Environmentalists have invested significantly in building their political movements. It is primarily their campaigning investments that has opened up newer areas of politicking. As Donna Laframboise notes, just before Gleick’s ‘confession’, a peculiarly virulent pushback was directed at the Heartland Institute. ‘Conservative think tank tries to participate in environmental debate.’ – book the criminals!!
However, what is being done in the case of Heartland is not new. In 1999, Aaron McCright and Riley Dunlap – famous academics in the global warming social sciences circles, if you should know, (for e.g., the recent cool dudes paper) did the same in a systematic manner. The authors took a hold of published material from American right-wing think tanks (i.e., evil) and examined the structure of their content (link here). The ‘composite list’ included
conservative think tanks that received the largest amount of funding from conservative foundations, garnered the most media citations in recent years, and have the strongest affiliations with past Republican administrations
They obtained documents – a total of 224 – by searching official web sites of 26 conservative think tanks for material ‘written between 1990 and 1997 on “global warming,” “greenhouse effect,” and “climate change.”
Just as Heartland was found to be poised to “undermine” climate science, one of the main themes they found was that the think tanks criticized the “evidentiary basis of global warming.” Now, there are a lot of documents, and we don’t have the raw data; nor is it practical for the authors to compile them together as an appendix. Helpfully enough, the authors quote key passages from the material they collected. These are passages McCright and Dunlap themselves chose, that they think are the best in making their case:
Compare what the dastardly think thanks say (highlighted in yellow), and what McCright and Dunlap take them to be (underlined in blue). A declaration about a lack of consensus over the ‘likelihood, extent, or even reality of human-induced global warming’, in the hands of the authors, becomes a denial of scientific consensus over the ‘existence of global warming.’ It is the same phenomenon noted with the Heartland incident.
The problem noticed above – is a recurring one. Climate consensus upholders, despite claims to the contrary (if any), do not wish to debate or engage in any form, shape or fashion, with anyone, on the global warming issue. The tactic of choosing ‘science’ as a basis of decision making is a political innovation designed to avoid discussion. Consequently, anything a conservative organization seeking debate utters on the topic of global warming, would immediately invalidate their very legitimacy.
This explains how McCright and Dunlap see a lack of ‘consensus on human-induced global warming’ as utter denial of even the existence of global warming. For the consensus, the problematicity of global warming is synonymous with the scientific fact of global warming. Contrary to what they imagine however, this is a political tactic, and nothing more. How? Firstly, it allows consensus upholders to dismiss criticism of problematicity of global warming, without confronting the question. The conversation takes on the same format, over and over again:
X:’Global warming is not a problem.’
Y:’How can you even deny the existence of global warming?’
Subsequently, you will find the consensus challenger (X), busy explaining: ‘I am not denying the existence of warming. I am not a denier. I am not an oil shill. …etc.’ By putting their opponents on the backfoot in this fashion, consensus upholders acheieve several objectives. They paint themselves as, and imagine themselves to be, defenders of science. They shoo away competing voices from the domain of claimsmaking by de-legitimizing them, effectively capturing completely the debate terrain. In the process, they avoid or postpone cross-examination of their own claims. The very domain, belongs to them – that is the result.
The attacks on Heartland are not surprising due to this reason. The same tactics are replicated with the ‘teaching of climate science in schools’ discussion. Predictably enough, the attempt at climate science teaching is the real crime from Heartland, not the content of such teachings, which are not even known at this stage. In this regard, Steve McIntyre has wrestled the Fakegate demon to the ground.