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June 16, 2015
And Now for Something Completely Different
    by Robert Kropp

The Heartland Institute hosts its annual conference on climate change, at which such scientific luminaries as climate denying Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma are honored.

In her 2014 book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, author Naomi Klein observed that conservative organizations are well aware of the reality of climate change. They are, she continues, well aware of the implications as well: that the only effective global response to climate change requires the dismantling of the neoliberal gospel of deregulation and privatization. Because of this, she writes, the right wing maintains a corporate-funded attack on the veracity of climate change; not because it disbelieves the science but because it recognizes that acting on that science means an end to their day at the trough.

The Chicago-based Heartland Institute is well-known for being in the forefront of climate denialism, or “skepticism,” as its allies would prefer to describe it. Internal documents leaked to Think Progress belied the Institute's modest claims for its funding; “Approximately 5,300 supporters contribute to an annual budget of $6 million,” the Institute states. “Heartland does not accept government funding.”

While Heartland's numbers may well be entirely accurate, the implication that relatively small donations from a large number of supporters fund its activities is not. As the leaked documents revealed, at least 19 corporations provided funding in excess of $1.3 million in 2010 and 2011. The document also included a projected $200,000 donation from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation in 2012.

Furthermore, the documents, according to Think Progress, included plans for a 'global warming curriculum' for elementary schoolchildren that presents climate science as 'a major scientific controversy.' This effort, at a cost of $100,000 a year, will be developed by Dr. David E. Wojick, a coal-industry consultant.”

Even with the disclosure of the internal documents, the Institute did not shirk from taking controversial positions on climate change. In 2014, it launched the
Climate Change Awards, which are presented annually “to recognize individuals of extraordinary ability and unflagging commitment to restoring sound science and common sense to the debate over global warming.”

“Those who believe in dangerous man-made global warming call for draconian reductions in the use of fossil fuels that would destroy trillions of dollars of wealth and impoverish millions of people,” the Institute states. “Rather than defend the science behind their cause, global warming alarmists typically claim 'the debate is over' and demonize their critics.”

Last week, the Institute and its allies presented the 2015 awards. The recipient of one award, the Political Leadership on Climate Change Award, will be familiar to those who have watched with alarm the inability of the US Congress to make meaningful progress on the climate crisis, the reality of which is supported by science. Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who once derided climate science as "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people," received the award, and was in fact the keynote speaker at the Tenth International Conference on Climate Change, held last week in the nation's capitol.

Inhofe is also chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. In advance of the much awaited encyclical on climate change to be delivered by Pope Francis this week, Inhofe said at the conference, “The pope ought to stay with his job, and we’ll stay with ours.”

And it is to be hoped as well the overwhelming majority of scientists who know that the science of climate change is incontrovertible continue to their jobs, as well.


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