A new book published by the Heartland Institute compares societal belief in climate change to a prophecy that instructed a tribe to massacre its livestock, resulting in the death of 35,000 people and slavery for the survivors.
A similar "economic suicide" is looming for the United States if Americans continue to pursue policies restricting the use of fossil fuels in order to avoid a false climate "apocalypse," warns the 113-page book, which was mailed to about 2,000 journalists last week.
The paperback, titled "Roosters of the Apocalypse," blames extremist environmentalists and scientists for seducing the public with the idea that society must enter a period of sacrifice if it is to break free of its destructive habits.
Giving up cheap coal and accessible oil, the book says, is analogous to the South African Xhosa tribe slaughtering its livestock in 1856 after a prophetic 15-year-old girl and her influential uncle -- the "rooster" -- said the deed would purge witchcraft and end British colonialism.
"And we are strangling our own energy supply on the basis of an apocalyptic prophecy that has no more validity than the one that sent the Xhosa spinning into self-immolation," the book says.
Belief in global warming trumps executive-think at GM
The release of "Roosters" came during a bumpy week for Heartland. General Motors Co. announced last week that it would stop providing foundation contributions to the Chicago-based libertarian group, which champions opposition to government regulations related to fuel economy standards and renewable energy and opposes bans on public smoking.
The carmaker's move came three weeks after CEO and Chairman Dan Akerson said he believes in climate change and promised to review the connections that GM's foundation has with Heartland. He made his comments in the weeks following climate scientist Peter Gleick's confession of stealing Heartland documents and leaking them to environmental bloggers. Among the revelations in those records were two GM contributions amounting to $30,000.
Akerson, in an interview with Climate One radio on March 7, recounted how he was "stunned" by the reaction of GM officials after he previously admitted in public that he believes in climate change.
"I was stunned with the following reaction," Akerson told Climate One last month. "Some guy says, 'Do you believe in global warming?' And I said, 'Well, yeah, I do.' Several GM executives said, 'You don't say that in public.'"
"Well, this may surprise you, my underwear doesn't have GM stamped on it, and I am an individual and I do have my own convictions, and sometimes they agree and sometimes they don't," Akerson added.
Following the controversy around its leaked documents, Heartland has sought to emphasize that one of the documents, a brief climate "strategy" memo, is a fake, though much of the information it contained was drawn from genuine Heartland budget documents.
In a statement released Friday, Heartland President Joseph Bast said: "The General Motors Foundation has been a supporter of The Heartland Institute for some 20 years. We regret the loss of their support, particularly since it was prompted by false claims contained in a fake memo circulated by disgraced climate scientist Peter Gleick."
A dread of 'coercive utopians'
The author of "Roosters," Rael Jean Isaac, is a freelance writer with a doctorate in sociology who has attacked environmental activism for more than two decades. Her themes describe left-wing Americans loathing their own wealth and scorning the success of industrialism.
In the 1980s, she co-authored "Coercive Utopians," which, according to one supportive review by Robert Nisbet, conveys the notion that liberals who shrink from "overtly revolutionary careers, enter schools of journalism, law, and theology to pursue through these professions the weakening of the bourgeois democracy."
Isaac also writes with a frank voice about the threat of Islam to Israel. In an article named "Why it would be a catastrophe to solve the Arab-Israel conflict," she describes the peace process as a recurring failure that weakens Israel. Her advice to former Secretary of State James Baker was straightforward: Put the peace process in the "trash bin."
Isaac is not an expert on climate change, but she believes scientists and environmentalists are "roosters" using end-of-the-world warnings to spur sacrificial responses to what she describes as a relatively harmless rise in carbon dioxide. She describes Americans as being fooled by way-out arguments involving monstrous rises in the oceans, a new ice age, world war and an alien invasion in response to our climatic abuse.
"It's the Chicken Little, the sky is falling stuff, that turns it into an apocalypse," Isaac said in an interview with ClimateWire. "The world will end, the seas will rise 20 feet, life as we know it will come to a horrible end. The Al Gore kind of thing, the Stern report kind of thing. I mean these are the things that are driving the actions of government."
"If you just had a dispassionate debate on climate change and its causes and how much there is and whether it's good or bad, you wouldn't be having Denmark saying we're going to have 100 percent no fossil fuels by 2050 or whatever year they have. And you wouldn't have the [European Union] with all these dramatic changes in the way energy is to be produced. The source of that is the belief in the apocalypse."
Which side has Chicken Little?
But to use the most extreme examples of hyperbole from climate activists is an unfair representation of the debate, says Andrew Hoffman, a sociologist with the University of Michigan.
"There are extremists that are saying, 'Yes, we have to do something now and there will be the end of the world tomorrow.' Sure, but that's not the mainstream voice or motivation behind attention to climate change," Hoffman said. "The comparison to a prophecy is just completely misplaced. We're talking about scientific analysis, scientific data that's saying something's happening here. It's not the same as a prophecy."
Some climate advocates have a more cynical view of the book. Whatever Isaac's personal views on climate change may be, her work is now part of an ongoing strategy by Heartland to sow confusion around the science behind rising emissions, suggested Kert Davies, research director for Greenpeace.
And Heartland is just as guilty of crying wolf as climate extremists, he said.
"I have said for years, you could call [Heartland] the Chicken Littles of the climate debate, because all they do is say 'It's the end of the world if we implement energy efficiency, if we change our light bulbs,'" Davies said. "Everything is the end of the world for them. 'The economy's going to be ruined. God forbid we have fuel economy standards; jobs are going to be lost.' Everything they say is doomsday."