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Peter Gleick (Handout photo)

Donor revelations

Science | Leaks show little about the Heartland Institute but more about the Sierra Club

Issue: "2012 Cities Issue," March 10, 2012

On Valentine's Day proponents of mainstream climate science pounced on a trove of confidential documents they hoped would prove the fossil fuel industry was financing climate science critics. An anonymous person posing as a board member of The Heartland Institute-a Chicago-based think tank known for criticizing global warming alarmism-had tricked a Heartland employee into emailing several budget-related documents that revealed the names of the organization's donors. The climate science website DeSmogBlog soon published the files and sparked a media ruckus.

But apart from speculation about an "Anonymous Donor" who had funded half of Heartland's budget in past years, the documents failed to link the organization's climate science projects to big oil: A $25,000 donation by the Charles Koch Foundation last year-its first in over a decade-had been earmarked for healthcare research. (Brothers Charles and David Koch are top executives at Koch Industries, a major oil refining company, and are well-known patrons of conservative causes.)

One document published with the others-a conspiratorial-sounding memo summarizing Heartland's climate science projects-even appeared to be a fake designed to make the organization look bad. Even so, at least two donors, Microsoft and GlaxoSmithKline, publicly distanced themselves from the institute's position on climate science the day after the news broke.

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However, the really embarrassing donor revelation in February didn't belong to Heartland but to the Sierra Club: Time revealed that the environmentalist group had accepted over $25 million in donations between 2007 and 2010 from the natural gas industry-much of it from Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon-to finance its "Beyond Coal" campaign. The campaign's website describes coal as a "backward, 19th-century technology."

SOURCE REVEALED: Climate scientist Peter Gleick (pictured) has acknowledged that he was the person who convinced the Heartland Institute to hand over internal documents.

Clean air coalition

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced last month the United States would partner with five other nations and commit $12 million in a United Nations-led effort to reduce three air pollutants around the globe: soot, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons.

Methane comes from sources like landfills, coal mines, and farms, while hydrofluorocarbons are released from aerosol cans and refrigerators. The UN blames both gases for accelerating global warming.

Soot, though, has a direct impact on human health: Almost half the world's population relies on rudimentary cooking methods-such as burning wood, dung, or charcoal-that produce soot and result in up to 2 million premature deaths a year. Many are too poor to afford cleaner, modern cookstoves. One broad solution, supported by policy wonks across the political spectrum, is to increase cheap energy access among the poor-rather than cut energy use among the wealthy, as other UN efforts have attempted.

Getting grief

iStock photo

Psychiatrists are debating whether more than two weeks of grief following the loss of a loved one should be diagnosed as major depression. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, now under revision and scheduled to be completed next year, doesn't contain the manual's current "bereavement exclusion," which treats prolonged sadness, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, and other depression symptoms as normal following a death.

The editors of The Lancet argued normal grieving may last six months: "Grief is not an illness. ... Doctors would do better to offer time, compassion, remembrance, and empathy, than pills." - Daniel James Devine

Daniel James Devine
Daniel James Devine

Daniel is a reporter for WORLD who covers science, technology, and other topics in the Midwest from his home base in Indiana. Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanJamDevine.

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