Heartland Institute threatens to sue journalists who covered 'Denial Gate' leak

Jeremy Hance
February 15, 2012

The Heartland Institute, a conservative advocacy group, is threatening to sue journalists, bloggers, and activists who reported on internal documents that detail the group's fundraising efforts and lay out a new program to replace climate change education in schools with curriculum meant to instill doubt on climate science.

The threat was spelled out in an email sent to media outlets (including mongabay.com) by Jim Lakely, Communications Director at the Heartland Institute. The group said it will "pursue charges and collect payment for damages, including damages to our reputation" from "individuals who have commented so far on these documents", prior to the Heartland Institute's official response. It also states that one of the documents is "a total fake."

Released yesterday by DeSmogBlog, the documents are causing a media firestorm that has already been dubbed 'Denial Gate'. Although the Heartland Institute has yet to fully confirm the authenticity of the documents, it only denies that one of several documents is not real, "Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy." The Heartland Institute has spent years trying to spread skepticism about climate change, although climatologists worldwide overwhelmingly agree that the world is warming and human activities, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation, are playing a major role.

Recent donors to the Heartland Institute's climate change denial campaign include Reynolds American, Microsoft, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Contran, Altria, the General Motors Foundation and the Charles G. Koch Foundation. An anonymous man contributed $8.1 million between 2007 and 2011.
One of the most notable sections of the leaked documents is entitled "Global Warming Curriculum for K-12," which notes that the Heartland Institute has hired Dr. David Wojick to craft curriculum that would teach anthropogenic climate change as "a major scientific controversy." The Heartland Institute expected to pay Wojick $100,000 in 2012 for the curriculum.

According to the documents, the Heartland Institute is allegedly planning to pay meteorologist Anthony Watts, a noted climate denier, $88,000 for a new website project dealing with temperature graphs.

The leaked documents, especially the financial ones, also give an inside view into how climate change skepticism is funded. The Heartland Institute has been handing out significant amounts of money to noted climate change deniers including $11,600/monthly to Craig Idso, $5,000/monthly to Fred Singer, and $1,667/monthly to Robert Carter.

An "Anonymous Donor" gave nearly a million dollars last year to Heartland Institute's climate change programs and is set to give more this year according to the documents. This donor is also providing much of the seed funding for the climate curriculum and the Anthony Watts project.

Scientists have linked global climate change to the melting of the Arctic sea ice, global sea level rise, increased droughts and floods, worsening extreme weather, desertification, melting glaciers, species migrations, and numerous other issues. Predicted impacts have included increased global conflict, declines in crop productivity, and mass extinction of plant and animals. Since the Industrial Revolution global temperatures have risen 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.44 degrees Fahrenheit).

NASA animation showing warming since 1880

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (February 15, 2012).

Heartland Institute threatens to sue journalists who covered 'Denial Gate' leak.