The Island of Doubt

They’re either liars or…

The protocols of polite company would discourage labeling anyone a liar, but it is hard to come up with a more appropriate way to describe those who receive their paychecks from the Competitive Enterprise Institute. This conservative think tank has in the past proved themselves to be enemies of reason and democracy. To that list we will have to add the truth, what with the appearance of its latest television ad designed to undermine support for action on the climate crisis.

In fact, I would challenge anyone still working with the CEI, or anyone associated in any way with the institute to defend themselves, their personal ethics and integrity.

It was bad enough when the CEI produced a couple of ads touting the health and environmental benefit of carbon dioxide and arguing that ice sheets aren’t really melting. Technically, of course, CO2 is essential to life on earth, being the raw material of photosynthesis and all. But one of the ads went to on cite two peer-reviewed climate science papers as evidence that the Earth is not warming. Anyone who had actually read the papers would know that the authors, and their studies, support the anthropogenic global warming consensus. Given the complexity of the subject ó;;;;; one of the papers, for example, discussed increased snowmass in central Antarctica, and reading only the title would probably have left you confused ó;;;;; you could, in theory, ascribe the error to intellectual laziness, rather than mendacity.

If that is, you assume the CEI staff are not liars, but just plain stupid. The author of the Antarctica study, Curt Davis, wasn’t so generous, when he denounced the ad as “a deliberate effort to confuse and mislead the public about the global warming debate.”

Now we know beyond a shadow of doubt that Curt was right, and the CEI can no longer claim play the stupidity card. The new ad, instead of challenging the conventional understanding of the science of climate change, focuses the CEI’s wrath on one of the movement’s leading spokespeople, Al Gore. (I guess last summer disappearing north polar ice made that argument look silly even to those unfamiliar with the science.) The ad alleges that his house in Tennessee uses 20 times the average home’s energy. As the good folks at DeSmog Blog have already pointed out, that’s patently false, and a simple Google search would have put the lie to that allegation.

While it is true that Gore’s place of residence, which is also his own and his wife’s office, and as such hosts a large working staff, consumed an awful lot of electricity a few months ago, that was only while it was undergoing renovations. Since then, and since the installation of a geothermal pump (which I dearly wish we could have afforded when we had to replace our home’s heat source) the Gore’s natural gas use has fallen by 93 percent. In addition, their investments in solar and wind system more than compensate for his electricity usage.

It is simply not credible to argue that the CEI team did not know about the discrepancy between their ad’s claim and the truth. At best they didn’t care whether or not their ad was factual, which amounts to the same irresponsible attitude.

No, I’m afraid the CEI is full of liars and scoundrels, and any media outlet that turns to the CEI for analysis and any philanthropist or corporate executive who sends financial support its way is no better.

By the way, this has nothing to do with my tenuous association with Al Gore through The Climate Project, but at least he’s interested in representing the science fairly. The same cannot be said of his critics at the CEI.

Comments

  1. #1 Vasio N. Martianin
    March 14, 2008

    lol!

    obviously gore installed a dozen walk-in size deep freezers, put a huge heater inside each one, turned the whole thing on full blast, locked all the doors, and went on holiday.

    how else could you burn that kind of energy?

  2. #2 Hume's Ghost
    March 15, 2008

    I have a hard time telling if they’re liars or bullshitters. Lying requires at least being somewhat conscience of the truth you’re distorting, but the bullshitter can be sincere in his/her distortion of truth.

    Frankfurt describes the bullshitter thusly:

    “He is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all … He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purposes … He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of truth than lies are.”

  3. #3 william yeatman
    March 17, 2008

    I work at CEI and I’m neither a liar nor a scoundrel. I have spent the better part of my (admittedly short) adult life fighting the scourge of poverty tooth and nail, first in Denver, CO, where I helped run a homeless shelter, and then as a PeaceCorps volunteer in the Republic of Kyrgyz.

    So I have seen wretched privation up close, and it makes me sick. That is why I find fault with Al Gore, because the policies he advocates would condemn the poor to energy poverty. However you feel about global warming, the economic consensus is that “doing something” about global warming would skim scores of trillions off of economic growth, and lost growth means lost lives.

    While it’s nice that Mr. Hrynyshyn “tries to put degrees in marine biology and journalism to good use” (according to his bio), he has not cornered the market on goodness. Therefore, he should stop judging others.

  4. #4 SLC
    March 17, 2008

    Re william yeatman

    Mr. yeatman tells us how he has participated in the fight against poverty and that Mr. Gores’ policies would condemn the poor to energy poverty. Well try this on for size Mr. yeatman. If the folks are correct who claim that global warming is a serious problem, with possible effects on the weather which would result in a reduction of the food supply, these same poor folks will starve to death. I suggest that Mr. yeatman put that in his pipe and smoke it.

  5. #5 william yeatman
    March 18, 2008

    But which is worse? The warming? Or the policy?

    According to Yale economist William Nordhaus, the costs of unmitigated global warming are about 22 trillion. Goreís policies, however, he estimates would cost $34 trillion and reduce the costs of global warming to $10 trillion. Thus, the world is left $44 trillion worse off at the end of the 21st century, which is double the cost of doing nothing.
    (http://nordhaus.econ.yale.edu/)

    There are tremendous human consequences to missed growth on that scale. So before we adopt Goreís policy prescriptions, letís be certain that we arenít doing more harm than good.

  6. #6 Kevin
    March 18, 2008
  7. #7 melior
    March 19, 2008

    …lost growth means lost lives.
    Posted by: william yeatman

    I’m sure this can’t possibly be referring to the sort of “growth” which we’ve seen in the US over the last few decades, which has benefited almost exclusively the wealthiest minority, while by almost any measure the prosperity of poor people and most everyone else has remained nearly flat in real terms.

    Because obfuscating that minor detail to make a fake point sounds like something one of those CEI liars and scoundrels might do.

  8. #8 william yeatman
    March 19, 2008

    No, I am referring to the “growth” in Asia that has lifted 120 million people out of abject poverty in only a decade. That “growth” was powered largely by cheap coal power. It is the same “growth” that is the envy of every single developing country. And it is this “growth” that is imperiled by Al Gore’s climate policies.

  9. #9 Caledonian
    March 20, 2008

    You mean, the growth that has destroyed much of China’s ecology and will lead to mass starvation in the coming decades as vital farmland is lost and rivers become sterile?

  10. #10 william yeatman
    March 20, 2008

    Re: “lead to mass starvation in the coming decades as vital land is lost and rivers become sterile”

    That’s interesting, and I would like to learn more. Could you point me to an economic, ecological or agricultural study that lends evidence to these assertions? If you can’t find the original source material, perhaps you could show me a news story that references it?

  11. #11 william yeatman
    November 3, 2008

    still waiting…

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