The Heartland Institute’s 7th Climate denial-palooza, fewer attendees, more fringe conspiracy theories
The Heartland Institute, a corporate funded anti-environmental front group, just wrapped up their 7th climate denial meeting, aka denial-palooza. This year saw a much smaller turnout of climate science denialists than previous years, but more fringe conspiracy theories than ever. The drop in attendance comes after the Heartland Institute’s failed billboard campaign comparing advocates of climate science to terrorists, murderers, and madmen.
The billboard, combined with Heartland’s illogical stance on climate science, has forced 11 corporate sponsors to drop financial support of the organization. Heartland had hoped to receive over $825,000 in funding from these corporations in 2012 and their departure has left Heartland's CEO Joe Bast desperate for funding. During his closing remarks, Bast said:
I'm not a good fundraiser and as a result I don't raise enough money to cover [the climate conference]...if you can afford to make a contribution please do, if you know someone, if you have a rich uncle... please ask him to contribute.
This year’s conference featured the usual self-contradictory climate denier arguments, which includes everything from outright denial that the earth temperature is going up, to admitting the globe is warming but denying that humans and CO2 are involved, to admitting the earth is warming, humans and CO2 are involved, but the warming will be beneficial. However, this year’s meeting also delved in to other fanatical conspiracy theories, like the belief that President Barack Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate is not real.
The truth is, if Heartland’s deceptive and dishonest talk about climate science was aimed at the few old contrarians that attended the latest meeting, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. However, Heartland doesn’t get paid by Nucor and other big carbon emitting corporations to mislead a fringe tribe of retired old white men. Heartland gets paid to derail solutions to climate change. This has meant creating anti-science curriculum for grade schools, paying spokespeople to deny climate science, and attacking the scientists that do real work on climate change.
And who pays for Heartland disinformation? Leaked internal fundraising and budget documents have revealed that major corporations like Nucor and Pfizer, as well as the coal industry, are substantial contributors to Heartland’s annual budget. As for the denial conference itself, it has recently been revealed that the organizations that co-sponsored this year’s event have taken $67 million from ExxonMobil, Koch and Scaife foundations.
Currently a coalition of groups including Greenpeace, Forecast the Facts, Sierra Club, SumofUs, and 350.org are gathering petitions from people concerned about the corporate funding of climate denial, and demanding that Heartland’s remaining corporate funders stop their support of the Heartland Institute. Sign the petition and tell these corporations to stop funding attacks on climate change science.
For more information, check out these recent articles on the Heartland Institute:
“Heartland reflects on its beating,” Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian
“Heartland Institute facing uncertain future as staff depart and cash dries up”, Suzanne Goldenberg, the Guardian
“For Heartland board, failed climate attack was a surprise” Evan Lehmann, Climatewire
“Heartland faces a mutiny amid furor over billboard campaign” Evan Lehmann, Climatewire
Heartland Denial-a-Palooza Sponsors Have Received $67 Million From ExxonMobil, Koch and Scaife Foundations
Written by Brendan DeMelle, crossposted from DeSmogBlog.
The Heartland Institute's Seventh "International Conference on Climate Change" - the somewhat-annual gathering of climate deniers that we call Denial-a-Palooza - is underway in Chicago. Heartland's contrarian gathering this year is clouded by the group's incredibly offensive billboard campaign that flamed out within hours but is causing lasting damage to the group's fading financial support from corporations, defections by staff and board directors and other headaches.
Below is DeSmog's analysis of the "co-sponsors" of this year's ICCC7 conference showing that these organizations have received more than $67 million over the past three decades from ExxonMobil, the Koch Brothers and the right-wing Scaife family foundations. This is just a subset of the funding flowing to these groups from just three sources, and is certainly not all earmarked to cast doubt about climate change science and policy. But it provides a window into Heartland's current and historical support from fellow travelers who endorse the group's anti-science agenda.
Graham Readfearn's look at the Australian groups backing Heartland's climate denial
Last year's tally of Exxon-Koch-Scaife money flows to ICCC6 sponsor organizations
Valentine's Day Heartland documents: Heartland Institute Exposed: Internal Documents Unmask Heart of Climate Denial Machine
Check Greenpeace.org for more Koch Facts.
Adding to a growing list of defections, Eli Lilly, BB&T Bank, and PepsiCo have announced they will not fund the Heartland Institute in 2012. They join State Farm, USAA, and others who have stopped financial support of the Chicago front group after Heartland released a billboard featuring a picture of Ted Kaczynski next to the text “I still believe in Global Warming. Do You?”
Sign our petition asking the rest of Heartland's corporate sponsors to stop funding climate science denial.
Just for background, Heartland’s fringe positions on science and loose grasp of reality is no secret in corporate circles. Heartland’s climate stance is so extreme that ExxonMobil, the great patron of climate science denial, dropped them years ago - saying they could no longer support groups that “serve as a distraction” to the climate issue.
Heartland peddles its own pseudo-science that contradicts the vast majority of scientists in the world, and observable reality. As James Hansen recently wrote in the New York Times, climate change can be conclusively linked to recent extreme weather conditions like the major heat wave that killed hundreds across Europe and the excruciating drought the western U.S. is still suffering from. (At right: A cow stuck in the mud in Texas, photograph by Jay Janner, 2011)
However, in part because the effects of global climate change have become perceptible to most Americans, fewer and fewer people are buying Heartland’s BS about climate science.
Which leads to the Big Questions: - where does Heartland get the money to buy crazy billboards?
Where do they get the money to pay for climate denying school curriculum?
With Exxon gone, which anti-science corporations still support Heartland’s loony climate denial meetings?
For starters: Pfizer.
Pfizer, the giant drug company, is a leading sponsor of the Heartland Institute. But wait you say, doesn’t Pfizer have a strong statement about the serious threats posed by climate change and the necessity of cutting greenhouse emissions? Yes, yes they do. But, Pfizer also has a history of saying the right thing to the public while doing the exact opposite behind closed doors. Take healthcare reform for example; Pfizer publicly supported president Obama’s Healthcare reform while quietly giving the Heartland Institute hundreds of thousands of dollars to savage the president and the healthcare law.
Side note: Pfizer is no stranger to being called out for their affiliations to unsavory corporate front groups. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the group that helped for-profit prison companies write and pass immigration bills that put more people in jail - and helped gun groups write and pass the Stand Your Ground law in Florida, (which protected the killer of teenage Trayvon Martin) counts Pfizer as a corporate sponsor. At a protest calling for Pfizer to drop ALEC, eight people were arrested outside of Pfizer’s gates. In a telling show of corporate hubris, Pfizer never even responded to the demonstrators requests.
Nucor, the steel manufacturer, is also a Heartland funder.
According to leaked internal documents from the Heartland Institute, Nucor directly funds Heartland’s climate work. Like Pfizer, Nucor talks openly about solutions to climate change, and their website proudly proclaims “Concerns about climate change not taken lightly by Nucor.”
Other corporate bad actors still funding Heartland include Comcast, Reynolds American inc, and Golden Rule Insurance. Tell these companies that their support of climate denial must be stopped, by signing this petition.
PolluterWatch: Greenpeace Investigates Heartland Institute Leaked Documents -- click to see a list of companies that dropped Heartland and ongoing investigations.
The Heartland Institute, a “think tank” in Chicago that serves as an epicenter for the denial of climate change, unveiled a series of billboards that equate climate change advocacy with mass murder and terrorism. The billboards featured pictures of Ted Kaczynski, Charles Manson, and Fidel Castro, next to the text “I still believe in Global Warming. Do You?” For a full background on the Heartland Institute's PolluterWatch profile.
The billboards were so outrageous Heartland was forced take them down soon after they premiered.
A further explanation of the billboard campaign on Heartland’s website clarified the message:
“the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”
And their plan for more billboards:
“Other global warming alarmists who may appear on future billboards include Osama bin Laden and James J. Lee (who took hostages inside the headquarters of the Discovery Channel in 2010).
The billboard campaign is the latest in Heartland’s continuing battle against the scientific evidence of climate change. Heartland has sponsored and organized six conferences on climate denial in the past 5 years, and they recently announced a seventh to take place May 21-23 in Chicago. The “International Climate Conferences” provide a platform and meeting space for the small cadre of professional climate science deniers that have derailed meaningful solutions to the threats of global warming in the U.S.
These same climate deniers have distanced themselves from Heartland over the deranged nature of the recent billboard campaign. The Washington Post reported:
Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), scheduled to headline the Heartland Institute’s annual conclave of climate-change skeptics this month, said through a spokeswoman that he “will not participate in the upcoming climate-change conference if the Heartland Institute decides to continue this ad campaign.”
Heartland recently made headlines for their scheme to create a school curriculum on climate change for grades K-12. The curriculum will be designed to delegitimize established climate science by teaching students that human beings’ role in climate change is “a major scientific controversy.” According to leaked internal documents, Heartland paid a well known climate denier, David Wojick, to create the curriculum, which Heartland then planned to send to teachers across the country.
The leaked documents also revealed plans to pay university professors and federal scientists to deny the reality of global climate change. For more on the internal Heartland documents and their implications, see the ongoing Polluterwatch investigation.
Who funds Heartland?
The Heartland Institute has a long history of taking extreme stances on policy that benefit the institute’s corporate funders. They received hefty funding from tobacco corporations while fighting regulations on cigarettes, and have taken funds from Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, and other polluters while fighting solutions to environmental problems like climate change.
Media attention on Heartland’s extreme climate stance, like Heartland’s plan to mislead teachers and children, has caused major corporations like GM to stop supporting the organization in recent months. However, major corporations like State Farm, Nucor and Microsoft still fund Heartland’s activities. A full list of donors is available on Polluterwatch and includes strange bedfellows such as the reinsurance industry (represented by RennaisanceRe, Allied World, and USAA) and secretive right-wing foundations like the Donors Capital Fund.
A new report from the Sightline Institute about energy conglomerate Kinder Morgan reveals the company's track record of pollution, lawbreaking, and cover-ups. http://greenpeaceblogs.com/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wordpress/img/...); background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-color: transparent; background-position: 100% 0%; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; " title="More..." />As Eric de Place writes, the company's troubling history is especially concerning for residents of the Pacific Northwest, as Kinder Morgan is among the companies seeking to develop massive new projects to export US coal to Asia through Oregon and Washington:
In January, Kinder Morgan—a giant energy conglomerate—announced plans to use an Oregon port on the Columbia River to export 30 million tons of coal annually to China and other Asian markets. Many in the Northwest worry about the health risks, pollution, and economic risks that are entailed by the plans. Already tribes and environmental organizations are raising serious concerns about handling large volumes of coal on the Columbia.
One part of the report focuses on Kinder Morgan's Myrtle Grove facility in Louisiana, and the coal dust from that coal export terminal polluting the Mississippi river - even visible from satellite photos. I saw this facility up close when Greenpeace's ship passed by on our way up river to New Orleans in 2010, and wrote about it and the other fossil fuel infrastructure that scars the Mississippi Delta. It was disturbing and striking to witness so much coal - at the time the facility could store over 1 million tons. The Myrtle Grove export terminal will be even bigger soon - the company last year announced a deal with Massey Energy, the notorious coal mining company and a major destroyer of Appalachian Mountains, to expand the facility and ship six million tons of coal each year. (Alpha purchased Massey Energy last year).
A cursory look at the very public clash between the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, and the Koch brothers, infamous oil billionaires and funders of right wing causes - leaves many people confused. The Cato Institute, originally called the Charles G Koch Institute when it was founded by Charles G Koch in the 70s – is in danger of a hostile takeover…by Charles G Koch? Why would Charles Koch try to take over his own think tank?
The short answer – power, of course. As it turns out, the Koch’s influence at Cato has waned over the last few decades due to a falling out between Ed Crane, the current president of Cato, and Charles Koch, who hand-picked Crane for the job shortly after founding the think tank. Starting in the early nineties, the Kochs all but abandoned Cato, exerting little control over the group’s activities and steadily reducing Cato’s Koch funding (down to $0 in 2011). Charles even left the board of directors (though he was replaced by David Koch).
Instead of running Cato, the Kochs poured their time and oil profits into front groups like Americans for Prosperity, their flagship astroturf organization. The Kochs' network of front groups gave them influence over (and close ties to) the republican establishment at large.
During this time, Cato became seen as a relatively independent think tank, willing to criticize both democrat and republican administrations. Real news organizations went to Cato for comment on topical issues, and legislators used Cato’s reports to inform policy.
Cato was seen as something more than a tool for corporate billionaires to accomplish their political agenda of deregulation. (For the record, Cato was still a tool of corporate billionaires: see their defense of tobacco while being funded by cigarette companies, or their adamant climate denial while being funded by Exxon)
Fast forward to today – the Koch brothers’ political agenda has been publicly outed (see airship), their front groups like Americans for Prosperity have little credibility with the mainstream press and the Kochs’ hope of unseating president Obama is looking slimmer by the day. Suddenly, Cato’s veneer of respectability is politically valuable to the Kochs.
Bob Levy, current chairman of the Cato Institute, recently wrote that the Kochs admitted needing Cato as a “source of intellectual ammunition for Americans for Prosperity – through position papers, a media presence, and speakers on hot-button issues.”
So, when one of the shareholders of Cato died leaving his shares to his widow (Cato has a strange system of governance involving controlling shares), the Kochs saw an opportunity to pounce. The brothers filed a lawsuit they hope will force the widow into selling her shares, giving the Koch’s majority control over Cato’s board of directors. This would give the Kochs the power over Cato they needed to fold it into their suite of other front groups, making Cato another Koch-controlled cog in the republican political machine.
However, after years of relative freedom Cato’s leadership was not keen on bowing their heads to Koch control and becoming a pawn of the republican party. In a letter to employees, Cato president Ed Crane wrote:
“Catoites, You are all probably aware by now of the unfortunate development with Charles and David Koch. They are in the process of trying to take over the Cato Institute and, in my opinion, reduce it to a partisan adjunct to Americans for Prosperity, the activist GOP group they control.”
Thus began the public brawl between the Koch Brothers and the Cato Institute.
The moral? The Koch’s are so ruthless in their pursuit of power that even Cato, a bastion of ‘every man for themselves,’ ‘only the strong survive,’ ‘no free school lunch,’ free-market capitalism, is crying foul. But don't feel sorry for Cato, perhaps they just need to re-read a little Ayn Rand…
But first, a dose of climate reality:
In a recent study, scientists found that climate change will decrease the number of seasonal flowers, leading to an overall decrease in the number of butterflies, who rely on flowers for a sustainable source of energy - no destruction required. Another recent study found that climate change will increase the number of Lyme disease infected ticks, parasites that drill into their prey and extract their blood, leaving sickness and suffering in their wake.
It’s almost poetic that continued reliance on puncturing the earth and sucking out the oil will lead to more parasites puncturing and sucking us in return…
Speaking of bothersome pests - Senator James Inhofe, staunch global warming denier and human prune, went on the Rachel Maddow Show to discuss his new book, "The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future."
During the interview, the good Senator from Oklahoma repeated his belief that a global conspiracy of environmentalists and scientists (and global temperature readings) are colluding to create the illusion of a changing climate, just to justify taxes.
See the left portion of this graphic for a summation of Inhofe’s climate views:
Though Inhofe has said ludicrous things about climate science many times before, he rarely mentions why he initially became such a zealous climate denier.
As he revealed in the interview, Inhofe became skeptical of climate science once he found out solving the looming climate crisis might cost money. In the interview he said “I thought it must be true until I found out what it cost.”
So, if Inhofe lets money dictate his policies, what does it mean that the top three contributors to his campaign are dirty energy companies (Koch industries being #1), or that he has taken well over $1 million from the fossil fuel industry since 1999?
Come on Inhofe, dont be such a tick.
PolluterWatch: Greenpeace Investigates Heartland Institute Leaked Documents -- click to see investigation and ongoing updates.
Some journalists have issues with reality.
Here at PolluterWatch, it's obvious when agents of the climate denial machine succeed in taking advantage of widespread scientific ignorance in our country and place stories in the news that misinform the public on global warming. While many have come to expect unscientific coverage of global warming on agenda-driven partisan fronts like Fox News, poor reporting pervades plenty of more respected sources of news.
In contrast, it's refreshing when you see a person really get it. Thanks to the Heartland Institute's recently leaked documents laying out their 2012 efforts to create doubt over climate science, [Missouri's] Columbia Daily Tribune columnist Ken Midkiff has publicly reversed his skepticism over global warming now that he has examined Heartland's dubious public relations. Reacting to a Greenpeace letter questioning Heartland payments to the University of Missouri's Anthony Lupo for climate denial work, Mr. Midkiff explains his change of heart:
Some recent revelations about the Heartland Institute have led me to correct my earlier statement about global warming. It now seems that the jury is in and has rendered a verdict: The Earth is becoming warmer, caused by the amount of gases that humans are sending into the upper atmosphere.
While we wish this had been clearer to Mr. Midkiff years ago (NASA's James Hanson told Congress this was a pressing global issue with a formidable human impact way back in 1988), his revelation and willingness to publicly explain it is a small win for both science and journalism. Even earlier this year Mr. Midkiff had been questioning aspects of climate research that the scientific community can easily dismiss with their tedious work.
Well-organized and -financed public relations shops like the Heartland Institute and many others (check out ExxonSecrets and DeSmogBlog) play a critical role in the effort to fabricate public doubt, politicizing the science of climate change by demanding journalists cover their "side" of the story, even though it carries no scientific relevance. Worse yet, they are expert projectionists, taking their very tactics of lying, misrepresenting, cherry-picking, bullying and politicizing and blaming their opponents for those very things.
It's like arguing with a child: "I know you are, but what am I?!"
And horrifyingly, it works and has worked for decades now, which is why the booming public relations industry in this country dwarfs the presence of true journalists whose job it is, ideally, to dig up an accurate story and present it to the public for final judgement. The Heartland Institute is a hired PR gun in this case, taking money from a few rich ideolgues and vested interests and packaging doubt over global warming to sell to the media and American people.
Luckily, we can see that the lastest exposure of Heartland's climate denial campaigns through their leaked internal documents is shining a light on this shadowy effort to deceive us all. May that trend continue as Greenpeace continues to investigate the Heartland Institute.
Today Greenpeace sent a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) asking them to stop TransCanada Corporation from continuing to illegally mislead investors and the American public with wildly inflated job creation claims for its Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
TransCanada and its allies in Congress (TransCanada has spent $1.3 million dollars on lobbying for Keystone XL) have routinely used deceitful jobs numbers in their support of the Keystone pipeline, claiming that it would create 20,000 jobs in America. In reality the pipeline will create less than 1/3rd that number, possibly far less according to studies by the EPA and Cornell University.
Furthermore, TransCanada knows its jobs claims are exaggerated. According to the company, the U.S. pipeline would create jobs at a rate 67 times higher per mile of pipeline than the rate given to Canadian officials for the miles of pipeline it would build in that country.
SEC rules forbid the use of "manipulative and deceptive practices" to directly affect the value of the company's stock. TransCanada CEO Russ Girling directly connected the pipeline’s approval with his company’s profits in an April 2011 earnings conference call, making his company’s manipulative and deceptive jobs data illegal according the SEC rules.
As Phil Radford, Executive Director of Greenpeace said in a recent speech, "It’s wrong for politicians and pundits to use these false numbers, but it’s illegal for TransCanada to lie to investors. The SEC needs to take immediate action to hold TransCanada accountable for misleading investors to boost its valuation,” "TransCanada needs to knock off the propaganda and level with people that they'd create a few temporary jobs just to move dirty oil through our country so it can be shipped to Europe for maximum Big Oil profits."
How great would it be if our elected officials had to follow a set of rules that created a fair playing field in politics? Mistruths and false promises would be seriously penalized by watchful referees and policy ideas could succeed or fail on their merit, rather than the checkbook of their supporters. Instead we have a system where industry and government collude to pass projects that are bad for people and bad for the environment, but increase corporate bottom lines and campaign coffers. Politicians repeat dishonest and twisted information, violating the trust between the electorate and the elected. A low blow to the American people, yet usually no one is there to blow the whistle.
This kind of poor sportsmanship was on full display at yesterday’s meeting of the House subcommittee on energy. The committee met in response to the rejection of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, a Canadian project that would pump the dirtiest and most carbon intensive crude oil in the world from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast.
(Picture of the tar sands)
Promoters of the pipeline were attempting a Hail Mary to save Keystone XL by stripping the ability to regulate it from the Obama administration and giving it to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). To make their case, Keystone XL’s congressional supporters (who have taken a whopping $41 million in campaign contributions from Big Oil) were willing to toss around all the falsehoods and industry talking points that have been polluting the debate from the beginning.
Fans of the Tar Sands pipeline, like Joe Barton, John Shimkus, and Fred Upton, claim the pipeline would provide 20,000 jobs, lower gas prices for Americans, and decrease our dependence on foreign oil. These claims are all false - in reality the pipeline would create less than 1/3rd of the jobs pipeline enthusiasts claim, there would be no cost savings on gas for Americans, and the oil will be exported from Port Arthur, Texas, so it would not even be used in America. To top it all off, Port Arthur is registered as a foriegn trade port, meaning the U.S government would not even recieve taxes from the tar sands oil shipped abroad.
(Activist referees calling a foul)
The deceptive claims made by fans of the tar sands are a violation of the American people’s trust in their elected representatives. That’s why a group of activist referees attended the committee hearing, and threw a penalty flag every time Big Oil’s congressmen tried to pull a fast one. Not used to playing by the rules, Congressional advocates racked up a ton of red flags as they repeated their inaccurate data and manipulative talking points over and over. Check out a video of the committee hearing for a taste of what these refs had to deal with.