Baltimore Sun's New Hire: An Oil-Funded Climate Denier

The Baltimore Sun recently signed a deal with Maryland conservative blog Red Maryland to provide content for its website. But one of the site's editors, Mark Newgent, has worked for organizations that receive funding from fossil fuel companies to attack climate science.

Baltimore Sun Signs Deal With Conservative Maryland Blog Red Maryland

Baltimore Sun Approached Red Maryland To Provide Conservative Content For The Paper. A piece published by The Baltimore Sun and authored by Mark Newgent, an editor of the blog Red Maryland, explained that the paper approached the blog about providing content for both the print and online opinion sections of The Baltimore Sun. [Baltimore Sun11/19/13; Red Maryland, accessed 1/7/14]

Red Maryland Editor Mark Newgent Worked For Anti-Climate Science Organizations

Mark Newgent Was A Fellow For The American Tradition Institute (ATI) And Climate Strategies Watch. According to his biography on WatchdogWire, a project of the right-wing Franklin Center, Mark Newgent “has served as a fellow for the American Tradition Institute and Climate Strategies Watch researching climate and renewable energy policies in the states.” [WatchdogWire, accessed 1/7/14]

ATI Was Funded By The Energy Industry To Attack Climate Science. An article from The Huffington Post on the founding of the American Tradition Institute (ATI) explained that it was launched by a group “backed primarily by the energy industry” to battle “radical environmentalist junk science” -- chiefly climate science:

Next, a little-known group named Western Tradition Partnership (WTP) got into the act. WTP is a political advocacy group backed primarily by the energy industry. It was first registered as a Colorado nonprofit in 2008 by Scott Shires, a Republican operative who pleaded guilty that same year to fraudulently obtaining federal grants to develop alternative fuels.

In 2010 WTP changed its name to American Tradition Partnership (ATP), and announced that it had launched the American Tradition Institute, a think tank that would be “battling radical environmentalist junk science head on.” The “junk science” ATP seems most concerned with is what the US National Academy of Sciences says should now be regarded as “settled facts” - that the Earth is warming and humans are the likely cause.

Last year WTP/ATP fought for a Colorado referendum allowing voters to opt out of the state's renewable energy standard. The standard requires 30 percent of electricity produced by investor-owned utilities to come from renewables by 2030. The referendum's backers missed the filing deadline, but ATI sued Colorado over the standard, and is now targeting similar standards in Delaware, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico and Ohio. [Huffington Post, 11/1/11]

ATI Sued Climate Scientist Michael Mann To Obtain Documents In Attempt To Prove Climate Science Manufactured. The Institute for Southern Studies explained in a special investigation into ATI and its backers that ATI's lawsuit to obtain Mann's emails “has been widely condemned by science, academic and civil liberties groups”:

ATI's lawsuit has been widely condemned by science, academic and civil liberties groups, who describe it as a politically motivated intrusion into academic freedom. The board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science said that such legal challenges “have created a hostile environment that inhibits the free exchange of scientific findings and ideas.” Earlier this year, public-interest groups including the American Association of University Professors sent a letter to the U.Va. president noting that the Virginia public documents statute expressly exempts scholarly data of a proprietary nature that has not yet been publicly released, published, copyrighted or patented.

“While we need freedom of information laws to hold public officials accountable, the law has exemptions for good reason,” said Francesca Grifo, director of the Scientific Integrity Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, one of the letter's signatories. “Scientists should be able to challenge other scientists' ideas and discuss their preliminary thinking before their analyses are complete and published.” [Institute for Southern Studies, 10/31/11]

ATI Predecessor Was Found To Have Broken Campaign Finance Laws. The Institute of Southern Studies' investigation also found that ATI predecessor Western Tradition Partnership was found to have broken Montana state campaign laws “by failing to register as a political committee or properly report its donors and spending.” The article continued:

The investigation discovered that the group had solicited unlimited contributions to support pro-mining, pro-logging and pro-development candidates in Montana and avoided disclosing the contributions by passing them along to a sham political action committee that in turn ran attack ads against Democrats.

As Commissioner Dennis Unsworth said in his decision, the group's wrongdoing “raises the specter of corruption of the electoral process.” [Institute for Southern Studies, 10/31/11]

Newgent Worked With Noxious Climate “Skeptic” Heartland Institute

Climate Strategies Watch Was A Joint Project Of The John Locke Foundation And The Heartland Institute. The Institute for Southern Studies found that Climate Strategies Watch, which Newgent worked for, was started as a joint project behind the Art Pope-funded John Locke Foundation and The Heartland Institute, which has received funding from ExxonMobil and Koch foundations:

Climate Strategies Watch was a joint project of the Locke Foundation and the Heartland Institute, a corporate-backed think tank in Chicago where Chesser also served as a special correspondent. Heartland has received at least $676,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998. Between 1997 and 2008, they also received $30,000 from foundations connected to the Kochs and another $50,000 from Pope's family foundation. One of Heartland's government-relations advisors also served as Exxon's senior environmental advisor. [Institute for Southern Studies, 10/31/11]

Climate Strategies Watch Co-Sponsored 2009 Conference For The Heartland Institute. According to The Heartland Institute's list of co-sponsors for its March 2009 “International Conference On Climate Change” in New York, Climate Strategies Watch was listed as one of the co-sponsors. [Heartland Institute, 1/22/09]

The Heartland Institute Is Known For Its Attacks On Those Who Accept Climate Science. The Washington Post reported on a billboard campaign launched by the Heartland Institute that compared those who accept climate science to a domestic terrorist:

A stark mug shot of domestic terrorist Ted Kaczynski briefly took center stage in the increasingly ugly debate over climate change Friday as the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank funded by major corporations, launched a billboard campaign equating people convinced that global warming is real to the convicted killer.

“I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?” read big orange letters next to the Unabomber's infamously grizzled face on an electronic billboard along the Eisenhower Expressway outside Chicago, the Heartland Institute's home.

The billboard went live Thursday afternoon. But by 4 p.m. Eastern time, an outcry from allies and opponents alike led the Heartland Institute's president, Joe Bast, to say he would switch off the sign within the hour.

“The Heartland Institute knew this was a risk when deciding to test it, but decided it was a necessary price to make an emotional appeal to people who otherwise aren't following the climate change debate,” Bast wrote in an e-mail to some of the institute's supporters, explaining his decision to end the campaign.

[The Washington Post5/4/12]

Newgent Has Cast Doubt On Man-Made Climate Change

Newgent Claimed The “Inconvenient Truth” Behind Climate Change Is That The Earth Is Cooling. In a January 3, 2009, blog post at Red Maryland, Newgent claimed that the earth has been “cooling” and that there is no consensus among climate experts that the earth is warming:

Let's start with the supposed “most disastrous effects of climate change”--but wait its been cooling--oh yeah, I forgot that is the inconvenient truth behind the rhetorical switch to “climate change.”

What clear consensus? Is the [Baltimore] Sun referring to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that 2,500-member panel of experts?Does the writer of this editorial know that only 62 panelists reviewed the chapter in the Fourth Assessment Report, which ascribes warming temperatures to human activity? What about the fact that only four out of 23 endorsed the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming? Some consensus! I wonder if by “relevant scientific community” the editorial writer means the administrative assistant, computer network engineer, and website designer, who are listed among the IPCC's 2,500 experts.

Perhaps the writer is referring to the summary for policy makers that is edited and written by UN bureaucrats. The SPM is a political document, which downplays uncertainties from the main scientific report, omits contrary evidence, and in many ways disagrees with the underlying scientific report. Oops can't let that inconvenient truth slip out now can we. [Red Maryland, 1/3/09, emphasis added]

Newgent Accused The Sun Of “Deliberately Misleading Its Readers” By Referring To Climate Science As Fact. From a May 6, 2009, post on Red Maryland:

Claim: "That fact (and the science of climate change is settled enough to refer to it as such)..."

Again the Sun is deliberately misleading its readers. The obvious inference here is to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. However, the real question is which report. There are two, the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM), and the Assessment Report (AR) and both say very different things about climate change. The Sun, as most mainstream media always do, refers to the SPM--a decidedly political document--not the underlying scientific AR Report. Only 52 scientists (and 115 diplomats) contributed to the SPM. Only four of the 23 panelists reviewing the AR report chapter that hypothesizes man as the driver of global warming endorsed it. Only 62 of the IPCC's 308 reviewers even read it.

How can any science with such faulty peer-review be “settled?”

Also, if the science is settled why have more than 700 scientists spoken out against the very claims the Sun is parroting? Just doing the math, that's more than 13 times the number of scientists that contributed to the SPM! [Red Maryland, 5/6/09]

  • According to Ethics Daily, the list of 700 “scientists” included at least one creationist without a college degree. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that “Top scientists from a variety of fields say they are about as certain that global warming is a real, man-made threat as they are that cigarettes kill.” [Ethics Daily, 4/20/09] [Associated Press, 9/24/13]

In Response To Proposed Cap And Trade Plan, Newgent Called Global Warming “A Non-Existent Threat.” In a piece that discussed a Maryland proposal to enact a cap and trade program in the state (which eventually passed and is still law), Newgent questioned the proposal and asked, “do [Gov. Martin] O'Malley [D-MD] and the Democrat monopoly care more about supposedly saving the planet from a non-existent threat or acting on behalf of working families?” [Red Maryland, 1/3/08]

Newgent: “Climate Changes, Always Has And Always Will.” In a post attacking the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Newgent said that while “polar ice caps melt during warming periods ... they refreeze during cooling periods.” He further stated:

Climate changes, always has and always will. That is why Greenland, which is ice, was once green (hence the name) and Vikings lived there and farmed its soil. [Red Maryland,12/19/07]

Newgent Attended The Heartland Institute's 2009 Conference For Global Warming “Skeptics.” In a post on Red Maryland, Newgent described his attendance at the Heartland International Conference of Climate Change as “a gathering of over 800 skeptics of anthropogenic global warming.” [Red Maryland, 3/10/09]