Breaking news: A look behind the curtain of the Heartland Institute's climate change spin

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Feb. 15 2012 7:00 AM

Breaking news: A look behind the curtain of the Heartland Institute's climate change spin

The Heartland Institute -- a self-described "think tank" that actually serves in part as a way for climate change denialism to get funded -- has a potentially embarrassing situation on their hands. Someone going by the handle "Heartland Insider" has anonymously released quite a few of what are claimed to be internal documents from Heartland, revealing the Institute's strategies, funds, and much more.

[UPDATE: Heartland has confirmed that some of the documents are real, but claims the strategy document, which I quote below about teaching strategy, is faked. This claim has not yet been confirmed or refuted. DeSmogBlog has more info.]

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death from the Skies! Follow him on Twitter.


These documents are available over at DeSmogBlog. Several people are going over them, and so far they appear legit. You can read some relevant discussions at DeSmogBlog, Deep Climate, Planet 3, Greg Laden, ClimateCrocks, Shawn Otto, and Think Progress. John Mashey at DeSmogBlog has more info that also corroborates the leaked documents, and to call it blistering is to severely underestimate it.

One thing I want to point out right away which is very illuminating, if highly disturbing, about what Heartland allegedly wants to do: they are considering developing a curriculum for teachers to use in the classroom to sow confusion about climate change. I know, it sounds like I'm making that up, but I'm not. In this document they say:

[Dr. Wojick's] 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.

That seems clear enough, doesn't it? From that, it sure sounds like they want to dissuade teachers from teaching science. I imagine there will be a lot of spin about how this quote is out of context, or a typo, or something alone those lines. Perhaps. But I remember all the hammering real scientists took when they used jargon in their emails to each other, jargon which was gleefully misinterpreted to make it seem as if these scientists were faking data. Interesting how this is pointing right back at them. Just as I said it does.

When it comes to all this, the comparison to "Climategate" springs to mind, but there's one enormous difference: Climategate was manufactured, a made-up controversy (what I call a manufactroversy) that had no real teeth -- as was its failed sequel. The emails released weren't damning at all, and didn't show scientists tinkering with or faking data. As much as the media made of it, as much as climate change denial blogs played them up, it has been shown again and again that Climategate was all sound and fury, signifying nothing.

These new documents, though, look different, especially given that quote above. The next few days should be very interesting as people start digging into them, especially if they prove to be authentic.

And how ironic! It was the Heartland Institute themselves who played up Climategate quite a bit. Back in 2009 when they were trumpeting Climategate, Heartland said:

The release of these documents creates an opportunity for reporters, academics, politicians, and others who relied on the IPCC to form their opinions about global warming to stop and reconsider their position. The experts they trusted and quoted in the past have been caught red-handed plotting to conceal data, hide temperature trends that contradict their predictions, and keep critics from appearing in peer-reviewed journals. This is new and real evidence that they should examine and then comment on publicly.

That claim from them is nonsense, but it will be interesting to see how happy they are when the tables are turned, and "reporters, academics, politicians, and others" look into their documents. And around that same time they also said:

For anyone who doubts the power of the Internet to shine light on darkness, the news of the month is how digital technology helped uncover a secretive group of scientists who suppressed data, froze others out of the debate, and flouted freedom-of-information laws.

Again, none of that is true. But that claim about freezing out others sticks out, especially in light of another of these leaked Heartland internal memos which says,

Efforts at places such as Forbes are especially important now that they have begun to allow high-profile climate scientists (such as [Peter] 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.

Emphasis mine. Yes, that sounds like a group interested in promoting "sound science".

Wow. Just, wow.

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