ClimateScienceWatch.com, “Heartland Institute and its NIPCC report fail the credibility test,” September 9, 2013
This anonymously written criticism of NIPCC and Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science appeared on the anti-skeptic Web site ClimateScienceWatch.org and originally appeared on a blog run by Jeff Nesbit, an author of children’s novels. The author’s lack of a scientific background is apparent in this review. There are many points in this article that require correction.
The Heartland Institute did not “assemble a group it calls the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC),” nor did it choose the name. NIPCC was created in 2003 by S. Fred Singer, who chose the name at the suggestion of Frederick Seitz, one of the world’s most distinguished scientists. See Setiz’s foreword in the first NIPCC report, here. NIPCC is an independent panel of scientists that chose The Heartland Institute to publish its work.
Nesbit disputes the claim that NIPCC is a “legitimate alternative authority to the IPCC,” claiming NIPCC “does not follow the same rigorous scientific evaluation process as the IPCC” and that The Heartland Institute “has a long history of opposing settled science in the interests of its free-market funders, and has used decidedly un-scientific tactics to do so.” Both statements are false.
The NIPCC vs. IPCC Process
NIPCC’s editorial procedures are publicly stated and in line with those of other scientific bodies and academic journals. They are superior to those of the IPCC in many ways. The IPCC operates under the Framework Convention on Climate Change of the United Nations, which defines climate change as change produced only by human greenhouse gas emissions. This means the IPCC is tasked with finding a human effect of human carbon dioxide emissions on the climate, whereas NIPCC looks at climate change “in the round,” without bias. NIPCC views greenhouse gas emissions as one possible influence, not the only one.
The IPCC’s procedures were heavily criticized by the InterAgency Council (IAC), a membership organization for the heads of national academies of science. According to the IAC, IPCC authors and contributors are recruited by politicians for reasons other than scholarly merit; its peer review is a sham; its method of determining “confidence” is unscientific and misleading, and its Summary for Policymakers are political documents that deviate substantially from the substance of the reports they are supposed to summarize.
NIPCC reports have fewer authors and contributors than the IPCC reports, but this is because governments and universities invest many millions of dollars into the IPCC report, whereas the NIPCC reports are financed entirely by private contributions from individuals and foundations. NIPCC is David to the IPCC’s Goliath. But in the end, this doesn’t matter: with nearly 50 authors, contributors, and reviewers from 15 countries, NIPCC clearly has the academic firepower needed to produce a comprehensive and authoritative report.
Nesbit claims “the NIPCC examines literature published exclusively by climate contrarians who are paid to contribute their findings to NIPCC reports.” This is nonsense. Nearly 4,000 peer-reviewed articles are cited in Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science, including significant representation from leading journals such as Nature and Science. NIPCC cites many of the same sources as the IPCC. Indeed, in critical chapters, NIPCC cites more (and more recent) scientific sources than does the IPCC.
The Heartland Institute’s Credibility
Nesbit claims “The Heartland Institute has a long history of valuing the interests of its financial backers over the conclusions of experts.” This is frequently repeated false claim that has been thoroughly debunked. Heartland is a nonprofit organization that takes free-market positions consistent with the positions of many other such groups, including the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, National Center for Policy Analysis, Hoover Institution, Hudson Institute, and any number of other free-market think tanks.
The Heartland Institute has not received any funding from ExxonMobil since 2006. Most of our work on climate change (other than reporting on the debate in Environment & Climate News) started in 2008, after ExxonMobil stopped funding us. ExxonMobil never gave more than 5 percent the organization’s annual receipts. Same for the American Petroleum Institute.
The Heartland Institute has not lost donors or income in recent years, as Nesbit claims. The number of donors has increase from about 1,300 in 2011 to around 8,300 in 2013. Receipts in 2012 were 15% higher than 2011. Heartland is “the world’s most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made global warming” [The Economist, May 2012]. It has been endorsed by many leading academics, elected officials, and civic and business leaders.
The Heartland Institute