Abusing Science

Number 24 of a series

Billboards in Chicago paid for by The Heartland Institute along the inbound Eisenhower Expressway in Maywood, Illinois. Photograph: The Heartland Institute

People can misuse science for a number of reasons, but the two that come to mind are:

  1. They are ignorant and do not understand the science in question.
  2. It is to their religious, political, or economic advantage to misrepresent scientific findings.

This appears to be a case of the latter:

A MAJOR COAL COMPANY WENT BUST. ITS BANKRUPTCY FILING SHOWS THAT IT WAS FUNDING CLIMATE CHANGE DENIALISM.

THE BANKRUPTCY OF one of the largest domestic coal producers in the country has revealed that the company maintains financial ties to many of the leading groups that have sowed doubt over the human causes of global warming.

The disclosures are from Cloud Peak Energy, a Wyoming-based coal mining corporation that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on May 10. The company had been battered by low coal prices, including in international markets cultivated by the firm.

The documents in the court docket show that the coal giant gave contributions to leading think tanks that have attacked the link between the burning of fossil fuels and climate change, as well as to several conservative advocacy groups that have attempted to undermine policies intended to shift the economy toward renewable energy. The documents do not include information on the size of the contributions, yet, taken as a whole, the list of groups Cloud Peak Energy helped fund are indicative of how the company prioritized pushing climate denialism. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Regarding the Institute for Energy Research, Wikipedia has this to say:

The IER is the successor organization to the Institute for Humane Studies of Texas, an advocacy group established in 1984 by billionaire businessman and political donor Charles Koch. After failing to pay the Texas state franchise tax, IHST lost its charter in 1989, and was later rebranded as the Institute for Energy Research, or IER, under the presidency of Robert L. Bradley Jr., the former director of public policy analysis for Enron. IER began by distributing quarterly reports to a small but growing list of donors in the early 1990s and eventually expanded its publishing capabilities to include highly publicized studies. It was not until 2001 when Bradley secured funding to make IER a full-time organization. In 2007, IER was moved to Washington, D.C. where it transformed itself into an energy think tank producing research and analysis on global energy markets.

In 2009, an article in Mother Jones magazine said IER was among the most prominent organizations questioning the existence and extent of anthropogenic climate change.

ALEC we have seen before. Wikipedia has this entry:

The shooting of Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012 led to increased public attention on “Stand-your-ground” gun laws that ALEC had supported. Color of Change launched a new campaign in April to pressure ALEC corporate members to withdraw. More than sixty corporations and foundations, including Coca-ColaWendy’sKraft FoodsMcDonald’sAmazon.comGeneral ElectricAppleProcter & GambleWalmart, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the medical insurance group Blue Cross and Blue Shield dropped support of ALEC in the ensuing weeks or let their memberships lapse. Thirty-four legislative members also left ALEC.

ALEC responded by releasing a statement describing efforts by its critics as a “campaign launched by a coalition of extreme liberal activists committed to silencing anyone who disagrees with their agenda”. Doug Clopp of Common Cause credited ALEC Exposed for the successful campaign, saying that “for 40 years you couldn’t get the kind of accountability we’re seeing now because ALEC, its members, its legislators, its bills were secret.”

Former Visa Inc. lobbyist, Newt Gingrich aide, and GOPAC executive director, Lisa B. Nelson, succeeded Scheberle as CEO of ALEC in 2014.

In late 2014, a number of technology-oriented companies such as GoogleMicrosoftFacebookEbay, and Yahoo! announced that they were ending their ties to ALEC. Multiple companies cited environmental concerns as a point of contention with the organization.

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt remarked that ALEC was “just literally lying” about recent global climate change.

If you have any doubt remaining, companies with an interest in opposing the science behind anthropogenic global warming are paying companies such as these to misrepresent the scientific argument. It’s well-funded abuse of science.

One thought on “Abusing Science

  1. Pingback: Abusing Science | Skeptical Analysis

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