Before Paris climate deal, a landgrab on the web

A participant holds an apple marked with the logo of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) during a meeting at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 7, 2015. (Reuters)

PARIS (Reuters) - Months before the world's nations began forging a climate accord in Paris, a California environmentalist named John Niles was digging into his pockets to buy a slew of internet domain names. A constant presence at past U.N.-sponsored climate deliberations, he had heard that the agreement to be hashed out in France would be named "The Paris Agreement" and he wanted to make sure any website that included those words was his. "We needed that digital real estate," said Niles, a carbon dioxide expert at the non-profit Greenhouse Gas Management Institute. "It was a way to keep the control over information about the deal, to keep it out of the bad guys' hands." For Niles, that would include U.S. conservative groups like the Heartland Institute and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, which vocally oppose efforts to wean the global economy off planet-warming fossil fuels. Heartland and CFACT last week sponsored a day of events in Paris aimed at casting doubt on the wisdom of a climate deal, including the launch of a movie called "Climate Hustle." CFACT also runs a website called devoted to arguments against regulating climate change. "We didn't want them to use the name of this agreement for their arguments," Niles said. Niles bought,, and twelve other variations, according to a domain registry search on data provider He then gave them to the U.S. green advocacy organization The Tropical Forest Group, which has been using them to publish updates on the talks. "This allowed us to tell the story in our own way with as little bias as possible," said TFG director Patrick Cage. "Well, with the bias that we think an agreement is a good idea." The Paris Agreement was adopted on Saturday. (Writing by Richard Valdmanis)