Thursday, March 17, 2022

Democrats, Green Activists Pressure Big Tech to Censor More Climate ‘Misinformation’

A House Democrat leading an investigation of oil industry “misinformation” blames social media companies for blocking legislation to counter climate change, even as Big Tech corporations move to demonetize and suppress debate on climate-related issues.

Google acted to demonetize “climate denial” information. Facebook upped its fact-checking of climate-related posts, and emails obtained by watchdog groups show it targeted conservative site PragerU and independent journalist John Stossel. Twitter promised to be a forum only for credible content on climate change.

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., is chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s subcommittee on the environment, which has conducted two hearings on oil “misinformation” and postponed a third.

In February, Khanna tweeted: “Facebook is preventing us from taking action on climate change by allowing climate misinformation to spread. Congress must step up and hold them accountable.”

Khanna also put social media companies on notice in January.

“Misinformation being spread on social media is undermining our efforts to tackle climate change,” Khanna said in that tweet. “As chair of the House Oversight Environment Subcommittee, I will be holding a hearing to hold social media companies accountable.”

In a subpoena of oil companies, the House Oversight and Reform Committee asked for “marketing, advertising, or social media activities tending to influence public opinion … including communications with public relations firms or social media companies.”

House Democrats seem to hint that their investigation will expand beyond the oil industry, said Christopher Horner, counsel for the nonprofit watchdog group Government Accountability and Oversight.

“The committee has already expressed outrage, followed by subpoenas, over the targeted companies funding political speech the committee doesn’t like—energy and business trade associations,” Horner told The Daily Signal. “It also has indicated it intends to pursue public affairs firms as well as social media activities. Except we already know from open records productions that the social media giants collaborate with the climate inquisitors.”

Horner’s group is involved with litigation alleging that the committee violated both the law and House rules in its conduct of the investigation.

Neither a spokesperson for Khanna’s office nor a spokesperson for the House Oversight and Reform Committee responded to The Daily Signal’s inquiries for this report.

After Google announced last fall it would “demonetize” what it calls “climate denial,” green activist groups have pushed to expand the definition of denial.

The Center for Countering Digital Hate issued a report in November listing 10 websites, lumping in conservative news sites such as The Washington Times, Breitbart, and Newsmax with Russian state-run media that it said propagate two-thirds of “digital climate change denial.”

The Center for Countering Digital Hate is a British-based organization aligned with the left wing of the Labour Party. It advocates for removing what it defines as hate groups from media and social media outlets.

Interestingly, among content cited by the report to try to buttress its point was a commentary on The Daily Wire that said the left “intimidates its opponents into silence.”

The report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate states that use of the term “climate alarmism” fits the definition of disinformation or denial:

Throughout this report, the terms ‘climate disinformation’ and ‘climate denial’ should be read as referring to content that fits the following, narrow definition … Deceptive or misleading content that undermines the existence or impacts of climate change, and the need for corresponding urgent action, typically by referring to climate science using phrases such as ‘climate alarmism’ or ‘climate fraud.’

“The tech guys shouldn’t play ball. It’s not wise to be the judge and jury about what information on this issue can be public,” Tom Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, which supports oil and gas development, told The Daily Signal.

Pressure from Democrats and activist groups to block differing opinions, Pyle added, is no sign of strength.

“This sends a message that they are so worried the public is not signing onto their agenda they are using a strong-arm tactic to silence viewpoints that challenge their viewpoints,” Pyle said. “These hearings are just a political exercise to silence ideological opponents.”

After facing criticism from environmental groups, Twitter announced in June that it would create a climate change “topic” that would feature only what Twitter said would be credible information.

In 2020, Facebook partnered with the group Climate Feedback, which it said would be an “independent fact-checker.” Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president for global affairs, told The Washington Post that the company planned to reduce distribution of posts that its fact-checkers say are false.

Stossel sued Facebook last year, asserting that the platform went beyond censorship of the journalist and into defamation.

Government Accountability and Oversight, representing another nonprofit, Energy Policy Advocates, obtained emails that Climate Feedback sends to public universities across the country to recruit help in flagging “misinformation” in Facebook posts.

Horner said the emails demonstrate that Facebook contacts what it calls its “independent fact-checker” with suggestions about what to write about.

One April 2021 message from a Facebook employee to faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles said: “Facebook reached out to Climate Feedback to alert us about a video by John Stossel that is going insanely viral right now.”

A May 2020 message from a Facebook employee tells a professor at the University of Illinois: “PragerU recently posted a video titled ‘Climate Change: What Do Scientists Say?’”


Some corals are not only surviving increased acidification and warming temperatures, but appear to be thriving in them

A team of Australian researchers from the University of Technology, Sydney has just returned from New Caledonia, where they were able to investigate this ‘extreme coral’, and figure out what makes it so hardy, and whether it could help save other reefs - and the species they support - around the world.

The coral we usually think of are located in tropical coral reefs - of which the Great Barrier Reef is an awesome example. But there’s also coral that lurks around the corners of these pristine reefs – for example, in murky mangrove-rich areas - which scientists have shown are much tougher than their pristine counterparts.

Mangroves are small trees that grow in coastal salty water, mostly in tropical and subtropical climates. The water around them is usually thick and muddy, and not somewhere you’d think to look for coral, but these extreme corals are a little different.

"The corals … thrive in relatively acidic and hot mangrove waters; visibility is not great so they often go unnoticed," said one of the researchers, David Suggett. "We want … to understand how corals can adapt and thrive to extreme environments that potentially represent the future for many reefs worldwide."

So why travel to New Caledonia? The reef there, which is kind of like a mini version of the Great Barrier Reef, has amazing diversity in its coral population. "Despite the fact that among the 800 coral species described in the world, more than 401 were identified in New Caledonia we are only starting to really uncover the diversity and abundance of corals here," said New Caledonian researcher, Riccardo Rodolfo-Metalpa. "And, importantly, whether these corals are resilient to human stressors, including climate change."

Climate change is a huge problem for many kinds of corals. As ocean temperatures rise, corals can shed the symbiotic algae living in their tissue, which causes them to starve and turn white. Increased CO2 in the atmosphere is also making the ocean more acidic, which stops corals from calcifying properly.

But these extreme corals, which are happy growing in around 33 degrees Celsius, could be the key to determining if some corals will survive the transition.

"Global research predicts a poor future for reefs. An important step in reef management is therefore identifying 'refuges' that will enable coral populations to thrive as most reef environments decline," says one of the team, Emma Camp.

Although they’ve now identified these impressive coral species, there’s plenty of information they still need to uncover about them, such as, how different are they to similar, less hardy species? "We don’t really know whether the coral populations in these mangroves are a distinct, genetically isolated community that has evolved over hundreds of years, or whether they represent a supply of corals coming continually from the main reef, and they just happen to be extremely physiologically plastic," Suggett told the Think: Sustainability podcast.

"We are frantically pouring through our data to find the ‘smoking gun’ that has enabled them to be so stress resilient," he added. "Whilst it is tempting to be optimistic from our findings that corals can adapt to climate change-like scenarios, we have a long road ahead to understand the complex mix of conditions that actually allow corals to thrive within hot-acidic mangrove waters."


Satellite outage knocks out thousands of Enercon's wind turbines

Germany's Enercon on Monday said a "massive disruption" of satellite connections in Europe was affecting the operations of 5,800 wind turbines in central Europe.

It said the satellite connections stopped working on Thursday, knocking out remote monitoring and control of the wind turbines, which have a total capacity of 11 gigawatt (GW).

"The exact cause of the disruption is not yet known. The communication services failed almost simultaneously with the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine," Enercon said in a statement.

The company said it had no further information on who or what may have caused the disruption.

Enercon has informed Germany's cybersecurity watchdog BSI and is working with the relevant providers of the satellite communication networks to resolve the disruption, which it said affected around 30,000 satellite terminals used by companies and organisations from various sectors across Europe.

BSI said it was aware that a satellite-based communications operator has experienced a malfunction and that this had restricted the maintenance of some wind turbines, without providing details.

"However, no effects on power grid stability are currently expected due to redundant communication capabilities of the responsible grid operators. Further investigations into the cause are being carried out by the company concerned in close exchange with the responsible authorities," BSI said.

U.S.-listed satellite communications firm Viasat Inc (VSAT.O) said earlier on Monday it was investigating a suspected cyberattack that caused a partial outage in its residential broadband services in Ukraine and other European countries. read more

Enercon is working with the operators of the affected wind farms to set up alternative ways to regain remote control of the turbines, it said, without naming the operators.

There was no risk to the turbines as they continued to operate on "auto mode," the company said.


Australian High school students LOSE climate change court case against the environment minister after demanding she block a coal mine to 'save the future'

A legal decision finding the Australian government owes the country's children protection from harm caused by climate change has been overturned by a court.

The full bench of the Federal Court on Tuesday morning unanimously ruled in favour of an appeal by the Environment Minister Sussan Ley, reversing a decision by a previous judge.

Eight high school students took Ms Ley to court in 2020, seeking to block the expansion of a coal mine that is expected to produce an additional 100 million tonnes of carbon emissions.

Federal Court Justice Mordecai Bromberg in May 2021 knocked back their bid to stop the expansion, but he did rule that Ms Ley has a duty of reasonable care to not cause the children personal injury when exercising her legislative decision-making powers regarding the mine. It was lauded as a landmark win that would open an avenue for legal challenges to the government's future decisions on coal projects.

However, Ms Ley soon after announced she would appeal the finding, and on Tuesday the full Federal Court bench - Justices James Allsop, Jonathan Beach and Michael Wheelahan - ruled in her favour. All agreed a legal duty of care should not be imposed, but the judges varied in their reasons.

Chief Justice James Allsop concluded that decisions about mining approvals belonging to the executive arm of government - ministers of the day - not the judiciary.

Ms Ley also had control over only a tiny contribution to global carbon emissions, he said. 'The lack of proportionality between the tiny increase in risk and lack of control, and the liability for all damaged by heatwaves, bushfires and rising sea levels ... into the future, mean that the duty ... should not be imposed.'

Chief Justice Allsop did, however, note the considerable evidence demonstrating the dangers to humanity that climate change presents was not challenged. 'None of the evidence was disputed,' he said.

'There was no cross examination of any witness brought by the applicants by those acting for the minister and there was no contrary or qualifying evidence,' he said.

Lawyers acting for the group of children now have the option to appeal that decision in the High Court.




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