Environmental Facts vs. Environmental “Fact-Checkers”
Stacey Abrams, who ran for governor of Georgia, and Tom Steyer, who ran for president of the United States, are now trying to run me out of town. Abrams, Steyer, and the leaders of 17 large environmental lobbies recently asked Facebook to ban a research group that I direct—the CO2 Coalition, made up of 55 climate scientists and energy economists.
The annual budgets of these lobbies total over half a billion dollars, and Steyer alone is worth $1.6 billion. Their alarmist view of our supposedly impending environmental doom predominates in mainstream media, centering on the impact on the earth of emissions of carbon dioxide—a non-polluting, mild warming gas, and an important source of plant and plankton food.
By contrast, the CO2 Coalition’s annual budget is half a million dollars. Like all scientists and economists who ask for any proof of the looming apocalypse, we are excluded from mainstream-media discussion. You might wonder: how did the Steyer-Abrams crowd even notice us, let alone conclude that we posed a threat to their enforced consensus, which calls for an end to the affordable, reliable energy that powers over 80 percent of the world?
The answer is found in the work of a Silicon Valley computer entrepreneur named Eric Michelman, who became fabulously wealthy creating a modification of the computer mouse. For more than a decade now, Michelman has devoted his wealth to squelching media debate on climate change—a successful dry run for the cancel culture that we see engulfing many other issues today.
In 2016, Michelman was the founding and lead funder of a group called Climate Feedback, whose purpose is to “fact-check” and label as “false” any and all deviant thoughts about fossil-fueled climate catastrophe. The group has been certified as an unbiased source on climate issues by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, which was founded by the Tampa Bay Times and operates the left-leaning PolitiFact. At some point, Facebook turned its censorship oversight over to the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network.
That’s when our organization’s problems started.
In September 2019, a “false” label appeared on Facebook when the Washington Examiner posted an article I had written there with Dr. Patrick Michaels, our senior fellow and a former president of the American Association of State Climatologists. The op-ed described the poor performance of climate models that had projected alarming increases in future temperatures. The “false” label triggered a wave of censorship from Facebook’s algorithms, blocking reposting and advertising.
The detailed, scientifically referenced letter we wrote to Facebook that soon got the label reversed is almost identical in form and argument to responses this summer to similar Climate Feedback censorship written by environmental writer Michael Shellenberger, Dr. Michaels (after a televised appearance on Fox’s Life, Liberty, and Levin), and climate statistician Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. All of us agree: Climate Feedback is biased, sloppy, and often just flat wrong. For example, in its “fact-checks,” the group blatantly contradicts the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s finding that there has been no statistically significant increase in rates of sea-level rise, hurricanes, droughts, and floods during the carbon emissions era that began with the dramatic industrialization after World War II.
Climate Feedback is Michelman’s third major attempt at promoting climate alarmism and silencing opposing views. First came the Climate Change Education Project, in 2008, followed by the More than Scientists campaign in 2015. When he set up that campaign, Michelman said:
It’s about showing the science is settled. Studies consistently show that 97 percent of scientists agree. We want the public to both hear from them that, yeah, this is settled, but also see scientists for who they are. They’re our neighbors, our fellow citizens, and community members. They’re people with kids, and they’re worried about the future. When they say, “I’m concerned about climate change and I think we need to act on it,” you can understand they’re saying it because they have kids just like you do.
Since Michelman had decided that the science was settled in favor of a 97 percent consensus on catastrophe before he even founded Climate Feedback, his group should never have been let into a network of “unbiased” reviewers. And its performance shows why.
I’m all for debating with Climate Feedback. For 15 years as a professor at American University, I invited to my classes on climate statistics and mathematical modeling many of the groups whose leaders signed the recent letter to Facebook calling for us to be banned. But there was no response because the cancel culture doesn’t believe in debate. It believes in silencing its opponents by denying them a platform. We’ll hold on as long as we can. I believe that the truth will out—even against “fact-checkers.”
Dr. Caleb Rossiter is the executive director of the CO2 Coalition.