Lies, damn lies, and the ‘Heartland Institute’

I work at a research lab in Bar Harbor, Maine as a System Administrator. My name and title have been in my e-mail signature, not to mention various websites for over 10 years now so the various snail junk mail places can harvest it. Most of the time this just means I get little postcards about the latest backup library or some fancy brochure from HP telling me all about their latest servers (which we don’t use) or other useless junk from Microsoft, etc.

Last week a package arrived from the ‘the Heartland Institute‘ addressed to “Matthew Baya, Administrator” and then my workplaces address. Ok.. I’ll admit just the name ‘Heartland Institute’ raised my skeptic alarms (been listening too Skepticality too much perhaps :) ) but I opened it and pulled out a 40 page booklet called “Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate’ that is the ‘Summary for policymakers, Nongovernmental International Panel On Climate Change’. There was also a 10 minute DVD called ‘Unstoppable Solar Cycles – The Real Story Of Greenland’ included with it. The cover letter that came with it had the Heartland Institute logo and short summary of them below it;

“A nonprofit organization devoted to discovering, developing, and promoting free-market solutions to social and economic problems

Free-market solutions? To social problems? er.. like what?

Also, I note there is no scientific mission in their charter, so why are they the ones sending this 40 page booklet by the ‘Science and Environmental Policy Project’ to me? and why me?

My heckles were raised enough at this point and as my high school english teacher Mr. Joseph Porpora would say (paraphrasing, it’s been many years)”<SNIF><SNIF>This paper smells like bullshit to me, go rewrite it so it doesn’t stink so much'” so really I was about to toss the whole thing but curiousity got the better of me so I just had to look a little deeper to see if my 30 second assessment was correct.

The cover letter addressed to “Environmental professionals and leaders” (of which I am clearly neither) starts with “As an environmental professional, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is not the only organization of prominent scientists who have studied global warming and related topics”

Ok sure, I’m sure there are other groups doing research outside the UN … but wait.. I’ve heard of that UN group somewhere before… UN climate change research.. gee.. where was it?.. oh that’s right, they won the Nobel Prize last year!

So wait.. this is the “Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC)” (what a coincedence they picked a similar acronym?) and is having a US nonprofit focused on ‘Free-market solutions to social and economic problems’ publish their ‘scientific’ report? Um..

“NIPCC stongly rejects the current public mood of alarmism about anthropogenic global warming. Since natural climate change is unstoppable, adaption, not emission reductions, is the only sensible response – to both warming and cooling of the climate”

Ok.. forcing myself into a moment of unwilling suspension of all my logical processors, lets assume I go with their title that ‘Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate‘. And their solution is thus… Adaption? As in like.. “suck it up and deal” and don’t try change anything we’re doing that might affect things at all? Really? I mean.. ok so even if nature is ‘ruling’ this are you really saying that human activity has NO EFFECT on the climate at all? Adapt… wear sunscreen, don’t buy shorefront property and pay no attention to the growing deserts, dying bees or other symptoms.. it’s natural.. just like the ice age.. and asteroids. Wow.. this is pretty amazing.. if it didn’t just reek of complete lies I might be tempted to read it.

oh but remember they included a DVD? The cover letter goes on to say

“I have also enclosed a 10-minute DVD, Unstoppable Solar Cycles, The Real Story of Greenland. Climatologist Dr. David R. Legates and astrophysicist Dr. Willie Soon examine the rise and fall of Greenland’s Norse settlements during the 10th-15th centuries and its relationships to climate change.”

Gosh sounds riveting.. let me guess, they grew and shrank depending on the climate. So you’ve proved that nature was in control up through at least the 15th century. I’m willing to cede that point, sounds logical, we weren’t really belching out too much industrial revolution grade smog in the 1400’s. :)

So finally, just to see if my assessment was on target, I searched for the Heartland Institute and found the first link that came up was at Sourcewatch not the actual Heartland Institute site (so by linking them here to that name I’ll help continue that ranking :) ). They summarize the Heartland Institute :

Heartland campaigns against what it refers to as “junk science“; supports “common-sense environmentalism”, such as opposition to the the Kyoto protocol aimed at countering global warming and promoting genetically engineered crops and products; it supports the privatization of public services; it opposes tobacco control measure such as tobacco tax increases and denies the health effects of second-hand smoke; it supports the introduction of school vouchers;, and it promotes the deregulation of health care insurance. Heartland also hosts PolicyBot, which it refers to as the “Internet’s most extensive clearing-house for the work of free-market think tanks”. The database contains 22,000 documents from 350 U.S. right-wing think tanks and advocacy groups.[2]

They also summarized the “The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change that:

was “organised and “sponsored” by the Heartland Institute, a U.S. think tanks that in preceding years received substantial funding from Exxon for its work downplaying the significance of global warming.

The conference was described by Washington Post reporter, Juliet Eilperin, as “a sort of global warming doppelganger conference, where everything was reversed.” At the event, skeptics unveiled their response to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) report, edited by corporate-funded skeptic Fred Singer, argued that “recent climate change stems from natural causes.” Eilperin notes that “while the IPCC enlisted several hundred scientists from more than 100 countries to work over five years to produce its series of reports, the NIPCC document is the work of 23 authors from 15 nations, some of them not scientists.”[1]

The New York Times reports that while the Heartland conference “was largely framed around science … when an organizer made an announcement asking all of the scientists in the large hall to move to the front for a group picture, 19 men did so.” The conference invitation identified its goal as “to generate international media attention to the fact that many scientists believe forecasts of rapid warming and catastrophic events are not supported by sound science.”[2

OK then.. that’s enough for me. <Tossed>

So the good news.. my bullshit detectors, honed by ‘Papa Joe’ Porpora still work and I now know about SourceWatch—your guide to the names behind the news”and have signed up for their newsletters. So thanks for taking the time to send me this Heartland Insitute, it’s made me a better citizen already. Here’s to the free-market solutions to social problems. :)

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