The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-headquartered think tank that has taken on the role of trying to coordinate the disparate global warming skeptics, has organized yet another conference to be held in Washington this week disputing the reality of global warming. "The real science and economics of climate change support the view that global warming is not a crisis and that immediate action to reduce emissions is not necessary," they claim.
But when the Heartland Institute talks about "real science," it is hard to ignore the fact that for years they have defended the policy agenda of the tobacco industry without disclosing that they were funded by Phillip Morris. Indeed, Heartland still claims to defend the rights of smokers, a ploy long used by the tobacco industry to keep themselves out of the spotlight.
Back in March the think tank organized its second international conference for skeptics. At the time I noted that in 2007 the think tank's President, Joseph L. Bast stated that "gifts from all energy companies -- coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear" accounted for less than five percent of the group's budget. While it may sound like a small amount, it still represented approximately $260,000.
No sooner was the March conference over than Heartland announced that it was organizing another, to be held in Washington on Tuesday June 2. For the March conference, Heartland insisted that "no corporate sponsorships or dollars earmarked for the event were solicited or accepted." Interestingly, there is no equivalent statement on the web page for the latest conference.The real impetus for calling the latest conference at such short notice is the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill, which is wending its way through Congress.
The speakers at the latest conference, which includes veteran skeptics such as Richard Lindzen and Patrick Michaels, are not likely to say much that they haven't said before. In a recent interview, leading climate scientist Stephen H. Schneider commented that the skeptics "have very few mainstream climate scientists who publish original research in climate refereed journals with them -- a petroleum geologist's opinion on climate science is a as good as a climate scientist's opinion on oil reserves. So petitions sent to hundreds of thousands of earth scientists are frauds. If these guys think they are 'winning,' why don't they try to take on face to face real climatologists at real meetings -- not fake ideology shows like Heartland Institute -- but with those with real knowledge -- because they'd be slaughtered in public debate by Trenberth, Santer, Hansen, Oppenheimer, Allen, Mitchell, even little ol' me. It’s easy to blog, easy to write op-eds in the Wall Street Journal."
But the purpose of the Heartland Institute's conference is not about "real science," as most people understand it. Instead, its conference is more about maintaining the rage of the hard-core skeptics and their supporters in the hope that any legislation that emerges from Congress will be so compromised that it will make little if any difference in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
What the coal and oil lobby know is that the nature of what is agreed to by the Congress will play a major role in determining what the Obama administration will agree to in negotiations over the successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol to be discussed at the COP15 meeting in Copenhagen in December. As Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy on climate change, stated at the conclusion of a recent meeting of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, "an issue for us is always [reaching] an agreement... that can produce consensus internationally and it can also be approved back at home."
It would be easy to dismiss the Heartland Institute's conference as just another fringe event. However, with the Democrats having only a narrow majority in the Senate, a couple of votes would be enough to water down the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill even further. Added to that is the fact that for a treaty to be ratified, two-thirds of Senate members must support it.