Monday, March 9, 2009

Deniers rain on climate change

Suzanne Goldenberg, New York 
The Age, March 10, 2009

IT IS billed as the largest gathering of climate change deniers, a convention that began at the weekend with a title suggesting global warming is a thing of the past and a guest list that included a hurricane forecaster, a retired astronaut and a European president.

Called "Global Warming: Was It Ever Really a Crisis?" and featuring some of the most prominent naysayers in the climate change debate, this week's conference in New York sets out to escalate its confrontation with the scientific establishment, the majority of whose members subscribe to the view that humans are the principal cause of climate change.

Conference organisers were celebrating something of a coup in securing as a keynote speaker Czech President Vaclav Klaus, at a time when his country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.

Mr Klaus, a Eurosceptic, believes efforts to protect the world from the effects of climate change are an assault on freedom.

"The largest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity at the end of the 20th and at the beginning of the 21st century is no longer socialism. It is, instead, the ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous ideology of environmentalism," Mr Klaus will say, according to prepared remarks provided by the organisers of the conference, the Heartland Institute, a Chicago think tank that shares the Czech President's free-market views.

"Environmentalism and the global alarmism are challenging our freedom," he says.

This week's gathering brings together some of the more vocal critics of the scientific consensus, which maintains that climate change has been caused by human activity and that rising temperatures are now so dangerous to people's existence as to warrant urgent action.

Among more than 70 participants listed to attend is Jack Schmitt, a former astronaut who now teaches engineering physics. William Gray, who is regarded as the world's leading hurricane forecaster, is also listed, along with Fred Singer, an atmospheric physicist who argues that a melting Arctic would have some positive effects. There is also a strong contingent of free marketeers and conservative commentators.

Environmentalists argue that climate change denial, although the view of a minority, has damaged efforts to introduce policies to tackle the changes.

The Centre for Public Integrity said in a recent report that the lobby opposing climate change action gave work to 2430 Washington lobbyists in 2008, a 300 per cent increase over the past five years.

The report estimated that about 15 per cent of Washington's lobbyists were now working to try to stop Congress from passing a law putting a cap on carbon.

The Heartland Institute was funded by ExxonMobil until 2006.


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