Year 4, Month 10, Day 27: The Earth Sucks

Joseph Bast is the fetid mouthpiece of the Heartland Institute, and he’s been given a big mouthpiece by USA Today:

Environmentalists hoped the latest study from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) would finally end the increasingly acrimonious debate over the causes and consequences of climate change. It has had the opposite effect.

MIT physicist Richard Lindzen called the IPCC report “hilarious incoherence.” British historian Rupert Darwall labeled it “nonsense” and “the manipulation of science for political ends.” Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology says the IPCC suffers from “paradigm paralysis” and should be “put down.”

The most precise criticism of the IPCC’s report came from the editors of Nature, one of the world’s most distinguished science journals: “Scientists cannot say with any certainty what rate of warming might be expected, or what effects humanity might want to prepare for, hedge against or avoid at all costs.”

Just shoot me. Oct. 17:

When the Heartland Institute’s Joe Bast blithely asserts that the IPCC report “exaggerates” the risks of global climate change, his cherry-picking of scientific criticism of the report is grossly mendacious. For example, Bast cites an editorial comment in the journal “Nature” which notes that “scientists cannot say with any certainty what rate of warming might be expected” — but ignores the rest of the article, which reaffirms both that warming is happening and that its consequences are likely to be disastrous.

The IPCC document is the result of collective decision-making, which means that the report’s conclusions actually minimize, rather than inflate, the dangers of runaway climate change. Mr. Bast’s statements are fundamentally dishonest and do a grave disservice to the national discussion of a genuine threat. For USA Today to offer the voices of climate-change denialism such a public forum in a time of genuine planetary emergency is sadly irresponsible.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 6, Day 25: You Don’t Know What Love Is…

The Cedar Rapids (IA) Gazette gives column space to the infamous Tom Harris. I’d almost forgotten about this asshole.

Last month, U.S. Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) hosted an unbiased climate change panel discussion in Fairmont, W.V. Experts from both sides of the climate debate participated without restrictions of any kind.

McKinley’s open-minded approach is one that should be copied across the United States. Considering what’s at stake — a human-induced eco-collapse if former Vice President Al Gore and his allies are correct, or, if skeptics are right, a waste of billions of dollars and the loss of millions of jobs as we experiment with a switch away from hydrocarbon fuels to alternative energy sources — the risks are too high to do anything less.

No matter what Gore and founder Bill McKibben tell us, experts in the field know that climate science is highly immature. We are in a period of “negative discovery,” in that the more we learn about climate, the more we realize we do not know. Rather than “remove the doubt,” as Gore tells us should be done, we must recognize the doubt in this, arguably the most complex science ever tackled.

The confidence expressed by Gore, McKibben and President Barack Obama that mankind is definitely causing dangerous climate change is a consequence of a belief in what professors Chris Essex (University of Western Ontario) and Ross McKitrick (University of Guelph, Ontario) call the “Doctrine of Certainty.” This doctrine is “a collection of now familiar assertions about climate that are to be accepted without question” (Taken by Storm, 2007).

Fuck. I need a shower. June 10:

Let’s pass over the longstanding relationship between Tom Harris’ reassuringly-named International Climate Science Coalition with the odious Heartland Foundation (notorious for their billboards comparing environmentalists with Charles Manson and the Unabomber). Let’s pass over the ICCC’s incestuous links (identical IP addresses!) with other notorious climate-change denial groups, and let’s choose to ignore Mr. Harris’ explicit advocacy of misinformation and confusion.

Instead, let’s just look at his advice. A measured call for “calmness” in the discussion of global climate change sounds ideal, doesn’t it? But Mr. Harris’ advice is profoundly wrong, for multiple reasons.

First: what Mr. Harris calls “calm” is simply an excuse for doing nothing — and given that the consequences of a runaway greenhouse effect go beyond garden-variety adjectives like “dire” and “terrifying,” that’s the last thing we need. Second: the science of climate change is as close to settled as it’s going to get; a recent study analyzed almost 34,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers on anthropogenic global warming and found only one out of every thousand rejected the prevailing climatological consensus. That’s not just a minority opinion; that’s statistical irrelevance.

Let’s use an analogy. After you find a suspicious lump, the biopsy results lead your doctor to recommend that you start therapy immediately. Getting a second and even a third opinion is wise. But if nine-hundred and ninety-nine oncologists call it cancer and advise treatment, “calm” inaction is no longer reasonable, but suicidal.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 12, Day 1: Let’s Socialize The Profits And Privatize The Losses For A Change!

The Concord Monitor runs an AP article titled: “Climate change skeptics take aim at state energy mandates.” It’s our old buddies at the Heartland Institute!

The Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank skeptical of climate change science, has joined with the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council to write model legislation aimed at reversing state renewable energy mandates across the country.

The Electricity Freedom Act, adopted by the council’s board of directors in October, would repeal state standards requiring utilities to get a portion of their electricity from renewable power, calling it “essentially a tax on consumers of electricity.” Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have binding renewable standards; in the absence of federal climate legislation, these initiatives have become the subject of intense political battles.

The legislative council, or ALEC, is a conservative-leaning group of state legislators from all 50 states that has sought to roll back climate regulation in the past. It lost some corporate sponsors early this year because of its role promoting “stand your ground” laws that allow the use of force in self-defense without first retreating when faced with a serious threat.

But the involvement of the Heartland Institute, which posted a billboard in May comparing those who believe in global warming to domestic terrorist Theodore Kaczynski, shows the breadth of conservatives’ efforts to undermine environmental initiatives on the state and federal level. In many cases, the groups involved accept money from oil, gas and coal companies that compete against renewable energy suppliers.

The Heartland Institute received more than $7.3 million from Exxon Mobil between 1998 and 2010, and nearly $14.4 million between 1986 and 2010 from foundations affiliated with Charles and David Koch, whose firm Koch Industries has substantial oil and energy holdings.

James Taylor, the Heartland Institute’s senior fellow for environmental policy, said he was able to persuade most of ALEC’s state legislators and corporate members to push for a repeal of laws requiring more solar and wind power use on the basis of economics.

“Renewable power mandates are very costly to consumers throughout the 50 states, and we feel it is important that consumers have access to affordable electricity,” Taylor said. “We wrote the model legislation and I presented it. I didn’t have to give that much of a case for it.”

Taylor dismissed the idea that his group pushed for the measure because it has accepted money from fossil-fuel firms: “The people who are saying that are trying to take attention away from the real issue – that alternative energy, renewable energy, is more expensive than conventional energy.”

Fuckers. Sent November 25:

Heartland Institute spokesman James Taylor’s confident assertion that “renewable energy, is more expensive than conventional energy” is disingenous at best, mendacious at worst. While oil, coal and natural gas appear cheaper initially, once externalities are included, the cost goes through the roof. What “externalities?” Well, let’s start with the enormous government subsidies to fossil fuel industries — since our tax money is what makes the price of these conventional energy sources so low to begin with, we’ve already paid once at the pump before we even start filling our tanks.

Next, let’s remember that tankers run aground, pipelines leak, and pumping stations can aren’t exactly disaster-proof. Who cleans up after catastrophic spills? Once again, American taxpayers are on the hook; while companies may pay some fines, these never actually cover the cost of such a disaster. Instead, mopping up and decontamination comes out of our wallets. The public health and environmental effects of coal and oil are handled similarly.

On a larger scale, the grim fact is that America’s military power is often part of the geopolitical strategy of energy. Would conservatives be beating the war drums so vigorously if Iran had no oil? These costs should properly be added to the bill for fossil fuels as well. Finally, it’s no longer feasible to deny either the existence of global climate change or the role of conventional fuels in the accelerating greenhouse effect. Far from being cheap, fossil fuels may well wind up costing us everything we value, and more.

Warren Senders


Year 3, Month 9, Day 21: So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed

The Marysville, CA Appeal-Democrat reprints that same stupid editorial quoting a Heartland Institute flack:

When Hurricane Isaac hit Louisiana, “the storm provided a rare break in one of the longest periods of hurricane inactivity in US history,” said James Taylor, senior fellow for environment policy at the Heartland Institute, Indeed, 2012 also is breaking records for the lack of tornado activity, according to the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration records. Ditto for droughts and floods, records show.

Low-Hanging Fruit….Sent September 14:

It was just a few months ago that the Heartland Institute was opened up to public disgust and ridicule when the secretive conservative think tank initiated a billboard campaign comparing climate scientists to the Unabomber. Given that they apparently had more billboards ready to go which extended the comparison to other major villains, including Charles Manson, the controversy probably did this group of diehard climate-change denialists a favor. Around the same time, climatologist Dr. Peter Gleick released internal documents regarding Heartland’s plans to promulgate misinformation about climate change to science teachers in American public schools. Gleick, by the way, has been completely exonerated of any wrongdoing — something which cannot be said of Joe Bass and the rest of his colleagues at Heartland.

An op-ed prominently quoting a Heartland Institute spokesman on climate change deserves to be taken about as seriously as a tobacco industry statement denying a link between smoking and cancer. Oops! Turns out Heartland has a long-standing relationship with the cigarette industry. Paging Philip Morris!

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 9, Day 19: Sunny Days I Thought Would Never End

The Orange County Register (CA) is a wingnut outpost, and they’re true to form in an editorial published on September 11:

For years, President Barack Obama has been curiously low-key about global warming, or climate change, as politically correct terminology now prefers. Perhaps that’s because, when running for office in 2008 he overpromised, declaring that his nomination would mark “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow, and our planet began to heal.”

It wasn’t quite passing the buck, but the president altered his climate-change rhetoric slightly last week in accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for a second term. “More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke,” Mr. Obama said. “And in this election, you can do something about it.”

The president’s assurance that a vote for him will “do something about” droughts, floods and wildfires is reminiscent of his 2008 hyperbole. Climate alarmism relies on connecting disparate and often-unrelated dots in a hypothetical chain of cause and effect that is far from proven.

When climate alarmists declare the Earth is experiencing unprecedented horrific weather because of global warming and man-made greenhouse gases, it’s just so much hot air.

When Hurricane Isaac hit Louisiana, “the storm provided a rare break in one of the longest periods of hurricane inactivity in U.S. history,” said James Taylor, senior fellow for environment policy at the Heartland Institute, Indeed, 2012 also is breaking records for the lack of tornado activity, according to the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration records. Ditto for droughts and floods, records show.

James Taylor, huh? I tend to lean a little more in the direction of Fire and Rain. Sent September 12:

When your dismissal of the world’s climate scientists is built around a statement from a Heartland Institute spokesman, you know you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. After all, they’re the same people who equated genuine environmentalists with the Unabomber in a scurrilous billboard campaign that was only halted after a huge public outcry. These are the same people who instituted a massively-funded campaign to insert misleading science curricula in our nation’s public schools, with the express aim of muddying public understanding of the climate crisis. Given their public record of mendacity and character assassination, Heartland’s reliability as a source of meaningful data and analysis is close to zero.

Despite the pronouncements of a few contrarians, the conclusions of the world scientific community about climate change are pretty darned alarming. They agree that we’re facing a complex and extremely dangerous period in our civilization’s history — one that will require every ounce of foresight and preparation we can muster. “Alarmism” under these circumstances is just plain common sense.

Remember that the CIA’s warnings about Osama Bin Laden in the spring of 2001 were repeatedly dismissed as “alarmism” by the Bush administration — and we all know how that turned out.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 5, Day 30: Heartland Haz A Sad

Awwwwwwww. So sad. Heartland’s feeling some heat:

In a fiery blogpost on the Heartland website, the organisation’s president Joseph Bast admitted Heartland’s defectors were “abandoning us in this moment of need”.

Over the last few weeks, Heartland has lost at least $825,000 in expected funds for 2012, or more than 35% of the funds its planned to raise from corporate donors, according to the campaign group Forecast the Facts, which is pushing companies to boycott the organisation.

The organisation been forced to make up those funds by taking its first publicly acknowledged donations from the coal industry. The main Illinois coal lobby is a last-minute sponsor of this week’s conference, undermining Heartland’s claims to operate independently of fossil fuel interests.

Its entire Washington DC office, barring one staffer, decamped, taking Heartland’s biggest project, involving the insurance industry, with them.

Board directors quit, conference speakers cancelled at short-notice, and associates of long standing demanded Heartland remove their names from its website. The list of conference sponsors shrank by nearly half from 2010, and many of those listed sponsors are just websites operating on the rightwing fringe.

“It’s haemorrhaging,” said Kert Davies, research director of Greenpeace, who has spent years tracking climate contrarian outfits. “Heartland’s true colours finally came through, and now people are jumping ship in quick order.”

Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of sociopaths. Sent May 20:

By sponsoring billboards comparing climate scientists to mass murderers, the Heartland Institute proves that bizarre beliefs lead inexorably to bizarre behaviors. This secretive corporatist think-tank has for years invested enormous fiscal and intellectual capital in ideas unconnected to verifiable scientific fact; their plans for the promotion of anti-science curricula demonstrate: this isn’t just ordinary climate-change denial, but near-sociopathic fabulism.

But organizations this disconnected from reality in one area cannot be expected to understand the consequences of their actions in other areas, which is why Heartland’s response to the predictable outrage generated by their grotesque guilt-by-association strategy seems so clumsily pathetic. “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities,” wrote Voltaire, centuries ago. We now have a new corollary to his apothegm: those who believe their own absurdities cannot recognize their own atrocities.

Heartland’s wounds are entirely self-inflicted — yet another inconvenient reality for them to deny.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 5, Day 26: Zippadee Doo Dah Day

More on the Heartland idiocy, this time from the Pocono Record (NY):

The Heartland Institute may be doing climate scientists a big favor through its lastest anti-climate change campaign.

The group is employing a sensational illogic in trying to debunk the theory that the earth is warming, allying repellent criminal characters with an acknowledgement of rising temperatures. It’s an odd marriage, so odd that maybe deeper thinkers will question its merit, as they should.

Recently, the Heartland Institute launched a billboard advertising campaign in Chicago featuring the image of convicted “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski along with the statement, “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?”

The so-called think tank announced plans to link deranged murderer Charles Manson and international terrorist Osama bin Laden to global warming, too.

Maybe their idea is that the unknowing public will begin to identify climate scientists as beyond the pale — mentally ill criminals or insanely cruel religious zealots.

So is Defense Secretary Leon Panetta a nut case? Panetta has described global warming as a national security threat.

Is former vice president Al Gore a terrorist? You may not agree with his assessment that climate change is “An Inconvenient Truth,” but should he really be locked up?

I know who deserves to be locked up. Sent May 16:

Given the possible catastrophic consequences of a runaway greenhouse effect, the irresponsibility of denialist organizations like the Heartland Institute is staggering. In cherry-picking from the available climatological research only the few small smatterings of data which support their predetermined conclusions, Heartland’s “experts” engage in a travesty of scientific method. This alone would warrant dismissal of their assertions. But by framing the discussion of climate change with comparisons between climate scientists and deranged sociopaths, the corporate-funded “think tank” has sacrificed any remaining vestiges of credibility.

In reality, of course, the worldwide scientific consensus on climate change is exceptionally robust, and getting more so every day as new evidence is integrated with the old. By preventing or delaying much-needed policy responses to the rapidly unfolding crisis, organizations like the Heartland Institute are far closer to those conscienceless mass murderers than the researchers and environmentalists they have so grotesquely maligned.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 5, Day 20: Godwin Likes Puppies!

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, on the Heartland Institute:

The Heartland Institute was forced to pull its billboard campaign comparing those who believe in climate change – the vast majority of credible scientists – to mass murderers. The recall came within 24 hours of launching the despicable campaign.

The billboard was meant to promote the Chicago-based right-wing think tank’s seventh annual International Conference on Climate Change, scheduled for later in May. A billboard along the Eisenhower Expressway featured a mug shot of Una- bomber Theodore Kaczynski and said, “I still believe in Global Warming. Do You?”

“Other global warming alarmists who may appear on future billboards include Osama bin Laden and James J. Lee (who took hostages inside the headquarters of the Discovery Channel in 2010),” read a May 3 news release from the institute.

Generic by now. I wonder what new catastrophe will provide fodder for letters next week? Sent May 11:

The disastrous failure of their short-lived billboard campaign doesn’t appear to have embarrassed anyone at the Heartland Institute. Their irrelevant and offensive attempt to link climate scientists with mass murderers demonstrates conclusively how little factual evidence exists to support climate-change denial.

The already robust scientific consensus on anthropogenic global climate change is becoming stronger by the day, as researchers all over the planet contribute to a significant body of understanding. While climatologists do err, most of their mistakes have been in underestimating the consequences of various climate forcing agents.

Perhaps in the wake of this debacle, our media will belatedly recognize that these petrol-funded denialists contribute nothing to the discussion beyond grotesque character assassination and absurd ad-hominem arguments, and acknowledge that there is no meaningful scientific disagreement about the basic facts of the climate crisis. By revealing their intellectual bankruptcy, Heartland’s advertisements may ultimately have done us all a favor.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 5, Day 18: I Like To Use The Word “Whinging,” Don’t You?

The Christian Science Monitor, on the Heartland Institute’s billboard craziness:

Update, 5:23 p.m Eastern Time: In a statement by Heartland president Joseph Bast, the organization announced that it will be taking down the Unabomber billboard after only 24 hours. Bast wrote that the billboard was an “experiment” meant to “turn the tables” on climate-change advocates.

“We know that our billboard angered and disappointed many of Heartland’s friends and supporters, but we hope they understand what we were trying to do with this experiment,” Bast wrote. “We do not apologize for running the ad, and we will continue to experiment with ways to communicate the ‘realist’ message on the climate.”

The “experiment” resulted in “uncivil name-calling and disparagement” from climate-change scientists and activists, Bast complained.

Come the deluge, they deserve to drown. Sent May 8:

Given that Heartland Institute’s bizarre guilt-by-association ad campaign insultingly compared thousands of dedicated scientists and researchers to deranged murderers, it’s bizarre to hear Heartland’s president Joseph Bast whinging about an “uncivil” response. If any party in this wholly manufactured controversy deserves the description, it’s those who thought the grotesque billboards were a good idea, not the justifiably incensed scientists and environmentalists who responded.

But the real irony lies in the word’s deeper connotations. To be civil means more than just being polite; it is to respect the society of which one is a part. Thus means the Heartland Institute is downright anti-civil — for surviving the looming climate crisis will need the resources, cooperation and ingenuity of our civil society. By denying the problem and demonizing those who are trying to alert the rest of us, Heartland undermines America’s greatest national resource: our ability to work cooperatively with one another.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 5, Day 17: The Changer Things Are, The Samer They Get

The Washington Post is one of many papers addressing the Heartland Institute’s shark-jumping:

A stark mug shot of domestic terrorist Ted Kaczynski briefly took center stage in the increasingly ugly debate over climate change Friday as the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank funded by major corporations, launched a billboard campaign equating people convinced that global warming is real to the convicted killer.

“I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?” read big orange letters next to the Unabomber’s infamously grizzled face on an electronic billboard along the Eisenhower Expressway outside Chicago, the Heartland Institute’s home.

The billboard went live Thursday afternoon. But by 4 p.m. Eastern time, an outcry from allies and opponents alike led the Heartland Institute’s president, Joe Bast, to say he would switch off the sign within the hour.

By the time this surfaces on the blog, of course, the story will be old news. But Heartland’s people will still be assholes of brobdingnagian proportions. Sent May 7:

According to the Heartland Institute, the fact that various unsavory individuals have expressed concern about climate change is ipso facto an argument against the existence of anthropogenic global warming. Pooh. Ted Kaczynski probably mentioned the law of gravity somewhere in his screeds, but that doesn’t mean we should reject Isaac Newton’s math.

The grotesque billboards positing a false equivalency between a worldwide scientific consensus and the deluded rantings of Charles Manson and the Unabomber are a new version of an old trick: guilt by association. During the fifties and sixties, Khrushchev criticized American racism — and in response, segregationist politicians labeled Martin Luther King a communist. Unable to argue away the facts of the climate crisis, Heartland Institute can only resort to name-calling.

Aside from demonstrating the susceptibility of American conservatives to irrelevant ad-hominem arguments, Heartland’s latest stunt only reminds us: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Warren Senders