The Return of Bad Old Fashioned Climate Denial

February 5, 2023

Above, Our World in Data/Oxford University researcher Hannah Ritchie has a factually correct, but strategically flawed, response to newly re-instated-on-twitter climate denier and proud racist, Tony Heller.
Katharine Hayhoe has the corrective.

Even before the catastrophic and deranged take-over of Twitter by Elon Musk, we have been seeing a bit of a younger generation of climate denial grifters coming into their own, notably Alex Epstein, but also a growing franchise operation opposing clean energy development across the US and the world.
Amy Westervelt and others have noticed.

Amy Westervelt in Drilled:

Over the past month or so, thanks in large part to the work of reporter Michael Thomas, the Internet has rediscovered an effort that’s been underfoot for more than a decade: the coal-funded attack on clean energy. In a few viral Twitter threads, Thomas has focused on the work of two longtime anti-renewables campaigners, John Droz and Kevon Martis,who have spent the past 15 years or so fighting renewable energy projects at the local level (and convincing and training others to do the same). 

I first heard about Martis and Droz through Scott Peterson at Checks and Balances Project, back in 2018 when he was digging into the sudden, successful backlash against wind energy in Ohio and Michigan. They’re still going strong (Droz is now a member of the CO2 Coalition as well) and, according to Thomas, gaining steam. I suspect we’ll see a resurgence of anti-renewable activity as the fossil fuel industry looks to leverage the Inflation Reduction Act incentives for gas and dampen the benefit of the Act for renewables. So it’s a good time to look at where that work fits in the broader climate countermovement.

When I look at both Droz’s and Martis’s presentations, what I see are the fingerprints of a guy who predates both of them in the anti-climate battle: Steve Milloy. Which is interesting because Milloy also happens to be the highest-paid staffer at the same organization where Martis is a senior fellow: Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal), previously known as the American Tradition Institutethe organization that went after climate scientists like James Hansen, Michael Mann, and Katharine Hayhoe in the early aughts, trying to discredit them, and climate science in general. E&E Legal is also affiliated or sharing counsel with the Energy & Environment Action Team, the Free Market Environmental Law Clinicand the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Droz, Martis, E&E, and CEI turn up on all sorts of documents and letters together, too, and Milloy and Droz are both frequent speakers at Heartland Institute events. 

According to the most recent 990 on file for E&E Legal, Milloy is pulling in close to half a million dollars a year from his role as a board member and senior policy fellow there. Their “Videos” section is dominated by Milloy’s regular appearances “debunking” climate science on Fox NewsNewsmax, and OAN. E&E Legal has received funding from Arch Coal, Peabody Coal, and the Koch brothers-funded Donors Trust.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about two things the media and much of the climate movement tends to dismiss as long past—old-school climate denial and the coal lobby. Both are not only still around, but seem to be having a bit of a renaissance. This ad that the Heartland Institute started running earlier this month, for example, looks like something you might have seen in the early 2000s:

And for at least a couple of decades, Heartland’s longtime warrior Milloy has been at the intersection of the coal lobby and climate denial. Although he’s often laughed off as something of a clown (he likes to call environmentalists “watermelons,” green on the outside but red in the middle, and go on social media tirades against the “climate bedwetters”), Milloy is also lurking in the background of the climate denial resurgence.

Among Milloy’s many claims to infamy is the fact that he is the architect of the proposed EPA “secret science” rule, something he’s been pushing since the late 1990s. As Naomi Oreskes, who covered Milloy in her book Merchants of Doubt, pointed out in 2018, the proposal seemed reasonable on its face but was actually intended to do something Milloy has wanted to do for decades: erode the credibility of epidemiological studies, in order to erode the credibility of science, period. For Milloy, as with everything he does, it was also in service of his longtime goal: rolling back air pollution regulations. He came very close to getting his way under Trump, and I suspect we haven’t seen the last of it. 

A core Milloy belief is that EPA scientists are basically biased in favor of more regulation, and therefore can’t be trusted. It’s an idea that comes up over and over in Martis’s and Droz’s presentations, too. Check out the cover of one of Droz’s presentations, taking aim at a state-level environmental policy, for example:


One Response to “The Return of Bad Old Fashioned Climate Denial”

  1. ubrew12 Says:

    Heartland: “New poll debunks the 97% consensus claim about climate change. Only 59% of climate scientists surveyed think global climate change will cause “significant harm” to the “living conditions for people alive today”

    In other news, Heartland reports Apples not the same thing as Oranges…

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