Reply to our Critics
Anonymity allows bloggers and other participants to post vicious, libelous statements without fear of recrimination. There is no pretext of objectivity in the blogosphere and no journalistic morality. Instead, it has evolved into a platform for hateful, offensive attacks on institutions and individuals from all corners of society.
— 39th Trend/Forecasting Report, The Dilenschneider Group, September 2009
The Heartland Institute often is the target of misinformation and even outright lies about its mission, funding and donors, and members and staff. These attacks come overwhelming from left-wing advocates who object to our principled stand in defense of individual liberty and limited government.
This page rebuts some of the most widely spread attacks on our reputation. The Heartland Institute welcomes alerts from allies about other attacks that should be confronted with facts. Please contact Jim Lakely, communications director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional information about The Heartland Institute's programs, people, and funding is available in our 2012 annual report.
Q: What is "Fakegate"?
On February 20, 2012, Peter Gleick confessed to stealing documents from The Heartland Institute with the intent of exposing its funding sources and damaging its reputation. He also disseminated a fake "climate strategy memo" that he and other environmental activists on the left claim describes Heartland's "secret strategy" to mislead the public about the true nature of climate change. At first Gleick claimed he obtained the fake memo along with other documents from The Heartland Institute. Then he claimed it came from an anonymous source before he stole the documents. Heartland has consistently and unambiguously said the memo is a forgery and was not produced by anyone associated with The Heartland Institute.
"Fakegate" is the title given to this scandal by the London Telegraph's James Delingpole.
Peter Gleick is a MacArthur "Genius Award" recipient, was chairman of the "Task Force on Ethics" at the American Geophysical Union (resigned because of Fakegate), was a member of the the board of the National Center for Science Education (resigned over Fakegate), and current president of the Pacific Institute. He is featured in a 2012 "documentary" film titled "Last Call at the Oasis."
The Heartland Institute conducted an internal investigation that showed the memo was not authored by anyone at the organization. And two external, independent investigations — one by Protek International and one by Juola & Associates — found the same. Many others have also conducted excellent investigations into this matter.
Why this scandal matters
Fakegate matters because it reveals the inner workings of the radical environmentalists who have turned climate science into a politically-driven movement. Peter Gleick is not the exception. He is not one man who made a poor choice. He is representative of the character of many of the leading voices in the global warming movement. The tactics he used to try to shut down debate – deception and outright lies – are common in the environmental movement.
This is not the first time the global warming movement has been exposed by a scandal. In 2009 and again in 2011, a whistle blower inside the University of East Anglia leaked emails showing the loudest “roosters” of the global warming movement conspiring to limit debate, hide uncertainty, and destroy data. The scandal has been called “Climategate.”
Fakegate is worse than Climategate. Climategate showed scientists violating the law as well as basic ethical standards of science, but they avoided prosecution due to a technicality. In Fakegate, Peter Gleick has already confessed to assuming a false identity to steal documents.
A flagrant violation of ethics
On February 14, DesmogBlog and ThinkProgress posted on their Web sites the stolen documents, plus a forged document allegedly describing the “secret plans” of The Heartland Institute. One day later, the Huffington Post joined the gang.
Amazingly, members of the Fakegate Gang refuse to take down the false and defamatory documents, even though almost everyone admits they are either stolen or faked. Leftist bloggers, and even some "mainstream media" outlets cite the fake memo to this day.
Why didn’t DesmogBlog, ThinkProgress, and the Huffington Post get confirmation of the documents’ authenticity before posting and blogging about them? How could they not have known that posting the documents would invade the privacy and endanger the safety of many people?
Those organizations hoped Fakegate would harm Heartland financially and stop us from pursuing our mission of advancing free-market solutions to social and economic problems — which inludes advancing scientific rigor and sound policy on the climate. They failed. The Heartland Institute increased its individual donor base three-fold in 2012.
For more information and comprehensive coverage of Peter Gleick's Fakegate scandal, visit Fakegate.org.
Q. Is Heartland's position on tobacco control "extremist" or outside the scientific mainstream?
A. No. Heartland's long-standing position on tobacco is that smoking is a risk factor for many diseases; we have never denied that smoking kills. We argue that the risks are exaggerated by the public health community to justify their calls for more regulations on businesses and higher taxes on smokers, and that the risk of adverse health effects from second-hand smoke is dramatically less than for active smoking, with many studies finding no adverse health effects at all. These positions are supported by many prominent scientists and virtually all free-market think tanks.
We take these principled positions on tobacco control despite their being very politically incorrect and despite receiving little (and in some years no) funding from tobacco companies because they are freedom issues. The left uses junk science to demonize smokers, which then clears the way for higher taxes on smokers, restrictions on their personal freedoms, and restrictions on the property rights of the owners of bars and other businesses. This is why advocates of liberty must address tobacco control issues, even if it means losing financial support from potential donors who are anti-smoking.
Attacks on the reputations and ethics of the scientists we work, which frequently appear online, are uninformed and disheartening. Dr. Bruce Ames, Dr. James Enstrom, and Dr. Kip Viscusi, to name just three, are among the world's elite experts on cancer, epidemiology, and risk. Their accomplishments and personal integrity vastly exceed those of their critics. Just as importantly, their ideas and factual statements are readily available on our Web site and elsewhere, open to rebuttal and discussion.
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to read and understand the science of second-hand smoke and the economics of excise taxes and smoking bans. Our critics ought to actually read what Ames, Enstrom, and Viscusi have written and point out their errors, if they exist, rather than engage in ad hominem attacks. It's obvious that few of them have or can.
Q. Can you reply to specific accusations made by The Union of Concerned Scientists?
A. Yes. The Union of Concerned Scientists is a far-left environmental advocacy group that is trying to raise funds by slandering The Heartland Institute in its fundraising pitches. It recently (August 2013) posted an inaccurate and libelous slideshow on its Web site called "Exposing the Disinformation Playbook." Heartland is prominently featured. While pretending to expose the tactics and intentions of groups that oppose global warming alarmism, it is itself filled with disinformation, contains few actual facts, employs falsehood and innuendo, and engages in ad hominem attacks.
The UCS slideshow states:
"Heartland has a long history of intentionally trying to confuse the public on behalf of corporate sponsors."
This is absolutely false, malicious, and libelous. We have never compromised our principles or altered our research findings to satisfy or attract a corporate donor. UCS cites no evidence to back up this baseless claim.
Heartland's purpose is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. In the debate over the causes and consequences of climate change, we defend the scientific method and promote legitimate, peer-reviewed research on the question of whether human activity is causing a crisis. We raise funds from some 8,300 individuals, foundations, and corporations. We have policies that strictly forbid undue influence by donors on our research and educational efforts.
Heartland’s efforts in the area of climate change include careful reporting on the debate for the past sixteen years in monthly issues of Environment & Climate News; eight international conferences on climate change attended by more than 3,000 people; scores of policy studies, reprints, and videos; widespread distribution of five books on the subject; and publication of the world’s most comprehensive critiques of the alarmist reports of the United Nations, a series of volumes under the title Climate Change Reconsidered. A third volume in that series will be released in September, which may explain UCS’s decision to attack us in this manner.
We urge the public to go to www.heartland.org/issues/environment and www.ucsusa.org and judge for themselves who is “intentionally trying to confuse the public”: UCS or Heartland? Which organization has produced more scholarly research and informed commentary? Which one devotes most of its attention to politicizing the issue, scaring people with misleading images and rhetoric, and attacking those who disagree? The answer will be clear within a couple minutes.
Slide 39 in the UCS slideshow states:
“Big Carbon wants to sell more coal, oil, and gas—even if it means lying about the scientific evidence showing that the resulting carbon emissions threaten our planet.”
The photo slide shows cooling towers most likely at nuclear power plants releasing steam – not carbon dioxide (which is invisible). Who is “trying to confuse the public”? Even the phrase “carbon emissions” is meant to confuse and mislead, since it is carbon dioxide and not the element carbon that is of concern to some scientists.
Slide 8 refers to Heartland Institute Policy Advisor Steve Goreham: “In February 2013, Goreham claimed that rewnewable sources of energy such as wind power don’t reduce carbon dioxide emissions when they are added to the electric grid.” Slide 9 states: "... wind power itself produces no emissions at all.”
Steve Goreham’s excellent book, The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism, is “an amusing and colorful, yet science-based, look at mankind’s obsession with global warming.” [Publishers Weekly] He clearly shows that wind turbines, because they create energy only about 30 percent of the time, require conventional power plants to be constantly ramping up and down to ensure a stable supply to the grid, in the process creating more carbon dioxide than they would in the absence of the windmills. Not a single coal-powered generating plant has been removed from the U.S. grid due to wind power. So Goreham is right.
Slide 14 claims:
“The Heartland Institute is a prime example. For years, the organization has received funding from fossil fuel interests such as ExxonMobil and the coal magnate Koch brothers.”
For which years? How much? And did the funding influence Heartland’s work? Answers to these questions prove that this is a smear intended solely to misrepresent Heartland’s funding base and motivation. The Heartland Institute has not received any funding from ExxonMobil since 2006. Most of our work on climate change (other than reporting on the debate in Environment & Climate News) started in 2008, after ExxonMobil stopped funding us. Heartland received a single donation from the Charles G. Koch Foundation in the last decade: $25,000 in 2012 for our work on health care policy, not climate or energy policy. Funding from fossil fuel and tobacco companies has never amounted to more than 5 percent of Heartland’s annual income.
There is absolutely no evidence, anywhere, that our relationships with Altria, ExxonMobil, the Koch Foundation, or any other donors was anything other than honorable and professional. This is merely an attempt by UCS to smear Heartland by association – helped by a mainstream media that constantly demonizes these companies.
UCS claims that “Koch Industries” funds Heartland and other groups. In fact, Heartland has never received funding from Koch Industries but instead only extremely modest funding from a Koch foundation. UCS, which exercises its right to keep donors anonymous, says it is funded by “foundations” and takes no corporate money. But is that really true by the definition it applies to the Koch foundations? By UCS’s standards, it would be fair to say it is heavily funded by “Big Green Energy.” We have no doubt that it is.
We could go on debunking UCS’ presentation slide by slide – because nearly every one contains disinformation or outright falsehoods – but let’s close with UCS’ claim that groups such as Heartland create an “echo chamber” in which skepticism about global warming alarmism is promoted. The truth is that Heartland is on the outside of an enormous “echo chamber” created by liberal advocacy groups such as UCS. We are trying to introduce a little truth and common sense to the public debate. It’s not easy. Groups like UCS have budgets many times larger than ours, and media bias on the global warming issue is so intense that we’ve been virtually blacklisted (except for pieces that repeat the UCS’s lies and innuendo). Al Gore compared us to racists, alcoholics, and Holocaust deniers without a single protest or complaint from the mainstream media. Whose got an echo chamber? Not us.
And speaking of funding, the Sierra Club received $25 million from Chesapeake Energy, a natural gas company; the National Academy of Sciences is getting $350 million from BP, the oil company; and Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the IPCC, has received more money from oil companies to support his annual Delhi Sustainable Development Summit than Heartland has raised from them in all 29 years of its existence. So… should we not believe the Sierra Club, the NAS, or the IPCC?”
If you are interested in learning the truth about climate change (and a wide range of other important public policy issues), visit www.heartland.org/subscribe and sign up for free digital subscriptions to some of our publications. You’ll be impressed by the calm and professional tone of our work, as well as our commitment to accuracy and the truth.
Think for yourself. The truth is out there, and it isn’t coming from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
- People who disagree with our views have taken to selectively disclosing names of donors who they think are unpopular in order to avoid addressing the merits of our positions. Listing our donors makes this unfair and misleading tactic possible. By not disclosing our donors, we keep the focus on the issue.
- We have procedures in place that protect our writers and editors from undue influence by donors. This makes the identities of our donors irrelevant.
- We frequently take positions at odds with those of the individuals and companies who fund us, so it is unfair to them as well as to us to mention their funding when expressing our point of view.
- No corporate donor gives more than 5 percent of our budget, and most give far less than that. We have a diverse funding base that is too large to accurately summarize each time we issue a statement.
More than 31,000 scientists have signed the Oregon Petition saying "there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing, or will in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate." There is no similar petition in support of the alarmist position that has been signed by anywhere near 31,000 scientists.
Nearly 300 of the world's leading scientists spoke at one or more of Heartland’s eight International Conferences on Climate Change, These include scientists from NASA and NOAA, official state climatologists, professors from prestigious universities all over the world (including Harvard, Yale, and MIT) and officials at the Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior.
Our conferences have been described by friend and foe alike as the most important and influential gatherings of global warming "skeptics" ever assembled. These conferences were covered by CNN, Fox News, ABC News, the BBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, La Monde, The Wall Street Journal, and many other media outlets.
Heartland's spokespersons have been invited to testify on global warming issues before Congress and in state legislatures and official government meetings in Ohio, Kentucky, Connecticut, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia, Utah, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Colorado, Arkansas, and more.These are not the activities of a group on the "extreme margin of the discourse" on global warming.
In fact, the positions on global warming expressed by spokespersons for The Heartland Institute are closer to where most scientists and economists stand than are the views of well-known alarmists such as Al Gore and James Hansen and many environmental advocacy groups. The American public understands this: A majority of the public does not believe global warming is man-made or that it is a major problem.
In short, The Heartland Institute is firmly within the "mainstream" of expert opinion on global warming. Its spokespersons are credible and respected in the national and international debate. Those who claim otherwise should be asked to document the existence of the alleged "consensus" in favor of their alarmist visions of future global warming.