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Conference on Global Warming Skepticism Raises Important Debate

Today, skeptics on climate change–ranging from scientists to economists to industry folks–gather in New York for the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change. The conference is hosted by the Heartland Institute. NYTimes’ Andrew Revkin has a good post up about the conference as it fits into the larger debate over climate change, and how that debate informs his coverage of the massive issue of climate change. Revkin explains why he covered this particular conference and why it’s necessary to report on climate change skepticism at the behest of many scientists:

I’m trying to do several things in my articles, where space allows: convey what’s confidently understood about the human influence on the climate and then honestly describe the range of responses (from the individual to the intergovernmental) that might meaningfully limit related risks. I also try to characterize the voices in a story, so readers understand possible motivations beyond simply a search for understanding. There are scientists who are also libertarians, liberals, campaigners or paid promoters

Regarding today’s conference, the one thing that can’t be ignored is that the Heartland Institute is not a scientific organization. It’s a free-market public policy think tank.

Science has already been politicized under the Bush administration, which makes it difficult sometimes to separate agenda from scientific fact. But, as Real Climate points out, the Heartland conference does not seem to have the goal of pursuing scientific understanding. The climatologists at Real Climate say the Heartland Institute organized this conference to gain media attention, not to further science. The think tank isn’t shy about its intentions. Here’s an excerpt from the invitation they sent out for the conference:

The purpose of the conference is to generate international media attention to the fact that many scientists believe forecasts of rapid warming and catastrophic events are not supported by sound science, and that expensive campaigns to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are not necessary or cost-effective

And here we are giving them media attention.

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