The Heartland Institute's Quest for "Real Science" on Global Warming

The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-headquartered think tank that has taken on the role of trying to coordinate the disparate global warming skeptics, has organized yet another conference to be held in Washington this week disputing the reality of global warming. "The real science and economics of climate change support the view that global warming is not a crisis and that immediate action to reduce emissions is not necessary," they claim.

But when the Heartland Institute talks about "real science," it is hard to ignore the fact that for years they have defended the policy agenda of the tobacco industry without disclosing that they were funded by Phillip Morris. Indeed, Heartland still claims to defend the rights of smokers, a ploy long used by the tobacco industry to keep themselves out of the spotlight.

Back in March the think tank organized its second international conference for skeptics. At the time I noted that in 2007 the think tank's President, Joseph L. Bast stated that "gifts from all energy companies -- coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear" accounted for less than five percent of the group's budget. While it may sound like a small amount, it still represented approximately $260,000.

No sooner was the March conference over than Heartland announced that it was organizing another, to be held in Washington on Tuesday June 2. For the March conference, Heartland insisted that "no corporate sponsorships or dollars earmarked for the event were solicited or accepted." Interestingly, there is no equivalent statement on the web page for the latest conference.The real impetus for calling the latest conference at such short notice is the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill, which is wending its way through Congress.

The speakers at the latest conference, which includes veteran skeptics such as Richard Lindzen and Patrick Michaels, are not likely to say much that they haven't said before. In a recent interview, leading climate scientist Stephen H. Schneider commented that the skeptics "have very few mainstream climate scientists who publish original research in climate refereed journals with them -- a petroleum geologist's opinion on climate science is a as good as a climate scientist's opinion on oil reserves. So petitions sent to hundreds of thousands of earth scientists are frauds. If these guys think they are 'winning,' why don't they try to take on face to face real climatologists at real meetings -- not fake ideology shows like Heartland Institute -- but with those with real knowledge -- because they'd be slaughtered in public debate by Trenberth, Santer, Hansen, Oppenheimer, Allen, Mitchell, even little ol' me. It’s easy to blog, easy to write op-eds in the Wall Street Journal."

But the purpose of the Heartland Institute's conference is not about "real science," as most people understand it. Instead, its conference is more about maintaining the rage of the hard-core skeptics and their supporters in the hope that any legislation that emerges from Congress will be so compromised that it will make little if any difference in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

What the coal and oil lobby know is that the nature of what is agreed to by the Congress will play a major role in determining what the Obama administration will agree to in negotiations over the successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol to be discussed at the COP15 meeting in Copenhagen in December. As Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy on climate change, stated at the conclusion of a recent meeting of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, "an issue for us is always [reaching] an agreement... that can produce consensus internationally and it can also be approved back at home."

It would be easy to dismiss the Heartland Institute's conference as just another fringe event. However, with the Democrats having only a narrow majority in the Senate, a couple of votes would be enough to water down the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill even further. Added to that is the fact that for a treaty to be ratified, two-thirds of Senate members must support it.


But what if the scientists are right? What will the world be like in 100 years? There's a very long history in American and English literature of real social change coming about because of a powerful novel. Fiction may be the best way to seriously explore issues that generate so much controversy. It's too easy to deny reality otherwise.

Perhaps you should read some of the articles provided through the Non-governmental Institute referenced in the conference. Over 9,000 phd's have signed onto the petition rejecting the anthropogenic climate change theory. Environmental alarmist like Al Gore are supported without question in your blog, but your mind closes when evidence appears from other sources. I am registered professional engineer with some understanding of the issues, and I believe politics has surplanted science in the United Nations and in your blog.

We debunk the Oregon Institute petition on our SourceWatch site: [] The climate skeptics are full of sound and fury (and misleading type fonts), but it's clear, upon closer examination, that their arguments signify nothing.

<blockquote>"...I believe politics has surplanted science in the United Nations and in your blog. </bockquote> So politics never supplanted science in the Bush administration, whose leftover messes we're now dealing with? Here's where the deniers say, "But most of most of UCS's members aren't even climate scientists." Well, yes. That's just because political subversion of science was hardly limited to climate science.

Scientific American took a random sample of 30 of the 1,400 signatories claiming to hold a Ph.D. in a climate-related science. Of the 26 we were able to identify in various databases, 11 said they still agreed with the petition—one was an active climate researcher, two others had relevant expertise, and eight signed based on an informal evaluation. Six said they would not sign the petition today, three did not remember any such petition, one had died, and five did not answer repeated messages.

Is 2.1% enough of a sample enough?? And the Petition is actually signed by 31,478 scientists... so is 0.09 % a statistically valid sample???

Bob: Thanks for the update on the Heartland meeting. I'm seeking more information on Heartland and climate change for Cult of Green (a blog on the media and the environment). Would you (or anyone else with good info who reads this) send me an e-mail at or via the comments section at the following post (which is on Heartland)?

Scientists from places like MIT, Harvard, UVa, Penn, Rochester, Pasteur Institute have posted their presentations with their data indicating the AGW scare is vastly over-rated, and the proposed solutions to a non-problem are more damaging than the worse-case effects of AGW itself. Just go to and see for yourself- if you're not afraid of the data. Meanwhile, the U. of Albany is confronting fraud allegations against one of their professors who provided data to one of the cornerstone papers of AGW oft-cited by Real Climate and similar AGW pseudo-science/panic sites. This is not solely a political debate- fraud and non-verifiable data will eventually be outed, no matter the amount of funding from whatever sources. And we will know more clearly (as anyone looking at their thermometer lately could tell you) that AGW is a scam...

It might help the deniers' cause if they could agree on what to deny -- global warming itself or just human causation of same. The very fact that the coal industry is running such a lavish campaign touting "sequestration" of CO2 from power plants suggests that you may find yourself left behind if you stick to the no-warming position too long. <blockquote>"Meanwhile, the U. of Albany is confronting fraud allegations against one of their professors...."</blockquote> So "Piltdown Man" was a hoax. Would Heartland have us believe that disproves the whole theory of evolution? Actually, that would be consistent with your statement, <blockquote>"And we will know more clearly (as anyone looking at their thermometer lately could tell you) that AGW is a scam...."</blockquote> It's pleasantly cool here in New England, but my cousin in New Mexico tells me he's roasting. Whose thermometer would you have us judge by? If one person can pronounce AGW a scam with one thermometer reading, what's the point of that conference? Is that the quality of the work at Heartland?