Climate Skeptics Gather In New York City

A group of over 600 climate change skeptics are meeting in New York City today. But not only will they push back on the widely held notion of human-caused global warming, they'll push against each other's ideas on climate change. New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin talks about the meeting and what's expected to come out of it.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is Day to Day, I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX COHEN, host:

And I'm Alex Cohen. This week in New York, politicians, scientists and even the president of the Czech Republic are gathered to discuss ways to counter the Obama administration on climate change. The International Conference on Climate Change is sponsored by a group called the Heartland Institute. Andrew Revkin has been covering the conference for the New York Times and he joins us now. And Andrew, the Heartland Institute, we should note, was once supported by Exxon Mobil. Who exactly is this group?

Mr. ANDREW REVKIN (Reporter, New York Times): They're basically - if you'd go to their Web site, they describe themselves as deregulatory, free market, private sector solutions to social and environmental problems, you know, limited government, that kind of thing.

COHEN: And you write that in the past, the folks who've met at this conference usually are skeptical about climate change. But this year, there's some disagreement even amongst the folks who were there. What's been going on?

Mr. REVKIN: Basically it's a meeting of self-described climate skeptics. These are - you know, for 20 years, ever since the global warming concept has been evolving in a big way in the science community, there's been a very vocal, mixed array of people who either outright reject the science, who accept that humans are influencing the climate, but it's inconsequential, or in some cases who are paid to be there, to sort of oppose regulations on pollution or emissions, and so it's a mixture. And what I sense this year - there was a little of this last year too - is they're realizing they have such a varied array of scientific explanations for what's going on with climate that they felt the need to sort of sync things up, to square up their own stories in some sense, because otherwise they're in danger of losing credibility.

COHEN: And what do you think has caused this change?

Mr. REVKIN: They're not gaining traction, let's put it that way. They're still out there. There are people on the other side of the issue who have a very extreme view of, you know, the climate becoming unraveled in real time where the science also is maybe not there. If you're trying to make a case to the public in America, if you're not consistent, that's a sign of you may not have reality on your side.

COHEN: And you note someone who isn't there this year, a physicist who draws up the point that maybe skeptics could be part of the problem in terms of distorting the science. What is his argument?

Mr. REVKIN: Well, Russell Seitz is a physicist and kind of an independent thinker who's been studying climate and energy for a long time. He was at the meeting last year, gave a talk about the possibility of still burning coal; if you choose the right coal deposits they're - there is less CO2, less greenhouse gases produced per unit of energy. He felt sort of stiffed and because it didn't really fit their script, he felt he shouldn't go again. He had a strong sense that the political framing of the issue supersedes the need for the science to be accurate, so he's kind of frustrated. There's another scientist also who's chosen not to go to these meetings, John Christy. He felt this kind of event where you're sort of mixing policy and politics and ideology and science was again kind of counterproductive.

COHEN: But there are, as you note, 600 climate change skeptics there in attendance, and this is the first time this conference has happened during the Obama administration. What do you think will come out of it?

Mr. REVKIN: I think they are very eager and the organizers made this clear. They're just trying to get up a head of steam to resist significant substantive legislation restricting greenhouse gases, you know, which mostly come from burning fuels, coal and oil, and that's the goal.

COHEN: And just finally, Andrew, you mention in your story that the president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, is there. Why?

Mr. REVKIN: He's a very outspoken critic of what he calls climate alarmism. He's gone after Al Gore before and he's written a book, I think, about this stuff too. He's - more comes at it from the economic side and just feels there is no justification at all for remaking the global energy system on the basis of a long-term risk that he feels is not well-established. That's his thing.

COHEN: Andrew Revkin writes for the New York Times. He is also the author of their Dot Earth blog. Andrew, thank you.

Mr. REVKIN: It's my pleasure.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.