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On May 3, Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia University professor and “special adviser” to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, wrote a commentary condemning global warming “deniers” that appeared on a Catholic website called Pewsitter. Since he takes aim specifically at The Heartland Institute, a reply seems to be in order.
Sachs wrote about an event convened by Pope Francis on global warming and sustainability at the Vatican in Rome the prior week. Observing that only alarmists and advocates of population control – most notably, Jeffrey Sachs – were on the program, I decided Heartland should send some real scientists and other experts to Rome to provide a different opinion. Our delegation to Rome consisted of the following individuals, all of them willing to travel a great distance on short notice and participate without honoraria:
- E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., national spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation
- Hal Doiron, former NASA Skylab and Space Shuttle engineer
- Richard Keen, Ph.D., meteorology instructor at the University of Colorado
- Christopher Monckton, chief policy advisor to the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI)
- Marc Morano, executive editor and chief correspondent, ClimateDepot.com
- Tom Sheahen, Ph.D., vice chairman of the Board of Directors of the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)
- Elizabeth Yore, J.D., former general counsel at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia
Jim Lakely and Keely Drukala, Heartland’s director and deputy director of communications, respectively, traveled to Rome as well and managed the complicated and last-minute logistics of the trip.
We created a webpage at https://www.heartland.org/Vatican-Environment-Workshop where we posted news releases and opinion-editorials expressing our concern that the pope was being misinformed and offering links to more reliable scientific research and commentary on Christian views toward the environment. Following the event and safe return home of our delegation, we posted all the presentations and video from the event on the website.
Our presence generated extensive worldwide press attention. We were able to reach millions of people with our simple message that “climate change is not a crisis.”
The Vatican and United Nations seemed shocked that anyone would criticize their bias or the lack of scientific credentials of their speakers. Peter Raven, a speaker at the summit, devoted several minutes of his remarks to commenting on our presence, and now Sachs’ essay appears to be part of the UN’s effort at damage control.
Sachs did not attend our press conference or any of the presentations our experts made the following day. To our knowledge, none of the persons scheduled to speak at the “summit” chose to attend our public events. Nevertheless, Sachs writes: “the libertarian Heartland Institute, supported over the years by the Koch brothers, mounted a fruitless protest outside of St Peter’s Square.”
The Heartland Institute has received just $25,000 from a single organization, a charitable foundation, affiliated with “the Koch brothers” during the past 15 years. Our annual budget is approximately $7 million. Even that small gift was earmarked for our work on health care reform, not global warming. Why does Sachs mention “the Koch brothers” unless his intention is to smear an independent organization by falsely implying a much larger or somehow improper level of support from some singularly unpopular billionaires?
Our press conference and seminar were not a “protest.” We weren’t on the street waving signs or shouting slogans. Our speakers were highly qualified and their writing and speaking relating to the pope and the Catholic Church were respectful and focused narrowly on the science, economics, and politics of climate change.
The dishonesty in Sachs’ reference to The Heartland Institute would be startling, coming from a person of Sachs’ stature, if this sort of misrepresentation of facts weren’t so common in the debate over climate change. President Barack Obama sets the tone, comparing global warming realists to members of the “flat earth society” and rather ominously calling on his supporters to “hold climate change deniers’ feet to the fire.”
In fact, those who say global warming is a man-made crisis gave up arguing the science and economics behind their campaign long ago. They now rely only on exaggeration, lies, and ad hominem attacks on anyone who disagrees with them.
Sachs is correct about one thing: The Heartland Institute is indeed a libertarian organization. We are devoted to discovering, developing, and promoting free-market solutions to social and economic issues. We make it very clear on our website and in interviews that it was this perspective that led us to examine the science behind the global warming scare. That examination led us to become (in the words of The Economist) “the world’s most prominent think tank supporting skepticism of man-made climate change.”
Sachs says some “free-market conservatives … have followed their ideology to the point of denying well-established science.” He seems blind to the possibilities that the science is not “well-established” or that his fellow socialists and “progressives” have themselves fallen prey to this malady. What else explains their refusal to admit there has been no warming for more than 18 years, that real data show no increase in extreme weather events, and that the benefits of using fossil fuels outweigh the costs, by orders of magnitude, even including the vastly inflated costs attributed to climate change that might occur centuries from now?
Sachs has had a long and distinguished career as an academic and in various government agencies, but on this issue he is letting his liberal ideology cloud his judgment. His short essay reveals a disturbing lack of knowledge about climate science and compassion toward the billions of people in the world who will be harmed by the UN’s plans to make energy more expensive and less reliable.
Sachs ends his essay with a call to people of all faiths to “fulfill our moral responsibilities to humanity and to the future of Earth.” That responsibility starts with truth-telling. Sachs and his colleagues on the left haven’t reached the starting line yet.