We Suspect Silence

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

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?


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


TckTckTck: The Bitch is Back


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


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


Unburnable Carbon


We Suspect Silence. 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


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.

Pinchbeck Teesside

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


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.

Ben van Beurden_meme_CCS_small



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.

.   Old_Logo_Labour_Party_meme_CCS_small

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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”


MacDonald Stainsby – 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.


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


Derrick Jensen – Beyond Hope









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