Blogger David Roberts at Grist has now written three posts on the Climate Shift report that falsely portray the nature and findings of the data analysis.  In his latest post, I left the following comment in reply.


Before attempting to criticize the report, you need to make sure that you are referring to the correct data and findings. The numbers you cite to open your blog post are not specific to lobbying expenditures. They correspond instead to all program activities in 2009 specific to climate change and energy. This includes public education campaigns, media relations, think tank style analysis, research, and a range of other activities. For background, please see this section of the report.

Second, the chapter in the report is clear in carefully addressing the uncertainty in the lobbying expenditure data while also building on what we know from previous reporting by the Center for Responsive Politics. No where in the report is the entire lobbying budget of USCAP ever described or assumed to have been applied in direct support of cap and trade legislation. See the response I have at the Climate Shift blog to this distortion started by the blogger Joe Romm and now repeated in echo chamber style by others such as yourself.

Finally, to the say the least I am very surprised and disappointed with your blogging relative to the report. I have been a big fan of Grist — even a booster to many different audiences in talks where I  have pointed to Grist as a leading innovative model for non-profit media initiatives on climate and the environment. I also took time out to address the Grist board at their invitation when they met in DC last year to offer insight on among things climate change communication.

We also spoke on the phone for an hour several months ago as part of a different research project I was doing that sought to understand the evolving nature of journalism and blogging. I turned to you as an interviewee because of the innovative model that I though Grist was pioneering.

So before launching a series of attacks against the report that incorrectly cites data and findings and spreads distortions in echo chamber style, I figured you at least would call me to discuss the report, its findings and conclusions.

If you had, I would have discussed not only how the spending analysis was done, but also pointed you to one of the key conclusions that is perhaps most central to Grist and your readers. As Chapter 2 details, the major foundations supporting action on climate change followed a strategic plan that had little actual consideration of the role of communication or media in promoting social change. As a result, out of more than 1200 grants and $369 million in funds distributed, only $1.7 million in grants were associated with support for a media project or organization like Grist.

See also discussion of the communication implications of the report at Climate Central:

It’s this type of conversation I was hoping to have with you and your readers instead of the false debate over data you have helped amplify and the range of insinuations as to my motivations you have spread.