It’s even more disgusting now than it was then.
Five years ago this Thursday, the Heartland Institute–the industry-funded think tank notorious for rejecting the settled science connecting smoking to cancer and the burning of fossil fuels to climate change–engaged in one of the sleaziest media campaigns of all time:
Drivers moving along Chicago’s inbound Eisenhower Expressway on Friday may have been surprised to see Ted Kaczynski, the so-called Unabomber, staring at them from a massive billboard. “I still believe in global warming. Do you?” the billboard read in large maroon letters…
Hours later, the digital billboard was gone. It seems that the ad campaign, sponsored by the conservative Heartland Institute, had bombed.
“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,” the institute said late Friday afternoon said in a statement. “We do not apologize for running the ad, and we will continue to experiment with ways to communicate the ‘realist’ message on the climate.”
In opening the campaign, Heartland had said that Mr. Kaczynski would not be the only persona gazing down on Chicago’s commuters. Among his brethren would be Charles Manson, Fidel Castro, Osama bin Laden and James J. Lee, the institute said.
The ad campaign was so repugnant that Heartland reportedly lost significant financial support. Five years later, the mentality that gave rise to this sort of sick ad campaign dominates the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Presumably, the anti-science forces within (and outside of) the Trump administration were furious over the large turnout for last week’s March for Science–and will be even more ticked off after today’s People’s Climate March. Good. The public backlash against anti-science sentiment is good for democracy–provided, of course, that such a backlash fuels a resolve to remove science deniers from the House and Senate.
Only relentless public pressure can force the Republican Party to reconsider its deference to the fossil-fuel lobby. Does anyone seriously believe that Maryland’s Republican Governor, Larry Hogan, would have banned fracking based solely on the evidence that it poses harm to public health and the climate? Of course not: It took a movement to get him to act. The handful of House Republicans who have backed away from climate-change denial would not have done so absent tireless activism from climate hawks.
Speaking of anniversaries, it’s hard to believe that it was only a decade ago that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was connecting the dots between human-caused climate change and national security:
The burning of oil and other fossil fuels is contributing to the dangerous accumulation of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere, altering our climate with the potential for major social, economic and political upheaval. The world is already feeling the powerful effects of global warming, and far more dire consequences are predicted if we let the growing deluge of greenhouse gas emissions continue, and wreak havoc with God’s creation. A group of senior retired military officers recently warned about the potential upheaval caused by conflicts over water, arable land and other natural resources under strain from a warming planet. The problem isn’t a Hollywood invention, nor is doing something about it a vanity of Cassandra-like hysterics. It is a serious and urgent economic, environmental and national security challenge…
Some urge [that] we do nothing because we can’t be certain how bad the problem might become or they presume the worst effects are most likely to occur in our grandchildren’s lifetime. I’m a proud conservative, and I reject that kind of live-for-today, “me generation,” attitude. It is unworthy of us and incompatible with our reputation as visionaries and problem solvers. Americans have never feared change. We make change work for us.
McCain has gone silent on climate in the years since, but the voice of climate consciousness will be heard today. May that voice resonate throughout Washington and the world.