Feb 15, 2012

Leaked docs from climate-denying think tank reveal strategy

Leaked documents from a US think-tank which denies the risks of climate change show links to an Australian academic and detail a strategy to pursue funds from corporations affected by climate policies. Graham Readfearn reports.

Update: The Heartland Institute is challenging the veracity of some of the documents which this article cites. In a statement, they claim one of the documents,  titled “Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy” is a "total fake". Heartland says it is checking the eight remaining documents to ascertain if any have been altered. The institute's full statement can be found here In addition, the Koch foundation mentioned in the story says claims in the leaked fundraising document that they are to make a $200,000 contribution are false, and that the foundation has made no such commitment to fund climate change work at Heartland. A 2011 grant of $25,000 went to Heartland for work on healthcare, the statement clarified. The Koch foundation statement is available here Leaked financial reports and documents from a US-based think tank that denies the risks of human-caused climate change show links to an Australian academic and detail a strategy to pursue funds from corporations affected by climate policies. The documents from the Chicago-based Heartland Institute -- leaked online by climate news site DeSmogBlog -- also reveal the think tank has been moulding its messages to fit the requirements of funders, contrary to its own public claims. According to a "proposed budget" statement for 2012, Australian scientist Bob Carter will receive $1667 per month for his work on the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change -- a rebuttal written by Heartland-paid scientists to question the well-regarded UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Carter’s affiliation is listed in the document as "James Cook University & Institute for Public Affairs". The Institute for Public Affairs has previously sponsored Heartland’s climate change conferences -- where Carter has been a regular speaker -- which almost exclusively feature experts and academics who disagree that human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases through burning fossil fuels represent a significant risk. The document also discloses that the foundation of oil magnates Charles and David Koch gave the institute $200,000 last year. Also discussed is a key but unnamed "anonymous donor" who has given more than $2.5 million in the past two years for the institute’s climate work. According to Heartland’s website:
"We do not take positions in order to appease or avoid losing support from individual donors ... People contribute to The Heartland Institute because they share our belief that better information and understanding can improve public policies in such important areas as education, environmental protection, and health care."
Yet in the leaked memo, Heartland states that "if our focus continues to align with their interests" then they expect the Koch brothers to contribute more funds. The memo also states it will actively pursue funding from corporations who stand to lose out from climate change policies:
"Our climate work is attractive to funders, especially our key Anonymous Donor (whose contribution dropped from $1,664,150 in 2010 to $979,000 in 2011 -- about 20% of our total 2011 revenue). He has promised an increase in 2012 -- see the 2011 Fourth Quarter Financial Report. "We will also pursue additional support from the Charles G. Koch Foundation. They returned as a Heartland donor in 2011 with a contribution of $200,000. We expect to push up their level of support in 2012 and gain access to their network of philanthropists, if our focus continues to align with their interests. Other contributions will be pursued for this work, especially from corporations whose interests are threatened by climate policies."
In 2011, the documents show Heartland paid a team of writers $388,000 to work on a series of reports under their Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change project. This project, the report says, is being funded by two foundations that have "both requested anonymity". Professor Carter was a lead author on the NIPCC’s latest "interim report". In a document titled "2012 Fundraising Plan", it is revealed that its "anonymous donor" has given $8.6 million since 2007 for "global warming projects". Funders to other general Heartland projects are revealed to include some major corporations, including Microsoft, Pfizer, Time Warner Cable, Eli Lilly and Bayer. The "confidential memo" dated January 2012 outlines a climate strategy for Heartland, which claims is "leading the fight to prevent the implementation of dangerous policy actions to address the supposed risks of global warming". The memo also states how Heartland "plays an important role" in broader communications on climate change. In particular, Heartland highlights the work of its senior environment policy fellow James Taylor’s blog on Forbes:
"Through his Forbes blog and related high-profile outlets, our conferences and through co-ordination with external networks (such as WUWT and other groups capable of rapidly mobilising responses to new scientific findings, news stories, or unfavourable blog posts)."
The memo says that Heartland is concerned Forbes has begun to publish articles containing "warmist science" that "counter our own":
"This influential audience has usually been reliably anti-climate and it is important to keep opposing voices out."
If funding can be obtained, the memo concludes, then existing efforts will be expanded and new ventures developed. DeSmogBlog (for which this author is a paid contributor) has made all the documents available on its website.

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44 thoughts on “Leaked docs from climate-denying think tank reveal strategy

  1. michael crook


  2. Liz A

    This is an absolutely stunning set of revelations…


    But I do have a general question, I am wondering whether James Cook University
    a) knew whether Bob Carter was receiving a monthly stipend from the Heartland Institute (are academics / teaching staff supposed to declare monies like this to their employers?) or
    b) will be happy with their new-found association with a denialist lobby organisation or remove Carter from his position?

    Either way its pretty damming for them.

    It also raises some timely questions around the tax status of lobbyist organisations that masquerade as NFP thinktanks: not too dissimilar to the discussions that are emerging in Australia.

  3. Warren Joffe

    From the article
    “…..the well-regarded UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

    Someone who regards the IPCC as a crook and corrupted body which has still not redeemed itself might say “well-regarded” before proceeding to demolish its reputation. But the author of this article is obviously happy with its work and willing to treat it as the legitimate authority on which thousands of well meaning people who have no, or no relevant (important word) scientific qualifications rely when they accept that there is reason to squander vast amounts of money on windfarms, solar power with prematurely adopted technologies, ETSs etc. So…. read Donna Laframboise’s “The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Scientist” (from memory) and, unless you are prepared to put the hard research work into the question of the IPCC’s performancee that she did you should be wary of contining to trust the IPCC or the conclusions it would have us draw from its 6 or 7 inconsistent models. Please don’t be like one its unnamed (I think) targets, one Peter Gleich, and make fool of yourself (as he did in an Amazon.com review) by attacking a book that clearly hasn’t been read.

  4. Liz A

    Oh Warren, you have truly been suckered if you believe what Laframboise has written.

    She omitted to outline in her book that the IPCC does not conduct climate research, it reviews and summarizes scientists’ studies of climate change. The assessment reports have three volumes consisting of 10-20 chapters. Each chapter has around 7-10 lead authors and 2 coordinating lead authors and goes through two rounds of scientific review. Four of the lead authors could have been chimpanzees and it wouldn’t have made a dent in the scientific heft of these massive reports.

    That whole book was written on a premise that was basic misunderstanding of how science and scientific publications work. In evaluating a scientific study, prior to acceptance and publication, scientists look at the quality of the research and whether the conclusions are well supported by data. They do not need to know the educational level or afilliation of the author(s).

    Her argument in that book was that if you don’t have a PhD, plenty of experience and published papers to your name then you should be ignored on any given subject? Then by that standard she, Anthony Watts, Lord Monckton and every other bellowing crank on the internet should be ignored forthwith. Unlike the scientists in question, Laframboise is a former journalist and a photographer. She has a degree in Women’s Studies! Great qualifications to comment on the process of scientific review.

    More importantly though, the excerpts Readfearn has quoted in this article have been lifted directly from the Heartland documents in question. These documents expose a (tax exempt) “thinktank” as a lobbyist organisation with views paid for by companies and individuals with a clear financial interest in denying the existence of climate change.

    If that’s not a symptom of “crook and corrupted” I don’t know what is.

  5. Malcolm Street

    What a bunch of a***holes.

    “Money doesn’t talk, it swears”… – Bob Dylan

  6. Warren Joffe

    @ Liz A

    I am not interested in the Heartland Institute. I don’t use it as a source for information and knowledge that I seek, but I would like you to demonstrate that you have read Laframboise’s book yourself rather than picked up some of the cheap blog comments from people who started out with such preconceptions about the issues that they didn’t bother to do their own homework. It took me three evenings reading to get through it and I still didn’t manage to follow up every link and check every footnote but, in the course of suggesting to others that they read it all and check the footnotes and links if they wanted to get maximum value from it I discovered how few people are willing to put the effort into reading something which takes even that sort of commitment. That applies to people who are sceptical of the importance of AGW and those who are believers. Hence, with the additional evidence of your actual comments, I am pretty sure that you don’t know what you are writing about. If you do, prove it.

    It has not been my professional habit to be “suckered” by poor research or arguments and I have learned to pick those who glibly repeat a party line like yours! I do know a number of the scientists who have taken part at various levels in the compilation of the IPCC reports and I have learned nothing from them which sheds doubt on Laframboise’s work though none of them are those she cites as disenchanted with their experience of the IPCC.

  7. Sancho

    This won’t work out the way it should.

    What should happen is that the leaked documents confirm what’s been obvious since the start: that climate change skepticism is pure Astroturf established by industry groups to, as the Heartland Institute puts it, “align with their interests”, which should devastate the denialist cause and put a bullet in any remaining credibility it had.

    What will happen is, first, that denialists will treat this like it never happened, and repeat a mantra of “focus on the science”, which means “ignore the blatant corruption and clear pro-polluter agenda in everything we’ve said about climate science, and instead get tied down in an interminable debate over minute data points with people who believe the sun is made of iron and lobbyists are scientific experts”.

    Second, the denialists will play my-conspiracy-theory-is-bigger-than-yours. That is, act as though the perfectly obvious and confirmed industry strategy of attacking science that doesn’t suit shareholder portfolios can safely be ignored because it’s less impressive than a paranoic drama about the global scientific institution being seized by a co-ordinated cabal of Marxist scientists who are, strangely, only interested in money.

    Climate change skepticism is simply reheated creationism – but geared to benefit a different type of authoritarian institution – and, just like creationism, its proponents aren’t amenable to evidence-based reasoning.

  8. Liz A

    Well done Sancho, your prediction has been proven.

    Andrew Bolt has played the “my conspiracy theory is bigger than yours” card on his blog today.

    He has tried to say that
    a) lots of other “warmist” scientists get lots of money to be employed pedalling their wares (Tim Flannery, Hoegh-Guldberg, James Hansen).

    b) Carter’s payment is small by comparison and it is for expenses.


    The only problem is that in the case of a) these monies are declared by their respective employers, and in the case of Hoegh-Guldberg was for a single project. There is no “secret” about their affiliations or their sources of income.

    Bob Carter DID hide this income (and so did JCU if they knew about it).

    In the case of b), Bolt has stated that it was payment for expenses… monthly…. for YEARS…

    If this is the case, then WHY should Heartland be paying for Carter’s expenses? What, are they paying part of his mortgage? Is he travelling to Singapore and back every month? If this is a work related expenses payment, WHY isn’t JCU paying them? JCU are his principal employer.

    His argument is a classic attempt to compare an apple and a banana by saying “these 2 things are exactly the same, only because they are fruit”.

  9. Stephen

    Undisclosed or disguised cash-for-comment is not just for talk show hosts. It happens at all Australian universities and CSIRO these days, and is regarded as perfectly normal and acceptable behaviour according to the new Orwellian rules of managerialist double-speak. This guy’s just a beginner compared with world champions like Mr Big Population at ANU, aka Peter McDonald.

  10. Warren Joffe

    Liz A

    What world are you living in going on about the chickenfeed Carter is supposed to have received as expenses. On one of the two occasions that I have heard this serious (though human like them all) scientist speak he was making mincemeat of one of the lead authors of the last few IPCC reports who had been paid at a far greater rate for a paper he had just given with nothing new in it. Not the slightest doubt he is fighting what he genuinely regards as bad science (no doubt true of Ian Plimer too and many others whom non-scientists smear as if they were booing their football team’s opponents in pure tribal fashion. Those in the hard sciences, includinig theoretical physicists, seem to agree on saying the IPCC’s use of mathematical models (especially six or seven different ones with different parameters, algorithms and results) without adequate empirical verification is not sound science on the basis of which one can sensibly decide to spend billions, especially when, in Australia’s case it can only weaken our ability to do something about the consequences of anyclimate change which continuing recovery from the Little Ice Age or AGW caused by China, India and the US may inflict on us.

    But even distinguished scientists (eg Sir Gustav Nossal) and well known ones (like Tim Flannery) have no independent scientific basis for their pious do-something-about CO2 views and rely on the corpus of scientists being people of integrity and competence who make the IPCC authoritative for them and for politicians. But if it is not, and, after reading Laframboise”s book in particular (though there has been plenty of other less well organised evidence), it isn’t for me until someone with analytical skills reads the Laframboise book carefully and refutes it – other than by parroting the party line as, so far, you have.

    It matters if government spend money (directly or indirectly) on windfarms, inefficient solar power in unsuitable locations like Germany, carbon taxes which drive our competitive industries offshore etc. when there are so many better ways that the money we acquiesce in governments taking from us could be spent. That the earth is warming still and will probably warm a little faster because of the CO2 emissions (which will go on rising whatever Australia does to damage its economy) is, in practice, irrrelevant to Australian policy.

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