Denier Conference Readies for Round Three


Among the many conservative think tanks faithfully pushing the skeptic message in Washington, D.C., few are as prominent—or, should I say, infamous—as the Heartland Institute. The “independent” research and non-profit group has the dubious distinction of having organized the first major denier-palooza, the “International Conference on Climate Change,” last year. Despite a less than stellar showing, and an even more lukewarm follow-up in March, it’s hoping that the third time will be the charm.

The likes of Senator James Inhofe, Lord Christopher Monckton and Anthony Watts will be descending on the Washington Court Hotel this week to discuss the “widespread dissent to the asserted “consensus” on the causes, consequences, and proper responses to climate change.” Its ostensible purpose will be to “expose Congressional staff and journalists to leading scientists and economists in the nation’s capital” and demonstrate that “global warming is not a crisis and that immediate action to reduce emissions is not necessary”—which it calls the emerging consensus view of (the handful of) scientists outside the IPCC.

Another focus of this meeting will undoubtedly be the Waxman-Markey climate bill, which has already attracted its fair share of bile and venom from the right-wing noise machine. Although it was voted out of committee along party lines (33 – 25) last week, the bill still faces some considerable opposition and could yet get bogged down on its way to a full vote in the House.

What follows is a who’s who of the speakers who will be gracing the attendees with their presence, courtesy of the DeSmogBlog research database (and Wikipedia/Sourcewatch):

Joseph Bast
The longstanding president and CEO of the Heartland Institute, Bast studied economics as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago before co-founding the organization in 1984 with David M. Padder. He has been among the most outspoken of skeptics, repeatedly asserting that there is no consensus on the science of climate change by citing a widely debunked 17,000-name petition created by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. In a recent press release, he announced that the Heartland Institute would be publishing an 880-page book, entitled Climate Change Reconsidered: The 2009 Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), challenging the IPCC’s findings; conveniently, the book is set to release on June 2, just in time to coincide with the conference.

When he’s not singing the praises of carbon dioxide, Bast has been an unabashed defender of Big Tobacco and has tried to downplay the health risks of smoking, arguing in a 2006 self-published book that a moderate amount of smoke is no more than a mere “annoyance.”

Robert M. Carter
Carter, a research professor at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, has published over 50 peer-reviewed articles, primarily in the field of stratigraphy, the study of rock layers and layering. He serves on the research committee of the Institute for Public Affairs, an Australian organization that has received funding from ExxonMobil. When asked about his involvement with the group in a 2007 interview, he said: “I don’t think it is the point whether you are paid by the coal or petroleum industry.”

Despite his lack of expertise in the area, Carter has claimed that the IPCC has not provided conclusive evidence to show that anthropogenic activities have contributed to climate change—to which a former CSIRO climate scientist responded: “if he [Carter] has any evidence that [global warming over the past 100 years] is a natural variability he should publish through the peer review process.” (Most of his critiques have been published in economics journals, though he has published in the related field of palaeoclimatology.)

He has written for Tech Central Station, an organization that has received funding from ExxonMobil and whose parent company, DCI Group (a lobbying/public relations company in Washington, D.C.), was directly implicated in an Al Gore spoof video controversy.

Craig D. Idso
Craig Idso is the founder and chairman of the board of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, a non-profit group funded in part by ExxonMobil. He served as the Director of Environmental Science for Peabody Energy, one of the largest coal companies in the world, and has lectured on meteorology at Arizona State University, his graduate alma mater.

His organization published a weekly online newsletter called CO2Science and has been an ardent critic of the IPCC, arguing that higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and thus global warming, will benefit mankind by stimulating plant growth.

Jeff Kueter
Jeff Kueter is the president of the George Marshall Institute, an organization that is perhaps second only to the Heartland Institute in its skeptic advocacy. He previously served as Research Director for the National Coalition for Advanced Manufacturing (NACFAM), an industry-led research organization, and Washington Nichibei Consultants.

Ben Lieberman
Ben Lieberman is a Senior Policy Analyst in energy and environmental issues at the Heritage Foundation. A lawyer by training, Lieberman is a strong advocate of free-market policies who opposes “unnecessary” government regulation in the area of energy. He previously served as the associate counsel and director of air quality policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

His long list of publications includes: “The High Cost of Cool: The Economic Impact of the CFC Phase-out in the United States,” “Doomsday Déjà Vu: Ozone Depletion’s Lessons for Global Warming,” and “Title V of the Clean Air Act: Will America’s Industrial Future Be Permitted.” He has also written for Tech Central Station.

Richard S. Lindzen
Richard S. Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT and has a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from Harvard University. He has published over 200 books and peer-reviewed articles and is best known for his work on the dynamics of atmospheric tides, planetary atmospheres, monsoon meteorology and ozone photochemistry.

Lindzen is a signatory to the aforementioned Oregon Petition and to the Heidelberg Appeal, a document created and circulated by the International Center for Scientific Ecology, a PR front group, to voice concerns about “the emergence of an irrational ideology which is opposed to the scientific and industrial progress and impedes economic and social development,” in the wake of the 1992 United Nations World Summit.
He was the lead author of Chapter 7 of the 2001 IPCC Working Group 1, which looked at the physical processes affecting the climate. Though he initially praised the full IPCC report, he later criticized the “Summary for Policymakers” section for not placing enough emphasis on the uncertainties surrounding climate models and for misrepresenting the science.

Ever since, Lindzen has been highly critical of the IPCC, assailing the process for being too “political”, and has spoken out against it at numerous events, including conferences organized by the Cooler Heads Coalition (which includes the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the George C. Marshall Institute, and the Fraser Institute, among others) and the Heartland Institute.

Patrick J. Michaels
Patrick Michaels, a former professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia (and now part-time research professor on leave), is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. He specializes in the study of the impacts of climate change on agriculture and has published over 50 peer-reviewed articles over his lengthy career.

A 2007 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that Michaels was linked to 11 think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation and Heartland Institute, that have received funding from Exxon Mobil. In 2006, ABC News and DeSmogBlog unearthed a leaked memo that showed that Michaels’ consulting firm, New Hope Environmental Services, had received $100,000 from the Intermountain Rural Electrical Association and “other electrical cooperatives” to voice doubt about climate change—this while he claimed for Virginia as its state climatologist (which Governor Tim Kaine’s administration later clarified does not exist).

John Holdren, now President Obama’s scientific advisor, criticized Michaels’ research during a Senate committee hearing, calling him “another of the handful of U.S. climate-change contrarians (…) He has published little if anything of distinction in the professional literature, being noted rather for his shrill op-ed pieces and indiscriminate denunciations of virtually every finding of mainstream climate science.”

Lord Christopher Monckton

Christopher Monckton, who was born into the title of third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, is a British politician and writer. He has been a vociferous critic of the IPCC, and he played a major role in bringing forward a legal challenge to block the airing of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth in U.K. schools in 2007. That year, he also ran a series of advertisements in The New York Times and The Washington Post challenging the former vice president to an internationally televised debate on climate change.

The lack of a background in climate science—let alone a background in science to begin with—did not prevent the Heartland Institute from listing Monckton as one of its global warming “experts.” Monckton is also the chief policy advisor for the Science and Public Policy Institute, another well-known skeptic hub.

An article he wrote about climate sensitivity for the American Physical Society’s Forum on Physics and Society in 2008, in which he claimed that “it is very likely that in response to a doubling of pre-industrial carbon dioxide concentration [surface temperature] will rise not by the 3.26 °K [sic] suggested by the IPCC, but by <1 °K,” carried the disclaimer: “Its conclusions are in disagreement with the overwhelming opinion of the world scientific community. The Council of the American Physical Society disagrees with this article’s conclusions.” Dana Rohrabacher
Dana Rohrabacher is a Republican congressman who represents California’s 46th District in the House of Representatives. An ardent denier, he once mused that past warming cycles may have been caused by carbon dioxide emissions released by “dinosaur flatulence” and has called global warming a “hoax.” He has received middling ratings from Environment America, the League of Conservation Voters and other environmental groups for his voting record on energy and the environment.

Harrison Schmitt
After obtaining a Ph.D. in geology from Harvard University, Harrison Schmitt joined NASA as a member of the first group of scientist-astronauts in 1965, a position he held until 1975. He was the last of the Apollo astronauts to set foot on the moon as part of the Apollo 17 expedition in 1972.

He later served a single term as one of New Mexico’s senators from 1977 to 1982. Following his brief dalliance in politics, Schmitt entered the public-private sector, becoming the chair of the NASA Advisory Council and serving as an adjunct professor of engineering physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He also served as the chairman and president of the Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy, a non-profit organization whose global warming skeptic views are well known (it has received funding from ExxonMobil and has been affiliated with the American Petroleum Institute), from 1994 until 1998.

Another self-professed denier, Schmitt has repeatedly stated that anthropogenic activities have no impact on global warming, arguing, “human experience, geological data and history, and current cooling argue otherwise.” Schmitt recently appeared on Fox News to proclaim “I don’t think the human effect [of climate change] is significant compared to the natural effect.”

S. Fred Singer
S. Fred Singer is an atmospheric physicist and a professor emeritus of environmental science at the University of Virginia. His primary areas of study include ozone depletion, global warming and planetary science, and he has held a number of government and academic positions, including Chief Scientist at the Department of Transportation (from 1987 to 1989) and Deputy Assistant Administrator for Policy at the EPA (from 1970 to 1971).

Over his lengthy career as an industry consultant (to Shell, ExxonMobil, Sun Oil, and Lockheed Martin, among others), Singer has been implicated in a number of controversies. In 2007, Newsweek reported that a dozen people from the “denial machine” met in April 1998 to discuss a $5 million campaign to convince the public that the science of climate change “was riddled with controversy and uncertainty”—a campaign that was dropped when details of the meeting were leaked.

In 2005, The Guardian’s George Monbiot revealed that S. Fred Singer’s group, the Science and Environmental Policy Project, was the source of a false claim that “555 of all the 625 glaciers under observation by the World Glacier Monitoring Service in Zurich have been growing since 1980” (which the WGMS described as “complete bullshit”). After initially disputing Monbiot’s claims, he conceded that the information had likely originated on his organization’s website.

Willie Soon
Willie Wei-Hock Soon is an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and is the chief science adviser to the Science and Public Policy Institute.

Soon believes that global warming can mostly be attributed to solar variation and that anthropogenic activity is therefore inconsequential. He co-authored a book on the subject, entitled The Maunder Minimum and the Variable Sun-Earth Connection, with Steven H. Yaskell, for which he was awarded the “Petr Beckmann Award for courage and achievement in the defense of scientific truth” by Doctors for Disaster Preparedness, a group affiliated with the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine.

The publication of a 2003 article, “Proxy climatic and environmental changes of the past 1000 years,” in the journal Climate Research prompted the resignation of three editors, including the incoming editor-in-chief Hans von Storch, who said that its “conclusions [were] not supported by the evidence presented in the paper.” Later on, thirteen of the scientists cited in the article issued a rebuttal claiming that Soon and his co-author, Sallie Baliunas, had misinterpreted their research.

Roy W. Spencer
Roy Spencer is a research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and is the U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. He has authored or co-authored 25 peer-reviewed articles, primarily on the subject of satellite climate measurements. He was awarded the American Meteorological Society’s Special Award for his work on satellite-based temperature monitoring in 1996.

He and John Christy, a fellow skeptic and scientist at the University of Alabama, had pointed to satellite temperature records to argue that the troposphere, the atmosphere’s lowest layer, had not warmed over the last two decades and had actually cooled in the tropics. Three studies published in the journal Science in 2005 showed that there were several flaws in their calculations

Spencer is affiliated with the Heartland Institute, for which he is listed as an author, and the George C. Marshall Institute, for which he is listed as a global warming “expert.” He is also listed as a scientific advisor for the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, a coalition of religious leaders, scientists and policy experts committed to “bringing a proper and balanced Biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development.” He co-authored a 2006 report for the organization, entitled “A Call to Truth, Prudence and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Response to Global Warming,” that purported to refute the work of Evangelical Climate Initiative, a religious group that supports the IPCC’s findings.

He published a book called Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies that Hurt the Poor last year and appeared in The Great Global Warming Swindle, a movie disputing anthropogenic global warming.

James M. Taylor
James M. Taylor is a Senior Fellow at the Heartland Institute and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News, a monthly publication devoted to “sound science and free-market environmentalism.” In a recent article for Capitalism Magazine, an online publication that advocates the free-market ideals of Ayn Rand, he argued that “substantial restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions (…) will force Americans to undergo severe and protracted economic hardship for little or no real-world benefit” and that “U.S. emissions are not to blame for increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.”

John S. Theon
John Theon, a former NASA scientist who claimed to be James Hansen’s supervisor (though he was nothing of the sort), made waves in the right-wing blogosphere earlier this year when he came out as a vocal skeptic. According to RealClimate’s Gavin Schmidt, Theon retired from NASA in 1994 and, until fairly recently, seemed to largely agree with Hansen’s views on climate models and global warming.

David G. Tuerck
David Tuerck is a professor and the chairman of the Suffolk University Department of Economics, where he also serves as the executive director of the conservative Beacon Hill Institute. He is also listed as one of the Heartland Institute’s global warming “experts.” 

Anthony Watts
Anthony Watts is the proprietor of the Watts Up With That? blog, which won the “Best Science Blog” Weblog award last year (despite containing very little science). He launched the “Surface Stations” project in 2007 with the goal of demonstrating that “some of the global warming increase is not from CO2 but from localized changes in the temperature-measurement environment” by creating a publicly viewable record of weather station photographs and data and operates several weather measurement technology websites. He previously worked as a television and radio meteorologist for CBS and Fox News.

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