Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Warning to Teachers About Heartland's Fake Climate Report Ruse

The infamous tobacco and fossil fuel lobbying firm, Heartland Institute, is again intentionally disinforming the public. This past week they sent 25,000 copies of a climate science denial propaganda report to teachers across the country. Heartland intends to send more each week until they eventually reach over 200,000 science teachers. The report is a scam.

The "report" was written by three paid lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry via Heartland. It intentionally ignores 100+ years of science and promotes falsehoods, misdirections, and fallacies that, combined, deny the overwhelming, unequivocal science.

Let's be clear. The summation of 100+ years of science is that "warming of the climate system is unequivocal" (i.e., undeniable) and human activity is the "dominant cause" of the warming since the middle of the 20th century. This is the overwhelming consensus of virtually all of the world's climate scientists, every National Academy of Science, and every major scientific organization in the world. This consensus is supported by more than 100,000 peer-reviewed published scientific papers, millions of empirical data points, multiple lines of evidence, and well-understood basic physics. In short, climate change is real and humans are the reason.

So what is this "report?"

The Heartland Institute has long been a lobbying firm for the tobacco industry denying the unequivocal fact that smoking causes cancer. To this day they still take lobbying money from the tobacco industry to lobby for "smoker's rights" (i.e., smokers' right to harm others health via secondhand smoke). Heartland also has received money from the fossil fuel industry and private donors via a "smoke and mirrors" hidden money trust. They have been caught funding anti-science, climate science denial spokespeople, front groups, and propagandists.

With the anti-science Republican party in control of Congress and the White House, as well as the EPA Administrator, climate science deniers have been even more active than before, using their political leverage to disinform the populace and endanger the health and safety of all Americans.

In 2013-2014 the real IPCC came out with its latest comprehensive summary of the state-of-climate-science. Dissing the IPCC is one tactic denier organizations use to dismiss 100+ years of science. Another denier tactic is to create fraudulent "reports" to distract from the science.

The fake report was written by paid lobbyists Craig Idso, Bob Carter, and Fred Singer, all well-known paid propagandists for the climate denial industry and all paid by Heartland Institute to write the fake report. As can be seen from the deceit used in naming the group - they call themselves the NIPCC (the "N" stands for "Non" but also implies "Not" the IPCC) - lobbyists like Heartland routinely use deception to misinform, misdirect, and misrepresent the state-of-the-science. The fake report highlights minor uncertainties and lobbyist-created talking points in order to dismiss the certainty of man-made climate change.

None of this is new. Idso, Carter, and Singer have all been on the payroll for decades providing fossil fuel and political lobbyists with "deliverables" that can be used to misinform the public. Each and every one of the talking points, false equivalencies, misdirections, and outright lies they promote has been debunked thousands of times already. Nothing they say has ever stood up to scientific scrutiny. Ever.

This past election revealed to many the prevalence of "fake news" on social networks. Those of us who have combated science denial for years are familiar with the tactics used by propagandists - the talking points, paid and ideological trolls, seeding of fake news on the blogosphere, manipulation of the media, and multiple attempts of lobbyists to push non-science into the classroom. Heartland has done this sort of thing before; in 2012 they were caught paying a propagandist to create fake classroom materials to be sent to teachers across the country. It wasn't the first time.

So what can science and other teachers do? First of all, beware of anything that you receive for free and unsolicited in the mail. There is a reason these fake reports are sent directly to teachers and not vetted by the school boards and school systems. Second, make your students aware of how lobbyists employ deceptive practices and propaganda to misinform them. Third, teach your students critical thinking and how to recognize good science (and good information in any discipline). Fourth, keep abreast of the state of the science by being active in education organizations such as the National Center of Science Education and the Union of Concern Scientists.

The science denial lobbying industry has been misleading the public for decades, from denying smoking causes cancer to denying acid rain to denying CFCs and the ozone hole to denying human activity is causing the climate to warm. With the current political situation in the U.S. and elsewhere, these denial lobbyists feel they have the upper hand and are engaging more overtly in their propaganda campaigns. Make no mistake about it - these lobbyists are doing this to protect the profits of their donors, not to inform the public. Be wary, be informed, and be active in fighting against science denial.