Heartland Institute Embarrasses Itself Again

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June 17 2013 8:00 AM

Heartland Institute Embarrasses Itself Again

earthonfire
Not just pants on fire.

Fire image courtesy peasap's Flickr photostream; Earth image from NASA; composite by Phil Plait.

Oh, that Heartland Institute. This fossil-fuel-funded climate change denial “think tank” has made its name making outrageous statements that generally aren’t even within a glancing blow of reality. Like the way they hugely exaggerated the importance of “Climategate”—what I like to call a manufactroversy—or their horrific billboard campaign comparing climate scientists to the Unabomber and Charles Manson. That was where they actually had the temerity to say:

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!  

The people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.

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Nice, huh? No wonder they hemorrhaged sponsors so rapidly after that boondoggle.

So when I heard that one of their global-warming denial screeds had been translated into Chinese and that Heartland was claiming the Chinese government was becoming more “skeptical” about climate change, well, I myself was hugely skeptical.

Turns out, I was right.

Heartland made this claim:

The trend toward skepticism and away from alarmism is now unmistakable… Publication of a Chinese translation of Climate Change Reconsidered by the Chinese Academy of Sciences indicates the country's leaders believe their [failure to sign a global climate treaty] is justified by science and not just economics.

Note: That quotation is from an article at the Guardian about this; Heartland took down the page with their original press release. Now, why would they do that?

Because it was egregiously false. It was so fallacious, in fact, that the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) issued a very stern statement (emphasis mine):

The claim of the Heartland Institute about CAS’ endorsement of its report is completely false. To clarify the fact, we formally issue the following statements:
(1) The translation and publication of the Chinese version of the NIPCC report, and the related workshop, are purely non-official academic activities the group of translators. They do not represent, nor they have ever claimed to represent, CAS or any of CAS institutes. They translated the report and organized the workshop just for the purpose of academic discussion of different views.
(2) The above fact was made very clear in the Translators’ Note in the book, and was known to the NIPCC report authors and the Heartland Institute before the translation started. The false claim by the Heartland Institute was made public without any knowledge of the translator group.
(3) Since there is absolutely no ground for the so called CAS endorsement of the report, and the actions by the Heartland Institute went way beyond acceptable academic integrity, we have requested by email to the president of the Heartland Institute that the false news on its website to be removed. We also requested that the Institute issue a public apology to CAS for the misleading statement on the CAS endorsement.

(4) If the Heartland Institute does not withdraw its false news or refuse to apologize, all the consequences and liabilities should be borne by the Heartland Institute. We reserve the right for further actions to protect the rights of CAS and the translators group.

Wow. The number of times they use the word false makes their feelings pretty clear (as does another CAS notice). Also, note the part where they say Heartland knew what they were claiming was false, too.

And false it was. As the Guardian article points out, China has been stepping forward about climate change, testing out political and engineering ideas to try to curb carbon emissions. China has also officially endorsed the International Panel on Climate Change’s statement that the world is warming and it’s due to human influence.

So, after this withering blast from CAS, what does Heartland do? Issue a notpology:

Some people interpreted our news release and a blog post describing this event as implying that the Chinese Academy of Sciences endorses the views contained in the original books. This is not the case, and we apologize to those who may have been confused by these news reports.

Seriously, Heartland? “Some people”? I think you misspelled “everybody,” including the very China Academy of Sciences you were touting, because that’s precisely what you were saying.

This kind of wishy-washy phrasing is nothing more than yet another attempt at distraction, as well as blame-shifting from their own huge and embarrassing error to “those who may have been confused.” Sorry Heartland, but your position is clear. You can’t even deny your own denial.

Groups such as the Heartland Institute and so many others are sowing confusion at a time when we need more clarity, not less. We need to make real steps toward curbing global warming, and as recent reports have shown, it’s already hard enough. President Obama is making a lot of promises toward that goal, but making actual movement is a different issue. This is why I continue to write about this issue; the more people who get the real facts, and see who is trying to obfuscate them, the better.

You can read more about this issue at SkepticalScience, as well as BigCityLib and Shaping Tomorrow’s World.