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GREENPEACE REPORT: Climate Change Denial Machine vs. Scientists

  • Posted on: 10 September 2013
  • By: Connor Gibson

Written by Cindy Baxter, crossposted from Greenpeace: Dealing in Doubt.

Who likes being lied to by people paid by the oil industry who pose as “experts” on climate change?

Did you know it’s been going on for 25 years?

In a couple of weeks, the UN’s official advisors on climate change science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will update its global assessment on the issue. Yet in the background, more attacks on the climate science are underway

For the last quarter century, the climate science denial machine, its cogs oiled by fossil fuel money, has been attacking climate science, climate scientists and every official US report on climate change, along with State and local efforts – with the aim of undermining action on climate change.

Our new report, Dealing in Doubt, sets out the history of these attacks going back to the early 90s. These are attacks based on anti-regulatory, so called “free market” ideology, not legitimate scientific debate, using a wide range of dirty tricks: from faked science, attacks on scientists, fake credentials, cherry-picking scientific conclusions: a campaign based on the old tobacco industry mantra: “doubt is our product”.

We give special attention to perhaps today’s poster child of the climate denial machine’s free market think tanks, the Heartland Institute, which is about to launch a new version of its “NIPCC” or “climate change reconsidered” report next week in Chicago.

Unlike the real IPCC, with thousands of scientists involved from around the world, the Heartland Institute’s handful of authors is paid. Several of them claim fake scientific credentials. They start with a premise of proving the overwhelming consensus on climate science wrong, whereas the real IPCC simply summarizes the best science to date on climate change.

This multi-million dollar campaign has been funded by anti-government ideologues like the Koch brothers, companies like ExxonMobil and trade associations like the American Petroleum Institute.Big Oil funding of climate denial declines. "Anonymous" funding through Donors skyrockets. Interesting.

More recently, less visible channels of funding have been revealed such as the Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust, organization that that has been called the “ATM of the conservative movement”, distributing funds from those who don’t want to be publicly associated with the anti-environmental work product of organizations like the Heartland Institute.

In the last week we’ve seen new peer-reviewed science published, linking at least half of 2012’s extreme weather events to a human carbon footprint in the atmosphere and on the weather and climate.

As the scientific consensus strengthens by the day that climate change is happening now, that carbon pollution is causing it and must be regulated, the denial machine is getting increasingly shrill. But today, while they are being increasingly ignored by a majority of the public, their mouthpieces in the US House of Representatives, for instance, have increased in number.

They’re still fighting the science – and they’re still being funded, to the tune of millions of dollars each year, to do it.

Dealing in Doubt sets out a history of these attacks. We show how the tactics of the tobacco industry’s campaign for “sound science” led to the formation of front groups who, as they lost the battle to deny smoking’s health hazards and keep warning labels off of cigarettes, turned their argumentative skills to the denial of climate change science in order to slow government action.

koch brosWhat we don’t cover is the fact that these organizations and deniers are also working on another front, attacking solutions to climate change. They go after any form of government incentive to promote renewable energy, while cheering for coal, fracking and the Keystone pipeline.

They attack any piece of legislation the US EPA puts forward to curb pollution. Decrying President Obama’s “war on coal” is a common drumbeat of these anti-regulation groups. One key member of the denial machine, astrophysicist Willie Soon from the Smithsonian Institute for Astrophysics, has portrayed himself as an “expert” on mercury and public health in order to attack legislation curbing mercury emissions from coal plants.

This recent history, as well as the prior history of denial by the tobacco companies and chemical, asbestos and other manufacturing industries, is important to remember because the fossil fuel industry has never admitted that it was misguided or wrong in its early efforts to delay the policy reaction to the climate crisis. To this day, it continues to obstruct solutions.

The individuals, organizations and corporate interests who comprise the ‘climate denial machine’ have caused harm and have slowed our response time. As a result, we will all ultimately pay a much higher cost as we deal with the impacts, both economic and ecological.

Eventually, these interests will be held accountable for their actions.

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How the Heartland Institute Deceived Me with Underhand Tactics

  • Posted on: 15 March 2012
  • By: Cindy Baxter

PolluterWatch: Greenpeace Investigates Heartland Institute Leaked Documents -- click to see investigation and ongoing updates.

4 a.m. Bali, December 2007, the first Tuesday of the two-week United Nations climate talks. My phone rings, waking me up. Blearily, and a little crossly, I answer it.

I was in Bali to run Greenpeace International’s media for the meeting. The caller was someone called “John” who said he was an intern for a US NGO that I had never heard of. It was a small NGO, he said, who couldn’t come to the meeting, but “john” asked me for a copy of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s media list for the meeting.

I confirmed I had a copy but refused to give it to him – he appeared a little suspect. The conversation ended when I put the phone down – the caller clearly wasn’t bothered that he had woken me at 4 am, which was odd, as an NGO colleague would have apologised and hung up immediately.

Three days later I was again woken by the phone, with the information that the right wing think tank the Heartland Institute had just www.reuters.com/article/2007/12/06/idUS230399+06-Dec-2007+PRN20071206">http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/12/06/idUS230399+06-Dec-2007+PRN2007...">issued a press release slamming the UN for working with environmental NGO’s. Heartland’s press release posted a link to a recording of the 4 a.m. conversation earlier in the week.

Hang on, let’s get this clear:

Someone from the Heartland Institute:
 – called me at 4 am, lied to me saying they were an intern for a US environmental NGO 
- recorded that conversation without my knowledge or my permission, and released the audio of the telephone conversation to the media, again without my permission.

Sound familiar?

This calls into question Heartland’s bleatings about being misled by climate scientist Peter Gleick, and its threats to sue him for using false credentials to obtain information. They seem happy to use underhand tactics to get information for themselves, yet slam Gleick for doing similar. CEO Joseph Bast called it a http://heartland.org/press-releases/2012/02/20/statement-heartland-insti...">“serious crime”.

So I’ve www.desmogblog.com/sites/beta.desmogblog.com/files/Baxter_Heartland_lett...">http://www.desmogblog.com/sites/beta.desmogblog.com/files/Baxter_Heartla...">written to Joseph Bast reminding him of this incident:

To recap, the Heartland Institute used a false organizational identity in order to obtain an internal document. It also surreptitiously recorded a telephone conversation (illegally, I believe, if it was done from your home state of Illinois) then posted it online to attack me in the same sort of privacy invasion you’ve been complaining about.

Does any of this sound familiar? It should, not only because your organization did all this, but it recorded itself doing exactly what you’ve been howling about was done to you. I’m calling on you to show the same level of post-action forthrightness of Dr. Gleick, admit what you did, and re-post the audiotape of the full conversation.

I haven’t yet heard back from Bast.

DeSmogBlog has http://desmogblog.com/heartland-double-standard-institute-tried-scam-gre...">more examples of Heartland’s history of deception, including leading someone to believe that a video they were being interviewed for was for the Discovery Channel rather than a climate denial video.

Given my first-hand experience of Heartland, and having also witnessed the theft of thousands of emails between climate scientists and Heartland’s thousands of words about them (often willfully taking them out of context) in Climategate, I find it breathtaking that Heartland has suddenly become all ethical about the leaks of its documents.

These are documents that show plans to mislead children about the science of one of the most important issues in their future: climate change.

Also attending the Bali meeting was the right wing think tank, the www.cfact.org/a/1194/Special-report-from-UN-climate-conference-in-Bali">http://www.cfact.org/a/1194/Special-report-from-UN-climate-conference-in...">Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), that had brought its crack team of climate deniers, including Lord Christopher Monckton, whom I’d seen hectoring journalists in the media centre.

Monckon was registered on the CFACT delegation but the UN media list itself confirms Monckton’s attempts to register himself as a journalist, listing his email contact as Tom Swiss (Heartland’s PR man), as with another denier, Will Alexander, whose email contact was another Heartland email address.

CFACT has received a total ofwww.desmogblog.com/denial-a-palooza-round-6">http://www.desmogblog.com/denial-a-palooza-round-6"> $2,509,285 from fossil fuel funders ExxonMobil, the Koch Foundations and the Scaife Foundations since 1998.

We now know that Heartland had http://hot-topic.co.nz/puppets-on-a-string-us-think-tank-funds-nz-sceptics/">paid for a number of the deniers who were part of the CFACT team. Heartland money went to the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition that year, and NZCSC members, Owen McShane, Bryan Leyland and Vincent Gray were also on the CFACT team, along with a number of Australian deniers, Prof Robert (Bob) Carter, David Evans and Joanne Nova.

Desperate for the attention they weren’t getting, CFACT even offered free Balinese massages to people who attended their event.

Why didn’t I sue Heartland at the time? Simple: they would have loved the attention – and I had better things to do with my time, as the 192 governments who had already accepted the science of climate change worked towards agreeing the Bali Mandate.

As it was, no media covered Heartland’s outraged press release and the whole incident served as an opportunity for me to talk in detail to a number of journalists about the climate denial industry and its funding by the fossil fuel industry.

My one failing is that I cannot recall the name of the NGO that the caller pretended to be an intern for.  I didn’t write it down at 4 am and, given that I’m not from the US, I didn’t recognize the name the caller gave me. But he definitely didn’t tell me he was from – or acting on behalf of -  the Heartland Institute.

And given that I am one of the co-founders of Greenpeace’s www.exxonsecrets.org/">http://www.exxonsecrets.org/">Exxonsecrets website, launched in 2004 to track money going from ExxonMobil to think tanks including the Heartland Institute for their campaign to promote climate denial, every alarm bell would have gone off if I’d received a telephone call from The Heartland Institute, no matter what time of day or night it was. I knew this organization and its peddling of climate denial very well.

I would certainly have remembered if they said they were taping the call, let alone agreed to that – and its subsequent broadcast.

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