Opening Remarks: 2008 International Conference on Climate Change

March 08, 2009
Joseph Bast

Good evening, and welcome to the 2009 International Conference on Climate Change. I am Joseph Bast, president of The Heartland Institute, and it is my pleasure to serve as your host tonight and for the next two days.

Approximately 700 people have registered for this event, nearly twice as many as attended last year’s conference. We are delighted to demonstrate once again the breadth and high quality of support that the “skeptical” perspective on climate change enjoys.

Speakers at this conference will address questions that go to the very heart of the global warming debate:

  • Does the plateau in global temperatures during the past eight years contradict computer model predictions?
  • Do proxy records of ancient climates contradict how computer models characterize the role of carbon dioxide in climate change?
  • Does the modern warming have the “fingerprint” of having been caused by greenhouse gases?
  • Is there a case for governments to legislate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions?

Eight of the world’s most distinguished economists certainly don’t think so: They ranked emission reductions dead last among 30 ways to spend $75 billion to solve the world’s most pressing problems.

The Copenhagen Consensus demonstrates how climate change is not only a scientific issue, but also an economic and political issue.

It is the enormous cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions that compelled Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will to write that global warming legislation “could cause in this century more preventable death and suffering than was caused in the last century by Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot combined.”

Global warming legislation also poses a threat to our civil and economic liberties, leading Charles Krauthammer--another Pulitzer Prize winner--to warn that “other than rationing food, there is no greater instrument of social control than rationing energy.”

Some of the left’s leading spokespersons also have expressed concern over global warming. Alexander Cockburn wrote in The Nation, “vast amounts of money will be uselessly spent on programs that won’t work against an enemy that doesn’t exist. Meanwhile, real and curable environmental perils are scanted or ignored. Hysteria rules the day, drowning really useful environmental initiatives. ...”

If the scientific community were convinced that we could reliably forecast future climates, or that the consequences of some warming would be catastrophic, then perhaps no price would be too high to pay to save the Earth. But that is not what the scientific community is telling us. According to the most recent international poll of climate scientists,

  • Most climate scientists believe global warming “is a process already underway.”
  • But that “consensus” drops to below 60 percent when climate scientists are asked if “climate change is mostly the result of anthropogenic causes.”
  • 65 percent of climate scientists do not believe “climate models can accurately predict climate conditions in the future.”
  • 68 percent do not believe “the current state of scientific knowledge is able to provide reasonable predictions of climatic variability on time scales of ten years.”
  • 73 percent do not believe it is possible to predict climate “on time scales of 100 years.”
  • About 70 percent of climate scientists think “climate change might have some positive effects for some societies.”
  • Finally, on the question that might matter the most, climate scientists are perfectly split over the question of whether they know enough about global warming to turn it over to policymakers to take action, with 44 percent saying we do and 46 percent saying we do not.

This extensive disagreement within the scientific community is not reflected in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Why is that? Maybe because, to quote Alexander Cockburn again, “the IPCC has the usual army of functionaries and grant farmers, and the merest sprinkling of actual scientists with the prime qualification of being climatologists or atmospheric physicists.”

Indeed, it was recently acknowledged that 80 percent of the contributors to the latest IPCC report are not climate scientists at all.

Dr. Fred Singer, one of the many distinguished scientists with us here tonight, asks in the preface to the upcoming report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, “Why have the IPCC reports been marred by controversy and so frequently contradicted by subsequent research? Certainly its agenda to find evidence of a human role in climate change is a major reason; its organization as a government entity beholden to political agendas is another major reason; and the large professional and financial rewards that go to scientists and bureaucrats who are willing to bend scientific facts to match those agendas is yet a third major reason.”

And what of scientists who dissent from the IPCC’s claimed “consensus”? They are branded “deniers,” accused of being tools of the fossil fuel industry, over-the-hill, or ideological extremists. This is in spite of evidence, reason, and common sense that all should tell us that it is the skeptics, not the true believers, who are more likely to discover and publicly discuss the true science and economics of climate change.

The 80 scientists, economists, and policy experts speaking at this conference have no shared agenda and no institutional interest in inflating the risks of climate change, and they bow to no government over-seers. They come from 14 countries and 28 universities. They speak out against what the IPCC and many in government and the media claim to be a consensus because their own independent research suggests otherwise.

We respectfully ask for the attention of the world’s policymakers and opinion leaders to these distinguished and brave individuals, that they might consider the real science and economics of climate change before embracing costly and probably unnecessary legislation.

I would like to extend my thanks to the 59 other organizations that acted as cosponsors of this event. They are listed in your program and will be displayed on these screens during dinner. I also thank the individuals and foundations whose gifts made this year’s conference possible. As was the case last year, no corporate funding was used to support this conference.

Following dinner we will be addressed by two truly remarkable individuals, President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic, and Dr. Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

We will resume at 7:30. Please enjoy your dinner.


Joseph L. Bast (jbast@heartland.org) is president of The Heartland Institute.