Heartland Institute’s Climate Red Team Lists Revealed

The Heartland Institute is frustrated that their yearlong campaign to create a ‘Red Team-Blue Team’ debate on climate has failed.  Leaked internal email reveals their anxiety and desperation that the Trump team isn’t doing enough to kill action on climate change.  In what appears to be retiring Heartland director Joe Bast’s swan song, things are not going as planned.  But they haven’t given up.  New strategies include targeting President Trump directly on Twitter as a work around on Pruitt who they don’t trust. Good luck with that.

Their agreed messaging strategy? “The best messages are positive: CO2 increases crop yields, the earth is greening.” Ok then…reverting to the 1990s Greening Earth Society campaign of the coal industry.

Heartland and friends started the Red Team campaign in April (see timeline below). Over the past six months, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has spoken many times about the Red Team-Blue Team approach when justifying the Trump position on climate or deflecting questions about his own climate denial.  Energy Secretary Rick Perry has also endorsed such an approach.  Coal baron, climate denier and Competitive Enterprise Institute funder, Bob Murray has also praised the Red Team strategy.  Most media coverage over the past few months has been created by Heartland pitching stories and op-eds about being a consultant for the EPA and then Pruitt responding to this stimulus.

Late this summer, a source gave us the lists of ‘scientists’ and ‘economists’ that the Heartland Institute submitted to the EPA.  Heartland says it sent these names to EPA as part of their collaboration to launch a Red Team-Blue Team debate.  In the leaked email, Bast mentions his “list consists of around 150 climate experts I assembled and sent to folks at EPA in response to their request for recommendations.”

The lists revealed here, which were given to EPA sometime in May or June, were titled “U.S. Climate Scientists Mailing List” and “U.S. Climate Economists Mailing List”.  They appear to be just that, Heartland’s internal mailing lists of their experts.  We have redacted the email addresses and phone numbers, but retained all the other data Heartland submitted including internal notes on each person’s strengths and weaknesses.

Heartland Scientists List


Heartland economists list

The goal of the Heartland Red Team campaign is to kill the endangerment finding, the process by which the EPA, under President Obama, formally found that carbon dioxide poses a threat to public and environmental health, allowing the agency to proceed to regulate carbon as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.  If they kill endangerment, they kill the basis of the Clean Power Plan and all other regulatory action on climate.

Leaked Heartland Email

An internal Heartland email, revealed last week by E&E News reporters Niina Heikkinen and Robin Bravender, shows that Heartland Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute and other climate denier allies began their campaign early this year.   The email reviews a September 28th meeting about the Red Team campaign and says:

“This was the second “Red Team briefing” hosted by Heartland on this topic. The first took place on June 14 in Washington DC, and a third and perhaps final meeting is planned for Houston on November 8, the day before Heartland’s America First Energy Conference. The invitation list consists of around 150 climate experts I assembled and sent to folks at EPA in response to their request for recommendations.”

Heartland is scornful of Pruitt, saying he needs to be pressured:

“EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s proposal for a Red Team-Blue Team exercise is vague, probably would not be effective, and is unlikely to come about. More likely to occur is a similar exercise directed by the head of another department (NASA, NOAA, or OSTP) with more interest than Pruitt has shown in the scientific debate and more likely to stick around to see the results.”

This Heartland leaked email reviews their progress and details their plans and guidance moving forward.

Some of their strategies include:

  • Reach the President by tweeting on the issue.
  • Hold more congressional hearings.
  • Push Pruitt to start a proceeding for reconsideration of the Endangerment Finding… he won’t do it without pressure.
  • Be able to say “EPA is reconsidering whether CO2 is a pollutant.”
  • Fundamentally challenge, reform, or replace the National Academy of Sciences, the source of much pseudoscience.

Strict messaging guidance:

  • Never use the phrases “windmill farms,” “all of the above,” “carbon pollution,” “social cost of carbon,” or “air pollution.”
  • Use “industrial windmills,” “reliable and affordable,” “carbon dioxide emissions,” “benefits and costs of fossil fuels,” and “air quality.”

Propping up the old guard climate deniers:

  • Find independent funding for Roy Spencer, David Schnare, Willie Soon, Craig Idso, David Legates, etc.


David Schnare, a former EPA employee, presented at the Heartland Red Team meeting. Schnare was part of the Trump EPA transition team and on EPA staff for a few months before he became a bit unhinged and quit in anger, announcing:

“In my case, Mr. Pruitt and I had basic irreconcilable differences in management approach and professional ethics.”  PoliticoPro reported Schnare, “was bothered by disloyalty to President Donald Trump among both political appointees and career employees at EPA.”

Origins of Heartland Red Team concept

It turns out the Heartland Institute and its allies have been pushing the Red Team concept for years:

In July, lifetime climate denier Roy Spencer who has touted the ‘red team’ idea for more than a decade warned that the ‘red team’ should not seek consensus with the ‘blue team’.  He wrote that he and fellow lifer climate denier, John Christy (who has testified before the Senate in 2012 about a red team approach) were concerned that Pruitt would use the ‘red team’ to debate the UN IPCC conclusions which they thought was not the way to go.

In 2013, a Heartland Institute report declares themselves the Red Team, explaining that the strategy emerged in 2003 (when Heartland was heavily funded by ExxonMobil Foundation) as a counter to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  They started the Heartland Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) project in 2008 (coincidentally the same year the Mercer Family Foundation started funding Heartland Institute with a million dollar grant).

The National Center for Science Education has repeatedly debunked Heartland efforts to spread climate denial in schools with alternate facts, the NIPCC report and “Red Team” rhetoric.

2017 Heartland Red Team campaign timeline

Posted by Kert Davies