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Climate Scientist Empathy for Climate-Denier Heartland Institute’s travails …

February 17th, 2012 · 3 Comments

In light of Heartland Institute’s inadvertently sending out a hundred pages of internal confidential documents, which lay out their budget and name many of their otherwise anonymous Corporate contributors (but not their major ‘anonymous donor’), seven leading climate scientists have sent Heartland an open letter expressing sympathy for the challenges of having seemingly private material open suddenly for perusal by millions of people. As the letter begins

As scientists who have had their emails stolen, posted online and grossly misrepresented, we can appreciate the difficulties the Heartland Institute is currently experiencing following the online posting of the organization’s internal documents earlier this week.

The sympathy is, however rather limited because of the (not that surprising) content of the Heartland documents.

However, we are greatly disappointed by their content, which indicates the organization is continuing its campaign to discredit mainstream climate science and to undermine the teaching of well-established climate science in the classroom.

While the specific  “climate strategy” document might not be an actual Heartland Institute document and the words “dissuading the teaching of science” might not be a true quote from Heartland written documents, the substance of the climate strategy document stands up to scrutiny.  As per LA Times reporting

Heartland says that a document in the recently released mix, entitled 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy is a fake. But several of the key points the document makes are backed up elsewhere. Most notably, in a fundraising document, Heartland identifies one of its priorities as reshaping the discussion of climate change in classrooms.

As E&E reported:

The embattled Heartland Institute has roundly condemned journalists for writing about or posting a climate change strategy memo earlier this week that, while attributed to the organization, Heartland says is a “total fake.”
But the memo was released late Tuesday night together with other budget and fundraising documents that the right-leaning think tank says appear to have been written by its president and mentions programs that are also detailed in the other documents.

E.g, while Heartland Institute might wish to spread confusion and distraction over whether two pages out 100+ originate in their computers, the basic truthfulness remains: Heartland seeks to undermine America’s K-12 science education when it comes to the critical issue of climate change.

Heartland intends to raise and spend $100,000 (and more) to promote an anti-science curriculum to help foster a false belief of major scientific controversy within climate science when there is very strong scientific and factual basis behind the basic points of climate science:

  • The climate is warming.
  • Human activities are a major driver in this warming.
  • Global Warming is having impact on species and ecological systems.
  • Unchecked, climate change could have catastrophic impacts on human civilization.

As the seven scientists phrase it

These are the facts: Climate change is occurring. Human activity is the primary cause of recent climate change. Climate change is already disrupting many human and natural systems. The more heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions that go into the atmosphere, the more severe those disruptions will become. Major scientific assessments from the Royal Society, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, United States Global Change Research Program and other authoritative sources agree on these points.

Heartland, however, works assiduously to undermine understanding of these facts.

After all, it is hard to see how Heartland Institute’s intent is to foster a sound science education as opposed to fostering sound science in support of its policy concepts and ideological objectives.

The scientists letter lays out, however, their perspective on a critical distinction. They are challenging Heartland’s efforts to undermine science while stating, clearly, that they are not stating that Heartland cannot engage in the policy debate — even as urging that engagement to occur on the basis of truthful engagement with science.  As they conclude:

We hope the Heartland Institute will begin to play a more constructive role in the policy debate. Refraining from misleading attacks on climate science and climate researchers would be a welcome first step toward having an honest, fact-based debate about the policy responses to climate change.

The full letter is after the fold.

An Open Letter to the Heartland Institute

As scientists who have had their emails stolen, posted online and grossly misrepresented, we can appreciate the difficulties the Heartland Institute is currently experiencing following the online posting of the organization’s internal documents earlier this week. However, we are greatly disappointed by their content, which indicates the organization is continuing its campaign to discredit mainstream climate science and to undermine the teaching of well-established climate science in the classroom.

We know what it feels like to have private information stolen and posted online via illegal hacking. It happened to climate researchers in 2009 and again in 2011. Personal emails were culled through and taken out of context before they were posted online. In 2009, the Heartland Institute was among the groups that spread false allegations about what these stolen emails said. Despite multiple independent investigations, which demonstrated that allegations against scientists were false, the Heartland Institute continued to attack scientists based on the stolen emails. When more stolen emails were posted online in 2011, the Heartland Institute again pointed to their release and spread false claims about scientists.

So although we can agree that stealing documents and posting them online is not an acceptable practice, we would be remiss if we did not point out that the Heartland Institute has had no qualms about utilizing and distorting emails stolen from scientists.

We hope the Heartland Institute will heed its own advice to “think about what has happened” and recognize how its attacks on science and scientists have helped poison the debate over climate change policy. The Heartland Institute has chosen to undermine public understanding of basic scientific facts and personally attack climate researchers rather than engage in a civil debate about climate change policy options.

These are the facts: Climate change is occurring. Human activity is the primary cause of recent climate change. Climate change is already disrupting many human and natural systems. The more heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions that go into the atmosphere, the more severe those disruptions will become. Major scientific assessments from the Royal Society, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, United States Global Change Research Program and other authoritative sources agree on these points.

What businesses, policymakers, advocacy groups and citizens choose to do in response to those facts should be informed by the science. But those decisions are also necessarily informed by economic, ethical, ideological, and other considerations. While the Heartland Institute is entitled to its views on policy, we object to its practice of spreading misinformation about climate research and personally attacking climate scientists to further its goals.

We hope the Heartland Institute will begin to play a more constructive role in the policy debate. Refraining from misleading attacks on climate science and climate researchers would be a welcome first step toward having an honest, fact-based debate about the policy responses to climate change.

  • Ray Bradley, PhD, Director of the Climate System Research Center, University of Massachusetts
  • David Karoly, PhD, ARC Federation Fellow and Professor, University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Michael Mann, PhD, Director, Earth System Science Center, Pennsylvania State University
  • Jonathan Overpeck, PhD, Professor of Geosciences and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Arizona
  • Ben Santer, PhD, Research Scientist, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Gavin Schmidt, PhD, Climate Scientist, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
  • Kevin Trenberth, ScD, Distinguished Senior Scientist, Climate Analysis Section, National Center for Atmospheric Research

Tags: climate change · science

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