An Inside Look at the World's Largest Climate Denial Conference
“Sold out … ?! No way. Cannot be true.” I swore to myself. In all of its awkward history, The Heartland Institute’s conferences for climate change deniers have never sold out. This year it did, and I wanted in.
These events aren’t something to look forward to. It’s mostly angry, aged white men in suits, lying to themselves about climate change for two days straight in sterile air conditioning, safe from the evils of sun and breeze.
But my job is to keep tabs on these folks, so I spend a lot of time in the dungeons of denial.
This year, after a troubled recent history, Heartland hosted their tenth International Conference on Climate Change, or #ICCC10, in a much smaller space: the basement of the Washington Court Hotel, in Washington, DC.
Reluctantly, I emailed Jim Lakely, Heartland’s communications director, to get on the waiting list. Jim and I have a strained relationship from past encounters, but I was banking on Heartland’s “come one, come all” invitations, which reasonable people tend to ignore once they see Heartland’s work.
I never heard back from Jim, but decided to go anyway. I’m not a journalist, I work at Greenpeace and that affiliation comes with plenty of apprehension in the world of corporate lobbying.
Ironically, Jim Lakely was the first person I saw when I arrived at the hotel, standing outside in the oppressive heat, sucking down a nice, healthy cigarette. This was fitting: Heartland is on Big Tobacco’s payroll and still downplays the health hazards of smoking.
Knowing Jim would recognize me and likely ask me to leave before speaking to any conference guests, I ducked discreetly into the conference.
I immediately bumped into Marc Morano, the self-glorifying public relations consultant you’ve probably seen shouting at Bill Nye on cable TV. If you can bear the nonsense, you can hear my informal debate with Marc Morano, including his take on “the uphill battle that skeptics face,” and climate denial among 2016 Presidential contenders.
The next person I saw was Dr. Roy Spencer, one of the world’s few scientists to deny the evidence that people play a role in causing climate change. Credible climate scientists have wasted time and effort debunking his nonsense claims. Dr. Spencer has retaliated by calling his critics “global warming Nazis,” as he explained to me:
Nazi accusations aside, the rest of what Dr. Spencer was full of self-contradiction.
Just after claiming his latest research shows “no warming,” he acknowledged a warming trend of global average surface temperature.
Then he backtracked, asserting “we have no idea what’s natural and what’s man-made.” A minute later, he was even more certain on this, saying, “there is no fingerprint of human-caused warming.”
Except there is, I told him.
“That’s bullshit,” he maintained.
The unedited interview with Roy Spencer at Heartland Institute’s ICCC10 is available in full, for posterity.
Up until this point, I had been contained in the lobby. For whatever reason, Heartland’s private security left before the conference actually ended, opening the main area to guests like myself. I took the elevator down to the basement floor and scanned for familiar faces. In short order, I found one.
Unlike almost everyone else working with The Heartland Institute, Isaac Orr is young. Kind of like me.
This perplexes me—why the hell would a young person work to make their own future worse? Why help coal and oil lobbyists cook our planet? What price is worth that risk.
I have yet to find out. Mr. Orr brushed me aside while he sucked away at a Dum-Dum. I can’t blame him—the conference was winding down, and he was probably bored to death by the stale company:
What finally got me kicked out was a very short interaction with Dr. Willie Soon, an aerospace engineer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who says “too much ice is really bad for polar bears.” Documents obtained by Greenpeace and the Climate Investigations Center show Soon has been exclusively financed by fossil fuel companies, their lobbying organizations and dark money nonprofits with known ties to industry.
An expose of Dr. Soon in The New York Times last February revealed how the discredited scientist promised coal utility Southern Company “deliverables” in the form of undermining climate policies discussed by Congress, and attacks on Kansas clean energy incentives for the Charles Koch Foundation. These revelations sparked an ongoing investigation of Dr. Soon’s conduct by his employer.
The public and the press were shocked, but this is routine for Dr. Soon. He’s been taking industry money for over a decade, pushing his discredited analysis with persistence even as climate scientists around the world pick apart his empty theory.
Funny enough, even other climate denier scientists don’t think much of Dr. Soon’s research. Here’s Roy Spencer:
This disagreement is illustrative of a much larger maze of contradicting positions taken by climate science deniers, with only one consistent theme: do not try to solve global warming. They’re all pretty clear on that.
That’s why we need independent people—with zero obligation to enrich corporate clients—to call out climate change deniers. We’ve wasted enough time giving consideration to these fake “skeptics."
The best we can do is help them trip over their own words, and push forward with real solutions to climate change.
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While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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