(NOTE: This post also serves as a rebuttal to a May 31 Huffington Post piece.)
An article in the May 26, 2012 issue of The Economist titled “Toxic shock” begins with these promising words: “The Heartland Institute, the world’s most prominent think-tank promoting scepticism about man-made climate change, is getting a lot of heat.” We appreciate the acknowledgment of our international stature in the climate change debate. Unfortunately, the rest of the brief article mostly repeats the talking points of left-wing advocacy groups that have targeted Heartland precisely because of its stature.
Heartland has not “lost an estimated $825,000 in expected donations.” Most of the donors who have said they won’t continue to support us have agreed to fund new or existing groups that will continue our work; some already contributed this year before their announcements; and others had indicated they would not fund us even before the billboard controversy. We have now raised considerably more from current and new donors than we may have lost due to the controversy.
Two directors had to step down from our board, but two new members will be elected at our next meeting to take their place. Attendance at our climate change conference was greater than at three of the seven previous events, and would have been higher were it not for short notice (only three months) and our new policy of not providing travel scholarships to elected officials and allies.
The Economist’s reporting on the “Fakegate” incident – the theft of confidential corporate documents by climate scientist Peter Gleick – is more or less accurate, including that “Mr Bast says that far from exposing his institute, the documents exonerated it from charges that it was a front for the fossil-fuel industry.” It’s not just my opinion that this is so: The New York Times reported on February 15: “ Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the Heartland documents was what they did not contain: evidence of contributions from the major publicly traded oil companies, long suspected by environmentalists of secretly financing efforts to undermine climate science.”
Our digital billboard in Chicago produced a mountain of fake outrage and indignation from groups on the left, dutifully reported as though it were real by the mainstream media, which are deeply in the tank with the environmental movement. But the billboard was factually correct and confirms what millions of people know. It has reinvigorated the debate over how much we really know about the causes and consequences of climate change.
Would anything less controversial have prompted The Economist to break its silence and recognize our role in the international debate? I don’t think so.