The Australians backing Heartland’s climate science misinformation

A version of this blog originally appeared at DeSmogBlog.

ANY conference worth its salt needs a nice long list of sponsors to give the impression of widespread diverse support for whatever the conference organisers are advocating.

In the case of the Heartland Institute and their advocacy for the denial of the risks of human-caused climate change, their just-started conference for climate science misinformers in Chicago can boast official supporters from as far and wide as India, England, Austria and New Zealand.

But one of the most devoted and long-standing group of supporters for their climate change denial conferences over the years has come from Australia. This year there are four Australia-based groups listed as “co-sponsors” and over the history of the seven conferences no less than nine different Australian groups have been happy to have their organisation’s name hitched to Heartland’s colors.

A mistaken impression could be that there’s widespread support for Heartland’s extremist views in Australia. The word “co-sponsor” gives the impression that these organisations are willing to actually give up money to support.

Yet in at least one case, and probably several others, being a co-sponsor is as easy as contacting Heartland and saying that you agree with them. The reality is that those supporting Heartland from Australia come from a small circle of active and loud free-market idealogues.
Take for example a first-time sponsor, the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance, an organisation launched in May this year by its executive director Tim Andrews. Mr Andrews has spent recent years in Washington being taught how to build a “grassroots” movement of free-market idealism in Australia similar to that of America’s Tea Party movement.
Andrews is a graduate of the Koch Associate Program, a scheme funded by the same oil billionaire Koch brothers who have been pumping millions into America’s climate denial campaign under the umbrella of a “grassroots” Tea Party movement. Andrews also worked for Americans for Tax Reform, which has also sponsored Heartland’s conferences. It’s a “grassroots” movement being created in the narrow interests of the likes of the Koch brothers. Continue reading “The Australians backing Heartland’s climate science misinformation”
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Heartland billboards strike grubby new low

IN a promotional video for the upcoming Heartland Institute’s climate change sceptics’ conference in Chicago, the think-tank’s president Joseph Bast said the scientists coming together for the shindig “deserve a lot of attention”.

So how would Joe Bast help them to gain that richly deserved attention?

How about sticking a picture of murderer and terrorist Ted Kaczynski – a.k.a the Unambomber – on a giant billboard next to the words “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?”

According to a Heartland press release, this would be the first in a series of ads which would feature Osama Bin Laden, Fidel Castro and Charles Manson, who Heartland says all “believe” in global warming.

In a press release, Joe Bast said:

Heartland’s first digital billboard…  is the latest effort by the free-market think tank to inform the public about what it views as the collapsing scientific, political, and public support for the theory of man-made global warming. It is also reminding viewers of the questionable ethics of global warming’s most prominent proponents.

There’s not much point in spelling out why this campaign is mind-numbingly dumb and stupefyingly offensive, but then let’s be pointless for a moment. I wonder if the unabomber, or Castro or bin Laden accept evolution too and if I should then feel dirty and grubby for having that in common with them. On the picture used for the billboard, Kaczynski can clearly be seen wearing clothes. I wear clothes too. Am I turning into some sort of nutcase?

The Guardian’s Leo Hickman called the campaign “possibly one of the most ill-judged poster campaigns in the history of ill-judged poster campaigns”.

Bast, with his hypocrisy-booster now turned up well past eleven, justified the posters by saying: “We found it interesting that the ad seemed to evoke reactions more passionate than when leading alarmists compare climate realists to Nazis or declare they are imposing on our children a mass death sentence.”

Perhaps climate science denier Lord Christopher Monckton should give Mr Bast a call to set him straight, given he has cornered the market in Nazi name-calling.

Heartland has now pulled the digital billboard after a stream of protests from those which it would consider to be on their side, although Joe Bast said he would not apologise. Climate sceptic Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, one of the conference speakers, threatened to pull out if the ads were not removed. Another speaker, climate sceptic Ross McKitrick, called the ads “fallacious, juvenile and inflammatory” and believed the campaign “sullies the reputation of the speakers you had recruited”.

Heartland last made headlines when a small cache of documents, deceptively acquired from its headquarters by scientist Peter Gleick, revealed the institute was planning to devise a new curriculum to teach climate denial in schools. The documents also revealed it was paying some academics thousands, including James Cook University’s Bob Carter, who is a speaker at the Chicago conference at the end of the month. Professor Carter is an advisor to a string of climate science misinforming organisations, including the Institute of Public Affairs, a sponsor of previous Heartland conferences.

Professor Carter isn’t the only Australian connection to the conference. Among its “silver sponsors” are the Australian Libertarian Society and the Carbon Sense Coalition.

The ALS treasurer is Tim Andrews, the executive director of the new Australian Taxpayers Alliance which has stated its first mission to campaign against Australia’s carbon price legislation. Andrews is a veteran of the Koch Associate Program in the US, a project of the oil industry billionaire Koch brothers who have been pouring millions into climate denial campaigns.

The Carbon Sense Coalition is a small-time climate change sceptic organisation founded by coal industry veteran Vivian Forbes, a current director at Brisbane-based Stanmore Coal.

Presumably after this episode, the 19 corporations which – along with the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil – have helped fund some of Heartland’s projects over the years will now be considering whether they’re happy to ever again have their names associated with a think-tank which juxtaposes climate science acceptance with the morals of mass murderers.

After the Heartland leaks earlier this year, GM Motors said it was severing all ties with Heartland. Will the likes of PepsiCo, Pfizer and Time Warner Cable now follow?

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