What Happens in Vegas….

Las Vegas is hosting two notable conferences this month, and the groups couldn’t be more different.

Next Monday through Wednesday, the Heartland Institute will present its 9th Annual Conference on Climate Change at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. However, it’s unlikely the conference will offer practical solutions to the impacts identified in the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Third National Climate Assessment, which was released this spring. Rather, the Heartland Institute’s website promises that its conference will be “the largest gathering of global warming ‘skeptics’ in the world.”

Mandalay Bay Hotel. Image by Sascha Brück from Wikimedia.

Mandalay Bay Hotel. Image by Sascha Brück from Wikimedia.

A 2011 editorial in the journal Nature notes that there’s a big difference between asking legitimate questions to fill gaps in knowledge and seizing on any degree of uncertainty to reject sound science. “[T]he Heartland Institute and its ilk are not trying to build a theory of anything,” says the editorial. “They have set the bar much lower, and are happy muddying the waters.”

The Center for Media and Democracy has noted close ties between the Heartland Institute and ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC actively opposes laws that promote renewable energy technologies and set energy efficiency goals through enforceable standards. ALEC’s board members include Ohio State Senator Bill Seitz, who championed Ohio’s recent “freeze” and substantial cutbacks to the state’s standards for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Two weeks later, the NAACP will hold its annual convention at Mandalay Bay. Part of the organization’s work on civil and human rights includes its Climate Justice Initiative. “Global climate change has a disproportionate impact on communities of color in the United States and around the world,” explains the organization’s website.

Toward this end, the NAACP particularly opposes coal-powered electric generation. Its reports include “Coal-Blooded: Putting Profits Before People.” Another report released last December is “Just Energy Policies: Reducing Pollution and Creating Jobs.”

Both reports note that coal-fired power plants tend to be located in or close to poor communities whose residents often include substantial numbers of people of color. Pollution from the plants contributes to health problems, including lung disease, note the reports. “Therefore, many will die early from exposure to pollution if we do not change now,” said Alabama NAACP President Bernard Simelton when the “Just Energy Policies” report was released.

Contrary to the host city’s long-running ad campaign, neither organization wants what happens in Vegas to stay there. Both groups hope to influence public policy—in dramatically different ways.

The topic of climate change continues to be hot. And Las Vegas this July will be very hot–in more ways than one.




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