Stolen documents show the tiny budget of global warming skeptics.
When did it become received media wisdom that global warming skepticism was all the work of shadowy right-wing groups lavishly funded by oil companies? As best we can tell, it started with a 1995 Harper's magazine article claiming to expose this "high-powered engine of disinformation." Today anyone who raises a doubt about the causes of global warming is accused of fronting for, say, Exxon, whatever the facts.
Now comes a rare glimpse inside the allegedly antiscience behemoth, with the online publication last week of documents purloined from the conservative Heartland Institute. The files appear to contain detailed financial, donor and personnel information and outline the think-tank's projects. Chicago-based Heartland says one of the documents is fake and warns that others may have been altered.
Given the coverage the story has generated, you'd think some vast conspiracy had been uncovered. Heartland is, according to the Associated Press, "one of the loudest voices denying human-caused global warming, hosting the largest international scientific conference of skeptics on climate change." The Vancouver Sun reports that it is "heavily funded by right-wing industrialist Charles Koch," while the Virginian-Pilot dubs it "the ideological center of the denial movement."
So how flush is Heartland? The documents show the group is expecting revenues of $7.7 million this year, mostly from private donations and grants. Mr. Koch's "heavy" funding came to $25,000 in 2011, though the Heartland "Fundraising Plan" has it hoping for an increase in 2012. To put those numbers in not-for-profit perspective, last year the Natural Resources Defense Council reported $95.4 million in operating revenues, while the World Wildlife Fund took in $238.5 million.
Press coverage has focused in particular on Heartland's plans to produce and distribute "educational material suitable for K-12 students on global warming that isn't alarmist or overtly political." Heartland is budgeting $200,000 this year for the effort, which in the past has "had only limited success," per one of the documents. Little wonder if teachers aren't returning Heartland's calls: Last year the World Wildlife Fund spent $68.5 million on "public education" alone.
As for "the largest international scientific conference of skeptics," Heartland will, according to the documents, spend all of $388,000 this year on the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change. That's against the $6.5 million that the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change costs Western taxpayers annually, and the $2.6 billion the White House wants to spend next year on research into "the global changes that have resulted primarily from global over-dependence on fossil fuels."
In the pages of Rolling Stone last summer, Al Gore warned of the "Polluters and Ideologues [sic] . . . . spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year on misleading advertisements in the mass media." He had the wrong spenders.