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.


"...anyone looking at their thermometer lately could tell you... that AGW is a scam" That ONE sentence demonstrates your complete lack of understading of CLIMATE CHANGE, human induced or otherwise. Additionally, in my 50 years on this earth, I HAVE seen a demonstrable warming trend where i live. I, previously (say 1990), could not reliably overwinter rosemary in the garden - now I can. I also now have petunias that re-seed themselves and even petunia PLANTS that overwinter for several years at a time! The spring warmups start earlier but the last frosts haven't changed much. It's anecdotal but empirical.

Please see Urban Heat Island (UHI) for more info on why Denver, NYC, or a major metro area may see higher surface temperature... or... you could just sit on some pavement and then try out a nice grassy hill... which is warmer??? and why???

Ditto Burt. Here in California I've noticed the odd changes in my garden lately too. My tomatoes, roses and other semi yearlies live and bloom the whole year. Other crops and flowers bloom either too early or too late in the year. Same goes for the plants in my local parks. Glad (but sad) to know I'm not the only one who noticed this.

Your organization's mission statement says: <i>CMD's mission is to promote transparency and an informed debate by exposing corporate spin and government propaganda and by engaging the public in collaborative, fair and accurate reporting.</i> As you seem committed to fair reporting, I was just wondering if there is a similar article regarding the IPCC on this site, analysing the political and financial forces involved.

Thanks Bob for such an insightful bash on those nasty "deniers". With $6B and growing in federal outlays to climate alarmist groups, a donation of $260K from fossil fuel industries seems minute. This debate isn't about climate, is it Bob? C'mon! Come clean! With so much potential treasure whether via legislative means or an endangerment finding, who could resist? Never under-estimate the opportunity in alarmism. We could debate the "science" forever. The only certain outcome in a Waxman-Markey strategy is an impoverished nation. Cooler weather than would be otherwise? No one can predict the weather next Sunday...try 2100. Sounds kinda' iffy. Study up on your Mandarin or Portugese Bob! One day they may have openings for a lefty op-ed guy like you! Not soon however, they're too busy making money.

<blockquote>"With $6B and growing in federal outlays to climate alarmist groups, a donation of $260K from fossil fuel industries seems minute."</blockquote> Only if you ignore the fact that this "donation" is merely a tiny fraction of what the fossil fuel industries have spent over years and decades to reassure the public that everything is just fine. It bears the same relation to the industry's total propaganda effort as a single thermometer reading bears to decades of global climate tracking. Never underestimate the opportunity in reassurance!

Bob: Your coverage of this event encouraged me to look into it as well. In my own reporting for Mother Nature Network, I discovered a fascinating study by three sociologists that puts meat on the argument that these anti-environmental "think" tanks aren't research organizations at all. Thanks for following this!

Whether global warming is real or not, or whether it is caused by co2 can be debated. But the fact remains that because of this debate all other environmental issues get sidelined. There is a huge dead zone in the gulf of Mexico from all the pollution coming down the Mississippi but it never gets talked about because its not related to the global warming debate. Its okay to bulldoze entire mountains to extract small amounts of low grade coal because now we can burn it cleaner. All the environmental problems will be solved by setting up a giant ponzi scheme selling carbon futures. With all the propaganda from all sides of debate coming in its hard to find out whats really going on meanwhile more and more animals go extinct. Where have all the environmentalists gone? They're too busy arguing over global warming.

<blockquote>"All the environmental problems will be solved by setting up a giant ponzi scheme selling carbon futures."</blockquote> That's the lamest, stupidest straw man I've ever seen. No one claims cap-and-trade will solve "all environmental problems." Not everyone even agrees that cap-and-trade will help very much just to control CO2. And no one who is alarmed by the threat of global warming denies the Gulf dead zone, the destructiveness of mountaintop removal, or any of the other environmental ravages that threaten us, or believes we can afford to ignore them while we deal with greenhouse gas emissions. I think you're just playing the outraged enviro to make yourself seem credible in trying prop up the belief that the reality of global warming with CO2 as its prime cause is still "debatable." I, for one, don't buy it.

This issue has become emotionally charged, and many people seem to place blind belief in the global warming problem as it has been presented to us, which are signs of a well-crafted public relations campaign. References to global warming (or climate change) are now everywhere you look, keeping people frightened and guilty. The emphasis on carbon, one of the most common elements in life on this planet, as the main bad guy is absurd and scary. Science is pretty clear on the fact that Earth's climate has constantly gone through cycles of warming and cooling. This does not mean, however, that certain people are not causing damage and destruction to the environment and to ourselves through industrial pollution, massive use of toxic chemicals, and now genetic engineering. It does not mean that burning fossil fuels is good for us, or that clean sources of energy, like solar power, should not be developed and implemented. I think that this whole issue and the way it has been presented and used to manipulate public opinion is only obscuring the reality of our situation and the steps we need to take to protect and promote life on this planet.