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Attack of the climate spam?

By Moises Velasquez-Manoff / August 7, 2009

These protesters in Beijing make their opinions on global warming known as they lift a balloon model of Earth. Others get their message out by leaving comments on websites.

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Yesterday, Monitor environment blogger Eoin O'Carroll posted on forgeries by coal industry lobbyists. There's a related phenomenon observable on discussion boards hosted by news organizations across the country. You might call it "climate spam."

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As any regular visitor to the environment section of the Monitor website may note, stories about climate change and climate science tend to garner many comments from both sides of the "climate change is" or "isn't happening" spectrum. Some are vituperative, some thoughtful, some informative, some humorous.

And some are, for lack of a better description, strangely aloof. They stand out for not directly addressing the topic at hand.

Aware of these comments for some time, I've conducted a very informal and hardly scientifically rigorous experiment. I began Googling, between quotation marks, long sentences from these somewhat generic-seeming comments.

Sure enough, I found several instances where the same comments appear verbatim on other news organizations' websites.

One such comment begins:

The root of the climate change problem? We’re letting the United Nations decide what is best for America. And they’re failing us. The premise that CO2 drives global warming is based on United Nations’ climate reports that are tainted by politics and an agenda.

It shows up at news organization websites across the country, including the Orlando Sentinel and The New York Times. The commenter left a link to a website, so I e-mailed to ask what his intent was. Robert Moen's response, by e-mail: "Sometimes I re-use comments, sometimes I write a comment from scratch and sometimes I post a combination of the two.... The purpose of my comments are two-fold:  I try to educate readers directly through the comment process and also drive traffic to my site so people can educate themselves in energy policy."

So sometimes there is a little self-promotion.

Here's another comment that has appeared on the Monitor's site and elsewhere. It starts:

The US government has spent over $79 billion since 1989 on policies related to climate change, including science and technology research, administration, education campaigns, foreign aid, and tax breaks.

It shows up verbatim in too many places to count, and seems to originate on the Science and Public Policy website.  "Proved: There Is No Climate Crisis," reads one of the site's more popular headlines. Again, the poster includes a link to the site, so the comment is not entirely unsourced.

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