Greening Earth Society

Climate Denial University? The Heartland Institute's Toxic Presence in Higher Education

PolluterWatch: Greenpeace Investigates Heartland Institute Leaked Documents -- click to see investigation and ongoing updates.

As Greenpeace questions universities about payments to faculty members from the Heartland Institute for its campaign to discredit climate science, we have made some interesting discoveries. Our newest letter is to the University of Missouri concerning professor Anthony Lupo, who leads the schools Global Climate Change Group and is slated to receive a total $18,000 from the Heartland Institute from 2011-2012 as a consultant for "Climate Change Reconsidered" reports. As you would expect from a Heartland Institute project, these reports are designed to confuse the scientific conclusions of 97% of climate researchers around the world.

While credible climate scientists and institutions have understood global warming for decades now, Anthony Lupo's position on climate has fluctuated significantly. A thorough article in the Kansas City Pitch back in 2008 revealed the following evolution of Dr. Lupo's public statements on global warming:

  • In 1998, Tony Lupo boasted that climate skeptics outnumbered the consensus view that global warming is happening and caused by people, proclaiming, "there is no scientific consensus whether global warming is a fact and is occurring." This is despite the fact that in 1995 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said "the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate." Dr. Lupo has participated in the IPCC as a reviewer, one of the few scientists involved who rejects the IPCC's research conclusions.
  • In 2000, Dr. Lupo cited an influential oceanographer calling for more study on global warming in "recent statements"...after the oceanographer had been dead for nine years.
  • In 2005, Dr. Lupo contradicted his previous op-ed statements and told the Kansas City Star that "the climate is warming" but that the warming was not "unprecedented."

  • In 2007, Dr. Lupo said that because of increasing global surface temperatures, "Columbia's [Missouri] probably become a more ideal place to live." This notion is consistent with that of industry apologist Craig Idso, who coordinates the work of Heartland's Climate Change Reconsidered reports.

Our new letter to Mizzou quotes Dr. Lupo this year telling the Columbia Daily Tribune that he still doubts humans are the primary cause of global warming, contrasting the explicit climate statements of scientific institutions he is affiliated with, such as the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorology Society. Anthony Lupo's work for the Heartland Institute even flipped a long-time climate skeptic columnist at the Daily Tribune, who publicly explained why the scandal convinced him that global warming is indeed occurring.

Questions posed to other schools have unearthed more potentially scandalous activity. First and foremost, we want to know why the Heartland Institute has Michigan Technological University (MTU) professor David Watkins listed in their budget. When we wrote to MTU asking if Watkins had disclosed his Heartland payments, they were shocked at the association. Turns out, Watkins is neither a climate skeptic nor a Heartland Institute contractor, something the Heartland Institute has not explained.

As Michigan Tech made it clear they want nothing to do with Heartland's junk science, Harvard University again confirmed that career climate denier and Heartland contractor Willie Soon has no formal affiliation with the school beyond office space on their campus. This hasn't stopped Willie from claiming he's a "natural scientist at Harvard" while dismissing the dangers of mercury pollution in the Wall Street Journal. Last year Greenpeace revealed that Willie Soon is exclusively funded by fossil fuel interests like Koch Industries, ExxonMobil and Southern Company, a major contributor to mercury air pollution from its coal plants.

Moving southwest, a meeting with Greenpeace student activist Erica Kris prompted an "investigation" at Arizona State University (ASU), although there was no third party involved to prevent bias. ASU's longtime climate skeptic Robert C. Balling continues to reject conclusive scientific evidence that humans are the primary cause of global warming and was listed as a recipient of prospective payments in Heartland's leaked budget for work on their "Climate Change Reconsidered" reports. According to Arizona State Vice President for Academic Personel Mark Searle, who conducted the review of Dr. Balling's disclosure forms to the school, Balling isn't going to review Heartland's latest climate denial report:

"With respect to any consulting work with the Heartland Institute, other than the previously reported $1000 honorarium Dr. Balling received for giving a speech some years ago, he has not received any compensation from them. The purported budget from the Heartland Institute was prospective and was not a commitment and Dr. Balling told me he has not engaged in any such activity."

Historically, Dr. Balling has taken plenty of money from fossil fuel interests, which brings in funding not only to Balling's predetermined "research," but hundreds of thousands of dollars in overhead payments to Arizona State University (see Balling's 1997 testimony to the Minnesota News Council). Balling teamed up with oil industry scientist Pat Michaels at the Exxon- and Koch-funded Cato Institute to write three books that have served as faux counter-arguments to settled science. Two of those books were published by Cato, while The Heated Debate was published by the Pacific Research Institute (PRI), another cog in the climate denial machine. Balling claimed to know "nothing" about the Pacific Research Institute even though PRI and published his book promoting global warming doubt:

"I know nothing of their history. I'm aware that they have been a conservative public policy group. But I did not investigate who these people were that asked me to prepare a book for them." --From Ozone Action's Ties that Bind [PDF]

Dr. Balling has reluctantly owned up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fossil fuel funding as well as direct research support from Exxon [PDF] and the Kuwaiti government [PDF] to downplay global warming. As part of an extremely small group of PR scientists for hire, both Michaels and Balling worked for the Western Fuels coal coalition and its fraudulent Greening Earth Society project, led at the time by Peabody coal lobbyist Fred Palmer.

Given his history as an oil and coal industry consultant who ignores 97% of working climate scientists worldwide, why doesn't Arizona State consider it a problem for Dr. Balling to promote his political positions as if they were factual? What about his role in ASU's Global Institute of Sustainability, of which climate change research and mitigation is listed as a top priority? What about his attempts to directly influence policy based on scientific misinformation? ASU's Office of Research Integrity and Assurance lists "Objectivity in Research" among its responsibilities to "support for the responsible conduct of research." Freedom of expression does not equate to freedom to repeatedly misrepresent scientific fact on behalf of industry policy groups like Cato, Pacific Research and Heartland.

Although Heartland's reputation has become increasingly toxic, most recently indicated by General Motors announcing it would stop sending money to Heartland, they haven't given up. Perhaps Heartland President Joseph Bast would be lost in a world where he's not paid to promote tobacco products, deny global warming, and force junk science into classrooms.

You can continue to follow Greenpeace's Investigation of Heartland Institute Leaked Documents on PolluterWatch.

Heartland Institute and ALEC Partner to Pollute Classroom Science

ALEC and Heartland: Classroom Climate Denial Peddlers

PolluterWatch: Greenpeace Investigates Heartland Institute Leaked Documents -- click to see investigation and ongoing updates.

UPDATE: After dropping support for ALEC, Pepsi distances itself from the Heartland Institute’s climate denial.

Perhaps the most outrageous revelation of "Denialgate," the leak of internal Heartland Institute budget and fundraising documents detailing their 2012 work plan to obstruct global warming policy, is a project to develop school curricula to teach K-12 students that there is doubt over the causes and implications of global warming.

What hasn't been reported is the complementary role of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has peddled laws written by corporate lobbyists through state legislatures that make it easy for its dirty energy members, such as Exxon, Koch Industries and Peabody coal, to influence how climate science is presented to students. The so-called "Environmental Literacy Improvement Act," which has been introduced in seven states and became law in at least three, would establish a state-level council to oversee all scientific material presented to students, allowing companies to smother classroom science with K street politics. This council would notably exclude anyone with environmental science credentials, instead composing itself in the following proportions:

 

 

 

Basically, it ensures that climatology will be underrepresented. Note that environmental science is interdisciplinary, open to a variety of natural science expertise in order to study complex natural systems that cannot be confined to a single topic of study. See our annotated version of the ALEC bill showing how ALEC's language can be used to peddle global warming denial in schools.

So where did this bill come from? We know that ALEC members include not only the Heartland Institute, but a who's who of dirty energy interests that stand to make money by denying climate change. More specifically, there appears to be a key industry operative who oversaw development of the ALEC bill. Her name is Sandy Liddy Bourne, the daughter of convicted Watergate criminal G. Gordon Liddy.

Alexandra "Sandy" Liddy Bourne runs an oil industry front group called the American Energy Freedom Center with former ExxonMobil lobbyist Randy Randol. Bourne is a longtime affiliate of both the Heartland Institute and ALEC, currently formerly a Heartland senior fellow for environmental issues and formerly Heartland's vice president for policy and strategy.  Prior to joining the Heartland Institute, Sandy Liddy Bourne was ALEC's Director of the Energy, Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Task Force for the from 1999-2004, before being promoted to Director of Legislation and Policy, where she oversaw all of ALEC's task forces and helped boost state enactment of ALEC's corporate bills from 11 percent to 20 percent. In Bourne's time directing ALEC's environmental task force, the "Environmental Literacy Improvement Act" was created and approved by ALEC's board in June, 2000.

While this ALEC bill was finalized, ALEC's Private Enterprise board chairman was Mike Morgan of Koch Industries. The Heartland Institute still promotes ALEC's "Environmental Literacy Improvement Act" on its website to this day.

Confused? Check out all the key players in this interactive ExxonSecrets map!

Heartland Payments to Federal Employee for Unscientific Climate Lesson Plan

The Heartland Institute repeatedly has shown it doesn't hold the scientific method in particularly high regard, even if their climate denial conferences are run under the banner "Restoring the Scientific Method." According to its 2012 fundraising document, Heartland is paying a US Department of Energy (DOE) official named David Wojick $5,000 a pop for modules teaching high school students that "whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy."

It's not. Regardless of whether David Wojick simply denies this reality or if he drank the Koch Industries Kool Aid, his climate credibility is zero.

The National Academy of Sciences found that 97% of actual climate researchers understand that global warming is happening and is primarily caused by humans burning fossil fuels. However, most K-12 students don't read the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. I certainly didn't--I relied upon my teachers to teach science with unbiased integrity.

Craig Idso ALEC American Legislative Exchange Council benefits CO2 annual meeting New OrleansWojick has expertise not in climate science, but the philosophy of science. He has done contract work for the coal industry through the "Greening Earth Society," a fairy tale organization established to promote the absurd idea that more CO2 in our atmosphere, such as from burning coal and other fossil fuels, is unconditionally good for our planet. This fallacy is promoted by other notable non-experts, such as oil billionaire David Koch and junk scientist Craig Idso, who produced propaganda films for the Greening Earth Society (a coal industry front group). Idso presented "The Many Atmospheric Benefits of CO2" to ALEC's Energy and Environment task force at their August, 2011 meeting in New Orleans, where he told ALEC insiders that we “should let CO2 rise unrestricted, without government intervention” since “CO2 is definitely not a pollutant.”

The coal industry clearly wishes this were true, Mr. Idso.

In addition to accepting fossil fuel propaganda money alongside Mr. Wojick at the Greening Earth Society, Craig Idso also consults for the Heartland Institute. Idso's $140,000 contract with Heartland this year is to coordinate the anti-scientific "Climate Change Reconsidered" reports, an admittedly "political" project that includes contracts to two federal workers and multiple university faculty members. These payments US Interior Department (DOI) contractor Indur Goklany, who is under investigation by the Interior Department's Inspector General's office at the request of US Representative Raul Grijalva of New Mexico.

While the Heartland Institute is doing its best to make this unraveling scandal disappear, mainly by vilifying scientist Peter Gleick for embarrassing the Institute, Greenpeace is pushing for more. We continue to seek answers from federal bodies and universities whose employees are taking money from the Heartland Institute to attack science and disrupt the democratic process on behalf of tobacco companies, industrial giants and billionaire ideologues like the Koch brothers. Visit PolluterWatch for ongoing results of Greenpeace's investigation of the Heartland Institute leaked documents.

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