Winning the Climate Change Debate

Published June 26, 2015

How can climate realists win the climate change debate?

Tom Harris, executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition; John Coleman, founder of The Weather Channel; and Michael Bastasch, senior reporter with The Daily Caller, joined together for a panel discussion at the Tenth International Conference on Climate Change entitled, “Effective Climate Science Communication.”

Touching on everything from pitching op-eds to keeping Wikipedia accurate, the panelists discussed how climate realists can gain a foothold in the climate change discussion.

Harris focused bringing climate realism into the mainstream media. He told attendees the U.S. government would need to see “that there is an overwhelming majority of the public who don’t actually support the climate scare” before it would back off of climate-related legislation and regulation. To that end, Harris encouraged climate realists pitching op-eds to highlight how various progressive values are threatened by climate change policies.

“If we can show them one of the causes they hold more dear than the climate scare, then we get their attention,” said Harris.

Harris listed a number of progressive causes, from social justice to wildlife protection. Harris says climate realists should explain how these other values are threatened by climate change legislation, citing biofuels’ impact on the poor, the effect of Western anti-coal efforts on electricity access in Africa, and how industrial wind turbines have killed birds and bats.

“What we want to do is … reference, near the beginning of our articles and our letters-to-the-editor, some cause, some issue that is really damaged as a result of the focus on climate mitigation,” Harris said.

Modern Communications

Coleman followed Harris, asking, “How did this bad science sweep around the world and take control?

“My science, my lifetime … it has been taken over by this bad notion about carbon dioxide being this super, incredible, positive forcing element and creating this great crisis of global warming climate change,” said Coleman. “Well, what can we do to correct that situation?”

Answering his own question, Coleman pulled out a smart phone, telling the audience people today watch less television and read fewer papers than those in the past. Young Americans get most of their news and information through their phones and outlets like YouTube and Facebook.

“The climate change debate roars on Facebook,” Coleman said.

Coleman says climate realists would have to combat the standard narrative through these platforms to reach young people.

“We need a big, new team of Millennials,” Coleman said. “Are there any Millennials attending this conference? Darn, darn few. And that’s our problem. It’s their world, not ours. We need not a team, we need a multitude of teams, and each of those teams needs to take on a particular source—a team for Facebook, a team for Twitter, a team for Wikipedia.”

Bastasch recounted how he was thrown into energy reporting without any background on the subject. After hearing constantly about how many lives EPA regulations would save or “how many asthma attacks this would prevent,” he began to ask about the other side of the equation.

“I started looking into, what about the coal miners, what about the people who work at the power plants … won’t this impact electricity prices?” Bastasch  asked.

He encouraged the audience to look out for the media’s use of environmental group talking points, from “climate denier” to “climate-induced extreme weather.”

During the question and answer period, one person asked the panel to cite two or three global warming facts to use in debating climate science.

Focus on Moral Turpitude

Coleman, however, had a different take on the issue, responding, “I don’t think we need to talk science. We need to talk money. The average American family of four is experiencing an increased cost of living of $1,200 a year because of global warming [regulations] at this point.

“There’s no attack we could make that would reach more people in a more positive way than talking about the moral turpitude of taking that money through increased costs for energy and food, particularly, and for travel—the increased costs that families are paying and the damage it’s doing to the quality of life of those young people,” said Coleman.

Ann N. Purvis ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas and is an inactive member of the State Bar of Georgia.