This is a guest post by Daniel Souweine, Campaign Director, Forecast The Facts
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.)
The Heartland Institute has for decades been a leading attacker of the mainstream definition of “climate change” – the scientific conclusion that the burning of fossil fuels threatens ecosystems and human society by rapidly warming the planet with an artificially intensified greenhouse effect. Attempting to mollify his corporate supporters, Bast uses red herrings and solipsistic arguments to deny Heartland's denial.
“The Heartland Institute does not 'deny the existence of climate change,'” Bast writes, arguing that the group concedes the fact that the earth's climate changes over time. Bast also concedes that “some warming occurred in the second half of the twentieth century,” because every study of planetary temperatures, even those funded by the denialist Koch brothers, have confirmed rapid warming in recent decades.
Bast continues, “Since Heartland does not deny climate change is occurring, and in fact is bringing together the world’s leading scientists and economists to study the issue, it is entirely appropriate that corporations and foundations that have publicly stated their concern over climate change would continue to fund us.” The “leading scientists and economists” the Heartland Institute gathers are in fact a motley crew of ideologues with ties to the fossil-fuel industry, almost none of whom have done peer-reviewed work in climate science. In contrast, practically every major scientific organization on the planet has affirmed the threat of man-made global warming.
After throwing up these smokescreens, Bast reiterates his organization's discredited attacks on the fact that fossil-fuel pollution is responsible for present-day global warming, the widely validated scientific theory of anthropogenic climate change. Bast claims that the Heartland Institute has “effectively rebutted” the work of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And then, bringing things full circle, he reiterates his claim that “global warming is a 'scam,'” and calls it a “problem that may not exist.”
Finally, Bast makes the fantastic argument that widespread climate denial among the American public is a reason for public corporations to continue to support Heartland's anti-science propaganda:
Importantly for public corporations that support us, a majority of Americans also share Heartland’s views on global warming. Rasmussen Reports – a pollster that tends to lean right – reported in April that only 40 percent of Americans believe human activities are responsible for global warming. Gallup– a pollster that tends to lean left – put the figure at 52 percent in March. Other surveys show most Americans put concern over climate change near the bottom of their concerns, and even at the bottom of their environmental concerns.
These facts are indeed important considerations for the public corporations who support the Heartland Institute. The gap between the overwhelming scientific consensus of the threat of greenhouse pollution and public concern is a primary barrier to governmental action. For decades, the Heartland Institute has played a central role in questioning the science of climate change. Corporate support for Heartland is critical to its continued ability to block solutions to climate pollution.
As Bast noted, Forecast the Facts has been contacting the public corporations that support the Heartland Institute and asking them to end their contributions to the anti-science group. The fact that these corporations continue to support Heartland is a stain on their reputations, especially because Heartland's work on climate change is in diametric opposition to the public positions of many of its corporate funders, including Microsoft, GlaxoSmithKline, RenaissanceRe, and Diageo. Unfortunately, State Farm and Microsoft have informed us that they intend to continue their relationship with the Heartland Institute.
In sum: Joseph Bast denies that the members of Forecast the Facts exist. He denies man-made climate change, and yet amazingly denies this very denial. In fact, it is difficult to find anything that Joseph Bast won't deny–unless it's money from America's corporations. It's high time they started denying him.
- by Daniel Souweine, Campaign Director, Forecast The Facts