green and sustainable business

UCS-Heartland scrap has Pfizer in the middle

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Continuing with my recent theme on health and climate change, Pfizer, the “world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical company,” also maintains that “as a science-based health care company [it] has long recognized the risks posed by global climate change such as more severe weather events and potential adverse impacts on human health.”

So why does Pfizer, manufacturer of Viagra and Zoloft among other modern drugs, support the ultra-conservative Heartland Institute—the think tank famous for its infamous billboard campaign comparing people who agree with what scientists say about climate change to the Unabomber? This is the same outfit that The Economist says is “‘the world’s most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change.”

Recently, for instance, the Heartland Institute hosted a conference at which one of its policy advisors said, “Warm is good for people, and it’s particularly good for people as they get older.” John Dunn continued, “The people that warm spells kill are already moribund,” adding that only extreme cold caused extra deaths.

That’s simply absurd as well as heartless—the Union of Concerned Scientists countered that extreme heat can kill and will get worse as the climate warms. Higher temperatures also allow ground-level ozone, a chief component of smog, to form more easily. And higher temperatures drive more extreme rainfall events, which can cause flooding and associated public health risks.

UCS this month called out Pfizer on the disconnect between what the company says about climate change and what Heartland advocates—saying that the pharmaceutical company should break with Heartland.

Perhaps Pfizer, which likes to say it is on a “green journey,” is having difficulty navigating the intersection of Science, Intellectual Honesty and Climate Change.

UCS president Kevin Knobloch notes, “Misinformation about climate science is a dangerous thing. Scientists have been telling policymakers for years that climate change poses serious threats to our health and economic well-being. But too many polluting corporations have pursued a strategy of delay and denial to protect their near-term bottom lines rather than the public interest.”

Also insidious is the strategy to influence climate change policy by funding front groups—such as Heartland—that can “fight for the corporation’s preferred policy without having the corporation’s name attached to sometimes underhanded activities,” he continues.

Knobloch said that following the “misleading and reckless rhetoric” of the Heartland Unabomber billboard, 20 corporations that supported Heartland withdrew their funding.”

Pfizer was not one of those companies. When pressed on the climate change contradiction by Forecast the Facts, Pfizer responded that it does not agree with Heartland ‘s position on climate change. It continued: “Pfizer supports groups such as the Heartland Institute in specific health care policy issues (including vaccines and follow on biologics), and is also a member of several industry and trade groups that represent our industry and the business community at large. Our company and its stakeholders derive significant benefits from our involvement with these organizations, which help advance our business objectives related to healthcare policy.” Pfizer in a November 2011 Climate Change Position Statement, says it is “working together for a healthier world.” It even trademarked that statement.

That sure sounds like CYA mumbo-jumbo as Pfizer tries to jitterbug past the connection between climate change, health and Heartland.

Image: Heartland billboard screenshot


Written by William DiBenedetto

16 July, 2012 at 2:05 am

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