[The first of Bob Carter's reports from Heartland-2]
Currently, visitors from outside USA who happen to turn their TVs to one of the 24-hours news channels are astonished – or at least, I was – at the vehement hostility of right-wing commentators to the new Obama administration. This hostility has spread even to some Democrats, who were instrumental in helping to defer Mr Obama’s $410 billion financial rescue package when it was approaching the vote in Congress on Thursday.
The reason is that attached to the bill are more than 6,000, mostly small, spending earmarks (US lingo for tailored, pork-barrel voting inducements), summing to about $7 billion, each one of which is in the interest of particular members or Senators. Earmarking has a long history in the US legislature, but its efflorescent continuation against the financial crisis, and the associated announcement today of 8.1% US unemployment, does not look good given that President Obama gave a campaign pledge to close the practice down.
It is accepted that any new head-of-state deserves a honeymoon period, but Barack Obama may already be close to exhausting his. This is partly because of the unfulfillable expectations that his campaign rhetoric aroused, partly because of the sheer size of the urgent problems that confronted him, and partly because of the polarizing nature of some of the key appointments he has made to his administration. This is particularly true in the environmental area and associated portfolios, where he has appointed John Holdren as Science Adviser, Stephen Chu as Secretary of Energy, Carol Browner (former EPA head) in the new position of Energy Co-ordinator and Lisa Jackson as Administrator of the EPA.
However distinguished the careers of these persons, their public record on the key environmental issues of the day is not one of balance – and especially not regarding global warming. One wonders whether a senior representative of the Obama climate team will pitch up at the Heartland conference, for it is very clear that his administration would benefit from an injection of reality on the issue.
Against this background – and the dependence of President Obama on revenue from a carbon dioxide cap and trade bill to meet his aim of halving the US deficit in the four years 2012-2016 – travellers from around the world are today converging on the Mariott Marquis in Times Square, where the Heartland Institute is hosting its second Manhatten conference on climate change.
Accordingly, press and blog comment is starting to stir. Fascinatingly, two of the first cabs off the rank give diametrically opposed views of the conference.
Writing in the Canadian National Post, Peter Foster summarises the IPCC claim that the climate is at a crisis point, with human carbon dioxide emissions the main culprit, then commenting:
The Heartland conference will present papers suggesting that such views are at best simplistic and at worst downright wrong. It will also feature bold voices who stress the political nature of the climate change bandwagon, and its success in closing down debate as it threatens already foundering global prosperity. These include Vaclav Kraus, president of the Czech Republic and of the European Union.
Meanwhile, over at Grist, Coby Beck adopts the long-favoured technique of ad hominem attack in an attempt to discredit the Heartland-2 event. In a vicious example of the polemic art, Mr Beck manages to denigrate Roy Spencer, Dick Lindzen, Bill Gray, Willie Soon, Arthur Robinson, Stephen McIntyre, Jack Schmidt, Christopher Monckton and Lawrence Solomon – fine intellects, one and all – summarily dismissing them, and others, with the sneering comment:
Hardly ‘the world’s elite scientists specializing in climate issues.’ In fact, none of these experts is a trained climate scientist. In the community of actual experts, the consensus is:
The earth is rapidly warming (over 0.6 deg. C in the last century)
Human activities are the primary cause
Warming will continue and accelerate if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated.
Can this be the same group of people who Peter Foster characterizes as:
I’ll be thinking about that [climate change as the new state religion] every time I look out of my window over the next couple of days, grateful that there are intellectual lights still shining inside the building, and at least some voices speaking up for intellectual freedom and scientific objectivity.
Though it received little press coverage at the time, last year’s Heartland-1 conference resulted in the striking Manhatten Declaration on Climate Change, which commented, inter alia:
That current plans to restrict anthropogenic CO2 emissions are a dangerous misallocation of intellectual capital and resources that should be dedicated to solving humanity’s real and serious problems.
That there is no convincing evidence that CO2 emissions from modern industrial activity has in the past, is now, or will in the future cause catastrophic climate change.
That attempts by governments to inflict taxes and costly regulations on industry and individual citizens with the aim of reducing emissions of CO2 will pointlessly curtail the prosperity of the West and progress of developing nations without affecting climate.
The Heartland-2 event obviously has a hard act to follow.
UPDATES: Read Bob Carter’s latest reports
Heartland-2: session one here
Heartland-2: session two here
Heartland-2: session three here
Read Quadrant Online for developments as they occur.
2008 Manhatten Declaration on Climate Change
Peter Foster in the National Post – Heartland is Keeping the Lights On
Coby Beck on Grist – A Roomful of Cynics