DeSmogBlog: social media at work to clear the air around climate change

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One of the reasons we're seized with the power of social media is that we've seen its potential for engaging people in the most important conversations of our time. With such urgent crises as climate change on the global agenda, I draw a lot of my hope for the future from the way I see people coming together from a wide range of backgrounds - some of them unlikely - to tackle the big challenges.

A case in point: DeSmogBlog. It's a project from someone who might seem to be an unlikely participant in trying to hold clear, informed conversations: a PR executive, namely Jim Hoggan.

A few years ago, Hoggan decided to tackle the campaign of doubt and deliberate misinformation that surrounds so much of the discussion around climate change by launching DeSmogBlog. As the site's writers put it, "Using tricks and stunts that unsavory PR firms invented for the tobacco lobby, energy-industry contrarians are trying to confuse the public, to forestall individual and political actions that might cut into exorbitant coal, oil and gas industry profits. DeSmogBlog is here to cry foul - to shine the light on techniques and tactics that reflect badly on the PR industry and are, ultimately, bad for the planet."

With so much of the mainstream media caught up in he-says, she-says reporting that puts climate change denial on the same footing as a broad scientific consensus, DeSmogBlog has enthusiastically dived into the fray, exposing the sources of the industry smokescreen. And what started as a pretty simple blog has since blossomed into a team of top-flight writers, media channels (including a fledgling speakers bureau) and campaigns - including the hilarious Arctic Front. DeSmogBlog is now a leading social media voice around climate change, and ranks in Technorati's top 10,000.

They've done it with the help of talented folks like Kevin Grandia and Sarah Pullman on their team, and from such outside firms as Capulet Communications, Catalyst Internet and Junxion.

Issues like climate change demand not only our attention, but our engagement, with whatever energy and expertise we have at our disposal. And while Hoggan might not be a climate change scientist, he knows PR -- and how it can be used both to confuse and to clarify. Thankfully, he's chosen to use it for the better purpose.


Jock Shockley says

November 9, 2009 - 7:42pm

Don't be conned by desmogblog.  Hoggans runs a PR company acting for alternative fuel companies. He and Grandia are trained by Al Gore, and DeMelle is an environmental journalist.  In "Clearing the PR Pollution that Clouds Climate Science" they are merely promoting their own positions with no regard for science.  Some would say this is perfect PR, others would just call it another PR scam arguing one side only.

Believe these guys at your peril.

Rob Cottingham says

November 24, 2009 - 1:19pm

One of the things I like most about Hoggan, Grandia and company is that they're so completely upfront about their interests and their clients. Hoggan says it well on his own blog:

I am happy to be judged by the company I keep, by the transparency of my actions and by the accuracy of the positions that I put forward, whether I am working for clients or pursuing pro bono advocacy on issues that I believe are critically important to the survival of humankind. On the issue of climate, I am not engaged in defending a specific client’s interests. I am attacking people who lie, mislead or spread confusion on climate change science – especially when they do so without acknowledging their own associations and sources income.

Yes, it leaves Jim and Kevin open to ad hominem attacks. But it also means they can let readers judge what they're saying on the merits of the arguments and facts they use, rather than depending on unsupported name-calling and accusations.

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