Heartland’s death spiral: loses $1m in sponsorship, and how Gleick taught us the need to capture the commanding heights

 Polluter Watch reports that more corporate sponsors have abandoned Heartland:

Pharmaceutical giants Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline, along with Verizon, Wisconsin Insurance Alliance, and Credit Union National Association, have announced that they will not fund the climate change denying Heartland Institute in 2012.  According to the Heartland Institute’s own fundraising document, it hoped to receive $130,000 from these potential funders this year.  Today’s announcement brings the total number of corporate sponsors to drop Heartland to 15, representing $955,000 of Heartland’s projected $7.7 million budget this year.

In a matter of weeks, Heartland has managed to lose almost $1 million in funding and – from a PR perspective – become toxic to sponsors.

As Climate Progress notes, this is a victory but not the end of the war:

While the dissolution of Heartland’s conference may be considered a “win” for those concerned about the spread of junk science and disinformation, there are still plenty of allies in industry and the halls of Congress willing to take up the denial cause.

To which I say “Whose next”.

Heartland: we do not forgive; we do not forget; expect us

Thanks to Michael Tobis over at Planet 3.0 supporting the point I’ve been trying to make:

  • The faux sceptic movement withers under the harsh light of truth. The more light we shine on Heartland, its methods and sources of funding the more it likely it will implode or be reduced to utter irrelevance
  • Focus fire tactics (i.e. putting one target under the microscope) works
  • “We” can be tenacious and shouldn’t apologise for using the tactics of civil disobedience.

Heartland is still open for business: our business it to put Heartland out of business. Let’s be brave; let’s tear them down.

Heartland: a teaching moment for think tanks

Heartland is entering its own death spiral (did you catch the reference dear reader?) and it is truly a thing of beauty. The only people left who take Heartland seriously are eccentric billionaires and the “hard-core” segment of the denial movement.

However, I’m sure we’re not the only ones watching either.

Heartland’s implosion and dramatic loss of funding is a teaching moment for other think tanks – continue to follow the Heartland into the fantasy land of climate change denial and you may end up an international embarrassment.

More importantly, you will lose money.

Think about it: climate change denial resulted in Heartland losing money.

For several decades climate change denial was a money spinner for the PR hacks at think tanks around the globe. Denial used to guarantee a generous flow of cash from fossil fuel interests, but now it’s looking increasingly like a fringe belief

Frankly that’s how we should be framing climate change denial: the preserve of cranks.

Climate change and the battle for the commanding heights

Peter Gleick taught has something important: fight for the “commanding heights“.

We need to consider strategic targets and focus on them, rather than swarming in disgust over the latest op-ed pieces in the Washington Post or yet another bout of idiocy from The Australian.

I’ll be honest, I don’t give a fuck about the latest Monckton speech or what garbage Andrew Bolt blogs. They operate in that magic zone where facts have little relevance; their adoring fan boys will cheer them on even if they walked into the middle of Times Square and took a dump.

What I do give a fuck about is:

  • How News Corporation has misled citizens across three continents on climate change for the past two decades. That’s a crime against humanity
  • Politicians in Australia (and around the globe) have failed the act in the national interest on climate change. Our children and their descendents will have to clean up the environmental disaster these “business as usual” fucktards have helped usher in
  • Think tanks like the Institute of Public Affairs has distorted the debate on the “carbon tax” and climate change in Australia at the behest of anonymous donors. Who are those donors? Let’s rip open that nest of denial and see what juicy little secrets they’ve got tucked away.

Contrary to what some people think, the battle is not to persuade public opinion by refuting every denier claim line by line.


The social cost of climate change denial needs to be made prohibitively high so that every think tank, conservative politician and global media corporation under the control of a doddering geriatric billionaire will walk away from it.

That’s what Peter Gleick did: he made the social cost of associating with Heartland and climate change denial prohibitively high for the think tanks one-time sponsors. Oh, Heartland didn’t help themselves either – but Gleick’s actions set the scene.

Sponsors dropped Heartland the same way corporations do when a celebrity spokesperson misbehaves: i.e. think Tiger Woods, Charlie Sheen.

No one wants to be associated with an idiot.

We have the tools and numbers globally to do this: if the Arab Spring taught us anything, a critical mass of people co-ordinating there efforts via social media and the internet is a powerful force.

4 thoughts on “Heartland’s death spiral: loses $1m in sponsorship, and how Gleick taught us the need to capture the commanding heights

  1. Mike says:

    I admire your passion Mike and I don’t want to lighten the mood but as I was reading your list of withdrawals from Heartland, I couldn’t help but hear the sound of Pacman being eaten.

  2. john byatt says:

    The IPA,

    The IPA funded by its membership which include both private individuals and businesses. Among these businesses are ExxonMobil,[4] Telstra, WMC Resources, BHP Billiton, Phillip Morris,[5] Murray Irrigation Limited,[6] and Visy Industries.
    IPA donors have also included Clough Engineering, Caltex, Shell and Esso.[7] Other donors were electricity and mining companies, as well as British American Tobacco (BAT).[7]
    In 2003, the Australian Government paid $50,000 to the Institute of Public Affairs to review the accountability of NGOs.

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