And the Award for Media Hackery Goes to … The Weather Channel

Published April 18, 2019

Back in February, a “reporter” with named Pam Wright reached out to me saying she was working on an article that “will explore your conferences and the climate awards you confer on climate realists.”

I did not for a moment think Pam was a friendly reporter, or even a friendly one who would give us a fair shake. But it’s my duty to answer questions as best I can, and my policy is that it’s harder to complain about what shows up in a hit piece if you don’t even attempt to pre-correct the record.

The result of the “long-form piece” she was working on was even worse than I suspected. Titled “And the Award for Climate Change Denial Goes to…,” the story shows that the extent of her “research” and “reporting” consisted of linking to the discredited PR firm DeSmogBlog, misrepresenting the winners of the Climate Change Awards, calling up a few long-time critics of Heartland, and failing to include a single full quote from the complete and informative answers I gave her. Here’s Pam’s lead:

 The decades-long campaign to frame the overwhelming scientific consensus around the issue of climate change as a matter of opinion and not fact has a strange front: awards for, more or less, successfully denying the reality of climate change.

The conservative Heartland Institute, a think tank that leads the charge in denying the scientific evidence for human-caused climate change, gave out 19 awards at Heartland-sponsored “climate conferences” between 2014 and 2017 for just that. According to an analysis by The Weather Channel Digital the recipients included:

Seven people with no background in science whatsoever.

Eleven with a bachelor’s level degree or better in a science.

One with no higher level degree at all.

Five with a bachelor’s level degree or better in climate science, specifically.

Nineteen (out of 19) who have established ties to industry groups and/or the Heartland Institute or other climate-skeptic think tanks.

Six who published on the subject of climate change in peer-reviewed journals, making them among the minority of publishing scientists in the topic of climate change.


My email response to Pam Wright and my full answers to her queries are below. But let’s first address one bullet point she listed about the award winners: “Seven people with no background in science whatsoever.”

So, what? Not all the awards were for achievement in science.

Sen. John Barrasso and Sen. Jim Inhofe each earned a “Political Leadership on Climate Change Award.” Apollo 7 Astronaut Walt Cunningham and Christopher Monckton each earned the “Dauntless Purveyor of Climate Truth Award.” Myron Ebell was awarded the “Speaks Truth to Power Award.” Anthony Watts and Tom Harris each earned the “Excellence in Climate Science Communication Award.” Cal Beisner was awarded the “Outstanding Spokesperson on Faith, Science, and Stewardship Award.”

Was the reporter too dense to understand (1) that some of the awards obviously don’t require an advanced degree in “climate science,” (2) the credentials, life’s work, and reputations of the scientists recognized by awards speak for themselves, and (3) that the awards are called the Climate Change Awards, not the Climate Science Awards? Perhaps this obvious rebuttal to that bullet point, and others, is why she refused to link to the website of the awards itself. She wouldn’t want her readers to make these determinations for themselves, because they’d also notice that Heartland didn’t give out all the awards; most were awarded by other organizations using our event as a venue.

Also: Has The Weather Channel, which has celebrated the work of Al Gore with dozens of stories, ever done a “long-form” piece outlining his lack of credentials for all the awards he’s received over the years? Of course, the answer is no. Gore has collected scores of honors – including (absurdly) the Nobel Peace Prize. And if one cares about credentials, Gore has a bachelor’s degree in government and is a law school dropout.

Below is my response to Pam Wright, part of the “Digital News Team” for Enjoy yet another great example of hack journalism vs. the truth.


This was the hit piece I expected …

Why are you denying your readers a link to the climate conference archive site or the site we have for the climate awards? I provided both links to you. And while you can’t link to Heartland’s sites for your readers, you do link to DeSmog, a PR firm funded by radical leftist climate activists. That’s hackery and water-carrying, not journalism.

You present the information I gave you for critics to comment on, at length, but not the other way around. Indeed, you couldn’t even quote a full sentence from me, let alone allow a response to the hits and insults from our critics. I even offered scientists for you to interview, but you declined.

It took you weeks to produce this “long form” piece? Pathetic.

Jim Lakely
Director of Communications
The Heartland Institute


Here are my answers to your questions.

Why hasn’t there been a conference or award winners in 2 years?

Heartland hasn’t had a major climate conference in the United States since 2017, but we are making plans to host another one in 2019, probably in DC. We’d expect another awards ceremony at that one, too.

We have, however, hosted the America First Energy Conference twice – once in November 2017 in Houston and the second in August 2018 in New Orleans. So you could say we decided to focus a little more on energy policy than climate policy – though they are obviously linked – the last two years. Again, we’re in the early stages of planning another International Conference on Climate Change in 2019 in Washington, DC. Stay tuned.

What is the purpose of the awards?

To recognize the courage it takes to be skeptical of the dogma of climate alarmism. Many of the people honored, especially academics, have suffered under constant pressure and harassment from activists, their peers in the field, and even the universities they work for. And because they are principled, follow the data where it leads, and speak out about publicly, they are not going to be recognized by the likes of the Sierra Club or Greenpeace or an association of scientists – who are mostly just leftist groups who use a scientific moniker to mask their activism.

Why is it important to recognize what climate realists have to say?

Because they are drowned out and under constant harassment by the professional environmental left, the legacy media, and the keepers of alarmist dogma in academia. Heartland has played a huge part in making sure their work is respected and gets the amplification it deserves. They are open to challenges to their work, unlike those pushing flawed computer models and alarmist dogma.

Why are the conferences so important for all of us?

Because without The Heartland Institute putting on our International Conferences on Climate Change, there would be no organized and scientific push-back on alarmist dogma. Heartland has organized these conferences almost annually since 2009, which has helped create a network of hundreds of climate realists (including more than 200 who have spoken at these conferences) who can share data and support each other’s work. If it was not for these conferences, and Heartland’s work to bring skeptic scientists together, the state of climate science would be a heck of a lot poorer. And so would the world.

Do conferences and awards help organizations such as yours get equal time in the mainstream media?

Not remotely. The legacy media is populated by leftists who take the word of alarmists and the IPCC (though I repeat myself) without an ounce of skepticism. So, yes. Heartland’s conferences – which can’t be ignored because they feature some of the most-credentialed scientists and policy experts in the world – help bring but a fraction of the “equal time” this side of an ongoing debate deserves.

What do you say to alarmists who say realists are flat out wrong or refuse to believe the 97 percent consensus of climate scientists that believe climate change is human-caused and will have significant impacts on future.

First of all, the “97 percent consensus” claim is garbage which has been debunked over and over. I refer you to this piece from 2014 by Heartland’s Joseph Bast and Dr. Roy Spencer which cites exactly how that meme began and why it’s untrue.

This is outlined in more detail in Heartland’s book Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming.

So they don’t “believe” the 97% number because it isn’t true. The scientists we work with would simply say: Show me the data. Because the data they have seen – and much of it is outlined in nearly 5,000 pages from the peer-reviewed literature in the Climate Change Reconsidered Series – shows that human activity is not causing a climate crisis.

If you’d like to be put in touch with some of the scientists we work closely with, I’d be happy to do so. And I can put you on the mailing list to get a free copy of the latest volume, which should be back from the printer in March.

Any other thoughts?

See you this summer in DC to cover our conference – and I hope with your TV cameras.

– Jim