Letter: Rob Martin, Leesburg

Editor:  Rose Ellen Ray (Letters, Dec. 20), supported pipeline construction to further the interests of the oil and gas industry over the citizens whose homes and lives are put at risk by their construction. I disagree, and stand with Natalie Pien and all environmental organizations in opposing this construction.

Ms. Ray further recommends that students enjoy a video by a lobbyist who works for an organization called the Heartland Institute. You might remember them from their work for the U.S. tobacco industry denying that cigarette smoking was a health concern, or their promotion of fracking nationwide. Heartland is a “charitable organization” think-tank who accepts money from anonymous donors, but whose activities have largely been supported over the years by Koch foundations, Exxon Mobil, and activist right-wing billionaires like the Mercers, the Waltons, Barre Seid and the “Dunn’s Foundation for Right Thinking.” Although it should be noted that in recent years, Exxon Mobil has stopped funding Heartland as much “out of concern for its public image.” When Exxon stops funding you because of how you make it look, hoo boy.

The speaker in the video is Steve Goreham, one of the lobbyists paid quite handsomely by Heartland to throw doubt on the effects of climate change for the benefit of those who pay the company. You might remember Mr. Goreham for his outspoken support of scandal-plagued EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, or from his long career as a telecom PR guy. You know, like all the other climate scientists.

So, I recommend people watch this video, too. And then I recommend people read the global climate report, compiled from the work of thousands of actual scientists and published broadly in every reputable news outlet in the world. Or read this administration’s own climate report (released on Black Friday no less) which warned of catastrophic increases in damage and economic cost if emissions were not addressed.

And then I recommend people do the responsible thing and ask themselves probing questions. Questions like “Is there a reason that almost every single actual scientist involved in actual scientific investigation of climate is coming to a consensus on the existence of climate change, that it is being made worse by our actions, and that it will have large safety and economic impacts on our world in the future if not addressed?” or “Is it more likely that a telecom PR guy from a lobbying firm funded with tens of millions of dollars a year of money from those who directly benefit from the continued use of fossil fuels and confusion about the effects of climate change, and whose message is only covered by his YouTube video and a few fake climate conferences his lobbying firm sponsors each year?”

In school, I hope that the lessons our children are learning are to treat information skeptically, to look at both sides of an issue, then ask probing questions about what the motivations of the speakers are. To look at where the preponderance of evidence or opinion is and to weigh the value of well-funded naysayers appropriately. What I think is that scientists working in peer reviewed studies have no particular multi-million dollar payoff for saying climate change is real and should be addressed. Steve Goreham does. Global climate scientists are not paid by “Big Coastline” to come up with convincing evidence that sea levels are rising and that that will bring dramatic change for humans everywhere. Heartland is paid by oil companies to tell you that it’s okay to keep burning oil.

Who is right? I have my opinions. But you know, Heartland was on the right side of that whole cigarette smoking thing, so who knows.

Rob Martin, Leesburg

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