Heartland Institute's President Denies They're Climate Science Deniers...Then Spouts More Denial

On April 29, Media Matters detailed how some mainstream media outlets were helping advance a misinformation campaign against Pope Francis that is being orchestrated by the fossil fuel-funded Heartland Institute. That prompted a quick response by Heartland Institute President and CEO Joseph Bast, who vigorously sought to defend the honor of climate science deniers everywhere -- or as he calls them, “global warming realists.”

The crux of Bast's argument is that the Heartland Institute and its allies “do not deny climate change.” But he sure has a funny way of proving it -- by reiterating claims about the causes and impacts of climate change that directly contradict the nearly unanimous findings of scientists who study the climate for a living.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of what Heartland says about climate science juxtaposed with statements from some of the world's leading scientific bodies (emphasis added):

The Heartland Institute: "There is no 'scientific consensus' on the causes or consequences of climate change." [Heartland Institute, 5/1/15]


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which has conducted “17 space missions collecting climate data” over 30 years: "Consensus: 97% of climate scientists agree ... Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position." [NASA.gov, accessed 5/4/15]

The Heartland Institute: “Most scientists believe the Earth experienced a small rise in temperatures during the second half of the twentieth century, but they are unsure how large a role human activities may have played.” [Heartland Institute, accessed 5/4/15]


The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the “leading international body for the assessment of climate change” with contributions from thousands of scientists around the world: "It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century." The IPCC defines “extremely likely” as having 95-100% probability. [IPCC, 2013: Summary for Policymakers]

The Heartland Institute: "[T]he human impact is too small or too improbable to justify the sweeping economic policies called for by the left." [Heartland Institute, 5/1/15]


The American Geophysical Union, the "largest single organization dedicated to the advancement of geophysics" with more than 62,000 members: "Human-induced climate change requires urgent action. Humanity is the major influence on the global climate change observed over the past 50 years. Rapid societal responses can significantly lessen negative outcomes." [American Geophysical Union, August 2013]

The Heartland Institute: “One thing is certain: Most scientists do not believe man-made global warming is a crisis.” [Heartland Institute, 5/1/15]


The American Physical Society, which represents over 51,000 physicists working in academia, national laboratories and industry around the world: “The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth's physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.” [American Physical Society, 11/18/07]

The Heartland Institute: "[T]he warming trend already has stopped and forecasts of future warming are unreliable." [Heartland Institute, accessed 5/4/15]


The World Meteorological Organization, the United Nations' "authoritative voice on the state and behaviour of the Earth's atmosphere ... [and] the climate it produces": "Warming Trend Continues in 2014. ... The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has ranked 2014 as the hottest year on record, as part of a continuing trend." [World Meteorological Organization, 2/2/15]

However, it isn't fair to suggest that the Heartland Institute simply denies the science of climate change. They deny the economics of climate change, too:

The Heartland Institute: "[T]he benefits of a moderate warming are likely to outweigh the costs. ... The current best estimate is that, if left unaddressed, by 2060 global warming is likely to have a small (0.2 percent of GDP) positive effect on the U.S. economy." [Heartland Institute, accessed 5/4/15]


The Risky Business Project, a collection of business leaders and policy experts representing both major political parties: “On net, the economy-wide cost estimates” of climate change impacts in the United States have a "likely range" of between “1.0% to 3.0%” of GDP. [Risky Business Project, October 2014]

Bast concluded his blog by complaining that Media Matters -- and others who express concerns about the proliferation of climate science denial in mainstream media coverage -- are trying to “censor one side in a debate with major social and economic consequences,” even proposing that these groups “be excluded from the public arena” for “call[ing] for biased coverage.” But there is a difference between calling for “biased coverage” and speaking out against false balance. And the real issue is that when media do cite climate science denial coming from someone like Bast, they should explain his ties to the fossil fuel industry and the fact that his claims are firmly rejected by the vast majority of climate scientists.