'Doing the Lord's Work' Heartland Institute Gathers Climate Deniers For America First Energy Conference

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One of the world’s most notorious climate science denial groups — the Heartland Institute — will gather its supporters and fellow ideologues this week for a one-day energy conference in Louisiana.

Aside from the conference’s fanatical devotion to fossil fuels, the line-up includes the usual pushers of junk science who are sure that every major science academy in the world is wrong about the dangers of adding CO2 to the atmosphere.

Gathering at the conference will be “hundreds of state and national elected officials, think tank leaders, and policy analysts.”

Front and center in New Orleans will be Fred Palmer, a veteran coal industry lobbyist who was behind what was probably the very first fossil-fuel funded attacks on the science linking coal burning to dangerous climate change. 

After more than 30 years with the Western Fuels Association and then coal giant Peabody, Palmer now spends his time as a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute. 

Shortly after Donald Trump won the U.S. Presidency, Palmer told DeSmog that he would be “reaching out to the fossil fuel community” for cash to fund the institute. This would be added to the more than $5 million the institute has received from major Trump financial backer Robert Mercer, the hedge fund billionaire whose daughter Rebekah Mercer was a key member of the President’s transition team.

Given the backing of the Mercers, it’s perhaps not surprising that Heartland has borrowed the title of Trump’s energy policy in holding its “America First Energy Conference.”

A favorite talking point from climate science deniers around the world — including those at the Heartland Institute — is that governments and scientists around the world have adopted climate science as a new “green religion” and it’s this fanaticism that is clouding their judgment.

Heartland likes to pitch global warming as “facts vs faith,” as a “green religion,” and to tell its followers that environmentalism is like a church where climate change is the new religion.

This is a curious position to take, when you compare it to the beliefs of Fred Palmer and other speakers at the Heartland conference. Quite literally, they believe that coal was put there by a god for humans to use.

It’s hard not to concede that coal hasn’t been put on Earth and other fossil fuels as part of a divine plan,” Palmer has told DeSmog.

In July 2018, Palmer gave a speech to the Western Conservative Summit in Colorado. In audio obtained by DeSmog, Palmer says of Heartland’s efforts on climate change: “We are, I know, doing the Lord’s work.”

But this literal religious zeal is not restricted to Palmer at Heartland’s conference this week.

One session — titled Why CO2 Emissions are not a climate crisis — includes panelists Dr. Roy Spencer and Professor David Legates, who are both old hands at pushing back on all that green religion.

In 2015, Legates was featured in a series of videos attacking climate science and environmentalism produced by the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

There has to be a designer — a creator behind this to make something as complex as it is, yet as robust as it is,” says Legates.

To be a true Christian means you have to believe and understand what we are being taught through the Bible and through God’s word.”

Scheduled beside Legates on the Heartland Institute panel is Dr. Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama in Huntsville. 

Spencer once wrote that he had analyzed Biblical claims that “the universe and all life within it had been created by some greater intelligent Being, not by mere chance.”

His conclusion? The “theory of creation actually had a much better scientific basis than the theory of evolution.”

There are many well-credentialed climate scientists who are also people of faith. 

But the argument from denialists that climate scientists are blinded by their own faith in a “climate change religion,” belies their own quite literal belief that they are doing the work of god.

As a presumably god-given debating tactic, it’s as flawed as their science.

Main image: Fred Palmer

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