The Heartland Institute, the world’s most prominent think-tank promoting scepticism about man-made climate change, is getting a lot of heat. In recent weeks it has lost an estimated $825,000 in expected donations, a couple of directors and almost its entire branch in Washington, DC. At its annual shindig in Chicago this week, the institute’s president, Joseph Bast, said Heartland had “discovered who our real friends are.” The 100-odd guests who failed to show up for the “7th Climate Conference” were not among them.
I can still remember when I first realized how naïve I was in thinking—hoping—that laying out the “facts” would suffice to change politicized minds, and especially Republican ones. It was a typically wonkish, liberal revelation: One based on statistics and data. Only this time, the data were showing, rather awkwardly, that people ignore data and evidence—and often, knowledge and education only make the problem worse.
Someone had sent me a 2008 Pew report documenting the intense partisan divide in the U.S. over the reality of global warming.. It’s a divide that, maddeningly for scientists, has shown a paradoxical tendency to widen even as the basic facts about global warming have become more firmly established.