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Powerful Right-Wing Alliance Challenges Climate Justice
Anti-environmentalists join forces
What happens when a little-known, but important right-wing think tank combines forces with a long-time anti-environmental organization? You get a powerful and far-reaching anti-environmental publication that at launch-time already has a guaranteed circulation of more than 40,000.
The Heartland Institutes Environment News and New Hope Environmental Services Inc., publishers of World Climate Report, with funding from the Greening Earth Society, have combined forces to publish Environment & Climate News, whose tag line is the monthly publication for new-era environmentalists.
This collaboration is not just another attempt by anti-environmentalists to discredit the environmental movement and slam environmentalists. What makes this new operation particularly notable is that it brings together the abundant resources of two time-tested and well-funded free-market, anti-environmental operations.
The three front-page stories in its premier issue clearly indicate what point of view Environment & Climate News will be taking: Feds protected ecoterrorists report says; U.S. farmers threatened by European fears; and Seattle riots shame environmental movement.
One of the publications essential functions is to act as a mouthpiece for industry as it tackles head-on the issue of global warming. The first issue presents two stinging critiques by two of the nations leading scientists...on global climate change: Kyotos Chilling Effects by Patrick J. Michaels, PhD, University of Virginia environmental science professor, and Link between deaths and climate weakening over time by Robert E. Davis, PhD, associate professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia.
Environmentalists around the world are hoping that climate justice, a relatively new construct, will resonate with community and grassroots activists like environmental justice has. Where did the concept of climate justice come from? Climate justice is the environmental movement aimed at addressing what Greenhouse Gangsters vs. Climate Justice, a new report by the Transnational Resource and Action Center (TRAC), calls the politics of petroleum, [which] continues to undermine democracy while fostering human rights violations and environmental disasters across the Earth. Climate change has the potential to radically damage entire ecosystems, agriculture, and the inhabitability of whole countries. The TRAC report adds that the vast majority of the worlds climate scientists and a growing body of evidence say [that]... global warming is a real threat. No longer does the scientific debate focus on if global warming will happen, but rather how soon it will occur and how bad it will be.
Not included in this vast majority are the folks at Environment & Climate News. Their raison d etre is spelled out in a column by one of its sponsors. Frederick D. Palmer, president of the Greening Earth Society (GES) and CEO of Western Fuels Association, Inc., claims that scores of studies compiled by GES scientific advisors and others [document that] increased atmospheric carbon dioxide content has led to an explosion of productivity in the biosphere [which includes] unexpected and large growth in the forests in the world...increased ground cover, leading to more abundant wildlife and diversity of species; and most important, a huge increase in food productivity all around the world.
Palmer argues that professional environmentalists are engaged in an effort to convince us all that the vision of apocalyptic global warming Vice-President Gore outlines in his book, Earth in the Balance, is correct and therefore, we should welcome the efforts of the worlds government to tax, cap, and limit the industrial evolution of the human community. Palmer closes by saying that an informed citizenry, acting in their enlightened self-interest, can stop this rush to regulation.
As is their tendency, the people at Environment & Climate News would likely call TRACs conclusions junk science. Rather than getting bogged down in a he said, she said debate among scientists, there is much to be learned by looking at the magazines publishersthe Heartland Institute and the Western Fuels Association/ Greening Earth Society.
Over the years, Heartland has evolved into one of the most important of the current pantheon of state-based conservative policy groups. Founded in 1984 by Joseph L. Bast, Heartland spent its early years as a no-frills, conservative, free-market, tax-exempt research organization applying, cutting-edge research to state and local public policy issuesand not really distinguishing itself.
In 1996, Heartland created a new program that linked the conservative advocacy of a think tank with state-of-the-art technology to become one of the rights leading information clearinghouses. If ever a trendy phrase just-in-time information delivery has meaning, it is most assuredly illustrated by Heartlands PolicyFax project.
The power of PolicyFax is best illustrated by its recent catalogue and its sophisticated information delivery system. The catalogue, a 300+ page publication, contains more than 3,000 research documents, articles, and commentaries collected from more than 200 primarily conservative think tanks, policy institutes, and industry associations. The environment section alone lists hundreds of articles covering a broad range of issues including: air quality, chemicals, endangered species, energy, environmental justice, forestry, free-market environmentalism, global climate change, ozone depletion, regulatory reform, and sustainable development.
The documents are accessible, ranging from 3-15 pages, and consist of succinct summaries of complex research data, along with a healthy dose of useful statistics. In addition, the conservative and very powerful American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) offers PolicyFax users access to nearly 300 pieces of model legislation.
Heres the kicker, PolicyFax, accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, is absolutely free. Every elected official in the United States (regardless of position), every significant media worker, and researchers from all the other think tanks gets Heartlands complete set of resources delivered to their desks. Therefore, the 12,000 subscribers that Heartland brings to the merger are the people who influence changepublic policy makers and opinion makers. This seriously ratchets up the new publications potential for effectively influencing environmental policy.
CLEAR (the Clearinghouse on Environmental Advocacy and Research) describes the Western Fuels Association (WFA) as a non-profit cooperative which provides coal to member electric utilities and one of the most prominent industry associations that continues to dispute the dangers of global warming.
In their 1998 Annual Report WFA explains its 1997 half-million dollar shortfall by pinning the loss entirely [on] our advocacy in the area of climate change. The Board of Directors continues to provide financial support to programs designed to turn back efforts by the Clinton administration to dial-out coal-fired generation in the U.S. energy supply mix.
In what might be seen as seizing a perfect marketing opportunity, WFA launched the Greening Earth Society (GES) on Earth Day 1998. Its specific focus is to counter the environmental movements work around global warming. GES aims to promote the optimistic scientific viewpoint that mankind is a part of nature, rather than apart from nature, and spread the good news that using fossil fuel to enable our economic activity is as natural as breathing.
Both Western Fuels and Greening Earth work out of the same offices in Arlington, Virginia. Fred Palmer has leadership responsibilities for both organizations. CLEAR says that Palmer has previous experience working for a corporate front group, as former vice-president of the Information Council on the Environment (ICE), which was run by Edison Electric, The Southern Company, and Western Fuels Association.
Many of the scientists touted by WFA/GES will be regular contributors to Environment & Climate News. Many have a long history of financial support from corporate entities. Two who are singled out for recognition by ECN Publisher Nikki Smart in her introduction to the first issue, are the aforementioned Dr. Patrick J. Michaels and Dr. Robert C. Balling.
Ozone Action (OA), a Washington, DC-based non-profit group focusing on global warming and stratospheric ozone depletion, has documented the financial rewards these two people have received from corporate front groups. In addition to corporate money, Balling, according to OAs Ties That Bind, received significant levels of funding since 1989 from the Kuwait government, foreign coal/mining operations and Cyprus Minerals Company, an ongoing funder of other wise use operations. Balling has earned close to $200,000 from the British Coal Corporation and the German Coal Mining Association.
Michaels is former publisher of the WFA-funded World Climate Review, which became the World Climate Report prior to merging with Heartlands Environment News. Ozone Actions research documents that Michaels received a $63,000 grant from Western Fuels Association for research on global climate change; $49,000 from the German Coal Mining Association; $40,000 from Cyprus Minerals Company; and $15,000 from Edison Electric Institute.
While theres no doubt that industry-sponsored ventures like Environment & Climate Review can continue to muddy the waters on many environmental questions and slow down the process of dealing with issues like global warming, they will not be successful in the long run, says environmental consultant Doug Linney.
Linney, president of The Next Generation, an Oakland-based consulting firm, works with groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Defense Fund, and the California League of Conservation Voters, helping them develop strategy on core environmental issues. Although he recognizes that Environment & Climate News might pose an immediate threat because we dont have the resources that these folks have.... However, despite these efforts, which often gives political cover to politicians who are unclear on the concept, the future debate over global warming is going to be waged on the grounds of trying to figure out what we are going to do about it. Z
Bill Berkowitz is the editor of CultureWatch www.igc. org/culturewatch/, a monthly publication tracking the Religious Right and related conservative movements, published by Oaklands DataCenter.