Conservative group ties climate action support to Unabomber, Charles Manson

The Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank that disputes climate science, is adopting an aggressive PR strategy by launching Chicago-area billboards that associate belief in global warming with the Unabomber and Charles Manson.

“I still believe in Global Warming, do you?” states one of the billboards, launched Thursday, which features a photo of Ted Kaczynski.

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Kaczynski, known as the “Unabomber,” killed three people and injured 23 during a two-decade letter-bombing campaign prior to being arrested in 1996.

Other billboards feature Charles Manson and Fidel Castro, the group said on its website, adding that “other global warming alarmists” who might appear in the future include Osama bin Laden and James J. Lee, who took hostages at the Discovery Channel headquarters in 2010 and was slain by police.

“These rogues and villains were chosen because they made public statements about how man-made global warming is a crisis and how mankind must take immediate and drastic actions to stop it,” the Chicago-based group said on its website. “The point is that believing in global warming is not 'mainstream,' smart or sophisticated.”

The billboards from Heartland, a business-backed free-market group, come ahead of its climate change conference in Chicago later in May.

Heartland disputes the view held by the overwhelming majority of scientists that the planet is warming and human activities — including burning fossil fuels — are playing a major role.

A small minority of scientists call data and modeling on warming trends and the human contribution inaccurate or inconclusive.

The PR effort drew quick condemnation. “How low will #Heartland go? This shows pure desperation,” said Daphne Wysham, co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, over Twitter.

A spokesman for the Sierra Club also criticized the group’s “inflammatory tactics” and said they will “backfire.”

“It must be embarrassing for Heartland’s donors like Exxon to have their money used in a way that compares the majority of their customers who believe in climate change to mass murderers. But they should have thought harder before contributing to the organization that seamlessly transitioned from being apologists for Big Tobacco to being apologists for Big Oil,” said Sierra Club spokesman Trey Pollard.

Exxon last contributed to the group in 2006, according to press reports.