Thursday, February 16, 2012

How Heartland Institute undermines science

From the Guardian (UK):
The inner workings of a libertarian thinktank working to discredit the established science on climate change have been exposed by a leak of confidential documents detailing its strategy and fundraising networks.

DeSmogBlog, which broke the story, said it had received the confidential documents from an "insider" at the Heartland Institute, which is based in Chicago. The blog monitors industry efforts to discredit climate science.

The scheme includes spending $100,000 for spreading the message in K-12 schools that "the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain - two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science", the documents said. ...

The Heartland Institute, founded in 1984, has built a reputation over the years for providing a forum for climate change sceptics. But it is especially known for hosting a series of lavish conferences of climate science doubters at expensive hotels in New York's Times Square as well as in Washington DC.

If authentic the documents provide an intriguing glimpse at the fundraising and political priorities of one of the most powerful and vocal groups working to discredit the established science on climate change and so block any chance of policies to reduce global warming pollution.

So, who is funding this attempt to discredit science? Surprise, surprise, the Koch brothers - oil billionaires - back it, but so do corporations as diverse as tobacco giants (both Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris, and RJR Tobacco) and Microsoft. But their biggest donor - who gave them a whopping $4.8 million in 2008 - remains unknown.

And note that these aren't hacked emails, off-hand and careless personal comments which are easy to misconstrue, but actual policy statements from the Institute.
The documents confirm what environmental groups such as Greenpeace have long suspected: that Heartland itself is a major source of funding to a network of experts and bloggers who have been prominent in the campaign to discredit established science. [my emphasis]

Heartland is anxious to retain its hold over mainstream media outlets, fretting in the documents about how Forbes magazine is publishing prominent climate scientists such as Peter Gleick. "This influential audience has usually been reliably anti-climate and it is important to keep opposing voices out," Heartland documents warn. ...

Heartland operates on a range of issues besides the environment. But discrediting the science of climate change remains a key mission. The group spends $300,000 on salaries for a team of experts working to undermine the findings of the UN climate body, the IPCC.

It plans to expand that this year by paying a former US department of energy employee to write an alternative curriculum for schoolchildren that will cast doubt on global warming. The fundraising plan notes the anonymous donor has set aside $100,000 for the project. ...

The documents suggest several prominent voices in the campaign to deny established climate science are recipients of Heartland funding.

They include, according to the documents, a number of contrarian climate experts. "At the moment, this funding goes primarily to Craig Idso ($11,600 per month), Fred Singer ($5,000 per month, plus expenses), Robert Carter ($1,667 per month), and a number of other individuals, but we will consider expanding it, if funding can be found," the documents say.

Decades ago, we saw big tobacco companies doing the same thing, trying to discredit real science in order to keep making as much money as they could, no matter how many people would die from it. Well, there's a lot more money being made in fossil fuels than the tobacco industry ever dreamed of.

And all they really have to do is muddy the waters. With payoffs to journalists, bloggers, and scientists, they can create doubt, if not discredit actual science altogether.

Of course, they've got the Republican Party backing them up all the way. Even politicians who used to be rational on this subject have seen which way the wind is blowing. If you're a Republican with political ambition, you just can't support science.


Anonymous said...

M.U.S. - Making Up Shit. This seems to be a Republican ethic that they all do and believe in. The sound bytes that come to me from Jon Stewart, Yourself, Colbert and my occasional watching of Fox News flood me with more Republican MUS. I know that the almighty dollar is the most important thing in their lives, but if they could have just a moment of clarity and assess what they are doing, but I don't think they're built that way. Just sayin'...

WCG said...

It's always easy to believe what you want to believe, so I suspect that some of them believe what they say.

But in many cases - maybe most cases - I think it's just believing that the end justifies the means. They're so certain that their philosophy is right, they have so much faith, that they're willing to do whatever it takes to convince other people. After all, what's a lie compared to the Ultimate Truth?

But that's not valid even when you are right. When you're as wrong as they are, it's really foolish.