UPDATE: After extensive outcry from media, activists and others, last Friday the Heartland Institute removed the controversial billboard that compared those who believe in human-caused global warming to murderers and terrorists such as the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. The digital billboard was supposedly one of a larger campaign, but was taken down after running for only 24 hours in a Chicago suburb. Heartland President Joseph Bast said in a statement, “This billboard was deliberately provocative, an attempt to turn the tables on the climate alarmists by using their own tactics but with the opposite message.” He concluded, “We know that our billboard angered and disappointed many of Heartland’s friends and supporters, but we hope they understand what we were trying to do with this experiment. We do not apologize for running the ad, and we will continue to experiment with ways to communicate the ‘realist’ message on the climate.” He was certainly correct about disappointing certain supporters; on Friday Institute funder Diageo, a global beverage corporation, publicly withdrew its support.
The Heartland Institute has launched a billboard campaign that compares people who acknowledge the scientific consensus on global warming to criminals and terrorists, such as Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. The Institute, a right-wing “think tank” funded by, among others, billionaire right-wing activists David and and Charles Koch, explains how the people featured on the billboards were selected:
“The billboard series features Ted Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber; Charles Manson, a mass murderer; and Fidel Castro, a tyrant. Other global warming alarmists who may appear on future billboards include Osama bin Laden and James J. Lee (who took hostages inside the headquarters of the Discovery Channel in 2010).” The Institute notes, “what these murderers and madmen have said differs very little from what spokespersons for the United Nations, journalists for the “mainstream” media, and liberal politicians say about global warming.”
The Heartland Institute is clearly attempting to sway people into thinking that those who accept that global warming is happening are marginal kooks: “The point is that believing in global warming is not “mainstream,” smart, or sophisticated. … The people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”
Despite the Heartland Institute’s efforts, the majority of the American public accepts that global warming is occurring. A recent poll by the Brookings Institution notes that 62% of Americans agree that “there is solid evidence that that average temperature on Earth has been getting warmer.” Interestingly 80% of Democrats surveyed believe that global warming is happening, compared to 47% of Republicans. Similarly, a March 2012 study by the Center for Climate Change Communication said “70 percent of Americans say that corporations and industry should be doing more to address global warming, which is back up to levels last seen in the fall of 2008.” The study also notes, “More than two-thirds of Americans (68%) say the U.S. should make either a large-scale or medium-scale effort to reduce global warming, even if this has large or moderate economic costs.”
As long as some rich power brokers fear that action to mitigate climate change will eat into their profits, comforts and beliefs, we can expect more desperate measures like this sleazy billboard campaign.
Image from Heartland Institute website