This commentary originally appeared in Real Clear Energy on May 17, 2016.

There is a conspiracy afoot to shield Americans from the truth about climate change, however you may be surprised to learn who exactly is deceiving the public and committing the fraud. These perpetrators are utilizing propaganda, Hollywood and political elites, and the cover of institutional authority and resources to bulldoze radical changes on society. It is clear to them that all dissent must be stamped out.

Last year a group of 20 “academics,” led by George Mason University’s Jagadish Shukla, wrote the President, the U.S. Attorney General, and the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to “strongly endorse” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s call to use the RICO statutes (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) to go after any dissenting voices opposing popular climate orthodoxy.

In an effort to shed light on these “keepers of truth,” the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) requested public records that might show how the "RICO-20" group used public funding to call for the investigation of those who disagreed with them on climate policy. George Mason University refused to comply. But last week CEI prevailed in its Virginia Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against GMU. “This victory puts on notice those academics who have increasingly inserted themselves into politics, that they cannot use taxpayer-funded positions to go after those who disagree with them and expect to hide it,” said Chris Horner, CEI fellow and co-plaintiff.

In a separate but possibly coordinated action to squash dissent, “AGs United for Clean Power,” a coalition of Democrat attorneys general in 15 states, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia, and lead by former Vice President and climate multi-millionaire Al Gore, have pledged to work together to “defend climate change progress made under President Obama and push the next President for even more aggressive action.”

British- born Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker has since moved to join at least two other states in taking action against ExxonMobil Corporation by subpoenaing communications with roughly 100 academic institutions and free market think tanks, including the one I work for.

Perry Pendley, president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation in Denver, called the coalition’s campaign “an abuse of power that we haven’t seen in this country since Woodrow Wilson.” Instead of trying to squash dissent, what all sides should want is an honest consideration of the real science – something rarely seen in this debate.

On Earth Day, The Heritage Foundation published, “The State of Climate Science: No Justification for Extreme Policies.” The report reviews much of what climate apologists insist is true including the myth that 97 percent of all climate scientists agree on global warming. That is a powerful rhetorical point and often quoted by the President, but it is also false and based on a faulty review of the abstracts of a limited number of papers.

The Heritage paper goes on to discuss the unfortunate biases informing climate research, and reviews NOAA temperature fluctuations back 1 million years showing both warmer and cooler time periods in our past concluding, that “dire predictions for both global cooling and global warming have been found to be grossly inaccurate.“ In comparing what the IPCC climate models predict and actual observed temperatures they conclude, “the models fail to do a reasonable job at predicting the past 30 years of temperatures, yet alarmists attempt to use them to forecast temperatures centuries from now.”* Finally, Heritage finds that there is no trend for more extreme or frequent natural disasters, that sea level has been climbing since the last ice age (400 feet so far), and that oceans are not becoming acidic.

There is little doubt that the proposed solution to the CO2 “problem” will be all-pain with no-gain. The high cost will produce an immeasurable difference in CO2 concentrations.

I agree with my friends in the climate change community on one point: As a society we cannot afford to get this wrong because too much is at stake. But the poor and powerless deserve our careful attention to this matter. Instead of squashing dissent, we should find a way to stop talking past each other, check and then re-check the data, and most importantly not be afraid to question authority.

The Honorable Doug Domenech is the Director of the Fueling Freedom Project at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Prior to joining TPPF he served as secretary of natural resources in the Commonwealth of Virginia.