Reply to Mann and Oreskes

Published January 11, 2016

[NOTE: This letter to the editor appeared, without links, on January 10, 2016 on the website of the Lakeland Times.]

Michael Mann and Naomi Oreskes certainly showed their true colors in their January 8 letter (“With friends like The Heartland Institute…“). Other writers have done a fine job exposing Mann’s and Oreskes’ utter lack of credibility, so I won’t repeat any of that.

It appears Mann and Oreskes chose the Lakeland Times as a somewhat unlikely venue to put on the record every lie and half-truth about The Heartland Institute spread (with their help) on the Internet. So here, for the record, is some truth-telling.

The Heartland Institute is a 32-year-old independent nonprofit research organization. Approximately 239 academics, scientists, and professional economists write for us and participate in our peer-review process and more than 200 elected officials serve on our Legislative Forum.

We are funded by the contributions of some 6,000 men and women who share our free-market perspective. We address a wide range of issues, not just global warming.

We support and publish the work of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), an international network of climate scientists created in 2003 by Dr. S. Fred Singer, one of the world’s most distinguished physicists. NIPCC is currently a project of three independent organizations: Science and Environmental Policy Project, Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, and The Heartland Institute.

NIPCC’s series of reports, titled Climate Change Reconsidered, has been highly praised by real scientists and cited more than 100 times in peer-reviewed journals. The first two volumes in the series were translated into Chinese and published by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The Climate Change Reconsidered volumes are formatted similar to the reports of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) because they are replies to and critiques of the latter. This purpose as well as the identities of the sponsoring organizations, authors, and publisher appear prominently on book covers, prefaces, introductions, online versions, and so on. Anyone capable of reading English (or Mandarin) is able to distinguish NIPCC reports from those of IPCC.

Over the past 25 years, The Heartland Institute has published millions of words about global warming – more than 9 million, according to a recent study published in Global Environmental Change. This work has produced a gale of ridicule, threats, and outright lies about our funding, motives, and work, much of it from Mann and Oreskes themselves. If four of our 9 million words included “madmen” and “queen of smear,” I’m okay with that.

Heartland has never attempted to “equate climate scientists with the Unabomber.” We ran one billboard for one day, with a picture of Theodore Kaczynski and this text: “I still believe in global warming. Do you?” It was satire – look it up – and had its intended effect, generating waves of indignation and mock outrage by climate alarmists. It broke the media’s black-out of the work of Heartland and other climate realists. The circumstances at the time demanded that we not be polite – Google “Fakegate” to read about the vicious attack on us that had occurred a few months earlier.

Heartland is not “a Koch Brothers-funded ‘think tank’” We’ve received one grant, of $25,000 for a health care reform project, in the past 15 years. Mann and Oreskes should apologize for this deliberate smear, but past experience says they won’t.

Heartland has never “served tobacco interests,” another deliberate smear. We defend smokers from excessive taxation and document how public health groups exaggerate the threat of second-hand smoke. Google “Leave Those Poor Smokers Alone!” to read my views and see if you disagree.

For nearly 25 years, I have had the privilege of working with a global community of scientists and policy experts to understand, not just “believe in,” climate change. We conclude the human impact is small, the amount of warming in the coming century is likely to be moderate, and the benefits of such warming, should it occur, are likely to exceed the costs. Our conclusions are widely shared in the scientific community, maybe even shared by a majority of scientists. But we don’t claim the debate is over, and we don’t attack scientists who disagree with us.

I agree with Mann and Oreskes on one thing, though, and that is their conclusion: It is time we stopped repeating nonsense and started working together on solutions.