Tag: Heartland Institute

FOLLOWUP: Heartland Institute's billboards are costing them donors

By Phil Plait | May 8, 2012 5:58 am

I wrote a few days ago about the disgusting billboards put up by the far-right Heartland Institute, a climate-change denial group that apparently has no lower bounds to what they’ll do. The billboards, which went up in Chicago, likened climate scientists (and anyone who knows global warming is real) to mass murderers and madmen.

It was repulsive and hateful. After an uproar — and in less than a day — Heartland took down the billboards, but didn’t apologize for them. Instead they claimed it was an "experiment", and declared victory in getting attention. This would be why I use the words repulsive and disgusting.

But the damage was done — this tactic has backfired on Heartland. Even before the billboards went up they lost sponsorship from the Diageo liquor company, which makes such brands as Smirnoff and Guiness. In March, General Motors dropped Heartland as well. Even people who support climate change denialism are worried that their own reputations "[have] been harmed".

And now, after a few bloggers wrote to State farm, the insurance company has announced they too will withdraw funding from Heartland Institute. State Farm specifically cites the billboards as the reason in their announcement.

I suspect that Scott Mandia’s open letter to them was the major driver for this. For my part, I tweeted about this on Sunday:

The link goes to a copy of Mandia’s letter. On Monday evening, State Farm tweeted they were severing ties with Heartland.

Besides removing ties from a group with such awful tactics, it’s in State Farm’s best interest anyway. Global warming is having and will continue to have a profound impact, including droughts, floods, rising sea levels, and much more. Insurance companies will need to deal with this, and they need to be thinking about this now.

I want to publicly thank State Farm for doing the right thing here. I already did so on Twitter as well.

Never forget the power we have as consumers to change the world. It worked when it came to American Arlines and antivaxxers, and it’s working here.

[UPDATE: Bernews is reporting the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers will discontinue funding Heartland as well; they gave $125,000 in 2010/11.]

And we’re not done. Heartland still has quite a few corporate sponsors. Brad Johnson has created a list of them on Pinterest, how much they’ve given, and which ones have dropped Heartland due to its shenanigans. Heartland is hemorrhaging donors, but there’s still a long way to go.

Related Posts:

- The Heartland Institute sinks to a new low
- Breaking news: a look behind the curtain of the Heartland Institute’s climate change spin
- Hip, hip, hypocrisy!
- A case study of the tactics of climate change denial, in which I am the target
- NASA talks global warming
- The world is getting warmer
- Our ice is disappearing
- Climate change: the evidence

The Heartland Institute sinks to a new low

By Phil Plait | May 4, 2012 11:09 am

The Heartland Institute, a far-right climate change denying "thinktank" has put up a series of billboards so disgusting, so vile, that I find it difficult to find words to tell you just how disgusting and vile they are.

So instead, I’ll show you one:

When I first heard of this earlier today, I thought it was a joke. No one would seriously do this, right? Creating an actual billboard like this would be taking Poe’s Law and aiming right between your own eyes!

But it’s real. Heartland actually put these up, and according to their press release, they’re proud of it. And other people Heartland has on the billboards? Charles Manson, Fidel Castro, and they’re considering putting up some with Osama bin Laden.

Yes, seriously.

I could go on and on about just how incredibly offensive this is, but you can read about it here, here, here, and here. [UPDATE: And here, here, and here.]

[UPDATE: Apparently, Heartland has decided to pull down the billboard ad... of course, they're claiming it "got attention" but somehow neglect to mention this attention was overwhelmingly negative and disgusted. But you can expect Heartland to continue their skeevy campaign against reality; I'll note that they not only do not apologize for the ad, but state outright they won't apologize for it. Lovely. Science writer and humanitarian Shawn Otto has posted a list of names and links of companies that support Heartland, just so's you know.]

Still, there’s one thing I do want to highlight. The press release is a non-stop firehose of misinformation and spin, but among the venom-dripping things they say, one bit of crazy stands out:

The people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.

Actually, "a solid majority" of Americans think global warming is real. They’re the radical fringe? As usual, the global warming deniers accuse others of doing what the deniers themselves are guilty of.

And the prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists? Like Michael Mann and James Hansen? Oh wait, those two are actual climate scientists. You know, the kind of people who are experts in climate science. The kind who don’t tend to sign climate change denial screeds.

Also, the "murderers, tyrants, and madmen" line? Nice, Heartland, nice. Rhetoric like that really makes you look sober, sane, and willing to discuss things rationally.

Always remember, this is the reality Heartland is trying to deny:

The Earth is warming up. The rate of warming has increased in the past century or so. This corresponds to the time of the Industrial Revolution, when we started dumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases warm the planet (hence the name) — if they didn’t we’d have an average temperature below the freezing point of water. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas which is dumped into the atmosphere by humans to the tune of 30 billion tons per year, 100 times the amount from volcanoes. And finally, approximately 97% of climatologists who actually study climate agree that global warming is real, and caused by humans.

Those are the facts. It’s hard to believe anyone takes Heartland seriously at this point. And while they’re fiddling, the world burns.

Related Posts:

- Breaking news: a look behind the curtain of the Heartland Institute’s climate change spin
- Hip, hip, hypocrisy!
- A case study of the tactics of climate change denial, in which I am the target
- NASA talks global warming
- The world is getting warmer
- Our ice is disappearing
- Climate change: the evidence

Breath-taking climate denial nonsense, this time aimed at NASA

By Phil Plait | April 13, 2012 12:16 pm

I’ve been getting lots of email and other notes about a group of 49 people — including some ex-astronauts — who have written a public letter to NASA complaining about the space agency’s stance that global warming exists and is caused by humans.

You can guess how I feel about it. But to be clear: it’s more denialist spin, nonsense, and noise. You can read the original leter here, and then I strongly suggest reading Shawn Otto’s devastating deconstruction of it. You can also read the response to this letter by NASA’s Chief Scientist Waleed Abdalatim if you’d like.

I’ll note that it doesn’t matter that former astronauts signed this propaganda letter — I’ve written about Apollo 17′s Harrison Schmitt and his climate change denialism before — but I note it does matter that of the 49 signatories on that letter, not one is an actual working climate scientist. That should give you pause. I’ll also note that 49 former NASA employees is a tiny, tiny fraction of the total. It’s not hard to find statistical outliers in a group that big. I knew a creationist who worked for NASA!

But really, my very favorite thing about this is the group behind the letter: a non-profit called Plants Need CO2, which, if you can believe it, actively advocates that more carbon dioxide is good for us.

Yes, once you’re done comically rubbing your eyes with your fists you can read that again. Read More

Breaking news: Heartland leaker is scientist Peter Gleick, says documents are all real

By Phil Plait | February 21, 2012 8:00 am

The news about Heartland Institute just took a decidedly odd turn. Recently, internal documents leaked from the far-right group revealed their antiscience agenda, including their funding strategy, donor list, and most startlingly a paper outlining their strategy to "dissuade teachers from teaching science".

When these documents were posted, Heartland started threatening the sites hosting them, as well as bloggers who wrote about them including a 71-year-old veteran). This part is very important: Heartland has made repeated claims that the strategy paper is a fake.

Now, the leaker has outed himself: Peter Gleick, a research scientist with the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security, which among other things investigates the impact of hydrology on human health and how climate change plays into it.

In his admission, Gleick says he initially received the Institute’s internal documents in the mail anonymously. Given their potential impact, he tried to confirm their reality. How he did so, though, is something of an issue:

In an effort to [confirm the accuracy of the documents], and in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name.

In other words, Gleick used a false identity to get more information from Heartland itself. This is an interesting situation, to say the least. I’ll note that faking an identity is not necessarily wrong or illegal. And if there is a greater moral good involved, like exposing dirty dealings on issues that have a major impact on people’s lives — say — it might even be understandable. On the other hand, if he impersonated someone real, then this may be a situation of identity theft. There’s also the question of whether he did everything he could to find out the veracity of the documents before taking the path he did. I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t have all the information, so I don’t really have an opinion on this. On the other hand I have very little doubt that how people come down on this point will depend very strongly on where they stand on the reality of climate change.

However, how he obtained this information is not really the point. The information on those documents and their veracity is paramount. In his article, Gleick continues:

The materials the Heartland Institute sent to me confirmed many of the facts in the original document, including especially their 2012 fundraising strategy and budget. I forwarded, anonymously, the documents I had received to a set of journalists and experts working on climate issues. I can explicitly confirm, as can the Heartland Institute, that the documents they emailed to me are identical to the documents that have been made public. I made no changes or alterations of any kind to any of the Heartland Institute documents or to the original anonymous communication.

Emphasis added. Note that Gleick is explicitly saying the strategy document about the Heartland Institute trying to dissuade the teaching of science is in fact real, despite the claims from Heartland saying it’s not. He is also saying he did not make any alterations, so again he is claiming they are actual Heartland Institute internal documents. Heartland has indeed admitted that nearly all of the documents are in fact real, but maintain the strategy document is a fake.

From the standpoint of an outside observer, this boils down in some ways to a he-said-she-said situation. Heartland says the document is a fake. Gleick says it is not. While people on both sides have made arguments for and against its authenticity, the actual evidence we have from both sides is circumstantial. Unless the strategy document contains some sort of traceable information, or the Heartland Institute’s files are opened, there may not be any way to know for sure. However, Gleick has said he can explicitly confirm the documents are the same. I expect there will come a time when he’ll have to do so publicly.

Obviously, some will paint Gleick as a criminal and fraud, and others as a whistleblower and hero. In the NYT blog Dot Earth, journalist Andrew Revkin has already said Gleick’s reputation is ruined and his credibility destroyed, while at least one commenter is already calling him a hero.

However, there are things we do indeed know. One is that the Heartland Institute has a long history of climate change denial. Another is that they were huge cheerleaders of the manufactured Climategate nonsense, involving stolen emails from real scientists, but threatened to sue bloggers when their own documents were exposed in this very similar way. This reaction by Heartland is very telling, in my opinion.

And even that, in the end, is nothing more than a distraction, something taking away from the real issue: the Earth is warming up. This is reality, and this is overwhelmingly supported by the scientific evidence. And the other thing I know for sure is that groups like Heartland, as well as ones like the Wall Street Journal and the Daily Mail, and many, many more, will now double their efforts to sow doubt on that fact.

Related posts:

- Breaking news: a look behind the curtain of the Heartland Institute’s climate change spin
- Hip, hip, hypocrisy!
- A case study of the tactics of climate change denial, in which I am the target
- NASA talks global warming
- The world is getting warmer
- Our ice is disappearing
- Climate change: the evidence

Hip, hip, hypocrisy!

By Phil Plait | February 16, 2012 11:50 am

Let’s hope the Heartland Institute pursues this perfidious document leaker with the same vigor, moral certitude, and righteous fury with which they went after the criminal who stole the climate scientist emails.

Oh, wait.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Piece of mind

Breaking news: A look behind the curtain of the Heartland Institute's climate change spin

By Phil Plait | February 15, 2012 7:00 am

The Heartland Institute — a self-described “think tank” that actually serves in part as a way for climate change denialism to get funded — has a potentially embarrassing situation on their hands. Someone going by the handle “Heartland Insider” has anonymously released quite a few of what are claimed to be internal documents from Heartland, revealing the Institute’s strategies, funds, and much more.

[UPDATE: Heartland has confirmed that some of the documents are real, but claims the strategy document, which I quote below about teaching strategy, is faked. This claim has not yet been confirmed or refuted. DeSmogBlog has more info.]

These documents are available over at DeSmogBlog. Several people are going over them, and so far they appear legit. You can read some relevant discussions at DeSmogBlog, Deep Climate, Planet 3, Greg Laden, ClimateCrocks, Shawn Otto, and Think Progress. John Mashey at DeSmogBlog has more info that also corroborates the leaked documents, and to call it blistering is to severely underestimate it.

One thing I want to point out right away which is very illuminating, if highly disturbing, about what Heartland allegedly wants to do: they are considering developing a curriculum for teachers to use in the classroom to sow confusion about climate change. I know, it sounds like I’m making that up, but I’m not. In this document they say:

[Dr. Wojick's] effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.

That seems clear enough, doesn’t it? From that, it sure sounds like they want to dissuade teachers from teaching science. I imagine there will be a lot of spin about how this quote is out of context, or a typo, or something alone those lines. Perhaps. But I remember all the hammering real scientists took when they used jargon in their emails to each other, jargon which was gleefully misinterpreted to make it seem as if these scientists were faking data. Interesting how this is pointing right back at them. Just as I said it does.

When it comes to all this, the comparison to “Climategate” springs to mind, but there’s one enormous difference: Climategate was manufactured, a made-up controversy (what I call a manufactroversy) that had no real teeth — as was its failed sequel. The emails released weren’t damning at all, and didn’t show scientists tinkering with or faking data. As much as the media made of it, as much as climate change denial blogs played them up, it has been shown again and again that Climategate was all sound and fury, signifying nothing.

These new documents, though, look different, especially given that quote above. The next few days should be very interesting as people start digging into them, especially if they prove to be authentic.

And how ironic! It was the Heartland Institute themselves who played up Climategate quite a bit. Back in 2009 when they were trumpeting Climategate, Heartland said:

The release of these documents creates an opportunity for reporters, academics, politicians, and others who relied on the IPCC to form their opinions about global warming to stop and reconsider their position. The experts they trusted and quoted in the past have been caught red-handed plotting to conceal data, hide temperature trends that contradict their predictions, and keep critics from appearing in peer-reviewed journals. This is new and real evidence that they should examine and then comment on publicly.

That claim from them is nonsense, but it will be interesting to see how happy they are when the tables are turned, and “reporters, academics, politicians, and others” look into their documents. And around that same time they also said:

For anyone who doubts the power of the Internet to shine light on darkness, the news of the month is how digital technology helped uncover a secretive group of scientists who suppressed data, froze others out of the debate, and flouted freedom-of-information laws.

Again, none of that is true. But that claim about freezing out others sticks out, especially in light of another of these leaked Heartland internal memos which says,

Efforts at places such as Forbes are especially important now that they have begun to allow high-profile climate scientists (such as [Peter] Gleick) to post warmist science essays that counter our own. This influential audience has usually been reliably anti-climate and it is important to keep opposing voices out.

Emphasis mine. Yes, that sounds like a group interested in promoting “sound science”.

Wow. Just, wow.

Related posts:

- Case closed: “Climategate” was manufactured
- Climategate 2: More ado about nothing. Again.
- New independent climate study confirms global warming is real
- While temperatures rise, denialists reach lower
- A case study of the tactics of climate change denial, in which I am the target


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