In Less Than a Day, Group Drops Its Global Warming Ad Campaign
By RACHEL NUWER
Published: May 5, 2012
A new ad campaign comparing people who believe in global warmingto murderers has foundered, with its conservative sponsor pulling a digital billboard down less than 24 hours after it went up in Chicago.
Times Topic: Global Warming & Climate Change
Drivers cruising along the city’s inbound Eisenhower Expressway on Friday may have been surprised to seeTheodore J. Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber, staring at them from ahuge billboard. “I still believe in global warming. Do you?” the billboard said in large maroon letters. Just below was the Web addresswww.heartland.org.
The billboard, described as one of a series, was sponsored by the Heartland Institute, a libertarian organization based in Chicago that describes its chief mission as promoting free-market solutions to social and economic problems. Recently, though, the institute has drawn considerably more media attention for its efforts to advance skepticism about climate change.
In opening the billboard campaign late Thursday, Heartland announced on its Web site that Mr. Kaczynski would not be the only grim figure gazing down on Chicago commuters. Joining him would be Charles Manson, Fidel Castro, Osama bin Laden and James J. Lee, the institute said.
It said it chose to feature “some of the world’s most notorious killers” on the billboards “because what these murderers and madmen have said differs very little from what spokespersons for the United Nations, journalists for the ‘mainstream’ media and liberal politicians say about global warming.”
The institute did acknowledge that “not all global warming alarmists are murderers and tyrants.”
But late Friday afternoon, the organization canceled the campaign, which had drawn criticism from some global warming skeptics as well as those who embrace mainstream climate science.
“We know that our billboard angered and disappointed many of Heartland’s friends and supporters, but we hope they understand what we were trying to do with this experiment,” the institute said in a statement. “We do not apologize for running the ad, and we will continue to experiment with ways to communicate the ‘realist’ message on the climate.”
The effort drew swift criticism from organizations like Media Matters for America, a liberal media monitoring group. But it was also skewered by some climate change skeptics, including Ross McKitrick, a Canadian economist who said he would not participate in a Heartland conference this month in Chicago unless the campaign was canceled.
“This kind of fallacious, juvenile and inflammatory rhetoric does nothing to enhance your reputation, hands your opponents a huge stick to beat you with, and sullies the reputation of the speakers you had recruited,” he wrote in a letter to Heartland’s president, Joseph Bast.
Read more in “Just Seconds From the Ocean,” “Storm Surge,” and “Sea Level Rising the Chatham Story.”