THERE’S a section on the Heartland Institute’s website pointing readers to “Stuff We Wish We Wrote”.
After events over the last year or so, the chaps at the fossil fuel-funded “think tank” might want to add a new section with the title “Stuff We Wish We Hadn’t Wrote”.
The Heartland Institute, for those who don’t know, is a Chicago-based group promoting any view or position that argues we shouldn’t do anything about human-caused climate change. They run campaigns, hold conferences, write op-eds in the media and pay contrarian scientists.
Right there on the think-tank’s homepage, the group proudly displays a quote from The Economist magazine describing Heartland as “The world's most prominent think-tank promoting scepticism about man-made climate change.”
Yet as is the case with most things Heartland says about climate change, things are not always as they seem. Heartland’s boastful quote is taken out of context and comes from this article in The Economist, documenting a spectacular own goal by Heartland.
Heartland, The Economist wrote, had lost an estimated $825,000 in funding after running a billboard campaign that equated acceptance of human-caused global warming to the values of serial killer Ted “Unabomber” Kaczynski.
So when The Economist was describing Heartland as a prominent think-tank promoting climate science denial, it wasn’t doing it in a good way. No wonder then that Heartland didn’t hyperlink the quote.
This brings us to Heartland’s most recent example of self-aggrandizing – implying the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) thinks they’re awesome because it translated two of Heartland’s reports, only to be told by aforementioned academy to apologise for misrepresenting what they had actually done. Here are the nuts and bolts of the story. On June 11, Heartland released a statement detailing how CAS had translated two volumes of its NIPCC reports – Climate Change Reconsidered.
The main contributors to the reports, contrarian scientists Craig idso, Fred Singer and Australia-based Robert Carter, were due to fly to Beijing to launch the report, Heartland said. Internal Heartland documents have shown that in 2012, Heartland planned to pay Idso $11,600 a month for his work on the NIPCC report. Singer was to receive $5,000 per month and Carter would get $1,667 monthly.
On June 12, Jim Lakely, Heartland’s communications director, took to the think-tank’s blog - “Somewhat Reasonable” - with unfettered excitement. Under the headline “Chinese Academy of Sciences publishes Heartland Institute research skeptical of Global Warming” Lakely wrote that CAS’s translation now placed “enormous scientific heft” behind the “questionable notion that man is responsible for catastrophically warming the planet”.
In a typically restrained and understated manner, Lakely quotes Heartland President Joseph Bast as saying: “This is a historic moment in the global debate about global warming.”
Bast then tries to drive a wedge between China and other countries involved in United Nations negotiations to agree a deal to cut emissions of greenhouse gases. China’s previous refusal to sign a deal, Bast claimed, was now justified because CAS had translated the Heartland book and this “indicates the country’s leaders believe their position is justified by science and not just by economics.”
Professor Carter told Lakely that Chinese companies would soon leave their Western counterparts in the competitive dust becuase, he said, they were still “hindered by the IPCC’s leaden and outdate global warming ideology”.
Climate sceptic blogger Anthony Watts was similarly excitable, running a post with the title “Heartland’s NIPCC report to be accepted by Chinese Academy of Sciences in special ceremony”. That these statements were published on a Heartland blog with the title “Somewhat Reasonable” seems beautifully ironic, given what followed. Presumably finding Heartland’s actions Somewhat Unreasonable, the Lanzhou Branch of the National Science Library of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which carried out the translation, released a statement. It read:
…the Heartland Institute published the news titled “Chinese Academy of Sciences publishes Heartland Institute research skeptical of Global Warming” in a strongly misleading way on its website, implying that the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) supports their views, in contrary to what is clearly stated in the Translators’ Note in the Chinese translation. The claim of the Heartland Institute about CAS’ endorsement of its report is completely false.
In fact, the translation was “purely non-official academic activities [of] the group of translators” and “they do not represent, nor they have ever claimed to represent, CAS or any of CAS institutes.” Perhaps Heartland had made an innocent mistake? Nope.
The above fact was made very clear in the Translators’ Note in the book, and was known to the NIPCC report authors and the Heartland Institute before the translation started. The false claim by the Heartland Institute was made public without any knowledge of the translator group. Since there is absolutely no ground for the so called CAS endorsement of the report, and the actions by the Heartland Institute went way beyond acceptable academic integrity, we have requested by email to the president of the Heartland Institute that the false news on its website to be removed.
We also requested that the Institute issue a public apology to CAS for the misleading statement on the CAS endorsement. If the Heartland Institute does not withdraw its false news or refuse to apologize, all the consequences and liabilities should be borne by the Heartland Institute. We reserve the right for further actions to protect the rights of CAS and the translators group.
Just in case anyone was in any doubt, the overarching Chinese Academy of Sciences also issued a statement urging the public to ignore Heartland’s “misleading information”. Heartland promptly threw its previous bravado-soaked statements down the memory hole, deleting all pages. In the intervening days, Bast no longer seems to think this to be a “historic moment”. Cue embarrassing climb down.
Some people interpreted our news release and a blog post describing this event as implying that the Chinese Academy of Sciences endorses the views contained in the original books. This is not the case, and we apologize to those who may have been confused by these news reports. To be clear, the release of this new publication does not imply CAS and any of its affiliates involved with its production 'endorse' the skeptical views contained in the report. Rather, as stated in the translator's preface of the book, 'The work of these translators, organizations and funders has been in the translation and the promotion of scientific dialogue, does not reflect that they agree with the views of NIPCC.
It’s worth bearing in mind that less than a week after Heartland had tried to tell followers that China was doubting the risks of human caused climate change, the country launched the first of seven emissions trading schemes.
Perhaps a better way to describe The Heartland Institute might be “The Keystone Cops of the climate science denial movement” but they’ll probably just stick with the line from The Economist.