Monday, Google made waves -- and kick-started an exodus -- by cutting ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council. The reason, according to Google chairman Eric Schmidt? The free market lobbying group is "just literally lying" about climate change.
Unfortunately for ALEC, it's no longer fashionable to be a climate denier, or to promote climate denial. And it's proving to be a rather unprofitable position as well. This has put the group in the rather awkward position of having to defend its belief in climate change.
Yeah, it's not going so well.
"ALEC recognizes that climate change is an important issue," reads a letter, signed by 156 state legislators, sent Wednesday to Google. "No ALEC model policy denies climate change." Clare Foran at National Journal calls bullshit on that one, quoting the group's model legislation on climate change:
The legislature finds and declares that: (A) Human activity has and will continue to alter the atmosphere of the planet. (B) Such activity may lead to demonstrable changes in climate, including a warming of the planetary mean temperature. (C) Such activity may lead to deleterious, neutral, or possibly beneficial climatic changes.
OK, sure, they're not flat-out denying the reality of climate change. But there sure are a lot of half-truths, misdirections and outright lies packed into that paragraph. To express uncertainty over humans' influence on the climate, Foran points out, is to be out of line with 97 percent of scientists -- those forming the overwhelming consensus -- who agree that the planet is warming and that humans are the primary cause. And the idea that climate change might be good for us? That's straight out of the playbook of the climate-denying Heartland Institute -- not anyone ALEC should want to associate itself with, considering the circumstances.
Thursday, ALEC upped its game, releasing a position statement on renewables and climate change. Again, it tries to make the case for "free market environmentalism" while insisting it's not a "climate denier organization." Again, it gets caught in its own lies.
In the statement, ALEC tries to claim that it doesn't advocate for the teaching of climate denial in schools. Its model Environmental Literacy Improvement Act, adopted in classrooms across the country, might not teach climate denial outright, but it does encourage teachers to give climate skeptics and deniers a voice, in order to provide students with a "balanced" view of the science. In practice, of course, that doesn't turn out looking like how a balanced debated between the 97 percent majority and the climate-denying minority should.
ALEC also tries to get out of claims that it "opposes legislative or regulatory action that addresses climate change," even though it's been clearly, and firmly, opposed to the EPA's clean power plan. Its twisted reasoning? Nowhere in the EPA plan, ALEC claims, does it say what the climatic benefits of limiting emissions from coal-fired power plants would be. Of course, the EPA plan is all about climate change. The legislation is entirely based on the agency's finding, in 2009, that key greenhouse gases in the atmosphere “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations" -- because of their contribution to global warming.
And what of the group's reported plans to penalize homeowners who install their own solar panels? Sounds like pretty anti-renewable energy, right? Not so, says ALEC: Its position on rooftop solar is similar to that laid out by other policy organizations, including the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The NRDC isn't having any of that. Aliya Haq, special projects director at the NRDC's climate and clean air program, explains why the two groups are nothing alike: “NRDC is fighting day and night to protect our climate and advance clean energy," Haq said in a statement. "ALEC is doing the opposite. It’s that simple.”