Diary

State AGs’ Climate Crusade Discourages Pursuit of Knowledge, Threatens Liberty

By: H. Sterling Burnett

Contrary to the implication made in Rick Casey’s recent San Antonio Express-News commentary titled “Smith in Another Global Warming Tiff,” published on July 30, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and his fellow Republicans on the U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee are heroes, not villains, for battling the attempts made by several Democratic state attorneys general (AG) to squash free speech and suppress scientific discovery.

The state AGs in question say fossil-fuel companies, researchers, and think tanks have committed fraud and engaged in racketeering by deliberately misleading the public about the dangers their products pose to the global climate.

Does Casey provide evidence the AGs are right and that fraud is being committed? Not at all. Instead of addressing the substance of the global warming issue; he tries to direct attention away from the uncertainties in climate science and the bullying tactics of the state AGs using ad hominem attacks. This isn’t surprising. It’s common for climate alarmists to assault the character of climate realists, including my colleagues at The Heartland Institute, rather than address real issues and scientific facts. Casey’s article is reminiscent of the old legal adage, “If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table.”

For example, intending to indicate Heartland’s views on climate change are bought and paid for by Exxon Mobil, Casey wrote, “ExxonMobil gave the self-described ‘nonprofit research organization’ [The Heartland Institute] $736,500 between 1998 and 2006.”

While true, this shows the weakness of his argument. Heartland has not received a dime from Exxon Mobil since 2006, two years before our first of 11 International Conferences on Climate Change and three years before we published the first in the Climate Change Reconsidered series for the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). Despite receiving no money from Exxon Mobil, Heartland has become known throughout the world as one of the leaders of climate realism, which denies humans are the primary cause of catastrophic global climate change.

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By contrast, since global warming first hit the headlines, tens of billions of dollars in federal money has gone to climate scientists and agencies promoting climate fears than had gone to climatology and meteorology departments cumulatively in the prior century, but only to those who insist humans are causing catastrophic climate change and call for greater control over people’s lives. Far be it for me to suggest university and government scientists, bureaucrats, and regulators might overstate their certainty of human-caused climate change and its risks just to keep billions of dollars flowing to their research.

Legally, “fraud” is an intentional misrepresentation or a purposeful omission of material facts made to induce another party to act. That party must also rely upon that misrepresentation, and there must be a resulting injury or damage. If the state AGs have any evidence of fraud on the part of companies or organizations raising questions about the Obama administration’s climate policies, they should bring charges and issue subpoenas. They haven’t done this, however, because no such evidence exists. They’ve simply launched a taxpayer-funded fishing expedition against reasonable people who disagree with them about climate change.

Climate realists acknowledge the climate is and always has changed, just as temperatures fluctuate. Realists aren’t denying widely available evidence, they are simply raising questions concerning the extent humans are responsible for warming, which recently paused for more than 18 years despite rising carbon-dioxide levels.

Climate realists recognize sea levels are rising; they’ve risen more than 400 feet since the end of the most recent ice age. But they are rising at a slower rate now than they have for the vast majority of time since the previous ice age ended, and rates of recent sea-level rise have not accelerated, despite climate alarmists’ claims.

Antarctic sea ice and snow and ice cover are growing; Polar bears are thriving; Atlantic hurricanes are at near-record lows; instances of drought and flood are well within historic norms; plant coverage is expanding; crop yields regularly set records year over year; and fewer lives are being lost to climate-related events than ever before. All of these facts contradict the projections made by climate models and the claims state AGs are making in support of their witch hunt.

Even the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has acknowledged it has little understanding of more than half of the 11 factors it says has contributed to warming.

Additionally, a report by the National Academy of Sciences stated, “[B]ecause there is considerable uncertainty in current understanding of how the climate system varies naturally and reacts to emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols, current estimates of the magnitude of future warming should be regarded as tentative and subject to future adjustments (either upward or downward).”

Smith and his fellow Republicans on the House science committee, should be thanked, not derided, for upholding the sanctity of the scientific method and the oath they swore to defend Americans’ free-speech rights.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a research fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.