Skip to content Skip to footer

Fossil-Fuel Industry’s Heartland Institute Sending Team to Explain Climate to Pope Francis

The Heartland Institute is sending a team to Rome to explain to Pope Francis that global warming is “unequivocally good news.”

Pope Francis in St Peter's square at the Vatican on May 28, 2014. (Photo: giulio napolitano /

As reported in The New York Times the Heartland Institute, which is funded by fossil-fuel corporations, has spoken out against Pope Francis’ statements about climate change. Saying that the Pope has been misled by “the United Nations’ unscientific agenda on the climate,” the Heartland Institute plans to send a team to Rome “to inform Pope Francis of the truth about climate science.”

How seriously people should take the Heartland Institute is suggested by this excerpt from David Ray Griffin’s recent book, Unprecedented: Can Civilization Survive the CO2 Crisis?


Just as Frederick Seitz had helped the tobacco industry in its initiative to defeat anti-smoking regulations, pointed out Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway in The Merchants of Doubt, another physicist, Fred Singer, helped the industry’s effort to defeat regulations involving environmental tobacco smoke. With the assistance of APCO Associates, a public relations firm hired by Philip Morris, Singer had created the Science and Environment Policy Project to promote what he called “sound science” and to denounce what he called “junk science.”

“The rhetoric of ‘sound science’ is,” point out Oreskes and Conway, “Orwellian. Real science – done by scientists and published in scientific journals – is dismissed as ‘junk,’ while misrepresentations and inventions are offered in its place.”

Having used the “junk science” claim in debates about acid rain and the ozone layer, Singer used it in ExxonMobil’s disinformation campaign on climate change. Although Singer repeatedly denied that he received oil company money, ExxonMobil gave his Science and Environmental Policy Project $20,000 between 1998 and 2000. While under oath in 1993, moreover, Singer admitted that he had often worked as a paid consultant for the Global Climate Coalition and ExxonMobil (as well as Texaco, Arco, Shell, Sun, and Unocal). Singer argued as late as 1998 that “global warming is not happening.” But by 2007, he coauthored a book saying that, although it is happening, it is due to natural forces and hence unstoppable.

Having teamed up with the Heartland Institute, which “promote[s] free-market solutions to social and economic problems,” Singer in 2010 served as one of the three lead authors of the Heartland Institute’s 400-page report entitled “Climate Change Reconsidered.” Arguing that global warming is “unequivocally good news,” it says: “Rising CO2 levels increase plant growth and make plants more resistant to drought and pests. It is a boon to the world’s forests and prairies, as well as to farmers and ranchers.”

Having quoted part of this statement, a Rolling Stone article about the planet’s 17 worst “climate killers” included Singer, labeled “The Hack Scientist.”

The Heartland Institute website featured a banner that displayed Heartland’s president, Joseph L. Bast, along with other people, including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. The implication, evidently, was that these men’s writings, such as The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States, were not qualitatively superior to Bast’s best-known work, Please Don’t Poop on My Salad.

Tired of reading the same old news from the same old sources?

So are we! That’s why we’re on a mission to shake things up and bring you the stories and perspectives that often go untold in mainstream media. But being a radically, unapologetically independent news site isn’t easy (or cheap), and we rely on reader support to keep the lights on.

If you like what you’re reading, please consider making a tax-deductible donation today. We’re not asking for a handout, we’re asking for an investment: Invest in a nonprofit news site that’s not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, not afraid to stand up for what’s right, and not afraid to tell it like it is.