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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

ALEC: 'We're Not Climate Change Deniers!'


Have you ever heard the old saying about violins playing? Well, cue up the violins playing those sad songs. The American Legislative Exchange Council, commonly known by its acronym, ALEC, would appreciate it.

The organization is sick of being called a climate change denial group. It has even threatened to sue, and sent letters to two organizations, reports the Washington Post.

Both Common Cause and the League of Conservation (LCV) received letters from ALEC. The letter sent to Common Cause came from the law office, Webster, Chamberlain and Bean, and asked the organization to “cease all activities that misrepresent ALEC’s positions and activities.” The letter went on to declare that “ALEC does not deny climate change.”

The letter to Common Cause mentions ALEC’s policy on climate change. The policy does admit that “human activity has and will continue to alter the atmosphere of the planet,” which “may lead to demonstrable changes in climate, including a warming of the planetary mean temperature.” However, the policy also states that “such activity may lead to deleterious, neutral or possibly beneficial climatic changes.” It casts doubt on a scientific consensus stating that “a great deal of scientific uncertainty surrounds the nature of these prospective changes.”

DeSmogBlog created a website to expose ALEC’s climate change agenda. The website, created in partnership with various nonprofit organizations including Common Cause, exposes the three ways that ALEC “promotes climate change denial and blocks progress.” Those three ways are its speakers, its agenda and its funders. Let’s look at the first: The site lists a number of quotes by people who spoke at annual meetings and conferences. One of them is Craig Idso, the founder, former president and current board chairman of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change. “CO2 is not a pollutant. It is a benefit. It is the very elixir of life,” Idso said at an ALEC conference last December.

Now, let’s look at ALEC’s agenda, namely its model legislation. The organization’s Environmental Literacy Improvement Act is designed to “enhance and improve the environmental literacy of students and citizens.” Or so it claims. Perhaps the true desire behind the model legislation lies in two clauses: “not be designed to change student behavior, attitudes or values,” and "provide a range of perspectives presented in a balanced manner." A number of states were introduced the legislation, and some of them have even passed it. The teach-both-sides approach is basically designed to plant doubts about climate change.

Last but certainly not least, let’s look at ALEC’s funders. On the list of funders are fossil fuel companies, including ExxonMobil, Chevron, Peabody Energy, Koch Industries and the American Petroleum Institute. These are companies that are largely responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change.

Given ALEC’s clear denial of climate change, why is the organization sending letters to Common Cause and LCV? Over 100 companies have left ALEC in recent years, including BP, which is the latest company to leave. Or as David Willett, LCV’s senior vice president for communications, says: “They clearly have realized that their approach is becoming politically toxic.” And clearly it no longer pays to be seen as a climate change denier even if you are one of the biggest.

Image credit: Flickr/Fibonacci Blue

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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