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The Heartland Institute Hijacks American Meteorological Society’s Name, and AMS Fights Back

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The Heartland Institute—you know, the friendly folks behind the ads comparing climate scientists to the Unabomber—is at it again. In an email sent Thanksgiving week, the organization attempted to use the good name of the American Meteorological Society to misrepresent the views of society members regarding global warming science. It’s the latest in a series of attempts by groups such as Heartland to hide behind the names of legitimate scientific organizations to influence public understanding of climate science.

Heartland’s email, according to AMS, addressed a survey of society members (read the paper here, discussion in The Guardian here) that found that global warming views were most strongly correlated with perceived scientific consensus, followed by political ideology, climate science expertise, and perceived organizational conflict.

Some organizations confuse the public by creating reports that look like previous scientific assessments. Here, the Cato Institute put out a paper on US climate change impacts that looked identical to one from the US Global Change Research Program, leading to protests from the GCRP authors.

Some organizations confuse the public by creating reports that look like previous scientific assessments. Here, the Cato Institute put out a paper on US climate change impacts that looked identical to one from the US Global Change Research Program, leading to protests from the GCRP authors. Image via Climate Science Watch

AMS Executive Director (and paper author) Keith Seitter reported that the email blast used the AMS logo and a domain name similar to AMS to suggest the email originated from the scientific society. And, surprise surprise, they got it wrong. “The text of the e-mail reports results from the study far differently than I would,” wrote Dr. Seitter, “Leaving an impression that is at odds with how I would characterize those results.”

In July, the Heartland Institute was criticized by the Chinese Academy of Sciences for grossly misrepresenting the academy’s understanding of climate change science (read more here and here).

The organization also puts out propaganda from what it calls the “Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change” that is easily confused with materials from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“A difference between the AMS and some organizations is the transparency and scientific integrity with which we operate,” wrote Seitter. “This survey was conducted to satisfy scientific curiosity on an important topic and the results are published for all to see. This is the way science is meant to work.”

The attempted hijacking of legitimate scientific organizations isn’t unique to Heartland, of course. Last year, the Cato Institute published a report on climate change impacts in the United States that looked almost identical to a report by the US Global Change Research Program.  The authors of the GCRP study were forced to strongly rebut the misleading Cato publication.

In 1998, tens of thousands of scientists received a mailing urging them to sign a petition critical of the Kyoto Treaty with references to a non-peer reviewed article that appeared to originate from the National Academy of Sciences but did not. Scientists “are wondering if someone is trying to hoodwink them,” said Nobel Laureate and atmospheric chemist F. Sherwood Rowland, who then served as the NAS foreign secretary. The mailing created so much confusion that the NAS Council had to distance itself from the mailing.

Posted in: Global Warming, Science and Democracy, Scientific Integrity Tags: , ,

About the author: Michael Halpern is an expert on political interference in science and solutions to reduce suppression, manipulation, and distortion of government science. See Michael's full bio.

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