Deniers Rally Conservatives to Dismiss Climate Science as “Fake News” and Share Breitbart Stories Instead

James Delingpole, Tony Heller, and Steve Milloy sit on a panel at CPAC 2017

The 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an annual rally of conservative officials and political activists, was set to be a big one — the first time a first-year sitting president would have attended since Ronald Reagan. While President Trump canceled late in 2016, enthusiasm for the president still filled its halls, and so did a number of his White House, Cabinet, and transition team members — including at least one previously unannounced member of the EPA transition team. 

Joining the CPAC lineup was the usual cast of climate science deniers who branded climate change as “fake news,” scientists and environmental advocates as “some of the worst people in the world,” and polluted rivers catching fire in the pre-EPA era as “the price of industrialization.” 

Panel on “Fake Climate News”

Early in the conference, the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) sponsored a panel called “Fake Climate News Camouflaging an Anti-Capitalist Agenda — and What President Trump Plans To Do About it.”

Led by Craig Richardson, E&E has roots in a group which the Guardian described as having “a core mission of discrediting climate science and dismantling environmental regulations.”

Little surprise then that this panel was based on the idea that the media, NASA, and climate scientists are pushing climate change as part of an elaborate network of lies. 

Richardson seemed most excited to introduce panelist and Breitbart London writer James Delingpole — who has labeled climate change “the biggest scam in the history of the world” — saying, “We haven't had this much anticipation for a Brit since 1964 when the Beatles arrived.“ 

Joining him on the panel was Steve Milloy, a fellow at E&E and founder of the anti-climate change site JunkScience.com, and self-described “whistleblower” Tony Heller, who runs the blog Realclimatescience.com. 

The moderator was John Fund, national affairs columnist at the National Review and senior editor at The American Spectator. Fund, always good for a story about being attacked by the left, started by sharing an experience at the Aspen Ideas Festival when he was yelled at for calling out the organizers for using bottled water from Fiji.

Fund also used the opportunity to explain to Delingpole, the author of Watermelons: How the Environmentalists are Killing the Planet, where the fruity term for socialists-in-environmental-clothing came from. 

James Delingpole and the “Worst People in the World”

James Delingpole
James Delingpole

Breitbart’s Delingpole kicked off the discussion with an indictment of “greens” and why his beat covering climate and energy is his favorite: 

This is every journalist’s dream, every journalist dreams of the story where there is endless low-hanging fruit. Every day a new story emerges of the lunacy, and [inaudible] and criminality of the bad guys that you're writing about.” 

He continued to laughter from the packed room, saying, “I can tell you that the Greenies are … are … some of the worst people in the world.

But specifically, who were the supposed villains Delingpole was talking about? Climate scientists, journalists reporting on climate change, and government employees at NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

Steve Milloy, Rivers on Fire, and the End of the EPA

Steve Milloy
Steve Milloy

While Delingpole apparently revels in his job as a journalist covering the “fake news” around climate science, one of the other panelists apparently feels a bit more inspired by the literary world. Steve Milloy, former policy director at coal giant Murray Energy Corp, said in his opening remarks, “If you're familiar with Les Misérables … I've been kind of like Inspector Javert — doggedly after the EPA.” 

It was an interesting comparison given that Javert is a character so blindingly obsessed with duty that he ends up committing suicide rather than accepting that the target of his pursuit, a convict guilty of stealing food, could be a moral person. 

Also according to Milloy, he was on Trump’s EPA transition team, information which was not previously disclosed but now appears in his Twitter bio

As a chronic opponent of the EPA, Milloy showed his excitement for what’s to come from a Trump presidency, enthusiasm which dates back to the campaign trail: 

During the campaign, Donald Trump was the only Republican candidate I have heard, ever, ever, ever heard … say that he wanted to abolish the EPA, he said that many times. 

[Trump] knows that the EPA has been involved in regulatory overreach and of course that struck a chord with me because ever since I’ve worked on EPA issues, it’s always been involved in regulatory overreach. You know in 1970, when the EPA was formed, yeah the air wasn’t as clean as it should be, sometimes the rivers caught on fire. [shrugs] That was the price of industrialization at the time.”

In addition, Milloy announced that the morning of the panel, 300 “scientists” (in reality, the usual parade of non-experts) signed a petition to Trump, asking him to withdraw the United States from the United Nations international convention on climate change.  

Climate Fake News” with Tony Heller aka “Steven Goddard”

Tony Heller aka Steven Goddard
Tony Heller aka “Steven Goddard”

Tony Heller is the real name of long-time climate science-denying blogger Steven Goddard, who once called climate change the “biggest scientific fraud in history.” Heller/Goddard, like many climate deniers, tells a story of how he used to be on the other side of the issue, until he “went and looked at the data” himself and was “incredibly horrified.”

He opened his presentation with his key assertion that, “Basically everything we hear in the press about climate is fake news.”

Heller's presentation on "Hundreds of years of fake climate news"
Heller's presentation at CPAC 2017 focused on media reports of the weather over time.

The rest of his talk included a random assortment of news reports discussing the weather from the past hundred and fifty years. Heller used selected quotes from the articles as support for his claim that the media has been obsessing over weather changes for decades and that current coverage of climate change is therefore just more of the usual hype.

The panel ended with a round of questions about what the audience could do to combat “fake climate news.” Moderator John Fund of the National Review answered, encouraging those in the room to spread what he considered “real” news on climate to their personal networks: 

All of you can play a role … If you receive information, let’s just say from a friend, colleague, or relative, it starts out at about 70 [in believability impact] and goes up to 90. Each of you have e-mail lists. Friends, neighbors, relatives, and associates. If you were to take information from junkscience.com, real-science.com, Breitbart.com, and you were to send it with just a couple words … you should be interested in this, to your list, you can be your own publisher. And the impact is far greater, even though your audience size is not huge, the credibility you have, because they know you, is dramatic.”

Watch the full panel below.

Main image: James Delingpole, Tony Heller, and Steve Milloy sit on a panel about “fake climate news” at CPAC 2017. Credit: Zach Roberts