VIIRS infrared image of Hurricane Irma taken at 1:35 am EDT Wednesday, 6 September 2017. At the time, the island of Barbuda was in the eye, and Irma was a Category 5 storm with 185 mph winds. Photo: UW-Madison / CIMSS

By Robert O'Harrow Jr.
5 September 2017

(The Washington Post) – Myron Ebell stood in bright sunlight as President Trump stepped into the Rose Garden and spoke.

“In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens,” Trump said to rowdy applause, “the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord.”

Ebell was hot, sunburned and very pleased. He was witnessing history that he had helped make.

For nearly two decades, Ebell has led the Cooler Heads Coalition, an umbrella group of tax-exempt public charities and other nonprofit organizations in the vanguard of efforts to cast doubt on the gravity of climate change and thwart government efforts to address it.

Coalition members have called climate science a hoax and denounced environmentalists as “global-warming alarmists.” They have written letters, blasted out emails, pressured lawmakers, sponsored seminars, appeared on television and made a documentary movie.

It was all part of a wave that crested with Trump’s rejection on June 1 of the Paris agreement, a landmark accord by nearly 200 countries in 2015 to limit greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

“He made the decision. We helped create the circumstances,” Ebell told The Washington Post. “When you are persistent, good things can happen.”

The story behind the coalition illuminates the influential, little-known role that tax-exempt public charities play in modern campaigns to sway lawmakers and shape policy in the nation’s capital, while claiming to be nonpartisan educational organizations.

It also offers insight into the forces behind a Trump decision that infuriated scientists and environmentalists, mystified U.S. allies and went against the advice of some major corporations. […]

After long questioning global warming, Ebell now acknowledges that “climate change is occurring and human beings have a role in it.” But he said global warming still is not a crisis. He frames climate change as an ideological issue, saying that giving the government more authority to address it would stimulate a “regulatory onslaught,” damage the U.S. economy, and subvert human freedom.

Ebell, who is not a scientist, said he and his colleagues respect the scientific process. But he said he thinks many climate researchers endorse prevailing views on global warming only to cash in on government grants.

“They are all in lock-step,” he said. “It has all the appearance of being a scam.”

Climate scientists said there is no doubt about the reality of climate change and its consequences, including melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels and the intensification of storms. Benjamin Santer, a scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award for groundbreaking climate research, told The Post that Ebell and his Cooler Heads colleagues are attempting to turn back the clock on knowledge and science.

“He is not a climate scientist. He will never be a climate scientist. Mr. Ebell seems to believe that it’s possible to magically assimilate scientific understanding from thin air,” said Santer, speaking for himself. [more]

A two-decade crusade by conservative charities fueled Trump’s exit from Paris climate accord

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