Last week, a blog called DeSmogBlog obtained a number of leaked documents from the Global Warming denialist think tank the Heartland Institute. They are publishing the documents in order to crowdsource analysis and fact-finding about their activities. Some of the findings so far include:
- They speak openly about trying to monopolize climate discussion in magazines such as Forbes, and trying to “keep opposing voices out.”
- About 20% of their funding comes from a single anonymous donor, who gave just under $1 million in 2011.
- They directly fund climate denialists such as Craig Idso ($11,600/month), Fred Singer ($5,000/month) and Robert Carter ($1,667/month).
- They are attempting to create a Global Warming Curriculum for use in K-12 schools.
According to Charles Johnson from LittleGreenFootballs.com, the Heartland Institute has sent him an email threatening legal action if he doesn’t remove links to the documents.
All of this reminds me of the tobacco industry’s attempts to confuse the issues around nicotine addiction and cancer studies. How they paid for scientific research to cast doubt on the overwhelming evidence that their product caused cancer, that their product was addictive, etc. The playbook is exactly the same. I wonder if the internet had been around in the 60s, 70s or 80s how that battle would have played out. The public consensus is pretty united around the scientific consensus that cigarettes cause cancer and that nicotine is addictive. That seemed to take about 30 years or so in the face of an active disinformation campaign.
Obviously the internet allows for things like crowdsourcing research on document dumps like this one, but it also gives these Heartland Institute mountebanks their own megaphones and ways to disseminate their crap. You never really know what the ratio of honest debaters and sockpuppet shills are in any given forum. Maybe it all works out the same, or maybe the entire process is just as contentious but accelerated.
Unfortunately we really don’t have the luxury of waiting anymore.