David Suzuki: It's time that climate-change deniers were exposed

When hackers broke into an Internet server at East Anglia University in the U.K. and selectively released massive amounts of correspondence from the world’s leading climate scientists, folks at the Chicago-based Heartland Institute were quick to exploit it.

Heartland president Joseph Bast wrote: “The release of these documents creates an opportunity for reporters, academics, politicians, and others who relied on the IPCC to form their opinions about global warming to stop and reconsider their position.”

He may have been correct, although “reconfirm” would have been a better word than “reconsider” as seven independent investigations cleared the scientists of any wrongdoing and confirmed the credibility of their research.

Now the tables have been turned on the libertarian “charitable” organization, which devotes its resources to questioning the reality of climate change and the dangers of secondhand tobacco smoke, among other issues.

Heartland is just one of many organizations dedicated to spreading doubt and confusion about legitimate science. These groups share a lack of transparency and an agenda to promote corporate interests at the expense of human health, the environment, and even the economy (if we believe the economy should function primarily in the interests of citizens rather than corporations).

Recently, someone—since identified as climate scientist Peter Gleick—sent documents from the Heartland Institute’s board of directors’ January 17 meeting to a number of people and organizations, including Desmog Blog, a website devoted to exposing the spin around climate change denial. The documents confirm much of what we already knew about Heartland, although they provide interesting details about its connections and motives.

Not surprisingly, the Heartland people don’t see this as “an opportunity for reporters, academics, politicians, and others” to learn more about the secretive group’s agenda. Instead, Heartland posted a statement on its website saying, “honest disagreement should never be used to justify the criminal acts and fraud that occurred in the past 24 hours.”

Unlike most environmental and social justice organizations, including the David Suzuki Foundation, the Heartland Institute doesn’t publicly reveal information about where it gets its money and what it does with it.

These documents indicate that Heartland has offered U.S. weatherman blogger and climate change denier Anthony Watts close to $90,000 for a new project. They also reveal that Heartland funds other prominent deniers, including “Craig Idso ($11,600 per month), Fred Singer ($5,000 per month, plus expenses), Robert Carter ($1,667 per month), and a number of other individuals..."

The papers also confirm that the institute’s primary mission is to discredit the established science of human-caused climate change. And even though it has received funding from wealthy individuals and corporations in the fossil fuel and tobacco industries, including the Koch brothers and RJR Tobacco, it gets most of its money from a single anonymous donor, who has ponied up as much as $4.6 million in a single year, 2008.

If these groups were truly engaged in questioning the science, using valid scientific methods and principles, it wouldn’t be a problem. Science is strengthened through scrutiny and challenges; that’s how it works, and that’s what the peer-review process is about. But these organizations are engaged in secretive and dishonest lobbying and public relations efforts aimed at stalling measures to protect the environment and health.

Gleick has admitted that he made a mistake in posing as someone else to obtain the documents. The unidentified East Anglia hackers were also wrong to have stolen the emails, and the Heartland Institute is wrong when it lies about the most serious threat to humanity.

Three wrongs don’t make a right, but there are some differences. In the East Anglia case, the investigations turned on those who were hacked and ultimately proved that the climate scientists, although human, are engaged in sound and verifiable science and that they have been subjected to years of harassment and bullying for their work. The Heartland documents show that the organization is using its taxpayer-supported status to spread lies and misinformation.

It’s about time these “merchants of doubt” were exposed. It’s time to get back to real science as practiced by scientists. We must get beyond the false debate about the reality of climate change and into the real debate about what to do about it.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation editorial and communications specialist Ian Hanington. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.

Comments (60) Add New Comment
Mark Fornataro
Peter Gleick should be given an award for his expose. The Heartland Institute
gang should be prosecuted for endangering public safety and for libelling legit climate scientists.
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Lee L.
Woo hoo! Dave.
"Unlike most environmental and social justice organizations, including the David Suzuki Foundation, the Heartland Institute doesn’t publicly reveal information about where it gets its money and what it does with it."

Seems like you DO, however, have to produce an annual report.
Most interesting to me was a list of donors in David Suzuki Foundation's Annual Report 2005-2006. The list of donors includes EnCana ( tar sands development), ATCO gas etc).

Well funded eh?

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Doctor
Unfortunately, even real science as practiced by real scientists isn't immune from denial spin, even (especially) in Canada's MSM. This week the Globe and Mail published not one but two stories based upon the same peer-reviewed article authored by Andrew Weaver and Neil Swart. Headlines trumpeted that now we could all rest easy as "Coal, not oil sands, the true climate change bad guy" and "Oil sands not so dirty after all". Yet, if one actually reads the original article, (in the science journal Nature) you'll find nothing which backs up these spurious assertions. Andrew Weaver and Neil Swart should be screaming foul right about now, while tar (not oil) sands proponents are gleefully rubbing their hands. Good one G&M.
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NoLeftNutter
Gee, considering that co-founder of DeSmog blog James Hoggan is the chair of the DSF should anyone be surprised that professor fruit fly thinks this criminal act is perfectly OK? Compare the $6.4M Heartland Fund versus the tens of billions that have been spent on the CAGW scam and which side is actually winning the war based on the scientific proof, it's no wonder Suzuki still wets the bed.
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Zen Cat
I'm curious why people choose to support investing in denial of the obvious deterioration of our climate and environment? Where do these deniers live-- are they on Earth? If they are, it appears they are completely detached from a global reality. Why can't people accept the obvious information received and perceived through utilizing any of the 5 senses many of us a born with, and do something to help restore and sustain our earth? I hear a lot about how the deniers have sold their souls to the people in corporations that only see the money. Money is a currency. Money is energy. Money comes and goes and flows. What a concept if we could globally focus on being responsible and accountable: To Earth regardless of who we are? We know and have known for about 50 years as a human race what is compatible with earth's environment and what is not. How stupid can we be to continue to destroy our home and everything living on it because some "men in power" want to continue the pursuit of raping the earth, driven by greed and the dependency and addiction to black coal, texas tea aka oil? Dr. David Suzuki: "We invent our future every day. Choose wisely. " I see newborn babies of all species and think, will she/he ever see real animals? Real forests? Real oceans? Real air? Real earth? Will there be anything left for generations to come ? Or will we stand still while the earth continues to turn and times goes by and everything living becomes extinct hoping our stock in the deniers will pay off someday? ? Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. ? ~Buddha
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Humpty Numpty
Hey, congrats, Lee L. Through some brilliant sleuthing of publicly available documents you have revealed that the David Suzuki Foundation got some donations more than 6 years ago from companies that are involved with natural gas. I guess that's why the Suzuki Foundation supports the tar sands and fracking and Northern... Oh wait. I see. You don't really have a point - just desperate to find any way you can to support your right-wing climate change denial lunacy! Gotta love the Heartland!
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Papertiger
When hackers broke into an Internet server at East Anglia University in the U.K. and selectively released massive amounts of correspondence from the world’s leading climate scientists, folks at the Chicago-based Heartland Institute were quick to exploit it.
""'''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''
That's not actually true. When the climategate emails first appeared on The Air Vent and WUWT both Anthony and Jeff checked with East Anglia University to make absolutely sure they were dealing with real CRU emails. Then after that was confirmed they released them to the wider world, including Joe Bast and the Heartland Institute.
"""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""
...seven independent investigations cleared the scientists of any wrongdoing and confirmed the credibility ....
'''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''
Suzuki may be correct, although “friendly co-benefactors” would have been a better word than “independent” as the first of these seven were conducted by the Penn State ethics committee, and we learn that Peter Gleick is the leader on ethical questions at the AGU.


TO tired to read any further...
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ClimateRealism
Suzuki, where in the documents does it show that Heartland is spreading “lies and misinformation.” ? That is a serious unfounded allegation.
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MarkBowen
@CliamteRealism, just takes 2 seconds of Google to look up the docs yourself. Here's a snippet:

"To counter this we are considering launching an effort to develop alternative materials for K-12 classrooms. We are pursuing a proposal from Dr. David Wojick to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science. His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science. We tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $100,000 for 20 modules in 2012, with funding pledged by the Anonymous Donor.”
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Papertiger
Mark Bowen, why are you quoting the document that everyone agrees is the fake?
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Zen Cat
. . . . Meanwhile back on planet Earth, amidst very strange weather patterns reported from all over the globe from of hail, torrential hail, rain, lightning and thunder storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, severe drought, or severe flooding, melting polar ice caps, there are certain men drawing attention to themselves. Yes, they are continuing their major pissing contest. Who will "win" ? Will they stop pissing long enough to notice it's really their egos trying to prove this or that when it really doesn't matter. Get the hell on with it! Do what can be done now. We don't have any more time to waste!
You guys are being so stupid . . . .Be sure to tune in again soon. We'll have an update for you soon. . . .
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Jamie1a
Human nature is largely defined by our capacity for narcissism. God created man in his image, the earth is the center of the universe, we are something distinct from animals, etc. Of course the natural inclination is to assume that climate change is something man-made. It's what we have been doing since... well... as long as we remember.

Until someone disproves that the sun... which is in fact an INCOMPREHENSIBLY large nuclear explosion (as in the human mind doesn't have the cognitive power to truly understand its spacial size)... within literal eye sight of our planet... has zero effect on our climate, then the deniers have a place.

Until it's proven that it's typical for the global climate to be completely static over the course of hundreds or thousands of years, this debate is not over.

It's not scientific to try and quash the ideas of others that don't see the world in the same way. THAT is ideological . Suzuki is waging a political battle and nothing more. Science stopped motivating him a long time ago.

Are humans having an effect on the climate? Possibly, but weather modelling and speculative science isn't enough to settle this debate... not by a long shot. Trying to muzzle this debate derails our quest for truth. I'm saddened whenever I read people advocating this.

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Goldorak
Poor David Suzuki... There was a "Gleitch" in the Desmog script LOL

David your funding is now well documented. Charity? Nope Lobby Group for hire... ask the UK High Commission in Ottawa!!!!

Desmog= BC Power (un)Smart
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Kasia
Exposed? Let's just put them in prison with the conservatives and the Harper government.
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Humpty Numpty
Hmmm. Here I thought Goldorak was just some mentally ill troll. But it turns out he's really Ezra Levant. Come to think of it, maybe its the same thing.
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Zen Cat
I'm on Earth...3rd planet from the sun. Where the are you? The pissing contest has continued for 50+ years. What the hell is wrong with you? Please don't bring your religious (dis)beliefs into the equation Jamie1a. It sounds like you aren't aware that the average life-span of a human being is less than hundreds or thousands of years. I didn't sign on here to write a bloody book to use as persuasion into another reality for you. If you need more evidence and reference material other than the weather and our environment it's in your mind and you need to change your mind. I can't do that for you. It's up to you. In the meantime you and all deniers like you are holding the rest of us hostage here on Earth while continuing your massive pissing contest. It is a reasonable request to cease and stop your pissing contest and further compilation and extrapolation of endless documentation and do something meaningful and sustainable to save the planet before it's too late. Maybe you can visit yourself in the future and give yourself a different mind because you sure as hell aren't using the one you've got. Again, what planet are you on? Too bad we couldn't ship all of you somewhere else into another galaxy far far away--it would be easier...but maybe this is all just a test?
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Pat Crowe
I'm running my car in the driveway just to speed the process.
Bring Palm Springs.
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e-curb
"Science is strengthened through scrutiny and challenges"
I couldn't agree more with you, Dave!
But the problem is, anyone that "challenges" your science will be labeled a denier by YOU!
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Birdy
re: Lee L. "Most interesting to me was a list of donors in David Suzuki Foundation's Annual Report 2005-2006. The list of donors includes EnCana "

Hold on... So Suzuki get's EnCana cash, then joins up with Gordon Campbell to push the carbon tax/Pacific Carbon Trust.... which takes money directly from our public school system..... and gives it to EnCana......

Damn David! From one capitalist to another, that's some COLD game. You make Goldman Sachs look like an ethical organization. You're my fucking role model. I hope someday I'll have a carbon footprint as luxuriously massive as yours, and as long as I buy magical gaia-healing carbon credits from EnCana it'll be totally fine for the planet, right? Oh who cares, anyone who disagrees is just a denier.
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Jamie1a
Zen,

A pissing contest requires at least two people. If not, it's not a contest. Yet you only want people who think differently than you to be silenced. Suzuki is pissing just as much as anyone in this debate. He's being as dishonest as anyone else in this debate.

Religion has nothing to do with what I wrote. I merely brought up obvious examples of human narcissism... especially in relation to previously held "scientific beliefs".

Also, labeling me a "denier" reaches the height of foolishness. What exactly am I denying? Now compare this with what you openly (and largely uncritically) deny. Who is the real denier here?

Nor did you address any criticisms I brought up. You merely went on a rant explaining my ignorance. The irony is is that my mind if far more open than yours (if this topic is indicative of anything). I am aware that human life-spans are less than 100 years (typically). That's my point. In the larger context of our planet, the time frames we are talking about about are almost immeasurably small. It's scientifically irresponsible to infer that an observation made over a relative blink of an eye is indicative of anything more than the period studied. To do so argues that the climate remains static over the course of hundreds or 1000s of years. Do you believe that the average global climate temperature remains consistent and unchanging over 1000s of years (with or without humans)?

Again, has "science" proven that the sun is not a factor? Has it been proven that it's natural for the climate to remain static over 1000s of years?

The answer is no. Therefore the issue is not settled. Humanity is filled with examples of "proven" scientific theories being completely wrong. Trying to silence legitimate alternatives serves no purpose, other than to win an ideological battle, or as you call it... a pissing contest. You don't want an end to this pissing contest. You merely wish to win it. The quest for truth and understanding is secondary.
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