I'm heading to New York tomorrow (at my own expense) for a conference organized by the Heartland Institute and billed as "The world's largest-ever gathering of global warming skeptics." The conference is being held at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, where I've had the pleasure of staying before. I'm splashing out an extra US$60 a night for a room overlooking the square, whose spectacular electronic billboards represent one of the great symbols of our joyous, multi-coloured, larger-than-life, technologically-stunning consumer society.
Times Square also last year witnessed the success of those who wish to dim the lights on such despised materialism. Coca Cola agreed to flip the switch on its thirty-ton "electro kinetic sculpture" during Earth Hour, that exercise in social and corporate pressure, organized by the World Wildlife Fund, during which people wander around in the dark for the sake of the planet.
The theme of the Heartland conference -- "Global warming: Was it ever really a crisis?" -- seems deliberately designed to cause the kind of people who so successfully strong armed Coca Cola to froth at the mouth.
This second such annual event will feature dozens of presentations by a class of people claimed not to exist by environmental extremists: top scientists and other researchers who question the conclusions of the United Nations' highly-politicized Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC claims that the climate may already be in crisis (as opposed to Al Gore, who claims that it definitely is), and that humans are the main culprits due to industrial society's emissions of carbon dioxide. The Heartland conference will present papers suggesting that such views are at best simplistic and at worst downright wrong. It will also feature bold voices who stress the political nature of the climate change bandwagon, and its success in closing down debate as it threatens already foundering global prosperity. These include Vaclav Kraus, president of the Czech Republic and of the European Union.
At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr. Kraus declared that "Environmentalism and the global warming alarm-ism is challenging our freedom. I'm afraid that the current crisis will be misused for radically constraining the functioning of the markets and market economy all around the world." Other presenters include our own Lawrence Solomon, author of The Deniers, which comprehensively explodes notions that climate science is "settled."
The Heartland Institute stresses that "No corporate dollars or sponsorships earmarked for the event were solicited or accepted." That proviso is necessary to forestall braying NGOs and members of the policy establishment who claim that skeptics are in the pay of Big Oil or Big Coal.
Self-interested alarmists also hurl a bigger, and even more objectionable, slur: that skepticism is rooted in psychological derangement.
Intriguingly, that claim is the subject of another conference taking place today at the University of the West of England in Bristol. The university claims it is the first national conference to specifically explore "climate change denial," the alleged mental disorder that stops people from sharing the ghastly visions of those who believe in climate apocalypse. This clinical label will be applied to us consumerist sinners unless we accept much bigger, more intrusive and more expensive government of the type laid out in Ontario's Green Energy Act, whose multiple shortcomings have been outlined this week on this page.
Apart from bringing together eco-psychologists (who knew the division of academic labour had gone to such bizarre lengths!), psychotherapists and that universal threat, "social researchers," the Bristol conference will unashamedly feature "climate change activists," who are "uniquely qualified to assess the human dimensions of this human-made problem."
One of the conference organizers, professor Paul Hoggett, promises that "We will examine denial from a variety of different perspectives -- as the product of addiction to consumption, as the outcome of diffusion of responsibility and the idea that someone else will sort it out and as the consequence of living in a perverse culture which encourages collusion, complacency, irresponsibility."
Why, oh why, can we not be more like Cuba!
According to one of the conference's keynote speakers, George Marshall, director of something called Climate Outreach and Information Network, "The knowledge of the problem is remarkably well established yet we clearly refuse to recognize the implications of that knowledge." (You can see Mr. Marshall on YouTube comparing failure to get angry about climate change with complicity in South American military juntas, Nazism and apartheid). As the range of top academic climatologists presenting at Heartland over the next three days suggests, the problem is "remarkably well established" only by those who demonize opponents and embrace eco-shariah.
Throughout history, opponents of religion, be it medieval Christianity, current Islamism, or recently defunct Communism, have been dubbed as in need of psychological treatment because they cannot see what is "obvious" to believers. Climate change has become the new global state religion, which is why the corporate appeasers at Coca Cola will be turning off their signs again later this month for the next Earth Hour.
I'll be thinking about that every time I look out of my window over the next couple of days, grateful that there are intellectual lights still shining inside the building, and at least some voices speaking up for intellectual freedom and scientific objectivity.