The Heartland Institute is the central, most powerful voice behind climate change denial. The Heartland Institute receives tens of millions of dollars in funding from ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers to question the science behind climate change and global warming. Their latest effort to deny common sense scientific results was their most shocking and provocative attempt yet.
On May 5th, 2012, a giant effort was being made around the world by the Connect the Dots movement. Connect the Dots was a worldwide day of awareness scheduled for May 5th. Its intent was to create awareness about climate change through volunteerism, education, and protesting.
Just as Asia was experiencing the first hours of Connect the Dots day, the Heartland Institute decided to put up billboards around Chicago to promote their next large meeting. The billboards depicted Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, and Charles Manson, infamous cult leader, next to the quotation: “I Still Believe in Global Warming, Do You?” Kaczynski and Manson are both controversial figures and convicted mass murders.
The Heartland Institute’s message is intentional: people concerned with climate change are nut jobs and on the fringes of society. The Heartland Institute conflated people who believe in global warming with serial killers, who are (or at least should not be) associated with society as a whole. By attempting to twist the climate change movement into something sick and twisted, this move by the Heartland Institute suggests they don’t have any real evidence to deny climate change. By comparing a belief in global warming to mass murders, the Heartland Institute merely signals they have to use desperate measures and blatantly provocative associations. The Heartland Institute could have chosen other figures that believe in climate change, like the pope or the Dalai Lama, but instead choose to align the climate change movement with notorious serial killers.
Rather than serial killers it is scientists and citizens who are concerned with climate change. Such scientists and citizens pressured the Heartland Institute so much, that within twenty-four hours the billboards were taken down. It is no surprise the Heartland Institute has gone to such measures, after all they are a libertarian think tank espousing free market environmentalism. In short, they support the efforts of corporations policing themselves and ensuing in mass environmental degradation in the name of profit and the free market. For instance, in the 1990s the group worked with tobacco company Philip Morris to question the science linking second hand smoking to health risks. The Heartland Institute opposes public health reforms that could negatively affect profits for corporations.
The Heartland Institute claims that the point of the billboards was to show that “believing in global warming is not ‘mainstream,’ smart, or sophisticated. In fact it is just the opposite of those things.” After they took their billboards down they responded to the scandal with more instigating words: “the leaders of the global warming movement are willing to break the law and the rules of ethics to shut down scientific debate and implement their left-wing agendas.” Their statement about the scandal also dictates that “The people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society” and they claim that is why the most “prominent” global warming advocates are serial killers like Ted Kaczynski and Charles Manson, and dictators like Fidel Castro, another figure portrayed on the billboards.
People who are actually prominent members of the climate change movement shared their opposition to the Heartland Institute’s attack. Michael Mann is the climate scientist of Pennsylvania State University who originally published the graph depicting the rise in average global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution. He is a long time opponent of the Heartland Institute and called the stunt just one more of their “heinous actions” in a long history of despicability. Many mocked the serious accusations of the Heartland Institute, including Kevin Borgia, the director of the Illinois Wind Energy Coalition. He mocked their logic by tweeting: “#Heartland Institute believes in gravity. SO DID HITLER.”
But there is serious support behind the Heartland Institute, including companies like Microsoft. To sign a petition opposing the Heartland Institute’s continuous campaign of climate change denial click here.
Photo credit: nih.gov/catalyst/back/95.07/gifs/unabomb.gif