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DEMAND FOR NEGATIVE EMISSIONS TECHNOLOGY

The propagandists have effectively manufactured demand for negative emissions. Power only ever makes win-win plays. Every failure to deliver real emissions reductions creates more demand and there are legions of mouthpieces looking for good metrics, ready to pump the hopium and spell out the technofixes. The propagandists know that the biggest risk to their agenda comes from free, open, and informed discussion. A thorough and relevant discourse has never occurred for carbon capture and storage. The CCS loving Bellona Foundation (Twitter admin) all but acknowledged this to me recently.

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COP22 will deliver “clean energy” finance and climate finance. The punchline to the dirty joke has been protected. Senior editors, NGO trustees, impact philanthropists, and senior bureaucrats all know how to guide inquiry away from the no go zones. They know that the worth of everyone who works under them is contingent on their ability to discern the dog whistles and self censor.

MITIGATION TRADING

 

While nations struggle to implement carbon taxes and emissions trading schemes new CCS projects have developed that when the time comes will be able to demonstrate that they have the capability to sequester carbon at scale. Australian economist Allan Kohler theorised that the Australian Emissions Reduction Fund, Safeguard Mechanism  could represent a “proxy ETS”. It could come to pass that the Gorgon Gas Project which began sequestering CO2 under Barrow Island off the coast of Western Australia this year could retrospectively claim a subsidy for their efforts. Will Australia in the near future use this sequestered carbon to satisfy their climate commitments?

The city of Rotterdam has put itself forward as a future CO2 export hub and the Teesside Collective industrial decarbonisation project still claim they are “leading the way in low carbon technologies”. Remi Erikson, CEO of DNV GL clearly thinks that a North Sea CO2 storage hub is bankable.

Another meme to share.

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Storage capacity for CO2 has been successfully commodified before any kind of discussion about the international agreements that are meant to cover activities like undersea storage have even happened. The London Protocol and Convention which is administered by the International Maritime Organisation is not ready to manage the development of undersea storage, and the maritime area managed by OSPAR Commission north of the Atlantic has permitted under sea storage in the North Sea at Norway’s Sleipner field. OSPAR are very supportive of investment in carbon capture and storage. Here’s a quote from the Quality Status Report 2010.

“Capturing carbon from combustion at source and transporting this to sub-seabed geological reservoirs could help mitigate climate change over century-long time scales and thus help with the transition to a lower carbon economy.”

 

THE SHOW WILL GO ON

I tried to find the source for the proliferation of “clean energy” as a pivotal propaganda term. Looking at the list of attendees at the 2009 Getting to 350 conference was very enlightening. Lewis Milford who heads up the Clean Energy States Alliance was there as was James Hansen who advocates nuclear over renewables. Members of Al Gore’s Climate Project were there along with ecological economist Bob Costanza and the nuclear and carbon capture spruiking Jesse Jenkins.

I found the likely source of “clean energy” by digging into the Podesta emails and following the trail back to 2006 and the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting (link has already disappeared) where Podesta was championing the “Clean Energy Investment Boom”. The Clinton Global Initiative had a key role in bringing 350.org to global prominence. Podesta recently sat down with US Energy Secretary , Ernest Moniz  and I’ll let the meme tell you what they both agreed on.

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New US president? Makes little difference. There was no ‘war on coal’. The clean power plan was never clean. “Clean Energy” has paved the way for the financing of carbon capture utilization and storage as critical to the development of our energy systems, and fundamental to the decarbonisation of industry.

Let’s give Al Gore the last word $$$$$$$$$

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Metrics as a Proxy for Social Change: The Climate Cartel, Impact Funding, and the Abandonment of Struggle

Below is an Op Ed I wrote for Wrong Kind of Green on the eve of last year’s Paris meeting. The ideas in this piece are central to my critical analysis and while I normally prioritise pointing out the silence I realise these ideas need to be here.

Reblogged from Wrong Kind of Green

Metrics as a proxy for social change. That’s what the climate cartel trades in. What do metrics mean to the cartel? Funding. Impact philanthropy demands short time frames for outcomes and metrics to show what has happened in the messaging sphere. It’s an economy of attention aimed at behaviour change, false consciousness, and the enfeeblement of intellect. Money speaks most loudly in the messaging sphere. The struggle for peace, for an end to imperialism and the patriarchy, for true protection of the earth? These struggles, none of which can be abandoned, don’t optimise metrics or please the funder’s networks.

Yes. The climate cartel trades in metrics and messaging, and in the business of attention metrics amplification is the driver of innovation. But it is innovation within the constraints, party lines, omissions, and debilitating conflated logics passed down from the funders and their networks. The ambitious and self censoring go-getter devotes their intuition, their deeper senses to navigating their way to success, a success defined by the satisfaction of amplification lust. They give themselves to an horrendous discipline honed at the behest of the funders, their networks, and their many projects.

The Non Profit Industrial Complex (NPIC) incubates a constantly expanding web of think tanks, institutes, NGOs, public thinkers, B corporations and media organs that serve to buttress the climate cartel’s messaging. They do much of this with silence, lines of inquiry best left alone, language that need not be unpacked lest some pointed questions get asked in the wrong places. They are blessed with amplification, access to the messaging sphere, and the certainty of support from allies within the NPIC including the liberal media.

Clean energy? This term is a euphemism happily embraced by the climate cartel and the liberal media. It’s used to mask the fact that ‘clean energy’ is an all-of-the-above strategy as long as some abatement/offsetting is involved.

100% renewable energy.? While this is a popular catch cry promoted by the climate cartel and their associated social movements, it comes with limited articulation of the obstacles that need to be surpassed to achieve it. The climate cartel maintain a firm silence on the greatest threat to achieving 100% renewable energy, the embedding of carbon capture and storage as a mitigation strategy within the modelling and assumptions on which our carbon budgets are based. This is a particularly diabolical manipulation that has everyone including governments and fossil fuel corporations working towards a massive explosion in new industrial and energy generating fossil fuel plants supplying CO2 for industry and undersea storage.

The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, Stranded Assets Project, Carbon Tracker Initiative, and the Grantham Institute have all done their part to create a picture of a coal industry in structural decline, at risk of collapsing , and incapable of existing within our carbon budgets. Through their messaging they intimate that political will should see governments rejecting coal fired energy generation, but the reality is that they’ve done more than anyone to help develop a future for fossil fuels. The Grantham Institute is particularly important as it has developed and quietly disseminated plans for carbon capture and storage in the UK and Europe with their ‘Bridging the Gap’ report. While, the climate cartel lauded Carbon Tracker and the Grantham Institute for their ‘Unburnable Carbon’ report which established the idea of carbon budgets embraced by UN climate negotiators and fossil fuel industry leaders alike, they’ve stayed silent about the Grantham Institute’s material support for the ambitions of Shell and their plans for new gas plants and North Sea CO2 storage.

Unabated coal? There is a clear party line which is understood by the mainstream and liberal media along with the think tanks and NGO mouthpieces. It is aimed at masking the energy directions embedded in the modelling assumptions behind our carbon budgets – never unpack the political will for carbon capture and storage. UK Energy Secretary Amber Rudd’s recent speech on a “new direction” for UK energy policy specified a commitment to phasing out “unabated coal”, yet the media interpreted this as a commitment to a complete coal phase out. My questions to key pundits and mouth pieces about why the word “unabated” was excluded from headlines and escaped examination were left unanswered. Some perfectly valid questions. Why did Amber Rudd specify unabated coal? Why did Chancellor George Osborne, just a week later, drop funding for carbon capture and storage in favour of nuclear power? The answer to both questions is that pushing hard with objectionable nuclear power helps manufacture consent for the negative emissions technologies that will keep fossil fuel interests happy. The classic neo-liberal push. Calling for ‘clean coal’ suddenly looks a lot more reasonable.

The structure and organisation of the climate cartel can be compared to a toadstool. 350.org is the cap of the fruiting body, very visible, poisonous, and laden with spores, This Changes Everything (TCE); book, social movement, and documentary form the stalk expanding and reinforcing key messages, and TckTckTck/Global Call for Climate Action (GCCA) – a coalition of 20 key international organisations including Avaaz, WWF, and Greenpeace form the mycelium stretching vast distances and connecting to other fruiting bodies and other vast networks. The soil it has grown from is the NPIC with it’s phalanx of institutes and think tanks feigning care for the earth while plotting the future for the oligarchs..

The title of this piece derives from a talk ‘Does art change the world? Lessons from the emerging field of ‘impact producing” given by Katie McKenna the engagement lead for TCE. Her candid acknowledgements that the “foundations” did their“due diligence” in asking for proof of “social change” when considering funding, are quite telling. I am left with three key questions. How has the imperative to achieve significant and particular metrics shaped the project? Who stands to benefit from reducing centuries of struggle down to the imperative to reduce CO2 emissions?

Links:

Amber Rudd’s speech on a new direction for UK energy policy

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/amber-rudds-speech-on-a-new-direction-for-uk-energy-policy

TckTckTck: The Bitch is Back

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2015/11/28/tcktcktck-the-bitch-is-back/

Financing “The Message” Behind Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything’ Project

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2015/10/02/financing-the-message-behind-naomi-kleins-this-changes-everything-project/

Bridging the gap: improving the economic and policy framework for carbon capture and storage in the European Union

http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/publication/bridging-the-gap-improving-the-economic-and-policy-framework-for-carbon-capture-and-storage-in-the-european-union/

Unburnable Carbon

http://carbontracker.live.kiln.it/Unburnable-Carbon-2-Web-Version.pdf

We Suspect Silence. Nobody gets paid to look at this stuff: Selling Us the Poison and the Remedy

https://wesuspectsilence.wordpress.com/2015/10/15/nobody-gets-paid-to-look-at-this-stuff-selling-us-the-poison-and-the-remedy/

UK to close all coal power plants in switch to gas and nuclear

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/nov/18/energy-policy-shift-climate-change-amber-rudd-backburner

Nobody gets paid to look at this stuff: Selling Us the Poison and the Remedy

As long as the environmental movement stay silent or deny the new risks being created by any advance in carbon capture and storage, the bad guys win.

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Emma Pinchbeck, Head of Climate Change and Energy at WWF-UK at the launch of the Teesside Collective, July 2015.

Look at that, a high-profile BigGreen spokesperson posing with captains of industry and welcoming the UK’s great hope for decarbonisation. The Teesside Collective ‘industrial cluster’ requires a pipeline leading to another pipeline owned by the oil and gas companies that own the CO2 storage locations under the North Sea.

Emma Pinchbeck from WWF-UK has managed to stay silent on the risks of storage and continued mining as did Simon Bowens from FoE-UK who welcomed the announcement of the Teesside Collective citing the need to “decarbonise” industry faster. Dustin Benton from the Green Alliance defends industrial decarbonisation against any criticism including the incalculable devastation from failed CO2 storage. Chris Littlecott from E3G played dumb.

“CO2 storage =/= nightmare” Dustin Benton, Green Alliance

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Try this link for my original conversation with Dustin Benton: https://twitter.com/dustin_benton/status/648412166912143360

In the last few months I’ve continued interrogating the messaging around carbon capture and storage, and I’ve been putting out more content of my own showing the advancing political will. I’ve had the occasional conversation with BigGreen folk of varying stripes and as you can see I’ve tried to capture those conversations with screen grabs.

A notable example is Anthony Hobley, CEO of the Carbon Tracker Initiative who couldn’t help but comment in response to my questions about their relationship with the Grantham Institute and it’s Bridging the Gap report from June 2015. His response shows that a massive commitment to carbon capture and storage is a foundational assumption underpinning our carbon budgets whose legitimacy even big oil and gas CEOs are publicly acknowledging.

“in our 2013 Un-Burnable Carbon Report we take the IEAs idealised scenario for CCS. That is approximately 3800 CCS plants operating by 2050. This gives you 125GtCO2. This extends the 2ºC carbon budget by 12 to 14%. Basically buys you 14 years. It is far from a magic bullet.” Anthony Hobley, CEO Carbon Tracker Initiative

Hobley Chat 1

You can find Anthony Hobley’s original comments here: https://youtu.be/hzOnTKHopS4

The first CCS meme quoting a leader of any kind but not created by me appeared in August and was shared on Twitter by a range of CCS power plants, institutes/thinktanks and pundits. It confirms for me the primacy of IEA/Grantham/Potsdam Institute modeling in our carbon budgets. Third Way who created the meme were very happy with Obama’s ‘Clean Power Plan’.

No created by me.

No created by me.

In the memes below you can see explicit support for carbon capture and storage from the CEOs of some of the world’s most powerful fossil fuel companies.

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GregBoyce_meme_CCS_small

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All three leading parties contesting the UK election in May 2015 had a commitment to carbon capture and storage in their manifestos while the Greens were mostly silent. Immediately after the election Ed Davey’s successor the new energy and climate secretary Amber Rudd was on the front foot. Current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is in favour of CCS.

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Amber Rudd_CCS_small

Let’s get back to that Bridging the Gap report by the Grantham Institute. This is where the silence is deafening. I can find no one who will speak to it. It clearly favours gas CCS like Shell are planning at Peterhead with North Sea pipelines and storage as given.  The report says bio CCS or BECCS (imported wood pellets burned in place of coal) “should be a priority area of research”. Note: Shell has even raised the idea of a deep water port for imported CO2.

The Grantham Institute helped the Carbon Tracker Initiative develop ‘Unburnable Carbon’ back in 2013 with the help of the International Energy Agency and the Potsdam Institute. This established the language of carbon budgets and bubbles that is used by everyone from climate ‘justice’ activists to corporate CEOs. It’s a language that reflects nothing of the assumptions that underpin it.

It’s extremely disturbing that these two projects which both have a close connections to the London School of Economics have assigned the world its carbon budgets while simultaneously smoothing the path for a transformation of fossil fuel use. While the elite climate campaigners worked closely with the Guardian to popularise #keepitintheground Carbon Tracker and the Grantham Institute were working to ensure the opposite. Those elite climate campaigners rarely, if ever, speak about CCS, BECCS, undersea storage, or pipelines accept to say CCS is unfeasible and anyway fossil fuels are on their way out.

“We will never reach negative emissions without CCS” Anonymous former IPCC Carbon Accountant

Nobody gets paid to look at this stuff. Everyone who knows their compartment knows not ask about risk or evidence or political will. Seems it’s safer to be silent….and it pays better.

The Climate Chief, the Summit, and the Silence

Last week Christiana Figueres spoke at the 2nd annual Australian Emissions Reduction Summit. While she did not include carbon capture and storage in the body of her speech she did take the opportunity during the Q&A section to speak to the importance of investment in fossil fuel based carbon capture and storage. Strangely her statements were in response to a question about the urgency of beginning “draw down” using “natural” methods including BioCCS.

Christiana Figueres' comments place her on record with the majority of energy secretaries, CEO's, and climate negotiation leaders as being in favour of expansion of CCS.

Christiana Figueres’ comments place her on record with the majority of energy secretaries, CEOs, and climate negotiation leaders as being in favour of the expansion of CCS.

Given that fossil fuel based carbon capture, storage, and utilisation threatens to give fossil fools and rampant consumption a promising future, it’s worth asking who took notice of the climate chief’s comments and who met them with silence?

CO2 CRC is chaired by former Australian Resources and Energy Minister, Martin Ferguson.

CO2 CRC is chaired by former Australian Resources and Energy Minister, Martin Ferguson.

Of the legions of staffers, public servants, and politicians who are traded with the mining, extraction, and energy generation industries in Australia, Martin Ferguson is clearly the highest profile. His controversial move to join the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association was followed early this year with his appointment as chair of leading carbon capture and storage research centre (which he opened as minister in 2008) CO2 CRC.

So who was silent? From what I can gather, everyone. Nothing from the BigGreen pundits, and the Guardian and Fairfax reported that the climate chief signaled an end for coal?

Here’s a link to the video of the UN chief’s address titled: UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres’ address to the 2nd Australian Emissions Reduction Summit. Go to 44.50 for CCS comments.

https://vimeo.com/127210673

UPDATE: Friday June 19, 2015

The Christiana Figueres CCS meme above was recently posted by @SaskPowerCCS I’m happy for them to use my meme without credit. They represent the only commercial CCS with CO2 for EOR complex in the world. Their enthusiastic support for the UNFCCC chief’s comments speaks volumes.

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To me it is clear that the UN climate chief’s comments were tailored for the people who know that the real game lies in the continuation of coal mining, and sucking oil and gas under the nebulous cloak of “clean energy”.

Digital Marginalisation and Obfuscation in the Messaging Sphere

This morning I woke to discover that Bill McKibben @billmckibben had started to follow me on Twitter. How strange I thought. I’d been expecting to be blocked just like I was by @naomiaklein @bencaldecott @market_forces @350australia. I figured since I was blocked without breaching any kind of community standards it would only be a matter of time before Bill McKibben and @BobBurtonoz blocked me too.

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I’ve got a couple of theories about why I was blocked. I’ve been following the political will around carbon capture and storage (CCS), and highlighting the silence from the BigGreen NGOs and the well connected pundits and commentators. Some of my posts were getting noticed, they appear at the end of conversations, unacknowledged by the recipients. My posts stood out perhaps because they were talking about the silences and were returned with silence.

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This week The Guardian has rolled out the red carpet for Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein. Both were quoted and cited repeatedly in departing editor Alan Rusbridger’s “personal manifesto” introducing the thinking behind his series on the climate crisis that will dovetail perfectly into Naomi Klein’s ‘changes nothing’ tour at the end of the month. Already we have seen this series explain divestment, tackle divestment myths, and release excerpts from Naomi Klein’s most recent book.

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In my first conversation with Bill McKibben he wriggles out of providing an opinion on Shell’s plans for CCS, and enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in the North Sea. I highlighted the fact that Shell’s Red Balls/Peterhead Gas CCS ad campaign was very public on the weekend he spoke at Chatham House and asked why he has never spoken about the threat posed by CCS and EOR in the North Sea.  His first response was to direct me to this article from Quartz reporting his appearance at Chatham House. Adam Epstein’s article doesn’t show that he spoke against the Peterhead CCS project that was being advertised in London on large billboards in tube stations using artwork produced by Carbon Visuals.  I suspect Bill McKibben was intimating that drilling for oil in the arctic is also a fossil fuel frontier. Who knows? It’s Naomi Klein’s talking point. For me new fossil energy frontiers are defined by dangerous new technology to combat scarcity, like fracking. Either way, Bill McKibben was right there in front of the people whose ads for an incomprehensibly dangerous nascent industry that stands to benefit from future trade in CO2 while providing demand for coal mining and an increased life span for oil extraction were plastered all over the city and he didn’t raise the issue, he never has.

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Like Ben Caldecott (Carbon Tracker, Green Alliance, Stranded Assets Project), Shell seem to be everywhere they want to be. Not only are they very well connected in the venerable home of silence, Chatham House, but they have their collaborators smoothing the path for them at The Guardian. The article that prompted me to remind Bill McKibben that he has yet to offer an opinion about Ed Davey’s plans for unabated coal appeared on Saturday, March 7 in The Guardian’s Sustainable Business Leadership section sponsored by Xynteo, a group with some heavy weight fossil fools like Shell, Woodside, and Statoil. Xynteo have an astounding motto  “We are reinventing growth”.  They certainly sound well positioned for the world that Ed Davey is envisaging.

<> on September 15, 2013 in Glasgow, Scotland.Ed Davey? You can find out what he thinks here.

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The London ‘Red Balls’ ads by Carbon Visuals who also did work for the 350.org Do The Math tour and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development – ‘CCS a 2 Degree Solution’ video.

My message to marketforces.org.au on divestment and direct action.

Below is the message I provided today with my 1 star Facebook review of Market Forces, the Australian divestment campaign group who work closely with 350.org, Lock the Gate Alliance, and Greenpeace.

“Is this what has become of activism? Eliciting cheers for too-big-to-fail banks with continuing and massive fossil fuel investment? I once worked beside you guys, we’ve both been labelled extremist. Divestment is a disease vector carrying with it the promise of a shinier business-as-usual. You are engaged in a program incubated and conceived by petro dollar rich elites. They want us to stay consumers, but for us to feel as if the world is changing for the better. Divestment is crowding out the air space for coverage of direct action. This is happening everyday on BigGreen social media. The same radical direct non violent action that all BigGreen leaders call for is being overshadowed by a content and messaging imperative.”

A friend called my reviews of green groups using the star rating functionality “social media arbitrage” after I discovered that Greenpeace Australia Pacific had removed their star rating functionality following my comments. Star ratings can’t be removed if they don’t breech standards, if you really don’t want the public to see a comment you have to remove the functionality altogether which is what Greenpeace Australia Pacific did.

Big greens like Greenpeace and 350.org don’t like to engage in discourse. They are happy to have Kumi Naidoo and Bill McKibben declare that it’s time for civil disobedience and then preside over a bunch of well promoted proof-of-concept actions, but when it comes to frontline action they are fundamentally exploitative. If you don’t believe me you just have to compare the social media feeds between Frontline Action on Coal and their alliance partners. BigGreen have caved in to main stream media’s dislike of content from the frontline where people are materially slowing the progress of mining.

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One of the very many Market Forces Facebook memes. Some of these have congratulated HSBC, CitiBank, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Barclays, Morgan Stanley, Credit Agricole, and so on.

Australia’s climate movement has been bought for a pittance.

 

If you follow the money in the Australian environmental scene you will find that at the end of many a cul-de-sac and dark alley there is a cluster of unaccountable American foundations. The two most prominent of these are the Rockefeller Funds and the Pew Charitable Trusts, both founded on big oil money back in the early 20th century. They represent ultra wealth transferred from corporations designed to turn a profit to foundations designed to last forever. These American foundations and their Australian counterparts like the Poola Foundation are designed, we are told, to support innovation in the non-profit sector.

My intuition tells me that many foundations exist to capture the resistance, to stymy militantism, and to feed into the messaging sphere ideas that are anti-revolutionary. After 20 years of wondering why the environmental movement was so profoundly ineffective, and being a person who always tried hard to do the right thing, I joined the action only to have my spidey senses constantly tingling. The last few years have been both strange and exhilarating. I have a sense that in my small, militant, volunteer group I am working with good and fearless people, but I also have a sense that in the wider movement I am surrounded by a herd of captives to climate alarmism. I have come to believe quite firmly that foundation money catalyses ineffectiveness, that self censorship has constrained innovation and militancy at the behest of conditional funding.

Self censorship is a powerful force, the result of the misapplication of intuition and the imperative to self aggrandise. Self censorship means choosing not to pursue the truth, a form of pragmatism that has helped activists maintain employment by satisfying an organisational remit communicated through funding arrangements and alliances with similarly funded groups. It leads to many important things being unsaid, many independent lines of inquiry being left unpursued. It is what is unsaid by key public figures like Greenpeace CEO David Ritter that signify a lack of real commitment to uncovering the truth. Silence around key issues makes me suspicious. In exploring this apparent inability to speak forthrightly about political will and the pervasiveness of political corruption and crony capitalism I have observed the same kind of structured obfuscation that delivers plausible deniability to the very powerful. David Ritter’s op-ed pieces of late display a kind of flaccid populism while avoiding the heart of the failure to achieve what it seems the general public want, real action. Last month in his response to the #australiansforcoal campaign he argued that the coal industry was in “values freefall”. This assertion implies that the coal industry recently held to values lofty enough to fall from and achieve terminal velocity. Given that the coal industry is arguably one of the top three dirtiest industries in the history of industry – right behind oil and war – it seems crazy to assert they ever held values – other than the profit imperative – that weren’t imposed on them through regulation. Clearly missing from his message was the pervasive political corruption, collusion, and obfuscation displayed by both the ALP and LNP. He has since included this messaging in his twitter feed but it seems the flaccidness remains.

David Ritter is the target of my derision because of the position Greenpeace holds in the fight against big coal in Australia. Greenpeace, while ostensibly being funded by a passive supporter base, are the hub in a wheel spoked with foundation funding. Greenpeace claims independence but maintains profound and enduring relationships with the Rockefeller funds. While working for Greenpeace, John Hepburn the current executive director of The Sunrise Project helped craft the master plan for the fight against coal mining in Australia. The ‘Stopping the Coal Export Boom’ funding proposal was produced with the generous support of the Rockefeller Family Fund along with the home-grown Graeme Wood Foundation. This master plan has seen Bill McKibben’s 350.org which is funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund insinuate itself quite rapidly in Australia. Bill McKibben is known for deflecting questions about his funding and for his reluctance to speak up on absence of political will. 350.org has as it’s purpose the channelling of activism toward reinforcement of carbon economics through generalised resistance against fossil fuels. In the minds of 350.org members climate trumps all other concerns because “if we destroy the world there will be nothing to save”. This argument is both absurd and powerful, a very unfortunate combination.

Climate messaging has taken over the environmental movement in Australia and it is foundation funded entities with the assistance of Greenpeace and it’s ‘proof of concept’ corporate militantism that have made this possible. Greenpeace recently commissioned a report on the investment prospects in the Galilee Basin coal mines. They engaged the partly Rockefeller funded Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis who produced a report that is designed to impact on market sentiment. The reports authors Tim Buckley and Tom Sanzillo argue that Galilee Basin coal mines are unviable, but what they and those promoting the report don’t speak about is the political will of governments, business, and their cronies. It seems that the Queensland government’s repeated commitment to getting these mines up is less relevant than the assertion carried by a report delivered from the same font of funding that feeds the collective effort.

Activists used to fight fossil fools to protect habitat, fauna, water, and rural livelihoods. Now climate activists who once-upon-a-time would support communities to power down with low energy light bulbs etc now engage in fighting fossil fools to get brand exposure and to reinforce the perceived need to fall in line with the latest IPCC report. Climate activism, now that we all know how to use less energy, is about achieving a modified business as usual.

So how much is a pittance? At a guess 6 to 10 million AUD, a mere drop in the ocean. The coal lobby and their media cronies describe the anti-coal campaign as “well funded and resourced”, this is clearly not true. Funnily enough the small, true grassroots groups struggle to get even meagre funding. John Hepburn’s The Sunrise Project caps grants for grass-roots groups at $5000 AUD with the condition that funds are used to “protect our land, water, community health and the global climate from the negative impacts of the fossil fuel industry”.

Sadly the modern climate activist is working to reinforce ideas and messaging that may or may not lead to some real action. We need real action!

 

Cronies Corrupt

 

Here are what I think are the most honest, powerful, soulful, and inspiring thoughts, ideas, and actions around these issues:

 

Tim DeChristopher – “The Climate Movement Right Now Does Not Value Truth”

http://wrongkindofgreen.org/2014/03/03/watch-tim-dechristopher-the-mainstream-climate-movement-needs-to-collapse-it-needs-to-end/

MacDonald Stainsby – What We Talk About When We Talk About Foundation Funding

http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/10/25/what-we-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-foundation-funding/

Charles Eisenstein challenges our obsession with climate change at the expense of all other values.

http://www.resurgence.org/magazine/article4147-climate-change-the-bigger-picture.html

Train blockade: Maules Creek protesters take campaign to the coal port

http://frontlineaction.org/train-blockade-maules-creek-protesters-take-campaign-to-the-coal-port/

Derrick Jensen – Beyond Hope

http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/170/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who?

We watch the pundits of the shadow theatre, the messaging sphere, the battle ground for our souls.