Global Warming “Skeptics” Conference Enabled by Conservative Philanthropy

“Ignored, and often even censored and demonized” is how the promotional materials for the Heartland Institute’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) — “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, 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.”

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His column, "Conservative Watch," documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right. Read other articles by Bill, or visit Bill's website.

14 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. Tony S. said on March 7th, 2008 at 10:41am #

    Yes, the Bush administration made sure everybody bought a big new SUV or monster truck before they got the gas prices to go up. Gas prices probably wouldn’t have gone up nearly so much, if everyone had continued to drive reasonable cars.

  2. Don Hawkins said on March 7th, 2008 at 11:14am #

    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/20080303_ColdWeather.pdf
    You can have these people talk and other people talk but we need to get started on this. Read this by James Hansen.

  3. maha said on March 7th, 2008 at 12:10pm #

    Don, d’you expect people to believe data coming out of NAZA?
    The aim of the Rockefeller funded Green movement is fearmongering and depopulation (see eg. OPT members — former Friends of the Earth alongside Jane Goodall demanding 70% depopulation), and so their focus is on co2, ignoring all the massive crimes of the military, corporations, etc against the environment, land, water, air, weather and atmosphere. You are indeed very “green” if you believe co2 is the culprit for any climate change. If people knew anything about the climate models and data gathering used they would not be so ready to follow like sheep and tell everyone to “cut the talk and act”.

  4. catherine said on March 7th, 2008 at 1:36pm #

    Aww, me feel bad for them. We hurt their feelings.

    God, what putzes.

  5. Don Hawkins said on March 8th, 2008 at 6:44am #

    We only have a few more years to slow climate change down. Yes wars use a lot of fuel and corporations use a lot of fuel. American drivers use a lot of fuel and on and on. James Hansen stood up to the Bush administration and told the truth. If you read what I just sent that Hansen wrote at the end he said his new paper will be out in a few day’s. I have a feeling that paper will include the hard choices. We are running out of time so we have to use what we got. Putting war on hold until we can get it right is part of the solution and just maybe keep it that way. I guess Obama as President is part of the solution we have to be realistic as one person is not going to solve this problem. It looks like the World economy’s are headed South and will help a little but in some way’s makes it harder. We waited to long the only way now is to slow down until we can get this right. That is a very hard choice but has many side benefits like the survival of the human race. Even if we stop burning things to make energy today every year there will be more extreme weather it will continue to change but there is still time to slow this down. Very stuff times ahead no matter how this play’s out. In many way’s the media, politicians have been coning the public for so long I think now they are fooling themselves. There is one thing about climate change it effects poor, rich, men, women, kids, big people and not just the poorer countries the whole planet. Yes the poorer countries in some way’s have there set of problems but so do the developed countries if you can call it that. That’s my story today and I am sticking to it.

  6. Don Hawkins said on March 8th, 2008 at 11:27am #

    Alright let’s try this. I have heard some people call the space program the apidimy of man’s knowledge. There is other example like Iceland. I was watching one of the financial channels the other day and the markets are the apidimy of man’s greed. I am sure there are more but that is a good one. Some bad economic news had just come out and one man in New York who was stressed out said, “come on we will be just fine look at China a new coal fired power plant every four day’s things are still cooken”. He got the cooken part right. It is much more than that. The addiction to that easy money is very strong and a hard habit to break. I mean 85 million barrels of oil a day worldwide that’s pretty much it and will get less not more and yet the thinking is still big cars and keep moving the economy’s forward and the more the better. I am sure they see the problems with that including climate change but the addiction is stronger. It makes them fool themselves in to believing we can still go forward in the same way. A little secret without the help of big business we can’t solve climate change. The only problem is profit all that money can’t be the reason to move forward. I guess you could make a little or break even to change the way we produce energy worldwide but right now how much is enough for one man 200 million 4 billion it is never enough. In world war two how did it work. Because to go after climate change it looks like that hard or harder.

  7. Daniel said on March 8th, 2008 at 9:49pm #

    The idea that humans are changing the climate of planet earth is absolutely absurd.

    Cyclical is the word best used to describe THE POSSIBLE changes our climate is experiencing right now.

    To say that humans are responsible for “global warming” is, IMHO, an ignorant and arrogant statement of astounding proportions.

  8. Don Hawkins said on March 9th, 2008 at 5:54am #

    Let’s see about 4 billion years ago water first came to the planet and it rained not for forty day’s and forty nights but it rained for millions of years. After that little rain about 90% of the Earth was covered in water. About 500 million years ago the Earth was covered in ice. Well because of volcanic activity that ice melted you see more CO 2 in the atmosphere and then dinosaurs started to walk on the Earth. Then a very large rock hit the Earth and no more dinosaurs. Then about two hundred thousand years ago humans started to walk on Earth not 6,000 years ago. Humans have been very lucky good weather, climate for the most part. Now humans are very hard workers and just love to build things there seems to be one thing that they have a hard time with when to stop. You know more is better. Well humans now have taken out of the Earth about half the fossil fuels that it took about 300 million years to make. We have burned those fossils and in turn put the CO 2 back into the atmosphere and it looks like there are plans in the works to burn more probably not a good idea. Anyway what does Obama think of Hilary or Hilary thing of Obama”s middle name. We have to keep asking ourselves those hard questions. Heck what about these ball players did they take steroids to hit the ball faster or over the fence? You mean just a shot and I can do this, Ok or they could have had a cup of coffee.

  9. Don Hawkins said on March 9th, 2008 at 8:08am #

    A global warming much smaller than weather
    fluctuations has the potential for dramatic effects, e.g., by setting in motion future large sea level change,
    species extinction, and various other impacts. James Hansen
    I wonder what are those various other impacts?

  10. maha said on March 9th, 2008 at 11:08pm #

    Don, I wasn’t talking about fuel — that again is singled out to fearmonger, rob and control ordinary people. The real problems and crimes are those intentionally and needlessly committed by government (military, research institutions, corporations.. all the same thing) the type of things that don’t make the headlines, the focus however is always on the ordinary individual as the problem in order to get people to fight each other. You can make weather models do anything — they are sensitive to the smallest changes rendering them useless . For example, the IPCC itself admits that they have no idea what is emitted from military aircraft and do not even mention the massive crimes of weather and atmospheric manipulation and experimentation that’s on going. We’re in trouble alright, but you’ve got your focus on completely the wrong thing. How does getting rid of your light bulb, a major campaign for Greenpeace in the UK, going to stop, for example, deforestation, or the war industry, or the non stop burning of gas flares produced in oil extracted by our western governments (=corporations) which are the major contributers to CO2 and which totally dwarf what you or any ordinary person contributes? It’s a war on the individual.

  11. Mulga Mumblebrain said on March 12th, 2008 at 3:07am #

    Sitting in the audience last year as James Lovelock calmly explained how observations in the field were showing that climate change was greater and more rapid than even the most pessimistic IPCC scenarios, an idea struck me. Climate Change Denialists, and please do not call these liars and imbeciles sceptics-a sceptic is open to reason, which these ideological fanatics definitely are not-will cause far more deaths than the Nazis. We have clearly already passed a ‘tipping-point’ at somewhere between 350 and 400 parts of CO2 per million, and the resultant ecological collapse will, through drought, water shortages, agricultural failures, sea-level rises and worsening cyclones and wild-fires, and the wars of desperate survival that will inevitably ensue, cause millions, if not billions of premature deaths. It may even end our civilization
    In these circumstances I believe it imperative that an International Court for Crimes against the Environment and Humanity must eventually be set up. Those who lied, misrepresented and distorted the science for pecuniary, ideological or base personal psychopathological reasons, and those who financed them and provided propaganda services for them, must face justice and condign punishment. We owe no less to the untold masses whose lives are about to be devastated.

  12. keith said on August 12th, 2008 at 11:11pm #

    Mankind used to get het up about religion. Then it was politics. Now it is climate change which is changing into a religion.

    Man has a brain. What a pity so many have such little ones.

  13. Skychief said on March 10th, 2009 at 7:34am #

    Follow the money. Co2 makes up less than one half a percent of global gasses. Volcanos alone produce over 10 times more Co2 than man. Gore has made over 2 hundred million and stands to make billions with his carbon trading. I am all for alternative enrgy and weaning ourselves off of oil, but this is a huge financial scam that will cost us trillions and leave our country vulnerable. Since when are questions by brilliant scientists dismissed so readily? Our politicians have sold us out for campaign donations and the American people are ignored. We are going through a cooling period and we will not be deluged with a 10 meter rise of the oceans in the next few decades. Every Amnerican should read “National Contender” ordered through any major bookstore or e-mail me at ten.tsacmocnull@snommis_de and I will send you a free copy. It is a political thriller that beautifully describes how our politicians make laws for donors and not the people. Science and common sense is ignored. Gore’s movie was a fraud. Only one polar bear colony out of 17 is not growing, Mt. Kilaminjaro has lost snow due to deforestation, the hockey stick graph of climate change. Aeronautical charts have changed 2 degrees and his movie showed ice lost on one side and not growth on the other. A new half million square ice field has been properly identified just recently. He lives his life contrary to what he preaches and will not hold open debates. No one can question him. Scientist dependent on government funds are spreading this propaganda. Our news agencies are controlled by a handful of entities with their own agenda. Saul Alinsky (American Communist professor who Hillary wrote her thesis about and Obama has praised in the past) wrote that you may have to destroy an economy to make the people dependent on government. I want to hear open debates, not be spoonfed fear to line the pockets of less than honorable people. Read National Contender and you will be shocked at the corruption in DC.

  14. Josh said on October 1st, 2009 at 8:00am #

    Maha, pretty much everything you’ve said is spot on…
    Good Stuff! Keep fighting the good fight!!!