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The Uncivil War of Climate Change Heats Up

Heartland should apologize for its billboard comparing warming advocates with the Unabomber.

by
Rand Simberg

Bio

May 12, 2012 - 12:00 am
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Unfortunately for them, their dudgeon could have been permissively above the level of Death Valley had they not noted at the time of the atrocity that the Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik was a “global warming denier.”

Professor Judith Curry at Georgia Tech, who has often raised the ire of her colleagues in the climate community by being a rare moderating voice in the debate, expressed her disappointment:

After the Gleick episode, it seemed that Heartland had temporarily seized the moral high ground in the climate “wars”. The billboards and the blog post are on an intellectual and moral par with ThinkProgress’ article Norway Terrorist is a Global Warming Denier, although Romm didn’t post his on a billboard. Heartland has unambigously seized the moral low ground with this stunt.

For better or worse, such episodes arguably have little impact on the larger scientific and policy debates. It will be interesting to see how the list of speakers at the forthcoming Heartland Conference reacts to this.

And in fact, many potential conference attendees did contact Heartland and demand that they take down the billboard. Here’s an example from Professor Ross McKitrick:

I am absolutely dismayed. This kind of fallacious, juvenile and inflammatory rhetoric does nothing to enhance your reputation, hands your opponents a huge stick to beat you with, and sullies the reputation of the speakers you had recruited. Any public sympathy you had built up as a result of the Gleick fiasco will be lost — and more besides — as a result of such a campaign. I urge you to withdraw it at once.

Strike the tone in your advertisements that you want people to use when talking about you. The fact that you need a lengthy webpage to explain the thinking behind the billboards proves that your messaging failed. Nobody is going to read your explanation anyway. All they will take away is the message on the signs themselves, and it’s a truly objectionable message.

You cannot simultaneously say that you want to promote a debate while equating the other side to terrorists and mass murderers. Once you have done such a thing you have lost the moral high ground and you can never again object if someone uses that kind of rhetoric on you.

Fellow Canadian Donna Laframboise actually did cancel.

So almost as quickly as the billboard went up, it came down, and Heartland issued an explanation, though not exactly an apology.

Now, clearly it was a terrible own goal by Heartland, but sometimes the truth itself is offensive. The fact is, there are many in the environmental movement who agree almost entirely with Ted Kaczynski, including Al Gore himself; their disagreement is only with his methods. Many people in the environmental movement are of the anti-human mindset documented in Bob Zubrin’s new book, and for many of them, there are no limits to the totalitarian measures they would take to impose their views on humanity — remember this video that they’d like you to now forget?

But there are also many who sincerely believe that “the science is settled,” even if they wish it weren’t so, and are amenable to reasoned debate. Lumping everyone into the same anti-human cohort does not contribute to that debate, and insulting those with whom we must have it by equating them with Charles Manson and Osama bin Laden only makes it more difficult to achieve any sort of sanity in policy, particularly as we are on the verge of exposing much of the chicanery. We cannot stoop to their level. Heartland has to go beyond merely removing the billboard and “explaining” it, but apologize for it to those it needlessly slandered, and to its allies for its horrible lapse in judgment.

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Rand Simberg is a recovering aerospace engineer and a consultant in space commercialization, space tourism and Internet security. He offers occasionally biting commentary about infinity and beyond at his weblog, Transterrestrial Musings.
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