Mainstream think tanks shifted their argument from denying global warming to claiming that it would not have such bad consequences and there is no reason to introduce draconian regulations to prevent it. They therefore continue to oppose greenhouse gas reduction treaties and legislation and exaggerate the costs of such measures.
The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has been described as the "most influential think tank" in Washington. It had close ties with the administration of George W. Bush.
In 1997, the year of the Kyoto climate change conference, the AEI hosted two policy forums on global warming aimed at undermining the treaty and established a special program on global environmental policy which included criticisms of the Kyoto conference.
In 2007 the AEI sent letters to scientists, economists and policy analysts offering $10,000 plus travel expenses to any who would write articles pointing out the shortcomings of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.
The AEI has received more than $1.9 million from ExxonMobil (see MediaMatters) and former ExxonMobil CEO, Lee Raymond, was vice chairman of AEI's board of trustees in 2007 when the letters were sent. It has also received funding from the Koch foundations.
Roger Bate is a fellow of the AEI and one of their experts on Energy and Environment. AEI resident scholar Kenneth Green is another of its experts on Energy and Environment and an author of the above-mentioned letters. He was formerly chief scientist with Canadian think tank, The Fraser Institute, and the Reason Foundation, both of which were recipients of ExxonMobil largess, and he has been an advisor to the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH). He wrote in the Wall Street Journal Europe in 2009:
An effective response to climate change lies in a combination of reasonable policies including privatization of infrastructure, geo-engineering, and elimination of government subsidies that allow for development in disaster-prone areas, among others. Depending on the U.N. to deliver is not a smart option.
Heritage Foundation is one of the largest and wealthiest think tanks in the US. Its funders include ExxonMobil and Koch Industries. It gets massive media coverage in the US and is very influential in politics, particularly amongst the Republicans who dominate the US Congress. In October 1997 it published a backgrounder entitled. “The Road to Kyoto: How the Global Climate Treaty Fosters Economic Impoverishment and Endangers US Security.” It began:
Chicken Little is back and the sky is falling. Or so suggests the Clinton Administration ... By championing the global warming treaty, the Administration seeks to pacify a vociferous lobby which frequently has made unsubstantiated predictions of environmental doom.
In another of its backgrounders, John Shanahan suggested that nights would become warmer, whilst days would not change, crops would thrive on the increased CO2 and the world’s agricultural belt would be expanded. He argued that there is “enormous uncertainty associated with the scientific methodology used to predict future climate changes.” He claimed global warming was a theory that is widely challenged and that “almost all the scientists agreed that catastrophic global warming predictions are unsupported by scientific evidence” [emphasis added]. He was using the most extreme predictions to cast doubt on the scientific consensus about more moderate consequences.
In 2008 its efforts were aimed at defeating the Climate Security Act by arguing that it would mean ' substantial hardship for the economy overall, for jobs, and for energy costs' with little environmental benefit. By this time it had softened its stance on global warming: 'Global warming is a concern, not a crisis. Both the seriousness and the imminence of the threat are overstated... Overall, current and expected future temperatures are far from unprecedented, and are highly unlikely to lead to catastrophes.'
The Cato Institute is another of the Washington-based think tank think tanks established with business money in the 1970s. It campaigns for reduced government and deregulation of the economy. Its funders include ExxonMobil and Koch Industries (from which it received over $5 million between 1997 and 2008) and it was co-founded by Charles Koch, CEO of Koch Industries.
These days the Cato Institute admits that "Global warming is indeed real, and human activity has been a contributor since 1975" but it argues that warming has been small and Congress should "pass no legislation restricting emissions of carbon dioxide". The Institute's greenhouse policy is written by well-known global warming denier, Patrick Michaels, a Senior Fellow in Environmental Studies at the Institute.
The Institute paid Michaels' firm $242,900 for environmental policy services in 2006 and 2007, which Michaels claims was for research for his book Climate of Extremes: The Global Warming Science They Don't Want You to Know, which Cato published in 2009. It also paid him $98,000 for writing, with Robert Balling, The Satanic Gases published by Cato in 2000.
In 2009 the Cato Institute paid for full page advertisements in key US newspapers, including the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Times and Los Angeles Times, saying that climate change had been exaggerated. The advertisement included the following statement signed by 100 scientists (the term being used loosely for anyone with a PhD, even if it's in management):
We, the undersigned scientists, maintain that the case for alarm regarding climate change is grossly overstated. Surface temperature changes over the past century have been episodic and modest and there has been no net global warming for over a decade now. After controlling for population growth and property values, there has been no increase in damages from severe weather-related events. The computer models forecasting rapid temperature change abjectly fail to explain recent climate behavior. Mr. President, your characterization of the scientific facts regarding climate change and the degree of certainty informing the scientific debate is simply incorrect.
The statement has been refuted by climate scientists here.