A Side of Climate Change Denial with Your Coffee? ALEC Dishes up Some Hard to Swallow Spin with the Heartland Institute

Heartland global warming Unabomber billboardThis morning in Chicago hundreds of primarily Republican state legislators are getting more indoctrination against doing anything about climate change from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

This year, ALEC has chosen its long-time partner, the Heartland Institute, to help host the session. Heartland is so extreme on the issue of climate change that it sought to equate people who believe the climate is changing with the Unabomber, through a billboard campaign that featured a mugshot of Ted Kaczynski with the line: "I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?" Heartland lost numerous funders in response to a citizens campaign about the ad last year.

Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm Is Where?

The ad was so controversial that even State Farm Insurance -- which has stood by ALEC through the controversy over its role in pushing Stand Your Ground gun bills into law -- announced last year that it was "ending its association with the Heartland Institute."

State Farm gave Heartland $230,000 in 2011, according to documents posted by DeSmog Blog. It was not Heartland's biggest donor; an unnamed person or corporation anonymously gives it well over $1 million per year for its operations, which include a heavy dose of climate change denial.

State Farm, however, remains on ALEC's board and funds its operations for an undisclosed amount.

Heartland Institute: Global Warming "Would Be Beneficial," if Real

Heartland Institute James Taylor Climate Change DenierToday's ALEC workshop, which ALEC's price list says cost $40,000 to sponsor, features Heartland, whose president is climate change denier-in-chief Joseph Bast.

Bast is flexible, so to speak, in how he argues about climate change, asserting that there is "no global warming trend" but alternatively claiming that if it were to get hotter, global warming "would be beneficial to the natural world and to human civilization." He even asserts that if there were global warming, it would help you live longer.

That claim echoes a previous ALEC conference where lawmakers were urged to consider "Warming Up to Climate Change: the Many Benefits of Increased Atmospheric CO2" by another climate change denier.

Then-state rep (now U.S. Congressman) Mark Pocan attended that session and helped expose that ALEC lawmakers were told at that ALEC session that because the amount of carbon dioxide had increased during the past century and so had the average human lifespan, "therefore" increased CO2 is good for you.

Shocked that such a fallacious claim would be made with a straight face, he asked a fellow lawmaker what he thought about it, and his fellow rep gushed about what a great session it was. With colleagues like that in statehouses across the country, it is no wonder so many state legislatures are not addressing the dire threats posed by the climate changes that are demonstrably underway; North Carolina, for example, barred state universities from even studying sea level rise in that coastal state.

Heartland Climate Change Propaganda Aims for Lawmakers, and Little Children

This year, the Heartland Institute's James Taylor (not the son of the singer of "Fire and Rain") will be pushing its spin. Taylor's claim to fame is being an advisor to Texas Governor Rick Perry, who ran for president last year -- a candidate whose dimness was epitomized by his failure to be able to name all three of the federal government agencies he pledged to eliminate.

Most Scientists Agree Climate Change Is HappeningTaylor is said to be the "primary author" of Rick Perry's energy plan, and also advised Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney on "energy and environment." ALEC calls Taylor a "Sponsor Speaker," presumably because his slot speaking at breakfast time was paid for by one of ALEC's sponsors, like the Heartland Institute.

Heartland operates a number of ventures that are part of the climate denial machine. It has its sights set not only on capturing lawmakers but on indoctrinating school kids. Its wish list includes creating a K-12 "curriculum" that would tell kids that saying the climate is changing is "controversial," even though fewer than 3% of all peer-reviewed scientific articles on climate change reject global warming.

Part of the PR playbook of climate change denial is to create confusion.

That's where TV weather guys come in. There are very few scientists peddling climate denial, some of whom have ties to the fossil fuel industry. Their claims are amplified by a few TV weather personalities whose main job is telling folks if it might rain or snow this week, not predicting the weather ten years from now.

An ALEC Version of the Earth Is Flat: It's Global Cooling and That's Cool

Joe Bastardi and Climate ChangeAt this week's ALEC meeting, ALEC lawmakers will be hearing from the fast-talking Joe Bastardi, who describes himself as a long-range weather forecaster and who will be welcomed to the ballroom stage by Heartland's Joe Bast.

Bastardi, a Penn State grad, used to get a lot of mileage in the climate denial world out of being a meterologist for the widely known Accuweather, which was created at Penn State nearly 50 years ago. He's a former college wrestler and a body builder who has made a name for himself as a pugnacious talking head about climate on Fox and other shows. Bill O'Reilly loves him. Bastardi left Accuweather to join WeatherBELL Analytics, a subscription service, in 2011.

According to a Vanity Fair interview that year, "his bread and butter, he says, are his corporate clients, the names of which he won't divulge, saying only that he's 'heavily involved in energy.'"

Bastardi is much more than a global warming denier.

His notorious claim is that the earth is not going to get warmer in coming decades: it is going "to get colder over the next 20 to 30 years." He usually adds something to his spiel about "solar cycles" being partly to blame or volcanoes, not the massive increase in carbon dioxide caused by burning fossil fuels in the past century.

So, basically the message of the morning is don't worry your pretty little heads ALEC legislators, Joe says it's getting colder, not warmer.

The USDA Says It's Getting Warmer (and that's the Opposite of Colder)

USDA Plant Hardiness MapWhile American skepticism about climate change has been growing along with the pack of politicians echoing denialist claims, the USDA issued an update on growing zones that shows that the United States is getting warmer (an ap available at the link above shows how much the map has changed). Setting aside the politics, the Department of Agriculture must give advice about what can be planted and survive or thrive.

According to the plant hardiness map, most parts of the U.S. are now able to grow trees and plants that formerly could not survive in their region, due to warming temperatures. To put that more concretely, botanical gardens from cold-belt cities like Chicago and Madison are now considering planting trees like southern swamp cypresses that formerly could not survive winters there, due to the changing climate. That is because it is getting warmer. Ask any snowmobile franchisee in that region.

The majority of reputable scientists, in fact, acknowledge that the planet is getting warmer due to CO2, not colder. More than accept this reality, many of them are on record expressing deep concerns about the consequences of the projected warming on human life. Even though some weather patterns are changing -- which may make some areas cooler as others heat up, along with more extreme weather -- the chart of measured temperatures shows a rising pattern that is unmistakable.

But ALEC lawmakers will not be hearing about what the vast majority of scientists think, which is that the planet is warming and will warm to dangerous levels unless steps are taken to limit CO2 output and increase renewable energy.

ALEC Is Bankrolled by Huge Oil, Gas, and Coal Corporations

ALEC, which is bankrolled by some of the biggest companies profiting from expanded consumption of oil, gas, and coal, has numerous bills designed to stop any effort to address climate change.

TransCanada (Keystone XL) Funding ALECThese ALEC lobbying agenda items include trying to stop the EPA from regulating CO2; trying to stop the government from imposing a carbon tax, and trying to stop states from honoring contracts to produce a portion of their energy from renewable energy sources, as the Center for Media and Democracy has helped document as part of its ALECexposed project.

It is no surprise that some of the richest corporations in the world that have underwritten ALEC's operations -- like Koch Industries, Exxon, Chevron, Marathon, BP, Peabody Coal, and TransCanada, which has been pushing the Keystone XL Pipeline -- benefit financially from the sowing of confusion about climate change. Some may wonder why other ALEC sponsors are going along with ALEC's role in the denier's playbook. For example, State Farm's executives continue to fund ALEC even though the insurer has to pay out big sums when extreme weather strikes.

Maybe State Farm and the other corporations buy ALEC's spin or overlook it. After all, ALEC labeled this morning's session "A Thoughtful Approach to Climate," even though it leaves out and aims to dismiss what most scientists actually believe based on extensive analysis of the data available.

Or perhaps a breakfast of climate confusion is easier for lawmakers and lobbyists to swallow after a night of being wined and dined on fossil fuel profits and the largesse of ALEC's other corporate benefactors.

Lisa Graves

Lisa Graves is President of the Board of the Center for Media and Democracy and President of True North Research. She is a well-known researcher, writer, and public speaker. Her research and analysis have been cited by every major paper in the country and featured in critically acclaimed books and documentaries, including Ava Du Vernay’s award-winning film, “The 13th,” Bill Moyers’s “United States of ALEC,” and Showtime’s “Years of Living Dangerously.”



So give a list of the reputable deniers, with credentials and peer-reviewed works. Can't do it, can you?

"long-range weather forecaster" What is that supposed to mean? A meterologist, which is what Bastardi is supposed to be, is qualified to predict the weather maybe ten days in the future. Does Bastardi mean he can predict the weather 30 days? How about 6 months in the future? The field that predicts long-range climate changes is climatology. Bastardi is not a climatologist. He is not qualified to predict the weather a decade in the future. There is no such thing as weather predictions a decade in advance. His talk about the earth cooling in the future means nothing more than if I said it. I have absolutely no qualifications to say anything since my degrees are in sociology and religion. His is in meteorology not climatology.

So the planet is cooling. There IS climate change after all!

Interesting that Transcanada is owned by the Chinese. The Chinese are surging ahead with their own green energy, subsidizing solar investigation and production. They want the Keystone pipeline to pipe their oil through America and a water aquifer for 8 states, so that they can pick it up and take it China. Meanwhile they are jumping in to deny climate change so that America will fall behind them, even more than we are already.