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Heartland Institute Says There Isn’t Warming | Righting America

by Paul Braterman

Paul Braterman is Professor Emeritus in Chemistry, University of North Texas, and Honorary Research Fellow (formerly Reader) at the University of Glasgow. His research has involved topics related to the early Earth and the origins of life, and received support from NSF, NASA, Sandia National Labs, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He is now interested in sharing scientific ideas with the widest possible audience, and was involved in successful campaigns to persuade both the English and the Scottish Governments to keep creationism out of the science classroom. He is a regular contributor to 3 Quarks Daily, and blogs at Primate’s Progress, paulbraterman.wordpress.com.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at 3 Quarks Daily. We are grateful to the editors for their permission to republish it here.

A distant sun shines at the horizon lighting up the blue sky with streaks of beautiful orange contrasting the cracked and dry earth spanning miles in every direction.
Image via newsweek.com.

The Heartland Institute tells us that there is not, and cannot be, a climate crisis, because for most of the past 12,000 years the climate was warmer than it is today. A recent (October 5) posting by James Taylor, president of the Institute, states as follows (full text; fair use claimed):

CLIMATE CHANGE: The so-called climate crisis is a sham

There cannot be a climate crisis when temperatures are unusually cool.

  • Scientists have documented, and even the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has admitted, that temperatures were warmer than today throughout most of the time period that human civilization has existed.
  • Temperatures would have to keep warming at their present pace for at least another century or two before we reach temperatures that were common during early human civilization.
  • There can be no climate crisis – based on the notion of dangerously high temperatures – when humans have thrived in temperatures much warmer than today for most of the last 12,000 years.

None of this is true. Here is a graph of climate change in the past 12,000 years; note the value for 2016, on the right-hand axis of the main figure, as well as the rapid rise over the past century shown in the inset, which also shows the Mediaeval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age. I have seen Heartland’s claim before, accompanied by graphs such as the one below, but without the insert and recent date, thus effectively suppressing everything that’s happened in the last century:

Image via Wikipedia, where a full description can be found. Reproduced under Creative Commons.

For people familiar with the Heartland Institute, this is just a dog bites man story. But it still matters, because it shows the extent to which discourse is being deliberately degraded.

Heartland is a major organisation, with an annual budget of almost four million dollars. It hosts its own climate change conferences, and has links to other powerful right-wing organisations such as the Heritage Foundation. It has seen its model legislation adopted by ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council, which brings together state legislators and private sector representatives).

Heartland does not disclose its funding, although it is known to have received funding from ExxonMobil, the tobacco company Philip Morris, assorted right wing pressure groups, and the Walton family foundation.

Heartland could not have chosen a wore movement to make this claim. This just in; not only have we just seen the hottest September on record, but it is the hottest September on record by a record amount:

A graph detailing the Monthly Global Temperature Anomalies showing that the year 2023 is distinctly different from every decade going back to the 1950s.
Zeke Hausfather via Ars Technica; h/t The Grumpy Geophysicist

In contrast with Heartland’s “sunny” pronouncements, the news could hardly be worse.