Climate denial conference

2008-03-05

in Politics, Science, The environment

Ominous Ottawa skyline

On various climate blogs, there has been coverage recently about a climate change skeptic conference run by the American Heartland Institute. DeSmogBlog and Grist have been leading the scolding, though the mainstream media seems to have started to cotton on that these people are corrupt, frauds, or seriously misguided. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal both have pieces that are somewhat critical of the validity and motivation behind the conference.

You can argue all you like about what level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is represents a tolerable level of risk. You can likewise wade into many fascinating debates about paleoclimatology, climatic feedbacks, and technological development. Nobody has an especially good answer to the question of how climate change mitigation, development, and poverty reduction can be ethically balanced against one another. What you cannot do these days, while retaining your credibility, is deny that the human burning of fossil fuels is causing the planet to warm, and that the consequences of that warming are extremely likely to be harmful to human, plant, and animal life.

The whole thing reminds me of the laughable commercials produced by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Here are some resources for countering the misguided or disingenuous arguments made by those who challenge the rigorously demonstrated elements of climate change science.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan March 5, 2008 at 12:01 pm

The WSJ seems a bit conflicted about the conference.

. March 5, 2008 at 12:13 pm
Anon March 6, 2008 at 1:06 pm

The “story migrates back to the edges,” not because that is inherent to the story, but because that is inherent to all modern media coverage of every big issue. Let me quote Newsweek editor Jon Meacham from last month:

I absolutely believe that the media is not ideologically driven, but conflict driven. If we have a bias it’s not that people are socially liberal, fiscally conservative or vice versa. It is that we are engaged in the storytelling business. And if you tell the same story again and again and again – it’s kind of boring.

The real story doesn’t have much conflict: It is the growing scientific (and technological) understanding that if we don’t sharply restrict greenhouse gas emissions soon, we face catastrophe — that is the right word, the one Kolbert sticks in her title.

The conflict is actually a political one between those who believe in government-led solutions and those who don’t. This is a central point. As Revkin himself notes about the Heartland denier/disinformer conference, “The one thing all the attendees seem to share is a deep dislike for mandatory restrictions on greenhouse gases.” As I explain at length in my book, a central reason that conservatives and libertarians reject the scientific understanding of human-caused climate change is that they simply cannot stand the solution. So they attack both the solution and the science.

Anon March 6, 2008 at 1:07 pm

The middle of the debate is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. That is the mainstream scientific view. That is the “consensus” among our top scientists (even though that is a terrible word, as I’ve noted). The language is signed off on by 180 governments. You certainly can’t call that the “edge.”

The middle of the debate forecasts that catastrophe is coming, especially if we actually listen to the deniers/disinformers and don’t act to reduce emissions soon. This is the central point that the media either fails to understand or refuses to communicate.

. March 10, 2008 at 12:58 pm

Bill Berkowitz
March 5, 2008

Global warming ‘skeptics’ conference enabled by conservative philanthropy

Heartland Institute and dozens of other sponsors of conference funded by Coors, Bradley, Walton, Scaife and DeVos foundations

“Ignored, and often even censored and demonized” is how the promotional materials for the Heartland Institute’s recent conference “The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change,” described the way “distinguished scholars from the U.S. and around the world,” that have had the courage to question global warming, have been treated by environmentalists and the mainstream media. In a “Background” piece, conference organizers claimed that “They [the scholars] have been labeled ‘skeptics’ and even ‘global warming deniers,’ a mean-spirited attempt to lump them together with Holocaust deniers.

. March 10, 2008 at 12:58 pm

Conference participants spent a fair amount of time lambasting former Vice President Al Gore, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

And critics had some pointed things to say: Kert Davies, a campaigner from Greenpeace, told the New York Times that the conference was “the largest convergence of the lost tribe of skeptics ever seen on the face of the earth.”

Frank O’Donnell, head of Clean Air Watch, told the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin that the conference “looks like the climate equivalent of Custer’s last stand.” And, The League of Conservation Voters Gene Karpinski, said he’s “sure that the flat Earth society had a few final meetings before they broke up.”

Reasononline science correspondent Ronald Bailey reported that while “occasionally there was something of a camp-meeting atmosphere among participants,” it was evident that “Climate skeptics don’t agree among themselves about what, if anything, is going on with the world’s climate.”

Anon April 7, 2008 at 1:31 pm

We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.

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