More lies, damn lies and bad science from the Heartland Institute

Got another “scientific report” (read that with ‘finger quotes’) from the folks at the conservative thinktank The Heartland Institute. If you actually read my blog much (don’t worry, I have no illusions that anyone really does) you might remember an entry I made last December titled Lies, Damn Lies & the Heartland Institute (still love that title) when I got another report from them. I did some research then on who they were then since a quick glance at the letter and report they sent me then made me quite suspect as to the ‘real science’ it claimed to contain.

Just to recap, the the Heartland Institute is

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

Yeah those free-market solutions always do the best thing for society and making the world a better place. Capitalism is infallable.

Also, if the above doesn’t raise doubts, just to remind you a little more who these folks are. Last December I searched for the Heartland Institute and found the first link that came up was at a site I’ve come to respect and appreciated Sourcewatch. They summarize the Heartland Institute as :


  • 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.

Yeah sounds like the kind of place I trust to give me clear and impartial scientific reports.

So today they sent me another report ‘Is the U.S. Surface Temperature Record Reliable?’ that goes on and on about how different climate-monitoring stations are sited poorly and thus the data collected from them is suspect… and thus, they make the conclusion that therefore if some stations (they claim 9 out of 10) are suspect then therefore global warming is not a crisis”.

I’m trying to be objective with skimming this report, even though it’s being sent around by an organization with a clearly biased mission. Look, I’m willing to believe that there are climate monitoring stations that are poorly cited, people are lazy &/or some places just don’t have a perfect site for things. I’m also willing to believe that when they are upgraded they will give different data than the older version did, if you change the monitor it can give different data (one would hope the new ones would be more accurate, using their logic that with that with a “free market solution” to this need it will always insure that the best product is what is always purchased and used.).

Where I lose there logic is that therefore all the data collected is suspect and thus there may be no warming happening at all &/or ‘it’s not a crisis, just keep doing things the same way you always have, we’ll be fine’ (and/or their previous argument that ‘regardless of what we humans do we are an insignificant factor to whatever the earth was going to do anyways so why bother trying to affect it’).

I think this is a big leap of logic to make and this is where their ‘science’ gets sucky. Even if a monitoring station is in a city on a tarred black roof, it’s still consistent from day to day, and therefore the data it collects, which admittedly may be off because of it’s location, is consistent to itself.

So here I’m going to make a few assumptions.

  • I’m assuming any data collected, even from a poorly sited station, can be considered objective and untainted when compared to itself, so long as other variables haven’t interfered (like upgrading the monitoring station to a new version).
  • I’m assuming we’re not upgrading monitoring stations every year
  • I’m also assuming that not all of them are places that artificially hot, that some others will be in places that are too shady or get abnormal amounts of wind etc.

But if all these stations are all telling us ‘things are getting hotter’, even with some of the data being suspect, I’m willing to believe that the overall conclusion is correct. And what I find interesting is at the end of the cover letter from “Harrison H. Schmitt, Ph.D.” (former U.S. Senator. Apollo 17 Astronaut. Moonwalker) they use the previous argument that “human caused global warming is not a crisis, but a natural process that has been underway since around 1660, the nadir of the Little Ice Age”. (Interesting to read up on Sourcewatch about Mr. Schmitt, “His critics point out that his affiliation with the Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy, an organization that received more than $860,000 in funding from oil giant ExxonMobil in 1998, somewhat discredits his statements about climate change.”.)

So wait.. are they saying global warming isn’t happening? After all they believe they have not conclusively proven that if some data may be suspect then therefore the overall conclusions based on lots of different data sources are wrong. Or are they saying that there is indeed global warming but it’s not ‘human caused’ so suck it up and deal and ‘adapt’ (and not adapt as in we should work to find solutions to slow it and/or not contribute to it)?

Anyways.. this report, if framed without their suspect conclusions, isn’t bad in itself. If wish their point was that communities and organizations should work to make sure existing monitoring stations in their communities meet the National Weather Service guidelines, or better yet did that AND helped get more stations setup that meet guidelines. If that was the point of this mailing then I’d salute their taking the time and effor to spread the word. Getting more objective and unbiased data helps the global scientific community as whole and is a noble effort.

Sadly, it’s my opinion that the Heartland Institute folks are anything but noble. They bunch of corporate stooges who try to trick people into following their biased junk science conclusions (something they claim to be against), to try to promote any angle that increases doubt about global warming and/or the fact that mankind is harming the planet and we should work to improve. If I were Anthony Watts, the author of this report, and wanted to lend any credibility to my name as an expert in this field I’d be ashamed to have my name and work associated with an organization like this. However, since he’s clearly best buddies with The Heartland Institute I conclude that since it was created and published by a biased organization looking for a specific result, that therefore the data cited in it is suspect and until objectively peer reviewed by actual scientists and experts in this area.

Gee.. what a coincedence that this report makes no claims on this front. Fascinating that, what conclusions do you draw?

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