Dan DiMicco (picture right), CEO of Nucor, recently sent a letter to a concerned shareholder defending Nucor's support of the Heartland Institute. The letter contained numerous talking points commonly used by Heartland's campaign of climate science denial, and revealed DiMicco to be either pitifully ignorant of the state of climate change science, or a calculating executive willing to misinform his own shareholders.
From the letter:
"As you can see from Nucor’s website, We take environmental issues very seriously, including the debate surrounding “climate change.” (See http://www.nucor.com/responsibility/environment/issues/Warming/)"
Nucor doesn't take the realities of global climate change seriously if it's PowerPoint presentations on climate cite the Heartland Institute. Heartland is well known as a corporate front group that specializes in attacking science and confusing consumers, teachers and policymakers. Not long ago Heartland was denying the health effects of tobacco and opposing tobacco regulations, while being funded by the biggest tobacco corporations. As of last week, Heartland still claimed that the proven risks of smoking tobacco products are based on "junk science"....sound familiar? Now, Heartland denies the ill effects of carbon pollution, while on the payroll of major carbon polluters like Nucor. Note that the same PowerPoint also references the Institute for Energy Research, a group run by former Koch Industries lobbyist Tom Pyle with notable support from the Kochs and other vested interests (see Politico).
It is most likely that the information that formed the basis of your inquiry concerning the Heartland Institute (“Heartland”) had its genesis with a group entitled “Forecast the Facts,” whose activities are chronicled at http://fakegate.org/the-heartland-institute-replies-to-forecast-the-facts/.
Why would DiMicco cite "Fakegate," a website created by Heartland rather than a legitimate news source? The "fakegate" website was originally created to assault scientist Peter Gleick, who duped Heartland into releasing damaging internal funding and strategy documents. As Heartland's credibility slid from poor to nonexistent once their internal operations became transparent, they were desperate to shift focus away from the contents of the leaked information. Fakegate was the result.
As you can read from the webpage, much of the uproar is a result of stolen and fabricated documentation.
In this line, DiMicco is referring to a document leaked by scientist/activist Peter Gleick that Heartland claims is fabricated. There is no reason to believe the document in question is not genuine, and everything in the document is verifiable by Heartland's 2012 budget and 2012 fundraising plan, which Heartland does not dispute. In these documents, Nucor was outed as a direct supporter of Heartland's climate science denial program and the outrageous tactics associated with that campaign. Tactics paid for in part by Nucor include billboards asserting that only terrorists recognize climate science and an effort to teach climate science denial in K-12 school programs (Washington Post).
Heartland “does not ‘deny the existence of climate change.’”
Actually, Heartland's position on climate change is even less consistent than Nucor's. Consider the following statements by Heartland president Joe Bast, which all link to Heartland sources through PolluterWatch.
- "Most scientists do not believe human activities threaten to disrupt the Earth's climate" (Eight Reasons Why ‘Global Warming’ Is a Scam, Heartland Institute, Feb. 1, 2003).
- "A modest amount of global warming, should it occur, would be beneficial to the natural world and to human civilization" (2003, same article).
- “The wind has gone out of the sails of the global warming scare" (Heartland President addresses Common-Sense Environmentalism, May 29, 2004).
Notable also are interviews with Joe Bast this year where he contradicts his own position from one day to the next:
- Feb 22, 2012: "We believe that climate has warmed in the second half of the 20th Century, we believe that there is probably a measurable human impact on climate but it's probably very small, we think that natural forces probably overwhelm any impact that human activity can have, that computer models are too unreliable to forecast what the future might hold for climate and finally that a modest amount of warming is probably going to be, on net, beneficial both to human beings and the ecosystem. We think that that's pretty much actually the consensus of working scientists in this area." (Wall Street Journal Digital Network interview)
- Feb 23, 2012: "I'm confident that the scientific basis behind the threat has pretty much melted away. So I talk about the global warming ... delusion and how it's gradually unwinding." (ClimateWire interview)
None of this is new. Back in 1997 when the Kyoto Protocol sparked massive oil and coal interest in financing climate denial groups like Heartland, the Heartland Institute claimed "Satellite Temperature Records Show No Global Warming" in a headline of its June edition of Environment News.
Joseph Bast, Heartland's president, frequently contradicts or denies his own outrageous commentary, as demonstrated by his recent response to Forecast the Facts' aggregation of Bast's quotes in defense of the tobacco industry. (UPDATE: Popular Science notes that Joe Bast says he has a raspy voice "from years of smoking.") Bast claimed that Forecast had no citations for his own quotes (a lie, check the linked dates for yourself on Forecast the Facts' page) but admits he's not keen on finding the truth: "I have not tried to confirm the authenticity of the quotations attributed to me, and won’t."
Nucor and Pfizer continue to fund Heartland in the company of Altria and Reynolds American, major tobacco companies that are forced to turn to extreme groups like the Heartland Institute for their public relations campaigns.
The issues surrounding the “climate” debate are real and difficult questions to answer, but Nucor has been consistent in its support for scientific answers instead of political consensus. Heartland is just such an institution, “bringing together the world’s leading scientists and economists to study the issue.” It is entirely appropriate for Nucor and other like-minded companies and groups to fund The Heartland Institute. Working together we will ﬁnd solutions, so that our best days are still ahead of us.
Perhaps if DiMicco recognized the contemporary scientific conclusions of 97% of working climate researchers around the world, NASA, NOAA, the American Geophysical Union, other major US scientific institutions and all of the National Academies of Sciences for every industrialized country on the planet, he wouldn't think that these are "difficult questions to answer."
However, it is important to realize that DiMicco stands to profit substantially as long as carbon emissions are not regulated and not addressed. Nucor makes and recycles steel, which requires tremendous amounts of electricity and releases substantial amounts of CO2. If people doubt the science of climate change and ignore scientists' pleas to reduce carbon emissions, DiMicco can continue to externalize the cost of CO2 pollution, which raises Nucor's profit margins.
In addition, Dan DiMicco sits on the Board of Directors for Duke Energy, a major coal-burning utility known for its repeated doublespeak on issues of pollution and climate change. By delaying meaningful cuts in carbon emissions, Duke and DiMicco can continue to burn coal, spew greenhouse gas pollution, and reap large profits.
Full text of the letter is available here.