#Climate Denial Propaganda: “Why Scientists Disagree about Global Warming.”

SPOILER ALERT: … They don’t

The Heartland Institute churned out a piece of Climate Denial Propaganda entitled “Why Scientists Disagree about Global Warming.” back in 2015. If you check it out, you will find that that promote it as follows …

Rather than rely exclusively on United Nation’s IPCC for scientific advice, policymakers should seek out advice from independent, nongovernment organizations and scientists who are free of financial and political conflicts of interest.

Well yes, let me translate that for you: Rather than rely upon an international team of subject matter experts, evidence, data, and conclusions reached after decades of analysis, instead let’s listen to people who have no relevant climate science expertise or experience, and are working for a right-wing political libertarian institute funded by the Oil and Gas industry. That should give us a truly impartial insight into it all … right?

Why mention this propaganda?

What is now happening is that The Heartland Institute has been churning this out in bulk and distributing it directly to classrooms and teachers. For example this story from a local Bangor paper in Maine reports on this  …

Last week, thousands of science teachers across the nation, including several in Maine, got a special delivery from an organization trying to convince them that scientists are split on the science of global climate change.

“It’s a pathetic attempt at trying to sway some people’s minds,” Paul Mayewski, director of the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute, said during a phone interview Monday. “There’s a tremendous amount of misinformation.

The mail, which includes a book and DVD, came from the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank that wades into debates ranging from education reform and health care to hydrofracking and, most notably of late, climate change.

The title of the booklet they sent: “Why Scientists Disagree about Global Warming.” The DVD rejects the human role in climate change, arguing that rising temperatures have been caused primarily by natural phenomena rather than emissions and pollution. It also included a letter saying that the “science isn’t settled” and that there was an ongoing, “vibrant debate” among scientists.

The claim that “rising temperatures have been caused primarily by natural phenomena”, has been robustly examined and dismissed because  there is no evidence for this …

In general, climate changes prior to the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s can be explained by natural causes, such as changes in solar energy, volcanic eruptions, and natural changes in greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations.[2]

Recent climate changes, however, cannot be explained by natural causes alone. Research indicates that natural causes do not explain most observed warming, especially warming since the mid-20thcentury.

Their “evidence” gains no traction within the wider community because none of it is actually true, and so they bypass the scientific community and instead seek to convert the next generation to their belief. This is rather telling.

Who exactly is the Heartland Institute?

You can read all about them on their Wikipedia page. 

There you will learn about their activities, both past and present …

In the 1990s, the Heartland Institute worked with the tobacco company Philip Morris to question or deny the health risks of secondhand smoke and to lobby against smoking bans.[2]:233–34[3] In the decade after 2000, the Heartland Institute became a leading supporter of climate change denial.[4][5] It rejects the scientific consensus on global warming,[6]

Their nurturing of the Tea Party movement …

According to the organization’s director of communications, speaking at the sixth International Conference on Climate Change in 2011: “The support of the Tea Party groups across the country has been extremely valuable.”[14] Heartland was among the organizers of the September 2009 Tea Party protest march, the Taxpayer March on Washington.[15][16] In support of the Tea Party movement, Heartland offered free literature and other assistance to Tea Party activists,[17][18] created a website “www.teapartytoolbox.org”, and distributed a free book, The Patriot’s Toolbox.[19][20][21]

… hence their claim to be free of any political conflicts of interest is immediately revealed to be an outright lie.

Their complete lack funding transparency, and much much more. But what has come out also clearly reveals a rather blatant financial conflict of interest …

In 2010, MediaTransparency said that Heartland received funding from politically conservative foundations such as the Castle Rock Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.[123] Between 2002 and 2010, Donors Trust, a nonprofit donor-advised fund, granted $13.5 million to the Heartland Institute.[124] In 2011, the Institute received $25,000 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.[125]

… and so without even opening their book, but instead by reading the first couple of lines of promotional material, we find lies and dishonesty when it comes to claims such as “free of financial and political conflicts of interest”.

How should teachers respond to this rather blatant propaganda?

The Bangor Daily news article reports on one rather novel approach taken by one teacher. The arrival of this Heartland material has been eagerly grasped as an opportunity and not a problem …

Mickie Flores, a middle school science teacher at Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School, found the mailer in her inbox when she arrived at school last Monday. She said the Heartland mailings have created a stir among science teachers, who are vetting the information and trying to determine how to best handle it in their classrooms.

Flores, who was a semifinalist for Maine Teacher of the Year in 2015, said during an interview last week that she plans on using this as a “teachable moment” for her students. She hadn’t yet watched the video included in the package or read through everything it contained, but had thumbed through some of contents.

She plans on having her students look at the claims made by Heartland, comparing and contrasting them with other scientific findings in the field. She said the students could conduct their own experiments to verify some of the science. For example, using a modified soda bottle to simulate the greenhouse effect.

“Education today, under Common Core, is all about critical thinking and making evidence-based decisions,” Flores said.

Others have taken note and applaud this approach to it all …

Mayewski [director of the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institutesaid he likes Flores’ approach, and says that teachers should consider comparing Heartland’s claims with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. He said the IPCC report was based on the findings of thousands of climate scientists, had 500 authors and has been thoroughly vetted through peer review.

I do indeed agree, this is a fantastic solution. Expose students to the full conversation and so use this propaganda material as a golden opportunity to teach critical thinking skills.

Leave a Reply