Joseph Bast from the Heartland Institute wrote on October 27 that my article on the global warming hoax (Oct. 21) was “false” and “defamatory”. I do acknowledge an error: Heartland is not funded by “conservative PACs”, but by conservative foundations and other conservative organizations.
Bast’s article seems persuasive. He quotes numbers and studies and seems to be reporting science. But he isn’t. His article and the Heartland Institute have perfected the art of climate disinformation, following the same methods used by Holocaust deniers and creationists.
Bast wrote: “Tens of thousands of scientists who have studied the climate change issue believe the human impact is small and the likely effects not harmful. More than 31,000 of them signed a petition to that effect.” Not true. In 1998, Arthur Robinson sent out a petition urging rejection of the Kyoto climate agreement, and rejection of the idea that human-caused global warming would lead to “catastrophic heating” of the atmosphere. Anyone could sign and list their degrees. Over 31,000 signed, as Bast wrote. Among them were Charles Darwin, characters from “Star Wars”, duplicate entries, and corporate names. Even Bast’s own publications list only 9000 as having PhDs. Of those, very few were in climate science. “Scientific American” tried to verify some of those people, and found that some did not agree with the petition and some did not remember signing. Scientific American estimated that the petition was signed by “about 200 climate researchers”. What Bast says about the petition is a lie.
Bast says that my claim that 95% of scientific papers argue in favor of global warming “has been repeatedly debunked”. Since Bast doesn’t say who did this debunking, we go to Heartland’s own website and his article there, “Global Warming: Not a Crisis”. He cites a study by Benny Peiser, who claimed to find 34 papers which “reject or cast doubt on the view that human activity has been the main driver of warming over the past 50 years”. When challenged, Peiser couldn’t show that such papers existed. He retracted his claims and wrote the following email to Media Watch: “I do not think anyone is questioning that we are in a period of global warming. Neither do I doubt that the overwhelming majority of climatologists is agreed that the current warming period is mostly due to human impact.” Peiser wrote this in 2006! That was long before Bast cited Peiser as the guy who proves there is no consensus.
In a recent op-ed in the “Wall Street Journal”, Bast claims a German survey of hundreds of climate scientists in 2008 shows that “most climate scientists disagree with the consensus on key issues such as the reliability of climate data and computer models.” But such disagreements are normal. Bast doesn’t say that the authors asked the respondents to rate from 1 (not at all) to 7 (very much), the following question: “How convinced are you that climate change poses a very serious and dangerous threat to humanity?” Over 90% rated the answer 4 or above. In answer to the question, “If we do not do anything towards adaptation or mitigation, the potential for catastrophe resulting from climate change for the world in the next 50 years is 1 (very low) to 7 (very high)”, 90% answered 4 or above. When 90% say “catastrophe”, that’s consensus.
On Heartland’s website you can see a graph entitled “No global warming for 18 years 1 month”. This graph is based on data that NASA scientists use to show that 2005 and 2010 were the planet’s warmest years since data have been collected, and that of the 13 warmest years since 1880, 11 were the years from 2001 to 2011. But you can’t see that because of the misleading way the data is displayed by Heartland. Most newspapers in the US have published articles about how 2014 will probably be the warmest year ever. News about that is all over the world’s media, but Heartland doesn’t mention it.
Bast and his funders want people to believe that science is political, that scientists “benefit financially from the global warming hoax by using it to justify government funding.” He argues that all science is dishonest: during a FOX interview, Bast said that “peer-review has been corrupted, and we can’t trust what appears in our most prestigious journals anymore.” The world’s scientists and scientific organizations and journals are engaged in a giant conspiracy. Instead we should trust him.
Bast knows that few people will invest the hours needed to discover that his claims are bogus. It doesn’t matter if Bast doesn’t convince people that he is right. He succeeds when generous editors allow him equal space to promote Heartland’s nonsense. He succeeds if he casts doubt, if he creates a controversy, if people who don’t want to believe that the earth is heating up quote his phony studies. When 2014 goes down in history as the warmest year ever, nothing will change on the Heartland website.
Not everyone is like Bast. There’s not enough money in the world to pay me to write lies. If we can’t trust our scientists, then what do we do when the next crisis arrives? Whom should we trust when our lives are on the line in the case of an Ebola epidemic?
November 2, 2014