Acton Institute Powerblog

As You Sow Shuts Up Climate-Change Debate

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It often comes to light over matters of disagreement that one side attempts to shut down the debate by emulating Ring Lardner’s father in The Young Immigrants: “’Shut up,’ he explained.” Of course, this isn’t at all a real explanation, but it sure does slam the door on any further discussion.

This disingenuous tactic is witnessed again and again in the climate-change debate. Most notably it appears in the tactics of those who believe the science is settled, a scientific consensus exists and global warming indeed poses a serious catastrophic threat to our planet – as evidenced by a March 7, 2013, webinar conducted by As You Sow for proxy shareholder resolutions.

As You Sow – which says 18 percent of its members are faith-based organizations – seeks to prompt corporate boards in which it owns stock to adopt its view of climate change. One method to achieve this goal is shutting down the debate completely. As noted in its 2013 “Proxy Preview,” AYS and a “very broad coalition of investors is continuing a vigorous initiative to make companies be more transparent about how they spend corporate treasury money on political campaigns and lobbying.”

Among these initiatives are attempts to force businesses to divulge publicly their donations to so-called “third-party lobbies,” the think tanks that do much of the heavy lifting of independent research on such issues as climate change. As noted in the “Proxy Preview,”

It is not possible to independently determine whether a company contributes to all groups in the political arena. Investors who want more clarity are continuing to focus on spending done by intermediary groups that receive corporate money and spend it on political campaigns and on massaging the political process after elections are over – via trade associations, nonprofit ‘social welfare’ organizations, and charities that promote model legislation, mostly [sic] prominently the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). These intermediary groups, the sources of much of the ‘dark money’ that flowed into the 2012 election cycle, have helped set new spending records. (p. 36)

Not mentioned in the “Proxy Preview” yet prominent during the March 7 webinar are The Heartland Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In the interest of full disclosure, your humble writer currently is an unpaid policy advisor and once served as a contract managing editor for the former organization.

Both Heartland and the Chamber are on record as committed to further research on climate change before enacting public policies that may have far more devastating economic impacts than the purported damages threatened by global warming. But, for AYS, this simply isn’t moderate enough. In fact, they find this approach “extreme.”

Nothing will suffice for AYS but shutting down the debate completely, regardless the negative ramifications brought about jumping the gun on lowering carbon emissions would exhibit on the nation’s poorest. Such an approach has nothing whatsoever to do with scientific debate and everything to do with mistaking climate-change zealotry for religious faith.

Bruce Edward Walker has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. Most recently, he was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2007 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past three years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Midland, Mich., with his wife Katherine.

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