As world leaders gathered in Copenhagen to negotiate the details of an accord to combat global warming, Southern Baptist leaders voiced their opposition to the gathering by making erroneous claims about the scientific evidence concerning global warming.
Despite the complaints of Southern Baptist leaders and other skeptics of global warming science, world leaders agreed on the terms of a nonbinding treaty as the next steps to reducing global warming.
Baptist Press devoted several articles to the issue and Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, spent three hours discussing the topic on his radio program Richard Land Live! However, the claims made by Southern Baptist leaders about the scientific evidence for global warming were often inaccurate.
Land’s guest on the Dec. 5 broadcast of his radio program was Cal Beisner, who leads the Cornwall Alliance, a group of religious conservatives fighting against claims of global warming. Beisner was also quoted in multiple Baptist Press articles during the past few weeks.
Land stated his pride to be a part of the Cornwall Alliance and for signing its initial document. Many of the leaders of the Cornwall Alliance, previously known as the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, work for organizations that have received funding from ExxonMobil.
Land attacked journalists for thinking they understand the scientific evidence despite only having a degree in journalism. He dismissed journalists for thinking “they have somehow sprouted scientific wings.” Yet Land frequently called Beisner, who has a doctorate in Scottish history, a “scientist.” Beisner eventually corrected Land.
“Just for full disclosure I need to correct one thing,” Beisner stated. “You’ve called me a scientist several times. … I am not a trained scientist.”
“I appreciate that humility,” Land responded. “But compared to me, you are.”
Land and Beisner devoted much of their time discussing the so-called “climategate,” which skeptics of global warming science claim prove that global warming does not exist and the scientific data has been falsified. The claims emerged after private e-mails between British scientists were published online. Beisner reiterated the claims about “climategate” in a Baptist Press article.
Land and Beisner focused their attention on an e-mail where a scientist spoke of using a “trick” to “hide the decline.” However, the two mischaracterized what the e-mail described. The word “trick” is commonly used in academic scientific literature to describe something that is clever, rather than to describe something deceitful. Additionally, the “decline” being referenced was not referring to actual global temperatures but to data from tree rings that did not match the measured temperatures.
These misinterpretations of the e-mails have been made by other skeptics and debunked by nonpartisan political fact-checking organizations. Both factcheck.org and politifact.com have debunked the interpretations of the e-mails offered by Land and Beisner.
“[M]any of the e-mails that are being held up as ‘smoking guns’ have been misrepresented by global-warming skeptics eager to find evidence of a conspiracy,” explained factcheck.org. “And even if they showed what the critics claim, there remains ample evidence that the earth is getting warmer.”
Beisner added to his arguments in a Baptist Press article, in which he argued that data on climate conditions in Russia were incorrect and thus disprove global warming. He claimed that “mistreatment of the data created an apparent 2.06C rise in temperature since 1860, while the full Russian raw data show 1.4C rise instead.”
Beisner did not mention that the claim was made not by scientists but by a think tank founded by an outspoken skeptic of global warming science, who is also a former economic adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Land and Beisner made several other erroneous statements during the program. For instance, Land incorrectly claimed that two members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had “sued” to have Gore’s Oscar for “An Inconvenient Truth” revoked.
Beisner argued that the legislation would cost the average American household about $4,600 a year, which is nearly half of what Beisner claimed in June on Land’s program. Both of Beisner’s numbers are contradicted by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s report, which found net costs of about $175 per household and that the lowest income households would actually experience a net benefit.
Land, who frequently resorts to name-calling, compared proponents of global warming science to the “Taliban religion where you kill anybody who disagrees with you.” He added that they were “secular elites” who are “socialists.” He also called Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore “a dope” and Gore’s film a “crockumentary.”
In the past, Land has made other inaccurate claims about global warming science. He argued the earth is cooling and made animal noises as he attacked Gore. Land has misstated environmental data, used poor sources to make his cooling claims and inaccurately claimed that there were no oil leaks as a result of Hurricane Katrina.
Brian Kaylor is a contributing editor to EthicsDaily.com.