Share This!
Text SizeAAA Share Email
 

 

February 17, 2012 

Scientists Who Had Emails Stolen Ask Heartland Institute to End Attack on Climate Science

UCS President Kevin Knobloch Calls Heartland Institute's Strategy 'Disturbing'

WASHINGTON (Feb. 17, 2012) – Seven leading climate researchers who themselves were the victims of an email theft which was promoted by the Heartland Institute have written an open letter to the organization, calling on it to refrain from spreading inaccurate information about climate science and attacking climate researchers.

The letter follows the publication of internal documents this week reportedly from Heartland that, if genuine, reveal that some of the nation’s largest fossil fuel interests are funding attacks to discredit climate science, including in public schools.

“Although we can agree that stealing documents and posting them online is not an acceptable practice, we would be remiss if we did not point out that the Heartland Institute has had no qualms about utilizing and distorting emails stolen from scientists,” according to the letter.

All of the signers had emails that are part of a stolen archive the Heartland Institute has pointed to in an attempt to discredit climate science.

“We hope the Heartland Institute will heed its own advice to ‘think about what has happened’ and recognize how its attacks on science and scientists have helped poison the debate over climate change policy,” the letter reads. “The Heartland Institute has chosen to undermine public understanding of basic scientific facts and personally attack climate researchers rather than engage in a civil debate about climate change policy options.”

Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, noted in a blog post today that while Heartland is demanding integrity and fairness in the treatment of this theft, the group was silent and in fact actively exploited the theft of these scientists’ emails in an effort to discredit their climate change research.

He went on to note that the “far more disturbing story here” was Heartland’s efforts to corrupt the teaching of science at its earliest levels by targeting public schools with materials designed to marginalize or dismiss climate science.

“The deep anger that pervades Heartland’s public statement yesterday seems to indicate embarrassment at being caught doing something that isn’t honorable, of which they are not proud,” Knobloch wrote.

The full letter from scientists, which was published in the London Guardian earlier today, is reproduced below:

An Open Letter to the Heartland Institute

As scientists who have had their emails stolen, posted online and grossly misrepresented, we can appreciate the difficulties the Heartland Institute is currently experiencing following the online posting of the organization’s internal documents earlier this week. However, we are greatly disappointed by their content, which indicates the organization is continuing its campaign to discredit mainstream climate science and to undermine the teaching of well-established climate science in the classroom.

We know what it feels like to have private information stolen and posted online via illegal hacking. It happened to climate researchers in 2009 and again in 2011. Personal emails were culled through and taken out of context before they were posted online. In 2009, the Heartland Institute was among the groups that spread false allegations about what these stolen emails said. Despite multiple independent investigations, which demonstrated that allegations against scientists were false, the Heartland Institute continued to attack scientists based on the stolen emails. When more stolen emails were posted online in 2011, the Heartland Institute again pointed to their release and spread false claims about scientists.

So although we can agree that stealing documents and posting them online is not an acceptable practice, we would be remiss if we did not point out that the Heartland Institute has had no qualms about utilizing and distorting emails stolen from scientists.

We hope the Heartland Institute will heed its own advice to “think about what has happened” and recognize how its attacks on science and scientists have helped poison the debate over climate change policy. The Heartland Institute has chosen to undermine public understanding of basic scientific facts and personally attack climate researchers rather than engage in a civil debate about climate change policy options.

These are the facts: Climate change is occurring. Human activity is the primary cause of recent climate change. Climate change is already disrupting many human and natural systems. The more heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions that go into the atmosphere, the more severe those disruptions will become. Major scientific assessments from the Royal Society, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, United States Global Change Research Program and other authoritative sources agree on these points.

What businesses, policymakers, advocacy groups and citizens choose to do in response to those facts should be informed by the science. But those decisions are also necessarily informed by economic, ethical, ideological, and other considerations. While the Heartland Institute is entitled to its views on policy, we object to its practice of spreading misinformation about climate research and personally attacking climate scientists to further its goals.

We hope the Heartland Institute will begin to play a more constructive role in the policy debate. Refraining from misleading attacks on climate science and climate researchers would be a welcome first step toward having an honest, fact-based debate about the policy responses to climate change.

  • Ray Bradley, PhD, Director of the Climate System Research Center, University of Massachusetts
  • David Karoly, PhD, ARC Federation Fellow and Professor, University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Michael Mann, PhD, Director, Earth System Science Center, Pennsylvania State University
  • Jonathan Overpeck, PhD, Professor of Geosciences and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Arizona
  • Ben Santer, PhD, Research Scientist, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Gavin Schmidt, PhD, Climate Scientist, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
  • Kevin Trenberth, ScD, Distinguished Senior Scientist, Climate Analysis Section, National Center for Atmospheric Research

 

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

Powered by Convio
nonprofit software