News & Politics

Senate Dems' 'Web of Denial' Climate Inquisition is Really About Free Speech

Twitter screenshot of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse speaking on the Senate Floor.

Early this week, Senate Democrats launched a systematic campaign against the alleged #WebOfDenial — a cabal of nonprofit groups dedicated to “denying” the idea that the burning of fossil fuels does concrete harm to the earth’s climate and is causing an unusual level of natural disasters. Contrary to their claims of a “scientific consensus,” the evidence does not fully support this idea, but their efforts are not about science, but about stifling free speech.

Nineteen Senate Democrats took the floor on Monday and Tuesday to argue in favor of a resolution from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.), which compares fossil fuel companies to tobacco companies and attacks their “sophisticated and deceitful campaign that funded think tanks and front groups” to “mis-lead the public and cast doubt in order to protect their financial interest.”

The Democrats took to the Senate floor, speaking against specific organizations one by one over the course of two days. They attacked many notable groups, such as the Heritage Foundation, the Heartland Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, and Reason magazine. They alleged that these diverse groups were all in league (despite their rather important disagreements on other issues) because they each opposed the “settled science” of climate change.

Here are some examples of the Democrats’ rhetoric:

The Democrats spent hours attacking these groups without giving them so much as a word in edgewise. Perhaps it is telling that they didn’t want Americans to hear the other side.

“Sen. Whitehouse is, once again, abusing the power of his office to lead a coordinated attack on free speech,” Jim Lakely, director of communications at the Heartland Institute, told PJ Media in an email statement. “By singling out Heartland and other groups, Whitehouse and his allies are trying to intimidate us and our supporters into silence, but he will fail.”

“The words uttered by Sen. Whitehouse and others participating in this stunt are as unAmerican as they are unscientific,” Lakely declared.

Next Page: Why the Democrats’ attack on free speech is based on bad science, and is more about power than the environment.

Image Via Shutterstock

Image Via Shutterstock

H. Sterling Burnett, the group’s research fellow for environment policy, explained why the alarmism of Senate Democrats is so off base. The alarmists’ “climate models can’t explain why polar bears are stable or increasing in number, why Antarctica is adding tens of thousands of tons of ice every year, and why hurricanes have declined in number and severity since the 1850s,” Burnett told PJ Media.

He also mentioned the 18-year hiatus during which global temperatures did not rise, despite rising CO2 emissions. “Those people who claim there’s a consensus that humans are causing catastrophic climate change, their predictions have been refuted by the real world data.”

Even if the data supported alarmists, they would also have to tease out nature’s impact on temperature from the human impact, something exceedingly difficult to do. It is widely known that volcanoes, geothermal changes, and many other factors contribute to climate, so how do we know fossil fuels are uniquely to blame?

Finally, Burnett hit on the absurdity of aiming to prosecute people for “false” ideas. “I don’t know anyone who says we need to prosecute people who believe in a flat earth,” he noted dryly.

“What we have is a bait and switch,” David Kreutzer, senior research fellow of Energy Economics and Climate Change at the Heritage Foundation, told PJ Media. He accused the Democratic senators of “trying to demonize an industry for defending itself from an assault that is not based on science.”

Kreutzer cited evidence that hurricanes, tornadoes, and droughts have not gotten any more severe in the past 50 to 100 years.

“Any industry that defends itself from a government power grab is compared to tobacco companies,” Kreutzer explained. The senators don’t even look at the debate on climate — “they don’t want people to see it.” He mentioned a study he wrote for the Heritage Foundation called “The State of Climate Science: No Justification For Extreme Policies.”

Rather than debate the issues, alarmists dismiss “as heresy” anything that counters their beliefs.

This ignores the “phenomenal boon” of energy developments like hydraulic fracturing, which has brought down the price of oil and “wrested control of the world’s energy from OPEC.” Kreutzer even argued that this developed has started to bring back manufacturing in the United States.

By contrast, President Obama’s “Clean Power Plan” would cost more than 1 million jobs, $2.5 trillion in GDP, and a total income loss of $7,000 per person, according to a Heritage report Kreutzer cited. All this for an almost imperceptible change in climate, because most of the growth of CO2 emissions over the next century will come in the developing world, anyway.

“Climate policies are more about an economic power grab and wealth transfers than they are about climate,” Kreutzer concluded. “The senators don’t want us to be able to tell people that.”

A Nobel Prize-winning physicist who endorsed President Obama in 2008 compared climate alarmism to a religion. “Global warming really has become a new religion. Because you cannot discuss it. It’s not proper. It is like the Catholic Church,” declared Dr. Ivar Giaever.

Kent Lassman, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, compared this inquisition to the tactics of the notorious Senator Joe McCarthy. “Apparently, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is the new Senator Joe McCarthy and green is the new blacklist.” Lassman added that “it’s shameful to engage in coordinated intimidation campaigns and to use scare tactics that violate the First Amendment rights of speech and assembly for individuals and private organizations.”

Lassman hit on the key point in that final comment — the intimidation tactics employed by Senate Democrats in this climate change inquisition are intended to silence dissent, to deny the rights of those who disagree with the theology of alarmism.

By fostering a climate of distrust where nonprofit organizations are demonized for their stances on issues, and by urging the public disclosure of the identities of donors to these groups, Senate Democrats are actively creating a culture where attacks on donors might encourage them not to engage in free speech and free association by supporting groups they agree with. This chills the very rights which our Bill of Rights was written to protect.