A presentation by James Taylor of the Heartland Institute at the House Resources and Conservation Committee on Jan. 23 should be an embarrassment to every lawmaker who takes his organization seriously.
Taylor’s two key messages were: Climate change isn’t happening in Idaho, and climate change is good for Idaho. While the two messages contradict one another, they both have the virtue of supporting inaction on climate change. Because for Taylor the science must fit the desired policy, not the other way around.
Taylor is living proof of Upton Sinclair’s saying: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
Taylor’s salary depends on the donations to the Heartland Institute, whose bread and butter is raising confusion and doubt about climate science. He isn’t a climate scientist. He’s a lawyer. So, lacking scientific expertise, Taylor became a professional prevaricator.
You don’t have to dig deep into Taylor’s report to find errors. Quite literally, it’s lies from the start.
In the very first sentence, he writes that on March 6, 2019, the Legislature created an interim committee to study the effects of climate change in Idaho. There is no such committee.
The second sentence is equally bumbling and false: “Following the hearing, Idaho Gov. Brad Little asserted climate change ‘is real’ and ‘a big deal,’ ” he wrote, citing a Jan. 16, 2019, report. True, Little has had many accomplishments in office. But to our knowledge, he has not yet mastered time travel or altered the calendar to put March before January.
When the first two sentences of the executive summary are both laughable, it’s reasonable to assume there are more chuckles to follow. And Taylor’s presentation did not disappoint.
Taylor told the committee he had concrete data on topics such as “measurable impacts in terms of Iowa agriculture” and “a breakdown of where electricity is generated in Iowa.”
He can be forgiven the slip-up. When grifting keeps you on the road all the time, it’s easy to forget where you are.
And Taylor sells his snake oil all over. In his Heartland Institute bio, he brags that he has appeared on CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Channel and MSNBC, among other networks, and given presentations to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Council of State Governments and the National Association of Counties, among other organizations.
Of course, Taylor was in the Gem State, not the Hawkeye State. (You’d figure a guy from the “Heartland Institute” would know the difference). And in Idaho, conditions look nothing like what he described.
The whitebark pines in the high mountains here, which Taylor has never seen, are dying in part because winters are no longer cold enough to kill off the bark beetles that destroy them. The snowpacks in those mountains, which feed our rivers and irrigate our fields, and of which Taylor made no mention, have severely declined virtually everywhere in Idaho since 1950. The salmon Taylor has never fished for are on the verge of disappearing from the state as water warms. The growing severity and extent of wildfires are obvious to anyone who steps outside in late summer. But Taylor has never had his nostrils burned by the haze hanging in the air.
Asked if he could name scientists in Idaho who shares his views, Taylor couldn’t come up with a single one.
But that didn’t stop some lawmakers from taking him seriously.
“There are more than one opinion on this particular topic,” said Chairman Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, who should know better from his years serving on the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.
Indeed, there are two sides. On the one side stands the vast majority of Idaho scientists, as well as the global scientific community. On the other, a charlatan who thinks he’s in Des Moines.
This editorial was published by the Post Register of Idaho Falls.
Friday’s Cheers & Jeers erred based on incorrect information provided. Idaho risks losing $950,000 in federal child care subsidy payments in the first year and $1.6 million each year after.