DeSmog, formerly known as DeSmogBlog, is a Canadian-based website that is critical of people and organizations that question man-made climate change and alleges climate change skeptics are part of a misinformation campaign. It was co-founded in January 2006 by James “Jim” Hoggan, the founder of the Hoggan and Associates public relations firm in Vancouver. In 2013, Hoggan founded DeSmog Canada as a non-profit news magazine that has the same mission as DeSmog.
DeSmog controversies include the 2009 “Climategate” email scandal, in which one of its writers admitted the blog is more about public relations than science. Also, in 2012, Desmog posted internal documents stolen from the Heartland Institute, a free market think tank which has specialized in climate change science.
Founding and Mission
James “Jim” Hoggan, a Canadian public relations executive who founded Hoggan and Associates, launched the DeSmog website in Vancouver, British Columbia in January, 2006.
The website publishes articles and stories that are written by DeSmog writers and outside contributors.
The website also maintains a “Climate Disinformation Database” of individuals and organizations that question climate change activists.
DeSmog lists two people on its official team: DeSmog co-founder Jim Hoggan and Brendan DeMelle, executive director and managing editor.
As of July, 2016, DeSmog had at least 20 regular contributors. In addition to DeSmog, their climate stories can be found on other outlets such as The American Prospect, The Nation, Grist, AlterNet, Earth Island Journal, Truth-Out, Salon, The Intercept, and BillMoyers.com. A number of DeSmog writers are also regular contributors to HuffPost (formerly the Huffington Post).
DeSmog was launched with $300,000 from John Lefebvre, the past-president of online transaction company NETeller.
A 2014 press release by Friends of Science, a group that believes climate change is a function of nature rather than man, reported that DeSmog funders include Tides Canada Initiatives, and the Endswell Foundation, a Canadian Charity and predecessor to Tides Canada.
James “Jim” Hoggan: Founder, DeSmog. Hoggan is also a lawyer and founder of James Hoggan & Associates, a public relations firm based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Hoggan is also the former board chair and current secretary of the David Suzuki Foundation, a Canadian environmentalist think tank. Hoggan serves as a trustee of the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education. He is also a founding director of The Climate Project Canada, which organized the Canadian version of the Al Gore environmentalist “bootcamp” associated with the former Vice President’s film An Inconvenient Truth.
Hoggan has written three books,Do the Right Thing: PR Tips for Skeptical Public (2009),Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming (2009) and I’m Right and You’re an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean It Up (May 2016).
John Lefebvre: Lefebvre is a lawyer, internet entrepreneur and past-president of online transaction company NETeller. He gave $300,000 to help start DeSmog, as well as donations to the David Suzuki Foundation and Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education.
In 2007, Lefebvre pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge related to handling billions of dollars in illegal gambling proceeds through his company, NETeller. He was sentenced to 45 days in prison, one year of supervised release, fined $750,000 and ordered to pay a $40 million forfeiture obligation.
Brendan DeMelle: Executive Director and Managing Editor of DeSmog.com who is based in Seattle, Washington. Other positions listed on his biography include research associate for antivaccine environmentalist activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. a researcher for Laurie David at StopGlobabWarming.org, law and policy analyst for Environmental Working Group, campus organizer for Connecticut Public Interest Research Group. DeMelle is also a researcher for The Ring of Fire, a progressive multi-media information network.
Richard Littlemore: Former DeSmog contributor and editor who worked in both journalism and corporate communications with work for the David Suzuki Foundation and delegate to the Canadian government’s failed Kyoto Implementation Process from 1997-1999. Littlemore is also co-author of the 2009 book Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming with DeSmog co-founder Jim Hoggan.
Ross Gelbspan: A retired journalist, environmentalist, author and contributor to DeSmog. Gelbspan has written two books relating to global warming. His first was The Heat is On: The High Stakes Battle Over Earth’s Threatened Climate in 1997, which drew national attention when President Bill Clinton told the press he was reading it. His second book, Boiling Point: How Politicians, Big Oil and Coal, Journalists, and Activists are Fueling the Climate Crisis – and What We Can Do to Avert Disaster in 2004 included a review in the New York Times written by former Vice President Al Gore. In a 2012 audio interview, Gelbspan acknowledged his part in setting up DeSmog, and how his role with the website eventually diminished:
“I wrote for the early blogs, and then I started falling away. To me the skeptics were a sideshow now.”
Kevin Grandia: Former editor at DeSmog. He is the president of Spake Media House in Vancouver, Canada, a digital marketing firm that brings online power to non-profits, campaigners and advocacy groups. Grandia is also a former director of online strategy at Greenpeace USA and helped launch DeSmog Canada.
Notable Events and Scandals
Involvement in “Climategate” Email Scandal
An email written by Richard Littlemore to Penn State University associate professor Michael Mann turned up in the 2009 Climatic Research Unit email controversy known as “Climategate” which seemed to indicate alleged improper manipulation of temperature data. Littlemore admitted to Mann that DeSmog is “all about PR here, not much about science.”
Heartland Institute Stolen Email Scandal
On February 14, 2012 DeSmog posted internal budget, fundraising, and strategy documents from the free-market, anthropogenic-climate-change-skeptic think tank Heartland Institute which were stolen from the organization, one of which was falsified. Others may have been altered.
Six days later, Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick admitted to stealing the documents by impersonating a board member, and receiving the materials via email directly from the Heartland Institute.
DeSmogBlog Attack on the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH)
On March 17, 2020 attorney and freelance writer Sharon Kelly wrote an article about The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) titled “Meet the Climate Science Deniers Who Downplayed COVID-19 Risks.” In the article DeSmogBlog bashed ACSH for being one of “several organizations promoting climate science denial that are now spreading misinformation on the coronavirus, with potentially deadly consequences.” 
The ACSH wrote a counter article criticizing the statements made by DeSmogBlog, stating they had “…a long history of smearing reputable scientists with whom it disagrees on climate change.”  The article also claimed that “Ms. Kelly flat-out lied” regarding the ACSH’s stance on the coronavirus, specifically citing an article written by Dr. Alex Berezow PhD, former vice president of scientific communications for the ACSH. According to Dr. Berezow, one week before the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a pandemic on January 30th 2020, he wrote an article stating “It is rather a slam-dunk case that we are facing a global public health crisis.”  
Lee Fang, an investigative journalist for The Intercept, later picked up and posted DeSmog’s article on his Twitter account, which a resulted in criticism by the ACSH, stating, “Mr. Fang simply repeated the lies fed to him by a lawyer writing for a blog,” in reference to Kelly. 
In 2013, Hoggan founded DeSmog Canada, an online news magazine with the same mission as DeSmog, dedicated to cutting through the spin clouding the debate on energy and environment. Unlike DeSmog, DeSmog Canada is registered as a non-profit society under the Society Act of British Columbia and is funded “by individuals and foundations that care about climate change, democracy, science and the environment.”
Hoggan is listed as the board chair of DeSmog Canada, while former DeSmog editor Kevin Grandia is listed as “Site Development and Analytics.”