Hateful billboard campaign and misleading conference talks a sign of desperation among global warming deniers
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — In a bizarre convocation, oil-smeared pseudo-scientists mingled with right-wing think tankers at the Heartland Institute’s annual anti-science climate conference, an event that would be funny if there weren’t so much at stake.
The panel sessions focused on launching repeated ideological and political attacks against efforts to curb global warming. In one of the first sessions, meteorologist Joe Bastardi invoked bible verses to end his presentation, suggesting that God is in charge of the climate, and that human efforts to cut greenhouse gases are meaningless in the big picture.
The day ended with Czech President Václav Klaus charging that climate activists are “exactly like communists” in their efforts to arrange society according to their desires.
In between, speakers said not to worry about malaria because, hey, we can simply start using DDT again, and that a warming climate is good for forests and agriculture — notwithstanding clear evidence that forests around the world are under stress as temperatures rise, and that rice farmers in Asia are already seeing impacts of climate change.
Some of the most vitriolic attacks were reserved for the Obama administration’s move to limit greenhouse gases via EPA regulations, with wildly overstated claims of how those steps could “destroy” the U.S. economy, again ignoring that numerous studies have already shown how warming is hitting American consumers in the pocket book by raising food prices.
Fortunately for the future of the planet, the Heartland Institute’s credibility has been shrinking faster than the Arctic ice sheet, as numerous corporate sponsors have withdrawn their support after the group bought billboard advertising and equated respected climate scientists with crazed lunatics like the Unabomber.
As climate science builds ever-more compelling evidence for human-caused warming and the likely impacts, the few fringe deniers still left at the margins of society are growing more desperate. The billboard campaign was a sign of that last-ditch effort to try and discredit the hard-won scientific credibility of the climate science community, earned with thousands of hours of research and review.
The outcry and response to the billboards was immediate, as mainstream companies, including General Motors and State Farm, chose to vote with their wallets to not be associated with the anti-environmental extremists.
The response was galvanized in part by groups like Forecast the Facts, and those same organizations are rallying their supporters to respond to the messages at the Heartland conference with protests.
“Given that the Heartland Institute’s conference is the preeminent gathering to promote conspiracy theories about climate science, it’s amazing that major corporations, many of which profess to care about climate change, continue to support their efforts,” said Brad Johnson, campaign manager of Forecast the Facts. “We are going to make sure those corporations are aware that huge numbers of people — including their customers and shareholders — find that unacceptable.”
Forecast the Facts, SumOfUs.org and 350.org have organized their members to “crowd-fund” bicycle-driven billboards that parody the Heartland Institute’s Unabomber ads. These people-powered ads, which feature Heartland supporters Pfizer, Comcast, and Microsoft, will circle downtown Chicago during Heartland’s climate change denial conference at the Hilton Chicago beginning Monday morning.
The ads include the logos of the aforementioned corporations, the amount of their recent contributions to the Heartland Institute, and the message, “We still support climate deniers. Do you?”
“The Heartland conference is one of the most brazen examples of how the fossil fuel industry funds climate change denialism for its own profit, at the expense of the millions of people around the world already suffering from massive climate disruptions — floods, droughts, and more. Do Pfizer, Microsoft, and Comcast really want to be complicit in this human tragedy by continuing to fund Heartland?”
The bicycle ads will feature content that was rejected by Clear Channel Chicago. Clear Channel ran a Heartland Institute ad featuring the Unambomber on its digital billboard network in Chicago, but rejected the Forecast the Facts parody because it criticized a corporation.
Clear Channel also rejected proposed alternative billboards from Forecast the Facts. According to Johnson, Clear Channel executives then falsely informed the press that they rejected the ads for legal concerns.
In addition to the ads, Forecast the Facts will be joining local activists as well as members of SumOfUs.org, the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, and Greenpeace in a grassroots rally on Tuesday morning (May 22) outside the Hilton Chicago.