The Heidelberg Appeal – A case study in climate change disinformation

Rock Ferry Oil Terminal

The Heidelberg Appeal was the brainchild of PR wizard Michel Salomon and was associated with his PR front-group the International Centre for Scientific Ecology An organisation which had the grand-daddy of all professional science deniers, Dr Fred Singer on its board. Salomon is now associated with SEPP, one of Singer’s other front groups (there is a fairly rapid turnover of these groups, as they get recognised for what they are, new ones need to be created to preserve the illusion) – a group part-funded by the Rev Sun Myung Moon.

The clever trick about the Heidelberg Appeal was to make it sufficiently vague and to include wording about ecology that many reasonable scientists endorsed, including the 49 of their 72 Nobel Laureates who also signed the World Scientists Warning to Humanity at approximately the same time. The nature of the second document makes it very doubtful that the 49 laureates who signed both would have had much respect for the uses to which the Heidelberg Appeal was then put by the PR people who originally circulated and promoted it. Here is a collection of documents demonstrating the agendas of the PR people behind the Heidelberg AppealDesigner Front Group is a particularly juicy specimen. Salomon appears to have been initially funded by the tobacco industry, who were early pioneers of many of these techniques while they were trying to dispute the science that showed their products were carcinogenic.

Salomon’s associate Fred Singer was also responsible for the Leipzig Declaration a similar use of the third party scam, which also succeded in the purpose of getting lots of favourable press and in misleading members of the general public into thinking that numerous qualified scientists had serious doubts about climate change. This document was produced several years after the Heidelberg Appeal and it appears that real scientists had become wary of PR scams by then, because its signatories are quite as dodgy as those who signed Seitz’s fake NAS petition

Seitz appears to have become involved in science denial in the late 70’s when he was paid to lend his scientific reputation (in electronics) to pioneering cancer disinformation campaigns run by major tobacco companies. Seitz, along with Singer and Balunias (one of the authors of that article attacking Mann’s research that caused the editors of Climate Science to resign) are also members of numerous similar industry funded PR front groups identified in this useful little page from the Union of Concerned Scientists. For example, Soon and Balunias are employed, along with Seitz by the Exxon funded Marshall Institute who are also currently involved in a UK campaign, with the Scientific Alliance PR front group, to cast doubts on climate science.

This then is the core of the anti-science propaganda technique, pioneered by cancer merchants but now adopted by the energy lobby. Get something superficially plausible into the popular press, endorsed by the same tiny group of PR-friendly scientists and media pundits associated with almost all of these PR front groups, which causes the public to believe incorrectly that there is significant doubt among qualified scientists about some science your clients find inconvenient. Then just keep doing it shamelessly whatever the vast majority of scientists, writing in peer-reviewed journals that the general public doesn’t read, are saying.

That way the public gets this vague sense that the science is unproven or somehow doubtful, unless they check what the vast majority of qualified scientists are saying in peer-reviewed journals. Which most of them probably don’t. They just vaguely remember hearing there were scientists who had doubts about climate change.

[Update] The Union of Concerned Scientists has just published a report which confirms the case I’m making above and adds a great deal of substantive detail on how this approach has been funded over the last few years, including tables showing how $16m of Exxon’s money has been disbursed to the same small group of professional climate change sceptics mentioned above.



  1. timethief
    Posted January 5, 2007 at 11:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

    An excellent post to be sure. The last paragraph IMO clearly states where most folks are at and also provides the reason we must “educate” them any way we can and at every opportunity that we can.

  2. john
    Posted February 4, 2007 at 4:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The Heidelberg appeal text speaks for itself. You see it IS irrational to spend bilions on a fantasy doomsday 100 years from now when millions suffer due to REAL problems.

  3. Mike M.
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 8:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Almost all plants LOVE having more CO2. NASA and NOAA measurements show that global warming has stopped since 1998 even though China and India have accelerated human CO2 emissions. There is ZERO hard physical evidence to prove CO2 drives global temperature while there IS real ice core evidence that global warming causes more CO2 and that is explainable by warmth nurturing MORE LIFE, (especially insects and microbes; did you know that termites alone emit more greenhouse gas than humans? Hmm?), and by release from warming ocean water. No measurable amount of change has been detected in the rate of sea level rise which has been rising for about 10,000 years. Take this quiz: www . geocraft . com /WVFossils/GlobWarmTest/start.html

  4. matt sykes
    Posted January 28, 2010 at 6:40 am | Permalink | Reply

    And now, in early 2010, we find that the Hadley center, NCDC and GISS have been manipulating data to show non existant warming. The IPCC head Pachuri has been implicated in financial scandal concerning a misrepresentation of glacier melt extent.
    The IPCC itself in its 4th AR has been found to have intentionally quoted non peer reviewed reports of glacier shrinkage, forest destruction, and weather disasters in order to get attention, and one imagines funding.

    Even if the Heidelberg and Liepzig documents were created by industry and signed by anyone, AGW is still an unproved theory and the case for it is grossly overstated.

  5. Capn Rusty
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 11:30 am | Permalink | Reply

    And now, it’s 2013, and while the ppm of CO2 has continued to climb, the average temperature of the earth has remained the same, or declined a fraction, over the last 15 years. Chicken Little was wrong!

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