The Heartland Memo: Less Science, More Pollution, Please

The Heartland Institute and its polluter allies have a clear message for Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): You’re not doing enough for your fossil fuel friends.

Sure, the EPA is rolling back climate rules, removing scientific information from its website, and giving special preference to industry shills on its Science Advisory Boards. But why stop there?

A Heartland Institute memo obtained by E&E News summarizes the bright ideas of a group of climate action foes who convened in September ahead of an “America First” energy conference. It’s an eye-popping read. The ideas ranged from the Orwellian—never use the phrase “air pollution”—to the Machiavellian, and they were all tied up in an anti-science bow.

For example, there’s the usual ad hominen attacks on anyone worried about the real threat of climate change. The Heartland memo casts 10 percent of experts as “socialists or communists,” and recommends publicly “desmocking” them without insulting the remaining “deluded” 90 percent. The memo also emphasizes the need to cast carbon dioxide as helpful, not harmful. I’ll dig into that claim in a future blog post.

One of Heartland’s more preposterous suggestions is to “fundamentally challenge, reform, or replace” the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Formed in 1863 by Congress, the non-profit National Academy provides our leaders in government with scientific advice “whenever called upon.” The combined National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine recently updated their ethics policy addressing possible conflicts of interest. But the Heartland memo suggests that anti-climate crusaders feel threatened by the Science Academy’s very existence and role in producing landmark scientific reports verifying that climate change is real, human caused, and a significant risk.

And then there’s the Heartland memo’s lament about the ineffectiveness of one of the polluters’ favorite delaying tactics: hiding behind allegations of scientific uncertainty. They often argue that scientific uncertainties (some real, some imagined) mean the world needs “more research.” But as the Heartland memo points out, calling for “more research” can backfire by bolstering the need for action. The answer? “Stop funding ‘more research’…”

We agree with Heartland and friends that scientists have more to learn about the details of climate change. But there’s no credible way to learn those things if corporate polluters and their allies dismantle the scientific institutions with which they disagree. If the Heartland confab attendees were truly “pro-science,” like the memo says, they’d stop hiding from the reality that climate change threatens our health, our safety, and our economy—and instead turn to finding solutions. 

About the Authors

Juanita Constible

Special Projects Director, Climate & Clean Air program

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