Mail wars: Heartland -vs- the AMS

There is a bit of a row that has developed over the recent American Meteorological Society survey of its membership on cause of climate change that gave a surprising result of only 52% of survey respondents answering Yes: Mostly human.   The Heartland Institute sent out an email advising its friends, members, and associates of the survey results, as show below, and the AMS is quite unhappy about that email.  


On November 28th, AMS Executive Director Keith Seitter posted a rebuttal at the AMS web site titled Going to the source for accurate information. He writes:

A disturbing aspect of this e-mail is that it seems some effort was placed in making it appear to have been sent by AMS.

In addition to that statement, the authors of the paper reporting the results of the survey of AMS members have made a statement about Heartland’s email, which is noted in a post at the Climate Science Watch website titled Taylor distorts poll of meteorologists on climate change to reach opposite conclusion of study authors.

Heartland responded to the AMS with a blog post on their website “Somewhat Reasonable” with: AMS Survey Shows No Consensus on Global Warming. They cover some of the objections raised. Heartland director Joe Bast writes:

We chose to send this notice using an email address that was descriptive of the message – “AMS Survey []” – rather than an address with a Heartland domain to maximize the open rate, a common practice in email marketing. There was no attempt to deceive recipients about who sent the message: “This message was sent to [recipient] from Heartland Institute” and our address appear at the bottom of the message.

Dr. Judith Curry wrote about the affair:

At issue is whether the survey should be interpreted as a 52% consensus, or a 90% consensus.  As per my post on this paper, 52% consensus(?), I provide a detailed interpretation of the results supporting the 52% consensus conclusion.  Based upon their statement, the authors of the paper seem unaware of the nuances of what constitutes the IPCC consensus in terms of attribution.  The key issue is how to interpret responses to the survey question related to climate or atmospheric science expertise and secondarily as to whether the members are publishing or not, which is discussed in my post 52% consensus(?).

In summary, Heartland’s interpretation is not a misrepresentation of the actual survey results, although the authors and the AMS are interpreting the results in a different way.  A better survey might have avoided some of the ambiguity in the interpretation, but there seems to be no avoiding the fact that the survey showed that 48% of the AMS professional members do not think that most of the warming since 1850 is attributable to humans.

Dr. Curry doesn’t think the results were misrepresented in the Heartland email.

What I think is most upsetting to the AMS executive director and the authors of the survey paper aren’t so much the interpretation, but the way the email was delivered. Note in the image of the email above, its says From: “AMS Survey”. It also contained the logo of the AMS.

That fooled me, for about 5 seconds, into thinking that it was a communications from the AMS. But at the bottom of the email, the sender is quite clear:


My opinion is that Heartland boobed a bit here. They setup a mailing list called “AMS Survey” with the iContact mailing list service, and that would be destined to cause some confusion to recipients.

On the other hand, since the sender is clearly labeled at the bottom, you’d have to be a complete dolt to be permanently fooled into thinking this was an official AMS communications.

That email address combined with the use of the AMS logo, which was fair use for the purpose, pushed some buttons at AMS I think. I think the uproar comes from a couple people being initially misled for about 5 seconds, only to discover it was from Heartland and not the AMS. It is easy to become indignant about being misled, even if for only a few seconds.

The uproar by AMS executive director Setter might also have been accelerated by a thought that Heartland got access to the AMS member list, and that Heartland tried to pull one over on their membership. That isn’t likely, because the email I posted from Heartland via iContact came to a member’s email address that was not on file with the AMS. Even if Heartland had used the AMS mailing list, the AMS doesn’t have much of  beef about it since they offer their membership mailing list for sale to 3rd parties.



While I think that using the email address “AMS Survey” could have been an honest mistake when Heartland setup the email distribution list with iContact (Hmm, what shall I call it?) based on Bast’s description, it certainly didn’t set well with some people. A cursory review of the Heartland effort by anyone not so close to the issue might have prevented that problem by pointing out the sender address might be misinterpreted, the issue seized upon, and cause some uproar.

OTOH, that may have been exactly what Heartland was counting on, since uproars tend to bring far more eyes to the table than a simple mailer would. See the Streisand Effect. Heartland has been known for pushing the envelope in the past, such as with their disastrous blunder with the Unabomber billboard.

Whether it was an honest mistake, or pushing the envelope, one thing is for certain: far more people know about the 52% survey result now than they would have had the AMS not gone ballistic about it.

While we are on the subject of mailing lists, this survey and subsequent row has created a new discovery about it, and that will be the subject of a future post.


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Doug Proctor

The Heartland has joined the media war begun by the eco-green alarmists. While I am not a supporter of an eye-for-an-eye, or using the weapons and tactics of your enemy (nerve gas in Syria, anyone?), the AMS and others are hypocritical here. Kettle calling the pot black and all that.
When only one in two agree, there is no consensus. It is not a question of asking the right question, as you’ll always get the same answer. Even the Lewandowsky survey had no consensus in the data: they achieved their 97% result by cherry-picking their respondents.


tit-for-tat I say.


Well, consensus is for fools, and there are lots of us.

An interesting comment on the AMS website from a “Mike Smith”
I am a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society and a Certified Consulting Meteorologist. To the best of my memory I never had a chance to respond to this poll of the AMS membership.
That said, the fact that 70% of scientists say that humans affect the climate is utterly unsurprising. That has been known scientifically since Changnon’s METROMEX study in the early 70’s. The fact that 9 out of ten that publish on the subject of climate believe humans affect the climate is also utterly unsurprising.
For me, the money question was #6, “How worried are you about global warming?” Only 30% answered “very worried.” This would make 70% of the respondents “deniers” since that perjorative term seems to be applied to anyone who does not accept the “IPCC consensus” of catastrophic global warming. A statistically similar number (28%) is not worried or “not very worried” about global warming.

So, you can spin the results any way you want but this survey of a small number of AMS members doesn’t reveal any great concern about global warming.


Dana has as expected jumped in with both feet to this battle:

The Streisand effect.
I do not like that they used the AMS logo, but as noted, it was clear who sent it. So some would read it before seeing the logo at the bottom. Others would never get that far. But AMS escalated it when they decided to make a row about what is essentially a fact.

If the survey were properly worded, the result would have shown that only a very small percentage of scientists and engineers think that human activity is the primary cause of global warming.
Because a properly worded survey would define ‘primary cause’ as a cause that is supported by verifiable scientific evidence. If that were the criteria, probably far less than 5% of respondents would agree that there is empirical, testable evidence showing human activity as the primary cause.
The reason: there is NO verifiable, measurable scientific evidence showing that human CO2 emissions cause global warming; none at all.
Human CO2 emissions may cause some minor global warming. Maybe. But measurable evidence connecting human CO2 emissions to global warming is completely lacking. And lacking measurable evidence is hardly science — as the AMS should certainly know.

Bloke down the pub

97% of the AMS think Heartland cheated.


I too received this mail. Initially I thought it was from the AMS and I think that’s a reasonable conclusion that anyone would be expected to jump to. However once I started reading it became clear that the AMS would never have sent the content and a quick check led me to the actual sender.
I was not overly concerned about it, however I can see that the AMS have every right to be upset about the manner of delivery and I don’t doubt for one moment that Heartland discussed and agreed to do things in this way.
It does not alter the facts and I remain unconcerned about this little piece of mischief making.

Jeff Mitchell

This is too much fun. I hope we have plenty of popcorn. I wonder how Babs feels about having her name attached to the concept of generating more news than if you had left it alone. If I had done a survey and come up with 97% agreement, I’d be suspicious because it is very difficult to get that kind of unanimity on any subject, let alone one with controversy.
If you want to have fun, do a survey of regular people and see how many feel the earth is larger than the sun. I predict greater than 60% will answer that the earth is larger than the sun. Consensus is a wonderful thing.

My sense:
The AMS folks who ran the survey started out incredribly biased and wanted both to prove nearly all their members agree with the position statement and to identify who didn’t and why so they could hone their in-house marketing message.
The conclusions in the paper read more like marketing than the dispassionate quest for truth that science aspires to (and rarely attains).
Heartland’s Email was spun with much the same effort and opposite intent.
Using the special “From:” line was not classy, but it probably got the message past a number of Email filters.
Using the AMS logo was okay, but the AMS lawyers could make a stink. (Hey, they can still use the APS logo once.)
The signature line was fine. While it wasn’t prominent, it does clearly show who sent the Email. People familiar with Heartland press releases likely figured it out by then anyway.
Bottom line: the AMS is annoyed that their blatant attempt to spin the story has been equalled. and faux outrage is about the best response they can invent.
Heartland could come up with a very level headed reply, it might even get read given that there’s now a Controversy. Unfortunately, that’s not how they work.


I read the AMS paper. There is simply no getting around the fact that it says just 52 percent of “all respondents” subscribe to the view that global warming is happening and its cause is “mostly human.” The Heartland Institute being maybe too clever by half doesn’t detract from that.

Reg Nelson

Better to shoot the messenger than address the message, it appears.
I’ll give the AMS some credit — they did actually publish the results. I’m surprised they didn’t “homogenize” the responses with proxy tree ring data, TOA adjustments, or some other kind of nonsense.


PLease. The big bad Heartland Institute used a clever ruse in order to get these people to open their email. Oh, the indignation! Total straw man I might add, as an attempt to deflect attention from that damning 52 percent denialist population in the AMS. I’ve long argued we should be fighting back with surveys of our own, Glad to see HI doing just that.


If there is a publicity storm going on, I’d like to see Heartland raise two issues and make them as public as possible:
1. There are a large number of AMS members who have stated that they were NOT surveyed, despite having their email address on record. Why?
2. Elections are anonymous voting processes. In a democracy this is sacrosanct because without it, fear of reprisal and/or other consequences skews the results. This was not an anonymous poll, and turn out was extremely light. Is AMS prepared to repeat the survey to ALL its members and allow them to respond in an ANONYMOUS fashion?

Louis Hooffstetter

dbstealy nails it.
Have no pity or respect for the AMS. Their corrupt leaders tried to strong-arm their members by threatening to revoke their certifications if they didn’t tow the party line (Google Heidi Cullen, A.K.A. the Weather Bimbo), and for years they have repeatedly lied to the general public telling us over and over again that an overwhelming majority of meteorologists believe in CAGW. Now that their lies have come back and bitten them on the ass they’re complaining. Whaaa…
If they didn’t want the world to know what their members believed, they shouldn’t have asked.


Heartland’s email was lame.
“…the AMS surveyed its members via email and found 52% believe that global warming is happening…”
No they didn’t. They found that 52% of the 26% that responded believe that. That’s 13%, if
they surveyed all of the members – which they did not, though they said they did.
Why is Heartland repeating the warmist original authors’ mischaracterization of the results?
From the information we have, all we can conclude from this survey is that 87% of the AMA either don’t buy into ‘global warming’, or they don’t care enough about it to bother voicing their opinion about it.


When you’re focused on marching goose step correctly, it’s hard to hear those around you not in step.


Paging Dr. Peter H Gleick.

Gary Pearse

As with much of the CAGW “debaters”, a lot of huff an puff about an issue is a fog to try to obscure the real issue that is bothering the huffers and puffers: their membership survey showed to their shock, only about half believe humans are to blame and many more don’t think whatever warming there is serious. Anyway the cat’s out of the bag and I believe it a benefit to the AMS brass that they know that THEY are in the minority.

Same ‘disguised documents’, different decade. Probably many of you remember the big outrage about the initial circulation of Art Robinson’s Oregon Petition Project, where the hurt-feelings AGW crowd claimed the “petition and the documents included were all made to look like official papers from the prestigious National Academy of Science.” (e.g. this retelling: )
It’s an anti-intellectual narrative to push if you really think about it, the idea that highly intelligent scientists would be so dumb as to not be able to tell their rear end from a hole in the ground, when it comes to the Oregon Petition or Heartland material.


The inclusion of the AMS logo is sketchy.

The AMS response has clearly been affected by global warming – all that CO2 in the hot air emitted has intensified the response. We now have a superstorm in a teacup.

Steve from Rockwood

If Heartland was really smart they would have paid the $1,230 to rent the AMS email list, sent out their email and got a “thank-you for supporting AMS”. Then when things hit the fan it would have been funny.

Jim Clarke

I have never understood the assumption that if you have published a paper on some aspect of climate change, that your opinion on climate change is somehow more important. Someone may light the stage for a Broadway show, but it doesn’t mean their opinion of the performance is any more valuable than someone sitting in the audience. In fact, since their job depends on the success of the show, their opinion is far more likely to be biased inappropriately.
The warmests have been utterly consumed with the idea that any skeptic may have been given money at some point by anyone even remotely connected to ‘big oil’, but never wonder if the gravy train of AGW science has had any impact on scientists doing climate change research. Is big oil money more coercive than big government money? No. It is less so, because skeptics are not dependent on oil money to make a living, but many research scientists live and die by the federal and IPO grant money.
While the paper claims that those who have published on climate change have more authority, I would argue that those who have published on climate change have much more to lose if the AGW funding was cut due to the lack of a crisis. This survey seems to indicate that the AGW meme is supported by those AMS members who have a vested interest in the meme, and not supported nearly as much by those members who have no stake one way or another.
And that is extremely telling!

AMS would have complained no matter how Heartland did it. When somebody is gonna be upset and light their hair on fire no matter what you do, then you don’t have to worry about whether or not what you do will make them mad. Since that is always a foregone conclusion, do whatever suits yourself the best – in this case, trolling the AMS into making a bigger deal of this than Heartland could ever could have made of it themselves.

Blue Sky

Heartland has as much creditability as Peter Gleick. Same people as SkS, just different sides of the issue. Science will win in the end. Skeptic’s by and large are classy….Why muddy ourselves with Heartland?

Man Bearpig

Would the result have been different if the Heartland logo were used? Of course not, this is smoke and mirrors and the AMS board whinging and wailing that their members are not stupid enough to believer the propaganda they are fed.


Jim Clarke says:
“I have never understood the assumption that if you have published a paper on some aspect of climate change, that your opinion on climate change is somehow more important.”
Err – did you really mean that, Jim Clarke??
The idea that someone expert in a field of the science in question’s opinion is somehow more important that the average man/woman on the street?
OK, then why do we teach people sciences? Why do we teach people anything?
So they become expert in that endeavour perhaps? So that they know more than most and that their opinion therefor carries more weight. Like your doctor knowing more about your illness than the next door neighbour. Who’d you prefer to consult?
You know, as someone quite well known in science once said “I have stood on the shoulders of giants”.
How could he stand on those shoulders if he was not conversant with what they had discovered? ergo been experts in their field and as such so was he.
In a sane world I would suggest that indeed people that publish papers on a subject (peer reviewed – by experts) do very much carry more weight than anyone else.
And I find the questioning of that assumption contrary to common sense and disturbingly bizarre to boot.


Blue Sky says:
December 2, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Heartland has as much creditability as Peter Gleick.

Heartland is a criminal orginisation? Do tell.

Sun Spot

The inclusion of the AMS logo would only raised an eyebrow if it’s understood that the AMS would conduct an UN-BIASED survey. Since we all know that the AMS would ONLY CONDUCT A BIASED survey, we now know that chicanery is the name of the game, sooooo the logo thing is OK by the dodgy standards set by the AMS.

Bruce Cobb

The fact that AMS is unhappy makes me happy. Funny how that works. Thank you, Heartland.

Dr Burns

What do the 52% claim to be the evidence ?


Some number of these folks probably got annoyed when they realized that The Chronicles of Narnia was a Christian allegory.

Hot under the collar

My take on it is that it is very wrong. The Heartland Institute must be mortified …. that anyone would mistake them for the American Meteorological Society. ; > )

Steve from Rockwood

Seems like most climate scientists don’t believe in surveys.

I received the Heartland email on the AMS survey.
I was amused when I saw it was ‘signed’ at the bottom by Heartland Institute.
Even more amused now with the AMS response and the HI response to the AMS response.
The use of the AMS logo strongly links the survey results with skeptical memes, which I am sure was HI’s strategy. Not a bad strategy if PR is considered as suitable for publicizing skepticism.
Next week, when Lewandowsky is involved in several sessions at the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco, perhaps he will do an attack on HI with his usual ¢öñšpįråtaliźatîøñ [a new word] trick.

pablo an ex pat

Just have to love Dana.
if you read down his replies to comments in the Guardian he seems to be saying, and I paraphrase obviously, that Weather Forecasters aren’t Climatologists therefore their views are moot as they aren’t Experts. Hence they have no credibility when talking about Climate.
Which raises the question : Why do the Alarmists view the backing of the AMS to have any value at all ?
Is it because a slim majority of the membership is credible and competent ?
Talk about kicking your Pals in the teeth !


The style of the email is unacceptably deceptive. Even after reading the email and who sent it and reading some of the controversy, I was still assuming the message was just a quote by Heartland of a statement by the AMS. I even think it was actually illegal for Heartland to do it. You can’t just impersonate another organization and use their logo in the style of a quote and then put a small disclaimer at the end. That doesn’t qualify as fair use. To see this more clearly, imagine if the text had been 100 pages instead of just one, so that many people would read a little but very few would get to the true author’s identity far at the end of the document.
I think Heartland would lose a lawsuit if pursued by AMS. Of course the damages would be small compared to the publicity value of such a suit. But considering the 97% consensus fraud perpetrated by alarmists for so long, one is tempted to consider turnabout to be fair play here.


Dana- “Interestingly, the strongest single factor in predicting meteorologists’ acceptance of human-caused global warming was their perception of the level of expert consensus on the subject. This result is consistent with previous research finding that people are more likely to accept this reality and support taking climate action if they’re aware of the expert climate consensus.”
So naturally we had to make them all more aware with that 97% Cookup and we’re always on the lookout for ways of getting and keeping converts.


In a sane world I would suggest that indeed people that publish papers on a subject (peer reviewed – by experts) do very much carry more weight than anyone else.
In a sane world, people wouldn’t publish tree ring studies based 50% on a single tree.
In a sane world, people wouldn’t build compute algorithms that produce a hockey stick no matter the data.
In a sane world, people wouldn’t play “tricks” to “hide the decline”
In a sane world, the divergence problem would condemn tree ring data to the dust bin.
In a sane world, models that were clearly and obviously wrong for nearly two decades would not continue to be presented as evidence.
In a sane world, Al Gore wouldn’t fake his on air experiment not to mention his viewing stats.
In a sane world, we wouldn’t condemn with absolute certainty, hundreds of millions to poverty, hunger and disease for something that might happen and is only predicted by a single tree, a false algorithm, tricks to hide the decline, proxies that diverge from the temperature record for nearly half of it, computer models that keep getting it wrong and arrogant snobs with the carbon footprint of a small city faking experiments on TV.
We do not live in a sane world sir, and if one confines oneself to the climate science world, assumption of either malice or incompetence when reading any paper will serve you well. Not always, but with a regularity suggesting it is a good practice.

Mindbuilder says:
“I think Heartland would lose a lawsuit if pursued by AMS. ”
Where did you get your JD?

@ dbstealey says: December 2, 2013 at 4:55 pm
Same place I got mine! Cracker Jacks. 😉


The shorter Dana- How dare they mock us by Gleicking for a few seconds with an unpleasant truth when we control the message and besides what would Meteorologists know anyway!!


HI stirs the pot a bit and of course the vested interests at AMS protest. Keep up the good work HI

A skirmish on enemy territory, and they lost

Nick Kermode

Dbstealey says:
“If the survey were properly worded”
Exactly! I have been pretty sceptical of all surveys ever since I saw this episode 😉

Jim Clarke

TB says:
December 2, 2013 at 2:33 pm
“Err – did you really write that, mean that. Jim Clarke??”
Yes…I really did, but I was not talking about people on the street. I was talking about the membership of the AMS. This survey separates AMS members into those who do research on climate change and those who do not, and makes the assumption that those who do research on a specific part of climate change have more authority on the entire subject of climate change than other atmospheric scientists.
This is like saying that a medical doctor doing drug research for a major pharmaceutical company has more authority to discuss the use of all prescription medicines than doctors who don’t do clinical drug testing. Any normal person would think that a doctor working for big pharma would be a little suspect. But a scientist working for ‘big climate’ is depicted as an authority, having a more valuable opinion than other, equally educated atmospheric scientists with no financial stake.
Let’s take it one step further but on a similar vain. Would you rate the opinion of the medical doctor’s who produced research *(paid for by tobacco companies) that cigarette smoking did not cause cancer higher than other medical professionals? Certainly we could argue that they are doing the research so they must be more knowledgeable. But then we would be idiots, wouldn’t we?

michael hart

TB says:
December 2, 2013 at 2:33 pm
Jim Clarke says:
“I have never understood the assumption that if you have published a paper on some aspect of climate change, that your opinion on climate change is somehow more important.”
Err – did you really mean that, Jim Clarke??
The idea that someone expert in a field of the science in question’s opinion is somehow more important that the average man/woman on the street?
OK, then why do we teach people sciences? Why do we teach people anything?
So they become expert in that endeavour perhaps? So that they know more than most and that their opinion therefor carries more weight. Like your doctor knowing more about your illness than the next door neighbour. Who’d you prefer to consult?

You can sue a doctor for malpractice.

Owen in GA

TB says:
December 2, 2013 at 2:33 pm

TB, Publishing a paper on something does not really mean that much. Many academics have to publish a minimum of 5 peer reviewed papers (typically in each five year period) in their fields at to attain/maintain tenure. I have read many of these papers, and some of them weren’t worth the paper they were printed on. The only reason they weren’t withdrawn is because it is nigh on impossible to get journals and authors to admit to even obvious errors.
What you wrote was a version of appeal to authority. When it comes to science, it does not matter the degrees possessed or titles granted, just the bloody tenacity of fact to support or disprove a theory. It matters not how smart the theorist or how elegant the theory, one contrary fact whether found by a PhD, a student, or the janitor is all it takes to end the theory’s usefulness.


100 credentialed, peer reviewed scientists once combined their efforts to discredit a single man’s work. His name was Albert Einstein. Their problem was that no matter how many of them there were,no matter how many peer reviewed papers they had between them, they were wrong.