Heartland Institute and its NIPCC report fail the credibility test


The discredited Heartland Institute is attempting to present its new NIPCC report, Climate Change Reconsidered, as a legitimate alternative authority to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But the NIPCC report is not a credible scientific undertaking, and the Heartland Institute has no credibility, scientific or otherwise.

Update: The Heartland Institute is planning to launch Climate Change Reconsidered at an event on September 18.

The following is a guest post by Climate Nexus. (The post in PDF format is here.)

With the launch of new NIPCC report, the discredited Heartland Institute goes head to head with the entire world’s foremost climate scientists.

Tomorrow the Heartland Institute launches a new report Climate Change Reconsidered. To write the report, Heartland assembled a group it calls the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), a particularly revealing choice of name. The name, combined with the timing of the release to coincide with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s upcoming Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), shows that Heartland is attempting to present itself as a legitimate alternative authority to the IPCC.

However, the Heartland institute is nowhere close to the IPCC in terms of credibility. A few key points show the NIPCC to be a transparent marketing gimmick rather than a legitimate scientific undertaking:

    • The NIPCC does not follow the same rigorous scientific evaluation process as the IPCC.
    • The Heartland Institute has a long history of opposing settled science in the interests of its free-market funders, and has used decidedly un-scientific tactics to do so.

The NIPCC vs. IPCC Process

The IPCC is supported by hundreds of scientists, think tanks, and organizations around the world that assess and synthesize the most recent climate change-related science. The IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), published in 2007, involved more than 500 Lead Authors and 2000 Expert Reviewers from more than one hundred participating nations. These authors and reviewers were all unpaid volunteers, and are required to identify and show consideration to theories that differ from conventional wisdom.

Unlike the IPCC, the NIPCC examines literature published exclusively by climate contrarians who are paid to contribute their findings to NIPCC reports, according to leaked internal documents of the Heartland Institute. The 2009 NIPCC report Climate Change Reconsidered had two lead authors, Fred Singer and Craig Idso, and 35 contributors. Similarly, the 2011 Interim NIPCC report had three lead authors, Fred Singer, Craig Idso, and Robert Carter, and only eight contributors. The NIPCC does not employ the same rigorous standards and approval process used by the IPCC to ensure its assessment reports are accurate and inclusive.

The Heartland Institute’s Credibility

The Heartland Institute has a long history of valuing the interests of its financial backers over the conclusions of experts. It has campaigned against the threats posed by second-hand smoke, acid rain, and ozone depletion, as well as the Endangered Species Act. With its aggressive campaigning using tools such as billboards comparing climate change “believers” to the Unabomber, Heartland makes no pretense at being a scientific organization.

Heartland’s funding over the past decade has included thousands of dollars directly from ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute, but a large portion of their funding ($25.6 million) comes from the shadowy Donor’s Capital Fund, created expressly to conceal the identity of large donors to free-market causes. The Koch brothers appear to be funneling money into Donor’s Capital via their Knowledge and Progress Fund.

Heartland’s credibility has been so damaged that mainstream funders have been abandoning the organization, and it has been forced to discontinue its annual climate conference.

*    *    *

Earlier guest posts by Climate Nexus:

The science behind EPA standards is clear

The Economist zeroes in on climate sensitivity but misses bigger picture

The CO2 “fertilization” effect won’t deter climate change

Qing-Bin Lu revives debunked claims about cosmic rays and CFCs

(Response by Qing-Bin Lu to “Qing-Bin Lu revives debunked claims about cosmic rays and CFCs”)

House Science Committee chair twists climate science in Washington Post

Global warming misconceptions on BBC radio

Tired, disproven argument on “benefits” of CO2 resurfaces in Wall Street Journal

Drought study misses underlying climate connections

Setting the Temperature Record Straight: The Last 11,300 Years Explained

Pielke Jr. implies conspiracy over routine journal procedure

James Taylor misinterprets study by 180 degrees

James Taylor’s deceptive attempt to discredit National Climate Assessment experts

In Wall Street Journal op-ed, Bjorn Lomborg urges delay with misleading stats

On floods and climate change

Scientists respond to the Wall Street Journal’s latest junk-science climate predictions

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19 Responses to Heartland Institute and its NIPCC report fail the credibility test

  1. Desertphile says:

    So, the laws of physics are “being reconsidered.” LOL! Gods, cults are funny!

  2. Don Quigley says:

    Why don’t you try challenging the contents of the NIPCC report rather than attacking the credibility of the NIPCC. Then I might actually consider your arguments.

    • Rick - Climate Science Watch says:

      The credibility problems of the Heartland Institute and the projects it sponsors are fair game for those who are concerned with the connection between credible science and policymaking, on the one hand, and the ideologically driven and corporate-funded groups that seek to obstruct that connection. We’re not particularly interested in letting the Heartland Institute climate change denialists and a little team of climate science contrarians set the terms of the discussion. We’re not debating with them — in any case, if you’ll notice, this site is not about detailed ‘debates’ on scientific issues. We believe that policymakers, the media, and the public should pay attention to scientific expert credibility and the well-vetted comprehensive assessment reports prepared by a large number of the leading scientists — in particular the new IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, along with the National Academy of Sciences (4-volume America’s Climate Choices report) and the National Climate Assessment forthcoming from the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

      • Big Ben says:

        Why isn’t the government funded IPCC given the same level of scrutiny then? Or is dissent not allowed?

        • Rick - Climate Science Watch says:

          The IPCC reports are subjected to very detailed scrutiny at every stage of development. Each chapter has multiple expert authors, early drafts are reviewed by a large number of experts from all over the world, both inside and outside of governments, and review editors oversee the process of ensuring that authors deal with reviewer comments. The reports assess an enormous body of scientific literature, thousands of journal articles and reports that are themselves reviewed by experts before publication. The Summary for Policymakers document is reviewed by representatives of all the governments, in consultation with the lead author teams, and with the concurrence of the scientists with any changes is approved line-by-line from start to finish before being released. The NIPCC reports are subjected to nothing like this level of scrutiny by the top scientists in the world. This has nothing to do with disallowing ‘dissent’ — it has to do with expert credibility and preponderance of the evidence.

          • Mary says:

            Rubbish. The IPCC is a bureaucracy created to forward the agenda backing Agenda 21. This is not conspiracy theory hooey but is easily sourced information from the United Nations itself. The world is once again experiencing the rise of power brokers who want to control every aspect of life under the guise of “Big Brother knows best”. It’s history repeating itself and it will have the same disastrous outcomes for people as every previous attempt to do the same thing. Climate change is the new bogeyman; the new BIG LIE.

          • Big Ben says:

            My concern was in that the preponderance of attacks against the NIPPC reports seem to little to nothing to do with the science documented within, but rather the source of funding. The scrutiny I was referring to was how there are political entities that have the appearance of wanting to use climate change as a, if you’ll pardon the expression, sky is falling event to take further control of various industries are not receiving the same ‘grain of salt’ approach when it comes to some of their conclusions.

            The crack about dissent not being allowed was not deserved here, but was the result of frustration of trying to discuss this topic in other forums and having my posts asking questions and making points deleted outright. Therefore I apologize wholeheartedly for making it in the first place.

            Call me a skeptic if you will, but it’s only in that I don’t ascribe to group think and I don’t think science is up for a vote. It’s either provable through repeatable results or it is not. I’m admittedly an amateur in this field, but I am reading as much as I can on the topic from both sides, as time allows.

          • Rick - Climate Science Watch says:

            There is plenty of legitimate debate to be had on the issues of climate change policy. And there is quite a complex and fascinating agenda of scientific research issues that need to be worked on, as is happening with a large and very capable international scientific community. I have no problem with ‘skeptics’ who want to learn more about the scientific issues, with an open mind and a real interest in education. Scientists are skeptics, as are any of those who want to be convinced by evidence.

            The problem is that climate change has been swept up into political and ideological battles that have little if anything to do with science per se. You can point the finger at all sorts of participants in this battle, but I believe (and we have been examining and discussing at length on this site for more than 8 years now) the principal drivers of the polarization are coming more from: (1) the corporate energy interests who are protecting their profits against regulation and other policies that would move the system away from fossil fuels, and using their clout in the political process to tie things up; (2) right-wing anti-government and anti-regulatory ideologues whose political views appear threatened by scientific conclusions that point toward a need for stronger policy action; (3) people whose religious or cultural identities appear threatened by modern science; and so forth. This has created a situation where one of the main political parties has been taken over by forces who make into a litmus test rejection of the widely-agreed mainstream climate science findings by the leading credentialed experts. This is really quite an extraordinary situation and one that is beyond the power of the science community to fix regardless of how well they communicate — because they are dealing with people whose ‘skepticism’ is not in good faith. The politically orchestrated parts of it, in which Heartland has played a very active role, I refer to as the global warming denial machine. (My use of the term denialist to refer to politicians, politicos, and P.R. people in this context has nothing to do with the Holocaust and I don’t intend to stop using it.)

            So it’s not as though the Heartland Institute just arrived on the scene with a clean record. We have posted on them in the past. And it’s not as though the authors of their NIPCC report represent a highly-respected-by-their scientific-peers group that is coming up with new findings that the leading scientists have failed to deal with. This is a contrarian group that is re-hashing old arguments and not using the state-of-the-art scientific literature in good faith to come up with a coherent analysis that counters the scientific findings synthesized in the IPCC assessment reports, which ARE by leading experts. So this is not really the ‘debate’ that the contrarians would like to make it out to be, and most scientists, as well as people who have accepted that climate science points to the need for stronger action, have no more interest in letting the Heartland and NIPCC folks hijack the public discourse and getting the media to frame the narrative in their terms. This has been going on for years and years now, and we are past that.

  3. Big Ben says:

    I guess dissent and discussion isn’t allowed since you censored my post. How typical.

    • Rick - Climate Science Watch says:

      You were not ‘censored’. Submitted comments are held for moderation before being posted. That’s our editorial discretion — nothing goes up automatically. You submitted your first comment at 2:47 a.m. and started whining about censorship at 5:09 a.m. We generally don’t moderate comments in our sleep, but rather when time allows.

      • Patrick says:

        Nice response. All I ever ask of the skeptics is to provide some valid scientific data to back up their claims, It is not possible. Of course rather than admitting that they are wrong, it suddenly becomes an issue of a vast global science conspiracy. Which only goes to show that they haven’t got a clue about what real Science entails.
        Big ben, do yourself a favor and actually go out and read some peer-reviewed articles. Just because Fox decides to place this on their front page, doesn’t mean it has any more legitimacy. In fact, the opposite is probably true.

        • Rick - Climate Science Watch says:

          Sorry for the delay in posting. Complex schedule today.

        • Mary says:

          The notion that skeptics cannot present “science” is ridiculous given the fact that the IPCC uses “models” to substitute for “science” and their models have been proven to be woefully inaccurate. People will believe what they want to believe, regardless of what the science actually says and governments have used that to manipulate behavior forever. If this was a scientific imperative and if means of addressing climate change had anything whatsoever to do with true ecological sustainability we would be carefully implementing strategies that are known to work and environmental concerns/ecological balance would be foremost in our decision making process. The brat of the global climate change crowd is industrial wind, which is Permitted based on politics, not environmental concerns. The criteria for a project, in this order, are 1) available transmission 2) available federal money 3) willing leaseholders. The goal of the AWEA is to undermine environmental protections to “bring certainty to developers and investors”. I can’t decide if it’s hypocrisy or stupidity that drives the global climate change agenda when it comes to viewing things in terms of sustainability, but I do know that the current frat party approach to renewables poses a greater short and long term threat to sustainability than global climate change. On the up side, it makes the manufacturers of GMO’s and pesticides/herbicides extremely happy.

        • Big Ben says:

          Actually, I found the information regarding the NIPCC reportbecause I was seeking out more information, not because it made it onto FOX news. I actually find it MORE interesting that it didn’t get mentioned at all on other news sites outside of an opinion article or two that was little more than a vitriolic diatribe.
          I’m a firm believer in hearing both sides of a debate and I despise group think with a passion. So far, I’ve read more about why the NIPPC report should be regarded due to funding sources rather than the actual science content. On the flip side, the dissent I’ve seen so far primarily focuses on trying to confront the models used, data collection methodology and the theories being presented. Makes for an interesting contrast, don’t you think?

          • Rick - Climate Science Watch says:

            The large climate science community that is not on the NIPCC margin have produced a mountain of scientific work for decades now, including major and well-vetted assessment reports that synthesize the state of scientific understanding, as well as presentations, congressional testimony, and other forms of communication. It’s just that they don’t tend to frame it in terms of point-by-point debate with the contrarians. The fact that certain analytical conclusions about observed climate change, attribution to human causes, in particular the energy system and deforestation, projected greater climate change in the future, observed impacts of climate change on natural and human systems, and projected very disruptive consequences in the future given our current trajectory, is not due to ‘group think’ but rather to a generally shared analysis based on evidence. Is the fact that modern biology uses evolution as a basis a manifestation of group think?

            So if you want to learn more, there is a large number of points of entry. The new volumes in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report are comprehensive and authoritative — authored and reviewed by a large number of scientists. That’s pretty dense going. The 4 volumes in the America’s Climate Choices series published by the National Academy of Sciences are pretty readable. The UK Royal Society and the National Academy of Sciences have recently put out a 32-page monograph on “Climate Change – Evidence and Causes.” An American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Climate Science Panel recently put out a concise monograph titled “What We Know: The Reality, Risks, and response to Climate Change.” And for a good introductory text covering science, technology, and policy issues, my friend Robert Henson’s “Rough Guide to Climate Change” (3rd edition) is very good. For setting-the-record-straight responses to a very large number of the standard skeptic-contrarian-denialist arguments, http://www.skepticalscience.com does a pretty thorough job, well-referenced and quite accessible.

      • Big Ben says:

        I apologize for not waiting longer, I assumed incorrectly that you used a bot moderation system like many other sites. My second post was unnecessary to the discussion and written in a foul mood that you didn’t deserve to be on the receiving end of.

        • Rick - Climate Science Watch says:

          No problem Big Ben. We use comment moderation because we have seen too many blog comment sections hijacked by people who go off topic and start arguing with each other with a lack of civility, or whatever. Or who show disrespect for the science community, or for us. This is not a wild and woolly free-for-all blogosphere site, it’s an education and advocacy project with a point of view. Also, its focus is mainly on the climate science-policy-politics interfaces, with an emphasis on the receiving end of the scientific communication. We don’t get into detailed scientific and technical discussions and debates. There are other places for that, and people should seek out the leading scientific and technical experts.

  4. Chris says:

    I find the Hypocrisy on both sides laughable. Each side claim the other is discredited by the source of funding yet claim their own funding is not corrupted. The reality is that both sides are funded by corruption and agenda wielding companies or governments.

    Also I see that you reply to people claiming that the IPCC is run by experts, “the scientific findings synthesized in the IPCC assessment reports, which ARE by leading experts. ”

    I would like to know what defines them as experts? The fact that they claim it of themselves? I have read some of these “Experts” work and it is ludicrous at best, and filled with opinions not scientific facts.

    Also throughout History, it has been proven time and time again that the scientific community is completely flawed with a Fraternity mindset. Any scientist that has dared to speak out against the ideals/facts of the current community is shunned and condemned. However history would show us that most often these scientists were correct.

    Why is it that one group can present evidence for their claims and it is considered fact when the other group presents conflicting evidence it is shrugged off as a fars?

    Why is it that almost all the articles I see that would discredit or offer a new reason to the issues of global warming are removed from the internet often within hours of them being posted?

    I have yet to to see any shred of actual proof that would convince me one way or the other that global warming is real or a fake. The only thing that appears to be abundantly clear is the planet changes and goes through cycles at its own pace(both sides have proven that and not much more)!

    • Rick - Climate Science Watch says:

      Re: “The reality is that both sides are funded by corruption and agenda wielding companies or governments.” —

      The U.S. Global Change Research Program provides federal funding through the key research agencies to support climate and global change research and observing systems. It supports a very large number of qualified scientists in many research institutions, both in the government and in universities and research labs. This is not a corrupt program, it is a national treasure, our national intelligence capability for understanding how our actions are affecting the Earth system. You are sounding simple-minded with this and much of the rest of your comment.

      Re: “I have yet to to see any shred of actual proof that would convince me one way or the other that global warming is real or a fake.” —

      You don’t appear to have actually studied climate research, you haven’t looked at the mountain of peer-reviewed scientific work that is synthesized in the IPCC assessments, the National Climate Assessment, numerous reports from the National Academy of Sciences, and so forth. You’re just making things up.

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