Powerful Right-Wing Alliance Challenges Climate Justice

What happens when a little-known, but
important right-wing think tank combines forces with a long-time anti-environmental
organization? You get a powerful and far-reaching anti-environmental publication
that at launch-time already has a guaranteed circulation of more than 40,000.

The Heartland Institute’s Environment News and New Hope Environmental Services
Inc., publishers of World Climate Report, with funding from the Greening
Earth Society, have combined forces to publish Environment & Climate
, whose tag line is “the monthly publication for new-era environmentalists.”

This collaboration is not just another attempt by anti-environmentalists to
discredit the environmental movement and slam environmentalists. What makes
this new operation particularly notable is that it brings together the abundant
resources of two time-tested and well-funded free-market, anti-environmental

The three front-page stories in its premier issue clearly indicate what point
of view Environment & Climate News will be taking: “Feds protected
ecoterrorists report says”; “U.S. farmers threatened by European fears”;
and “Seattle riots shame environmental movement.”

One of the publication’s essential functions is to act as a mouthpiece
for industry as it tackles head-on the issue of global warming. The first issue
presents two stinging critiques by two of “the nation’s leading scientists…on
global climate change”: “Kyoto’s Chilling Effects” by Patrick
J. Michaels, PhD, University of Virginia environmental science professor, and
“Link between deaths and climate weakening over time” by Robert E.
Davis, PhD, associate professor of environmental science at the University of

Environmentalists around the world are hoping that “climate justice,”
a relatively new construct, will resonate with community and grassroots activists
like “environmental justice” has. Where did the concept of climate
justice come from? Climate justice is the environmental movement aimed at addressing
what Greenhouse Gangsters vs. Climate Justice, a new report by the Transnational
Resource and Action Center (TRAC), calls the “politics of petroleum, [which]
continues to undermine democracy while fostering human rights violations and
environmental disasters across the Earth.” Climate change “has the
potential to radically damage entire ecosystems, agriculture, and the inhabitability
of whole countries.” The TRAC report adds that “the vast majority
of the world’s climate scientists and a growing body of evidence say [that]…
global warming is a real threat. No longer does the scientific debate focus
on if global warming will happen, but rather how soon it will occur and how
bad it will be.”

Not included in this “vast majority” are the folks at Environment
& Climate News
. Their raison d’ etre is spelled out in a column
by one of its sponsors. Frederick D. Palmer, president of the Greening Earth
Society (GES) and CEO of Western Fuels Association, Inc., claims that “scores
of studies compiled by GES scientific advisors and others [document that] increased
atmospheric carbon dioxide content has led to an explosion of productivity in
the biosphere [which includes] unexpected and large growth in the forests in
the world…increased ground cover, leading to more abundant wildlife and diversity
of species; and most important, a huge increase in food productivity all around
the world.”

Palmer argues that “professional environmentalists are engaged in an effort
to convince us all that the vision of apocalyptic global warming Vice-President
Gore outlines in his book, Earth in the Balance, is correct and therefore,
we should welcome the efforts of the world’s government to tax, cap, and
limit the industrial evolution of the human community.” Palmer closes by
saying that “an informed citizenry, acting in their enlightened self-interest,
can stop this rush to regulation.”

As is their tendency, the people at Environment & Climate News would
likely call TRAC’s conclusions “junk science.” Rather than getting
bogged down in a “he said, she said” debate among scientists, there
is much to be learned by looking at the magazine’s publishers—the
Heartland Institute and the Western Fuels Association/ Greening Earth Society.

Over the years, Heartland has evolved
into one of the most important of the current pantheon of state-based conservative
policy groups. Founded in 1984 by Joseph L. Bast, Heartland spent its early
years as a no-frills, conservative, free-market, tax-exempt research organization
applying, “cutting-edge research to state and local public policy issues”—and
not really distinguishing itself.

In 1996, Heartland created a new program that linked the conservative advocacy
of a think tank with state-of-the-art technology to become one of the right’s
leading information clearinghouses. If ever a trendy phrase “just-in-time”
information delivery has meaning, it is most assuredly illustrated by Heartland’s
PolicyFax project.

The power of PolicyFax is best illustrated by its recent catalogue and its sophisticated
information delivery system. The catalogue, a 300+ page publication, contains
more than 3,000 research documents, articles, and commentaries collected from
more than 200 primarily conservative think tanks, policy institutes, and industry
associations. The environment section alone lists hundreds of articles covering
a broad range of issues including: air quality, chemicals, endangered species,
energy, environmental justice, forestry, free-market environmentalism, global
climate change, ozone depletion, regulatory reform, and sustainable development.

The documents are accessible, ranging from 3-15 pages, and consist of succinct
summaries of complex research data, along with a healthy dose of useful statistics.
In addition, the conservative and very powerful American Legislative Exchange
Council (ALEC) offers PolicyFax users access to nearly 300 pieces of model legislation.

Here’s the kicker, PolicyFax, accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,
is absolutely free. Every elected official in the United States (regardless
of position), every significant media worker, and researchers from all the other
think tanks gets Heartland’s complete set of resources delivered to their
desks. Therefore, the 12,000 subscribers that Heartland brings to the merger
are the people who influence change—public policy makers and opinion makers.
This seriously ratchets up the new publication’s potential for effectively
influencing environmental policy.

CLEAR (the Clearinghouse on Environmental Advocacy and Research) describes the
Western Fuels Association (WFA) as “a non-profit cooperative which provides
coal to member electric utilities” and one of the most prominent industry
associations that continues to dispute the dangers of global warming.

In their 1998 Annual Report WFA explains its 1997 half-million dollar shortfall
by pinning the loss “entirely [on] our advocacy in the area of climate
change. The Board of Directors continues to provide financial support to programs
designed to turn back efforts by the Clinton administration to dial-out coal-fired
generation in the U.S. energy supply mix.”

In what might be seen as seizing a perfect marketing opportunity, WFA launched
the Greening Earth Society (GES) on Earth Day 1998. Its specific focus is to
counter the environmental movement’s work around global warming. GES aims
to “promote the optimistic scientific viewpoint that mankind is a part
of nature, rather than apart from nature,” and spread the good news that
“using fossil fuel to enable our economic activity is as natural as breathing.”

Both Western Fuels and Greening Earth work out of the same offices in Arlington,
Virginia. Fred Palmer has leadership responsibilities for both organizations.
CLEAR says that Palmer has previous experience working for a “corporate
front group,” as former vice-president of the Information Council on the
Environment (ICE), which was run by Edison Electric, The Southern Company, and
Western Fuels Association.

Many of the scientists touted by WFA/GES will be regular contributors to Environment
& Climate News
. Many have a long history of financial support from corporate
entities. Two who are singled out for recognition by ECN Publisher Nikki Smart
in her introduction to the first issue, are the aforementioned Dr. Patrick J.
Michaels and Dr. Robert C. Balling.

Ozone Action (OA), a Washington, DC-based non-profit group focusing on global
warming and stratospheric ozone depletion, has documented the financial rewards
these two people have received from corporate front groups. In addition to corporate
money, Balling, according to OA’s Ties That Bind, received “significant
levels of funding since 1989 from the Kuwait government, foreign coal/mining
operations and Cyprus Minerals Company,” an ongoing funder of other “wise
use” operations. Balling has earned close to $200,000 from the British
Coal Corporation and the German Coal Mining Association.

Michaels is former publisher of the WFA-funded World Climate Review,
which became the World Climate Report prior to merging with Heartland’s
Environment News. Ozone Action’s research documents that Michaels
received a $63,000 grant from Western Fuels Association for research on global
climate change; $49,000 from the German Coal Mining Association; $40,000 from
Cyprus Minerals Company; and $15,000 from Edison Electric Institute.

While there’s no doubt that industry-sponsored ventures like Environment
& Climate Review
can continue to muddy the waters on many environmental
questions and slow down the process of dealing with issues like global warming,
they will not be successful in the long run, says environmental consultant Doug

Linney, president of The Next Generation, an Oakland-based consulting firm,
works with groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Defense
Fund, and the California League of Conservation Voters, helping them develop
strategy on core environmental issues. Although he recognizes that Environment
& Climate News
might pose an “immediate threat because we don’t
have the resources that these folks have…. However, despite these efforts,
which often gives political cover to politicians who are unclear on the concept,
the future debate over global warming is going to be waged on the grounds of
trying to figure out what we are going to do about it.”                                                    

Bill Berkowitz is the editor of
CultureWatch www.igc. org/culturewatch/,
a monthly publication tracking the Religious Right and related conservative
movements, published by Oakland’s DataCenter.