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Friday, February 17, 2012

Republican Climate Hawks Live! Heartland Climate Operation Deserves Scrutiny

Heartland Climate Operation Deserves Scrutiny

After a recent leak of internal Heartland Institute documents describing a purported campaign to sow doubt about climate change science, Heartland claimed one of the documents might be fake, threatened anyone who even comments on the leak with legal action, and vowed to seek compensation for damage to its reputation.

Such heavy-handed posturing should not dissuade journalists and commentators from thoroughly covering the leaked documents and reporting on the efforts of Heartland and others to manufacture a scientific controversy about climate change where none exists.

Heartland's moral outrage about leaked documents this past week was glaringly absent following the 2009 release of hacked climate scientists' e-mails that was dubbed "climategate." In fact, it fully participated in a media campaign that misrepresented the e-mails and raised unfounded questions about scientists' integrity.

Heartland, a PR and lobbying organization, runs well-funded campaigns that seek to persuade Americans that peer-reviewed scientific research regarding climate change is suspect and that the conclusions of such research should be ignored. Its efforts in the so-called "climategate" controversy were more of the same.

Subsequent investigations by independent experts, of course, showed that the sensational "climategate" allegations against scientists were groundless. The "climategate" brouhaha was a manufactured controversy—which, unfortunately, accomplished its goal of sowing public doubt and confusion about climate science.

Now the shoe is on the other foot, and if the leaked Heartland documents are authentic, they leave no room for interpretation.

Heartland's strategy, and its reliance on funding from individuals who have a vested interest in undermining climate science, must be brought to the public's attention to at least the same degree as the so-called "climategate" emails were. The opinions and knowledge of far too many Americans remain influenced by erroneous reporting about the content of those e-mails.

The Heartland documents detail plans to prevent earnest scientific research and opinions other than their own from gaining public exposure. They even go so far as to gin up a science curriculum designed to "dissuade" public schoolteachers from teaching science—a shocking plan to undermine education and turn our public schools into mouthpieces for agenda-driven propaganda.

While Heartland has done commendable work in other policy areas, such as risk management, its climate operation has become a public relations servant of special interests—sowing confusion, misrepresenting science, and spreading distortions that pollute what should be a robust, fact-based debate about climate change.

That's not conservative. As William F. Buckley once said, "Conservatism implies a certain submission to reality."

Climate change is an opportunity for conservative organizations to actually be conservative, by acknowledging facts and laying on the table conservative policies for dealing with the climate issue.

If any of the released Heartland documents are not authentic, Heartland should be able and willing to provide solid proof. If, as the evidence seems to indicate, the documents are real, the media has an obligation to report on the plans they describe and their troubling implications for a democratic society.


Jim DiPeso
Policy Director
Republicans for Environmental Protection><>

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