Dissenter on Warming Expands His Campaign
The New York Times, April 10, 2009
WASHINGTON -- Marc Morano does not think global warming is anything to worry about, and he brags about his confrontations with those who do.
For example, Mr. Morano said he once spotted former Vice President Al Gore on an airplane returning from a climate conference in Bali. Mr. Gore was posing for photos with well-wishers, and Mr. Morano said he had asked if he, too, could have his picture taken with Mr. Gore.
He refused, Mr. Morano said.
"You attack me all the time," Mr. Gore said, according to Mr. Morano.
"Yes, we do," Mr. Morano said he had replied.
Mr. Gore's office said Mr. Gore had no memory of the encounter. Mr. Morano does not care. He tells the story anyway.
As a spokesman for Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, Mr. Morano was for years a ceaseless purveyor of the dissenting view on climate change, sending out a blizzard of e-mail to journalists covering the issue. Now, with Congress debating legislation to curb carbon dioxide emissions, Mr. Morano is hoping to have an even greater impact. He has left his job with Mr. Inhofe to start his own Web site, ClimateDepot.com.
The site, scheduled to debut this week, will be a "one-stop shop" for anyone following climate change, Mr. Morano says. He will post research he thinks the public should see, as well as reported video segments and ratings of environmental journalists.
Supporters see Mr. Morano as a crucial organizing force who has taken diffuse pieces of scientific research and fused them into a political battering ram.
"Before Marc, efforts to debunk global warming were scattered and disorganized," said John Coleman, a weather broadcaster who helped found the Weather Channel and who has called global warming "a scam."
And environmentalists and mainstream climate scientists, however much they disagree with Mr. Morano's views, still pay attention to what he does.
Kert Davies, the research director of Greenpeace, said he would like to dismiss Mr. Morano as irrelevant, but could not.
"He is relentless pushing out misinformation," Mr. Davies said. "In denying the urgency of the problem, he definitely slows things down on the regulatory front. Eventually, he will be held accountable, but it may be too late."
In his work with Mr. Inhofe, Mr. Morano, whose thick build fills out his suit like a bulldog in a restraining jacket, did not hesitate to go after journalists he saw as biased. He promoted any study or statement that could be construed as cutting against the prevailing view that heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide contribute to global warming.
Peter Dykstra, a former executive producer for CNN's science, environment and technology unit, recently called him the "drum major of the denial parade."
Mr. Morano may be best known for compiling a report listing hundreds of scientists whose work he says undermines the consensus on global warming.
But environmental advocates and bloggers say that many of those listed as scientists have no scientific credentials and that their work persuaded no one not already ideologically committed.
Mr. Morano's new web site is being financed by the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, a nonprofit in Washington that advocates for free-market solutions to environmental issues.
Craig Rucker, a co-founder of the organization, said the committee got about a third of its money from other foundations. But Mr. Rucker would not identify them or say how much his foundation would pay Mr. Morano. (Mr. Morano says it will be more than the $134,000 he earned annually in the Senate.)
Public tax filings for 2003-7 -- the last five years for which documents are available -- show that the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the ExxonMobil Foundation and from foundations associated with the billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, a longtime financer of conservative causes best known for its efforts to have President Bill Clinton impeached. Mr. Rucker said Exxon had not contributed anything last year.
Mr. Morano grew up in a conservative household in Northern Virginia with an affinity for nature and animals -- his basement was home to a menagerie of reptiles, including a boa constrictor.
"I used to tell people I was Republican except on the environment," he said.
After college, Mr. Morano worked as a reporter for Rush Limbaugh, where he said he had learned the satisfactions of poking at the "liberal establishment." He made a documentary on the Amazon rain forest, he said, because it annoyed him that celebrities like Sting could dictate what people think about the issue. They vastly exaggerated the problem of deforestation, he concluded.
He then jumped to Cyber News Service, where he was the first to publish accusations from Vietnam Swift-boat veterans that Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, then the Democratic presidential nominee, had glorified his war record. Many of the accusations later proved unfounded.
Mr. Morano is proud of his work, which he says is not advocacy but truth seeking.
"Even in the Senate, I'd put up any of the stories we did against any pablum Time or Newsweek has put out on global warming," he said. "We'd link to the other side; we'd present their arguments. They do one-sided screeds."
In 2007, he points out, the Republican web site of Mr. Inhofes committee won an award from the independent Congressional Management Foundation.
But some scientists and environmental advocates who have made it their business to monitor Mr. Morano see his reports -- the most recent was titled "More than 700 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims" -- as far from balanced.
Kevin Grandia, who manages Desmogblog.com, which describes itself as dedicated to combating misinformation on climate change, says the report is filled with so-called experts who are really weather broadcasters and others without advanced degrees.
Chris Allen, for example, the weather director for WBKO-TV in Kentucky, is listed as a meteorologist on the report, even though he has no degree in meteorology. On his Web site, Mr. Allen has written that his major objection to the idea of human-influenced climate change is that "it completely takes God out of the picture." Mr. Allen did not respond to phone calls.
Mr. Grandia also said Mr. Morano's report misrepresented the work of legitimate scientists. Mr. Grandia pointed to Steve Rayner, a professor at Oxford, who was mentioned for articles criticizing the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 international treaty on curbing carbon dioxide emissions.
Dr. Rayner, however, in no way disputes the existence of global warming or that human activity contributes to it, as the report implies. In e-mail messages, he said that he had asked to be removed from the Morano report and that a staff member in Mr. Inhofe's office had promised that he would be. He called his inclusion on the list "quite outrageous."
Asked about Dr. Rayner, Mr. Morano was unmoved. He said that he had no record of Dr. Rayner's asking to be removed from the list and that the doctor must be "not to be remembering this clearly."
Many scientists, Mr. Morano said, are afraid that appearing on the list will have political fallout.
And political fallout, for him, is the point.