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Running under attack

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They’re called “climate contrarians” in polite terms and “greenhouse doubters” or “skeptics” in more general references. But to those who see them as nothing more than a well-funded network of conservative think tanks and free-market industry groups determined to undermine the science behind the greatest environmental challenge of our time, they’re known by a more insidious term: “global warming deniers.”

University of Montana climate scientist Steve Running invoked that phrase—and thus their wrath—in comments he made in an Independent interview (see “A Nobel cause” Oct. 25, 2007) the week after he became a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize along with former vice president Al Gore and about 600 scientists from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Now a group that Running disparaged in his interview has branded him a “liar” and a “global warming alarmist” in a series of e-mails sent to Running and his colleagues at the UM College of Forestry & Conservation.

In two e-mails obtained by the Independent, Thomas Swiss and James Taylor of the Chicago-based Heartland Institute accuse Running of “spreading lies and panic about the environment,” and being either “shamefully ignorant of the basic science” or “willing to lie and engage in gross ethical violations to advance his propaganda.”

Running was traveling and couldn’t be reached to comment for this story, but in his published interview he referred to the Heartland Institute as part of the “denier crowd,” and said the IPCC’s Nobel Prize undermines the institute’s credibility.

As the global warming crisis heats up, scientists point out that funding for groups like the Heartland Institute often comes from right-wing foundations and industries largely responsible for the increases in global warming gasses. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, from 2002 to 2006 the Heartland Institute took in nearly $2 million from the likes of the Exxon Mobil Foundation, the DaimlerChrysler Corporation Fund, the General Motors Fund, and the Walton Family Foundation, among others.

So it’s no surprise that the institute doesn’t subscribe to the IPCC’s conclusion that emissions of heat-trapping gases from human activities have probably caused most of the observed increase in global temperatures

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