The Heartland Institute is a fossil fuel-funded think tank that gained notoriety in May 2012 for launching an ad campaign comparing those who agree that humans are causing global warming (that's 97% of climate scientists and the majority of the rest of us) to the Unabomber and Osama bin Laden.
However, a branch of the Chinese Academy of Sciences recently decided to translate the NIPCC report. The Heartland Institute has triumphantly trumpeted this as evidence that the Chinese are becoming "skeptics" and the climate consensus is crumbling, claiming for example,
"The trend toward skepticism and away from alarmism is now unmistakable,"
"Publication of a Chinese translation of Climate Change Reconsidered by the Chinese Academy of Sciences indicates the country's leaders believe their [failure to sign a global climate treaty] is justified by science and not just economics."However, Heartland's interpretation of these events does not jibe with the statements or actions of the translators, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, or the Chinese government. Here are relevant comments from the NIPCC translator's preface [PDF]:
"The most recent [IPCC] report ... found that most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely (>90%) due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations, represents the consensus scientific opinions on international climate change studies. Yet, as with any academic topic, there are still differing viewpoints and debates on the causes, facts, impacts and trends in climate change."
"In order to help Chinese researchers to understand different opinions and positions in debates on climate change, at the end of 2011, we contact The Heartland Institute, the publisher of these two reports."
"The work of these translators, organizations and funders has been in the translation and the promotion of scientific dialogue, does not reflect that they agree with the views of NIPCC"And here is the Chinese Academy of Sciences' response to inquiries about the translation and Heartland's (mis)interpretation of its meaning:
"...this is only a book cooperation between the Lanzhou Branch of the National Science Library and Heartland Institute, and is limited only to copy right trading, with no academic research work involved.
A few CAS experts participated in the translation of the book, aiming to demonstrate different voices in the global scientific field to the Chinese science community, however, that does not mean that we CAS joined the research or agree with their view point; neither does it mean that CAS will decide "promote" the climate "skeptic" view or group."These are not quite the ringing endorsements of the NIPCC report or the climate contrarian position that the Heartland comments imply. In fact, the Chinese Academy of Sciences has signed onto this joint statement along with 12 other Academies of Science, in which they endorse the IPCC consensus position on human-caused global warming and note,
"Responding to climate change requires both mitigation and adaptation to achieve a transition to a low carbon society and our global sustainability objectives."In short, the Chinese Academy of Sciences endorses the IPCC consensus position that humans are causing global warming. They recognize that there are dissenting views (from the 2–3% minority in the scientific literature), and they offered to translate the NIPCC report as an opportunity for climate contrarians to make their case. However, the translators and Chinese Academy of Sciences explicitly note that this translation does not mean they agree with the contrarian position or the contents of the NIPCC report.
In fact, China has recently been taking a leading role in addressing climate change. They're testing out a carbon cap and trade system, are trying to ensure that their coal consumption has peaked, and have reached an agreement with the USA to reduce hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions, which are potent greenhouse gases. China has also been diversifying towards more low-carbon energy sources.
Does this sound like a country that denies that human greenhouse gas emissions are causing climate change, as Heartland suggests?
As if Heartland's misrepresentation of China and its Academy of Sciences weren't bad enough, they also distorted the positions of the Russian and Polish Academies of Sciences, claiming the translation "follows strong statements by the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Polish Academy of Sciences dissenting from claims that global warming is either man-made or a crisis."
The claim about the Russian Academy of Sciences is based on a statement from a single scientist affiliated with the Academy. What does the Russian Academy of Science actually say about global warming? They signed the same joint statement as the Chinese Academy of Sciences, endorsing the IPCC consensus view that humans are causing global warming, and that we must "transition to a low-carbon society."
The claim about the Polish Academy of Sciences is based on a statement from the Academy's geologic science committee. Like its Chinese and Russian counterparts, the full Polish Academy of Sciences has signed statements endorsing the human-caused global warming consensus. For example in 2007 (Google English translation) and in 2010:
"It is widely agreed that human activities are changing Earth's climate beyond natural climatic fluctuations. The emission and accumulation of greenhouse gases associated with the burning of fossil fuels, along with other activities, such as land use change, are the principal causes of climate change."So Heartland's claim about "the trend toward skepticism" (where "skepticism" actually means contrarianism) is pure fantasy. The reality is that the Chinese, Russian, and Polish Academies of Science all endorse the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.
Moreover, as our recent study found, that consensus position is growing in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. As Graham Readfearn recently documented, over the past two decades, fossil fuel interests have engaged in a number of campaigns to cast doubt on the existence of the consensus on human-caused global warming. Convincing the public that this settled science is still in dispute has long been a top priority for industry groups.
Heartland's misrepresentation of the positions of the Chinese, Russian and Polish Academies of Science is the latest in this long line of efforts to cast doubt on the expert consensus on climate change. However, if the Bad Science in the NIPCC report represents the "differing viewpoints" the Chinese will be exposed to, I wouldn't bet on them reversing their endorsement of the human-caused global warming consensus anytime soon. Global temperatures will continue to rise, and the expert consensus on human-caused global warming will continue to grow along with them.