A little more information has come out about that suspicious investigation that produced the seemingly abusive subpoena to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, asking them for a crapton of documents related to CEI’s work on climate change, presumably in connection with the investigation into ExxonMobil’s alleged lies to investors.
The Washington Times has a copy of a subpoena issued to ExxonMobil, and it’s quite the fishing expedition. It asks for all of ExxonMobil’s communications about climate change by almost any means (including MySpace!) with over 100 organizations. Most of them seem to be random policy think tanks, a few of which (e.g. the Heartland Institute) have a pretty shady reputation when it comes to climate change.
I’ve heard of many of the rest, but I couldn’t really characterize them one way or another on climate issues. Since many of them also appear on Greenpeaces’ ExxonSecrets list of supposed climate change deniers (presumably because both lists were created from similar sources) I assume they have expressed some degree of skepticism about global warming.
The one that got my attention (because they brought it up themselves) is Reason magazine, or rather their publisher, the Reason Foundation. With all their contributors, I’m sure that somebody at Reason has said something stupid about the climate, but their main climate science correspondent, Ronald Bailey, has been pretty straight about it. He was skeptical of early global warming models that predicted catastrophic levels of warming, but he got on board once scientists figured out how to reconcile the satellite data (which showed little warming) with the data from surface thermometers (which show more warming). You could argue that he should have gotten on board sooner, but there’s a difference between being sincerely skeptical and lying about the science.
Reason is a policy oriented organization, so their concern — and mine — is not about the existence of anthropogenic global warming but about what our response should be. Soon after global warming entered the public consciousness, environmentalists, anti-capitalists, and big-government politicians seized on it to claim the power to control a large chunk of our economy. To those of us in the libertarian movement, rather than being an inconvenient truth, global warming seemed to be a suspiciously convenient theory for the radical left. Despite this, the libertarians at Reason have pretty much accepted global warming and moved on to discuss what to do about it. This conversion was what convinced me that climate change was not just another moral panic and that I should pay more attention to it.
There are far too many organizations mentioned in the subpoena for me to research, and many of them could be lobbying fronts for ExxonMobil. A lot of them, however, appear to be right-wing or free-market advocacy groups, such as the National Taxpayers Union and the Heritage Foundation, or business-oriented groups such as the National Black Chamber of Commerce which would naturally be highly skeptical about climate change without having to be part of an alleged conspiracy.
Some of the organizations seem pretty legitimate, such as university-centered research teams like the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University, the George Mason University Law and Economics Center, and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, which have a free-market orientation that would make them skeptical the kinds of centralized planning proposed to deal with the climate crisis.
Then there are places like the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, or the Arizona State University Office of Climatology, which are legitimate scientific organizations that I assume are on the list because of a kerfuffle with one or two of their researchers.
So far as I know, only one of these organizations (the Competitive Enterprise Institute) has been hit with a subpoena of its own, and maybe that’s where it will end. But I wouldn’t bet on it. Witch hunts usually don’t end until they cause a lot more damage.