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RP Siegel headshot

Heartland to Present Climate Denial Awards

Words by RP Siegel

Is there anything about the Koch Brothers’ Heartland Institute that isn’t disingenuous?

This week the group announced its 2015 Climate Change Award winners, though, if it were being truthful it should have called them the Climate Change Denial Awards. That would make it more clear what this is all about. But Heartland is not really interested in clarity. Publicity, confusion and doubt are its main stock in trade, serving its masters by perpetuating the idea that climate change is just some hypothetical idea cooked up for political reasons by people they don’t like very much. Pay no attention to those droughts and floods and melting glaciers (and that man behind the curtain).

The awards will be presented at the so-called Tenth International Conference on Climate Change taking place this week in Washington, D.C.

Since the pool of potential candidates is so small and inbred, it’s not surprising that the winners are familiar names, most pulled directly from Heartland’s cadre of doubt-mongers. Some are on the payroll; many have predominantly distinguished themselves by their ability to embarrass those associated with them, as much as anything else. Most were asked to leave their positions in academia or government, if they ever had one.

Starting from the top is Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, of snowball-throwing fame. Inhofe’s assertion that since snowballs exist global warming doesn’t is certainly worthy of some kind of award, and this one is probably as good as any. Congratulations, senator. May you display it proudly on your wall.

William Happer, who chairs the Exxon-funded George C. Marshall Institute, worries that we won’t have enough carbon dioxide. He’s written only one scientific paper about climate change, but has many articles in the popular press. As an example, “The Truth About Greenhouse Gases” is mostly rhetoric and very little science. For all its length, bluster and internal contradiction, it never explains what the greenhouse effect is, or for that matter even acknowledge its existence. He says that CO2 will only be a problem at 5,000 parts per million, at which point it becomes immediately deadly (see Lake Nyos), even though he later says that 780 ppm, a number he apparently pulls out of thin air, will cause global warming.

David Legates is a colleague and cohort of Wei Hock “Willie” Soon. The two co-authored a paper on polar bears that was funded by Koch Industries. Soon’s credibility took a serious hit when it was revealed that he had accepted millions in support from companies that put him in a conflict-of-interest position with regard to his research. Legates was asked to step down as the Delaware State Climatologist in 2011.

Both Happer and Legates signed the open letter to Pope Francis, asking him to reconsider in position on climate change. They probably weren’t aware that the Pope has a chemistry degree and is fully capable of evaluating the evidence for himself.

Legates told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee: “My overall conclusion is that droughts in the United States are more frequent and more intense during colder periods. Thus, the historical record does not warrant a claim that global warming is likely to negatively impact agricultural activities.” This is also disingenuous, since anyone even remotely close to the science knows that the broader issue of climate disruption and not just simple warming certainly does account for droughts.

Anthony Watts is a climate skeptic and former TV meteorologist in Indiana. He is best known as the founder and editor of the blog Watts Up With That. He attended Purdue University as a student of electrical engineering and meteorology but never graduated. Documents obtained by DeSmogBlog showed that Heartland Institute was involved in obtaining funding for Watts, to the tune of $90,000. The book "Climate Change: The Facts" is a denier’s manifesto, in which Watts was one of 23 co-authors. It is currently in the top 100 books on Amazon in terms of sales, well above most actual science.

Robert M. Carter, is a former geology and paleontology researcher at Cook University in Australia. That relationship was terminated by the university in 2013. Carter is an active advocate of climate denial, oft-quoted in the media and used by numerous denial groups to bolster their positions. Carter received a $1,600 monthly retainer for some indeterminate period of time from the Heartland Institute for his efforts at stoking the flames of doubt.

I hesitated to write about this at all, since every drop of media coverage that these people get is a win for them; it adds to the illusion that there is still a debate among knowledgeable individuals as to the basic facts regarding climate change. There isn’t. However, leaving these antics unchallenged can also lead the uninformed to believe them. The sad truth is that it’s far too easy to be fooled by someone speaking with confidence about a complicated subject that you don’t know that much about. How then does one decide who to trust? One idea that works pretty well — follow the money.

Image credit: Andy Silver: Flickr Creative Commons

RP Siegel headshotRP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, Grist, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering,  Design News, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, Environmental Science, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Eniday, and engineering.com among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 53 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP was the winner of the 2015 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week blogging competition. Contact: bobolink52@gmail.com


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