Ohio is currently fighting this year's final battle in a nationally-coordinated attack on clean energy standard laws, implemented by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other groups belonging to the secretive corporate front group umbrella known as the State Policy Network (SPN).
Yesterday, the Heritage Foundation hosted The Heartland Institute's CEO Joseph Bast, along with two of Heartland's contracted climate denial scientists (Willie Soon and Bob Carter), to present their new report that denies the seriousness of global warming. Greenpeace was there to ask Heartland about the report's funders, including billionaire Barre Seid, and to challenge Heartland's assertion that their work has any scientific validity (it doesn't). See the video for yourself.
From left: Heartland Institute president Joseph Bast, lawyer James Taylor and contracted pseudo-scientist Craig Idso.Crossposted from PolluterWatch.org
As we've told the Heartland Institute directly through Twitter, their response to our new report on climate change denial, Dealing in Doubt, contains a series of lies that are tellingly consistent with the lies we document in the report itself. Here are some, but not all, of the silliest claims Heartland made in their response to us:
This morning, the latest in pro-tar sands spin went live. KeystoneXLNow.com takes aim at President Obama for failing to approve the Keystone XL project (even though the White House just announced approval of the southern leg today), calling it "an affront to millions of Americans out of work and an outrage to millions more who are paying higher energy costs as a result of this administration's policies."
KeystoneXLNow.com invites users to send a message directly to the State Department to counterbalance "the crazy lefties [who] are already pouring in comments to give Obama an excuse to kill the pipeline." The site calls on users to "push back by filling the official State Department docket with comments demanding they stop stalling and approve the Keystone XL pipeline now!"
Not only is KeystoneXLnow.com rife with faulty facts, but its backers and secret funders make an oil trail back to the GOP and oil-backed right wing think tanks.
Much has been made lately of the Heartland’s Institute’s implosion over it extreme position on climate change. In February there was the revelation of internal strategy documents that included a plan to promote climate change scepticism in schools. In early May they unveiled a billboard equating those who believe in global warming with the Unabomber.
In the resulting uproar, nearly 50% of the Heartland Institute’s projected corporate donors for 2012 have pulled out. The funding drop has been so dire that at Heartland’s latest climate change sceptics conference in Chicago last month, Heartland president Joe Bast was reduced to asking the audience to find a ‘rich uncle’ to fund future conferences.
But the most telling outcome may prove to be the defection of Heartland’s entire Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate division. As team leader Eli Lehrer told the Guardian
"As somebody who deals mostly with insurance I believe all risks have to be taken seriously and there certainly are some important climate and global warming related risks that must be taken account of in the insurance market. Trivialising them is not consistent with free-market thought. Suggesting they are only thought about by people who are crazy is not good for the free market."
If Heartland didn’t exist, wouldn’t some other organization simply take its place? And won't Heartland itself weather this storm? After all, new funders, like the Heritage Foundation and the Illinois Coal Association, have sprung to the institute’s defense. (Whatever else you might say about conservatives, they know how to support the team.)
I think the only conclusion that one can reach is that while Heartland might be flailing right now, climate denial itself is far, far from over.
Let’s think about this in perspective, and start with the good news.
The Heartland Institute’s jaw-droppingly ill-advised, and now withdrawn billboard campaign—pictured here--has drawn a huge volume of denunciations in the last week. There’s not much more to say substantively about the campaign, or the fallout from it, which has included a number of Heartland funders heading for the hills.
But it is fascinating to try to understand why the Heartland Institute may have gone to this extreme. The psychological phenomenon that I see lurking behind these ads is a critical one to understand--black and white, “in group/out group” thinking.
This is something that David Ropeik has already written on very observantly. In trying to explain and justify its linking of global warming with people like Ted Kaczynski and Charles Manson, Ropeik notes, here are some of the things Heartland has said--and the words speak volumes:
The most prominent advocates of global warming aren't scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.
…what these murderers and madmen have said differs very little from what spokespersons for the United Nations, journalists for the ‘mainstream’ media, and liberal politicians say about global warming.
What is going on here, psychologically, is something called “splitting.” The Heartland Institute is ignoring basic intellectual distinctions and all sense of nuance, and dividing the world up into black and white extremes.
Once you do this, it becomes much easier to group one’s intellectual opponents together with "murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”
On April 24, Heartland Institute President Joe Bast issued an angry missive attacking Forecast the Facts, a new campaign that successfully petitioned automobile giant General Motors to end their financial support of Heartland earlier this month. In a 2,000-word screed, Bast defended his organization's efforts to disseminate anti-science propaganda to public classrooms and the general public, while making a number of wildly inaccurate claims about our group.
While much of what Bast wrote does not warrant a reply, we felt it important to address the most pernicious falsehoods, and also to remind Heartland's corporate donors exactly why support for the organization is so untenable (although Bast does an excellent job of that himself).
The saddest and most offensive attack on Forecast the Facts is the Heartland president's suggestion that the more than 20,000 signatories of our successful petition to General Motors may not even exist, calling the petition a "fraud." We stand by the validity of our petition one hundred percent. But even more so, we proudly affirm the existence of our members and their commitment to fighting climate change denial. The signers of the petition are real people with valid email accounts and sincere concerns that major corporations continue to support Heartland's climate change denial. (You can see some of their powerful comments here).
While Bast directs his venom at the everyday Americans who comprise the Forecast the Facts campaign, it's clear that his primary intent is to soothe the concerns of his corporate donors, many of whom are now reconsidering their support of his organization. If anything, his rant lays bare just how disreputable Bast is.
In a truly Orwellian turn, Bast vehemently denies Heartland Institute's climate change denial. (As a reminder for those less familiar with Bast, his primary focus before becoming a leader in the climate change denial movement was to question the links between smoking and lung cancer at the behest of Philip Morris, which remains a Heartland backer.)
But Heartland began its classroom misinformation campaign much earlier. During 2002-2003, E&CN ran ads exhorting readers to “discuss an E&CN article with your school-age child... and his or her teacher.” I hope parents avoided the common “Smoker’s Lounge” ads in those issues.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.