By Joseph Bast
Reading Dick Lindzen’s comments (summarized above) just makes me feel even more tired and cynical than usual . . . which is saying quite a bit.
Dr. Lindzen is a brilliant and courageous scientist. Like so many others he laments that global warming skeptics aren’t better organized or, if practicing scientists, didn’t rally against the invasion of their respective scientific disciplines by environmental activists and socialists. He knows why they didn’t—the other side was unified in seeking an end (ending reliance on fossil fuels) to which climate science was just a means. Skeptics agree on a question of means—that science ought not be weaponized in a political debate, that “climate science” isn’t really science at all—but disagree on the end (libertarians think it’s about preserving energy freedom).
Experience demonstrates that agreement on ends is a stronger organizing tool than agreement on means.
Their side tapped hundreds of millions of dollars in grants from liberal foundations and raised from “crisis of the month” direct mail campaigns, plus the nation’s universities, already captured by the left, for an almost bottomless pool of free manpower, venues, and more funding. Our side could barely afford to hire any staff or even pay for travel expenses to bring our wide-flung alliance together a few times to share ideas.
We were just massively outmatched.
I sometimes think we are in the “shock and awe” stage of the climate debate. The other side is demonstrating its complete dominance of the media, academy, Hollywood, industry, the left, the environmental movement, and the Democrat Party. It’s quite a show. But how will it end? It’s possible to lose a lot of battles and still win wars. Will the public be dazzled and then persuaded that the alarmists are right? Or will they see through it all and continue to vote against politicians who pledge allegiance to global warming dogma?
In my 34 years with Heartland, I often encountered academics who thought they should be the leaders of a social movement (education reform, health care reform, global warming skepticism, etc.) but who would never lift a finger to write a marketing plan, a fundraising proposal, a job description, or to seek financial support for the effort from anyone other than me. (And heaven forbid that they donate even $50 to a think tank that was doing all these things on their behalf.) Then they would sit on the sidelines and complain that their ideas weren’t getting the support they thought they deserved.
Maybe academics can’t be expected to lead. But why did Heritage, Cato (Dick’s former employer), or other think tanks and advocacy groups (except Heartland and CEI) do so little on the issue? (And now Cato, even less.) Because no one is immune to “extraordinary public delusions and the madness of crowds.” Because courage is never in sufficient supply to meet the demand. Because donors are often naive or easily intimidated. Because most think tanks are rotten at marketing (except marketing to their donors, politely called “development”).
Heartland’s total annual budget is less, I’m sure, than Cato or Heritage report as earnings on their cash reserves. Either could have bumped Heartland from its role as de facto leader of the skeptics just by hiring three or four people devoted specifically to the issue and then leveraging their enormous communications and “development’ machinery. The funding needed to do it is almost a rounding error in their annual budgets. But they haven’t, and probably won’t.
I am no longer an officer of The Heartland Institute, but can report that its chairman and president are just as committed to fighting global warming alarmism as I was. They have a marketing plan that would allow us to win, despite the odds, but they need the funds to implement it. Until those funds arrive, our side will continue to lose.
I don’t have kids, and therefore have no grandkids, but if I did… and if they asked me where I was when the global warming alarmists destroyed one of the pillars of Western civilization, I would say I was on the front lines and fought with every last bit of energy I had. I “left it all on the field,” as they say.
Joseph Bast is cofounder of the Heartland Institute and now a senior fellow.