The Heartland Institute has a history of distorting peer-reviewed papers, lying in newspaper editorials and Institute blogs, and claiming extensive scientific expertise where little actually exists with respect to climate science and the reality of human-driven climate disruption. Given this history, the distortions in the Heartland Institute’s latest media advisory regarding the results of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project are only to be expected.
BEST analyzed more surface temperature data than any other study had previously and concluded that the established global temperature records were accurate. In this way, BEST confirmed what every climate realist already knew from three surface datasets and two satellite datasets – that the globe is warming and that the best available science indicates that the urban heat island effect has a minimal impact upon the measurements. However, the Heartland Institute’s media advisory claims that “the paper is seriously flawed,” attributing that statement to James M. Taylor, senior fellow for environment policy at the Heartland Institute.
It’s at this point, the second sentence of the media advisory, that the distortions start. The problem here is that Taylor is a lawyer, not a scientist. According to his bio at the Heartland Institute, he has no scientific or mathematical training, and so he lacks the necessary standing to claim that the BEST paper is flawed.
The advisory goes on to quote Taylor as saying that the BEST results are “quite irrelevant to the global warming debate” because “[s]keptics don’t dispute that temperatures have been modestly rising since the end of the Little Ice Age approximately 100 years ago.” This is entirely false, as there are a great many so-called “skeptics” who have, in fact, rejected that the Earth has warmed at all. Some climate disruption deniers claim that the illegally hacked and published CRU emails (aka “climategate”) showed that climate scientists fudged data even though multiple independent investigations into this issue found the claim to be totally without merit. Other climate disruption deniers claim that the entire global temperature record is nothing but an artifact of the urban heat island effect (aka cities are hotter than the areas around them because the buildings and roads retain heat) even though this has been disproved by NOAA, BEST, and Anthony Watts of Wattsupwiththat.com himself. As a senior fellow in environmental policy and the editor of the Heartland Institute’s Environment & Climate News magazine, Taylor has to know that climate disruption deniers make these claims all the time. That Taylor has chosen to ignore this is deceptive at best.
Similarly, Taylor is quoted as saying “Temperatures have naturally risen and fallen many times during the past several thousand years without creating a global catastrophe.” While technically accurate, Taylor ignores the regional catastrophes that did accompany such changes – civilizations rose and fell as a result of regional climate changes, massive numbers of people migrated from one place to another, and wars were fought over natural resources. In this case, Taylor is downplaying the risks from forces that the United States military considers to be a serious threat to US national security.
Taylor is right about one thing, however – the BEST study doesn’t attempt to attribute the observed warming to any particular cause. However, the best science available today is unequivocal on the issue – greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere as a result of human activity (burning fossil fuels, clearing land for agriculture, and the like) are the dominant cause, something that Taylor has rejected based on faulty arguments and misrepresented data.
The Heartland Institute has denied science that it considered inconvenient to its libertarian, pro-big business ideology since its inception, starting with denying the risks of secondhand smoke. Taylor, by way of this media advisory, continues that long and disgraceful history.