Heartland Documents Leaked, Massaged, Faked

HeartlandFirst thing I did, after hearing that the Heartland Institute’s budget was leaked, was to pore through it looking for my name in the hopes of seeing how much moola I’d be in for. After all, rumor was that Big Oil was throwing money at Heartland. They must have designated to toss some of that largess my way. But it was just as I feared: nada.

This matches the amount I received last year, and the year before that, and the year…but you get the idea. This amount also matches—to the penny!—the totals I received from all other sources for my work even tangentially related to climatology.

I don’t want to say my feelings are hurt. But c’mon! Surely that series on how people fail to account for all sources of uncertainty in global & proxy temperature reconstructions was worth at least a six pack. I mean, other guys I know are getting about a hundred bucks a month. Or so the document claims.

Willie Soon, who was said to receive $125 a month, told me in an email that he never received this money. Well, don’t forget that the leaked Heartland budget is a projection for what they might spend in 2012.

Maybe I’m not on the list because it must be kept short. Turns out Heartland doesn’t have that much to give. Last year, the entire budget was just north of four-and-a-half million. I think Greenpeace spends that much a month on patchouli burgers for its street do-you-have-a-minute-to-save-the-earth volunteers.

Also, the green from Big Oil did not flow. The New York Times—how it must have galled them—was forced to say

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the Heartland documents was what they did not contain: evidence of contributions from the major publicly traded oil companies, long suspected by environmentalists of secretly financing efforts to undermine climate science.

Heartland isn’t happy and says:

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.

They emphasized the we’ll-bring-’em-to-justice angle in other quotes. My advice is: prosecute who did it if you have to, but keep quiet about it. It didn’t do any good for the Climategate 1.0 and 2.0 folks to cry repeatedly that they were wronged when their email accounts were hacked. It just made them sound like they were trying to change the subject.

The documents are now public: how they got that way is irrelevant. Respond to what’s in them. This is free publicity! About the educational initiatives say, “Sure, we want to teach kids that the science is not settled. Just as other organizations, like the National Center for Science Education funded by environmentalist groups and big government, want to teach kids that it is settled. Our efforts will still be minuscule compared to theirs, however.”

For instance, in 2012 Heartland projects it will spend about two to three million on “Editorial”, “Communications”, and “Publications.” Show how this a pittance compared to the vast monies gushing out of Big Green: The Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the appalling RE-AMP Energy Network, etc., etc., and ever etc., positively dwarf Heartland’s efforts.

And what about government funds? They’re in the billions and billions, as Carl Sagan might not have said. It’s funny, but in many journals authors are asked if they have a financial interest in the work they are submitting. Having such an interest is no bar to publication as long as it is openly acknowledged. Working on the government’s dime—with the earnest hope that this source of pay and perquisites stays constant—is not seen as such an interest.

That is, scientists who are paid by the government via grants are seen as conflict-free, while those who are paid by private citizens are seen as inherently conflicted. Why is this? After all, if government-backed scientists do not toe the line—if they do not tell the granting agencies what they want to hear—they will soon join the bread line with people like me whose pro bono work has brought them to the point of no bono. Might not this fear of financial ruin influence the scientists’ results? If you say no, why?

Much of the stink over these documents are from people like Huffington Post’s Shawn Lawrence Otto whose major point of emphasis is that Heartland is biased towards their own point of view. Well, this is true. This is not of course proof that this point of view is false, though. It is no different than saying that Greenpeace screeds (i.e. press releases) are biased towards their point of view. And yet we never hear arguments like this.


  1. Ken

    Seems to me that “settled science” scientists & their followers ought to be capable of withstanding the onslaught of unsettling denialists financed by a pittance that hardly qualifies as round-off error for the “billions & billions” of $$$ upholding the believer’s faith.

    Such does not bode well for this new religion’s long-term viability.

    That…and the inconvenient fact that warming trends haven’t followed predictions…or haven’t really even trended to more warming…the Antarctic (remember that place on the other side of the globe?) isn’t really showing any signs of ice loss, etc.

    That’s one that really puzzles me–why is it called “Global Warming” when the really solid indicators seem to show that only the top half of the Globe has really warming up…oh yeah, its because heat rises. Right?

  2. Carmen D'oxide

    “That is, scientists who are paid by the government via grants are seen as conflict-free, while those who are paid by private citizens are seen as inherently conflicted. Why is this? ”

    Well, the general public a) knows that opinions can be bought by private entities, but b) still assumes that government-sponsored studies are balanced. The evidence is contrary, of course, but that doesn’t change the deeply-embedded level of trust. Maybe there is a subtle secondary effect as well — people get goodies from the government and so look more favorably on it’s pronouncements from the agencies while they bear some level of resentment against the corporate world, probably because their ripoffs are more direct and obvious. Agencies are amorphous; XYZ company sold me a lemon. As for the NGOs, their products are either warm and fuzzy images or disaster scenarios — both appealing in their own way to the public (disasters are appealing in the sense that you can donate to help the cause and feel good about yourself). So criticism of them doesn’t stick. It’s emotionalism all the way down.

  3. Ray

    Everybody knows the old saying, he who pays the piper calls the tune. When the government is giving you money, you better come up with the answer they want. This is commonly referred to as decision based science making.

    It’s like the EPA and their second hand smoke study. They wanted second hand smoke to be found harmful so they manipulated the statistics to obtain the desired result.

  4. Briggs


    Re: the Anti-Heartland forces:

    In Germany, prominent scientists travel around the country to espouse views that are popular with their target audiences. In its reporting, SPIEGEL ONLINE found that companies and associations pay leading climate researchers fees as high as €5,000 ($6,606) for their expertise. Scientists who convey unequivocal messages are also in high demand as consultants for lobby groups and political parties.


  5. Out-spent, out-gunned, shouted down, ridiculed, ripped off, defrauded — and yet Heartland is winning.

    What is it they say about the truth?

  6. Come on old boy. Quit whining and bring in some converts. Then maybe you’ll get paid.
    It’s results that count, and your arguments just don’t appear to be convincing.

  7. Dear AC,

    Well, well, old boy. Your lack of conviction doesn’t necessarily apply to the rest of us who actually read Dr. Briggs’ posts. But you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, eh?

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