Chico climate denier confirms Heartland funding ties: “Watts up with that?”

Editor’s note: Popular climate denier Anthony Watts of Chico, the former TV meteorologist often cited by some of the Sierra Foothills’ vocal global warming skeptics, including Russ Steele, has confirmed funding ties through Heartland Institute, the liberterian think tank that seeks to refute mainstream climate change. Watts also points to one of the documents in the leak that was first reported by DeSmog blog. This is quickly becoming an international news story. Russ continues to downplay and “spin” the explosive revelations on his own blog. But it is getting harder to ignore. This story will get a full airing in the international media.

I’m sure some personal attacks will follow. But it is important to understand “what’s up” with this issue. It was at the heart of the Prop. 23 campaign and ongoing efforts to discredit California’s global warming initiatives.

Here’s Watts’ response from his blog:

“Heartland simply helped me find a donor for funding a special project having to do with presenting some new NOAA surface data in a public friendly graphical form, something NOAA themselves is not doing, but should be. I approached them in the fall of 2011 asking for help, on this project not the other way around.


They do not regularly fund me nor my WUWT website, I take no salary from them of any kind.

It is simply for this special project requiring specialized servers, ingest systems, and plotting systems. They also don’t tell me what the project should look like, I came up with the idea and the design. The NOAA data will be displayed without any adjustments to allow easy side-by-side comparisons of stations, plus other graphical representations output 24/7/365. Doing this requires programming, system design, and bandwidth, which isn’t free and I could not do on my own. Compare the funding I asked for initially to get it started to the millions some other outfits (such as CRU) get in the UK for studies that then end up as a science paper behind a publishers paywall, making the public pay again. My project will be a free public service when finished.”

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

6 thoughts on “Chico climate denier confirms Heartland funding ties: “Watts up with that?””

  1. My $0.02

    Does any one remember Carl Sagan?? He was one of the first “media darlings” of science. He had the syndicated show “Cosmos” on radio and on PBS. He’d be the guy they’d pull in on the Nightly News when it came to Science back in the 70’s & 80’s.

    In his last book ,”The Demon Haunted World “(1996) he made the claim that 98% of the American population was ‘Scientifically Illiterate’. Of course, this caused quite an uproar. 1) people don’t like being called illiterate. 2) this was a rallying call for those that say that the U.S. education system is inferior.

    In short, he was misinterpreted. When we say ‘Scientifically Illiterate’, most people thought that we don’t know our stuff: kids don’t know the planets, what Amino Acids are, etc……….

    Nothing further from the truth. Sagan meant that almost all Americans don’t know what Science is or how it works. When a statement is made on Nightly News to the effect “New research shows A causes B”, most Americans have no idea how that claim came to be.

    The general population has no idea how we know what we know or why. They have no idea of the process of science. They know nothing of experimental design, data sampling, data interpretation, statics, or peer review. Right wing talk show hosts present science as a diabolical scheme.

    For most of it, peoples experiences with science comes from school. There, people swallow what is told without exception. Photosynthesis is this. Mitosis this. The only topics that bring up questions are Evolution and Global Warming. Even though, these have been subjected to the same process (and even more scrutiny) as Photosynthesis and Mitosis, it’s all a “liberal conspiracy”.

    I blame those that choose to be uneducated and dogmatic. I blame those that choose to ignore reality. I blame those that cherry pick data, count the hits and ignore the misses. I blame the 98%.

  2. Chris,
    The type of scientific illiteracy Sagan writes about is only part of the problem. I think that the problem is more general, and relates not so much to how much people “know” in terms of scientific facts, etc., but in how we process and evaluate information. This applies to historical facts, geographical facts, as well as the facts surrounding mitosis and photosynthesis.

    These habits of equating facts with “knowing” and smartness emerge out of our schools and universities where we give good grades for knowing facts, and just hope that the rest comes along. I know I am sometimes complicit in this at my job at Chico State, but I still haven’t figured out how to efficiently teach the alternative that Sagan refers to. Still people like you and others eventually get it. I wonder why?


  3. TW wrote:
    “but in how we process and evaluate information.”

    That is the key. IMO, that is where we have failed as a society in the past years. Perhaps, it’s always been this way or perhaps this is our greatest challenge. To me, it’s the latter. Our children need to be critical. That doesn’t mean pessimism. It mean’s don’t believe anything, challenge the “facts”, and think for yourself.

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