DeSmogBlog is a highly politicized climate alarmist website that attacks skeptics of catastrophic man-caused climate change and the organizations that support them. Co-founded by a convicted money launderer, the site is controlled by the controversial James Hoggan, owner of Hoggan & Associates, a for-profit public relations firm based in Canada. The site’s mission is to shame, silence, and criminally penalize climate realists.
It publishes blog posts and profiles of scores of scientists and climate skeptics that it claims (incorrectly) are part of a “well-funded and highly organized public relations campaign” that is “poisoning” the climate change debate with “fraudulent misinformation.” Popular Technology describes DeSmogBlog as “a smear site founded by a scientifically unqualified public relations man,” adding:
“Since its creation in 2006 the site has done nothing but post poorly researched propaganda with a clear intent to smear respected scientists, policy analysts or groups who dare oppose an alarmist position on global warming. Their articles frequently reference unreliable sources such as Wikipedia and Sourcewatch since they are unable to find any fact based criticisms of those they attack in respected news sources.”
DeSmogBlog was instrumental in the 2012 “Fakegate” scandal, the theft and publication of internal documents of The Heartland Institute, which The Economist magazine has called “the world’s most prominent think-tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change.” Peter Gleick, climate activist and former president of the left-wing Pacific Institute, admitted to digitally impersonating a board member and stealing the budget and planning documents, but has yet to admit his forgery of a fake “Heartland Climate Strategy” memo that DeSmogBlog stores on its website.
While James Hoggan runs the site, the organization got its seed money in 2006 from co-founder John David Lefebvre, who plead guilty the following to felony money laundering charges. Lefebvre admitted to laundering billions of dollars in illegal gambling proceeds through his company, NETeller – a British online money transfer company that also traded in carbon dioxide emission credits.
Lefebvre cut a deal with the U.S. Justice Department and was sentenced June 29, 2007 by federal Judge P. Kevin Castel in the U.S. New York Southern District Court to 45 days imprisonment, one year of supervised release, and fined $750,000. On September 23, 2011, Lefebvre was ordered to pay a forfeiture obligation of $40 million. DeSmogBlog’s founding 2006 grant, which Hoggan says was more than $300,000, came from Lefebvre, who was engaged in criminal activity. This is ironic, according to Popular Technology, because DeSmogBlog’s “favorite tactic is to attempt to smear those they disagree with as funded by ‘dirty money.’”
DeSmogBlog has not distanced itself from Lefebvre and his criminal past, but has celebrated it. James Hoggan’s introduction on the website says, “The DeSmogBlog team is especially grateful to our founding benefactor John Lefebvre, a lawyer, internet entrepreneur and past-president of NETeller, a firm that has been providing secure online transactions since 1999.”
Lefebvre, 65, has continued as a climate activist and blogger at the site, and has funded other climate alarmist venues and events since his guilty plea. He also describes himself as “an emerging rock artist. a songwriter, touring performer, and recording artist.” According to Lefebvre’s music website:
“At a time when so much popular music is about style, attitude and production values, Lefebvre’s emphasis on feeling and honesty – ‘When I’m writing songs, they have to be things I feel down in my feet’ – has a certain throwback quality. He came of age during the glory days of ‘60s, when the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys, the Kinks and Jethro Tull left their mark on him and the psychedelic life style served him well (except when he spent time in prison for selling acid to an undercover policeman). ‘At 17, I felt I was experiencing the core of the universe,’ he says. ‘I knew what life was about. My life has been a miracle of “refinery” ever since.’”
Hoggan was a key participant in the Climate Accountability Institute’s June, 2012 “Workshop on Climate Accountability, Public Opinion, and Legal Strategies, subtitled “Lessons from Tobacco Control.” The private event in La Jolla, California was exposed in the 2015 Shub Niggurath Climate article, RICO-teering: How climate activists ‘knew’ they were going to pin the blame on Exxon. The Workshop precipitated by a few months the legal attack by several Democratic state attorneys general against Exxon and a long list of climate realists for allegedly “fraudulent” challenges to the claims and policies of climate alarmists.
This Workshop was conceived by history professor Naomi Oreskes, who was obsessed with prosecuting fossil fuel producers with the same legal tools successfully used to win billions of dollars in penalties against the tobacco industry. The key law was known as RICO (the “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations” law), enacted by Congress to cope with organized crime, but subsequently used in civil cases such as the tobacco prosecutions. Oreskes’ Workshop, co-sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists, attracted 22 colleagues with legal, scientific and public relations expertise.
Oreskes’ vital Workshop invitee was the expert who gave her the tobacco-climate link: Stanton Glantz, powerful and bombastic cardiology professor at the University of California at San Francisco and director of the Legacy Tobacco Document Library with its 80 million-plus pages. Glantz’s rise to power was a result of the RICO tobacco settlements, and he was convinced RICO could also shatter the fossil fuel industry. However, some of the Workshop’s more experienced legal experts seriously doubted that RICO, which won the tobacco case because it turned upon fraud, could be applied successfully to fossil fuel producers.
Hoggan was perhaps even more important than Glantz at the Workshop, as he and DeSmogBlog introduced the meme that climate realists were “fraudulent.” The Workshop organizers teamed him with computer scientist John Mashey, a long-time Hoggan skiing companion and personal friend who wrote for DeSmogBlog. Mashey took a position with Glantz at the University of California and introduced Hoggan to the tobacco-climate link. In the Workshop, Hoggan and Mashey gave a tandem session to discuss “What types of non-litigation public pressure might enhance the prospects for success?” Hoggan’s “fraudulent” narrative transcription appears on Pages 21 and 22 of the Summary document, excerpted here verbatim and unedited:
Jim Hoggan, a public relations expert and cofounder of DeSmogBlog.com, explained the problem this way: “The public debate about climate change is choked with a smog of misinformation. Denial and bitter adversarial rhetoric are turning the public away from the issue. Communicating into such high levels of public mistrust and disinterest is tricky. We need to do some research into a new narrative.” Hoggan emphasized the importance of linking the industry’s “unjust misinformation” back to an overall narrative about sustainability, rather than getting mired in issues of whose fault climate change is and who should do what to ameliorate the situation. Noting the fact that there is broad and deep support for clean energy, Hoggan suggested the following narrative: “Coal, oil, and gas companies are engaging in a fraudulent attempt to stop the development of clean energy.”
In 2015, Maibach emerged as one of the ringleaders of the RICO20, prominent activist professors who signed a letter to President Obama calling for RICO investigations of Exxon and all climate skeptics. The RICO20, and the attorneys general they spurred into action, are now subject to subpoenas from the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, which seeks to uncover the coordination among the Workshop, government officials, and publicly funded RICO20 professors.
Naomi Oreskes admitted to a congressional panel in June 2016 that she “was invited about a year or so ago to New York to speak to the staff” of Schneiderman, who spearheaded the legal attack against skeptics. A number of climate alarmists eventually briefed the same staffers. Those briefings convinced Schneiderman’s staff to form the coalition called “Attorneys General United for Clean Power.”
In a 2013 article at Watts Up With That titled “The Effects Of Environmentalist and Climate Alarmist Crying Wolf Begin To Appear,” Canadian climate scientist Tim Ball wrote about James Hoggan:
His PR Company has major alternate energy companies as clients. Hoggan is the proud creator of DeSmogBlog a web site that claims it is “Clearing the PR Pollution that clouds climate science” but mostly involves personal attacks on people asking questions. The objective was to denigrate people by creating “favorable interpretations” to the following questions. “Were these climate skeptics qualified? Were they doing any research in the climate change field? Were they accepting money, directly or indirectly, from the fossil fuel industry?” This doesn’t answer skeptics questions about the science.
Their real agenda was disclosed in a Climatic Research Unit (CRU) leaked email dated December 2007 from senior DeSmogBlog writer Richard Littlemore to Michael Mann.
Dr. Ball transcribed Littlemore’s email and added explanatory notations and emphases. A facsimile of the unmarked original is at EcoWho:
I’m a DeSmogBlog writer (I got your email from Kevin Grandia) and I am trying to fend off the latest announcement that global warming has not actually occurred in the 20th century.
It looks to me like Gerd Burger is trying to deny climate change by “smoothing,” “correcting” or otherwise rounding off the temperatures that we know for a flat fact have been recorded since the 1970s, but I am out of my depth (as I am sure you have noticed: we’re all about PR here, not much about science) so I wonder if you guys have done anything or are going to do anything with Burger’s intervention in Science. I’d be delighted for any response, no matter how brief, or for directions to any existing critique.
[Editor’s Note: Bold emphasis added; Kevin Grandia was DeSmogBlog’s project manager, but left to become the Director of Online Strategy at Greenpeace.]
In February 14, 2012, DeSmogBlog posted a number of internal budget and planning documents from The Heartland Institute – which Peter Gleick, then-president of the Pacific Institute, eventually admitted to stealing by impersonating a board member via a series of emails to a trusting Heartland staffer. According to a statement posted on The Heartland Institute website on February 15, 2012:
One document, titled “Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy,” is a total fake apparently intended to defame and discredit The Heartland Institute. It was not written by anyone associated with The Heartland Institute. It does not express Heartland’s goals, plans, or tactics. It contains several obvious and gross misstatements of fact.
We respectfully ask all activists, bloggers, and other journalists to immediately remove all of these documents and any quotations taken from them, especially the fake “climate strategy” memo and any quotations from the same, from their blogs, Web sites, and publications, and to publish retractions.
The individuals who have commented so far on these documents did not wait for Heartland to confirm or deny the authenticity of the documents. We believe their actions constitute civil and possibly criminal offenses for which we plan to pursue charges and collect payment for damages, including damages to our reputation. We ask them in particular to immediately remove these documents and all statements about them from the blogs, Web sites, and publications, and to publish retractions.
DeSmogBlog refused the request, and the Fakegate Scandal began. Respected journalists, including those on the political left, immediately began to question the authenticity of the so-called “Heartland Climate Strategy Memo.” The left-leaning Atlantic published a story by Megan McArdle headlined, Leaked Docs From Heartland Institute Cause a Stir -but Is One a Fake? McArdle, after noting that she “disagree(s) pretty strenuously with Heartland’s position on global warming,” concluded that the memo was obviously a forgery by Gleick.
It’s hard to imagine why someone at Heartland would have written a memo that didn’t contain any new information, or even useful new spin. On the other hand, if I were trying to make sure that the memo couldn’t be conclusively shown to be a fake, this is exactly the approach I’d take: borrow 100% of the facts, and most of the language, from real documents. …
[The memo] uses a different format and what seems to be a different font size or weight. It’s in run-on paragraphs that read as if they had been exhaled in one long breath. The writing is sloppy in many places, including word choices (“dissuading them from teaching science”) that should never have made it past a second set of eyes, and certainly not all the way to the board. …
The memo … is like the opposition political manifestos found in novels written by stolid ideologues; they can never quite bear (or lack the imagination) to let the villains have a good argument. Switch the names, and the memo could have been a page ripped out of State of Fear or Atlas Shrugged.
Basically, it reads like it was written from the secret villain lair in a Batman comic. By an intern.
DeSmogBlog responded to the widely read Atlantic article that it had “no evidence supporting Heartland’s claim that the Strategic document is fake.” McArdle in a response post titled “Heartland Memo Looking Faker by the Minute,” took DeSmogBlog to task for “an egregious misrepresentation of what I said,” and criticized the site because its “stubborn willingness to ignore obvious problems becomes the story.” She went on to write:
The fact that the document was created at a different time, place and manner, from the others, that it makes errors about things like the purpose of Koch funds, and that Heartland has unequivocally denied authorship while seeming to concede the authenticity of the other documents, should lead any honest observer to at least reasonable doubt.
Mr. Littlemore contends that this is a distraction from larger issues, but I cannot agree. The foundation of journalism is accurate sources. Anyone who considers themselves to be in the business of informing the public about the truth should care very deeply when faked documents make it into the public record. They should especially care if their own work has been the vehicle.
On February 20, 2012, Peter Gleick issued a statement in the Huffington Post admitted to soliciting and receiving Heartland’s budget and planning documents “under someone else’s name,” and called his actions “a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics.” He subsequently resigned as chairman of the scientific ethics task force for the American Geophysical Union and was suspended from his Pacific Institute post for five months.
Gleick has never admitted to being the author of the “Heartland Climate Strategy Memo,” despite the work of McArdle and others that show no one else could have written it. Two other independent reports pointed to Gleick as the author.
In August 2008, DeSmogBlog writer Richard Littlemore debated noted skeptic Christopher Monckton on Canada’s Corus radio network. In his opening remarks, Littlemore admitted that the work of his site, and the expertise of its writers, is in public relations, not climate science.
“The public debate about climate change is not about science, it’s about public relations. That’s what we do at DeSmog Blog, which is a climate change Web site. We do research on the credentials and the funding of people who argue that climate change isn’t happening, that it doesn’t matter, or that it can’t be stopped. Then we publish the results, and I can tell you it’s all about public relations.”
Monckton replied by noting the founding of DeSmogBlog by a convicted money launderer, concluding:
“DeSmogBlog was founded, is funded, and is run by a convicted and self-confessed crook, and furthermore that crook is now in the business of running a solar energy corporation and therefore has a direct vested interest in peddling the climate change scare. I would start by making it clear that Mr. Littlemore is a public relations executive working for a convicted Internet fraudster.”
On DeSmogBlog, even his most ardent supporters conceded that Littlemore was taking it on the chin throughout the debate. “Richard, you’ve got to show them you’ve got more than insults,” wrote one sympathetic DeSmog Blog reader. “I’d have to say that Monckton ‘won’ the debate. He came across as more prepared and had answers at his fingertips, whereas Richard appeared to verbally stumble on occasion,” wrote another.
After the debate ended, Littlemore himself admitted defeat on DeSmogBlog.
“In hindsight,” wrote Littlemore, “I played perfectly into the hands of Monckton and his happy radio host, Roy Green, who share the same goal — not to win an argument about global warming science, but merely to show that there still IS an argument. Of course there’s not. But while we danced angels around the head of a pin, I can imagine Green’s listeners thinking, ‘Oh my. This is very confusing. No wonder the government says it’s too early to take action.’
“Score one for Monckton. … Thanks (and my apologies) to those of you who volunteered some much-preferable debating strategies. Maybe next time.”
On March 1, 2011, Energy Tribune columnist Peter C. Glover wrote a piece titled “DeSmog, DeBunked” that took the organization to task for its “almost congenital inability to remain focused on the issues and facts without resorting to ad hominen attacks, personal and motivational.” Commenting on criticism of the anti-fracking film Gasland by Energy In Depth, Glover wrote:
Clearly outraged by EID’s Debunking Gasland report and how it has been widely picked up, DeSmog’s executive director, Brendan DeMelle penned Gasland Attack Group ‘Energy In Depth’ Funded by Major Oil and Gas Interests published mid-February at Huffington Post. Far from focusing on the issues EID raised about the movie, DeMelle chose the path of all anti-intellectual debaters: attempting to undermine the credibility of those with whom they disagree. And it’s not the first time either that DeMelle, DeSmog and the de-Huffington Post have been caught in smear tactic cahoots, as Andrew Breitbart’s excellent Big Journalism site has reported.
Let me be clear. I have no problem with either industry PR teams or self-proclaimed public watchdogs, Left or Right, tangling in the public square. Bring it on. But engaging with evidence and facts is not what DeSmogladites are about, as we shall see.
In his book 2008 book Red Hot Lies, author and climate realist Chris Horner noted that DeSmogBlog’s financial backer, John Lefebvre, is “currently a guest of the federal government’s correctional officers as a consequence of certain business transactions, a fact that certainly would be of great interest had he instead cast his lot with the climate optimists.” He went on to note:
DeSmogBlog, which is dedicated to claiming that climate skeptics are paid shills, happens to be run by James Hoggan and Associates, a PR agency that actually received the $300-large from the NETeller executive. His PR firm represents “alternative energy” companies, as well. Adding to the conflicts, Hoggan is also chair of the board of directors for the David Suzuki Foundation, a radical environmental activist group run by a man who — ironically — calls for climate skeptics to join Lefebvre in jail. This spin machine is aimed at discrediting skeptics.
Further confusing matters, it seems that whenever those who disagree with DeSmogBlog received corporate support, it proves that their opinions are bought, as part of an industry campaign to delude you. Terence Corcoran captured their argument in the Financial Post, “‘It’s all a corporate scam, they claim [of the enormous ‘skeptical’ community of scientists]. ‘There are people,’ says Mr. Hoggan, a veteran self-promoting pro in the PR business, ‘mainly people who are getting paid by oil and coal interests, and [some] who are just basically ideologues, who are trying to confuse the public about climate change.’ Says Mr. Suzuki: ‘The skeptics are a small group known for their support of corporations like the fossil fuel industry. In fact, many are receiving money directly from the industry.’”
So, one’s supporters dictate one’s opinions. Funny, I was thinking the same thing.
The for-profit origin of the blog raised questions about the legitimacy of the blog’s content. In a November 2009 Financial Post column, Canadian environmentalist Lawrence Solomon stated that DeSmogBlog was “specifically created for the purpose of discrediting skeptics.” Also, the blog is seen by Financial Post editor and columnist Terence Corcoran “as serving the interests of large corporations hoping to make money on emissions trading.” Corcoran and the Financial Post were threatened with legal action by Hoggan for an unflattering column, which spurred an apology.
At his blog, Energy Probe, Solomon wrote about a November 19, 2009 guest appearance with Hoggan on CBC’s The Current. After describing the tough treatment he received from host Anna Maria Tremonto – though not complaining about it – Solomon wrote:
I do begrudge her gentle, almost fawning treatment of Hoggan. Rather than serve her audience through probing questions that tested Hoggan’s thesis and explored his motivations, Tremonti posed questions that could have been scripted by his PR firm. (Hoggan’s firm or his website did provide her with at least some of the “gotcha” questions she posed to me, inadvertently laying a trap for her when the “gotchas” proved to be fabrications.) Tremonti even immunized herself against the obvious criticism that she was giving credibility in this global warming debate to a PR man, of all people, by airing what many in her audience must have been thinking: “You have a lifelong career in public relations. You’re also the chair of the Suzuki Foundation. Some would think you’re spinning me,” she stated, accepting as satisfactory his response that “I’m not telling you that I’m an expert in climate science and I’m not being funded by anyone.”
On June 4, 2010, The Washington Times published a gentle critique of the DeSmog-produced book Climate Cover-up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming.
At a September 27, 2014 panel discussion at Queens Museum titled “Climate Wars: Propaganda, Debate, and the Propaganda of Debate,” Hoggan revealed that he was inspired to start DeSmogBlog by the work of Ross Gelbspan, a retired journalist who helped launch the modern environmental movement and spread the slanderous narrative of Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance (page 160) that skeptical scientists are paid shills of fossil fuel companies hired to neutralize public support for government climate programs.
In a post titled “James Hoggan’s Monster Journalistic Due Diligence Lapse,” researcher Russell Cook excerpted part of Hoggan’s presentation, what amounts to a previously unpublished origin story for DeSmogBlog: Starting at the 56:45 point pf the video, Hoggan says the following:
“In 2005 I was reading a book by Ross Gelbspan, who was an editor for the Boston Globe, who wrote a book called Boiling Point. And in that book, there was a piece on public relations, and some people who were trying to pull one over on us on climate change. And I remember reading it and thinking, like, ‘My God, this is like the tobacco story all over again. These guys are lying, I mean this is just lying, and organized lying, The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, and the American Petroleum Institute, the Cato Institute, Heartland, the list goes on and on.’
So, when I was reading this book, and I’m embarrassed to say this now because at this time I knew nothing about climate change, but I was flying in a jet that belonged to this friend of mine, and I said ‘You should read this.’ So I handed it to him, and about an hour later he said, ‘What should we do about this?’ So I said, ‘Well, I was just reading in Fortune magazine the other day about something called blogs and maybe we should start a blog. We should call these people out, because they really seem to be roughing up these poor climate scientists.’”
DeSmogBlog’s website says, “Ross Gelbspan’s defining books Boiling Point and The Heat is On were a big part of the inspiration for starting the DeSmogBlog.” However, Gelbspan revealed his side of the story in an interview on November 27, 2012 by self-described “Science Pope” Eric Krasnauskas. This is an edited transcription of comments from the recorded interview at Gelbspan’s house in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, in which Gelbspan claims he founded the site:
Krasnauskas: “Yeah, what do you do for DeSmogBlog by the way?
Gelbspan: “I do very little for them now, but they sort of formed because they were reading stuff I was doing about the skeptics, all the skeptics that I was exposing, so they asked me to sort of found it for them and I did. There was a really great guy up there, Jim, who was a marketing guy up there, had access to a lot of money from a guy who ran a poker site and was trying to figure out something good to do with his money. And so Jim…”
Krasnauskas [breaks in]: “Yeah, and what happened is he got busted because they found some illegal thing on his poker site.”
Gelbspan: “Yeah. So, Jim Hoggan came to me and he said, ‘Listen, I’ve got this guy with a lot of money and he wants to bankroll a site that’s devoted exclusively to smoking out all the skeptics in the US and Canada.’ So I met with them in Toronto and we went to Vancouver and they came down here [to the U.S.] and then they started the DeSmog site. I wrote for the early blogs, and then I started falling away. To me the skeptics were a sideshow now.”
Co-founder James Hoggan
James Hoggan, who co-founded DeSmogBlog in 2006, is the owner of Hoggan and Associates, a public relations firm in Vancouver, British Columbia, housed in an unimposing suite adjoining Rodney’s Oyster House in the Yaletown district near the city’s downtown. His firm has represented renewable energy companies as well as the Shell Oil, which contradicts his advocacy work. Hoggan enjoys the support of a substantial leftist network in North America and the British Commonwealth. He is well-connected with Canadian public relations associations, has won honors from international left-wing organizations, and has a number of big corporate clients seeking him to promote their renewable energy businesses or green credentials.
He’s chairman of the board of the radical-left David Suzuki Foundation. Hoggan is also the former chairman of Climate Project Canada – the Canadian chapter of Al Gore’s global warming enterprise (legal name Alliance for Climate Protection; 2013 revenue: $6,086,109).
Hoggan’s self-described “non-profit” DeSmogBlog project – which operates out of his for-profit PR company with a U.S.-based executive director – does not appear on the register of charities of the Canada Revenue Agency. His companion operation, DeSmog Canada, is another left-wing web-based venture under the motto, “Clearing the PR pollution that clouds the public square.” Based in the lavish Bentall Centre in Downtown Vancouver, it is a registered non-profit organization under British Columbia law, but does not appear as a charity in the registry of the Canada Revenue Agency.
Early contributors to the blog have also included Richard Littlemore, a science writer who formerly worked for the Vancouver Sun and helped Hoggan write his book, Climate Cover-Up.
Executive Director Brendan DeMelle
Brendan DeMelle is a left-wing activist and executive director and managing editor of DeSmogBlog.com, operating out of his home in North Seattle, Washington. He is also a freelance writer and researcher specializing in new media, politics, climate change and clean energy, incorporated as At Ya Communications LLC, registered with Washington’s Secretary of State on December 8, 2009 to provide “Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services.”
According to his DeSmogBlog profile, “DeMelle has served as research associate for Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., researcher for Ring of Fire Radio, researcher for Laurie David and StopGlobalWarming.org, law and policy analyst for the Environmental Working Group, campus organizer for Connecticut Public Interest Research Group, environmental justice associate for EPA Region 10, among other positions in his career.
His work has appeared in left-leaning publications, such as Vanity Fair, The Huffington Post, Grist, and other outlets, including a peer-reviewed article in the Journal of Rural History about the social and ecological impacts of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project. He graduated from St. Lawrence University with a BA in Sociology and Environmental Studies in 1998.
A substantial literature exposing and debunking the alarmist agenda has developed and now comprises a valuable library of fact-checked and well-edited books available to all readers. Some outstanding works:
The Deliberate Corruption of Climate Science by Tim Ball
Climate Models Fail by Bob Tisdale
The Hockey Stick Illusion; Climategate and the Corruption of Science by A. W. Montford
The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert by Donna Laframboise
The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism by Steve Goreham