George C. Marshall Institute

George C. Marshall Institute

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The George C. Marshall Institute (GMI) is a politically conservative think tank
Think tank
A think tank is an organization that conducts research and engages in advocacy in areas such as social policy, political strategy, economics, military, and technology issues. Most think tanks are non-profit organizations, which some countries such as the United States and Canada provide with tax...

 established in 1984 in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 with a focus on scientific issues and public policy. In the 1980s, the Institute was engaged primarily in lobbying
Lobbying
Lobbying is the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in the government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. Lobbying is done by various people or groups, from private-sector individuals or corporations, fellow legislators or government officials, or...

 in support of the Strategic Defense Initiative
Strategic Defense Initiative
The Strategic Defense Initiative was proposed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983 to use ground and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the prior strategic...

. Since the late 1980s, the Institute has put forward environmental skepticism
Environmental skepticism
Environmental skepticism is an umbrella term that describes those that argue that particular claims put forward by environmentalists and environmental scientists who support the first are false or exaggerated, along with those who are critical of environmentalism in general...

 views, and in particular has disputed mainstream scientific opinion on climate change
Scientific opinion on climate change
The predominant scientific opinion on climate change is that the Earth is in an ongoing phase of global warming primarily caused by an enhanced greenhouse effect due to the anthropogenic release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases...

, although it continues to be active on defense policy. The George C. Marshall Institute has been described by Newsweek
Newsweek
Newsweek is an American weekly news magazine published in New York City. It is distributed throughout the United States and internationally. It is the second-largest news weekly magazine in the U.S., having trailed Time in circulation and advertising revenue for most of its existence...

as a "central cog in the denial
Climate change denial
Climate change denial is a term used to describe organized attempts to downplay, deny or dismiss the scientific consensus on the extent of global warming, its significance, and its connection to human behavior, especially for commercial or ideological reasons...

 machine." The institute is named after the World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 military leader and statesman George C. Marshall.

Historian Naomi Oreskes
Naomi Oreskes
Naomi Oreskes is an American science historian, and Professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California San Diego. She has worked on studies of geophysics, environmental issues such as global warming, and the history of science...

 states that the institute has, in order to resist and delay regulation, lobbied politically
Lobbying
Lobbying is the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in the government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. Lobbying is done by various people or groups, from private-sector individuals or corporations, fellow legislators or government officials, or...

 to create a false public perception of scientific uncertainty over the negative effects of second-hand smoke, the carcinogenic nature of tobacco
Tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

 smoking, the existence of acid rain
Acid rain
Acid rain is a rain or any other form of precipitation that is unusually acidic, meaning that it possesses elevated levels of hydrogen ions . It can have harmful effects on plants, aquatic animals, and infrastructure. Acid rain is caused by emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen...

, and on the evidence between CFC
Chlorofluorocarbon
A chlorofluorocarbon is an organic compound that contains carbon, chlorine, and fluorine, produced as a volatile derivative of methane and ethane. A common subclass are the hydrochlorofluorocarbons , which contain hydrogen, as well. They are also commonly known by the DuPont trade name Freon...

s and ozone
Ozone
Ozone , or trioxygen, is a triatomic molecule, consisting of three oxygen atoms. It is an allotrope of oxygen that is much less stable than the diatomic allotrope...

 depletion.

History


The George C. Marshall Institute was founded in 1984 by Frederick Seitz
Frederick Seitz
Frederick Seitz was an American physicist and a pioneer of solid state physics. Seitz was president of Rockefeller University, and president of the United States National Academy of Sciences 1962–1969. He was the recipient of the National Medal of Science, NASA's Distinguished Public Service...

 (former President of the United States National Academy of Sciences
United States National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

), Robert Jastrow
Robert Jastrow
Robert Jastrow was an American astronomer, physicist and cosmologist. He was a leading NASA scientist, populist author and futurist.- Biography :...

 (founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Goddard Institute for Space Studies
The NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies , at Columbia University in New York City, is a component laboratory of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Earth-Sun Exploration Division and a unit of The Earth Institute at Columbia University...

), and William Nierenberg
William Nierenberg
William Aaron Nierenberg was an American physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project and was director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography from 1965 through 1986. He was a co-founder of the George C. Marshall Institute in 1984.- Background :Nierenberg was born on February 13, 1919, at 213 E...

 (former director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, is one of the oldest and largest centers for ocean and earth science research, graduate training, and public service in the world...

). The Institute's primary aim, initially, was to play a role in defense policy debates, defending Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

's Strategic Defense Initiative
Strategic Defense Initiative
The Strategic Defense Initiative was proposed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983 to use ground and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the prior strategic...

 (SDI, or "Star Wars"). In particular, it sought to defend SDI "from attack by the Union of Concerned Scientists
Union of Concerned Scientists
The Union of Concerned Scientists is a nonprofit science advocacy group based in the United States. The UCS membership includes many private citizens in addition to professional scientists. James J...

, and in particular by the equally prominent physicists Hans Bethe
Hans Bethe
Hans Albrecht Bethe was a German-American nuclear physicist, and Nobel laureate in physics for his work on the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis. A versatile theoretical physicist, Bethe also made important contributions to quantum electrodynamics, nuclear physics, solid-state physics and...

, Richard Garwin
Richard Garwin
Richard Lawrence Garwin , is an American physicist. He received his bachelor's degree from the Case Institute of Technology in 1947 and obtained his Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Chicago in 1949, where he worked in the lab of Enrico Fermi.Garwin is IBM Fellow Emeritus at the Thomas J...

, and astronomer Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan
Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books...

." The Institute argued that the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 was a military threat. A 1987 article by Jastrow argued that in five years the Soviet Union would be so powerful that it would be able to achieve world domination without firing a shot. With the end of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 in 1991, the Institute shifted from an emphasis on defense to a focus on environmental skepticism
Environmental skepticism
Environmental skepticism is an umbrella term that describes those that argue that particular claims put forward by environmentalists and environmental scientists who support the first are false or exaggerated, along with those who are critical of environmentalism in general...

, including skepticism on issues of global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

.

The Institute's shift to environmental skepticism began with the publication of a report on global warming by William Nierenberg. During the United States presidential election, 1988
United States presidential election, 1988
The United States presidential election of 1988 featured no incumbent president, as President Ronald Reagan was unable to seek re-election after serving the maximum two terms allowed by the Twenty-second Amendment. Reagan's Vice President, George H. W. Bush, won the Republican nomination, while the...

, George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

 had pledged to meet the "greenhouse effect with the White House effect." Nierenberg's report, which blamed global warming on solar activity, had a large impact on the incoming Bush presidency, strengthening those in it opposed to environmental regulation. In 1990 the Institute's founders (Jastrow, Nierenberg and Seitz) published a book on climate change. The appointment of David Allan Bromley as presidential science advisor, however, saw Bush sign the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an international environmental treaty produced at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development , informally known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro from June 3 to 14, 1992...

 in 1992, despite some opposition from within his administration.

In 1994, the Institute published a paper by its then chairman, Fredrick Seitz, titled Global warming and ozone hole controversies: A challenge to scientific judgment. Seitz questioned the view that CFCs "are the greatest threat to the ozone layer
Ozone layer
The ozone layer is a layer in Earth's atmosphere which contains relatively high concentrations of ozone . This layer absorbs 97–99% of the Sun's high frequency ultraviolet light, which is potentially damaging to the life forms on Earth...

". In the same paper, commenting on the dangers of secondary inhalation of tobacco smoke, he concluded "there is no good scientific evidence that passive inhalation
Passive smoking
Passive smoking is the inhalation of smoke, called secondhand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke , from tobacco products used by others. It occurs when tobacco smoke permeates any environment, causing its inhalation by people within that environment. Exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke causes...

 is truly dangerous under normal circumstances."

Global warming



Since 1989 GMI has been involved in what it terms "a critical examination of the scientific basis for global climate change policy." The Institute was described as a "central cog in the denial machine" in a Newsweek
Newsweek
Newsweek is an American weekly news magazine published in New York City. It is distributed throughout the United States and internationally. It is the second-largest news weekly magazine in the U.S., having trailed Time in circulation and advertising revenue for most of its existence...

cover story on global warming.

In Requiem for a Species
Requiem for a Species
Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Change is a 2010 book by Australian academic Clive Hamilton which explores climate change denial and its implications. It argues that climate change will bring about large-scale, harmful consequences for habitability for life on Earth...

(2010), Clive Hamilton
Clive Hamilton
Clive Charles Hamilton AM FRSA is an Australian public intellectual and Professor of Public Ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics and the Vice-Chancellor's Chair in Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University. He is the Founder and former Executive Director of the The...

 is critical of the Marshall Institute and contends that the conservative backlash against climate science was led by three prominent physicists -- Frederick Seitz
Frederick Seitz
Frederick Seitz was an American physicist and a pioneer of solid state physics. Seitz was president of Rockefeller University, and president of the United States National Academy of Sciences 1962–1969. He was the recipient of the National Medal of Science, NASA's Distinguished Public Service...

, Robert Jastrow
Robert Jastrow
Robert Jastrow was an American astronomer, physicist and cosmologist. He was a leading NASA scientist, populist author and futurist.- Biography :...

, and William Nierenberg
William Nierenberg
William Aaron Nierenberg was an American physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project and was director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography from 1965 through 1986. He was a co-founder of the George C. Marshall Institute in 1984.- Background :Nierenberg was born on February 13, 1919, at 213 E...

, who founded the Institute in 1984. According to Hamilton, by the 1990s the Marshall Institute's main activity was attacking climate science. Naomi Oreskes
Naomi Oreskes
Naomi Oreskes is an American science historian, and Professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California San Diego. She has worked on studies of geophysics, environmental issues such as global warming, and the history of science...

 and Erik M. Conway
Erik M. Conway
Erik M. Conway is the historian at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. He is the author of several books....

 reach a similar conclusion in Merchants of Doubt
Merchants of Doubt
Merchants of Doubt is a 2010 book by the American science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. It identifies parallels between the climate change debate and earlier controversies over tobacco smoking, acid rain and the hole in the ozone layer...

(2010), where they identified a few contrarian scientists associated with conservative think-tanks who fought the scientific consensus and spread confusion and doubt about global warming.

GMI is one of only a few conservative environmental-policy think tanks to have natural scientists
Natural science
The natural sciences are branches of science that seek to elucidate the rules that govern the natural world by using empirical and scientific methods...

 on staff. Noted skeptics Sallie Baliunas
Sallie Baliunas
Sallie Baliunas is an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the Solar, Stellar, and Planetary Sciences Division and formerly Deputy Director of the Mount Wilson Observatory. She serves as Senior Scientist at the George C. Marshall Institute in Washington, DC, and...

 and (until his death in 2008) Frederick Seitz
Frederick Seitz
Frederick Seitz was an American physicist and a pioneer of solid state physics. Seitz was president of Rockefeller University, and president of the United States National Academy of Sciences 1962–1969. He was the recipient of the National Medal of Science, NASA's Distinguished Public Service...

 (a past President of the National Academy of Sciences
United States National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

 from 1962–1969) have served on its Board of Directors. Patrick Michaels
Patrick Michaels
Patrick J. Michaels is an American climatologist. Michaels is a senior research fellow for Research and Economic Development at George Mason University, and a senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute...

 is a visiting scientist and Stephen McIntyre
Stephen McIntyre
Stephen McIntyre is a Canadian mathematician, former minerals prospector, and semi-retired mining consultant who is best known as the founder and editor of Climate Audit, a blog devoted to the analysis and discussion of climate data...

, Willie Soon
Willie Soon
Willie Wei-Hock Soon is an astrophysicist at the Solar and Stellar Physics Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Soon has testified before Congress on the issue of climate change He is known for his views that most global warming is caused by solar variation...

 and Ross McKitrick
Ross McKitrick
Ross McKitrick is a Canadian economist specializing in environmental economics and policy analysis. He is professor of economics at the University of Guelph; a senior fellow of the Fraser Institute, a Canadian free-market public policy think tank; and a member of the academic advisory boards of the...

 are "contributing writers". Richard Lindzen
Richard Lindzen
Richard Siegmund Lindzen is an American atmospheric physicist and Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Lindzen is known for his work in the dynamics of the middle atmosphere, atmospheric tides and ozone photochemistry. He has published more than...

 served on the Institute's Science Advisory Board.

In February 2005 GMI co-sponsored a Congressional briefing at which Senator James Inhofe praised Michael Crichton
Michael Crichton
John Michael Crichton , best known as Michael Crichton, was an American best-selling author, producer, director, and screenwriter, best known for his work in the science fiction, medical fiction, and thriller genres. His books have sold over 200 million copies worldwide, and many have been adapted...

's novel State of Fear
State of Fear
State of Fear is a 2004 techno-thriller novel by Michael Crichton concerning eco-terrorists who attempt mass murder to support their views. The novel had an initial print run of 1.5 million copies and reached the #1 bestseller position at Amazon.com and #2 on the New York Times Best Seller list for...

and attacked the "hockey stick graph
Hockey stick controversy
The hockey stick controversy refers to debates over the technical correctness and implications for global warming of graphs showing reconstructed estimates of the temperature record of the past 1000 years...

".

Conflict of interest


Matthew B. Crawford, author of Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work, was appointed executive director of GMI in September 2001. He left the GMI after 5 months, saying that the institute was "fonder of some facts than others". He contended a conflict of interest
Conflict of interest
A conflict of interest occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in the other....

 in the funding of the institute, In Shop Class as Soulcraft, he stated about the Institute:

In 1998 Jeffrey Salmon, then executive director of GMI, helped develop the American Petroleum Institute
American Petroleum Institute
The American Petroleum Institute, commonly referred to as API, is the largest U.S trade association for the oil and natural gas industry...

's strategy of stressing the uncertainty of climate science. William O'Keefe, the Institute's current CEO, was previously Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the American Petroleum Institute
American Petroleum Institute
The American Petroleum Institute, commonly referred to as API, is the largest U.S trade association for the oil and natural gas industry...

, and has also been on the Board of Directors of the U.S. Energy Association and Chairman of the Global Climate Coalition
Global Climate Coalition
The Global Climate Coalition was a group of mainly United States businesses opposing immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The group formed in response to several reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change . A major scientific report on the severity of global warming...

, a business-led anti-climate change action group active between 1989 and 2002.

Funding sources


Between 1985 and 2001, the institute received $5.5m in funding from five foundations, including the Earhart Foundation
Earhart Foundation
The Earhart Foundation is a private charitable foundation that funds research and scholarship. It was founded in 1929 by oil executive Harry Boyd Earhart.- History :...

, Sarah Scaife Foundation
Sarah Scaife Foundation
The Sarah Scaife Foundation is one of the American Scaife Foundations. It is controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife. The foundation does not award grants to individuals. It concentrates its efforts towards causes focused on public policy at a national and international level...

 and Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

GMI used to restrict its funding sources to private foundations and individual donors, but in 1999, Salmon wrote that "Fifteen years of experience with a policy of refusing grants from industry has taught us that our reasons for adopting this restriction were both right and wrong. We were right about it costing us money. But we were wrong to think the policy would permit us to avoid the charge of being a corporate funded think-tank." He said that "the positions we had taken over the last decade and a-half were so crystal-clear that it would be absurd to claim that the Marshall Institute was tailoring its position to fit the needs of some corporate interest", and accordingly, "From now on the Marshall Institute will accept grants for general program support from corporate foundations and in some cases directly from corporations. The Board has also determined that before we accept a grant it must be clear to us that the corporate foundation or corporation offering us funding must have a prior record of supporting well-known environmental groups, or groups with a record of opposing the deployment of ballistic missile defenses."

William O'Keefe, chief executive officer of the Marshall Institute, questions the methods used by advocates of new government restrictions to combat global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

.
  • "We have never said that global warming isn't real. No self-respecting think tank would accept money to support preconceived notions. We make sure what we are saying is both scientifically and analytically defensible."


Exxon-Mobil was a funder of the GMI until it pulled funding from it and several similar organizations in 2008. From 1998-2008, the institute received a total of $715,000 in funding from Exxon-Mobil.

External links