Last week, the Heartland Institute—the nation's leading climate change-doubting think tank—launched an ad campaign so epically and offensively dumb that other notorious global warming skeptics wanted nothing to do with it. To promote a conference it was holding in Chicago, Heartland bought a handful of billboards throughout the city. They featured portraits of figures like Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber, Charles Manson, and Fidel Castro, alongside giant lettering that read "I Still Believe in Global Warming. Do You?"
The insinuation was breathtakingly stupid—if you believe in climate change, you're as radical and maniacal as a deranged killer. Heartland was immediately hit with a wave of criticism, and the group took the ads down in less than 24 hours. It feebly declared the stunt an "experiment" and issued no apology.
But the damage was done. The position was too extreme for many high-profile donors and supporters, who quickly distanced themselves from the ads. At least one climate skeptic registered to speak at the conference pulled out, and others publicly stated distaste for the tactic. Here are a couple of the more detailed reactions, from Climate Wire: (via Grist)
-”Forget disappointment. In my view, my reputation has been harmed.” –Donna Laframboise, creator of the blog NoConsensus.org, who canceled a speaking engagement at a Heartland event.
-“Truly objectionable … Once you have done such a thing you have lost the moral high ground and you can never again object if someone uses that kind of rhetoric on you.” –Ross McKitrick, economist
Meanwhile, a number of major corporations declared they'd be pulling their funding from Heartland. The think tank had already been ditched by GM, after the climate advocacy group Forecast the Facts put pressure on the manufacturer of the Volt. Now, insurance companies like Bermuda, State Farms, and RenaissanceRe have jumped ship, too, costing the institute over $1 million in funding. Check out this Pinterist board put together by FtF to see where all of the sponsor companies currently stand.
It's plain to see why these corporations are uneasy about keeping company with a group that compares anyone who believes in climate change to sociopaths. A recent Brookings Institution poll found that 62% of Americans believe in climate change. And 72% said climate change made the weather worse over the winter, in a Yale survey.
Acknowledging that human activity is causing global temperatures to rise is the norm—"believing" in climate change is a mainstream opinion. And Heartland just learned that the hard way.