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Documents reveal Koch-funded group's plot to undermine climate science

Documents leaked from the 'free-market' Heartland Institute reveal payments to prominent climate-change deniers, a plan to create a fossil-fuel-friendly curriculum for Kindergartners, and efforts to 'keep opposing voices' out of the media. 

By Stephanie PappasLiveScience Senior Writer / February 15, 2012

Smoke billows from NRG Energy's W.A. Parish Electric Generating Station in Thompsons, Texas, last year. Newly leaked documents reveal an extensive plan by the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank, to undermine established science on climate change.

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Leaked documents from the free-market conservative organization The Heartland Institute reveal a plan to create school educational materials that contradict the established science on climate change.

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The documents, leaked by an anonymous donor and released on DeSmogBlog, include the organization's 2012 fundraising plan. It lists Heartland Institute donors, from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation (established by Koch Industries billionaire Charles G. Koch), to Philip Morris parent company Altria, to software giant Microsoft and pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly.

The climate change education project is funded so far by an anonymous donor who has given $13 million to the Institute over the past five years. Proposed by policy analyst David Wojick, who holds a doctorate in epistemology and has worked for coal and electricity generation companies, the project would create education "modules" written to meet curriculum guidelines for every grade level.

"Many people lament the absence of educational material suitable for K-12 students on global warming that isn't alarmist or overtly political," the report reads. "Heartland has tried to make material available to teachers, but has had only limited success."

Funding skepticism

Heartland focuses on free-market issues across the board, including promoting charter schools, lobbying for business-friendly finance, insurance and real estate rules and promoting prescription drug availability before full Food and Drug Administration testing.

In the area of climate change, the leaked documents revealed that the group funds vocal climate skeptics, including Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change founder Craig Idso ($11,600 per month), physicist Fred Singer ($5,000 plus expenses per month), and New Zealand geologist Robert Carter ($1,667 per month). They've also pledged $90,000 to skeptical meteorologist Anthony Watts, who blogs at WattsUpWithThat.com.

The documents also reveal a communications strategy aimed at "keep[ing] opposing voices out" of publications such as Forbes Magazine, where the audience is "reliably anti-climate."

On the education front, Wojick would be paid $5,000 per module, or $25,000 per quarter, according to the report's tentative estimates, to produce the Heartland climate curricula. The Institute's anonymous donor has pledged $100,000 to the project, which the Institute hopes to match from other donors.

Each module would inject skepticism into the scientific consensus on climate change. Example statements in the report include: "Whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy;" "Models are used to explore various hypotheses about how climate works. Their reliability is controversial;" and "Whether CO2 [carbon dioxide] is a pollutant is controversial." The modules would also teach that the idea of carbon dioxide as a pollutant is "controversial," arguing that carbon dioxide is crucial to life on Earth and that natural emissions are 20 times those of human emissions.

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