The Magazine

Why the Climate Skeptics Are Winning

Too many of their opponents are intellectual thugs.

Mar 5, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 24 • By STEVEN F. HAYWARD
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Gleick looks set to be spending a good chunk of his MacArthur genius prize winnings on lawyers; he’s retained the same criminal attorney that Andrew Fastow of Enron used for his defense against fraud charges. And Gleick has hired Clinton/Gore crisis manager Chris Lehane. Heartland, for its part, has set up a legal defense fund to pursue a civil case against Gleick, presenting the ultimate irony: -Gleick’s attack may well help Heartland raise more money.

More than a few observers have asked why anyone should trust Gleick’s scientific judgment if his judgment about how to deal with climate skeptics is so bad. -Gleick’s defense of his motives would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic: “My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts​—​often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated​—​to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved.” 

Let’s take these in order. Anony-mous? True, Heartland’s board documents reveal seven-figure contributions for their climate work from one “anonymous donor,” but environmental organizations take in many multiples of Heartland’s total budget in anonymous donations washed through the left-wing Tides Foundation. The Environmental Defense Fund thanks 141 anonymous donors in one recent report. “Well-funded”? Heartland’s total budget for all its issues, which include health care, education, and technology policy, is around $4.4 million, an amount that would disappear into a single line item in the budget for the Natural Resources Defense Council ($99 million in revenues in 2010). Last year, the Wall Street Journal reports, the World Wildlife Fund spent $68.5 million just on “public education.” 

The dog that didn’t bark for the climateers in this story is the great disappointment that Heartland receives only a tiny amount of funding from fossil fuel sources​—​and none from ExxonMobil, still the bête noire of the climateers. Meanwhile, it was revealed this week that natural gas mogul T. Boone Pickens had given $453,000 to the left-wing Center for American Progress for its “clean energy” projects, and Chesapeake Energy gave the Sierra Club over $25 million (anonymously until it leaked out) for the Club’s anti-coal ad campaign. Turns out the greens take in much more money from fossil fuel interests than the skeptics do.

Finally, “coordinated”? Few public policy efforts have ever had the massive institutional and financial coordination that the climate change cause enjoys. That tiny Heartland, with but a single annual conference and a few phone-book-sized reports summarizing the skeptical case, can derange the climate campaign so thoroughly is an indicator of the weakness and thorough politicization of climate alarmism. 

The Gleick episode exposes again a movement that disdains arguing with its critics, choosing demonization over persuasion and debate. A confident movement would face and crush its critics if its case were unassailable, as it claims. The climate change fight doesn’t even rise to the level of David and Goliath. Heartland is more like a David fighting a hundred Goliaths. Yet the serial ineptitude of the climate campaign shows that a tiny David doesn’t need to throw a rock against a Goliath who swings his mighty club and only hits himself square in the forehead.

Steven F. Hayward is the F. K. Weyerhaeuser fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author, most recently, of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents: From Wilson to Obama (Regnery).

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 15 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers