The Heartland Institute


The Heartland Institute is a free market think tank at the forefront of denying manmade climate change. Joseph Bast was the director and CEO of the institute from it’s inception in 1984 until 2017. It has deep ties to the Koch brothers and a network of other right-wing, climate-denying think tanks. Heartland has a reputation as a mouth piece for the corporations who fund it. In the 1990s, the Heartland Institute worked with the tobacco company Philip Morris to question the science linking second-hand smoke to health risks, and lobbied against government public health reforms. Now, in addition to denying the health risks of smoking for big tobacco, Heartland is lining its pockets with fossil fuel funding and denying manmade climate change.

For more history and documentation of Heartland’s denial throughout the decades see the Heartland Institute timeline.


Funding to the Heartland Institute

The Heartland Institute does not disclose its donors and thanks to dark money organizations like DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund, it is nearly impossible to track all grants to the Institute.

What we do know:

  • From 1997-2006, the Heartland Institute received at least $676,000 from ExxonMobil- $140,000 of which were specifically earmarked for climate change programs in disclosure reports by the corporation.
  • Heartland has received over 21 million dollars from Donors Trust and Donors Capital Funds.  Both organizations are conservative nonprofits that advertise the ability to anonymously give by moving grant money through them.
  • The Koch brothers have donated at least $60,000 to the Heartland Institute

2000 Exxon Climate Change Grants

2004 Exxon Climate Change Grants

For more details on Heartland funding please contact us directly.

Heartland Institute Climate Denial

In response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (a global body with over 195 member countries created to address the existential threat of man-made climate change) Heartland hosts an annual conference for climate deniers. They call the gathering International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC).

The Heartland Institute’s ICCC conference provides a pedestal for “scientists” who deny man made climate change. One example is Willie Soon who has taken over 1.2 million in research funding from ExxonMobil, Southern Company, and the American Petroleum Institute. Soon was a signatory of a petition urging Trump to pull out of the United Nations International convention on climate change (UNFCC). Of the “300 eminent scientists” claimed to have signed the letter, an investigation by Desmog found that only a handful could even be considered qualified- but not in the field of climate science.  Below is a video of Willie Soon speaking at the institute’s annual climate denier conference in 2017:

As put by author and journalist, Noami Klein, the “true purpose” of the conference is to provide “a forum for die-hard denialists to collect the rhetorical cudgels with which they will attempt to club environmentalists and climate scientists in the weeks and months to come” (This Changes Everything).

Heartland and the Cooler Heads Coalition

Heartland has been a member of Cooler Heads Coalition (CHC), an informal group of climate denying organizations, since 1999. In 2006, their website stated that the coalition “pools together information from experts both inside and outside of the coalition and serves as a clearinghouse for information on global warming science and policy proposals”. An investigation by CIC as shown that from 1997-2015 the combined grants from ExxonMobil to CHC members top 11 million dollars. Since its inception, the organization has used a variety of tactics to distort public opinion on climate change and influence decision making in Washington. For decades, the coalition has authored bias reports, held briefings on Capitol Hill, and released weekly newsletters attacking “climate change alarmists”. Originally founded by Consumer Alert, the coalition and its website is now funded by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Myron Ebell, former head of Trump’s EPA transition team and CEI’s director of the Center for Energy and Environment, is the chair of the CHC.

Heartland in the White House

The people and organizations like the Heartland Institute pushing the Trump administration further to the fringes of climate change denial have deep roots to massive grants by ExxonMobil, the Koch brothers, and others. Many of these grants were given with the specific intention to sow doubt around climate science. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has asked the Heartland Institute, which received over 28 million dollars from Exxon, Koch, and dark money groups to help construct the agencies “red team-blue team” effort to debate climate science. Climate denier Myron Ebell, the director of the Center for Energy and Environment at CEI and chair of the Cooler Heads Coalition, was head of Trump’s EPA transition team.

Heartland Updates


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