Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast sat down with the New American’s Bill Jasper during the 9th International Conference on Climate Change to talk about the origin and purpose of the conference. Boasting 64 speakers, from a multitude of disciplines, ICCC9 was the most “star-studded” climate conference yet.
Bast explained that when the Heartland Institute started looking seriously at the issue of global warming in 2006, its first aim was to find a way to make a difference. To do so, Bast conducted a “gap analysis” in order to find something missing in the climate skeptic movement. Heartland quickly hit upon the idea of a conference to bring together the world’s leading climate skeptics.
Bast explained that ICCC was born out of that idea:
“One of the things that was missing was an opportunity to bring all of these global warming skeptics together and develop some personal relationships, to develop a social movement. And unless people get to know each other and actually sit around the table and talk and bring their families together, they’re not going to form a social movement. It’s especially important when you have a minority point of view. You need that support network of friends and colleagues who agree with you.”
Bast spoke wistfully of the first ICCC as “a beautiful thing.” It was the first time these climate skeptics had met together. It sparked a wave of collaboration and new research projects. Science relies on cross-pollination of ideas, and there had been a marked absence of such collaboration in the field of climate skepticism. As organizer, Heartland played midwife to a burgeoning skeptic movement.
Bast had a lot to say about what he perceives to be an extreme bias in the way science is conducted and discussed in the mainstream:
“I think very few people realize just how imbalanced the debate is. There are estimates that we spend a billion dollars a day, globally, on global warming. Between subsidies for the researchers and all these programs to subsidize renewable energy, a billion dollars a day! That is an industry. That is a global warming industry, and its self-interest is to exaggerate the threat, to ignore any doubts, and to pursue one avenue, which is reducing emissions.”
A growing problem, according to Bast, is one of funding. Each time Heartland has put on an ICCC, it has had to dedicate a tremendous percentage of its manpower and resources to making it work. They are expensive, and Bast explained that each time he was always reticent to do it again. And he still was, even after the big turnout at ICCC9, saying, “I’m not sure we’re going to do a tenth.” It all comes down to money and resources, a subject Bast turned to more broadly when he described the plight of many climate skeptics who pay a high academic cost for holding their views:
“We need to find new sources of revenue and support for these skeptics. You’ve got very competent, very courageous academics like Willie Soon, and David Legates in Rhode Island. These guys are losing their academic positions, losing grants, losing all the usual awards and privileges that a successful career would bring. We have to create competing institutions, or set of institutions, that reward these guys.”
The problem to which Bast alluded, that the academic discipline of science has become a monolith, is certainly a serious one. It is a problem that even people who accept the mainstream view on climate change should acknowledge and try to fix. There was once a time when private research institutions were the dominant players on the science stage, in all the varied disciplines. A glut of government funding has made even private universities and institutes junkies for government cash. That desire for subsidies and grants can make scientists alter their research programs to better align with the views of those who have their hands on the tap.
Science as a discipline thrives in a marketplace of open ideas and competition. Any time a majority view seeks to not just defeat, but to strangle, opposition views, people should be worried. Accept anthropogenic global warming or don’t. Either way, don’t support a scientific establishment that is more concerned with raking in government funding than pushing the boundaries of human understanding.