Environment in Crisis

Global Warming Debate
Global Warming

Front Groups
Think Tanks


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Science and Environmental Policy Project
The Heritage Foundation
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Institute of Public Affairs
George C. Marshall Institute

The Science and Environmental Policy Poject (SEPP) is just one of the many conservative think tanks in various parts of the world that seek to undermine the case for global warming preventative measures. Corporate funded think tanks have played a key role in providing credible 'experts' who dispute scientific claims of existing or impending environmental degradation and therefore provide enough doubts to ensure governments 'lack motivation' to act. These dissident scientists, usually not atmospheric scientists, argue there is "widespread disagreement within the scientific community" about global warming. For example, most conservative think tanks have argued that global warming is not happening and that any possible future warming will be slight and may have beneficial effects.

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The Heritage Foundation is one of the largest and wealthiest think tanks in the US. 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 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..." and went on "By championing the global warming treaty, the Administration seeks to pacify a vociferous lobby which frequently has made unsubstantiated predictions of environmental doom". The Heritage Foundation prefers unsubstantiated predictions of economic gloom: "Ultimately, the treaty's restrictions will force Americans to sacrifice their personal and economic freedom to the whims of a new international bureaucracy."

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In its Environmental Briefing Book for Congressional Candidates the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) argues that "the likeliest global climate change is the creation of a milder, greener, more prosperous world." One of CEI's publications is The True State of the Planet which was partially funded by the Olin Foundation, founded by Olin Chemical. In it Robert Balling claims that the "scientific evidence argues against the existence of a greenhouse crisis, against the notion that realistic policies could achieve any meaningful climatic impact, and against the claim that we must act now if we are to reduce the greenhouse threat."

Similarly John Shanahan argues in a Heritage Foundation Backgrounder that there is "enormous uncertainty associated with the scientific methodology used to predict future climate changes." Like the CEI he claims global warming is 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]. In each case they are questioning the most extreme predictions to cast doubt on the scientific consensus about more moderate consequences.

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  • Think tanks in other parts of the world are also seeking to cast doubt upon global warming predictions. In Britain the newly formed Environmental Unit of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) launched Global Warming: Apocalypse or Hot Air in 1994. The Australian Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), which gets almost one third of its budget from mining and manufacturing companies, has also produced articles and media statements challenging the greenhouse consensus.

Brian Tucker, previously Chief of the CSIRO Division of Atmospheric research, is now a Senior Fellow at the IPA where he trades on his scientific credentials to push an ideological agenda. In 1996 in a talk on the ABC's Ockham's Razor he stated that "unchallenged climatic disaster hyperbole has induced something akin to a panic reaction from policy makers, both national and international." In the talk he ignored the scientific consensus represented by the IPCC 1995 statement and argued that global warming predictions are politically and emotionally generated:

there is little evidence to support the notion of net deleterious climate change despite recent Cassandra-like trepidation in the Australian Medical Association and exaggerations from Greenpeace. Why then has so much alarm been generated? The answer is complicated. In my opinion, it is due partly to the use and abuse of science to forment fear by those seeking to support ideological positions, and partly due to the negative and fearful perspective that seems to characterise some environmental prejudices.

Tucker's article "The Greenhouse Panic" was reprinted in Engineering World a magazine aimed at engineers. The article, introduced by the magazine editor as "a balanced assessment," argues that "alarmist prejudices of insecure people have been boosted by those who have something to gain from widespread public concern." This article, which would have been more easily dismissed as an IPA publication, has been quoted by Australian engineers at conferences as if it was an authoritative source.

Another Australian think tank, the Lavoisier Group, is actively opposing the acceptance of global warming theory and actions to prevent it.

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The think tanks have been so successful at clouding the scientific picture of greenhouse warming and providing an excuse for corporations and the politicians they support, that they have, to date, managed to thwart effective greenhouse reduction strategies being implemented by governments in the English speaking world. For example, according to Greenpeace researcher, Andrew Rowell, a 1989 report by a think tank, the George C. Marshall Institute, on the greenhouse effect "was used by the Bush administration to justify a more lenient approach to CO2 emissions."

More recently the George C. Marshall Institute has been involved in anti-global warming Petition Project that has been discredited because, although it purported to show thousands of scientists disagreed with global warming theory, most of the signatures were found to be bogus.

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Additional Material

Heritage Foundation articles on Kyoto

Balling, Robert C. 1995, 'Global Warming: Messy models, decent data, and pointless policy', in Ronald Bailey (eds), The True State of the Planet (New York: The Free Press).

CEI Global Warming Materials

CEI Funding Sources

CEI, 1996, 'Global Climate Change', Environmental Briefing Book for Congressional Candidates, Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Frontiers of Freedom articles

Tucker, Brian, 1995, 'The Greenhouse Panic', Engineering World, August.

Tucker, Brian, 1997, World Meteorological Day Address for 1997: Realism, Human Existence and the Environment, IPA.

George C. Marshall Institute material on global warming

George C. Marshall Institute information in Ozone Action, Ties that Blind: Industry Influence on Public Policy and Our Environment, Ozone Action, Washington D.C., 1997.

The Heartland Institute's material on global warming

Green, Jim, 2000, Greenhouse sceptics lose the plot, Green Left Weekly, 11 October, p. 11.

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© 2003 Sharon Beder