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 Institutes'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.
Always on the lookout to defend the oppressed, both Glenn Beck, the right wing host of a CNN Headline News show, and the Fox News Channel rode in to rescue the "demonized" and beleaguered. On Monday morning, March 3, "Fox and Friends" homed in on the problem that the "skeptics" are facing. Fox's point: Goreistas, or advocates of devoting major resources to dealing with global warming, receive a disproportionate share of network and cable television face time, while those raising questions about global warming are shut out of the debate.
Dan Gainor, vice president of the Business and Media Institute (BMI) -- a co-sponsor of the conference -- joined co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade "to explain network news reporters' failure to balance their coverage of climate change and their tendency to ignore or mistreat scientists and others who disagree with the "consensus" theories surrounding global warming," a BMI report by Nathan Burchfiel pointed out.
According a BFI report titled "Global Warming Censored: Networks Stifle Debate, Rely on Politicians, Rock Stars and Men-on-the-Street for Science," written by Gainor and Julia A. Seymour, an analysis of 205 network news stories about "global warming" or "climate change" between July 1, 2007, and Dec. 31, 2007, "found a meager 20 percent of stories even mentioned there were any alternative opinions to the so-called 'consensus' on the issue."
On "Fox and Friends," Gainor said that "the consensus theory that Al Gore's been pushing, that the mainstream media have been pushing for years -- it's all bogus." According to a report posted at Raw Story, Gainor also pointed out that the New York Times had done a "somewhat sarcastic" piece on the conference. "Disagreement's not allowed in the media," he complained. "We just did a report looking at how the network news shows have covered climate change. ... 13 to one, the people they put on are on one side saying it's not a debate. ... On CBS it's 38 to one."
Over at CNN Headline News, Beck told his audience that he would be vigilant in covering the conference "like it was the second coming of Jesus himself." "After all," Beck said, "if this were a traditional gathering of global warming alarmists, the media would be everywhere. But, since it's full of hundreds of credible, mainstream scientists who happen to disagree with their peers, it's completely ignored."
However, according to Think Progress, the conference was not ignored by the mainstream, media. "....The New York Times has published two separate articles on the conference, and the Times' John Tierney has written about it on his blog. Other mainstream press outlets that have covered the conference: the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Daily News, the New York Sun, and Reuters."
The Business and Media Institute
The Business and Media Institute (BMI - website) -- "Advancing the Culture of free Enterprise in America" -- is a project of the Media Research Center (MRC), headed by longtime conservative activist, L. Brent Bozell. In addition to being BMI's vice president, Gainor is also listed as an MRC "Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow" "a position apparently named for the legendary Texas oilman and corporate raider," Raw Story reported.
BMI's Board of Advisors includes at least a dozen people deeply tied to conservative philathropy: Herman Cain, the organization's national chairman was former President and CEO of Godfather's Pizza, Inc. and President and CEO of T.H.E. New Voice, Inc.; David All, President, The David All Group, LLC and founder of TechRepublican.com and co-founder of Slatecard; Bruce Bartlett, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy at the U.S. Treasury Department; Dr. Donald Boudreaux, Chairman, Department of Economics, George Mason University; Dr. Richard Ebeling, President, Foundation for Economic Education (website); Dr. Daniel J. Mitchell, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute; Duane Parde, President, National Taxpayers Union; Grace-Marie Turner, President and founder, Galen Institute (website); Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, President, American Council on Science and Health (website); Dr. Walter E. Williams, the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics, George Mason University.
'The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change'
"The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change," was billed as "the first major international conference to focus on issues and questions not answered by advocates of the theory of man-made global warming." According to James M. Taylor, the Conference Coordinator and a Senior Fellow at the Heartland Institute who is the Managing Editor of its Environment & Climate News, hundreds of scientists, economists, and public policy experts from around the world were brought together "to call attention to widespread dissent in the scientific community to the alleged "consensus" that the modern warming is primarily man-made and is a crisis."
The conference's goals were:
"to bring together the world's leading scientists, economists, and policy experts to explain the often-neglected "other side" of the climate change debate;
"to sponsor presentations and papers that make genuine contributions to the global debate over climate change;
"to share the results of the conference with policymakers, civic and business leaders, and the interested public as an antidote to the one-sided and alarmist bias that pervades much of the current public policy debate; and
"to set the groundwork for future conferences and publications that can turn the debate toward sound science and economics, and away from hype and political manipulation."
In addition to BMI, among the 50 co-sponsors are a host of longtime anti-environmental enterprises, many tied to conservative philanthropy, such as Americans for Tax Reform, Cascade Policy Institute, Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Congress of Racial Equality, Frontiers of Freedom Institute, George C. Marshall Institute, Independent Institute, International Climate Science Coalition, International Policy Network, National Center for Policy Analysis, Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, Science and Environmental Policy Project, Science and Public Policy Institute and Sovereignty International.
Conference sponsors received "input into the program regarding speakers and panel topics"; "10 free 'full package' registrations--air fare, hotel, and free admission--for 10 people, ideally scientists, economists, or important players in the climate change debate who are prepared to speak on panels"; "20 free admission passes"; and "logo and organization info on all promotional material produced, including advertising prior to the event and exhibiting space at the event."
The Heartland Institute
Over the past few decades, The Heartland Institute (website), described by the New York Times as "a Chicago group whose antiregulatory philosophy has long been embraced by, and financially supported by, various industries and conservative donors," has been in the forefront of the movement of corporate-sponsored conservative think tanks, public policy institute and academic researchers first denying global warming existed, more recently palming off climate change as a natural phenomenon, and all the while demonizing those bringing global warming to the attention of the public.
In April 2000, Z magazine published a piece I wrote about the Heartland Institute that was written for CultureWatch, a monthly newsletter which from May 1993 through October 2000, tracked right-wing movements. Titled "Powerful Right-Wing Alliance Challenges Climate Justice: Anti-environmentalists join forces," the story noted that Heartland's Environment News and New Hope Environmental Services Inc., publishers of World Climate Report (with funding from the Greening Earth Society), had joined forces to publish Environment & Climate News, whose tag line is "the monthly publication for new-era environmentalists."
One of the publication's essential functions is to act as a mouthpiece for industry as it tackles head-on the issue of global warming. The first issue presents two stinging critiques by two of "the nation's leading scientists...on global climate change": "Kyoto's Chilling Effects" by Patrick J. Michaels, PhD, University of Virginia environmental science professor, and "Link between deaths and climate weakening over time" by Robert E. Davis, PhD, associate professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia.
Michaels, a featured dinner speaker Sunday night was described by the New York Times as "a climatologist with a paid position at the antiregulatory Cato Institute."
Founded in 1984 by Joseph L. Bast, the Heartland Institute, I wrote in 2000, "spent its early years as a no-frills, conservative, free-market, tax-exempt research organization applying, 'cutting-edge research to state and local public policy issues'--and not really distinguishing itself."
In 1996, Heartland created a new program that linked the conservative advocacy of a think tank with state-of-the-art technology to become one of the right's leading information clearinghouses. If ever a trendy phrase "just-in-time" information delivery has meaning, it is most assuredly illustrated by Heartland's PolicyFax project.
At a time when paper was still premium, Heartland's PolicyFax project delivered documents -- 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and free of charge --on a host of issues to public officials crafting legislation, editorial writers and op-ed columnists preparing a piece, advocacy organizations prepping for an anti-environmental campaign. The kicker: Every elected official in the U.S. (regardless of position), every significant media worker, and researchers from all the other think tanks received Heartland's complete set of resources delivered directly to their desks.
Heartland is still on the cutting edge of information delivery: PolicyFax has evolved into PolicyBot (website), a project that Heartland claims "is the Internet's most extensive clearing-house for the work of free-market think tanks, with more than 22,000 studies and commentaries from over 350 think tanks and advocacy groups."
Heartland has a bevy of publications including: Budget & Tax News, a monthly "devoted to lower taxes and smaller government"; Environment & Climate News, a monthly "for common-sense environmentalism"; Health Care News, a monthly "for free-market health care reform"; IT&T News, a monthly "for state legislators and regulators, addressing information technology issues"; School Reform News, a monthly "for school reformers"; The Heartlander, a monthly "membership newsletter"; News & Views, a publication of The New Coalition for Economic and Social Change, "offering multicultural perspectives on economic and social policy."
These days, in addition to its publications, a number of books, a video entitled "Global Warming Snowjob," which focuses on Al Gore, Heartland advocates for school vouchers, supports a Frank Luntz-like concept called "common-sense" environmentalism, and promotes "free-market" health care. Heartland's Joe Bast has taken up the cause of beleaguered smokers in the "Smoker's Lounge," "the place to go for sound science, economics, and legal commentary on tobacco issues."
'Climate equivalent of Custer's last stand'
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."
Attended by several hundred people, the conference did garner the attention of the Fox News Channel and CNN's Glenn Beck, received coverage in several mainstream newspapers, and there were reports galore on online news sites and blogs.
None of which satisfied BMI's Nathan Burchfiel and Amy Menefee who complained, in a piece on the BMI website dated March 3, that ABC's "World News," CBS's "Evening News" and NBC's "Nightly News" "couldn't find time in the half-hour broadcasts March 3 to mention" the conference.
With hopes that "The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change" will lead to a revitalized anti-global warming movement, organizers have declared their desire to take the show on the road: "The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change is the first major international conference questioning global warming alarmism, but it will not be the last one. This event is intended to be a catalyst for future meetings, collaboration among scientists, economists, and policy experts, new research, and new publications."
"The proceedings will be transcribed, edited, and published as a major contribution to the debate over global warming. Other possible follow-up activities now being discussed include: an event in London in 2009; launch of a new journal devoted to climate change; launch of an association of philanthropists willing to support further research and public education opposing global warming alarmism; support for an International Climate Science Coalition that will act as an alternative voice to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; and expanded cooperation among the scores of organizations currently sponsoring research, publications, and events on the dubious claims in support of the theory of man-made catastrophic global warming," the conference organizers wrote.
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."