Climate Scientists Slam Heartland for “Spreading Misinformation” and “Personally Attacking Climate Scientists to Further Its Goals”

Scientists Who Had Emails Stolen Ask Heartland Institute to End Assault on Climate Science

Heartland Institute documents revealed plans to dupe children and ruin their future, as Climate Progress reported earlier this week.

Now, seven leading climatologists victimized by the Climategate email theft in 2009 have published this letter in the Guardian:

An Open Letter to the Heartland Institute

As scientists who have had their emails stolen, posted online and grossly misrepresented, we can appreciate the difficulties the Heartland Institute is currently experiencing following the online posting of the organization’s internal documents earlier this week. However, we are greatly disappointed by their content, which indicates the organization is continuing its campaign to discredit mainstream climate science and to undermine the teaching of well-established climate science in the classroom.

We know what it feels like to have private information stolen and posted online via illegal hacking. It happened to climate researchers in 2009 and again in 2011. Personal emails were culled through and taken out of context before they were posted online. In 2009, the Heartland Institute was among the groups that spread false allegations about what these stolen emails said. Despite multiple independent investigations, which demonstrated that allegations against scientists were false, the Heartland Institute continued to attack scientists based on the stolen emails. When more stolen emails were posted online in 2011, the Heartland Institute again pointed to their release and spread false claims about scientists.

So although we can agree that stealing documents and posting them online is not an acceptable practice, we would be remiss if we did not point out that the Heartland Institute has had no qualms about utilizing and distorting emails stolen from scientists.

We hope the Heartland Institute will heed its own advice to “think about what has happened” and recognize how its attacks on science and scientists have helped poison the debate over climate change policy. The Heartland Institute has chosen to undermine public understanding of basic scientific facts and personally attack climate researchers rather than engage in a civil debate about climate change policy options.

These are the facts: Climate change is occurring. Human activity is the primary cause of recent climate change. Climate change is already disrupting many human and natural systems. The more heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions that go into the atmosphere, the more severe those disruptions will become. Major scientific assessments from the Royal Society, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, United States Global Change Research Program and other authoritative sources agree on these points.

Here’s the rest of the letter and the signatories:

What businesses, policymakers, advocacy groups and citizens choose to do in response to those facts should be informed by the science. But those decisions are also necessarily informed by economic, ethical, ideological, and other considerations. While the Heartland Institute is entitled to its views on policy, we object to its practice of spreading misinformation about climate research and personally attacking climate scientists to further its goals.

We hope the Heartland Institute will begin to play a more constructive role in the policy debate. Refraining from misleading attacks on climate science and climate researchers would be a welcome first step toward having an honest, fact-based debate about the policy responses to climate change.

  • Ray Bradley, PhD, Director of the Climate System Research Center, University of Massachusetts
  • David Karoly, PhD, ARC Federation Fellow and Professor, University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Michael Mann, PhD, Director, Earth System Science Center, Pennsylvania State University
  • Jonathan Overpeck, PhD, Professor of Geosciences and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Arizona
  • Ben Santer, PhD, Research Scientist, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Gavin Schmidt, PhD, Climate Scientist, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
  • Kevin Trenberth, ScD, Distinguished Senior Scientist, Climate Analysis Section, National Center for Atmospheric Research

Hear! Hear!
UPDATE: ThinkProgress is among several publications to have published documents related to the Heartland Institute. The documents were sent to us from an anonymous source, and the identity of the source was unknown to ThinkProgress at the time. The source later revealed himself on February 20, 2012. Heartland Institute has issued several press releases claiming that one document (“2012 Climate Strategy”) is fake and asserting other claims regarding the other documents. ThinkProgress has taken down the 2012 Climate Strategy document as it works to determine the document’s authenticity.

24 Responses to Climate Scientists Slam Heartland for “Spreading Misinformation” and “Personally Attacking Climate Scientists to Further Its Goals”

  1. Richard Clemens says:

    Same thing in Canada. Shameful. . .

  2. LP says:

    It’s a very apt, poignant letter that manages to come across genuine and classy – while maintaining a distinct undertone of “in your face, you ******* hypocrites”.

    But really – asking these guys to play nice? C’mon…

    It is painfully obvious they have no interest in anything other than $$$ and ideology.

    I used to believe that logic, reason, and scientific truth were too strong to not be the only thing left standing in the end, but my experiences with the unique world of climate denial delusionalism has pretty much crushed that naive ideal.

    I mean look at the way the whole “debate” has gone down –

    The scientific evidence has been overwhelming for years, if not decades already – yet after something as superficial as climategate the whole world seemed to really turn their backs.

    Now things are starting to rotate around again, but it’s only because people are finally becoming aware of how much the “skeptic” side is tainted with total utter bullsh**.

    You want to win most people over on this discussion you are much less likely to do it with a civil discussion of the truth, than you are with a loud, hand-wavy demonstration of how much they are actually being lied to.

    I hope this is only the tip of the iceberg.

    Climate hawks need to keep pulling on this thread. Unravel it until even the most wilfully ignorant deniers have no choice but to face up to how much they are getting totally played by these disingenuous bottom-feeding shills.

  3. Cervantes says:

    Well okay, but why does an organization that is devoted exclusively to U.S. politics and is funded by American psychopathic billionaires care about a letter published in a leftie British newspaper? Just askin’.

  4. Leif says:

    Guess who is in power? If you answered Democrats or GOP, wrong. Try the Capitalist/Corporate elite. Why?… How come it is NOT “We The People?”… Could it be that only ~50% take the trouble to vote? If 50% do not vote, that leaves 26% to control the show. Capitalism and Corporations clearly find it is a lot cheaper to buy off the gullible 26% than work for the well being of all. It is all $$ & cents. When you realize that each dollar invested in lobbing, as I recall, pays back ~$4,500 returns, is it any wonder why they got all the money and “we the people” got polluted commons?

  5. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    A post about Heartland without a Dave Burton comment.

  6. Sou says:

    It’s good that these high profile scientists from the USA and Australia have responded in this way and demonstrates their continuing courage.

    Even if the Heartland people appear to take little notice, it gives everyone else pause and reason to reflect on the hypocrisy of the Heartland Institute. And they will know that.

  7. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I’m with you LP-a fine, decent and sensible entreaty, absolutely certain to fall on deaf ears, or, more likely, to provoke another wave of vicious abuse. Of course it is good to appeal, with hopeful anticipation, to that 1 or 2% of rational, decent denialists who may be converted by an appeal to reason and morality, but, as for the rest, it is, I believe, utterly fruitless. Until we wake up to what denialism really signifies about the denialist industry, the lumpen denialist rabble, capitalism and human nature, we are going to get precisely nowhere. In case anybody has been doing a Rip van Winkle in recent years, the Forces of Darkness are winning, hands down.

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Cervantes, if you find ‘The Guardian’ ‘Leftie’ I’d hate to see your idea of ‘Right’.

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Leif, in my opinion there are numerous reasons why ‘democracy’ is not possible in capitalist societies of mass population. For a start, politics is the shadow thrown on society by the power of money. I forget whose insight it was that I just mangled, but it is more true today than ever before. Whereas once the Right dominated, but various streams of Left, socialist, collectivist, communist and anarchist strains of thought were popular, with their own magazines, newspapers and societies, today the acceptable ideological spectrum has been narrowed so tightly that nothing but some variant on neo-liberal ‘savage capitalism’ is ever heard from, let alone contemplated as a means to organise society.
    Elections have been reduced to contests, not of ideology, but of abuse, character assassination, fear and hatemongering and bribes. Most of the promises made are uttered with no intention whatsoever on the part of the utterer of ever being honoured. Where voting is non-compulsory, the best, lacking conviction that anything will ever change, stay away, and proceedings are dominated by the fanatical ignoramuses, driven to passionate intensity by shared antipathies and terrors. Politicians must be practised in the art of incitement, but not too plainly, hence the use of the ‘dog-whistle’, inaudible to many (particularly the Establishment MSM) but picked up by the target audience without difficulty. “Democracy’ has been rendered not just meaningless and impotent by contact with the Free Market religion, but has been transmogrified into populist plutocracy, where the rabble vote enthusiastically for the billionaires and against their own interests. Humanity is going stark, raving, mad-even more than in the past, which isn’t-it’s the future.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    My dear Sou, forgive my habitual cynicism, but you appear to be making the mistake of believing that the Heartland mob, and all their ilk, have consciences.

  11. Cervantes says:

    Compared to U.S. newspapers, it’s screamingly left, absolutely.

  12. BillD says:

    This is good letter. But it will not have direct effect on Heartland, since they get too much of their funding directly for the purpose of denying the science of climate change.

  13. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    The letter employs a level of formal courtesy that is actually critical to constructive debate. Those who are dealing in the scientific facts of the issue gain nothing by resort to abuse – however well-justified it may be.

    It is up to campaigners to nail the genocidal nature of the lies propagated by the dirty money laundries such as the Heartland ‘Institute’. The four NCAR drought-intensity maps (previously posted here on CP) show a progression through this century that clearly precludes most of our global agricultural output. Given the >35yr timelag on GHGs’ climate impact, plus >40yrs to end GHG outputs, plus the resulting loss of the sulphate parasol, we face intensifying warming until at least 2087.

    The death toll from serial famines under this (very optimistic) peak-warming scenario is measured in billions, not the mere millions of the Nazi holocaust.

    So before anyone attacks scientists for not pressing the moral case, we should ask just where are campaigners on advancing popular recognition of the true depravity of the current US policy of a ‘brinkmanship of inaction’, for which Heartland et al provide effective political cover ? Of the scores of veteran campaigners I know of only one person, Aubrey Meyer of Global Commons Institute, who has consistently since the early 1990s discussed the economics of genocide that underly the policy of inaction.

    One aspect of the scientists’ letter that is particularly heartening is its repeated focus on the need for discussion of climate policy. This directly challenges the primary goal of the denial-propagandists of keeping debate focussed on ‘is it happening’ rather than on ‘what must we do about it’.

    My critique of scientists’ participation in public debate is that relatively few are yet willing to take a position on the scientific assessment of the competing political and diplomatic frameworks for the resolution of climate destabilization. Any scientists reading this may do well to look at the names of the scientists endorsing the global climate policy framework of ‘Contraction & Convergence’ listed at

    Here is one example:
    “We only have one or two decades before the situation becomes catastrophic.
    C&C is the only mechanism we have to address this problem in time.”
    – Bill McGuire, professor of Geophysics and Climate Hazards, director of Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre.



  14. Didn’t the recent revelations from Heartland documents reveal that they’d taken out insurance that pays out in case of a libel judgment?

    Asking them to ease up is weak.

  15. Lou Grinzo says:

    Sadly, I can’t disagree with anything you say, MM.

    That great quote, by the way, seems to belong to Thomas Dewey (, the full quote being: “As long as politics is the shadow cast on society by big business, the attenuation of the shadow will not change the substance.” I consider that to be an excellent example of the kind of systems-stye thinking we need: Fiddling around the edge of the problem by adjusting it here and tweaking it there won’t fix the fundamental issue. The basic system needs to be repaired. And in the US that’s an extremely tall order, requiring at a minimum a much better Supreme Court and likely at least one constitutional amendment.

    It’s very easy for people who are engaged with the climate issue to become so wrapped in gigatons of CO2 and NG fracking and all the other “speeds and feeds” that we can overlook the fact that there’s an immense step between figuring out what we should do and then taking that action. That step is the public policy process, which has become a dramatically higher barrier to the changes we desperately need thanks to the Citizens United case. I’m confident that 50 years from now the CU case will be seen as one of the greatest mistakes in US history for what it did to our political process as well as its worldwide climate ramifications.

  16. Mikko Virtanen says:

    I fully recommend Bob Altemeyer’s “The Authoritarians” and William G. Domhoff’s “Who Rules America” to understand authoritarian mindset and how the capitalist class controls America.

  17. Lars Karlsson says:

    Obviously the letter is not directed towards Heartland. This is what the last paragraph means:

    The Heartland Institute plays a destructive role in the policy debate. They stage misleading attacks on climate science and climate researchers and stand in the way of an honest, fact-based debate about the policy responses to climate change.

  18. kika says:

    mulga, you refer to “1 or 2% of rational, decent denialists”.

    if they’re denialists they can’t be rational. i dunno about decent.

  19. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I see your point. The same is true of Australian rags, but it is all praising with faint damnation. The least worst alternative.

  20. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The American Founding Fathers were a canny bunch, and designed a system that would suit the interests of the rich (ie themselves) well, and down through the ages. Some, of course, and one thinks here of Jefferson, had very grave doubts, that grew with the years, but the basic system is intact to this day and is the global exemplar of plutocratic rule behind a facade of ‘democracy’. It is being tested to destruction now, by a force that the Founding Fathers could not have had more than a vague presentiment of-global climatic destabilisation.

  21. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Thanks, Mikko. I’m acquainted with Altemeyer, and will give Domhoff a squizz. It’s all pretty plain, for those with eyes to see, just what types of creatures the capitalist elites and the Right really are, but the scientific investigation of those quasi-human phenomena that are the root cause of our predicament is valuable. However, what is to be done?

  22. Peter says:

    With Glee, I am snickering that the Plutocracy created in this country over the last 2.5 centuries could come crumbling down due to simple physics. This is what makes those who seek to preserve the status-quo are so angry about. Their billions thus far have allowed them to be successful in sponsoring a global misinformation agenda. The inertia in the climate system has made their job easier.

    In time however IT is a mathematical certainty that the atmosphere and climate system will respond to the soaring C02 content- that time is now or very near.

  23. Mikko Virtanen says:

    What is to be done? Not a small question… :) But I’ll give it a shot anyway!

    1. Set proper goals: cooling of the planet, co2 below 350 or more, cut methane and black carbon. See f. ex. David Wasdell’s Critical Issues in the Domain of Climate Dynamics

    2. Create sustainability from bottom up. See f. ex. permaculture and transition movements. I’m quite critical on the alternative energy, recycling, new industrial infrastructure pathway. Too many bottleneck materials such as Neodymium, tramples indigenous rights too much – see Manila Declaration of the International Conference on Extractive Industries and Indigenous Peoples.

    3. Act on the political level. Great introduction is Robin Hahnel’s Economic Justice and Democracy: From Competition to Cooperation. I have not yet read his Green Economics, but there are excerpts in zcommunications website.

  24. Salamano says:

    Is this story going to be updated..?

    Seems like this is somewhat of an own-goal that only advocacy/interest groups can rationalize around.