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Heritage Foundation: Torturing Facts, Sacrificing the Poor

Pete Altman

Posted January 9, 2009 in Solving Global Warming

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Ever since the 2008 presidential election boiled down to two candidates that favored action on climate change, the Heritage Foundation  has been, well, freaking out about the increasing likelihood that the U.S. will undertake major action on global warming.

Just how far gone are the folks at the Heritage Foundation? 

Earlier this week they celebrated a new study that explores the economic impacts of global warming and concludes that "higher temperatures reduce agricultural output in poor countries" and "lead to reductions in industrial output, aggregate investment, scientific research, and political stability."

Why break out the party hats?

It's because they think that if they can persuade the public that global warming won't harm us here in the U.S., Congress will be less likely to do something about it. So they were quick to proclaim the happy news that "Study Shows Global Warming Will Not Hurt U.S. Economy."

Better those poor suckers than us, eh guys?

Still, seems like if you are going document your lack of concern for 80% of the world's population, you might want to not do it with a piece that also proves your lack of concern for the truth. As the pieces at WonkRoom and DeSmogBlog make clear.

Overlooked or ignored by the Heritage Foundation is that the paper does not draw the conclusions the think-tank claims. The paper's authors do not say that global warming will not cause economic harm the United States. The authors do not say wealthy nations are off the hook. 

Dr. Frank Ackerman of Tufts University had already pointed this out in a response to a US News and World Report commentary on January 4, saying:

"What the paper DOESN'T tell us is that rich countries will be immune to the very different, and greater, climate stresses of the current century." (See for yourself, read the conclusion on page 24 and 25.)

In fact, Ackerman says, "the rich world won't be unscathed in the future, just because it was little harmed by late-twentieth century temperature fluctuations.

For that matter, the paper's authors aren't "actual scientists" as the Heritage Foundation boasts - they are economists. But forcefully arguing your point without any basis in fact seems to be somewhat of a pastime over there.

So what do the study's authors say about their findings? They say their findings "reject claims that climate does not influence national production" for one. Other worrisome findings from the conclusion include the statements "adaptation may not undo these [economic] effects in the medium term" and "future climate change may substantially widen income gaps between rich and poor countries."

Apparently, the Heritage Foundation can at least take some comfort from that. But next time they should try getting their facts straight before spouting off in a blatant attempt to mislead the public and policymakers.

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