Climate Central on Climate Central on Biomass

In just the first paragraph alone, Climate Central activist John Upton’s latest polemic (“Dutch Lawmakers Call for Halt to Wood Energy Subsidies” 02/09/16) warns that biomass energy is only friendly at “local scales” and has the potential to “worsen deforestation” and “accelerate global warming.”

These are serious charges. You might wonder if Upton cites published reports to back them up. He does, in his own unique way,

On Upton’s first claim, that biomass is only environmentally friendly at local scales, readers can click through to a report called “Pulp Fiction, Part 3” authored by one John Upton of the activist 501c3 group Climate Central.

On Upton’s second claim, that biomass accelerates global warming, readers can click through to a report called “Pulp Fiction, Part 1”, which again is authored by Upton and published at Climate Central.

You’re probably expecting that the third claim, that biomass worsens deforestation, clicks through to “Pulp Fiction, Part 2” by Upton of Climate Central. Well you won’t be disappointed, because you’re right.

You are reading that right.  Upton cites his own stories as the sole support for his assertions. And later, Upton even references himself a fourth time for good measure.

As long as we’re quoting ourselves, why not check out our debunking of Upton’s previous reporting here and here; or our post on Upton’s admission that he purposefully withholds information from readers here; or our summary of the criticism Upton took from real reporters on the bioenergy beat for being careless with the facts, here.

So does Upton actually cite any independent experts on biomass? Just one. Fourteen paragraphs down he cites a recently completed European Union study on biomass as saying that the carbon impacts of wood fuels are “typically very difficult” or “impossible” to calculate. In other words, the only independent study Upton cites directly undercuts his earlier assurance forest biomass accelerates global warming. And indeed, that same study looked at six different scenarios for incorporating forest biomass into Europe’s energy future and found that, “All scenarios achieve significant reductions in total annual GHG emissions, including those scenarios involving increased bioenergy consumption in the EU.” That’s not exactly consistent with Upton’s narrative.

Last, you might ask whether Upton quotes opposing experts or scientific perspectives, as professional standards of conduct would oblige an actual working journalist to do. In the very last paragraph, Upton cites a single industry representative in a brief quote that has nothing to do with the scientific substance of the matter. And in keeping with his established habits, he ignores peer-reviewed, scientific literature that stands at odds with his ideological preconceptions—and, we assume, with the directives of Climate Central leadership and their anonymous donors.