Heartland Institute accuses 'climate alarmists' of exploiting COVID-19 pandemic to advance agenda

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The conservative Heartland Institute released a report on Tuesday in which it criticized leading politicians, activists, and media outlets for using the coronavirus to push their environmental agenda.

"Not surprisingly coronavirus alarm has pushed most other issues and concerns out of the news ⎯ much to the dismay of climate alarmists," said Steve Milloy of the Heartland Institute. "But the alarmists aren’t taking displacement by coronavirus lying down. In fact, many climate alarmists are trying to use coronavirus as a means of advancing their agenda. They are trying to surf it."

The report, published on ClimateRealism.com and Heartland.org, comes amid complaints that Democrats have been trying to shoehorn some of their agenda, like emissions reductions, into legislation designed to relieve the virus' economic burden. Titled "Never Waste a Crisis," it focuses on tweets, which range from asserting the coronavirus had a "silver lining" to others in which people attribute clearing skies or water to the lack of economic activity resulting from the virus' spread.

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Prominent figures also suggested Trump treated the coronavirus like he did climate change, that the pandemic was an opportunity to pursue "sustainable" growth, and that the pandemic was revealing the weaknesses of the world's economy.

In one example, Sky News' Ed Conway suggested that the coronavirus was "the ultimate weapon" against climate change. "Don’t take this the wrong way but if you were a young, hardline environmentalist looking for the ultimate weapon against climate change, you could hardly design anything better than coronavirus," he said in an op-ed posted by the Times.

The paper argued that Conway was highlighting the virus' "silver lining." According to CBS Los Angeles, clearing canals and emissions reductions were part of the "silver lining" of the pandemic as well.

Greenhouse gas emissions are in the spotlight amid the coronavirus pandemic. In early March, satellite images from NASA and the European Space Agency spotted an enormous decline in airborne pollutants, specifically nitrogen dioxide (NO2), in large areas of China.

In the U.K., a recent report by solar power specialists The Eco Experts estimates that the country’s CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) emissions are set to drop by 28.22 million tonnes over the 12-week period following the implementation of social distancing measures on March 19. NASA also tweeted on Monday that California saw decreased nitrogen dioxide concentration.

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Oxford professor Peter Frankopan wrote in the Times that the "world's lungs are already breathing more easily thanks to the collapse of industrial production." Frankopan's piece was titled: "Pandemics are terrifying but they can make the world better."

The report also included statements from politicians like former President Barack Obama, who said the "consequences" of denying coronavirus warnings underscored the need to stop denying climate change.

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"With #Coronavirus dominating the headlines, we can't forget about another major global threat: Climate change," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted in March. He included an appeal to pass the "Restore Mother Nature Bond Act," which entails $3 billion in spending on environmental projects. A DJ from Cuomo's home state said he'd be OK with using the coronavirus as a "front" to force humans to abstain from impacting the environment.

Other examples seemed more restrained. "A friendly reminder: The coronavirus is not a good thing. We should not cheer its effects on reducing pollution," writer Eric Holthaus tweeted.

"The whole point of climate action is to save lives. If anything, this pandemic is proving we can (and will) rapidly eliminate fossil fuels."

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One of the more egregious tweets came from a Twitter account tied to Extinction Rebellion, a left-wing environmentalist group.

"Earth is healing. The air and water is clearing. Corona is the cure. Humans are the disease," the tweet read.

Extinction Rebellion reportedly called that particular account -- XREastMidlands -- fake.

"This account is not managed by Extinction Rebellion UK or Extinction Rebellion East Midlands, and these messages are and so are not the movement," the group said, according to BBC. The account was eventually suspended for violating Twitter's rules.

Fox News' James Rogers contributed to this report.