News Story

Spend $99 Challenging This Group’s Agenda And It’s ‘Climate Science Disinformation’

They invoke science but their arithmetic equates $99 with $364,000

A London, England-based environmental organization that tracks “corporate climate lobbying” published a document implying that Michigan’s Mackinac Center for Public Policy was a major spender in placing ads on what the group labels “global warming disinformation.”

Called InfluenceMap, the group recently published a report with the headline, “Climate Change and Digital Advertising.” The subtitle is “Climate Science Disinformation in Facebook Advertising.”

The report states that the Mackinac Center spent a total of $364,000 on advertising in the first six months of this year. But in that time, the Mackinac Center actually spent $99.99 promoting on Facebook 10 of its news stories or op-eds that were related in some way to environmental issues.

Those articles included an analysis of how a mid-Michigan dam failed, a news story about a Canton Township tree-cutting ordinance, a report about increased domestic oil production in the U.S., and questions related to property rights and high water levels in the Great Lakes.

The InfluenceMap publication included a table that it said displayed the Mackinac Center’s “total political and issue ad spend” for the six-month period, which it estimated at $364,000.

In an email, InfluenceMap Executive Director Dylan Tanner said it was not misleading to label the $364,000 as environment and climate related. The group was aware, he said, that most of the spending did not promote news and stories related to the environment and climate.

“The ad spend numbers InfluenceMap quote for each entity on page 17 of the report are in a column clearly labeled ‘Total Political and Issue Ad Spend, Jan - July 2020 ($k)’ and in no way imply that this spending was only on the climate-related ads we assessed,” Tanner said. “The total numbers are included so readers can judge the relative size of the entities against each other based on the metric of ‘Political and Issue Ad’ spend on a like for like basis in this time period. Elsewhere in the report it is clearly highlighted that the aggregate spend by all entities on the climate ads in the time period was a relatively small $42K so there should be no doubt as to the meaning of the numbers in the table on page 7.”

During the period covered by the InfluenceMap report, the Mackinac Center was participating in a national campaign on dues collections by government employee unions. The campaign was not related in any way to environmental or climate issues.

The Mackinac Center did spend $37,000 promoting Michigan Capitol Confidential news stories and Mackinac Center publications the first six months of 2020.

The InfluenceMap report includes one Michigan Capitol Confidential article in a section labeled “Examples of Climate Disinformation Ads.”

This article was posted on Feb. 22 with the headline, “Newspapers, Experts Agree: Climate Causes Plummeting, Record High Water Levels.” It cited stories and news reports published in 1988 by the Detroit Free Press, The Associated Press and some local publications on a bout of excessively low water levels in the Great Lakes at the time. These were juxtaposed against 2020 mainstream news articles attributing high water levels to the same cause, climate change.

Tanner responded: “We scored this as disinformation based on the ‘Is Climate Change Happening’ query and the reason was that the ad quoted out of reference or context research from more than 30 years ago and appears to cast doubt of the scientific process. Specifically, on page 30 of our report, the Appendix B ‘the rationale for inclusion is ‘Emphasizes Past Inaccuracies: Statement suggests uncertainty in current scientific prediction through pointing to inaccuracies in previous predictions without reference to the nature of scientific predictions or the much broader body of accurate previous predictions.’”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.