The World Heats Up To Record Levels While Climate Change Deniers Turn Up their Misinformation Campaigns
Two issues represent existential threats to the world’s future; one is nuclear weapons, the other is climate change and not necessarily in that order.
None of the Republican candidates have said a word about nuclear proliferation. The one candidate who has commented on climate change called it a hoax. Climate change denial will be one of the major issues in the 2014 presidential election; it could be the defining moment for civilization.
A hoax? This year was the hottest in recorded history, along with massive floods, tornadoes, wild fires. Climate change deniers are participating in a classic disinformation campaign not unlike the ploy to spread disinformation and fear about the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines, masking and other efforts to curb the virus. Both efforts are in high gear to define the pandemic and climate change as part of the ongoing culture war.
The world’s preeminent group of climate change scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), reported the worst is yet to come. There have been 494 tornado reports so far in 2023 — nearly double the average at this point in the year. Over 3,600 daily high temperature records, and nearly 5,000 daily high minimum temperature records have been broken in the past 30 days.
More than 100 people were killed on the Hawaiian island of Maui by wildfires and hundreds more remain missing, while California has been battered by its first tropical storm in 80 years. This year has already seen the hottest day ever recorded, the hottest month and — very likely — will also become the hottest year on record.
Those are facts and the science is clear, the world’s rising temperatures are the result of man-made climate change.
And what have too many Republicans done? They have followed the familiar road of conspiracies as they double down on outlandish claims of climate fraud. They often back up their disinformation with studies and facts that seem legitimate but on further examination evaporate.
Most recently, Republican presidential candidate, Vivek Ramaswamy, said the argument over climate change is an unacceptable drag on the economy.
“The reality is that the anti-carbon agenda is the wet blanket on our economy,” said Ramaswamy, 38, a biotech millionaire. “More people are dying of bad climate change policies than they are of actual climate change.”
Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., is a persistent climate change denier, whose curriculum vitae includes a bachelor’s degree in occupational education and information systems technology from Wayland Baptist University, a private Baptist university based in Plainview, Texas. The college slogan is “Go Ye into All the World / Let There Be Light.”
“I’m not a scientist but it’s amazing that anything that happens that is bad, the first thing that many want to do is blame it on climate change,” said Loudermilk, a former member of the far right Freedom Caucus who has been endorsed by Christian nationalist activist David Barton, founder of WallBuilders LLC, a Texas-based group that promotes pseudohistory about the religious basis of the United States.
To prove his case against climate change, Loudermilk’s questioned if climate change is getting worse, why Hurricane Katrina remains one of the worst storms in history.
“If it was climate change, if it’s continuing to get worse, then would you not see more and more? Or this storm being worse and worse?” Loudermilk said.
The latest dismissal of the dangers of climate change is led by an organization with a government-sounding acronym, CLINTEL, the Global Climate Intelligence Group. The group claims that it represents a “global coalition” of 1,600 scientists, including two Nobel Laureates, who signed an updated, “World Climate Declaration” that denies the world is facing a “climate emergency.”
The declaration has been shared tens of thousands of times on social media.
CLINTEL says it is an “independent foundation dedicated to the fields of climate change and climate policy…” It was founded in 2019 by emeritus professor of geophysics Guus Berkhout, and science journalist Marcel Crok, both of the Netherlands.
The World Climate Declaration was first published in 2019, and CLINTEL said it has been revised because of the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. One scientist who signed the declaration is John F. Clauser, winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics.
“Misguided climate science has metastasized into massive shock-journalistic pseudoscience,” Clauser wrote. “In turn, the pseudoscience has become a scapegoat for a wide variety of other unrelated ills. It has been promoted and extended by similarly misguided business marketing agents, politicians, journalists, government agencies, and environmentalists.”
The findings of CLINTEL have been roundly rejected by the scientific community. Among those denying the climate deniers, is Inside Climate Change, a non-profit news organization, which focuses on environmental journalism. Its staff won a Pulitzer Prize in 2013 for national reporting on the Kalamazoo River oil spill in Michigan.
According to Inside Climate Change, a 2013 study found that 97 percent of peer-reviewed research on climate change was in agreement that “rapid climate change is happening beyond what would be considered resulting from natural causes, and humans are largely responsible.” A 2021 study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, analyzed 88,125 peer-reviewed studies on climate change and found that 99.9 percent of them came to the same conclusion as the 2013 study.
The CLINTEL statement argues against the “inadequacy and inaccuracy of climate modeling” and that over-reliance on modeling has resulted in undue “panic and alarm” among the general public, “increasingly compounded by politicians and policymakers reactionary policy prescriptions, most notably commitments to “net zero” emissions by a date certain, such as the IPCC’s ‘harmful and unrealistic net-zero CO2 policy proposed for 2050.’”
The CLINTEL statement went on to say that “climate science has degenerated into a discussion based on beliefs, not on sound self-critical science. Should not we free ourselves from the naive belief in immature climate models?”
The statement further disagreed with the IPCC prediction that the earth will soon pass “tipping points that will lead to catastrophic environmental damage, including dangerous sea level rise, entire species going extinct, and even greater suffering in many nations, especially the poorest.”
One of the signers of the CLINTEL statement was Ivar Giaever, an engineer and physicist who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1973 with Leo Esaki and Brian Josephson “for their discoveries regarding tunnelling phenomena in solids.”
Giaver has often been skeptical of global warming, calling it a “new religion.” He is currently a science advisor with American conservative and libertarian think tank The Heartland Institute.
A closer examination of CLINTEL shows that many its members, like Giaver, have no experience in climate science and that the organization has received funds from petroleum companies. The Australian Broadcasting Company found that only 10 of the global signatories on the petition identified as climate scientists and four as meteorologists.
DeSmog, a journalistic and activist website founded in 2006 to focus on topics related to climate change, reported that the list of signatories includes a commercial fisherman, a retired chemist, a cardiologist, and an air-conditioning engineer, alongside a number of retired geologists.
CLINTEL’s claims are flawed and biased.
“There are millions of scientists worldwide, so I’m not sure getting 1,000 people to sign a petition is particularly meaningful, particularly when balanced against the massive scientific agreement around climate change, including the national academies of science in pretty much every major country,” said Zeke Hausfather, a longtime research scientist at Berkeley Earth, who specializes in analyzing climate data. Berkeley Earth is a non-partisan nonprofit that specializes in analyzing climate data. Hausfather also is the former director of climate and energy programs at the Breakthrough Institute, another independent environmental research firm.
The majority of the declaration’s signatories have scientific experience but not in climate science. Hausfather said the list includes many engineers, medical doctors, and petroleum geologists but almost no actual climate scientists.”
Inside Climate Change found that one of the leading promoters of CLINTEL, Ivar Giaever, won his Nobel with another scientist in 1973 for their discovery of electron tunneling in superconductors, “not for anything remotely related to the study of global warming.” It also was reported that other signatories of the petition included at least eight current or former employees of oil giant Shell.
This year, CLINTEL hosted a lecture by Richard Lindzen, Professor Emeritus of Atmospheric Sciences at MIT. Lindzen has disputed the scientific consensus on climate change and criticizes what he has called “climate alarmism.” In 2017, Lindzen sent a petition to President trump, asking the President to withdraw the U.S. from the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, commonly known as the Paris Agreement. In 2020, Trump withdrew U.S. support for the agreement.
Two dozen of Lindzen’s colleagues at MIT, responded with a letter that they did not share Lindzen’s views.
Lindzen was a member of the Science, Health, and Economic Advisory Council of the Annapolis Center, a Maryland-based think tank which had been funded by corporations including ExxonMobil.
Inside Climate Change found that CLINTEL’S co-founder, Berkhout, has “strong political, professional and financial connections to the fossil fuel industry and influential right-wing and libertarian think tanks, many of which are known for working tirelessly over the years to thwart climate action.”
CLINTEL is largely funded by two Dutch real estate moguls, Niek Sandmann and Cor Verkade. Two Dutch investigative journalism sites, Follow the Money and the Platform Authentic Journalism, have found that oil money built up from the 1990s has filtered its way into the foundations of CLINTEL.
Organizations that have influenced CLINTEL include two that are funded by the Koch brothers, the Heartland Institute and the Cato Institute.
The Heartland Institute is a conservative, Chicago-based think tank that has been at the forefront of denying the scientific evidence for man-made climate change. The Heartland Institute has received at least $676,500 from ExxonMobil since 1998 but no longer discloses its funding sources, according to DeSmog. The Union of Concerned Scientists found that “nearly 40 percent of the total funds that the Heartland Institute has received from ExxonMobil since 1998 were specifically designated for climate change projects.”
The former president of the Heartland Institute is former Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kans. Huelskamp is former chairman of the Tea Party Caucus and was a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus and a senior political advisor for CatholicVote.org.
Greenpeace.org reported that the Atlas Network, formerly the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, has co-sponsored Heartland Institute events “dedicated to the proposition that climate change is not a crisis” and has supported organizations such as the John Locke Foundation that have attacked efforts by state elected officials working on climate solutions.
The Atlas Network is closely linked with the International Policy Network, and the State Policy Network, a web of climate change denial groups in states around the U.S.
The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank founded in January 1977 by Charles Koch, chairman of the “board and chief executive officer of Koch Industries, Inc.
And while organizations like CLINTEL create misleading reports on climate change, the N.Y. Times reported that climate deniers have targeted climate researchers with requests for information and lawsuits. Among the groups filing the most public records requests and lawsuits are Energy Policy Advocates, and a related group, Government Accountability and Oversight. Both organizations have ties to the energy sector, the Times reported.
They go by the misleading acronyms EPA and GAO, but have no connection with government agencies the use the same acronyms, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Government Accountability Office.
In less than a decade, the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund has helped 240 researchers defend from lawsuits and other types of challenges from opponents.
The author of the CLINTEL statement is Joe Herring, who is identified as an “affiliate signer of the World Climate Declaration.”
Herring has been featured by Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin, among numerous other conservative names and publications. He is a reporter for The Daily Herring and writes a blog he calls the Herring Report. The Daily Caller is a right wing a news publication founded in 2010 by Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel. The for-profit, Daily Caller, claims to have more than 20 million monthly readers worldwide.