Papers leaked online this week appear to reveal how a conservative think tank works to disparage climate-change science. Memos show The Heartland Institute pays hundreds of thousands of dollars to prominent global-warming skeptics to support their work.
The libertarian, free-market think tank also contracted an Energy Department consultant to design a curriculum to teach students that scientific research into global warming is in dispute. Heartland has acknowledged that some of the documents were stolen, but insisted at least one memo was fake and others may have been altered.
The Associated Press confirmed some of the financial details by contacting consultants who had been paid or contracted by Heartland. The documents also reveal a plethora of Heartland donors, including R.J. Reynold's parent company Reynolds American, Microsoft, Comcast, Time Warner, General Motors Foundation and the Charles G. Koch Foundation.
Some of those organizations are now on the defensive. However, Heartland stands by its work. In a statement, it said: "Disagreement over the causes, consequences, and best policy responses to climate change runs deep. We understand that."
In scientific circles, there is very little disagreement over the existence of man-made climate change. A 2010 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that 97 percent of climate researchers actively publishing in the field support the tenets of anthropogenic climate change. The general public, however, is still doubtful.
How should that fact affect school curriculum? Is there any difference in the fundraising and advocacy work of Heartland compared to groups with different politics, such as the Natural Resource Defense Council? Who should be able to influence school curriculum? How should the climate-change issue be approached in the classroom?
Josh Rosenau, Programs and Policy Director, National Center for Science Education based in Oakland
Myron Ebell, Chairman, Cooler Heads Coalition, a group of climate-change skeptics including The Heartland Institute; Director of the Center on Energy and Environment, Competitive Enterprise Institute