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July 28, 2014

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Climate change skeptics: Global warming exists, but we didn’t cause it

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Richard Brian

Former Vice President Al Gore speaks at the International CTIA Wireless show in Las Vegas. Gore says government investment in green infrastructure projects, including creation of a “smart,” energy efficient electricity grid, will create jobs and help address the threat of climate change.

To anyone who believes that human-caused global warming is seriously damaging the planet, Mandalay Bay was an alternate universe this week.

There, at the ninth International Conference on Climate Change, the basis of the modern environmental movement was called into question. The Heartland Institute’s conference, held Monday through Wednesday, aimed to cast doubt on whether humans are causing dangerous levels of greenhouse gases that are ravaging Earth.

The skepticism didn't mean every speaker denied that the global climate is changing. They just doubt that humans are the culprits. One dominant viewpoint was that changes in the sun’s behavior are to blame.

Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, both recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize for environmental work, frequently were invoked as enemies. Speakers used Gore as a comedic punching bag on multiple occasions, and the IPCC became the focus of repeated discrediting attempts. A slide from one speaker associated it with “gangster science.”

“The data, the science, they are on our side,” said another speaker, James Taylor, a Heartland senior fellow.

Speakers had a large audience. Six hundred people registered, and more than 4,000 tuned in online, organizers said.

Mel Gerst drove 11 hours from Northern California with his wife, Janet. He described himself as a climate “realist.”

“When they use the word ‘skeptic,’ it’s sort of implying you don’t believe in global warming,” Gerst said. “All the skeptics believe in global warming. The only question is: Is man contributing anything to it? And if he is, how significant it is.”

Though speakers received a warm reception from conference attendees, convincing others that people aren't to blame for environmental degradation is a far steeper task.

A 2013 survey found that 97 percent of scientific papers that took a stance on climate change concluded that humans are causing it. Last fall, the IPCC agreed, releasing a report stating with 95 percent certainty that humans are causing climate change. (Conference speakers attacked the methodology.) The Obama administration also has aggressively acted in support of that conclusion, most significantly with the Environmental Protection Agency's recent proposal to cut the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by power plants.

Moreover, the public seems largely in favor of such moves. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 70 percent of Americans support the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

Nonetheless, the Heartland conference attracted some big names. U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., spoke Monday, and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., spoke via video Wednesday. Both legislators are critical of climate science.

“I know good science fiction when I see it, and that is what I’ve seen in the climate change debate — a lot of fiction dressed up as science,” said George Christensen, an Australian Parliament member.

Supporters took to Twitter to agree with the speakers.

But objectors also were quick to jump in.

Co-sponsors of the conference included the Heritage Foundation, Ayn Rand Institute and Center for Industrial Progress.

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