1976-1984: undergraduate, University of Chicago (incomplete degree)
Joseph Bast is president and CEO of the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based think tank that prioritizes campaigns to discredit climate change science, most notably by organizing a series of conferences that reject global warming science. Bast has edited or authored several books casting doubt upon global warming, and leads in publishing anti-climate science newsletters to all state and national elected officials. Bast co-founded the Heartland Institute with the late David Padden, a political ally of the Koch Brothers.
According to Heartland’s 2012 budget, Joseph Bast’s base-level salary will be $155,930, compared to $149,700 in 2009-2010 and $139,720 in 2008. Bast donates $5,000 back to Heartland each year. Diane Bast, Joseph’s wife, has an expected 2012 salary of $96,523 for her work with the Heartland Institute.
Bast claims to have been a “hippie” until 1993. On good leadership at libertarian think tanks such as the Heartland Institute, Joseph Bast explains, "My motto is, you need to find a used car salesman who’s a libertarian—an aggressive, articulate guy who wants to build an organization. Academics are almost uniquely not fit to head a think tank. They don’t have management or financial skills."
RELATED CONTENT: Greenpeace Investigates Heartland Institute Leaked Documents
Leaked Heartland Institute Budget and Fundraising Plan
(RELATED CONTENT: Greenpeace Investigates Heartland Institute Leaked Documents)
The Heartland Institute had internal budget, fundraising and other documents leaked in February, 2012 that revealed the group’s campaign to promote doubt over climate science. This campaign included paying $5,000/month to David Wojick, an official at the US Department of Energy, to write educational lessons for K-12 schools that make claims like “whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy” and calling reliability of scientific climate models “controversial” (Heartland 2012 Budget). Additionally, Bast claims that Heartland has mailed copies of “The Climate Skeptics Handbook” to every public school board in the U.S. and Canada.
The efforts to undermine the teaching of sound climate science in schools is complimented by American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) legislation titled “The Environmental Literacy Improvement Act.” ALEC is a corporate front group that ghostwrites state laws without providing disclosure or lobbying reports. Linked to ALEC is Craig Idso, who promoted climate doubt at ALEC’s August, 2011 meeting in New Orleans in a workshop titled "Warming Up to Climate Change: The Many Benefits of Increased Atmospheric CO2." Craig Idso is listed in Heartland's budget to receive $139,200 in 2012 to write reports rejecting climate science. Idso and the U.S. Energy Department’s Wojick also share a previous affiliation through the Greening Earth Society, a project of the Western Fuels Association (a coal coalition) to convince consumers that increased human emissions of carbon dioxide benefit the planet as a whole.
Heartland’s 2012 budget lists Indur Goklany of the US Interior Department, several university professors and career skeptics like Craig Idso and Fred Singer to write chapters for reports for Heartland’s “Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change” (NIPCC). This group writes Climate Change Reconsidered, reports that climate scientist Mark Boslough says contains “fabricated temperature data and doctored graphs that are intended to undermine evidence-based science.” Likewise, renowned climate scientist Michael Mann told Nature that the NIPCC reports are "nothing but a mix of myths, half-truths, cherry-picked distortions, and regurgitated climate-change-denial talking points." Nature reports Bast acknowledges "hand-picking data" in NIPCC reports to form anti-scientific arguments on scientific content.
An “anonymous donor,” announced by the Daily Kos to be Barre Seid has paid as much as half of Heartland’s budget in the past for work relating to denying the scope and scientific evidence of global climate change. Bast’s relationship with Barre Seid has been crucial to Heartland’s ability to finance this effort, as Heartland’s budget fundraising document (see p.5) states: "Renewing him each year and keeping him informed and engaged is a major responsibility of the President. We regularly solicite his ideas for new projects." The fundraising document (p. 18) also shows that Barre Seid pledged the first $100,000 for payments to David Wojick at the U.S. Department of Energy to develop the global warming doubt curricula for schools (see above).
After the leak of Heartland’s budget, documents were confirmed to be authentic when scientist Peter Gleick announced that he had tricked Heartland staff into emailing him their documents. Gleick has been the focus of Heartland’s response to the leaked documents in order to avoid further scrutiny over their contents.
Conferences Rejecting Climate Science
Since 2008, the Heartland Institute has organized six conferences focused on public relations messaging rejecting the conclusions of climate scientists' research, or as described by Naomi Klein in The Nation, "the premier gathering for those dedicated to denying the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is warming the planet." Demonstrating popular topics at Heartland's gatherings, Klein continues:
Claiming that climate change is a plot to steal American freedom is rather tame by Heartland standards. Over the course of this two-day conference, I will learn that Obama’s campaign promise to support locally owned biofuels refineries was really about “green communitarianism,” akin to the “Maoist” scheme to put “a pig iron furnace in everybody’s backyard” (the Cato Institute’s Patrick Michaels). That climate change is “a stalking horse for National Socialism” (former Republican senator and retired astronaut Harrison Schmitt). And that environmentalists are like Aztec priests, sacrificing countless people to appease the gods and change the weather (Marc Morano, editor of the denialists’ go-to website, ClimateDepot.com).
Among active scientists studying and publishing material on climate change, Heartland's conferences have been recognized for their unscientific objectives and unusually high financial compensation. Credible climate scientists generally decline repeated invitations to Heartland conferences for this reason. According to a profile in Nature, Joseph Bast has played the central role in organizing and running the first five of these conferences before "stress-related health problems" forced him to be less active in the sixth conference. Demonstrating the success of Heartland's public relations and contrasting failure of their scientific claims, Bast concedes, "We've won the public opinion debate, and we've won the political debate as well. But the scientific debate is a source of enormous frustration." In contrast, Bast told ClimateWire seven months later that "You don't concede the science," while criticizing organizations like the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) for not rejecting outright the scientific premises of global warming.
Heartland's leaked 2012 Proposed Budget indicates there is no financing for an "International Conference on Climate Change" in 2012.
Inconsistent Positions on Global Warming
In two distinct interviews published in two consecutive days, Joseph Bast delivered seemingly conflicting positions statements on climate change:
From a Wall Street Journal Digital Network interview (Feb. 22, 2012):
"We believe that climate has warmed in the second half of the 20th Century, we believe that there is probably a measurable human impact on climate but it's probably very small, we think that natural forces probably overwhelm any impact that human activity can have, that computer models are too unreliable to forecast what the future might hold for climate and finally that a modest amount of warming is probably going to be, on net, beneficial both to human beings and the ecosystem. We think that that's pretty much actually the consensus of working scientists in this area."
In E&E ClimateWire (Feb. 23, 2012):
“As president of the Heartland Institute, Bast has established a no-surrender strategy to challenge the scientific accord that humans are causing a rise in temperatures. He is a bearded Midwesterner with strong suspicions that a small group of politically connected climate scientists are influencing their community's behavior. The result, he thinks, is an outsized, but shrinking, agreement that man's activity is altering the climate.
"I'm confident that the scientific basis behind the threat has pretty much melted away. So I talk about the global warming ... delusion and how it's gradually unwinding," "It's like any other apocalyptic movement. These things crest, and then they start to retreat, until the next apocalyptic movement comes along and gives us something to get all worried about."
ClimateWire also published Bast’s criticism of other groups that reject climate science to lesser degrees than the Heartland Institute, saying the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and others engage in “pre-emptive surrender” to not reject global warming as a “scientific myth.”
(More quotes from Bast on the topic of climate change can be found below)
Bast promoted Heartland Institute "Talking Points on Global Warming" in 1999.
Opinion-editorial Activism Against Climate Science
Bast frequently responds to newspaper opinion articles that are critical of scientists and public relations consultants who have made careers (paid by fossil fuel interests) promoting unscientific information related to global warming. Repeatedly projecting his own fringe position onto others in order to create confusion over credibility among readers, Bast refuses to acknowledge how an overwhelming majority of active climate researchers and relevant scientific institutions worldwide reject his political positions on global warming, paradoxically accusing those who recognize climate science of being ignorant or deceptive.
For example, Bast attacked climate researcher Matthew England for referring to Heartland as a hub of climate science denial and tobacco apologists. He then promoted the discredited work of Richard Lindzen, Patrick Michaels, and Willie Soon, who have all received direct coal or oil financing to promote global warming doubt, and Roy Spencer, who works for the George C. Marshall Institute, which has received money from ExxonMobil, the Koch family foundations and foundations associated with industrial billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. In another letter, Bast defends astronaut Harrison Schmitt, a Heartland board member who doesn’t have expertise in climatology and now makes a career as a global warming denier. In a similar op-ed response defending Heartland board member and known climate contrarian Harrison Schmitt from criticism that he was making false scientific statements. Bast claimed that “there is no broad agreement as to the causes of the warming, its impacts on human health or animal habitat, whether the warming trend will continue in the 21st century, or, importantly, what if anything should be done about it.”
Beyond writing opposition to public opinion editorials, Joseph Bast also seeks debate with stringent scientific publications such as Science and Nature over climate-related news.
- Writing to Nature in response to an article on Bast: Despite Bast’s opinion that “we must trust the judgment of scientists working in other fields to form opinions on subjects we are not ourselves expert about,” he then mischaracterizes the work of actual climate scientists by claiming they are self-contradictory (Bast has no credentialed training or experience as a scientist). Bast counters the work of scientists with Heartland’s own unscientific reports, rhetoric created by the “climategate” email hack (which repeated investigations showed had no implications for the conclusions of climate science), and asserts that scientific experts are “blinded by ideology or careerism are still defending a hypothesis that has been soundly and repeatedly debunked.” He concludes by telling Nature that, “Until the journal opens its eyes, it will not be a serious voice on climate science.”
- Writing to Science: Despite Heartland's ongoing work promoting climate science doubt in school curricula, Bast writes, “The goal should be to get politics out of the classroom, not protect it by banning debate and censoring objective sources of research.” Misrepresenting the [un]certainties of climate science, he also states “Opposing views are pervasive in the scientific literature on climate change, and surveys show there is no agreement – no consensus – on many of the most important issues in the debate.” Again, Bast concludes his letter by referencing discredited climate skeptics David Legates and Willie Soon.
In a blog entry titled “February 2003: Eight Reasons Why ‘Global Warming’ Is a Scam,” Bast cites the falsified “Oregon Petition,” which included fake names as well as signatories duped into thinking it was a product of the National Academy of Sciences. Bast’s “Eight Reasons…” article includes several debunked arguments and a significant mischaracterization of the position of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) through a de-contextualized quote.
Bast co-authored an opinion piece promoting hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas, claiming that the “scientific data supporting the safety of fracking are overwhelming” and dismissing new studies confirming pollution from fracking operations.
Tobacco Industry Apologist
In prior work for the tobacco industry, Joe Bast "staunchly defended 'Joe Camel'," the mascot for Camel cigarettes. Nature writes, "He is among the last public defenders of smoking and has argued that concerns about second-hand smoke are as bogus as those surrounding greenhouse gases."
“The scientific case against catastrophic global warming is at least as strong as the case for DDT, but the global warming scare hasn’t gone away.”
"Most scientists do not believe human activities threaten to disrupt the Earth's climate"
"A modest amount of global warming, should it occur, would be beneficial to the natural world and to human civilization."
“The best strategy to pursue is ‘no regrets.’ The alternative to demands for immediate action to ‘stop global warming’ is not to do nothing. The best strategy is to invest in atmospheric research now and in reducing emissions sometime in the future if the science becomes more compelling.“ [emphasis Bast’s]
“It is time for common sense to return to the debate over protecting the environment. An excellent first step would be to end the “global warming” scam.”
--February 2003: Eight Reasons Why ‘Global Warming’ Is a Scam, Heartland Institute, Feb. 1, 2003.
“The fear that population growth would overwhelm the planet’s limited resources has now been completely debunked.”
“A third truth I’ve discovered is that we will never run out of fossil fuels.”
“Carbon dioxide is too small a player in atmosphere dynamics to cause the changes predicted by the alarmists.”
“The wind has gone out of the sails of the global warming scare. With every year of satellite data showing no warming, and more and more scientists admitting the computer models are flawed, the claims and predictions of radical environmentalists look more and more foolish.”
“Most Americans now know environmentalists are responsible for the forest fires that have destroyed millions of acres of forests in recent years--including much of Yellowstone Park--and thousands of homes and led to the needless and tragic deaths of firefighters.”
“The thousands of dollars the free-market environmentalism movement gets from corporations is a pittance compared to the billions of dollars--that’s billions with a b, folks--that left-wing environmental groups like the Sierra Club get from socialist philanthropies such as the Pew Trusts, MacArthur Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, and Tides Foundation.”
--Heartland President addresses Common-Sense Environmentalism, May 29, 2004.
"We've won the public opinion debate, and we've won the political debate as well. But the scientific debate is a source of enormous frustration."
--Nature, July 27, 2011.
"And of course principals and teachers are biased… most are liberal Democrats, and large majorities of liberal Democrats believe in man-made global warming [ellipses Bast's]."