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Sierra Daily

Feb 15, 2012

Heartburn At Heartland

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If documents leaked (or stolen, depending on one’s point of view) from the Heartland Institute prove to be authentic, they pinpoint the free market think tank as a chief organizer and paymaster for the climate-change denial movement. The eight documents obtained by DeSmogBlog and ThinkProgress seem to confirm what many environmentalists and climate scientists have long suspected: a large campaign, funded by some of the nation’s largest corporations and wealthiest individuals, to cast doubt on the reality of climate change and to slow action to address it.

Heartland, it should be noted refuses to confirm the authenticity of the documents, and maintains that one “is a total fake”:

The stolen documents were obtained by an unknown person who fraudulently assumed the identity of a Heartland board member and persuaded a staff member here to “re-send” board materials to a new email address. Identity theft and computer fraud are criminal offenses subject to imprisonment. We intend to find this person and see him or her put in prison for these crimes.

DeSmogBlog’s response to the Heartland denial is here.

Various news organizations have since confirmed important portions of the revelations in them, including payments to Heartland from Microsoft and GM. Other corporations revealed to have funded Heartland’s efforts allegedly include Koch Industries, Altria (the parent company of tobacco giant Philip Morris), Time Warner Cable, and Comcast.

The largest donor, however, is a well-heeled “Anonymous Donor” who gave just shy of $1 million last year and $4,610,000 in 2008. His generous funding went to pay for—among much else—a rightwing mirror to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change called the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, and $100,000 to fund an effort by climate-change denying meteorologist Anthony Watts to cast doubt on U.S. temperature monitoring stations.

Among the more explosive information in the documents is evidence of payments to “high-profile individuals who regularly and publicly counter the alarmist message.” Among these are many of the best known names in the climate-denial world: $11,600 a month to Craig Idso, $5,000 a month (plus expenses!) to Fred Singer, and $1,667 a month to Robert Carter.

The release of the damning documents, and Heartland’s outrage, is ironic in light of the fact that the institute was among the major promoters of "Climategate," the 2009 hacking of emails from climate scientists at the University of East Anglia in Great Britain. As noted by The Guardian,

At the time, Heartland said the theft of those personal emails created "an opportunity for reporters, academics, politicians" to revise their belief in climate change.

The Heartland documents now provide the same opportunity to those who have bought into the tawdry world of climate-change denial.  

--Paul Rauber

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