US school infiltration attempt by Heartland’s IPCC Parody

"Despite criticizing climate scientists for being overconfident about their data, models and theories, the Heartland Institute proclaims a conspicuous confidence in single studies and grand makes many bold assertions that are often questionable or misleading and do not highlight the uncertainties... Many climate sceptics seem to review scientific data and studies not as scientists but as attorneys, magnifying doubts and treating incomplete explanations as falsehoods rather than signs of progress towards the truth. ... The Heartland Institute and its ilk are not trying to build a theory of anything. They have set the bar much lower, and are happy muddying the waters."

"Heart of the Matter", Nature 475 editorial (28 July 2011)

Many US teachers have been sent a memo by The Heartland Institute, an organisation whose mission is to “promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems”. The topic of the memo was a report on climate change by the NIPCC, an acronym for “Not the International Panel on Climate Change”.

In essence, educators are being asked by Heartland to review climate change science at a remove. By distributing the NIPCC report “Climate Change Reconsidered II – Physical Science” (CCR2) to teachers, Heartland hopes that the view they sponsor via the NIPCC – one that entirely contradicts the official findings of the IPCC – will prevail in the classroom, or at least feature in the curriculum.

Such initiatives present educators with a problem. Both the official IPCC AR5 report and that of the NIPCC run to thousands of pages. Even Summaries for Policy-Makers (SPMs) make demands that busy schedules may not easily accommodate.

Armed with only a modest knowledge of climate change science, it is all too clear that the NIPCC report is not scientific, does not accurately reflect current climate science, and deliberately and systematically seeks to misinform and mislead.

By presenting logical arguments, credible observations and rational comparisons, it is hoped these notes will help readers decide for themselves what our children should be taught, free from pernicious influence, disinformation and meretricious propaganda.

The Credibility of Sources

The IPCC is an organisation created and operated under the auspices of the United Nations. It is a democratic institution; over 150 countries participate, review its work and approve its reports. Those reports are created by hundreds of scientists elected from a candidate list comprising several thousand names. The chosen scientists  (lead authors) review and report on the work of thousands of others, and anyone – including members of the public – can involve themselves as reviewers. The process is open, transparent and strives to be egalitarian. More than 60% of contributors to the latest report (AR5) have not previously contributed, adding fresh insights and views. No contributors to IPCC reports are paid for their work.

Conversely, the NIPCC was created by the Heartland Institute, a privately run organisation with significant connections to the fossil fuel industry, from whom it receives funding. Heartland was previously associated with campaigns funded by the tobacco industry to discredit science attesting to the damage caused by smoking tobacco.  Its several reports have contributions from a number of the same lead authors. The 2009 report had 35 contributors; the 2011 report had 8 contributors. NIPCC contributors are paid for their contributions.

This latest report (CCR2) claims to be written by “a team of some 50 scientists”.  In fact, there are 52 listed contributors, of which 5 are duplicate entries. Of the 47 people who authored CCR2, and despite claims to the contrary, only 35 appear to have professional scientific backgrounds. Of that 35, 16 of the listed contributors are retired e.g. emeritus positions. And while the IPCC purposefully seeks representation from developing nations (30% of contributors), the NIPCC authors are drawn from only 14 developed countries – no developing countries had any input. 53% of contributors were from the US or Australia. (See this XLS spreadsheet for an annotated list of contributors).

The Quality of the Report

Both the IPCC and its parody are ‘synthesis reports’. They purport to summarise the science of climate change. You might expect that both reports would draw on all the recent climate science available to them. This is true of the IPCC, but in the case of the NIPCC, it has been noted that their work is highly selective. The report claims to be ‘independent’, yet its authors constantly cite their own work, that of other contributors, and frequently quote each other. Numerous papers widely discredited within climate science are still cited by the NIPCC.

Perhaps more importantly, the latest NIPCC report repeats many of the myths about climate change that it published in previous work. While the IPCC catalogues recent scientific developments, the NIPCC appears to find very little has changed since its last ‘rebuttal’, a position seemingly at odds with the increasing amount of climate change research around the world. The following arguments were published in previous NIPCC reports, and are reiterated in this one: Temperature record is unreliable, Models are unreliable, It's a natural cycle, It's the sun, Sea level rise predictions are exaggerated, It's not bad

The CCR2 report also exhibits a flaw so basic it would not be condoned in the submission of a 1st year science student. In all scientific documents where scientific papers are cited, it is standard practice to append a numbered list of the papers referred to, and to add corresponding superscript numbers to any statement that depends on a citation for validity. This is the only way it is possible to check that what the authors claim is supported by the science they claim it for.

The full NIPCC report fails to provide any numbered citations. Although the authors list many scientific papers, at no point can a reader determine to which scientific paper any statements in the report refer to. In other words, it simply isn’t feasible to check anything contained in the report, to see if any claims in it are accurate reflections of what the science says, or to determine whether the scientific papers cited relate specifically, or at all, to anything said in the report. This kind of obfuscation is either very sloppy, or patently devious.


It would be helpful to direct readers to a comprehensive rebuttal of the NIPCC’s report. A Google search for such a document is therefore revealing on two counts.

First, nobody seems to have bothered to debunk the copious inaccuracies, the bad science, the repeated but unsubstantiated claims, the sophistry and what could be seen uncharitably as outright deceit. Considering how tissue-thin is the substance even of the “summary of NIPCC findings”, the damning record of the NIPCC’s previous work, the dubious reputation of its sponsor the Heartland Institute, and the all too clear relationship between Heartland’s agenda and the vested interests of the fossil fuel industry that sponsors such work, it is not surprising that so many qualified people have ignored the report.

The second notable result of a Google search is that virtually all the listings are contrarian; blogs, news outlets and others, many of whom could be described as ‘the usual suspects’. Credible media and the broader scientific community have comprehensively ignored the report.

The NIPCC report is akin to a confidence trick. It is pseudo-science, badly presented, made difficult to assess or check, and depends on ‘blinding the reader with science’ that may look credible until you actually try to verify those claims against the peer-reviewed published literature.

Heartland and the NIPCC know how busy educators are. They know perfectly well that teachers have neither the time, inclination or, in many cases, the necessary background, to determine the validity of the many and various claims contained in a 1000-page report.  They seek to appeal to the credulous, and those who trust Heartland or the NIPCC will have that trust betrayed.

Like others driven by an agenda, Heartland and the NIPCC are now attempting to influence the education of young people, at the behest of the vested interests who pay for Heartland’s services. It is hoped that these notes will help teachers and administrators determine for themselves the quality and purpose of the NIPCC report, and the manipulative agenda of those behind it.

Graham Wayne

Further Reading

The Science:

IPCC AR5: The Physical Sciences – summary for policy makers (PDF)

On Heartland and its activities:

Nature Journal: The Heartland Institute's climate conference reveals the motives of global-warming sceptics

Greenpeace: Dealing in Doubt Part 2: Denier Tricks and tactics


USA Today: Climate deniers meet Joe Camel

On the NIPCC

DenialGate Highlights Heartland's Selective NIPCC Science

Heartland Institute and its NIPCC report fail the credibility test

On Climate Change Denial and its funding

IPCC report: sceptic groups launch global anti-science campaign

Merchants of Doubt

The 5 characteristics of climate change denial

Magical climate contrarian thinking debunked by real science

Why Climate Change Deniers Owe Us a (scientific) explanation


Footnote: This article is an edited repost of a more detailed text on the author’s blog, which contains a point by point rebuttal of the principle 'scientific' claims tabled by the NIPCC in their SPM. The full version is available here, or downloadable as a PDF.

Posted by gpwayne on Wednesday, 30 October, 2013

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