'/> Uncommon Hours: Conservatives’ ‘climate-gate’ gets less attention than a few emails did
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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Conservatives’ ‘climate-gate’ gets less attention than a few emails did

"Conservatives’ ‘climate-gate’ gets less attention than a few emails did"
By Bob Sommer


The only good environmentalism is “free-market environmentalism,” that is, if you must have any environmentalism at all.

You can find lots of other great nuggets like that at The Heartland Institute’s website.

Never heard of The Heartland Institute? This conservative Chicago-based “nonprofit research organization” is dedicated to promoting “free-market solutions to social and economic problems.” It’s got a long list of admirers, too, including the bard of anti-tax pledges, Grover Norquist, as well as Tea Party favorites Sen. Jim DeMint and Sen. James Inhofe, and dozens of other right-wing heavy-weights whose incomes and campaign coffers would be seriously jeopardized if more voters began to understand how dangerous fossil fuels are to civilization as we know it.

Two years ago, conservatives were quick to inflate a few emails written by scientists at Britain's Climate Research Unit into a scandal with its own ‘gate’ moniker: “Climate-gate.” The question now is whether they’ll show similar umbrage to The Heartland Institute’s own “climate-gate” scandal.

Leaked documents have shown that The Heartland Institute allegedly paid a federal employee about $1,000 per month to discredit climate science. Indur Goklany, a policy analyst for the Department of the Interior, was commissioned by Heartland to write a chapter for an Institute-sponsored book intended to refute the findings of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). If the allegation is proven, Golkany could find himself in a lot of trouble. Such payments are illegal. Arizona congressman Raul Grijalva has called for hearings to determine whether Goklany was paid by Heartland and who else may be involved.

Also implicated is Department of Energy contractor, David Wojick, who allegedly received $25,000 per quarter for his efforts to revise school curricula to conform to the Institute’s free-market ideology while refuting the research of thousands of scientists who contributed to the IPCC’s findings on climate science.

Heartland won’t tell you who their donors are. In fact, their website takes a defensive tone on the subject of publishing donors’ names, though many non-profits proudly do just that. Publishing the list of donors, they claim, would only encourage critics to believe that donors might be paying for phony research and influence pedaling.

But the leaked documents reveal that that’s precisely what Heartland is doing. Not surprisingly, one of Heartland’s leading contributors is the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Other large donors include Altria, parent company of cigarette-pedaller Philip Morris, as well as Microsoft and Eli Lilly.

One anonymous donor, according to the documents, gave $1.3 million to the climate change disinformation project, whose purpose is to develop curriculum guidelines that refute climate science in much the same way that religious groups have attempted to introduce alternate “theories” of evolution into science classrooms.

Heartland and its supporters have taken the low—and tediously predictable—road of attacking their critics and not the issue. Their leverage—and focus—is the revelation that these documents were obtained fraudulently by climate scientist Peter Gleick, who worked for Heartland under a fake name in order to gain access to this information.

One conservative editorialist for The Kansas City Star logged over two dozen columns filled with umbrage over the paltry—and ultimately discredited―claims against the so-called “climate-gate” scientists. And after all the sound and fury, even he finally had to concede in an April 16, 2010, column that the scientists involved in the incident had been unfairly accused. He was but one of many who kept attention on this puff of smoke. 

So now, where is the outrage by him or others over payments to federal employees by a think-tank whose mission is undermining decades of peer-reviewed research by thousands of scientists whose findings indisputably prove a link between human activity and the immanent threat to civilization from climate change?

Don't hold your breath. I'm not.

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