Not-so-smart ALEC: CEO of climate-denial group says "I don't know the science" on climate

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is having another bad week. Fresh off the heels of last week's exodus of tech companies, ALEC is in full damage-control mode about its denial of climate change. Press interviews with the head of ALEC, along with ALEC’s awkward position statement on climate and renewable energy, indicate that ALEC is having trouble with executing its plan to deny its climate denial.

This week, the National Journal interviewed ALEC's CEO, Lisa Nelson. When the reporter directly asked her if humans are the primary driver of climate change, she responded “I don't know the science on that.”

Touting one’s scientific incompetence is all the rage among politicians and their climate-action opponents.  ALEC’s Nelson is taking a page out of this year’s new climate change PR playbook for high-profile Republican leaders:  highlight your own ignorance. Gov. Rick Scott of Florida made headlines this summer for answering a similar question with “I'm not a scientist.” Other notable “not-a-scientists” include Rep. John Boehner, who said he's “not qualified to debate the science over climate change.”

Undeterred by its leader’s self-professed ignorance on climate change, ALEC is very active in promoting climate change denial and opposing measures to cut carbon pollution, like EPA power plant standards and state renewable energy policies. ALEC pushes state legislation written by its corporate polluter members, opposing limits on power plant carbon pollution and weakening support for renewable energy. One might think the head of such an organization would feel some responsibility to understand the science before setting ALEC off to push these damaging policies.

In fact, Lisa Nelson and her organization are very familiar with climate misinformation. Behind closed doors at its Dallas conference this year, ALEC promoted patently denialist claims, including the wholly unscientific proposition that carbon dioxide emissions aren’t causing polar ice to melt or sea level to rise, and broadly proclaiming that there is no need to reduce carbon dioxide. Just yesterday, Lisa Nelson claimed on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show that ALEC works to “foster dialogue,” but it would appear the “dialogue” in Dallas was entirely one-sided.  ALEC is disregarding the overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change is real, caused by humans, and dangerous to our health.

Nelson also asserted yesterday that as an organization they “specifically do not comment on climate change.” One thing is clear, however:  ALEC’s bread and butter is drafting and promoting model policies for state legislatures to undermine EPA limits on carbon pollution and state policies to promote renewable energy.  Watch what they do, not what they say they don’t do. ALEC needs to realize that denying its own climate denial will not fool anyone. Actions speak louder than words – the organization’s active opposition to climate change solutions and renewable energy development shows ALEC’s true colors.