Heartland Institute


Founded in 1984 in Chicago, the Heartland Institute is a libertarian "think tank" that bills itself as "a national nonprofit research organization dedicated to finding and promoting ideas that empower people."

The Institute has received criticism since its early days for taking anti-regulatory positions on public policy beneficial to their corporate sponsors while attacking scientific research that contradicts their policy stances. In the early 1990's, Heartland fought government regulations on tobacco by denying the health effects of second hand tobacco smoke, while taking significant funding from tobacco corporations like Reynold American Inc.  In recent years, Heartland has attacked  carbon regulation by denying the existence of global climate change, while taking funding from ExxonMobil, the Koch Brothers, Nucor Steel, and other corporations in carbon intensive industries.

Heartland has also denied pollution's role in causing acid rain and the depletion of the ozone layer, and taken strong stances against the Endangered Species Act and president Obama’s healthcare reform.

The Institute puts out several publications, including "Environment & Climate News" which frequently features anti-environmentalist and climate skeptic writing.

The Heartland Institute's stance on climate change generally shifts between claiming the earth is not warming and claiming it is warming, but the warming will be beneficial. However, Heartland is consistent in their opposition to limiting the amount of carbon corporations are allowed in to put in the air.


The Heartland Institute and Climate Science Denial

The New York Times has called Heartland “The primary American organization pushing climate change skepticism.”  Heartland pushes climate denial by attacking legitimate climate scientists, paying professional shills, and publishing misleading psuedo-scientific materials. Fighting climate legislation has become a central priority for their organization over the last decade, according to fundraising documents.

Attacks on Climate Science and Scientists

Heartland routinely attacks climate science and scientists, especially after “climategate,” when the emails of prominent climate scientists were hacked and stolen from East Anglia University.  Heartland used various lines from the emails, taken out of context, to promote the idea that a conspiracy of international science bodies are hiding the truth about the global climate.

The Heartland Institute has recieved harsh criticism for its billboard campaign that equated climate change advocacy with mass murder and terrorism. The billboards featured pictures of Ted Kaczynski, Charles Manson, and Fidel Castro, next to the text “I still believe in Global Warming. Do You?”Heartland Institute billboard

Heartland also funds the Non-governmental Intenational Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), which is expressly dedicated to attacking the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change reports. The NIPCC produces a report called "Climate Change Reconsidered"

Funding Climate Denial Meetings

A key part of Heartland’s assault on the scientific evidence of climate change is the climate denial meetings Heartland funds and organizes. Heartland has put on six conferences on climate denial in the past 5 years, and has recently announced a seventh to take place May 21-23 in Chicago. The “International Climate Conferences” as Heartland calls them, provide a platform and meeting space for the small cadre of professional climate science deniers that have derailed meaningful solutions to the threats of global warming in the U.S.

Paying Climate Science Deniers

Heartland has long been associated with the small core of professional climate change science deniersInternal budget and fundraising documents obtained in February of 2012 revealed that Heartland was paying significant sums of money to 13 of the most notorious climate change denialists - including Craig Idso, who is set to receive $11,600 per month in 2012, specifically to attack the International Panel on Climate Change reports. 

Craig Idso is one of the principle drivers of the myth that “CO2 is good for you,” and increased levels on carbon in the atmosphere will cause a “greening of planet Earth.” He currently runs the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, a contrarian Arizona-based group funded in part by ExxonMobil. He is the son of its president, Sherwood B. Idso, and the brother of its vice president, Keith E. Idso.

Fred Singer, a true ‘scientist for hire’ who has also claimed that second hand tobacco smoke is not harmful, acid rain is not caused by pollution, DDT poses no threat to environment, and CFC’s are not affecting the ozone.  Fred Singer is set to recieve $5,000 a month from the Heartland Institute. 

Heartland’s payroll also included university professors in the U.S. and Canada and a senior advisor at the U.S. Department of the Interior. Several professors and the DOI advisor are currently under investigation by their employers over their failure to disclose the funding they received from Heartland to attack climate science. "The Greening of Planet Earth" featuring Craig Idso is available for viewing on TeacherTube.

Pushing Climate Denial in Schools

According to its 2012 fundraising document, Heartland is paying $100,000 US Department of Energy (DOE) official named David Wojick to create a "Global Warming Curriculum" for grades K-12.  The curriculum, for which Heartland plans to pay a total $200,000, asserts that "whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy."

Well known climate scientist Micheal Mann called the curriculum “so amoral its difficult to put in to words


Collaboration with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has peddled laws written by corporate lobbyists through state legislatures that make it easy for its dirty energy members, such as Exxon, Koch Industries and Peabody coal, to influence how climate science is presented to students. The so-called "Environmental Literacy Improvement Act," which has been introduced in seven states and became law in at least three, would establish a state-level council to oversee all scientific material presented to students, allowing companies to smother classroom science with K street politics. This council would notably exclude anyone with environmental science credentials, instead composing itself in the following proportions:



ALEC and Heartland have shared numerous staff and "experts" over the years, including Sandy Liddy Bourne, who was ALEC's Director of the Energy, Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Task Force for the from 1999-2004, before being promoted to Director of Legislation and Policy, where she oversaw all of ALEC's task forces and helped boost state enactment of ALEC's corporate bills from 11 percent to 20 percent. In Bourne's time directing ALEC's environmental task force, the "Environmental Literacy Improvement Act" was created and approved by ALEC's board in June, 2000.


Leaked Internal Documents 2012

In February of 2012, internal strategy and funding documents detailing the Heartland Institute's campaign of global warming denial were released to DeSmogBlog. The documents included strategies for raising funds from Koch brothers foundations, as well as a plan to create school curriculums that cast doubt on global warming science. See Polluterwatch's ongoing investigation for more details.

Though Heartland has claimed that one of the documents was a "fake", independent analysis has cleared Peter Gleick, the climate scientist who obtained the documents, of all accusations of forgery.


Corporate Sponsors Drop Funding

Media attention on Heartland’s extreme climate stance, and questionable tactics has caused major corporations to distance themselves from Heartland.  In 2007 ExxonMobil, a major funder of climate science attacks, stopped funding the Institute, saying they could no longer support groups that “serve as a distraction” to the climate issue.  However, major corporations like Nucor and Pfizer still fund Heartland’s activities.  A full list of donors is available on Polluterwatch. A breakdown of corporate funding to the Heartland Institute is also available from Forcast the Facts.


Seventh International Conference on Climate Change ExxonSecrets map: