Informing a Slate Reporter About Heartland's Climate Skeptic Conference

Informing a Slate Reporter About Heartland's Climate Skeptic Conference
July 12, 2014

Jim Lakely

Jim Lakely is director of communications at The Heartland Institute, co-director of Heartland’s... (read full bio)

Slate reporter Will Oremus reached out to me on Tuesday afternoon seeking comment about Heartland’s climate conference in Las Vegas this week.

We talked for about 20 minutes and I tried to fill in what he might have missed while he watched the conference from home.

Oremus was cordial enough — as was I — but the information I tried to impart didn’t take in his story for Slate.

Below is the email I sent Ormeus to correct the record:

Will,

After wrapping up The Heartland Institute's 9th International Conference on Climate Change, I saw your piece in Slate titled "The Climate Optimists." That term has a good ring to it, and is a pretty accurate description of the views expressed at the world's leading conference of scientific "skeptics" of man-caused global warming. Considering all the doom and gloom the media has reported about the climate over the last couple of decades, the optimistic and data-based truth needs quite a bit more play in the media.

As I explained over the phone to you, the term "denier" is a calumny the eco-left has long employed to equate skepticism of catastrophic man-caused global warming with Holocaust denial. It is shameful, and I’m disappointed to see you employed that slur in your story. Nonetheless, I appreciate your efforts to write a story about Heartland's latest climate conference remotely by watching some of the live feed.

You would have served yourself and Slate's readers better, however, if you had come to Las Vegas in person. Your understanding of the data and viewpoints of the speakers and scientists would have been greatly enhanced by a chance to talk to them on the side between sessions, as other journalists did. Since you were not able to do that, let me correct some errors, and fill in some of the facts and context your story lacked.

For starters, a lot more than “several” of the speakers at the conference were scientists. Twenty-eight of the 61 presenters have earned PH.Ds, while others have masters degrees. Also, you note that many of the scientists who presented aren’t “climate scientists.” But what is a “climate scientist”?

Bob Carter, Ph.D., is a paleogeologist. His expertise allows him to closely examine the historical climate record. Is understanding that climatic history irrelevant to examining what’s been happening since the Industrial Revolution? Of course not. So he is a “climate scientist.”

Willie Soon, Ph.D., specializes in solar activity. Indeed, he is among the world’s leading scientists in that field. Sebastian Lüning, Ph.D., is a geologist who has also been keenly focused on how the sun affects the climate and is a leader in this field. Is solar activity irrelevant to the earth’s climate? Of course not. So they are “climate scientists.”

Jennifer Marohasy, Ph.D., specializes in analyzing and interpreting historical rainfall data. Is an examination of precipitation patterns over a long period of time irrelevant to the earth’s climate? Of course not. So she is also a “climate scientist.”

I could do that all day with only the 28 Ph.D.s who presented at our conference. As I explained in our phone interview, gaining the full picture of what is happening to our climate requires bringing together experts in various disciplines to share their data and analysis. Any single person who claims to be strictly a "climate scientist" — and suggests he has definitive authority — is merely preening for the sake of PR. Understanding the climate is a team effort, as the scientists who presented at The Heartland Institute's latest conference would attest.

You write: “Still, the Heartland crowd is careful to frame its arguments in terms of science and skepticism rather than dogma.”

The "Heartland crowd" was not being “careful” about that. It just happens — because the scientists who speak at our conferences actually do frame their arguments in terms of science. You really should have come to or watched more of the conference, which you can still do here by clicking on the links below the "live feed."

You write: The nearly 18-years of no global warming “has been a godsend for those looking for holes in the prevailing models of catastrophic future warming.”

Another way to write that sentence would be:

“The lack of global warming for almost 18 years pokes holes in the prevailing models of catastrophic future warming.”

The models the IPCC and alarmists rely upon to make policy have been wrong for decades. (See Dr. Roy Spencer's presentation at our conference here.) If they couldn’t accurately predict what’s happened for the last 30 years, why should we trust them to be right in predicting the next 100 years? You should have a little more healthy skepticism about that, and be asking the alarmists why their models have failed so spectacularly.

You write: “Many are still focused on disputing the basic link between atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and global temperatures. As I watched the conference, it became clear that some have little trouble flipping between the two viewpoints.”

As I explained to you over the phone, unlike the alarmists — who all sing in perfect harmony about man-caused climate calamity from the group-think hymnal — the scientists who speak at our conferences don’t all agree on everything. That’s the nature of bringing together scientists who study the climate from diverse disciplines. That’s healthy for science, as well as the goal of advancing greater public understanding of what is actually happening to the climate.

Also, there is no “basic link” between CO2 levels and global temperatures. As I mentioned to you on the phone, global human-caused CO2 emissions have increased over the last 17 years and 10 months, but global temperatures have not risen along with it. Yet 95 percent of the UN IPCC’s climate models said temperatures would. Doesn’t that tend to disprove the “basic link”?

As Patrick Moore showed in his presentation at the conference — and others did in their turns at bat — the long-term historical record shows no causal connection between CO2 and global temperature. Correlation is not causation, and there isn’t even a strong correlation — as we've seen for the last 17 years and 10 months.

You write: “That doesn’t mean, of course, that the evidence on both sides is equal. There’s a reason the climate deniers are losing the scientific debate, and it isn’t because academia is better funded than the energy industry.”

This is a non sequitur that presumes the climate realist side is swimming in “energy industry” money. As I told you on the phone, Heartland's conference was not funded by the energy industry, and no skeptic scientist is getting rich. To the contrary, many of the scientists at our conferences suffer professionally because they do not toe the alarmist line, but instead concentrate on the data that contradicts the alarmist, always-wrong computer models. That level of basic scientific and personal integrity has cost the skeptic scientists plenty. There’s an excellent story for you in that fact, shared often during the conference.

You single out Patrick Michaels, and dismiss him as receiving “fossil-fuel industry” money. Dr. Michaels was past president of the American Association of State Climatologists. He was a professor at the University of Virginia for 30 years. His credentials are impeccable. Michaels' presentation this year focused on how science has been corrupted because anyone who dares to apply the scientific method to the alarmist conclusions is blackballed from science journals — and also doesn’t receive university support or grants. You really ought to watch Michaels’ presentation. There’s another story just in that.

Academia is better funded than the “energy industry” in the only aspect that matters: funding to support climate research. The federal grants flow only to university professors who will toe the alarmist line. Exxon, which stopped donating to Heartland in 2006 (two years before our first climate conference) donates generously to green groups. Chesapeake Energy has donated (as of 2012) $26 million to the Sierra Club. There are scores more examples of the “fossil fuel industry” supporting alarmists and green groups a whole lot more than any skeptic scientist.

One last thing on the idea that the skeptics are "losing the scientific debate." A Rasmussen poll released July 9, the last day of Heartland's conference, showed that only 20 percent of Americans “think the global warming debate is over.” Sixty-three percent said “the debate about global warming is not over” and another 17 percent is “not sure.” That means this: Decades of media and academic alarmist indocrination have left only 20 percent of Americans agreeing with Al Gore, various climate alarmist groups, Hollywood, and the mainstream media's insistence that "the debate is over" about the hypothesis that human activity is causing a climate crisis.

The Heartland Institute is proud to have played any part in that poll result. For what it's worth, a Gallup poll from January showed that 23 percent of Americans identify themselves as "liberal." Most liberals believe in man-caused global warming and have little interest in hearing the other side of the scientific argument. While I'm not a fan of correlation studies, the data match is interesting and something to explore.

You write: “Touting the recent slowdown in global average surface temperatures, for example, implies that such temperatures do in fact tell us a lot about the health of the climate. That will become an awkward stance in a hurry if the temperatures soon resume their climb.”

Again, isn’t the “recent slowdown in global average temperature” a much more troubling problem for the alarmists? None of them predicted it. But for them, the rising temperatures from about 1950 forward in the 20th Century was “proof” that AGW is a “fact” — a huge problem that requires massive, government-directed reorganization of the energy economy. As Patrick Moore and others pointed out at our conference, we’re actually not all that warm today from a long-term (epochal) perspective. And even if you want to shrink that perspective down to the dawn of human history, the earth has still often been significantly warmer in the past than it is today. Those periods of warming, by the way, have been beneficial to humans, plants, and animals.

Indeed, many of the scientists at our conference agree with what Patrick Moore stated in his plenary address: Living things on Earth would benefit from even more CO2 in the atmosphere, not less. You surely think that is a radical statement, but the science backs it up. Again, watch Moore’s presentation.

Finally, “extreme weather events” are not on the rise. Category 3 hurricanes striking the US are at an all-time low since record-keeping began — which means tomorrow and the next day set a new record for major hurricanes not hitting the US. Tornadoes, especially the number of strong ones, are significantly fewer these days than the most recent 20th century peak in the 1970s. And Joe Bastardi was right: Wildfires have burned up less acreage of land in 2013 than in many years past.

That is all directly opposite of what climate alarmists predicted. Maybe you should ask them some questions.

Best,

Jim

Jim Lakely

Jim Lakely is director of communications at The Heartland Institute, co-director of Heartland’s... (read full bio)