(Heartland Institute)

(4 p.m. update: An about-face - the Heartland Institute appears to be backing away from this campaign. See statement from President at bottom of post)

Do you believe global warming is real, poses risks to the environment, and needs to be addressed? The Heartland Institute, a think-tank based in Chicago which has promoted climate skepticism, wants you to know you’re in some sinister company.

It has launched a campaign contending that, in its words: “the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

The campaign features billboards, such as the one above featuring una-bomber Ted Kaczynski (the first to appear, put up today along the inbound Eisenhower Expressway in Chicago), as well as Charles Manson and Fidel Castro. Says Heartland:

Other global warming alarmists who may appear on future billboards include Osama bin Laden and James J. Lee (who took hostages inside the headquarters of the Discovery Channel in 2010).

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.

Here’s how the the Guardian characterized the campaign: The Heartland Institute ... has launched quite possibly one of the most ill-judged poster campaigns in the history of ill-judged poster campaigns.

I can’t help but agree this campaign is offensive and in in­cred­ibly poor taste.

Global warming is a hot-button, controversial issue. It involves the complex interweaving of science, economics, social science, policy, and ethics. Necessarily, there are a wide range of view points on how to respond.

Related: Classifying beliefs about climate change

It is highly regrettable the Heartland Institute, which has sought balance at its own global warming conferences by opening the doors to global warming believers, has chosen to demonize this point of view.

Related: Global warming activists launch misguided campaign against skeptical TV weathercasters

Their approach won’t help different perspectives find common ground and work towards the most appropriate path forward. But maybe that’s what Heartland, in reality, is fighting against...

Opinions expressed are my own.

4 p.m. update: Heartland Institute President and CEO Joe Bast has issued the following statement:

We will stop running [the billboard] at 4:00 p.m. CST today. (It’s a digital billboard, so a simple phone call is all it takes.)

The Heartland Institute knew this was a risk when deciding to test it, but decided it was a necessary price to make an emotional appeal to people who otherwise aren’t following the climate change debate.