The number of people who outright dismiss manmade climate change may be getting smaller, but by no means is the surviving group getting any less smaller. Recently, hundreds of climate change deniers gathered for the Ninth International Climate Change Conference in Las Vegas to figure out how to keep environmental regulations at bay.
Bloomberg Businessweek’s Abe Streep went to the Mandalay Bay to attend the ICCC. (Does it remind you of another acronym? Perhaps the IPCC, or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a more legitimate scientific expert on global warming? Surely, it’s a coincidence.) His published account is simultaneously amusing and horrifying, but definitely worth checking out.
Amongst the highlights:
- Willie Soon, an astrophysicist backed by the American Petroleum Institute, who believes that the sun has “natural warming cycles.”
- Kilez More, an Austrian rapper, who led the crowd in a song about not accepting climate change.
- Just about every speaker, according to Streep, made a neverending slew of Al Gore jokes, too.
Though an event like this one inevitably attracts some crackpots, that doesn’t negate the power that a conference holds. Look at a list of some of the event’s sponsors and you’ll see organizations like the Illinois Coal Association, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Ayn Rand Institute. Whether or not these groups legitimately believe in the science being presented, it’s an attitude they can get behind and benefit from keeping alive.
The remarkable thing is that attendees of this conference really aren’t that unified. Each of them has his or her own theory on what is occurring: some speakers outright denied global warming, while some were admittedly just skeptical. Some said the sun was heating the earth, some said the earth was actually cooling. Ultimately, however, even if they can’t seem to agree on what the mitigating factors are, they love to reach the same conclusion: the threat of manmade climate change has been blown out of proportion.
The Heartland Institute, a group that regularly represents private interests of ill repute, organizes the ICCC. In the 90s, Heartland worked for big tobacco, developing campaigns that attempted to discredit studies that showed that smoking was unhealthy. The intention was never to convince everyone that smoking is actually safe. Instead, the purpose was to confuse people just enough to establish some deniability so that tobacco could continue to make profits with fewer restrictions. It’s easier for people to turn a blind eye when they can pretend that a problem isn’t necessarily definitive.
That’s precisely what’s at play at the ICCC, as well. Groups like the Heartland Institute don’t have to present a winning case that climate change is patently false. They just have to plant enough doubt in enough people’s minds to disrupt meaningful attempts at reform and regulation. The longer they can perpetuate the myth and convince people that a debate is occurring, the longer fossil fuel corporations will be able to rake in profits… Not to mention, the sooner the world’s entire population will be in a lot of trouble.