Peter Gleick's face was on mugs at the Heartland Institute's 2012 climate conference. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle

By Suzanne Goldenberg in Chicago, www.guardian.co.uk
22 May 2012

It was an odd choice of icon for the ultra-conservative Heartland Institute. But there he was in round glasses, beard, and halo of curls staring out from T-shirts and coffee mugs at their gathering of climate change contrarians this week, the scientist whose internet sting set Heartland on its current course of collapse.

Heartland's seventh climate conference, which runs until Wednesday, was a much diminished event, compared to earlier lavish gatherings which spilled out over several floors of a hotel in New York's Time Square, and attracted up to 800 followers.

The tables were set for 270 at this year's gala, featuring the Czech president and climate contrarian Václav Klaus, and there were well over 100 no-shows. In a further sign of Heartland's cash crunch, meals were not included in this year's conference package.

"We have been under a lot of pressure over the last four months," Heartland's president, Joseph Bast, told the conference. "And I think we have discovered who our real friends are."

Now even those friends are upset with Heartland. Jim Sensenbrenner, the conservative Republican member of Congress from Wisconsin who was the only US politician to attend this year's conference, signalled his displeasure with the provocative billboard in his speech on Tuesday.

Sensenbrenner did not mention the billboard directly, but an aide told reporters earlier his words were intended as a criticism for Bast for leading Heartland into disaster. "How we conduct ourselves in this debate matters," Sensenbrenner said. He went on to accuse climate scientists of being partisan, but concluded: "Civility matters."

Other speakers were not concerned with civility, however. Britain's leading climate contrarian Christopher Monckton got a standing ovation for telling a series of "birther" jokes.

The pressure point occurred last February when the scientist on the conference mugs, Peter Gleick, used deception to obtain confidential documents from Heartland, including a donors list and plans to indoctrinate school children against belief in climate change.

Bast told the conference Heartland had met with the US attorney's office to discuss criminal charges against Gleick. He said Heartland was waiting for a formal decision before deciding whether to sue Gleick.

The exposure led some corporate donors to cut their funds to Heartland – until Bast committed a huge PR blunder, approving a provocative billboard ad likening scientists to psychopaths.

Donor flight accelerated, and Heartland has now lost some $825,000 (£523,000) in funding, according to the campaign group Forecast the Facts. Advocacy groups are meeting with some of Heartland's biggest remaining funders to persuade them to cut their ties.

The crisis forced Heartland to seek funds from the oil and coal industry – despite earlier claims to be independent of fossil fuel interests.

Between them, the nearly 60 organisations listed by Heartland as conference sponsors have received nearly $22m from Exxon Mobil and the Koch oil billionaire family since 1998, according to an analysis by the campaign website Desmogblog.

Listed as a "gold level" sponsor of this week's conference was the Illinois Coal Association, although Heartland told reporters the contribution was only in the hundreds of dollars.

Other allies were scarce. Only three groups set up tables at the conference. The largest was staffed by Americans for Prosperity, the ultra-conservative organisation founded by the Koch oil billionaires. […]

This year's event had a sense of desperation. Speakers spoke about being "victimised" by "warmists" and "alarmists" – scientists and politicians who accept that carbon dioxide emissions from industry are a main driver of climate change.

And after nearly 30 years in operation, it is unclear what Heartland stands for when it comes to climate change – beyond resistance to putting any kind of restraint on business.

Klaus, who made his name as an economist before his election as president, sees environmental concerns as a red menace. "It is identical to communism – identical not similar," he warned.

John Dunn, a Heartland policy adviser, sees his role as fighting "enviro-fascist madness". In his speech, he sought to ridicule recorded evidence of growing drought and heatwaves due to climate change. "Warm is good for people, and it's particularly good for people as they get older," said Dunn. "The people that warm spells kill are already moribund." He went on to say that only extreme cold caused extra deaths.

The next speaker called for the return of the insecticide DDT, long banned in the US. "It's cheap, it's effective and it's perfectly safe for humans and for all wildlife." […]

But despite the coffee mugs and T-shirt giveaway, the biggest issue facing Heartland went largely unaddressed: how will the organisation recover from its twin setbacks, the expose by Gleick and the ad disaster approved by Bast? […]

Heartland reflects on its beating

1 comments:

  1. Anonymous said...

    "Klaus, who made his name as an economist before his election as president, sees environmental concerns as a red menace. "It is identical to communism – identical not similar," he warned.

    Comments like this are quite revealing. Arrogant idiocy in a president is nothing new, nor is the lack of connection to the real world. But the position these idiots hold simply isn't acceptable. Much of the world looks up to men in power for advice and expertise. Unfortunately, as this example shows, many are being led by morons.

    John Dunn, a Heartland policy adviser, sees his role as fighting "enviro-fascist madness". In his speech, he sought to ridicule recorded evidence of growing drought and heatwaves due to climate change. "Warm is good for people, and it's particularly good for people as they get older," said Dunn. "The people that warm spells kill are already moribund." He went on to say that only extreme cold caused extra deaths.

    Wow! Give this guy eugenics and his finger on the kill switch of everyone he disagrees with and then he'll be happy.

    The last few years have seen a marked rise in the number of heat-related deaths, so there is simply no evidence to support this type of dissent. Additionally, massive levels of drought throughout the world is now very established fact.

    Must be getting really hard for these idiots to continue to try to spit in the face of the hurricane of proof.

    The next speaker called for the return of the insecticide DDT, long banned in the US. "It's cheap, it's effective and it's perfectly safe for humans and for all wildlife." […]

    Devvy Kidd (look her up) tried this argument with me, refused to believe the science and evidence regarding DDT and the carcinogenic effects of this extremely toxic poison.

    But it does show just how out of touch the Heartland Institute is with reality. They are living and demanding a fantasy land existence, where we do not have to accept any natural limits or human effects on the environment or the climate.

    It's actually quite embarrassing really, they're supposed to be intelligent humans, but I've seen nothing of the sort from this organization. The ignorance they publicly profess is absolutely staggering. ~Survival Acres~  

 

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