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Undermining the IPCC, keeping opposing voices out, dissuading the teaching of science - Heartland in its own words? (Update: Apparently not...)

  • 15 Feb 2012, 11:25
  • Christian Hunt

UPDATE: The Heartland Institute have stated in a press release that one of the leaked documents is a fake. Specifically, they claim that the memo that contains the first three quotes highlighted below was fabricated: 

One document, titled "Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy," is a total fake apparently intended to defame and discredit The Heartland Institute. It was not written by anyone associated with The Heartland Institute. It does not express Heartland's goals, plans, or tactics. It contains several obvious and gross misstatements of fact.

We're happy to take the Heartland Institute's word on this. We have clarified below which quotes were from the document Heartland have identified as a fake. We're also happy to apologise for attributing quotes to Heartland which were taken from a faked document.

* * *

Internal documents apparently leaked from prominent US free-market thinktank the Heartland Institute appear to reveal a campaign to "undermine" the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, create an alternative curriculum on climate change designed to foster doubt among students, and fund climate skeptics to challenge the scientific understanding of climate change.  

The Heartland Institute would not confirm or deny that the documents were real to the Guardian. A person using the name Heartland Insider emailed them to US websites including DeSmogBlog and ThinkProgress last night by someone describing themselves as 'Heartland Insider'. If real, they provide a fascinating insight into the motivations and tactics of the Heartland Institute.

The Heartland Institute is probably most well known for running an annual conference for climate skeptics, attended by the bulk of prominent skeptic commentators from around the world. The documents features the promotion of climate skeptics prominently.

Sowing doubt in schools

(This quote comes from a document that Heartland have identified as a fake:)

educational materials designed to "[dissuade] teachers from teaching science":

Development of our "Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms" project.

Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective. To counter this we are considering launching an effort to develop alternative materials for K-12 classrooms. We are pursuing a proposal from Dr. David Wojick to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools … His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain - two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science. 

As Chris Mooney has noted, this is particularly troubling as it suggests an attempt to stifle discussion about climate science in general, rather than promote any kind of alternative point of view.

The 'fundraising plan' says Wojick is a "consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the US Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science," a fact that is likely to be embarrassing for the US government.

Wojick plans to write modules that could fit in to the current US science curriculum. These would create the impression of controversy over climate science and the effects of climate change such as air pollution. One suggested text is:"whether CO2 is a pollutant is controversial. It is the global food supply and natural emissions are 20 times higher than human emissions."

Heartland plans to pay Wojick "$5,000 per module, about $25,000 per quarter, starting in the second quarter of 2012, for this work."

Undermining the IPCC

(The second quote comes from a document that Heartland have identified as a fake:)

The leaked documents also appear to show the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) was formed to "undermine" the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), not - as it claims - to independently discuss the IPCC"s reports.

According to its website, the NIPCC is:

an international panel of nongovernment scientists and scholars who have come together to understand the causes and consequences of climate change … NIPCC was created to provide an independent "second opinion" on the topics addressed by the initial drafts of the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report.

But the leaked documents show the NIPCC was formed to cast doubt on IPCC findings:

Heartland is part of a growing network of groups working the climate issues, some of which we support financially. We will seek additional partnerships in 2012. At present we sponsor the NIPCC to undermine the official United Nation's IPCC reports...

According to the documents, Heartland pays the NIPCC scientists "$300,000 a year to work on a series of editions of Climate Change Reconsidered, the most comprehensive and authoritative rebuttal of the United Nations' IPCC reports."

Further links to skeptic scientists

(This quote comes from a document that Heartland have identified as a fake:)

The documents also appear to show that the Heartland institute regularly makes payments to "high-profile individuals who regularly and prominently counter the alarmist AGW message" including monthly payments to notable climate skeptic scientists like Craig Idso, Fred Singer and Robert Carter, all of whom argue against the scientific mainstream on climate, including in the UK media.

The Institute is also worried when climate scientists comment in the media - especially when quoted outside the 'liberal' press. It singles out columns by the hydrologist Peter Gleick for the business website and magazine Forbes as particularly problematic:

Heartland plays an important role in climate communications, especially through our in-house experts (e.g., Taylor) through his Forbes blog and related high profile outlets, our conferences, and through coordination with external networks (such as WUWT and other groups capable of rapidly mobilizing responses to new scientific findings, news stories, or unfavorable blog posts). Efforts at places such as Forbes are especially important now that they have begun to allow high profile climate scientists (such as Gleick) to post warmist science essays that counter our own. This influential audience has usually been reliably anti-climate and it is important to keep opposing voices out.

Funding networks

The leaked documents also appear to detail Heartland's fundraising strategy. They seem to indicate that Heartland's funding for climate projects is dominated by an 'Anonymous Donor' who between 2007 and 20011 gave a total of $8.6 million to Heartland for work on climate change ($629,000 in 2011). 

The documents also state that Heartland had agreed to raise $88,000 for a project by the climate skeptic website Watts Up With That, which is designed to interpret data from the US National Aeronautics and Atmospheric Administration's new, higher-quality weather stations. This is perhaps in an attempt to revive the argument that temperatures in warmer cities have skewed temperature readings - an argument that the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project is generally agreed to have settled in favour of the consensus last year.

The documents suggest Heartland also anticipates it will raise money from plenty of other sources including corporations, as well as a projected $200,000 from the Koch Brothers in 2012. According to its funding strategy, it plans to roll out a crowdsourcing initiative to help replace the "shrinking and ageing" network of funders it originally counted on from its current president.

Fracking drive

The documents show Heartland hopes to mobilise industry interests to combat bad press fracking has received over the past years and this year hopes to use its record as an advocate for fracking to raise $100,000 from these sources.

The Kochs

The link with the Kochs is interesting as it appears to contradict other statements that have been made. Watts Up With That has refuted allegations in the past that the Heartland Institute has received money from energy interests. In this blog, Alan Caruba writes:

For the record, neither Exxon Mobil, nor Mr. Koch, has contributed to the cost of the [Heartland] conference. The former has not contributed to the [Heartland] Institute since 2006 and the Kochs have not sent any money in more than a decade.

But in their funding strategy document Heartland writes that it did receive money from the Kochs in 2011:

The Charles G. Koch Foundation returned as a Heartland donor in 2011 ... We expect to ramp up their level of support in 2012 and gain access to the network of philanthropists they work with.

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