5 Lies from Climate Change Denying Heartland Institute
By Connor Gibson
As we've told the Heartland Institute directly through Twitter, their response to our new report on climate change denial, Dealing in Doubt, contains a series of lies that are tellingly consistent with the lies we document in the report itself. Here are some, but not all, of the silliest claims Heartland made in their response to us:
"Fact: Most scientists don’t believe the effect of human activities on climate is sufficiently well understood to make predictions about future climate conditions, and many believe the modest warming that may occur would be beneficial."
This is a sad, sad attempt to continue what Heartland does best on climate change: say anything but the truth. Without valid refutation, Heartland fully dismissed our citations of two separate peer-reviewed studies (PNAS, 2010 and Environmental Research Letters, 2013) showing 97-98 percent consensus among active climate scientists about the existence and cause of global warming. Nor did Heartland acknowledge the review of thousands of peer-reviewed papers on climate change, concluding that only 24 of 13,950 rejected global warming.
Here's the really sad part: Heartland cites a 2009 survey by Peter T. Doran and Maggie Kendall Zimmerman that supposedly shows "most scientists do not side with Greenpeace on the issue."
Except that's not what the study concludes at all. Rather, Doran and Zimmerman found a 96-97 percent consensus among specialized scientists that took part in the survey who agree that the earth's temperature is rising and humans are the cause. The end of the paper specifically points out the greater understanding of climate change by scientists who took part in the survey and those without scientific expertise:
"It seems that the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes."
Heartland's other citations aren't any better. One is Heartland president Joseph Bast's "reasonable interpretation" of conclusions he'll never accept, and the rest comes from a retired TV weatherman named Anthony Watts (who's not a climate scientist), who runs the climate denier blog WattsUpWithThat. Watts was on Heartland's payroll last year for a $44,000 project to undermine climate change evidence gathered from weather stations, funded by Heartland's billionaire "anonymous donor," Barre Seid.
But this is what we expect—Heartland has always demanded legitimacy despite its inherent lack thereof.
"[The Heartland Institute] has never demonized scientists who disagree with its positions, never broken the law and never lied about any aspect of global warming ... or any other issue for that matter."
That's pretty rich for a group like Heartland...
...which experienced a "mutiny" from its entire finance, insurance and real estate department abandoned Heartland in response to its climate change denial activities (like comparing scientists with terrorists). The exodus of Heartland's insurance company members along with many other companies blocked Heartland from raising $1.3 million from corporations in 2012.
...which faked the endorsement of the Chinese National Academy of Sciences for its ongoing pseudo-scientific Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) Climate Change Reconsidered reports, which we detail in Dealing in Doubt.
Note also Heartland's frequent demonization of climate scientists (see bombastic slander of Michael Mann here, here, here and here, to start). Not to mention Heartland's PR and fundraising campaign to put scientist Peter Gleick in jail after its staff were foolish enough to email their internal documents to him, revealing all of their corporate and personal funders, including Chicago billionaire Barre Seid's multi-million dollar support for for Heartland's denial of global warming.
"Heartland has produced more educational material on climate change than all but a handful of organizations in the world."
As reported in the Washington Post and revealed by Heartland's internal document leak, Heartland packages its scientifically untenable material on global warming into books and propaganda curricula for distribution to children and young people across the U.S. Heartland has also worked with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to pass laws in several states that force schools to misrepresent climate change science to students.
"Greenpeace used the stolen documents [the leaked documents referenced above] to target scientists who worked with Heartland, contacting the deans of universities and asking that those scientists be fired or investigated."
Greenpeace never called for anyone to be fired, but we did certainly support the investigations of professors on Heartland's climate denial payroll in response to Greenpeace's inquiries. Mainly, Arizona State University's Robert C. Balling (a recipient of grants from ExxonMobil for his work to discredit climate science) and the University of Missouri's Anthony Lupo, whose inconsistent statements denying the scope of climate change are well documented. The full text of our letters to universities can be found on our page investigating the Heartland Institute leaked documents.
"Fact: NIPCC is a genuinely objective, independent and respected voice in the climate change debate. The IPCC is none of the above."
This was an interesting assertion, our report demonstrates how the Heartland's undistinguished NIPCC is very different from real Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—mainly that Heartland's authors are paid, unlike the IPCC scientists, and Heartland only critiques writing from climate deniers while IPCC critiques all papers submitted for consideration (see Skeptical Science).
Even more telling, the NIPCC is paid for by billionaire and climate-denial-sugar daddy Barre Seid, according to Heartland's own documents, slated to provide $194,000 of NIPCC's $304,000 budget last year. The editors of Heartland's NIPCC Climate Change Reconsidered (Craig Idso, Fred Singer and Bob Carter) are all well-documented as anti-science shills for fossil fuel interests.
We'll leave it at that—while we want to correct Heartland's errors, we recognize that they exist to waste people's time, run interference on honest dialog and thrive off of the attention they get by projecting their own very actions onto others (mainly: lying, manipulating reporters, lawmakers and the public, and shilling for vested interests in matters that affect the public). We cannot possibly correct all of Heartland's historic and ongoing lies: that's what its staff are paid to do and forbidden to acknowledge.
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Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:email@example.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
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