- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 7, 2009

CITIZEN JOURNALISM

Several hundred scientists, politicians and activists participated in the third annual International Conference on Climate Change on Tuesday, marking another stage in the timeline of a scientific social movement.

The conference, sponsored by the nonprofit Heartland Institute, hosted panels of climatologists and meteorologists as well as members of Congress to address questions surrounding global warming and climate-change legislation.

In its 25 years, Heartland has drawn together about 31,000 scientists, more than 9,000 of whom hold doctorates, to provide a forum for scientific debate on the issue of man-made global warming.

Self-titled “global warming realists” who are scientific members of Heartland’s community band together to fight the misconception of scientific consensus on the issue of global warming.

The third conference opened with the publication of “Climate Change Reconsidered: The 2009 Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change.”

Mirroring the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the nongovernmental group, NIPCC, claims membership by several hundred scientists skeptical of IPCC’s findings. Although individual members of the NIPCC have questioned the U.N. body’s claims for years, the release of their own 800-page report makes their arguments difficult to ignore, said Heartland Institute President Joseph L. Bast.

“This is the first time the realists have had a comprehensive reply to the IPCC,” he said. “The other side kept saying, ‘Where is your report? Where is your IPCC?’ This book says we’re here, we have got our act together.”

The report, the largest collection of independent research on the topic, doesn’t claim perfection.

“This is not the last word on climate change,” Mr. Bast said. “It’s much more intellectually honest.”

Conference speakers said openness to questions is missing in the global-warming debate.

“It’s not about discussing facts,” said astrophysicist and geoscientist Willie Soon of the Solar, Stellar and Planetary Sciences Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “It’s always been a non-engaging debate. It’s all about how much money you get from Exxon Mobil.”

Environmental activists also attack Heartland for its past ties to Exxon Mobil Corp. Mr. Bast countered that the foundation’s emphasis on global warming predated funding from the corporation.

Scientists at the conference disputed the claim that human activity and emissions of carbon dioxide cause catastrophic global warming. Instead, they examine climate change in the context of history and credit natural atmospheric cycles with recent warming.

“Cooling, warming, change in general are natural features of the climate,” said Richard S. Lindzen, professor of meteorology in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The mere existence of change tells us nothing beyond this.”

Roy W. Spencer, principal research scientist at the University of Alabama, criticized the models used by the IPCC for failing to sufficiently take into account natural factors like cloud coverage.

“All you need is to alter cloud coverage by 1 percent, and you’ve got global warming or global cooling,” Mr. Spencer said.

Heartland’s third conference took place in Washington to emphasize to legislators what’s at stake in the issue of man-made global warming.

“The specter of man-made global warming has been promulgated and has been used [for] stampeding the public in the biggest power grab in all of human history,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, told attendees.

Mr. Bast and his colleagues hope their openness to debate will fuel public involvement.

“Today, you’re seeing the transition of an ad-hoc group of scientists turned into a social movement,” Mr. Bast said.

Marieke van der Vaart, who lives in Fairfax County, is studying journalism and American history at Hillsdale College.

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