Senators Ask ExxonMobil to Cut Funding to 29 Unspecified “Climate Change Denial Front Groups”

Apparently taking a page from Britain’s Royal Society (if you missed that controversy, Prometheus has a thoughtful discussion of it here), Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Olympa Snowe (R-ME) are urging (pdf) ExxonMobil to stop funding organizations and individuals who disagree with Rockefeller and Snowe on global warming.

In such an atmosphere, one wonders if the new Congress will hold hearings to investigate those of us who refuse to toe the liberal line on global warming. Many of these folks believe that there is only one responsible position on global warming, and it is one that agrees not only with their position on the science, but their policy prescriptions as well. Many believe disagreeing with them is a sign of wrong-doing.

Never mind that if you put three global warming theory activists in a room, you’ll get six opinions. Five minutes later, six more.

Husband (and VP) David put out a statement Friday discussing Rockefeller’s and Snowe’s letter:

Statement of National Center Vice President David Ridenour on the Joint Letter by Senators Jay Rockefeller and Olympa Snowe to ExxonMobil CEO Rex W. TillersonNicolas Copernicus was condemned for suggesting that the sun, rather than the earth, was the center of our universe. The Catholic Church feared such knowledge could undermine the belief that Man was God’s most important creation, and ultimately, undermine Church authority.

Giordano Bruno was persecuted and ultimately burned at the stake for arguing that space extended beyond our solar system. Again, the Church feared such knowledge would undermine its teachings and authority.

William Harvey was ridiculed by leading medical authorities of his day for suggesting that the heart was the center of the body’s circulatory system. His critics knew this would mean the liver had no role in blood production and feared that such knowledge could undermine accepted therapeutics of the era, including bloodletting. (After all, if the same blood re-circulated throughout the body, the old rules about the correct placement of leeches would no longer apply.)

Copernicus, Bruno and Harvey were persecuted out of fear. Each ultimately was proven to be correct.

Today Senators Olympia Snowe and John Rockefeller IV are engaging in persecution of their own, attempting to silence dissenting voices. Just what do they fear?

Perhaps they fear the solutions they prescribe will eventually be revealed to be the modern day equivalent of applying leeches.

On October 27, Senators John (Jay) Rockefeller IV and Olympia Snowe sent a letter to ExxonMobil Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rex W. Tillerson demanding that the company cease funding for two dozen or so organizations and individuals they call a “small cadre of global climate change skeptics.”

Although it is unclear which organizations Snowe and Rockefeller are seeking to defund, one thing is clear: This is an attempt to muzzle groups and individuals with whom the Senators disagree. It is an attempt to stifle free speech and, as such, should be condemned by Americans of all political persuasions – both left and right.

The Senators’ letter is fundamentally inconsistent with both the process of scientific method and rational public policy formulation.

Scientific method isn’t about winning popularity contests. It’s also not about being with the majority opinion. It isn’t supposed be determined by politics. It is about attempting to limit bias or prejudice in the results.

Unfortunately, by attempting to cut off some of the funding for those who contribute to the diversity of both the scientific and public policy debate, Senators Snowe and Rockefeller are attempting to bias the results.

They will fail, however, because funding from energy companies is not what is fueling the vigorous climate change debate.

What is fueling the debate is a genuine, sincere difference of opinion.

People of integrity will not change their views because Senators Rockefeller and Snowe or anyone else demands it. People of integrity will not change their views because their funding is threatened – or even cut off. People of integrity will not change their views because it is asserted that the “scientific debate is over.” They won’t even do so when they are equated with holocaust deniers.

People of integrity will only change their views when they are convinced by the evidence.

Disclosure Statement:

The National Center for Public Policy Research has received modest funding from the energy sector. Such funding has never exceeded 1% of The National Center’s annual expenditures and has typically been substantially less than that – ensuring that The National Center is a truly independent voice on climate change. It does not accept government funds.

The National Center recognizes both that global temperatures have risen over the past 150 years and that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions contribute to the greenhouse effect. But The National Center also believes, based on the evidence that currently exists, that the anthropogenic signature is likely to be modest; that significant scientific uncertainty remains on the effects of any warming that may occur; and that current efforts to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emission may prove ineffective while imposing enormous burdens of the world’s poor.

I note that Rockefeller and Snowe claim ExxonMobil was “the primary funder of no fewer than 29 climate change denial front groups in 2004 alone.” Setting aside the question of the definition of “climate change denial front group” for another day, I’d be interested in seeing this list of 29 climate change groups for which ExxonMobil is the primary funder, because I think Rockefeller and Snowe are blowing smoke here. With taxpayers’ dollars, no less.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.