Heartland leak: much more than just a memo
- 16 Feb 2012, 15:00
- Ros Donald
Libertarian thinktank the Heartland Institute released a
statement yesterday confirming internal documents apparently
written by the institute's president for a board meeting were
leaked after a staff member emailed them to an anonymous third
Heartland claims one of the documents leaked to DeSmogBlog - a two page memo
outlining a '2012 Heartland Climate Strategy' - is a fake, intended
to "defame and discredit" the thinktank. However, the other papers,
which Heartland has still not disowned or come out to verify,
replicate almost all of the points contained in the document and
appear to reveal many further details about the institute's climate
There are five key differences between the 2012 memo and the rest
of the papers.
First, we reported that
according to the memo a global warming curriculum for school
students which Heartland plan to pay US Department of Energy
consultant David Wojick to produce is designed to "dissuade
teachers from teaching science".
That description doesn't appear in the other materials . Instead,
the funding strategy document suggests Wojick is creating modules
that can slot easily into school science lessons, with the aim of
reversing the "limited success" Heartland has had in getting
teachers to use its materials so far. The idea appears to be for
the curriculum to emphasise controversy about climate science,
rather than to discourage teaching it altogether:
"Dr. Wojick proposes to begin work on
"modules" for grades 10-12 on climate change ("whether humans
are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy"),
climate models ("models are used to explore various hypotheses
about how climate works. Their reliability is controversial"),
and air pollution ("whether CO2 is a pollutant is controversial. It
is the global food supply and natural emissions are 20 times
higher than human emissions").
Wojick would produce modules for Grades
7-9 on environmental impact ("environmental impact is often
difficult to determine. For example there is a major controversy
over whether or not humans are changing the weather"), for
Grade 6 on water resources and weather systems, and
Second, the memo Heartland says is a fake states that the
Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change - a group of
scientists that receive $300,000 a year from Heartland - publishes
'Climate Change Reconsidered', a set of reports designed to
"undermine" the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
In contrast, the fundraising plan says Climate Change Reconsidered
is "the most comprehensive and authoritative rebuttal to the United
Nations' IPCC reports" - "rebut" rather than "undermine".
The description of the NIPCC in the fundraising plan still differs
markedly from the mission statement on the NIPCC website:
"[A]n 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
Third, the memo Heartland has disowned states climate skeptic
blogger Anthony Watts is being paid $90,000 to set up a website.
The other documents also note this project, suggesting that the
website will interpret data from the US "National Aeronautics
and Atmospheric Administration's[sic]" improved temperature
stations. According to the fundraising plan, Heartland's Anonymous
Donor is providing $44,000 towards the project, and the institute
is going to help Watts raise a further $44,000 - a total of
$88,000, slightly less than is suggested in the memo.
Fourth, only the memo mentions a strategy to recruit more "neutral
voices", or a desire to keep voices that agree with the scientific
consensus on climate out of traditionally skeptic-friendly media
outlets such as Forbes.
Finally, the memo says the Koch Foundation donated $200,000 to
Heartland in 2011, when according to the fundraising plan, the Koch
brothers paid $25,000 in 2011 and are projected to increase this by
$200,000 this year.
We've retracted the quotes we originally took from the document
Heartland have said is a fake.
Anthony Watts has analysed the differences between the memo and
the other documents, noting that most of the documents were
prepared by Joe Bast, Heartland's president, while the metadata for
the memo has been erased. Watts suggests that the rest of the
papers look "bland" without the framing memo, but we
The other documents - as yet unverified, but not rejected by
Heartland - give a detailed picture of Heartland's network - the
people it pays and the projects they undertake with the institute's
Leo Hickman provides a rundown in the Guardian today.
According to Heartland, the leak happened when an unknown person
"fraudulently assumed the identity of a Heartland board member and
persuaded a staff member [...] to 're-send' board materials to a
new email address".
Heartland maintains the "authenticity of [the other documents] has
not been confirmed as it "still has not had the opportunity" to
check whether the others have been altered. It has asked everyone
who has reported on the leak to take down the documents and any
quotes, and publish retractions or risk prosecution.
The institute has not denied any of the traceable information, and
much of it has been confirmed by other sources. For example, Watts
confirmed he is receiving funding from Heartland for his NOAA
project, while a Heartland senior fellow told
Think Progress that the institute is indeed funding Wojick's
alternative climate curriculum. Meanwhile, Businessgreen carries
comments from Microsoft, Diageo and GlaxoSmithKline confirming
they made donations (of software rather than money in Microsoft's
case) to Heartland - although all three say they oppose the
institute's stance on climate.
Heartland may be trying to distract attention by focusing on the
memo. But even without it, the rest of the documents and the
corroborating facts indicate a compelling story about Heartland's
tactics and the people who have chosen to associate with the