George C. Marshall Institute
|Motto||"Science for Better Public Policy"|
|Founder(s)||Frederick Seitz, Robert Jastrow, William Nierenberg|
|Focus||Energy, environmental, and defense policy|
(FYE October 2015)
The George C. Marshall Institute (GMI) was a nonprofit conservative think tank in the United States. It was established in 1984 with a focus on science and public policy issues and was initially active mostly in the area of defense policy. Since the late 1980s, the institute put forward environmental skepticism views, and in particular promoted fringe views regarding the scientific consensus on climate change. The think tank received extensive financial support from oil companies.
The George C. Marshall institute was founded in 1984 by Frederick Seitz (former President of the United States National Academy of Sciences), Robert Jastrow (founder of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies), and William Nierenberg (former director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography). The institute's primary aim, initially, was to play a role in defense policy debates, defending Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI, or "Star Wars"). In particular, it sought to defend SDI "from attack by the Union of Concerned Scientists, and in particular by the equally prominent physicists Hans Bethe, Richard Garwin, and astronomer Carl Sagan." The institute argued that the Soviet Union 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. When the Cold War instead ended in the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, the institute shifted from an emphasis on defense to a focus on environmental skepticism, including global warming denial.
The institute's shift to environmental skepticism began with the publication of a report on global warming by William Nierenberg. During the 1988 United States presidential election, George H. W. Bush 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 in 1992, despite some opposition from within his administration.
In 1994, the institute published a paper by its then chairman, Frederick 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". 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 is truly dangerous under normal circumstances."
In 2012, the institute took over the responsibility for running the Missilethreat.com website from the Claremont Institute. Missilethreat.com aims to inform the American people of missile threats, thereby encouraging the deployment of a ballistic missile defense system. Since the closure of the institute, the Missilethreat.com website has been maintained by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Politicizing Science: The Alchemy of Policymaking is a book by the George C. Marshall Institute, edited by Michael Gough. The book, published in 2003, encourages a disinterested objectivity on the part of scientists and policymakers: Ideally, the scientists or analysts who generate estimates of harm that may result from a risk would consider all the relevant facts and alternative interpretations of the data, and remain skeptical about tentative conclusions. Ideally, too, the agency officials and politicians, who have to enact a regulatory program, would consider its costs and benefits, ensure that it will do more good than harm, and remain open to options to stop or change the regulation in situations where the underlying science is tentative.
Starting in 1989 GMI was involved in what it terms "a critical examination of the scientific basis for global climate change policy."  The was described by Sharon Begley as a "central cog in the denial machine" in a 2007 Newsweek cover story on climate change denial.
In Requiem for a Species, Clive Hamilton is critical of the Marshall Institute and contends that the conservative backlash against global warming research was led by three prominent physicists — Frederick Seitz, Robert Jastrow, and William Nierenberg, who founded the institute in 1984. According to Hamilton, by the 1990s the Marshall Institute's main activity was attacking climate science. Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway reach a similar conclusion in Merchants of Doubt (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. The book Climate Change: An Encyclopedia of Science and History, noting that GMI received funding from the automobile and fossil fuel industries and espouses "a mix of conservative, neoliberal, and libertarian ideological positions", states that GMI has "supported authors opposed to the hypothesis of anthropogenic warming and proposed mitigation policies ... stressing the free-market and the dangers of government regulation, which they said would hurt the US economy."
GMI was one of only a few conservative environmental-policy think tanks to have natural scientists on staff. Noted climate change deniers Sallie Baliunas and (until his death in 2008) Frederick Seitz (a past president of the National Academy of Sciences from 1962–1969) served on its board of directors. Patrick Michaels was a visiting scientist and Stephen McIntyre, Willie Soon and Ross McKitrick were contributing writers. Richard Lindzen served on the institute's Science Advisory Board.
William O'Keefe, chief executive officer of the Marshall Institute, questioned the methods used by advocates of new government restrictions to combat global warming: "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."
Accusation of conflict of interest
Matthew B. Crawford 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 existed in the funding of the institute. In Shop Class as Soulcraft, he wrote about the institute that "the trappings of scholarship were used to put a scientific cover on positions arrived at otherwise. These positions served various interests, ideological or material. For example, part of my job consisted of making arguments about global warming that just happened to coincide with the positions taken by the oil companies that funded the think tank."
Naomi Oreskes states that the institute, in order to resist and delay regulation, lobbied politically to create a false public perception of scientific uncertainty over the negative effects of second-hand smoke, the carcinogenic nature of tobacco smoking, the existence of acid rain, and on the evidence between CFCs and ozone depletion.
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.
- "George C. Marshall Institute" (PDF). Foundation Center. 19 January 2016. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
- Cushman Jr., John (April 22, 1997). "Critics Rise Up Against Environmental Education". New York Times. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
- Powell, James Lawrence (2011). The Inquisition of Climate Science. Columbia University Press. pp. 101–103. ISBN 9780231527842.
- Vaidyanathan, Gayathr (December 10, 2015). "Think tank that cast doubt on climate change science morphs into smaller one". E&E News.
- Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, 10 August 2010, "Distorting Science While Invoking Science Archived 2010-09-19 at the Wayback Machine", Science Progress
- Robert Jastrow, "America has Five Years Left!", National Review, Vol. 39, February 13, 1987
- Robert Jastrow, William Aaron Nierenberg, Frederick Seitz, Scientific perspectives on the greenhouse problem, Marshall Press, 1990
- "A Conversation with Dr. Frederick Seitz". The Marshall Institute. 1997-09-03. Archived from the original on 2010-07-06. Retrieved 2010-09-28.
- Hirschhorn, Norbert; Aguinaga Bialous, Stella. "Second hand smoke and risk assessment: what was in it for the tobacco industry?". Tobacco Control. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
- "Announcing Missilethreat.com". Claremont Institute. 23 March 2004. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 8 February 2013.
- "About Missilethreat.com". George C. Marshall Institute. Retrieved 8 February 2013.
- Gough, Michael (January 1, 2003). "Politicizing Science: The Alchemy of Policymaking". Hoover Institution. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
- "New Books from Hoover Press, Politicizing Science: The Alchemy of Policymaking, Edited by Michael Gough". Business Wire. July 7, 2003. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
- 'Climate Change' Archived 2005-10-29 at the Wayback Machine webpage of George C. Marshall Institute website, Accessed March 2, 2008.
- Begley, Sharon (13 August 2007). "The Truth About Denial". Newsweek. Archived from the original on 21 October 2007. (MSNBC single page version, archived 20 August 2007)
- Hamilton, Clive (2010). Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Change. Earthscan. p. 103. ISBN 978-1-84971-081-7.
- Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway (2010). Merchants of Doubt, Bloomsbury Press, pp. 8-9.
- Black, Brian (2013). Climate Change: An Encyclopedia of Science and History. ABC-CLIO. p. 1239. ISBN 9781598847611.
- Jacques, P.J.; Dunlap, R.E.; Freeman, M. (June 2008). "The organisation of denial: Conservative think tanks and environmental scepticism". Environmental Politics. 17 (3): 349–385. doi:10.1080/09644010802055576. S2CID 144975102.
- website Environmental Defense. Archived March 6, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
- McCright, Aaron M.; Dunlap, Riley E. (2003). "Defeating Kyoto: The Conservative Movement's Impact on U.S. Climate Change Policy" (PDF). Stanford University. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
- Mooney, Chris (May–June 2005). "Some Like It Hot". Mother Jones. Retrieved March 2, 2008.
- "Global-warming skeptics cite being 'treated like a pariah'". The Washington Times. 11 February 2007. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
- "The appointment of Matthew B. Crawford to the position of Executive Director". George C. Marshall Institute. Archived from the original on 14 December 2001. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
- Mooney, Carolyn (7 June 2009). "A Hands-On Philosopher Argues for a Fresh Vision of Manual Work". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
- Crawford, Matthew B. (2009). Shop Class as Soulcraft. Penguin Press. ISBN 978-1594202230.
- Oreskes, Naomi (2007). The American Denial of Global Warming (starting at 30:30 minutes into speech) (Speech). Retrieved 27 February 2017.
- Anjana Ahuja and Mark Henderson "Times Cheltenham Science Festival celebrates scientific heresy ", The Times, May 30, 2009.
- Ed Pilkington (2008-09-30). "Palin fought safeguards for polar bears with studies by climate change sceptics". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-09-28.