http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21486-leaked-files-expose-heartland-institutes-secrets.html The tables have been well and truly turned in "deniergate", the leak of documents from a key climate-sceptic think tank in the US
Environmental campaigners and climate scientists have been engaging in a merry bout of schadenfreude after the disclosure of sensitive internal documents from the Heartland Institute
, a free-market think tank based in Chicago that has been at the forefront of lobbying against cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions.
The "deniergate" documents, as they have been rapidly dubbed, appear to reveal details of the institute's past and future planned funding arrangements, including the names of many donors. They also show major activities apparently planned by the institute this year, including efforts to influence public debate about climate change.
The institute describes its mission as "to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems". Heartland has been particularly active in lobbying against environmental regulation of businesses in the US, stating on its website that "[t]he environmental movement needs voices devoted to sound science and market-based, rather than government-based, solutions to environmental problems"
Donors divulged Its website notes that Heartland "does not reveal to the public the identities of its donors or the amount of their gifts". However, the names of many of its secret donors have now been made public in the internal memos. One of the documents, a 29-page paper labelled "2012 Fundraising Plan"
indicates that the institute hopes to raise $7.7 million this year from sources such as the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation
, reputedly a major funder of the Tea Party movement, and companies including GlaxoSmithKline, Microsoft Corporation, Pfizer, Reynolds American (which owns a number of tobacco firms) and Time Warner Cable.
Much of the funding has been earmarked for specific initiatives, according to the document, including the Free to Choose Medicine project
, which is expected to gain support from "investors in drug companies" because "many wealthy individuals have strong personal motivation to see faster access to potentially life-saving new drugs become a reality".
However, it is the funding for activities related to climate change that have attracted the most interest since the documents were posted on the websites of environmental campaign groups such as DeSmogBlog
Planned projects According to the papers, one "anonymous donor" gave $13.3 million to the institute between 2007 and 2011, including $8.6 million for "global warming projects".
The fundraising plan also suggests that the same donor will give $1.25 million this year, including $338,000 for three activities related to climate change, such as the development of teaching materials for schools. These materials would, for instance, emphasise "whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy" and "whether CO2
is a pollutant is controversial".
The plan indicates that the schools project will be led by David Wojick, who the institute describes as "a consultant with the Office of Science and Technical Information at the US Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science".
The institute is also seeking funding for "an international network of scientists who write and speak out on climate change" to work on the update of a volume which is described as "the most comprehensive and authoritative rebuttal of the United Nations' IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] reports".
Flow of funds A 33-page document headed "2012 Proposed Budget"
outlines proposed payments to members of the network, including Craig Idso
, Fred Singer
, formerly of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Robert Carter
of James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland, Australia, and Willie Soon
of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
in Cambridge, Massachusetts â€“ all well-known climate-change sceptics.
However, the budget document does not include any arrangements for a major gathering of climate-change sceptics of the sort that the institute has organised in previous years. A meeting in Washington DC last summer
featured speeches from members of the institute's network, as well as sceptics from other countries, including the controversial right-wing British blogger, James Delingpole
The institute strikes back Responding through a press release
, the Heartland Institute has alleged that the documents were stolen by "an unknown person who fraudulently assumed the identity of a Heartland board member and persuaded a staff member here to 're-send' board materials to a new email address".
The institute's release claimed that a two-page document posted alongside the other papers on the website of DeSmogBlog and headed "Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy" is "a total fake".
The release also attacked those who had been discussing the documents in the mainstream and social media, complaining: "Those persons who posted these documents and wrote about them before we had a chance to comment on their authenticity should be ashamed of their deeds, and their bad behaviour should be taken into account when judging their credibility now and in the future."
However, many commentators have pointed out that the institute was very quick to publicise the emails which were hacked from the University of East Anglia in Norwich and posted on websites in November 2009, creating the "climategate" controversy
Indeed, in November the institute seized on the publication of a second batch of hacked emails
from the university. Writing on the Forbes website
, James Taylor
, senior fellow for environment policy at the institute, quoted extensively from a number of messages, offering the justification that "[m]ore than revealing misconduct and improper motives, the newly released emails additionally reveal frank admissions of the scientific shortcomings of global warming assertions".
It is not known who obtained and distributed the documents from the Heartland Institute. They were sent together with an email, a copy of which was received by the science writer Keith Kloor
, which began: "In the interest of transparency, I think you should see these files from the Heartland Institute."
It remains to be seen whether the "deniergate" documents generate as much sustained controversy as the climategate emails.
Now all we need are Mishka's e-mails.