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Heartland Replies to Inside Climate News

December 24, 2017

Neela Banerjee’s December 22 article for Inside Climate News, titled “How Big Oil Lost Control of Its Climate Misinformation Machine,” is a “Through the Looking Glass” history of the climate change debate. Here are some corrections.

Alice in Wonderland - Through the Looking Glass

The awful “billboard campaign” Banerjee  describes in the opening paragraph of her article,  which is titled “How Big Oil Lost Control of Its Climate Misinformation Machine,”consisted of one billboard created by The Heartland Institute that ran in 2012 for less than 24 hours on a single  site along a freeway in suburban Chicago. It cost about $500. But it apparently will live in infamy in the minds of environmental activists.

The billboard featured a picture of Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. The text read “I still believe in global warming. Do you?” It mimicked other ad campaigns that use celebrities to push a cause and reminded liberal environmentalists that their favorite cause also is championed by a murderer and madman.

The billboard hit its target hard, as good satire does. It broke a news blackout that environmentalists and the legacy media had imposed on Heartland and other groups that challenged the Gore-Obama dogma on global warming. Far from hurting Heartland, as Banerjee claims, it saved us: 2012 was a breakthrough year for us with record funds raised, record media attention, and record attendance at our events.

That year also marked the moment Heartland’s views on climate change moved from marginal to mainstream. New scientific research, opinion polls, and political support all show a shift in the debate away from ”the sky is falling” alarmism to “it’s mostly natural and only liberals still believe in it” realism. We’ve been winning the debate ever since.

Banerjee writes, “Hundreds of millions of dollars from corporations such as ExxonMobil and wealthy individuals such as the billionaires Charles and David Koch have supported the development of a sprawling network, which includes Heartland and other think tanks, advocacy groups and political operatives.”  No, this isn’t true.

Most of the money was spent by oil, natural gas, and the nuclear energy industry trying to throw the coal industry under the bus, paying for a long series of “we’re part of the solution” ad campaigns pandering to low-information consumers and aimed at appeasing the left. That didn’t work.

ExxonMobil did contribute around $50,000 a year to Heartland for about a decade, and it reported this giving in its annual reports. It was never a secret, and never more than 5% of our annual budget. The Kochs never gave us even that much, stopped earlier, and never funded our work on climate change.

Exxon stopped giving to us ten years ago, in 2007, precisely because we concluded man-made climate change is not a crisis. Exxon’s position, then and now, is that climate change may be a crisis, but solutions require either a “carbon tax” (which no conservative think tank endorses) or an international treaty  imposing real restrictions on emissions by India  and China (which will never occur). That stance may be good corporate PR, but it’s not good enough for a think tank devoted to finding and speaking the truth.

Banerjee reports a recent incident at a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, where ExxonMobil and a few other big corporations and trade associations blocked a resolution calling on EPA to withdraw its endangerment finding. A majority of legislators supported our resolution, but the corporate members feared they would be targeted by environmental groups and legacy media for supporting “global warming denial.” It’s difficult to blame them for that.

Banerjee quotes some of the usual suspects dishing ad hominem attacks against us. The first is Jerry Taylor, founder of something he calls the Niskanen Center, who used to be a global warming skeptic until his paychecks started to be signed by billionaire alarmist Jay Faison and the far-left Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Not a credible source.

Next up is Greenpeace, which has been pushing the line that conservative groups are paid to lie about global warming ever since it was fed to them by Al Gore. One supposes their heads would explode if they had to admit that Heartland, the conservative group doing more on the global warming issue than any other think tank in the world, gets nothing from Exxon or the Kochs. Not a credible source.

Next in line is Robert Brulle, a “professor of sociology at Drexel University,” often cited by the liberal media as an expert on conservative think tanks in the climate change debate.  But his work is inaccurate and has been thoroughly debunked. He’s just another liberal activist pretending to be a “social scientist.” Not a credible source.

Banerjee stoops to attack a distinguished climate scientist, Dr. Willie Soon, claiming his “notion” that that solar cycles drive climate change “has been discredited by mainstream science.” No source given. Of course Soon’s work has not been discredited. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) simply assumed away a major role for solar cycles, and mounting evidence suggests Soon and other solar physicists had it right all along.

Why did Inside Climate News run a piece littered with factual errors and relying on discredited sources? Maybe because Inside Climate News isn’t what its title says it is. It was started as a PR project by liberal environmentalists, and “many of their biggest funders also support environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club and Earthworks and environmental activists including 350.org founder Bill McKibben.”

Sort of sounds like a “climate misinformation machine,” doesn’t it?

Author
Joseph Bast is a Director and Senior Fellow at The Heartland Institute. He cofounded Heartland in 1984, serving as executive director then as president & CEO until January 2018. His research and writing focuses on climate change and energy policy.
jbast@heartland.org @JosephLBast

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