Why We Need Debate, Not Consensus, on Climate Change

The president of The Heartland Institute replies to Fred Krupp’s Wall Street Journal essay.

Dear Fred,

I read your August 7 opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, “A New Climate-Change Consensus,” with great interest. As you know, The Heartland Institute is a leading voice in the international debate over climate change. The Economist recently called us “the world’s most prominent think-think promoting skepticism about man-made climate change.”

First, I welcome you to the effort to bring skeptics and alarmists together. We need your help. We have been trying to do this for many years.

For example, we ran more than $1 million in ads calling on Al Gore to debate his critics. He repeatedly refused. We hosted seven international conferences on climate change and invited alarmists to speak at every one, the most recent one held in Chicago on May 23-24. Only one ever showed up, and he was treated respectfully.

Regrettably, your colleagues in the liberal environmental movement responded at first by pretending we don’t exist, and when opinion polls and political decisions revealed that strategy wasn’t working, by denouncing us as “deniers” and “shills for the fossil fuel industry.”

Most recently, your colleagues on the left went so far as to break the law in an attempt to silence us. Prominent global warming alarmist Peter Gleick stole corporate documents from us and circulated them with a fake and highly defamatory memo purporting to describe our “climate change strategy.” Gleick confessed to stealing the documents on February 20.

Greenpeace is using the stolen and fake documents to attack climate scientists who affiliate with The Heartland Institute, while the Center for American Progress and 350.org are using them to demonize corporations that fund us. No group on the left, including yours, has condemned these activities.

In your opinion piece, you say “if both sides can now begin to agree on some basic propositions, maybe we can restart the discussion,” and you end by saying “it is time for conservatives to compete with liberals to devise the best, most cost effective climate solutions.”

Reconciliation will be difficult so long as you and others on the left fail to express doubt or remorse over the errors, exaggerations, and unethical tactics that continue to be used against skeptics.

For example, it is impossible for skeptics and alarmists to come together so long as alarmists pretend – as you do, Fred, in this very essay – that recent weather trends in one part of the world lend proof to their theories and predictions. Anyone familiar with the science knows this claim belongs in the kindergarten of the climate science debate.

Another basic error you repeat is that surface-based temperature data validate or prove that human greenhouse gas emissions affect the climate. They cannot, first because they measure temperatures on only a small part of the Earth’s surface, second because they are notoriously unreliable, and third because they tell us nothing about what is causing warming or cooling.

You are asking, in effect, that skeptics simply “shut up and sit down,” that they concede as being true the most flawed and unlikely assumptions of the alarmist movement, and that they endorse policies that are wholly unnecessary and extremely costly.

While I cannot presume to speak for all global warming skeptics, I think I can channel the opinion of most when I say, “hell no!”

Your overture comes at a time when the science backing global warming alarmism is crumbling, as amply demonstrated by the reports of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate change (NIPCC). International negotiations for a new treaty are going nowhere. Public opinion in the U.S. and other countries decisively rejects alarmism. Politicians here and abroad who vote for cap and trade or a carbon tax rightly fear being tossed out of office by voters who know more about the issue than they do.

Your appeal to “restart the discussion” would have skeptics snatch failure from the jaws of victory. I’m sure you understand why we won’t go there.

I have a counter proposal. Let’s restart the discussion by agreeing on these basic propositions:

First, people and organizations that break the law or use hate language such as “denier” should be barred from the global warming debate.

Second, recent weather and temperature anomalies have not been unusual and are not evidence of a human effect on climate.

Third, given the rapid and unstoppable increase in greenhouse gas emissions by Third World countries, it is pointless for the U.S. and other developed countries to invest very much in reducing their own emissions.

Fourth, tax breaks and direct subsidies to solar and wind power and impossible-to-meet renewable power mandates and regulatory burdens on coal-powered electricity generation plants have been disastrous for taxpayers, businesses, and consumers of electricity, and ought to be repealed.

Fifth, the world is entering an era of fossil fuel abundance that could lift billions of people out of poverty and help restart the U.S. economy. We have the technology to use that energy safely and with minimal impact on the environment and human health. Basic human compassion and common sense dictate that fear of global warming ought not be used to block access to this new energy.

Agree to these five simple propositions, Fred, and we can begin to work together to address some of the real environmental problems facing the U.S. and the world.

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