AP did not note Heartland Institute's ties to energy industry

››› ››› ANDREW WALZER

The AP reported that Heartland Institute publisher Dan Williams "said Heartland is skeptical about the crisis that people are proclaiming in global warming" and that former Sen. Harrison Schmitt "said he's heartened that the upcoming [Heartland] conference is made up of scientists who haven't been manipulated by politics." But at no point in the article did the AP note that Heartland receives funding from the fossil fuels industry. Moreover, the AP uncritically reported that Schmitt "said ... the rise in carbon dioxide is because of the temperature rise," echoing a claim widely disputed by scientists.

Reporting on former Sen. Harrison Schmitt (R-NM)'s scheduled appearance at the Heartland Institute's 2009 International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC) next month, in a February 15 article, the Associated Press reported that Heartland Institute publisher Dan Williams "said Heartland is skeptical about the crisis that people are proclaiming in global warming." The AP also reported that Schmitt, who "doesn't believe that humans are causing global warming," "said he's heartened that the upcoming conference is made up of scientists who haven't been manipulated by politics." But at no point in the article did the AP note that Heartland receives funding from the fossil fuels industry. Moreover, the AP uncritically reported that Schmitt "said ... the rise in carbon dioxide is because of the temperature rise," echoing a claim widely disputed by scientists regarding the cause-and-effect relationship between carbon dioxide levels and global temperatures.

Heartland's website states:

Heartland reported income and spending of $5.2 million and a full-time staff of 25 in 2007. Funding comes from approximately 2,700 individuals, foundations, and corporations.

Heartland's donor base has always been diverse. All energy companies combined -- oil, coal, natural gas, and utilities -- gave less than 5 percent of its budget in 2007 and probably will in 2008. About 16 percent of its budget comes from corporations, with the rest from foundations and individuals.

For example, as Media Matters for America has noted, ExxonMobil Corp. reported that it, its divisions and affiliates, and its foundation contributed $115,000 to Heartland in 2006, including $90,000 specifically for "General Operating Support -- Climate Change."

In addition, Schmitt's claim, as reported by the AP, that "the rise in carbon dioxide is because of the temperature rise," echoes a similar assertion made by Tim Ball, the chairman of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, on the May 2, 2007, edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck. Ball said of the "cause-and-effect relationship of CO2 and temperature," "The scientific literature is fairly clear, fairly uniform. Temperatures go up; then, CO2 concentrations go up. CO2 does not drive temperature." But as Media Matters has noted, climate experts and scientific organizations offer a different assessment of the relationship between temperature and CO2, namely that, in the words of the Met Office -- the United Kingdom's national weather service -- "[h]uman-induced increases in CO2 are driving the greenhouse effect and amplifying the recent warming." The Met Office states:

Climate Change - Fact 3
The current climate change is not just part of a natural cycle

Earth's climate is complex and influenced by many things, particularly changes in its orbit, volcanic eruptions, and changes in the energy emitted from the Sun. It is well known that the world has experienced warm or cold periods in the past without any interference from humans. The ice ages are good examples of global changes to the climate, and warm periods have seen grapes grown across much of Britain.

Over the several hundred thousand years covered by the ice core record, the temperature changes were primarily driven by changes in the Earth's orbit around the Sun. Over this period, changes in temperature did drive changes in carbon dioxide (CO2). Since the Industrial Revolution (over the last 100 years), CO2 concentrations have increased by 30% due because to human-induced emissions from fossil fuels.

The bottom line is that temperature and CO2 concentrations are linked. In recent ice ages, natural changes in the climate, such as those due to orbit changes, led to cooling of the climate system. This caused a fall in CO2 concentrations which weakened the greenhouse effect and amplified the cooling. Now the link between temperature and CO2 is working in the opposite direction. Human-induced increases in CO2 are driving the greenhouse effect and amplifying the recent warming. [emphasis added]

Similarly, in a February 2007 article, Paul Fraser, chief research scientist at Australia's CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, wrote:

The panel concludes there is very high confidence that the warming is due to human activities, which are likely to have been at least five times greater than the impact of solar irradiance changes on global warming. In fact, they conclude that there is a greater than 90 per cent chance that temperatures are rising due to human activities.

These conclusions, supported by many hundreds of climate experts around the world, contradict Dr [Len] Walker's implication that increasing carbon dioxide levels do not cause global temperature increases, which he makes in his statement, "The fact is the Earth has cooled since 1998 ... despite ... increasing carbon dioxide levels.

Fraser added:

There have been numerous research papers and reviews published over the past 10 years, including several in prestigious journals such as Nature and Science, that conclude that the observed temperature changes over the past 100 years are consistent with the combined changes in atmospheric aerosols (volcanic and anthropogenic), land surface changes, variations in solar irradiance and increases in greenhouse gases. As a researcher in the field for more than 30 years, I am not aware of a single peer-reviewed paper or review, in a quality atmospheric science journal, that relates the temperature changes over this period to only natural causes such as changes in solar activity.

[...]

The fact that, in the long history of the atmosphere, temperature increases sometimes precede carbon dioxide increases simply implies that those temperature change are due to some factor, or factors, other than carbon dioxide increases; for example from changes in the Earth's orbit. This in no way precludes an imposed carbon dioxide increase (such as the current rapid increase from the combustion of fossil fuels) leading to an increase in global temperatures.

Eric Steig, an isotope geochemist at the University of Washington in Seattle, similarly argued in a post on the Real Climate blog:

On historical timescales, CO2 has definitely led, not lagged, temperature. But in any case, it doesn't really matter for the problem at hand (global warming). We know why CO2 is increasing now, and the direct radiative effects of CO2 on climate have been known for more than 100 years. In the absence of human intervention CO2 does rise and fall over time, due to exchanges of carbon among the biosphere, atmosphere, and ocean and, on the very longest timescales, the lithosphere (i.e. rocks, oil reservoirs, coal, carbonate rocks). The rates of those exchanges are now being completely overwhelmed by the rate at which we are extracting carbon from the latter set of reservoirs and converting it to atmospheric CO2. No discovery made with ice cores is going to change those basic facts.

[...]

[I]t is not as if the temperature increase has already ended when CO2 starts to rise. Rather, they go very much hand in hand, with the temperature continuing to rise as the CO2 goes up. In other words, CO2 acts as an amplifier, just as Lorius, Hansen and colleagues suggested.

From the February 15 Associated Press article:

Of the global warming debate, he said: "It's one of the few times you've seen a sizable portion of scientists who ought to be objective take a political position and it's coloring their objectivity."

Former astronaut Harrison Schmitt, who walked on the moon and once served New Mexico in the U.S. Senate, doesn't believe that humans are causing global warming.

"I don't think the human effect is significant compared to the natural effect," said Schmitt, who is among 70 skeptics scheduled to speak next month at the International Conference on Climate Change in New York.

Schmitt contends that scientists "are being intimidated" if they disagree with the idea that burning fossil fuels has increased carbon dioxide levels, temperatures and sea levels.

"They've seen too many of their colleagues lose grant funding when they haven't gone along with the so-called political consensus that we're in a human-caused global warming," Schmitt said.

Dan Williams, publisher with the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, which is hosting the climate change conference, said he invited Schmitt after reading about his resignation from The Planetary Society, a nonprofit dedicated to space exploration.

Schmitt resigned after the group blamed global warming on human activity. In his resignation letter, the 74-year-old geologist argued that the "global warming scare is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes and decision making."

Williams said Heartland is skeptical about the crisis that people are proclaiming in global warming.

"Not that the planet hasn't warmed. We know it has or we'd all still be in the Ice Age," he said. "But it has not reached a crisis proportion and, even among us skeptics, there's disagreement about how much man has been responsible for that warming."

Schmitt said historical documents indicate average temperatures have risen by 1 degree per century since around 1400 A.D., and the rise in carbon dioxide is because of the temperature rise.

Schmitt also said geological evidence indicates changes in sea level have been going on for thousands of years. He said smaller changes are related to changes in the elevation of land masses -- for example, the Great Lakes are rising because the earth's crust is rebounding from being depressed by glaciers.

Schmitt, who grew up in Silver City and now lives in Albuquerque, has a science degree from the California Institute of Technology. He also studied geology at the University of Oslo in Norway and took a doctorate in geology from Harvard University in 1964.

In 1972, he was one of the last men to walk on the moon as part of the Apollo 17 mission.

Schmitt said he's heartened that the upcoming conference is made up of scientists who haven't been manipulated by politics.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
Network/Outlet
Associated Press
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