Memo to Alcoa, Kodak, IBM, Nike, Toyota et al.: Luddite U.S. Chamber of Commerce seeks “the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century” on global warming

Who ever could have imagined that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would publicly — and proudly — equate climate science with evolution and their denial with a belief in creationism? Time now for the the major businesses on the Chamber’s board to speak up since many of them publicly claim to support strong climate action (see here). It might also be time for advocates to start boycotting those brand-name companies if they don’t act swiftly to stop

First, however, the mind-boggling L. A. Times story:

The nation’s largest business lobby wants to put the science of global warming on trial.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, trying to ward off potentially sweeping federal emissions regulations, is pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to hold a rare public hearing on the scientific evidence for man-made climate change.

Chamber officials say it would be “the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century” — complete with witnesses, cross-examinations and a judge who would rule, essentially, on whether humans are warming the planet to dangerous effect.

“It would be evolution versus creationism,” said William Kovacs, the chamber’s senior vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs. “It would be the science of climate change on trial.” The goal of the chamber, which represents 3 million large and small businesses, is to fend off potential emissions regulations by undercutting the scientific consensus over climate change. If the EPA denies the request, as expected, the chamber plans to take the fight to federal court.

What’s the next step for the Chamber — calling for a law banning the teaching of climate science comparable to the 1925 Tennessee law banning the teaching of human evolution that was the basis for the Scopes trial?


You probably thought that the crafty global warming deniers — especially the corporate ones who represent businesses with lots of customers — had gotten together in a room and decided to focus on the economics of the bill or on China’s and India’s intransigence, while keeping their flat-earth views to themselves for fear of not being taken seriously, for fear of being seen as far outside the mainstream.

How wrong you were. Apparently global warming denial is the new creationism. The funny thing is, most creationists themselves realized a while back how transparently untenable their public arguments were, so even they have created the media- and moderate-friendly term “intelligent design.” The Chamber’s head is so stuck in the ground that they actually think it makes sense to analogize their desire to put climate science on trial with the famous Scopes Monkey case, which ultimately “caused millions of Americans to ridicule religious-based opposition to the theory of evolution.”

For the record, the Scopes case was over the 1925 Butler Act:

which made it unlawful, in any state-funded educational establishment in Tennessee, “to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.”

This is what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the 21st century wants to associate itself with. Apparently climate science denial isn’t Luddite enough for them in 2009. Now they want to join the Anti-Evolution League.

[Note to self: “Hell & The High School” — could be a good name for a textbook on global warming or perhaps a Disney musical….]


Ironically, the more sophisticated conservative deniers accept the science of evolution, such as Charles Krauthammer “” who wrote in “Phony Theory, False Conflict,” that “Intelligent design may be interesting as theology, but as science it is a fraud. It is a self-enclosed, tautological “theory” whose only holding is that when there are gaps in some area of scientific knowledge “” in this case, evolution “” they are to be filled by God.” And yet he is a hard-core climate science denier (see, for instance, Krauthammer’s strange denier talk points, Part 1: Newton’s laws were “overthrown”). Similarly, another hard core climate science denier, George Will, also believes in evolution “” he actually called it “a fact.”

The LAT story continues:

EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said the agency based its proposed finding that global warming is a danger to public health “on the soundest peer-reviewed science available, which overwhelmingly indicates that climate change presents a threat to human health and welfare.”

Environmentalists say the chamber’s strategy is an attempt to sow political discord by challenging settled science — and note that in the famed 1925 Scopes trial, which pitted lawyers Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan in a courtroom battle over a Tennessee science teacher accused of teaching evolution illegally, the scientists won in the end.

The chamber proposal “brings to mind for me the Salem witch trials, based on myth,” said Brenda Ekwurzel, a climate scientist for the environmental group Union of Concerned Scientists. “In this case, it would be ignoring decades of publicly accessible evidence.”

… the chamber will tell the EPA in a filing today that a trial-style public hearing, which is allowed under the law but nearly unprecedented on this scale, is the only way to “make a fully informed, transparent decision with scientific integrity based on the actual record of the science.”

Most climate scientists agree that greenhouse gas emissions, caused by the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities, are warming the planet. Using computer models and historical temperature data, those scientists predict the warming will accelerate unless greenhouse gas emissions are dramatically reduced.

“The need for urgent action to address climate change is now indisputable,” said a recent letter to world leaders by the heads of the top science agencies in 13 of the world’s largest countries, including the head of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

And since the Chamber seems painfully unaware of … well, everything, it is probably worth pointing out that we actually had a major trial of the science (see “Hansen vs. Christy.” In the Vermont case on the state’s effort to embrace California’s tailpipe GHG emissions standards, the car companies brought in famed denier/delayer John Christy, Director of the Earth System Science Center, University of Alabama in Huntsville, as an expert witness to rebut the country’s top climate scientist (see here). The judge found:

There is widespread acceptance of the basic premises that underlie Hansen’s testimony. Plaintiffs’ own expert, Dr. Christy, agrees with the IPCC’s assessment that in the light of new evidence and taking into account remaining uncertainties, most of the observed warming over the last fifty years is likely to have been due to the increase in GHG concentrations. Tr. vol. 14-A, 145:18–148:7 (Christy, May 4, 2007). Christy agrees that the increase in carbon dioxide is real and primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels, which changes the radiated balance of the atmosphere and has an impact on the planet’s surface temperature toward a warming rate. Id. at 168:11–169:10.

Christy also agreed that climate is a nonlinear system, that is, that its responses to forcings may be disproportionate, and rapid changes would be more difficult for human beings and other species to adapt to than more gradual changes. Id. at 175:2–174:11. He further agreed with Hansen that the regulation’s effect on radiative forcing will be proportional to the amount of emissions reductions, and that any level of emissions reductions will have at least some effect on the radiative forcing of the climate.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has become nothing more than an Echo Chamber of Horrors, repeating whatever nonsense the fossil fuel industry or global warming deniers comes up with. Perhaps a better term for them is “monkey see, monkey do” — no offense to monkeys, though, many species of which are likely to be wiped out if we keep listening to the deniers.


Again, it’s time for the Chamber’s Board Members — full list here — to declare whether they are evolved members of humanity or dedicated to our self-destruction. Here are some of the members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce board who claim to “Support economy-wide reductions in CO2 emissions and/or federal cap-and-trade legislation” (see here):

  • Alcoa
  • Caterpillar Inc.
  • Deere & Company
  • Dow Chemical Company
  • Duke Energy
  • Eastman Kodak
  • Entergy
  • Fox Entertainment Group
  • IBM
  • Lockheed
  • Nike Inc.
  • PNM Resources
  • Rolls Royce North America Inc.
  • Siemens Corporation
  • Toyota Motor North America Inc.
  • Xerox