Chicago billboard compares belief in climate change to mass murder

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, May 4, 2012 13:01 EDT
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A billboard in Chicago, Ill., published by climate denial group The Heartland Institute.
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Update: Heartland Institute withdraws billboard after less than 24 hours, calling it an “experiment” that “angered” many

Update (below): Famed environmentalist thanks group for billboards

A Chicago-based climate denial group has posted the first of several billboards to come that depict famous mass murderers who allegedly endorse climate change, asking passers-by if they do as well.

The first billboard, visible on Interstate 290 in Illinois, features “Unibomber” Ted Kaczynski. It reads: “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?” A web address for The Heartland Institute is also visible.

In a media advisory, Heartland explains that the ads are intended to support their upcoming climate denial conference, set to begin on May 21 in Chicago. The group added that other billboards will feature Charles Manson, Fidel Castro and Osama bin Laden, among others.

“[W]hat these murderers and madmen have said differs very little from what spokespersons for the United Nations, journalists for the ‘mainstream’ media, and liberal politicians say about global warming,” Heartland’s advisory claims.

Heartland — notorious for making outlandish claims like global warming’s benefits outweigh its harms and that Earth’s climate is cooling instead of warming – does note that “not all global warming alarmists are murders or tyrants,” but goes on to compare former Vice President Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth” to Manson’s “Manifesto.”

In spite of their strange, eye-grabbing campaigns, Heartland is fighting a losing battle for public opinion. Polling earlier this year found that nearly two-thirds of Americans now believe that climate change is real, while just one in four remain skeptical.

About half of the survey’s respondents said they believe climate change is happening due to their own experiences with weather changes. U.S. government climate data would seem to bear this out, too: the top 10 warmest years on record have all come since 1995, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Many climate change deniers, like Heartland, point to a recent scandal over documents stolen from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as supposed evidence that data on climate change has been manipulated. A Republican-led federal probe, however, found that no U.S. scientists had improperly manipulated climate data. An inspector general added that testimony before Congress, which maintained that the IPCC emails did not undermine the science of climate change, was in fact true.

In a draft report late last year, the IPCC warned that climate extremes are more likely than ever in the coming decades, largely due to human activity causing changes in Earth’s atmosphere and weather systems.  Developing nations have already been feeling the brunt of a collision between worsening weather patterns, high vulnerability and poor preparedness, they said. “From 1970 to 2008 for example, more than 95% of deaths from natural disasters were in developing countries,” the IPCC added.

They also urged policy makers to implement “systems that warn people of impending disasters; changes in land use planning; sustainable land management; ecosystem management; improvements in health surveillance, water supplies, and drainage systems; development and enforcement of building codes; and better education and awareness.”

Heartland did not mention any serial killers who’ve suggested the same or similar actions be undertaken to help mitigate the effects of climate change, and a spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Update: Famed environmentalist thanks group for billboards

Bill McKibben, one of the nation’s best known environmental activists, published an open letter to the Heartland Institute shortly after this story’s publication, thanking the group for projecting their “desperation” with such “graphic intensity.”

“I know you’d like your opponents to be murderers and crazed fanatics—that would make your job easier,” he wrote. “But as it happens, this weekend will see more than a thousand events in most countries of the planet, arranged by entirely ordinary people who have already felt the sting of climate change. You can watch the pictures at 350.org—we’ll be blogging them as fast as we can. What you’ll see are people of every race and creed, united in the hope that the floods and droughts we’ve already suffered will be enough to sway the hearts and minds of our leaders.”

He added: “Given the frantic and reckless nature of those billboards, I think its safe to conclude were making headway fast.”

(H/T: The Guardian)

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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