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Fighting back against Big Lies on climate change and the environment — and winning

Despite the firehose of disinformation, activists are winning by insisting on facts, evidence and science, Salon, AMANDA MARCOTTE, 04.09.2018 

In the age of Donald Trump, one could be forgiven for believing that truth has lost all value. As of March 1, Trump had reportedly told 2,436 public lies, an average of six a day during his 13 months in office. That number doesn’t even encompass the firehose of misinformation coming out of his administration, much less the right-wing media network that’s geared towards propagandizing on behalf of Dear Leader. It’s easy to despair, because it frequently seems there are no consequences for all this lying and that huge percentages of Americans have flatly decided they don’t care about facts any longer.

But when it comes to the issue of the environment, there’s reason to believe — at least for now — that there’s still some value to having the facts on your side. There are at least two reasons for this. Environmental laws, as written, still have high evidentiary standards that conservatives simply cannot ignore. Secondly, attorneys general in blue states are ready to put huge amounts of resources to make it difficult for corporate interests and their friends in the Trump administration to hide, deny or distort the facts to support their pro-pollution agenda.

At the end of March, environmentalists quietly scored another victory against efforts to conceal the truth about climate change, when a federal judge ruled against ExxonMobil in a transparency case. In 2016, in response to reporting that found ExxonMobil executives had hidden the truth about climate change from investors and customers for decades, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey opened investigations into the oil giant to find out whether the pattern of deceit was legally actionable. Exxon sued in retaliation, claiming the investigation was politically biased, and lost.

Exxon has run a scorched earth campaign to avoid answering our basic questions about the company’s awareness of climate change,” Healey told Salon in an emailed statement. “Massachusetts customers and investors deserve answers from Exxonabout what it has known about the impact of burning fossil fuels on its business and the planet, and whether it hid this information from the public.”

Attorneys general have been using a similar strategy against Scott Pruitt, Trump’s head of the Environmental Protection Agency, who has been notoriously secretive about his behavior, even installing a soundproof phone booth so he can talk to persons unknown without being overheard. But what he can’t do, said David Hayes, the executive director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law, is run away from scientific facts when he’s confronted with them in court……..

Litigation against tobacco companies in the ’90s successfully drew public attention not just to the science, but to the industry’s efforts to hide it. The result was a rapid drop-off in rates of young people beginning to smoke. That rate started to fall in the ’90s and has since hit an all-time low.

 Right now, it seems there’s a similar situation brewing on the topic of climate change. It’s not just that environmentalists have the facts on their side, but they are also going to be able to show, as the lawsuits and investigations go down, that the Pruitt EPA and companies like ExxonMobil have actively been trying to hide the truth. Trying to cover something up often tends to backfire, making the public more interested in learning what facts were so alarming that someone felt the need to hide it in the first place.

Pruitt’s efforts at a cover-up stink of desperation. He’s trying to push scientists off the EPA’s advisory boards, which of course has resulted in a lawsuit, backed by the Union of Concerned Scientists.  Working with Republican allies in Congress, he’s trying to limit the amount of scientific research the EPA is allowed to consider when crafting clean air regulations. Researchers are now afraid to use the phrase “climate change” when seeking government grants, for fear of triggering the censorious impulses of Pruitt and other Trump administration officials who are eager to keep the scientific truths from being known.

Trump officials and ExxonMobil executives wouldn’t be so afraid of the evidence on climate change unless they believed that truth still has the power to move the needle in both law and in public opinion. In the age of misinformation, it’s even more important to keep pushing to get the facts into the light. https://www.salon.com/2018/04/09/fighting-back-against-big-lies-on-climate-change-and-the-environment-and-winning/

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April 11, 2018 - Posted by | general

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