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Policy: Environment & Energy

Heartland Institute conference shows the growing power of climate realism

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Opinion,Ron Arnold,Columnists,Las Vegas,Climate Change,Energy and Environment

Heartland Institute's Ninth International Conference on Climate Change, with its 64 speakers from 12 countries, marked a turning point in the climate wars between alarmists and skeptics: A lot more first-timers than dogged veterans showed up for the three-day science marathon, July 7-9.

That's significant because it reflected the vanishing public concern over “dangerous man-made climate change” and growing discontent with the politicized rear guard's increasingly desperate search for new scare words and its bigoted hate speech hurled at skeptics (“deniers,” evoking the Holocaust).

Held this year in a vast Las Vegas convention center, what was usually a New York or Chicago gathering of scorned, independent-minded scientists -- many of whom suffered grievously for refusing the dictates of "believe-us-or-else" climate despots -- turned into a new kind of festival with about 650 attendees.

I saw 80 percent of the plenary session audience enthusiastically cheer with raised hands as first-timers. Chatting with a few revealed a remarkably civic-minded crowd of nonscientists at a science conference.

The hope and joy were palpable: animated conversations, busy exchanges of business cards and scribbling of contact information on paper napkins from the coffee service during breaks. I sensed a network of newly minted activists emerging before my eyes.

That was America’s first discernible signal that a movement of social change is coalescing around climate realism to disrupt the entrenched climate establishment with assurance, conviction and determination to topple its regime.

Face it, the climate change movement has peaked with nowhere more to go. It's today's power elite, it rules the White House, it owns the Senate, it reigns as the global establishment's ideology and the orthodoxy of authority. It's the vibrant revolution of the morning that fossilized by evening and night must now fall. A new rebel alliance must speed the parting guest.

Heartland’s plenary sessions served up over a dozen impressive rallying speeches and 10 inspiring award presentations, but — not to slight their vigor and dignity — I concentrated on the 21 breakout panel sessions, including presentations by nonprofit allies such as the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow.

One was titled, “Global Warming as a Social Movement.” The organizers must have been prescient, since the conference itself was becoming the “network forming event” of an incipient climate realist social movement.

An outstanding presentation by Paul Driessen, author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death, unfolded a searing indictment of global Big Green, with its “inhumane and deadly climate claims that limit energy access and living standards for the world's poor.”

I gave a presentation on “Who benefits from alarmism?” documenting rewards of money and ego strokes. After examining activist foundation donors who set the environmental agenda by choosing who gets the cash, I explored movement dynamics, based on the work of Luther Gerlach, retired anthropology professor and the field’s leading researcher. His insight that “all movements are in conflict with the established order” fits alarmist beginnings, but his explanation of today's rabid hard-core elite alarmists was an “aha!” moment.

“People are changed, even transformed by the experience of commitment,” wrote Gerlach, “redefining needs, desires, or discontents in terms of the ideology of the movement.” It involves “re-education through group interaction,” and “group support for changed cognitive and behavioral patterns.” It’s like brainwashing.

Gerlach cited psychologist Abraham Maslow, who found that ideological commitment “can be so profound and shaking an experience that it can change the person’s character forever after.” Picture Obama’s bureaucrats or United Nations scientists or Greenpeace recruits growing ever more extreme to prove their devotion, like addicts always needing a bigger ideological fix – climate change junkies.

Maslow was famous for his 1954 “needs hierarchy” that tracked personality development first from seeking basic material needs (food, shelter, survival), then personal needs – love, a sense of belonging, social acceptance and self actualization. But Maslow later found that non-material needs topped that hierarchy with the needs for knowledge, to understand, to find inspiration and beauty (key needs of environmentalists).

But that has consequences.

As we advance to the top, “We tend to take for granted the blessings we already have, especially if we don’t have to work or struggle for them,” wrote Maslow in 1970. Particularly for those who undergo ideological commitment, “the food, the security, the freedom that have never been lacking or yearned for, tend not only to be unnoticed but also even to be devalued or mocked or destroyed.” Such blindness fits climate alarmists perfectly.

Maslow called that pathology “postgratification forgetting and devaluation,” and predicted that such sightlessness and contempt of basic needs would infect huge populations if they obtained the means to gratify the top needs.

Think Greenpeace’s brag, “We take no corporate donations.” Reality: Greenpeace, USA got $32.7 million and its Greenpeace Fund got $12.8 million in foundation grants since 2001. Foundations pay from an investment portfolio dominated by corporate securities. The Packard Foundation’s $2.7 million grants to Greenpeace alone were made possible in part by $350,000 of ExxonMobil stock – and millions in Packard's dividends and capital gains come from dozens more fossil fuel corporations. Blind, contemptuous Greenpeace can't escape corporate money flows.

Heartland’s climate change conference attracted those resistant to ideology, following truth wherever it takes them, wary of groupthink and rejecting absolutism, unwilling to surrender their integrity to corrupt overlords despite personal suffering.

Thank you, Heartland, Joe Bast, the crew, and everyone who showed up. Being there was a “peak experience.”

RON ARNOLD, a Washington Examiner columnist, is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.
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Ron Arnold

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