The Heartland Institute Flap

[In the ongoing climate debate, the Heartland Institute is perhaps best known as organizer and host of six international climate change conferences (ICCC) and as publisher of Climate Change Reconsidered: The Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) - accessible on]

A Heartland news release of Feb 15 presents the history of the events of last week: 

"Heartland Institute Responds to Stolen and Fake Documents"

"Yesterday afternoon [Feb 14], two advocacy groups posted online several documents they claimed were The Heartland Institute's 2012 budget, fundraising, and strategy plans.  Some of these documents were stolen, at least one is a fake, and some may have been altered.  The stolen documents appear to have been written by Heartland's president for a board meeting that took place on January 17. ...Since then, the documents have been widely reposted on the Internet, [again] with no effort to confirm their authenticity.

"One document, titled "Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy," is a total fake, apparently intended to defame and discredit The Heartland Institute.  It was not written by anyone associated with The Heartland Institute.  It does not express Heartland's goals, plans, or tactics.  It contains several obvious and gross misstatements of fact.

"We respectfully ask all activists, bloggers, and other journalists to immediately remove all of these documents and any quotations taken from them, especially the fake "climate strategy" memo and any quotations from the same, from their blogs, Web sites, and publications, and to publish retractions.

 "How did this happen?  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.

"Apologies: The Heartland Institute apologizes to the donors whose identities were revealed by this theft.  We ... realize that the major reason these documents were stolen and faked was to make it more difficult for donors to support our work. ...

"Lessons:  Disagreement over the causes, consequences, and best policy responses to climate change runs deep.  We understand that.  But honest disagreement should never be used to justify the criminal acts and fraud that occurred in the past 24 hours. ...Those persons who posted these documents and wrote about them before we had a chance to comment on their authenticity should be ashamed of their deeds, and their bad behavior should be taken into account when judging their credibility now and in the future."


The NY Times weighed in the following  day [Feb 16] with this misleading headline:

Leak Offers Glimpse of Campaign Against Climate Science

It calls the event a "leak" rather than evident fraud, clearly indicating bias.  It also refers to a "campaign against climate science."  This too is wrong; there are honest scientific disputes, which the NYT ignores.  It is of course hypocritical to criticize Heartland for accepting donations from corporations, but the article should at least have noticed that most of the money goes to issues that have nothing to do with climate, such as educational reform, health-care reform, etc.  The NYT does note the absence of any funding from oil companies, which might conceivably have an interest in the climate issue.

The NYT also tries to equate the climate debate to the ongoing debate in public schools about evolution.  This comparison is completely misplaced.  The National Center for Science Education is trying to expand its reach into public schools by presenting a one-sided view of the climate debate that ignores natural climate changes throughout earth's history.  In fact, the crux of the climate debate relates to the significance of any human contribution to climate change; natural changes of course do not cease when human activities emit greenhouse gases.

The Faked Document

Megan McArdle, a senior editor for The Atlantic, agrees with Heartland that the key document, titled "2012 Heartland Climate Strategy," sent to Desmogblog  and other smear blogs, is a forgery.

McArdle herself is a strong believer in anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and in the need for action to reduce emissions of CO2; but she nevertheless cites many persuasive arguments to support her suspicion of a forged document.  She also suggests that the bloggers, such as Desmogblog, know the identity of the "Heartland Insider" who stole the documents and manufactured the fake Memo.

Blogger David Appell adds an important fact, using a technique I don't fully understand.  Unlike the other Heartland documents, which were produced in Chicago shortly before the Jan 17 Board meeting, the faked Strategy Memo was turned into PDF format on the West Coast (California?  Seattle? Vancouver?)  on Feb 13 from a scanned Fax, not from an electronic file (as McArdle had already deduced).

Another give-away:  The faked Memo refers to a $200,000 donation from the Koch Foundation.  In fact, Koch gave only $25K  not $200K - for health care, not for climate change - 0.5% of Heartland's 2011 budget.

Finally, to relieve these depressing news,  one should read the excruciatingly funny satire by Wendy McElroy, where she pretends to develop a fake climate policy plan for the Heartland Institute.

Heartland and NIPCC

In 2007, I founded the NIPCC (Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change)  to prepare a proper scientific response to the 2007 IPCC report.  In searching for a publisher, the Heartland Institute seemed like the best choice; NIPCC had no ongoing funding and relied entirely on volunteers.  Heartland also organized six international conferences on climate change (ICCC), which provided a platform for NIPCC and others to present their findings to a wider community of scientists and to the media.  The NYT story that by 2013 Heartland "expects to have spent some $1.6 million on financing the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change" is not true and requires a correction.

The first NIPCC report (2008) was in the form of a succinct Summary of our arguments against anthropogenic global warming (AGW); Heartland printed it for sale and distributed it widely.  We received no royalties -- only free copies.  Heartland then asked us to expand our coverage on climate science; so Dr. Craig Idso joined me as a coauthor of the 800-page report Climate Change Reconsidered (2009).  Dr. Robert Carter of Australia then joined us in coauthoring the 2011 interim report.  Carter is a marine geologist; Idso is a biologist; I am an atmospheric physicist and expert on remote sensing -- we make a balanced team.

As mentioned in the Heartland documents, I receive a monthly stipend to cover expenses.  The checks go directly to the non-profit Science & Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) rather than to me personally.  I consider this as an advance royalty from the publisher to an author.  But also, together with Idso and Carter, we recruit lead authors for the ten chapters of the forthcoming CCR-2 report of 2013.  We also recruit reviewers for individual research papers, whose number may well exceed 5000.  These reviewers get a nominal fee for their efforts; their names will be listed in the NIPCC reports.

Speaking of funding, the NYT ignores its own story of Nov 21, 2002 "Exxon-Led Group Is Giving a [$225 million] Climate Grant to Stanford." 

Meanwhile "BP, FORD GIVE $20 MILLION FOR PRINCETON UNIVERSITY EMISSIONS STUDY" - as reported  by Bloomberg News on October 26, 2000.  "London-based BP said it plans to give $85 million in the next decade to universities in the U.S. and U.K. to study environmental and energy issues. In the past two years, the company has pledged $40 million to Cambridge University, $20 million to the University of California at Berkeley and $10 million to the University of Colorado at Boulder."


It seems that vast sums have flowed from oil companies to climate alarmists, but nothing at all to Heartland -- and certainly not to NIPCC.

S. Fred Singer is professor emeritus at the Univ of Virginia and director of the Science & Environmental Policy Project, specializing in climate science and energy policy.  An expert in remote sensing and satellites, he served as the founding director of the US Weather Satellite Service and, more recently, as vice chair of the US National Advisory Committee on Oceans & Atmosphere.  He is a Senior Fellow of the Heartland Institute and of the Independent Institute.  In 2007, he founded and chaired NIPCC (Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change).  For recent writings see and Google Scholar.