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Heartland Institute's digital billboards make bombastic comparisons (+video)

New billboards designed by the Heartland Institute compare climate scientists to the Unabomber, and other mass murderers. Climate scientists and other writers respond.

By Stephanie PappasLiveScience / May 7, 2012

This billboard displayed in the Chicago area compared climate scientists to Ted Kaczynski, an anti-industrial mail bomber whose explosives murdered three and injured 23 more over two decades.

Image taken from


Update, 5:23 p.m Eastern Time: In a statement by Heartland president Joseph Bast, the organization announced that it will be taking down the Unabomber billboard after only 24 hours. Bast wrote that the billboard was an "experiment" meant to "turn the tables" on climate-change advocates. 

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"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," Bast wrote. "We do not apologize for running the ad, and we will continue to experiment with ways to communicate the 'realist' message on the climate."

The "experiment" resulted in "uncivil name-calling and disparagement" from climate-change scientists and activists, Bast complained. 

Billboards popping up in the Chicago area compare climate change scientists and advocates with Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, murderer Charles Manson and Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

The billboards, paid for the Heartland Institute, are designed to promote the organization's International Congress on Climate Change in Chicago later this month. The Heartland Institute describes itself as a nonprofit devoted to promoting free-market solutions for social and economic problems.

Climate scientists are already reacting to the actions, calling them "truly heinous" and the work of individuals who don't get real global-warming science. In addition, they say the billboards will only bring global-warming skeptics and those who support global warming further apart.

The first billboard, which went up along the Eisenhower Expressway in Maywood, Ill., today (May 4), according to a Heartland spokesperson, features a mug shot of Kaczynski with the words "I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?" and a Web address for the Heartland Institute. In a press release, the organization justified this juxtaposition by calling the support for human-caused global warming "nutty."

"The point is that believing in global warming is not 'mainstream,' smart, or sophisticated," the organization wrote. "In fact, it is just the opposite of those things." [The Reality of Climate Change: 10 Myths Busted]

Climate scientists and mass murderers

Heartland further struck out at Peter Gleick, a prominent climate scientist who leaked internal Heartland documents online in February, revealing the Institute's fundraising efforts and plans to spread doubt about climate change. Heartland claims that one of the documents was faked, referring to the occurrence as "fakegate" in their release.

Gleick says the documents were anonymously mailed to him and he sought the other documents to verify the information. The information in the disputed document is backed up in the other documents, the veracity of which Heartland has not disputed. Individuals named in these documents have confirmed that they were working with Heartland on the plans.

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