(CNSNews.com) - Greenpeace, meet Galileo. That is the message George Landrith has for environmental activists at Greenpeace and elsewhere who claim there is a strong scientific consensus on the question of global warming and its relationship to human activity.
The Italian astronomer Galileo was ostracized and persecuted when he used his telescope in 1610 to help prove the earth and other planets were in orbit around the sun. His ideas were considered heretical at the time.
Landrith is the president of Frontiers of Freedom, one of many free market institutions and conservative think tanks identified as being "at the heart of the climate change denial industry" in a report released by Greenpeace Friday.
Although both houses of Congress have held hearings on global warming since January, pending legislation aimed at curbing industry's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions has not moved forward.
Greenpeace argues in its report that a "multimillion dollar campaign" organized at the behest of ExxonMobil is largely responsible for derailing legislation on Capitol Hill. The report focuses special attention on The Heartland Institute, the George C. Marshall Institute, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Frontiers of Freedom.
The Greenpeace report refers to a "leaked 1998 American Petroleum Institute memo" that details a concerted strategy to "manufacture uncertainty about science." Greenpeace believes Exxon Mobil has been spearheading this strategy.
Dave Gardner, a spokesman for ExxonMobil, responded to the Greenpeace report by email.
"In common with many other companies - we support numerous public policy organizations that research and promote discussion on a variety of topics such as energy policy and international affairs. These groups do not represent us or speak on our behalf, nor do we have any control over their views and messages," Gardner wrote.
"The groups Greenpeace cites are a widely varied group and to classify them as 'climate deniers' is wrong," he stated.
"Most of these groups have taken no position on climate; some oppose Kyoto as not being a viable solution because it does not include developing countries, most support free market principles in regard to policy options ... We agree that climate change is a serious issue. We should be talking about viable policy options," Gardner added.
Landrith said he suspects that Greenpeace and other special interest groups devoted to the environmental cause are gripped by "a sense of urgency" for two reasons: a growing number of scientists are expressing doubts about man-made global warming and there are some indications that temperatures are beginning to cool again.
But Kert Davies, research director for D.C. Greenpeace, told Cybercast News Service that the attacks from free market groups are damaging, because they distract and confuse average people and undermine constructive action.
"There is a very broad consensus," he said. But the average person has difficultly grasping the dangers associated with global warming, Davies argued, because think tanks and organizations like Frontiers of Freedom "mischaracterize aspects of the science on a repeated basis."
Greenpeace accuses ExxonMobil of funding 41 think tanks and "front groups" for the purpose of spreading "misinformation" designed to confuse the public and stymie government action.
But Landrith and other policy experts from groups attacked in the Greenpeace report say there is no consensus in the scientific community about a strong connection between human activity and rising temperatures. Landrith added that science does not operate by consensus.
"Galileo was out of favor in his time," Landrith told Cybercast News Service. "The science is always changing, and the idea that there is a consensus on global warming is balderdash. I've talked to many scientists who tell me otherwise. There is only a political consensus."
The Greenpeace report does note that a few "highly active organizations and individuals in the global warming denial campaign" were not funded by ExxonMobil in 2006, namely the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and The Free Enterprise Education Institute, connected to Steve Milloy at JunkScience.com.
"The Greenpeace paper is a testament to the effectiveness of JunkScience.com and the other climate realist groups. I'm very flattered that Greenpeace thinks so highly of the work we do. I wish I could return the sentiment, but I can't," Milloy wrote in an email to Cybercast News Service.
"The environmental activist groups receive a tsunami of direct/indirect funding and moral support from big business - much more than business provides climate realists. It must drive the enviros crazy that we've been able to short-circuit their agenda so far with our shoe-string budgets," he continued.
The Heartland Institute sees a vindictive attempt on the part of Greenpeace to close off an area of legitimate debate and to silence critics of man-made global warming studies.
"It's troubling that in a free society, where the First Amendment is suppose to protect free speech and association, anyone would face ridicule simply for exercising those rights and participating in the political process," said Michael Van Winkle, a media agent with the Heartland Institute.
"Less than 5 percent of our budget comes from any one corporation and we don't follow marching orders or do contract research," he added.
Van Winkle also questioned Greenpeace's own funding.
"Greenpeace's budget is four times bigger than ours. Is anyone questioning where their funds come from? It is important to note that every year Greenpeace alone spends six times what Exxon allegedly donated to 41 different groups. Whose money is exerting a greater influence on the debate?" he asked.
Davies said he favors "full disclosure" and "transparency."
But, the National Center for Public Policy Research is challenging Greenpeace and its affiliates to disclose the sources and amounts of its 2006 donations exceeding $50,000, according to a press release. If Greenpeace agrees, The National Center for Public Policy Research will do the same.
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