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Climate change doubter Heartland Institute documents leaked

By Neela Banerjee (Los Angeles Times) - February 17, 2012

Once in a while, there comes along a reason to believe in karma.

Earlier this week, the Heartland Institute, a self-described “free-market think tank” that pilloried climate scientists whose stolen emails were released in 2009 as part of the so-called Climategate flap, found itself duped out of several confidential fundraising documents that were then distributed widely over the Internet, offering a glimpse of its priorities.

On its website, the Chicago-based Heartland asserts that at least one document is forged. The group has yet to determine if the the other documents, including its tax returns and fundraising targets, were altered. It says it has notified the police and FBI of the unauthorized release of the documents, which occurred “when an unknown person who fraudulently assumed the identity of a Heartland board member … persuaded a staff member here to “re-send” board materials to a new email address.”

Known largely for its work for the tobacco industry and its annual convention of climate change doubters in Washington, Heartland has asked the media to refrain from publishing documents obtained under false pretenses and from jumping to conclusions based on material taken out of context.

“Disagreement over the causes, consequences, and best policy responses to climate change runs deep. We understand that,” Heartland said on its website. “But honest disagreement should never be used to justify the criminal acts and fraud that occurred in the past 24 hours. As a matter of common decency and journalistic ethics, we ask everyone in the climate change debate to sit back and think about what just happened.”

That’s not quite how Heartland saw things in November 2009, when someone hacked the correspondence of some of the world’s leading climate scientists working with the University of East Anglia in Britain and released thousands of emails, with the intention of suggesting that researchers had massaged data to show that the planet was warming.

“The release of these documents creates an opportunity for reporters, academics, politicians, and others who relied on the IPCC to form their opinions about global warming to stop and reconsider their position,” wrote Joseph Bast, Heartland’s president. “The experts they trusted and quoted in the past have been caught red-handed plotting to conceal data, hide temperature trends that contradict their predictions, and keep critics from appearing in peer-reviewed journals. This is new and real evidence that they should examine and then comment on publicly.”

Every independent panel that has looked into the East Anglia emails has cleared the scientists of wrongdoing. British law enforcement, with the help of the U.S. Justice Department, continues to investigate the hacking case.

Heartland says that a document in the recently released mix, entitled 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy is a fake. But several of the key points the document makes are backed up elsewhere. Most notably, in a fundraising document, Heartland identifies one of its priorities as reshaping the discussion of climate change in classrooms.

The document says, “Many people lament the absence of educational material suitable for K-12 students on global warming that isn’t alarmist or overtly political. Heartland has tried to make material available to teachers, but has had only limited success. Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective.”

Heartland is working with a consultant named David Wojick to develop a K-12 curriculum “to help teach the scientific debate regarding climate change.”

In an email, Wojick said he approached Heartland to fund his project, which would help educators “teach one of the greatest scientific debates in history. This means teaching both sides of the science, more science, not less.”

The problem is that there is very little debate among the world’s climatologists about the vast body of peer-reviewed data that has shown that human consumption of fossil fuels has led to a warming of the planet. The debate in the United States is largely political.

Wojick has been “a part-time support contractor for the Office of Scientific and Technical Information since 2003, working to help the office manage and organize its electronic databases. He has never advised or conducted research for the Department on climate change or any other scientific topic, and the office he works for is not a research organization,” said Jen Stutsman, a spokeswoman for the Energy Department.

Wojick is not a scientist. His academic background, he said, is “in the logic (or philosophy) of science.”

If Heartland goes with Wojick’s project, it would come at a time when science teachers already feel increasingly nervous about teaching climate change because in some places it is becoming as politicized as teaching evolution.

The document said that Heartland would try to raise $100,000 for the project, but Wojick said he did not know the status of financing for his initiative.

The Heartland Institute has not yet responded to questions about whether any of the other documents have been altered, saying that Bast, their president, was traveling. He did find time, however, to sign a fund-raising plea that was released Thursday by Mother Jones and which the think tank confirmed was authentic. The plea is worded as follows:

“Two advocacy groups posted online several documents they claimed were The Heartland Institute’s internal budget, fundraising, and strategy plans.

Now, scores of bloggers and left-wing activists and their pets in the lamestream media are posting and quoting these ‘leaked’ documents ….

Your stalwart support is needed now more than ever. This attack would not have happened if we weren’t unveiling the truth.”