Conservative Policy Group Threatens Legal Action Over Climate Change

Remember when denying climate change was just par for the course? Part of what you could expect to find in rural spots, conservative spots, among folks who hadn’t been to college, and in the White House? Well, no more, happily. Now that the government has summarily changed its tune on global warming, most people are embracing the unfortunate reality that it exists, and isn’t going away any time soon.

Most people. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), meanwhile, has threatened to sue two liberal think tanks that have “made false statements” about ALEC’s own stance on climate change. Common Cause and the League of Conservation Voters, it turns out, have been talking about the fact that, well, ALEC is skeptical of climate change.

They’re exactly what you’d expect: a conservative policy group made up of thousands of largely Republican state legislators and financed by hundreds of corporate members that holds meetings in which it discusses the supposedly "shaky science" climate change is founded on. This dust-up follows a period during which both Common Cause and the League of Conservation Voters put pressure on many of ALEC’s big corporate supporters, including Google, Facebook, BP, and Yahoo, who subsequently withdrew their dollars, leaving ALEC feeling, perhaps, like the uncool kid at the party.

Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt went so far as to say this about ALEC, to NPR’s Diane Rehm: "The company has a very strong view that we should make decisions in politics based on facts — what a shock," said Schmidt. "And the facts of climate change are not in question anymore. Everyone understands climate change is occurring and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. And so we should not be aligned with such people — they're just, they're just literally lying."

ALEC doesn’t dispute that past meetings of its members have featured presentations that question the cause of climate change, but it maintains that the group doesn’t deny the existence of climate change. It’s seeking to change its reputation, following this situation, and has hired new leadership. "There is a new ALEC now that is interested in dialogue and discussion," said Bill Meierling, the organization's vice president for public affairs. "It is a big sandbox, and there is room for a lot of ideas."

Meanwhile, the folks being sued by ALEC don’t take its actions kindly. "We don't appreciate the attempt to silence [us] just because we disagree with ALEC's positions," said David Willett, senior vice president for communications at the League of Conservation Voters. "Usually if someone wants to get serious about tackling climate change, they ask about working with us; they don't threaten to sue us."