ALEC Can't Deny Its Record of Climate Change Disinformation

October 10, 2014 | 8:58 am
Sam Gomberg
Senior Analyst

Faced with an ongoing exodus of corporate funders — News Corp and Occidental Petroleum are among the latest departures — the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is suddenly in a hurry to hide its long history of denying the reality of climate change.

But there’s no hiding the fact that ALEC has fought for decades to inappropriately sow doubt around the scientific consensus that climate change is happening, that its cause is largely man-made, and that we need to do something about it.

UCS banner at the People's Climate March in New York City, 20 September 2014. SOURCE: Kate Cell, UCS.

Photo: Kate Cell

Rather than address legitimate concerns from its members and the public that ALEC is out of touch on this issue, it has stuck to a canned response denying they even have a position on climate. ALEC CEO Lisa Nelson recently told NPR’s Diane Rehm Show that, “We as an organization specifically do not comment on climate change.”

In reality, ALEC’s current position on climate change (posted on its website) is dismissive of climate change as a “historical phenomenon” and ignores the scientific consensus on human contributions to climate change by stating “the debate will continue on the significance of natural and anthropogenic contributions.”

But that’s just it — there is no debate among the scientific community. An overwhelming majority of climate scientists — more than 97 percent — agree that global warming is real and largely caused by humans. In fact, the American Association for the Advancement of Science just again confirmed that scientists are now as certain about human contributions to climate change as they are that smoking causes cancer.

ALEC’s claim that there remains a legitimate debate is a deliberate strategy to delay action to address climate change.

But ALEC’s delicately-worded position statement is tame compared to the litany of disinformation about climate science that the group pushes onto its legislator-members at meetings and through the organization’s publications. ALEC’s annual meeting in Dallas this year included a session where Joseph Bast, president of the climate contrarian Heartland Institute, falsely claimed that “There is no scientific consensus on the human role in climate change.”


Increased coastal flooding is just one of the harmful impacts expected from climate change. ALEC should recognize the science behind climate change and begin working in a constructive manner to find solutions to address the issue. Photo: Sean Bath

Bast went on to tell the state legislators that “there is no need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and no point in doing so.” This could not be further from the truth. Climate change has serious implications for our health, environment, and economy, and right now we are experiencing the impacts of an atmosphere overloaded with carbon dioxide.

Providing a one-sided platform for climate contrarians to mislead state legislators on the science has pretty much been the norm for ALEC since the 1990’s. For example, a 1995 ALEC publication similarly claimed, “The Earth’s temperature is in a constant state of flux, and global climate data does not support the contention, held by some, that human activity has contributed to global warming.” Just a few years later, in 1998, another ALEC workshop claimed, “The traditional scientific method has not proven the assertion that human activity has caused any overall warming of the planet.”

Companies that remain associated with ALEC have a responsibility to demand an end to the group’s long campaign of disinformation against climate science. If ALEC refuses and continues to slip further out of touch with the reality of climate change, cutting ties with the organization is the appropriate response, and we applaud those companies that do so.