In Undercover Research, “The Heartland Lobby” showed “correctiv.org” and “Frontal 21” from the 4. February 2020, as the powerful American think tank, “Heartland Institute” also operates in Germany and the policy affected. In order to undermine measures against climate change, the international network of climate change deniers uses veiled donations and relies, for example, on an AfD-affiliated YouTuber to reach German youth.
The network of the powerful “Heartland Institute” is large and ranges from the former security advisor of US President Donald Trump to lobbyists and YouTubers from Germany. Conservative US billionaires and English Lords are also involved. The influence of the” heartland Lobby " extends to the Alternative for Germany (AfD), which put the fight against climate protection at the top of its Agenda last year-and which carries the theses of climate change deniers into the Bundestag.
AfD: in bed with EIKE
The journalists begin their Research in Germany. The German counterpart to the “Heartland Institute” is called the “European Institute for climate and energy” (EIKE). Founded in 2007, the association claims to be a scientific think tank and writes on its website that the claim of man-made climate change is a “hoax against the population”. Such theses are best suited for populist politics and so it is hardly surprising that the AfD resorts to the arguments of EIKE and invites representatives of the association to specialist conferences and committees of the Bundestag.
There are also personal connections between the AfD and EIKE: for example, Eike vice president Michael Limburg staff member is in the Office of the AfD member of Parliament Karsten Hilse and contributed to the AfD party program on climate policy.
Conspiracy theorists, esotericists and Ultra-religious
In order for the two journalists to be able to attend an Eike conference as private individuals, they must first transfer 220 euros. The location of the conference will only be announced afterwards. However, the venue had to be changed again shortly before the event, which does not deter most of the conference participants. So the journalists in the disused airport Munich-Riem finally observe around 250 people, who arrive for the conference of climate change deniers. Most of them were older men, according to the report. “Some with Doctor’s or professor’s titles, many retired.”
The journalists describe the Eike conference: during two days, “almost only white men present scientific charts, diagrams and tables. There are those who believe themselves to be on the side of Science, who present their methods, explain, argue and evaluate series of experiments. And then there are the conspiracy theorists, the esotericists and the ultra-religious. Next to us sits a man in the audience. It is God-despising, he says, when Man judges whether something created by God is good or bad. He means CO2.”
Holger Thuss, the chairman of EIKE, who had threatened a journalist in 2019, thinks that the climate protests have assumed “terrorist proportions”. James Taylor, director of climate policy at the Heartland Institute, is also present. He interprets the cancellation of the original venue as an encroachment on freedom of expression.
Meeting of climate change deniers in the shadow of the world climate conference
It is Taylor who then invites the disguised journalists to a conference of the “Heartland Institute” in Madrid. Since you pretend to be a PR consultant for a strategic communications agency based in Berlin and mention that your customers want to support the work of climate change deniers with a lot of money, he is interested. Even if the Heartland Institute has some capital and advises powerful politicians such as US President Donald Trump, new money is welcome.
On 3 December 2019, the journalists are sitting in a hotel lobby in Madrid. Only a few kilometres from the venue of the world climate conference, around 20 climate change deniers are meeting for the rendezvous. Among them, for example, William Harper, professor emeritus of physics and former security advisor to Donald Trump. It was Harper who agreed in 2015 to write a scientific paper on the benefits of high CO2 emissions for plants at an hourly rate of $ 250. Unfortunately, the request did not come from the oil and gas industry as indicated, but from the environmental organization “Greenpeace”.
Also present is Wolfgang Müller, the Secretary General of EIKE, who praises the “Heartland Institute” as a “model in the fight against this climate madness”. Christopher Monckton also takes part in the event. In the 1980s, Monckton advised British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and, for example, demanded that HIV-infected people be quarantined. Today Monckton works for the right-wing populist UKIP. On stage, he says that the state representatives of the world climate conference are promoting a cult of death through their ignorance. Everything the world climate conference is based on is fundamentally wrong.
After the conference, Taylor asks the journalists for a private business meeting. It is about the modalities, how the money of the willing-but fictitious-customers should get to the “Heartland Institute”. Taylor quickly makes it clear that anonymity is not a Problem. If the donor does not want to be named, there are some groups in the USA such as the “Donors Trust”.
“Donors Trust” and “Donors Capital Trust” are tax-exempt foundations that transfer corporate donations to conservative think tanks. Although you must disclose to whom you will allocate the funds. Where the donations come from, however, remains in the dark: as an official donor name, only the names “Donors Trust” and “Donors Capital Trust” are listed. For example, oil or coal companies disguise their donations to anti-climate campaigns.
The same thing probably happened at the Heartland Institute: in the past, the fossil industry, for example “Exxon Mobil” and the conservative billionaire brothers Koch, belonged to the big donors. For a few years they withdrew, instead now “Donors Capital Trust” is one of the most important donors.
The tool box of disinformation
Taylor explains to the two undercover journalists the tool box of Disinformation: How to set topics against money, how the Institute imitates the news tone of the “New York Times” or other “left-wing journals” in publications and also uses journalistic Standards to spread doubts about man-made climate change. How closely Americans cooperate with climate change deniers from Germany. And that the “Heartland Institute” wants to work with a young influencer, a member of the AfD youth organization, to reach the youth in Germany.
A few weeks later, Taylor sends the journalists a written offer. It is the blueprint for a PR strategy in Germany that should not be recognised as such by the public. “correctiv.org” name the goal of the campaign: “just no annoying climate laws. Diesel instead of electric cars, coal power instead of wind turbines, growth instead of Environmental Protection. Higher, faster, further. Or: continue as before.”
The paper, which is now available to journalists, gives them an insight into the multi-million dollar business of climate change deniers and shows how professionally the scene spreads disinformation: with seemingly independent YouTubers and influencers – and also with the help of supposed experts and purchasable scientists. Among them, for example, Peter Ferrara, an economist with a Harvard degree and former advisor to US Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush Senior. With their titles and conclusions, they are intended to lend credibility to the theses of climate change deniers. Against payment, of course.
Although the offered campaign takes place in Germany and connections between “Heartland Institute” and EIKE are known, Taylor does not mention the association. Instead, he says they will work closely and cooperatively with their partners in Germany. As a vehicle for payment, Taylor proposes two US Trusts that guarantee confidentiality and legality: Donors Trust and the National Philanthropic Trust.
Expensive information war to prevent action
All this shows how internationally active think tanks use targeted communication strategies to spread false information. They create academic studies, publish on the Internet and in journals, organize conferences and lobbying. Their campaigns are rarely recognizable as such. They come as journalistic contributions, on the Internet give them seemingly independent influencers a face. At conferences and in Interviews, older men with supposedly professional Image of the demonstrably wrong theories and give them credibility. And the most important thing: the actual masterminds and the donors remain in the dark.
Although there has been a consensus among most scientists for years that climate change is caused by humans, climate change deniers are fighting this truth-and are taking a lot of money in the process.
“If it were up to you, then science would be against science. The question of whether there is man-made global warming would then be a question of opinion - with good arguments on both sides,” analyzed “correctiv.org”. " only: hardly any climate researcher or scientist agree with you. The facts speak a clear language.”