Atmospheric Scientist here at Weather Underground, with serious nerd love for tropical cyclones and climate change. Twitter: @WunderAngela
By: Angela Fritz , 4:40 PM GMT on May 04, 2012
How low will the Heartland Institute go to shame climate change "believers?" Very low, it appears. In it's most recent billboard campaign, which is running in Chicago, Heartland, an anti-science organization famous for climate change denial, compares those who accept climate science to mass murderers, like Charles Manson and Osama Bin Laden.
The Heartland Institute is a conservative public policy "think tank" based in Chicago, Illinois. It claims to conduct research on things like healthcare, tobacco, and global warming, but is known for fabricating results to support its clients' bottom line. The institute is probably best-known for its work with Philip Morris in their mission to question the science connecting second-hand smoke and health risks, and to lobby against public health reforms. The New York Times describes the Heartland Institute as "the primary American organization pushing climate change skepticism."
The Guardian broke this murderous billboard story this morning, and calls it "quite possibly one of the most ill-judged poster campaigns in the history of ill-judged poster campaigns." You might actually recognize this tack from the meat industry's "Hitler was a vegetarian" campaign, which suggested that only fascists don't eat meat. (By the way, we don't suggest you give up meat to reduce your carbon footprint, just be smart about the meat you eat!)
In Heartland's description of the billboard campaign, they say:
The people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren't scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.
But let's be clear, thousands of scientists are not the "radical fringe." Over 95% of actively publishing climate change scientists agree that:
• The earth is getting warmer,
• The warming is due to human activity, and
• If greenhouse gas emissions continue, the warming will accelerate
So, does this billboard convince you otherwise?
Update: 1:30pm ET
Jocelyn Fong from Media Matters writes:
I asked Heartland spokesman Jim Lakely today to clarify which of the following is the position of his organization:
• The planet hasn't warmed in recent decades
• The planet has warmed but humans didn't contribute to it
• Humans contributed to warming but it's not a crisis
His response: "Heartland doesn't take official positions." Lakely forwarded my question to James Taylor, Heartland's senior fellow for environmental policy, who said "The best way to summarize the issue is that global warming is not a crisis." Taylor wouldn't say manmade global warming doesn't exist, even though the billboards and the accompanying press release make that very claim.
Update: 4:30pm ET
Brian Vastag, Science reporter for the Washington Post, has tweeted:
"Heartland Institute's President Joe Bast says they are taking down the Ted Kaczynski global warming billboard. Details to come."
From the Washington Post:
4 p.m. update: Heartland Institute President and CEO Joe Bast has issued the following statement:
We will stop running [the billboard] at 4:00 p.m. CST today. (It’s a digital billboard, so a simple phone call is all it takes.)
The Heartland Institute knew this was a risk when deciding to test it, but decided it was a necessary price to make an emotional appeal to people who otherwise aren’t following the climate change debate.
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