Heartland Institute’s Contemptible Weaseling

Screen shot 2013-06-17 at 1.18.16 PMThis has been going on for a couple of days, and has now made it to Slate; summarized by Phil Plait:

Heartland made this claim:

The trend toward skepticism and away from alarmism is now unmistakable… Publication of a Chinese translation of Climate Change Reconsidered by the Chinese Academy of Sciences indicates the country’s leaders believe their [failure to sign a global climate treaty] is justified by science and not just economics.

It was so fallacious… that the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) issued a very stern statement…:

The claim of the Heartland Institute about CAS’ endorsement of its report is completely false. To clarify the fact, we formally issue the following statements:

  • (1) The translation and publication of the Chinese version of the NIPCC report, and the related workshop, are purely non-official academic activities the group of translators. They do not represent, nor they have ever claimed to represent, CAS or any of CAS institutes. They translated the report and organized the workshop just for the purpose of academic discussion of different views.
  • (2) The above fact was made very clear in the Translators’ Note in the book, and was known to the NIPCC report authors and the Heartland Institute before the translation started. The false claim by the Heartland Institute was made public without any knowledge of the translator group.
  • (3) Since there is absolutely no ground for the so called CAS endorsement of the report, and the actions by the Heartland Institute went way beyond acceptable academic integrity, we have requested by email to the president of the Heartland Institute that the false news on its website to be removed. We also requested that the Institute issue a public apology to CAS for the misleading statement on the CAS endorsement.
  • (4) If the Heartland Institute does not withdraw its false news or refuse to apologize, all the consequences and liabilities should be borne by the Heartland Institute. We reserve the right for further actions to protect the rights of CAS and the translators group.

So, after this withering blast from CAS, what does Heartland do? Issue a notpology:

Some people interpreted our news release and a blog post describing this event as implying that the Chinese Academy of Sciences endorses the views contained in the original books. This is not the case, and we apologize to those who may have been confused by these news reports.

Seriously, Heartland? “Some people”? I think you misspelled “everybody,” including the very China Academy of Sciences you were touting, because that’s precisely what you were saying.

This kind of wishy-washy phrasing is nothing more than yet another attempt at distraction, as well as blame-shifting from their own huge and embarrassing error to “those who may have been confused.” Sorry Heartland, but your position is clear. You can’t even deny your own denial.

The Chinese academy did the translation in order to understand the nature of the anti-science movement in America. I would say that their efforts yielded a very clear lesson in who they are dealing with and how they operate.


  1. Yeah, well, even if you want to argue that the notpology can be parsed as narrowly true you haven't made a case that it isn't desperately weaselly, have you?

    It doesn't actually say "we incorrectly, brazenly, and negligently stated, nay trumpeted, that the CAS was moving toward our viewpoint, and we were hopelessly wrong, and please accept our plea that we are complete idiots and not complete bastards" which is the least that the CAS ought to accept. It doesn't acknowledge any wrongdoing at all. As such, it is not an apology.

  2. That is an unusually strong statement from a Chinese organization. They are normally very nuanced and non-confrontational, unless something affects a policy that there is consensus on.

    I'm not saying I would agree with China's policy on global warming if I knew all the particulars, but Dr. Tobis is correct on the basics of this post. It is very clear that the Chinese (and not just the translators, trust me) are peeved, to say the least, at what Heartland wrote.

  3. The Chinese certainly want to hedge their bets regarding global warming--as the world's leading producer of solar panels and wind turbines they are certainly promoters of renewable energy.

    They may not be as concerned about the impacts of global warming at the end of the century, but that might have more to do with the pressing concerns they currently face than any latent skepticism they have.

    They are very concerned about industrial pollution. Here in Shanghai they just announced a plan to replace a lot of coal fired generators with either natural gas or renewables. But that's because people in Shanghai see the sun about 10 days a year...

  4. Eli has been enjoying this affair, as well as the other good news of the day. Worth a look. I think a special commendation is in order for Stephan Lewandowsky's summary quoted at the former link:

    "Anyone familiar with the activities of deniers will recognize that this affair follows a fairly standard three-step template: First, a spectacular announcement is made that is at the very least misleading if not outright mendacious. Then, true skeptics (usually scientists) discover and correct the misrepresentation. Finally, the responsible party retreats into its shadowy lair of irresponsible ideology with an "apology" that blames a "confusion" on parties unknown.

    There is no confusion here. There is organized denial on the one hand and real science on the other. The distinction is obvious to anyone who cares to analyze the pattern."

  5. Pingback: Another Week of GW News, June 23, 2013 – A Few Things Ill Considered

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