Monday, May 07, 2012

Does Peter Gleick Get Credit for Heartland's Self-Destruction?

Is the Heartland Institute imploding -- and if it is, does Peter Gleick get the credit?

Climatewire reports (via Keith Kloor) that
"The Heartland Institute's failed billboard campaign attacking the existence of climate change is driving a surge of corporate donors to abandon the group and prompting a mutiny among its Washington-based staff, which is decamping for less volatile surroundings, according to sources.

"At the center of the retreat is a contingent of insurance companies and trade groups that donated more than $1 million over the last two years to the libertarian group's Center on Finance, Insurance and Real Estate in Washington, D.C., for programs related to federal insurance reform.

"The center's efforts, which are often entwined with environmental policies, were damaged beyond repair by the increasingly strident campaign against climate change science coming from Heartland's Chicago headquarters, according to industry sources."
It's hard not to think that the now-notorious billboards weren't put up by the Heartland Institute in part due to an excess of confidence in the wake of the Peter Gleick affair. They thought they were dealt a strong hand, but seriously overplayed it. Then Joe Bast's refusal to apologize compounded the error:
"We know that our billboard angered and disappointed many of Heartland’s friends and supporters, but we hope they understand what we were trying to do with this experiment. We do not apologize for running the ad, and we will continue to experiment with ways to communicate the ‘realist’ message on the climate."
If they go bust, Gleick, in a back-handed way, may deserve some of the credit. Maybe he was playing the long game the entire time (but I doubt it).

Added: The Heartland Institute ran this just the week before. Looks like someone didn't get the memo....


ct7 said...

Yeah in my opinion the gleik affair raised the profile of the heartland institute enough to make it vulnerable to this kind of thing. If some unknown skeptic group had put the ad out instead of heartland, or even heartland had done it a year ago, the issue would have gone away quietly.

The skeptics often implode when they get more public attention, which is ironically what they continuously seek. Usually they are obscure which allows them to get away with more. They are rarely made to defend their positions and credibility.

Look at when their temperature record smears got the attention of Dr Richard Muller for example and he started investigating very publicly. Look how well that went for them in the end.

And that 49 astronaut petition recently that got the attention of NASA and they got a damaging terse reply back.

Sadly some big names think ignoring the skeptics is the best option when often I suspect it is the worse option. In some settings they thrive on being ignored and their smears going unchallenged.

Heartland for example I am sure would have much preferred their ad didn't get so much publicity in the end!

Anonymous said...

It is odd that Heartland would lower itself to the level of George Soros' sock puppet Joe Romm at Think Progress, but it still wasn't as low as the stupidity dusplayed by Gleick.

William M. Connolley said...

This is funny though:

Romm did the same thing, but no-one cared. Which is worse for him, in a way.

Anonymous said...

Gleik may have caused them to implode, but I bet he is hoping that he doesn't foot the bill via lawsuit.