Obfuscation As Art Form 4/28/08

I had the opportunity several weeks ago to listen to an ostensibly “fair and balanced” presentation about global warming. They even showed a major portion of “An Inconvenient Truth”. It was, however, followed by “The Great Global Warming Swindle”, a British shockumentary that contends that dramatic global climate change is a scam and has several allegedly important scientists backing up it’s claims.

The whole thing was sponsored by the Heartland Institute, plus a plethora of local Republican legislators, and featured James M. Taylor, the Institute’s featured writer on environmental matters, as host and chief naysayer. Mr. Taylor came armed with lots of “facts” that asserted that: 1. The earth is not warming and is in a natural cycle of climate fluctuation, probably going colder than warmer. 2. If, indeed, the planet is warming it is definitely not anthropogenic (caused by man). Notwithstanding that these are mutually exclusive statements this scenario was interesting to me in that the Heartland Institute is considered a free market think tank. Here is their mission statement, quoted from their website.

” Heartland’s mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. Such solutions include parental choice in education, choice and personal responsibility in health care, market-based approaches to environmental protection, privatization of public services, and deregulation in areas where property rights and markets do better than government bureaucracies.”

Reading through this mission statement it is clear, to me at least, that the Heartland Institute is by no means a free-market advocate and is instead a sock puppet for preserving the status quo in major corporate interests and promoting new age conservative ideals. All of their stated missions have more to do with maximizing corporate profits and undermining government than simply advocating for free markets. They reveal a worship of the University of Chicago School of Economics championed by Milton Friedman. According to Friedman the free market is better than government in providing public services. In that sense the Heartland Institute is a free market advocate. However, new age conservative politicians have co-opted Friedman style economics to suit their own global domination politics. To them Friedman’s economics means that only profit is moral and that government is always bad. It is these folk who use the Heartland Institute to forward their own purposes.

One must remember that Freidman was also a strong social libertarian and had an extremely narrow view of government intervention in people’s lives. This viewpoint informed his economics and has led new age conservatives to the distorted contention that all that is needed to save the world is to give all the money to private corporate interests. This is what the Heartland Institute is really advocating. If they were truly champions of the free market they would recognize the solid science behind global warming and favor economic development of alternative energy sources and means of delivery as the natural shift in paradigms that they are, and allow the market to adjust as is normal.

Instead they advocate for the obfuscating statement “market based approaches to environmental protection”. According to the film “The Great Global Warming Swindle” and Mr. Taylor’s rhetoric this simply means continued use of carbon based fuels for energy. Their denial of global warming in the face of overwhelming scientific information is not a call for a free market solution but support for an old paradigm in the face of a natural switch to a new one. By denying that global warming exists they claim that carbon based fuels are cheaper and therefore better than wind, solar, safe hydroelectric and other alternative fuels. This position could only arise from abject monetary support from the oil and coal industries and does not represent the spirit of the supposed mission of the Heartland Institute at all.

It is a sad world where anyone with enough money can buy scientific support for their agendas. This means anyone, on either ends of the various political spectrums, can buy junk science and claim anything. As a result science is being cheapened as we move away from a rational world into one where things are true simply because someone says so.

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