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Debunked Climate Hoax: Letting Go is So Hard to Do

Pete Altman

Posted April 19, 2010 in Solving Global Warming

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Q:  When do a hodge-podge of climate change science denying groups with energy industry ties – including the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) – hold a Capitol Hill briefing on “Climategate”?

A:  They do so within 72 hours of the latest scientific review panel exonerating climate scientists of any wrongdoing.   See “Climategate: Officially a Fake Scandal” for more details. The Los Angeles Times has a good account as well.

That’s right.  Just when those ill-informed attacks on climate scientists have been stripped of even the remotest pretense of credibility, Heritage, Cato and CEI went to Congress last Friday in a vain attempt to breathe new life into their debunked conspiracy theory. I guess it’s natural for professional denier groups to be in denial about the fact that there’s no “there” there. Letting go is so hard to do…

As Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones put it,

You might think the recent exoneration of the scientists involved in the so-called "Climategate" scandal would have put a damper on efforts by climate change deniers to exploit the issue. But the leaders of the anti-science movement were still at it on Friday, as the Heritage Foundation and the Competitive Enterprise Institute hosted a lunch briefing on Capitol Hill to continue playing up the "controversy."

Maybe the esteemed fellows from Heritage, CEI and Cato missed the scathing editorial in Thursday’s Houston Chronicle:

… hackers raided the computer system at the climate research unit of Britain's East Anglia University and published thousands of scientists' private e-mails. Global warming skeptics portrayed the communications as proof that devious researchers were cooking data to support a global warming hoax. That charge was decisively rejected by a British government commission that examined the e-mails. Although it faulted the scientists for petty and sometimes vindictive comments about their detractors, the commission found no grounds to challenge the scientific consensus that global warming is happening and is caused by human activity …

As writer Elizabeth Kolbert points out in the current issue of the New Yorker,

The message from scientists at this point couldn't be clearer: the world's emissions trajectory is extremely dangerous. Goofball weathermen, Climategate, conspiracy theories — these are all a distraction from what's really happening.

Despite all the spinning and hot air, the science is solid and global warming is a real, deadly serious concern. It's time to deal with it.

So who exactly are these groups who are having such a hard time letting the denial hoax go?

Let’s look at them one at a time:

HERITAGE FOUNDATION

Fight Clean Energy Smears sums up the Heritage Foundation story very neatly: 

The Heritage Foundation is a mainstay of misinformation and exaggeration when it comes to climate and climate policy issues. In the last couple of years, Heritage has misrepresented the impacts of global warming on the US economy, twisted news reports to justify scary claims about ‘climate taxes’, issued bad economic analyses and deceptive presentations, and released exaggerated claims about economic ruin and impacts in the agricultural sector should Congress pass climate legislation. This is only a representative sample.

The Heritage Foundation also teamed up with the Institute for Energy Research to promote the widely debunked “Spanish” study. Heritage has been funded by ExxonMobil and tobacco companies. According to an investigative report by Greenpeace, oil services giant Koch Industries and its family foundations gave the Heritage Foundation grants worth $3,358,000 between 1997 and 2008.

The significance of the Koch-Heritage tie is seen in the following from Greenpeace

“This private, out-of-sight corporation is now a partner to ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute and other donors that support organizations and front-groups opposing progressive clean energy and climate policy. In fact, Koch has out-spent ExxonMobil in funding these groups in recent years. From 2005 to 2008, ExxonMobil spent $8.9 million while the Koch Industries-controlled foundations contributed $24.9 million in funding to organizations of the ‘climate denial machine.” 

COMPETITIVE ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has a long rap sheet on climate science denial and obfuscation. CEO has run television ads downplaying global warming that were so misleading the author of the study cited in the ads openly protested, saying:

[CEI's] television ads are a deliberate effort to confuse and mislead the public about the global warming debate…They are selectively using only parts of my previous research to support their claims.

According to ExxonSecrets.org, CEI has accepted more than $2 million in ExxonMobil support since 1998:

CEI is at the center of the global warming misinformation campaign …  CEI, among many other statements denying the seriousness of global warming, has argued that climate change would create a "milder, greener, more prosperous world" and that "Kyoto was a power grab based on deception and fear.”

Greenpeace documents  that Koch Industries’ interests have provided CEI with $471,420 in support between 1997 and 2008.   

CATO INSTITUTE

Turning again to Fight Clean Energy Smears:

The Cato Institute tends to focus on disputing the science behind global warming and questioning the rationale for taking action. The organization’s 2009 “Handbook for Policymakers” on global warming begins with the suggestions that Congress should “pass no legislation restricting emissions of carbon dioxide” and “inform the public about how little climate change would be prevented by proposed legislation.” Robert Bradley, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, is also a founder and the CEO of the Institute for Energy Research.

According to the investigative report by Greenpeace, Cato received family foundation grants from oil services giant Koch Industries worth $5,278,400 between 1997 and 2008.

Well, maybe Heritage, Cato and CEI are having a hard time letting go because when it comes to climate denial, the groups have their story and they are sticking to it, regardless of the facts.

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