Deniers who live in greenhouses shouldn’t throw stones

Today’s guest blogger is Sarah Karlin, an editorial intern at Campus Progress, a project of the Center for American Progress. She crashed the Heritage Foundation’s recent anti-environment anti-humanity event where the speakers was junk-science promoter Steven Milloy — “a columnist for Fox News and a paid advocate for Phillip Morris, ExxonMobil and other corporations.” Her post, “Look Who’s Talking: Steven Milloy wants you to believe environmentalists harbor a hidden agenda. Projecting much?” was originally published here. For more on Heritage’s extreme views, see “Heritage even opposes energy efficiency.” For a more on Milloy’s background, see “The Shameful and Shameless Links Between Big Tobacco and Global Warming Deniers,” and links below.

In an effort to plug his new book, multiple websites and blogs, Steven Milloy spoke Monday at the conservative Heritage Foundation. His message: For the love of liberty, pollute, pollute, pollute.

Milloy’s book, Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Ruin your life and What You Can Do to Stop Them, describes members of the green movement as communists who are creating and exaggerating environmental problems in order to scare the public into allowing the government to take control of and regulate all aspects of Americans’ lives. Of course all of this freedom to pollute and destroy the planet may ensure that in the years to come our environment will no longer be able to sustain life [ — which is to say a conservative-driven “Hell and High Water — ] thus preventing future generations of Americans from enjoying the beauty of American freedom.

But Milloy doesn’t seem too concerned. Refusing to admit that science and facts are not on their side, Milloy and fellow conservatives have resorted to a bizarre assortment of scare tactics and propaganda in a last ditch effort to convince Americans that the right to pollute and destroy the planet must be preserved in order to maintain our freedoms.

Milloy’s tactics are nothing new, of course. Conservative politicians have relied upon emotionally charged rhetoric to advance their agenda for years. At the expense of facts and data, George Bush talked about the “axis of evil” and tenuous connections between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda to convince the American public that we should invade Iraq. Ann Coulter, the notorious right-wing pundit has made a career of lambasting liberals with witty, provocative comments only to later have her statements be proven false. While conservatives are often exposed for their false rhetoric, it is often too little to late. When it comes to environmental issues, Milloy appears to be following in the footsteps of Bush, Coulter, and other serial distorters.

Milloy opened his speech at the Heritage Foundation by reading a more than 20 minute excerpt from Green Hell, which was released this March. “Move over red white and blue, America is going green,” Milloy said. He then proceeded to paint environmentalists as manipulative green monsters who possess ulterior motives that have little to do with ensuring our air is clean, our water is safe to drink, or our factories are powered by sustainable energy sources. The “greens,” according to Milloy, are nothing more than aspiring totalitarians. “Green ideologues are burning with an impatient zeal to begin dictating by force of law your mobility, diet, home energy usage, the size of your house, how far you can travel and even how many children you can have,” Milloy said. “Make no mistake living green is really about someone else micro-regulating you, downsizing your dreams and plugging each one of us into a brand new social order we never bargained for.”

Listening to Milloy speak, it becomes harder and harder to take his arguments seriously. Despite his numerous academic accomplishments””Milloy holds a B.A in Natural Sciences and a Master of Health Sciences in Biostatics from the Johns Hopkins University, as well as a Juris Doctorate from the University of Baltimore and a Master of Laws from the Georgetown University Law Center””Milloy rarely relied on scientific evidence to refute environmentalists’ claims. And when Milloy did attempt to rely on quantitative data, he provided no sources for his information. Milloy said that water is “the most abundant substance on earth. We can’t run out.” But what Milloy fails to mention is that, while much of the earth is covered with water, only about one percent of this water is available and safe for drinking and cooking. Furthermore, societies such as the United States often fail to protect precious water sources. In recent congressional testimony, Nancy Stoner of the Natural Resources Defense Council noted that the EPA’s 2004 National Water Quality Inventory Report found that high percentages of our nation’s surface waters are unsuitable for drinking, swimming, or fishing. 44 percent of the assessed American rivers and streams, 32 percent of coastal water and 93 percent of Great Lakes shoreline are impaired for one or more uses. So sure, Milloy may be correct, we might never run out of water, but if we allow reckless pollution to continue in the name of liberty, we might run out of the sanitary water necessary to support life.

On air pollution, Milloy told his audience, “40 years ago before the Clean Air Act was enacted there was no scientific data to show that air quality in the United States, even in New York City was some general public health problem. Today the air is cleaner than it was then so I don’t buy this notion at all that the environment presents a public health threat to anyone. There’s nothing in the environment that causes cancer. The environment does not cause asthma in children, our water is clean.” Again Milloy did not mention the source of his data. But a quick fact check reveals that many scientists respectfully disagree with Milloy’s claims. The US EPA for instance states that outdoor air quality can trigger asthma. A 2005 study conducted by the state of New York also found that both indoor and outdoor environmental factors may increase the risk of a child developing asthma. The study found that exposure to urban air toxins such as ammonia from industrial facilities were likely to increase a child’s risk of developing asthma. Second, scientists have also found that environmental factors may increase an individual’s risk of developing certain forms of cancer. For example, the Sprecher Institute for Comprehensive Cancer Research at Cornell University explains that exposure to certain chemicals increase a person’s risk of breast cancer, “Chemicals you come in contact with around the home, garden, or workplace may affect your health. Some chemicals may affect breast cancer risk because they act like the hormone estrogen in the body. Lifetime exposure to reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone has been linked to breast cancer”

Despite these few attempts to touch on scientific issues, Milloy rarely strays from his emotionally charged propaganda. Milloy even goes as far as to defend his reliance on scare tactics over factual data. He said he spent the last 13 years trying to expose the “intellectual bankruptcy” of environmentalists on his website JunkScience.com, but after finding that it is “almost always easier to scare the public,” he decided to change his methods for Green Hell. Perhaps Milloy resorted to scare tactics because they are the more practical approach, but it seems more likely that he was forced to resort to absurd propaganda because his website, instead of exposing junk science is simply filled with junk. In a February 2006 report “Steven J Milloy: The ‘Junkman’ Exposed,” Americans for Nonsmokers Rights wrote, “Milloy had made it his life’s work to deny scientific studies conducted and published by the world’s most reputable and credible scientific agencies -such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization -and legitimate peer reviewed periodicals””such as Science, Nature, the Lancet and the Journal of the American Medical Association””and label their objective evidence as ‘junk science.’”

Furthermore, one might find it hard to trust the scientific credibility of a man who has spent years lobbying on behalf of tobacco and energy companies. For example, in 1993 Milloy was hired by Philip Morris and their public relations firm to defend the tobacco industry. The Americans for Nonsmokers Rights report found that in 1993 Milloy dismissed the US EPA’s studying linking second hand smoke to cancer as a “joke.”

When I asked Milloy about his credibility he became agitated and defensive. “That’s a great spin you put on that,” Milloy said. “You take some contributions to organizations I’ve been affiliated with and spin it into this advocacy for hire and I really think that’s nothing but spin. Let’s look at Al Gore who stands to make more than 2 million dollars for all his energy stuff”¦.So when you guys start doing some introspections looking at your own motivations them you can start throwing stones at other people.”

Milloy repeatedly dodged other tough questions. When a concerned woman wearing a polar bear mask, claiming to “represent the polar bears,” asked Milloy if he believed the polar bears were being threatened, he simply laughed her off. “Well you seem to be doing quite well, you’re down here and its 50 degrees.”

Overall, Milloy seems to have little interest in defending his claims or engaging in a productive dialogue. At the Heritage Foundation, Milloy appeared to be nothing more than a money-hungry conspiracy theorist, an Ann Coulter prot©g© . Instead of educating a supporter who asked him what conservatives could do to stop the environmentalists, Milloy said “Well I don’t’ want to go into it too much because I want you to buy the book.”

By the end of the event it was clear: Milloy may claim that “greens” are using their supposed environmental concern to advance a hidden political and social agenda, but it appears that Milloy is using his opposition to the greens, not to protect American’s liberties, but to pad his own pocket.