Recent Developments at the Heartland Institute

This Valentine’s Day, one of the most vocal lobby groups attacking the science of climate change had its internal documents leaked to the public – exposing its sources of funding, secret projects, strategies, and goals for the world to see.

Manufacturing Doubt

You’re probably aware of the influences of corporate-funded lobby groups on social issues. They seek to bring down public health insurance, lower taxes for the wealthy, and prevent environmental regulation. They publish advertisements, print op-eds, and meet with politicians, all in an attempt to advance a free-market agenda. More often than not, they’re backed by corporate interests – pharmaceutical companies, tobacco firms, and the oil industry, to name a few.

You might question the fairness of allowing certain people to amplify their voices simply because they have more money, but at least these lobby groups are spreading around legitimate ideas. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion on matters of public policy, and nobody can be “right” or “wrong”. However, on matters of science, there is a physical reality out there, so people can be wrong. Try arguing that your incorrect answer on a physics assignment deserves full marks, because it represents your personal opinion on the photoelectric effect. You probably won’t get very far.

Unfortunately, certain lobby groups have a long history of promoting blatant falsehoods about areas of science that threaten their free-market fundamentalism. Everything from the harmful health effects of smoking to the causes of acid rain to the consequences of the pesticide DDT has been attacked by these groups. The strategy has been the same every time: repeat long-debunked myths ad nauseum, overemphasize uncertainty, and question the integrity of scientists studying the issue.

Human-caused climate change is currently the most fashionable scientific phenomenon to deny. Although 97-98% of climate scientists agree that humans are causing the Earth to warm, public acceptance lags far behind, and is heavily split along political lines. Scientists have investigated and ruled out every conceivable alternative hypothesis for global warming – so why aren’t their conclusions reaching the public? The answer is that other influences are getting in the way, muddying the message for their own financial and ideological benefit.

The Front-Runner

In recent years, the Chicago-based Heartland Institute has led the way in this crusade against climate science. Their communication style seems to be “quantity, not quality”: whatever rumour currently claims to disprove global warming will be picked up and amplified by the Heartland Institute, whether or not it contradicts previous statements from the organization. For example, they will frequently claim in the same document that 1) the world is cooling and 2) global warming is caused by the sun. Logically, you can’t have it both ways. However, doubt, not logic, is the goal here – if a message casts doubt on the scientific consensus, it qualifies for the Heartland newsletter.

This lobby group’s extreme conservative agenda is apparent in paranoid overtones about socialist conspiracies and bigger government. “If AGW [anthropogenic global warming] is true,” they write, “then stopping or preventing it requires higher taxes, more income redistribution, more wilderness preservation, more regulations on corporations, ‘smart growth,’ subsidies for renewable energy, and on and on…[we] ‘looked under the hood’ and concluded concern over the possibility of catastrophic global warming was being manufactured to advance a political agenda.”

Heartland has accepted thousands of dollars in funding from oil companies, such as ExxonMobil, and industrial giants, such as the Koch brothers. However, most of the funding for their climate change projects now comes from a single individual, who is obviously extremely wealthy, and currently anonymous.

A Scientist Steps In

Enter Dr. Peter Gleick, a prominent climate scientist and president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security. He has had run-ins with the Heartland Institute before, and – like many scientists in the field – is deeply disturbed by their disinformation campaigns. So when he received an anonymous package in the mail in 2012, containing a confidential memo that appeared to be from the Heartland Institute, he was intrigued.

The memo, entitled “Heartland Climate Strategy”, contained many phrases that would later raise eyebrows. Perhaps most distressingly, Heartland was planning to bring denial into the classroom, by developing a school curriculum “that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science”. They were also hoping to pursue funding from “corporations whose interests are threatened by climate policies” – presumably the fossil fuel industry – and to continue sponsoring the NIPCC reports, whose purpose was “to undermine the official United Nation’s IPCC reports” (widely considered to be the most authoritative reviews of climate science in existence).

Finally, Heartland discussed its “funding for high-profile individuals who regularly and publicly counter the alarmist AGW message”, and more general coordination with “groups capable of rapidly mobilizing responses to new scientific findings, news stories, or unfavorable blog posts”. To those familiar with who’s who in the world of climate denial, the list of people and groups Heartland mentioned supporting were extremely enlightening. At the end of the document, Dr. Gleick discovered why the memo had been sent to him in particular – Heartland was bemoaning the fact that Gleick had published articles in Forbes magazine. “This influential audience has usually been reliably anti-climate and it is important to keep opposing voices out,” wrote Heartland – a rather hypocritical statement from an organization that regularly accuses the mainstream media of censoring their views.

This memo was certainly very interesting, but was it authentic? It could have been faked by someone seeking to discredit Heartland. Gleick wasn’t willing to spread around the document unless and until he thought it was legitimate. And out of frustration, he went one step too far: in what he now describes as “a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics”, he pretended to be a Heartland board member, and requested that Heartland send several other documents to his “new email address”, which they did.

These actions were unethical, and possibly illegal, but they raise some interesting moral questions. Is it acceptable to lie in order to expose a bigger lie? Where does investigative journalism end and unjustified dishonesty begin? Since Gleick identified himself and apologized for his actions, he has been demonized by Heartland and its allies, but others have described him as a “whistleblower” who put his reputation on the line in order to uncover the truth. We must also consider whether scientists are being judged more harshly than lobby groups. As activist Naomi Klein tweeted, “What about the fact the Heartland Institute impersonates a scientific organization every day?”

Release and Reactions

The documents that Dr. Gleick obtained by email, including a budget, a fundraising plan, and minutes from board meetings, confirmed many of the contents of the Climate Strategy memo. Names, monetary figures, and project descriptions all matched up – with the exception of one figure that may have been a typo. Satisfied that the Climate Strategy memo was legitimate, he scanned it, and sent all the documents anonymously to DeSmogBlog, a Vancouver-based website composed of journalists that seek to expose the financial and ideological motivations behind the climate change denial movement. DeSmogBlog published the documents on Valentine’s Day, and they went viral within hours.

The Heartland Institute was outraged. They insisted that the Climate Strategy document was fake, a claim for which they provided no evidence and which has since been contested. They threatened legal action against anyone who dared report, link to, or comment on the leaked documents – an obvious scare tactic to prevent the story spreading. (Such threats have no legal basis, otherwise the media would not have been able to write about governmental memos from Wikileaks, which were illegally obtained.)

It’s interesting to note Heartland’s hypocrisy in this situation. Several years ago, when emails from climate scientists were stolen and published online, the Heartland Institute was of the first and loudest voices to report, link to, and comment on the emails (in this case, completely out of context), in a blatant attempt to discredit climate science right before the Copenhagen Summit. Where is that attitude of freedom of speech and information now?

The Fallout

Whether or not the Climate Strategy memo was faked, the contents of the other documents have spurred a public pushback against Heartland. There have been calls for federal hearings regarding the flow of money in the organization, and complaints to the IRS to revoke Heartland’s tax-free status as a charitable foundation.

Does this incident matter, in the grand scheme of things? Not really. Climate science will continue to show that the Earth is warming, humans are the cause, and the consequences will be severe. Lobby groups will continue to attack these conclusions. However, it’s high time that we looked at these lobby groups a little more closely.

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52 thoughts on “Recent Developments at the Heartland Institute

  1. Very nice piece, Kate, as always.

    A nit, though: It is not quite true that “Names, monetary figures, and project descriptions all matched up perfectly.” In fact, there are a few minor discrepancies. For example, the strategy document indicates that $200,000 was received from the Koch Foundation in 2011, but the other documents put KF’s 2011 contribution at $25,000 (and apparently for health care-related activities, not climate change, by the way).

    It is possible that the strategy document simply confuses actual contributions in 2011 with hoped-for contributions in 2011, since the other documents indicate that they expected to ramp up the Koch contributions in 2012, and the $200,000 figure is mentioned in relation to some climate change-related activities. It may be that the reference is to a pledge made in 2011, not a contribution.

    I should think it is also possible that the Kochs actually did make the $200,000 contribution in 2011, either via Donor’s Trust (or something similar) or through one or more separate Koch-affiliated organizations.

    Interestingly, it now appears that Heartland will have to look elsewhere for the money: The KF has stated that it has made “no further commitments” to Heartland. One wonders (and rather hopes) that this is the result of the revived notoriety of Heartland.

    http://www.charleskochfoundationfacts.org/2012/02/foundation-statement-on-heartland-institute/

    In any event, the point is that even though essentially all of the substance of the stratregy document is confirmed elsewhere, there are a few apparent discrepancies. We must try to be accurate even if the “skeptics” don’t.

  2. Given the current climate (hah! pun!) surrounding this issue, it’s probably worthwhile for me to preface what I’m about to say with the following: 1) I accept the scientific consensus on climate change, 2) I’m a regular reader of your blog and a fan of most of what you have to say on the subject, and 3) I think the Heartland Institute is populated by ideologues with a demonstrated willingness to lie in the service of their agenda, which I think is a misguided and dangerous one.

    With all that said, I think you should take a closer look at a few aspects of the position you’ve taken in this post.

    First, you appear to be accepting as factual Peter Gleick’s account of his own actions. Under the circumstances, more skepticism might be warranted. He’s acknowledged behaving unethically (at least) in impersonating a Heartland board member in order to obtain their internal materials, then releasing those materials anonymously. He faces the possibility of criminal and/or civil legal jeopardy as a result, and is presumably receiving highly skilled advice on public relations and the crafting of his public statements in order to achieve the strongest possible legal position going forward. Given that, I think it’s worth treating his account of those aspects of the situation that cannot be independently verified as being at best provisionally true.

    Second, I’m very dubious about the claim coming from DeMelle and Littlemore at DeSmogBlog that the “2012 Strategy Memo” is authentic. A lot of people have looked very closely at that document, and while there is predictable divergence in the ways that supporters and detractors of Heartland tend to view it, I think the claim that the document is an actual internal Heartland document created for the purpose of planning their actual strategy for addressing climate change is very hard to support. I recommend the comments written about the document by Megan McArdle last week as a starting point, but in summary, the document has a number of factual errors, some odd phrasings, and an odd focus on Gleick himself and his role at Forbes, all of which are very hard to reconcile with the document being what it purports to be.

    DeMelle and Littlemore’s analysis does show something that I think is obvious: Whoever created the document had access to the real Heartland documents that accompanied it in the leak, since there are many correspondences, and whole passages copied word for word, that are in both. But I think the claim by Heartland that the 2012 strategy memo is in some sense a fake is very likely to be true.

    If the strategy memo is a forgery, and was created by someone who had access to the real internal Heartland documents, why was it created, and by whom? There are two possible explanations that I think can account for the known facts adequately:

    1) The strategy document was forged by Gleick after he received the legitimate documents via his phishing attack on Heartland. He created it in order to have a more dramatic, quotable version of Heartland saying the kinds of things that would be damaging to their reputation, and that would enhance his own. In effect, he “sexed up” the document release.

    2) The strategy document was forged by someone connected with Heartland with the specific intent of leaking it to Gleick. The hope was that Gleick would believe the document was genuine, and would either release it openly or leak it anonymously. Once that had happened, Heartland could expose it as a forgery (pointing to the subtle but significant factual errors it contains) and accuse Gleick himself of being its author (based on their knowledge that he had, in fact, been the recipient, and with the added support of the Gleick-specific information included in the document). Note that in this scenario it is not necessary for the Heartland-connected trickster to have intended that Gleick would obtain the legitimate documents via his phishing attempt. I think it very unlikely that the forger would have done that. I assume that the plan, if there was one, was limited to leaking the strategy memo to Gleick.

    If Gleick has compelling evidence to support his stated version of the timeline, in which he received the strategy memo first, and only obtained the phished documents later, I would conclude that scenario #2 is probably the truth. If he can’t produce that evidence, I think either scenario is equally likely.

    Other than those two things (assuming Gleick’s account is true, and endorsing the idea that the strategy memo is authentic), I thought your post was interesting and informative. Thanks for posting it.

  3. Kate, you being young, reminded me why this may have been a fatal error of Heartland: people will accept whatever nonsense about the science, but touching their kids is a big no-no.

    http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/e2-wire/212461-markey-wants-heartland-climate-documents

    “The documents have caused a firestorm in Washington, with activists and others bashing the Heartland Institute for its plan to influence students.”

    Indeed, if the Heartlanders have their way, not only will it be on the shoulders of these kids to manage the consequences down the line; they will also be totally unequipped to do so.

    • Gleick-as-forger certainly has fewer moving parts than Gleick-as-victim, and might be preferable for that reason alone, all else being equal. But I’m bothered by a few things.

      To believe Gleick-as-forger, we need to believe that Gleick, having obtained the real documents, would have thought it was a good idea to forge the strategy memo and release it along with them. He would have to have realized that Heartland would immediately know the strategy memo was fake, and would prominently denounce it as such, shifting the media narrative in the way that has actually happened. Would have considered that a worthwhile risk? Also, with the forged memo’s prominent mention of Gleick himself, he would have been planting a neon-sign piece of evidence pointing directly at himself as possibly being connected with the leak. Wouldn’t that have seemed like a bad idea to him? I can’t know what would have been going through his head at that point, but to the extent I try to imagine how I would behave in those circumstances, planting evidence that mentioned me specifically would have been the last thing I would have wanted to do.

      In the Gleick-as-victim scenario, these particular problems go away (though other problems take their place). He included the forged strategy memo in the release because he believed, based on the confirming facts in the phished documents, that it was legitimate. We still have to believe that Gleick overlooked those aspects of the strategy memo that quickly raised questions as to its authenticity when it was made public. But I have an easier time accepting that than accepting that he would have knowingly run the risk of forging the document and including it in the release.

      There’s another, more subtle problem that I have with the Gleick-as-forger scenario. It doesn’t seem to fit the little I know of Gleick’s personality (though granted, even the behavior he’s admitted seems shockingly out of character, as others who know him have said). To believe Gleick-as-forger, we need to believe that he decided, on his own and without provocation (other than Heartland’s history of known activities), to impersonate a Heartland board member, obtain their internal documents, forge a sexier version of the information contained in them, and leak all that anonymously to the public. That doesn’t sound like what a scientist would do. I know that what he’s admitted to doesn’t sound like what a scientist would do either, but it’s not nearly as over-the-top scheming and dishonest as this.

      Now consider the Gleick-as-victim scenario: He is taken out of his normal day-to-day habits by the receipt of the forged memo. What does he think? He is dubious about its authenticity, but if legitimate it is truly shocking information that really needs to be made public. But how can he corroborate it? He frets, tries to weigh the options in his mind. Under the circumstances, would attempting to obtain confirming documents from Heartland be justified? He agonizes, and eventually concludes that yes, it is. So he does that, and succeeds in obtaining the real documents. He goes through them, looking for corroboration. And it’s there! Numerous specific pieces of information in the strategy memo are present in the legitimate documents. Oh my God! The strategy memo is real!

      In his excitement he overlooks the discrepancies, and doesn’t stop to consider the possibility that he’s being conned. He is, after all, someone who really isn’t experienced with those sorts of political dirty tricks. He’s naive. He’s flustered. He’s out of his comfort zone. And he decides that since he has this smoking gun, he really should release it. So he does.

      For me to believe Gleick-as-forger, I have to believe Gleick was stupid. For me to believe Gleick-as-victim, I only have to believe he was naive and showed bad judgement under pressure. The latter is more consistent with my (possibly stereotyped) notions of how a prominent scientist might behave in these circumstances.

      Granted, Gleick-as-victim requires a Heartland-connected operative willing to initiate a fairly elaborate dirty trick. Maybe it’s because I’m cynical and have been kind of a collector of political dirty tricks like this for a number of years, but that sounds credible to me. And maybe it’s due to my possibly stereotyped view of the kind of people who are associated with Heartland, but again, they seem to me to be more like the kind of people who might include someone willing to do such thing, than does Gleick.

      But again, Gleick-as-forger has fewer moving parts, and I need to consider that my own sympathies tend to be with Gleick, rather than Heartland, which distorts my own judgement in his favor. So that’s how I come up with my current sense that either scenario is equally likely. Your mileage (obviously) will vary.

      Sorry to ramble on. I’ve been thinking about this too much, probably. But it’s the kind of thing I find interesting.

      • I am grateful, John, for both of your early, detailed, and thoughtful contributions to this discussion. However, why is it that you so-easily dismiss a vastly-simpler scenario in favour of either one of these two (“Gleick-as…”) conspiracy theories…? Occam’s Razor dictates that the simplest explanation is often the correct one… Surely, the simplest explanation of the events is that the Memo is genuine; and was sent to Gleick by a disillusioned Intern because Gleick was named in it?

      • Also, with the forged memo’s prominent mention of Gleick himself, he would have been planting a neon-sign piece of evidence pointing directly at himself as possibly being connected with the leak. Wouldn’t that have seemed like a bad idea to him?

        Yep. What is more, in the run-up to this, he placed a comment under James Taylor’s Forbes op-ed (Jan. 12) asking for Heartland’s donor list, and then asked again for the donor list in email correspondence with Heartland’s Jim Lakely — correspondence that McIntyre posted on his blog.

        Surely they remembered that at Heartland, and it was the reason why Ross Kaminsky — and Steven Mosher — were so cock-sure about it being Peter Gleick. If Gleick had given himself three seconds to think, he would have realized it too.

        BTW in the Gleick-as-victim scenario, what I miss is why the forger put so much (or almost all) accurate info into the memo, if it wasn’t part of the plan that Gleick should acquire the other docs to check it against. And remember, embarrassment is maximized by credible but incorrect info.

        We’re still all missing something.

      • @Martin Lack, Occam’s razor would suggest that the simplest explanation that accounts for all the known facts would be preferred. My own sense is that the strategy memo is unlikely to be genuine, based mainly on the sorts of objections raised by Megan McArdle in her columns in the days before Gleick confessed. I can think of ways to reconcile the document’s textual problems with it actually being legitimate, but they all involve special pleading that I feel would be problematic for Occam’s razor.

      • I’m not familiar with the actual discrepancies in this ‘strategy document’; however, I would point out that documents created with no expectation of release outside a limited audience are unlikely to undergo the kind of vetting, proofreading and fact-checking which would be typical of documents which are intended for wide dissemination.

        With this in mind, Occam’s Razor would certainly seem, to me at least, to point to the document being genuine.

  4. So what would the reaction have been if FOIA had faked some messages in the ClimateGate dump, like Mann to Gavin saying we saying we need to set up RealClimate to keep people from realizing it’s all a fraud?

    • Miken, your RealClimate hypothetical involves someone making up something that is false. But that isn’t the case here. Even if the strategy memo is a fake (and that’s a big if), its contents are largely accurate. Almost everything in it has been confirmed either by the acknowledged documents or by the individuals involved.

  5. Kate:

    In the Mercury News story linked below, Both Eugenie Scott and Naomi Oreskes are quoted on this. I believe a fair summary of both their positions is that this was a misstep on Peter Gleick’s part, but is a temporary setback for the scientific side and hardly compares in magnitude to the campaign of deception of which Heartland is a part.

    http://www.mercurynews.com/top-stories/ci_20011749

  6. So failing their task of generating doubt, they have moved now to generating document distraction – and attacking journalism ethics. We seem to be taken in again.

    I worked as a journalist for more than a few years – my first in small, local TV news: fires and accidents. The first thing I learned – I was told – if you ever arrive at a fire before the fire fighters – stand clear, do not park in a way that obstructs their work – because they will run right over you, flip you aside, or do anything to remove any obstacles to putting out that fire. And if you are hurt or your car damaged, nobody will care – because putting out the fire was the most important thing in that moment. The victims in a burning house does not want firefighters to be polite in dealing with obstructions. Is there a metaphor here?

    You describe it well. Heartland may promote their brand of economic anarchy, and they may harbor ideologues, but when they lie – deliberately promoting false science – and it is pretty clear that they know they are funding acts of scientific sabotage – then they cross the ethical fire-line. This is deliberately obstructive to civilization. Given these stakes, this is more like treason to our species. I am astounded that Heartland manages to face the world at all. I am flummoxed that we give them any respect.

    Fair.org has a new posting on this topic: Media’s Weird Ethics: Pretending to Be Someone Else Is Worse Than Facilitating Global Catastrophe

    See http://www.fair.org/blog/2012/02/22/medias-weird-ethics-pretending-to-be-someone-else-is-worse-than-facilitating-global-catastrophe/

  7. Thank you so much for compiling this summary, Kate. Until reading it, I was not aware of the legths that have been gone to to authenticate the strategy document. Am I right to understand, however, that the education policy proposal (to prevent science teachers teaching science) is still not mentioned anywhere else?

    Also, can you please check your email for one from me regarding the talk given by Professor Richard Lindzen last Wednesday, which I attended but got off-message and then interrupted. Talking to Lindzen afterwards he invited me to email him with my questions – but it seems he did not like what I sent him the next day… Despite his hostile response, I still intend to publish my 1800-word email to him on my Blog on Tuesday, but I am seeking to bring it to the attention of the widest-posible audience thereafter…

    • I have now found the answer to my own question: No – the strategy document is not the only document to mention the curriculum project. I am therefore convinced all the documents are indeed genuine…
      “Table 6 at page 21 confirms the Anonymous Donor’s million dollar pledge for the first quarter of 2012, of which $194,000 is allocated for the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) Project, $44,000 for the (Anthony Watts) Weather Stations Project, and $100,000 for the Global Warming Curriculum Project.”
      DeSmogBlog discussing the 2012 Fundraising Plan (22 Feb 2012).

  8. John Callender, interesting theory, but there is the problem of why go after Peter Gleick? There were some other conversations that have been released. Heartland invited Peter Gleick to debate Taylor, and in that exchange he is asking for donor lists from Heartland.

    Also, Gleick’s statements seem to get wishy-washy specifically on the point of this memo. He doesn’t even clearly state that it is the memo he received anonymously, though we can infer that since it is the only document that mentions him. Gleick doesn’t deny the memo is written by him.

    Also, if Heartland was trying to play Gleick for a fool and there is this big neon sign in the memo that it is a fake, then why did DeSmogBlog conclude it is authentic?

    • I can imagine plausible (to me) scenarios for why the attacker (if there was one) would have chosen to go after Gleick. Gleick had made a point of attacking Heartland directly. He had had a series of interaction with Heartland that could have given the attacker insight into his susceptibility to such an attack (maybe he displayed egotism, or a degree of political naïveté, the struck the attacker as a point of vulnerability). Gleick’s prominent role in the fight against climate change skeptics, his history of making ethically-based criticisms of the uses skeptics made of the Climategate emails, and his role as the AGU ethics panel chair, may have added to the perceived value of exposing him in particular in an ethics violation. There may have been a degree of ego involved on the part of the attacker: he may have formed a personal animus toward Gleick, fueled in part by their ideological differences, and wanted to “beat” him and embarrass him in a test of wits.

      I don’t have evidence for any of these things. I’m just suggesting that they seem plausible, in the sense of not being excluded by the (admittedly small) amount of knowledge I have about Heartland and Gleick.

      A careful parsing of Gleick’s confession does raise problems for the Gleick-as-victim scenario, if we interpret his statements to mean he is attempting to avoid making an unambiguous denial of having forged the strategy memo. I hesitate to hang too much on that, though, since I assume it might be something he would have done to maximize his legal options going forward even if the conventional interpretation of his confession (that it was the strategy memo he received initially, and he did not forge it) turns out to be the truth. But yeah, that careful wording of the confession is an argument in favor of Gleick-as-forger that I give some weight to.

      I only meant to use the term “neon sign” in reference to the strategy memo’s specific mention of Gleick by name. I don’t think the factual errors in the strategy memo are especially glaring, though they’re certainly obvious enough in hindsight.

      On the DeSmogBlog writers’ motivations for asserting that the strategy memo is, in fact, authentic, I wrote about this some in a blog post today. See:

      http://www.lies.com/wp/2012/02/25/the-cytokine-storm/

      …if you’re interested, but be forewarned that it’s ridiculously long. In summary, though, I suspect the DeSmogBlog writers of either being disingenuous in saying they believe the strategy memo to be authentic, or of being unconcerned about the actual truth of the matter, as long as they can use the argument that the document is authentic as part of their larger agenda of opposing Heartland.

      • John, there is only one party to this insane “debate” that has a genuine track record of being deceitful and disingenuous and, I should have thought that, after the stupidity – and transparent mendacity – of Climategate 2.0, it would be obvious who that is. However, if you are as yet unconvinced, maybe I can help you: Visit my blog in just over 12 hours time (midnight GMT) for enlightenment…

      • That’s the thing. Gleick just isn’t a major player. He does appear to be somewhat obsessed with Heartland, so that would make it possible for someone there to go after him. If you had told me that Heartland was planning to go after someone with this scheme and asked me to guess the victim, I doubt I’d have put Peter Gleick on my list of guesses, which would certainly be topped with Michael Mann.

      • Mike Mann has too much experience with being attacked by Heartland et al. He’s not naive enough to do what Gleick did, in my opinion.

      • I find the whole idea that Gleick would be the victim of Heartland entrapment silly on its face. Consider from the email correspondence (now published at fakegate.org; yes I know, but I think it is real), that Gleick didn’t even have to explain anything; he just asked to be added to the Board mailing list, and that was it. These Heartland folks are too dumb and lacking in imagination to pull any more sophisticated stunt like this. Just being evil isn’t good enough :-)

        As a more objective argument, consider that a strategy memo created for entrapment would not contain the 99% or so correct factual information that it does; it would contain factual-looking but wrong info, preferably ridiculously wrong in hindsight.

        At some point I believed that Gleick used information from the strategy memo in his deception of the Heartlanders to obtain the other docs; not so. This makes the simplest explanation that the memo was put together by Gleick, and that he’s still not coming clean about that (against legal advice!), the most plausible one, though it has problems too.

  9. And why didn’t he reveal this anonymous memo to the people he was leaking to? He claimed the memo was from Heartland Insider just like the rest of the documents.

    There are several people who have said Gleick’s other writings are a bit different, and this memo would be hastily done for him. Cutting and pasting a bio of their own guy?

  10. One underreported aspect of this is Dr. Gleick’s reaction. He issued a mea culpa on HuffPost. He resigned from leadership of the AGU ethics panel and withdrew from consideration of a board position with Eugenie Scott’s organization. Today I learn that he’s on temporary leave from the Pacific Institute. It seems he’s basically withdrawing from the world, temporarily; I can surmise that he’s pretty torn up about this.

    http://blogs.kqed.org/climatewatch/2012/02/24/pacific-institutes-work-rises-above-the-gleick-fiasco/
    Pacific Institute’s Work Rises Above the Gleick Fiasco
    February 24, 2012 | 1:17 PM | By Craig Miller

    • Yes, I will come back to Climategate v2 and Watermelons v2 at the end of the week. However, between now and then, I have much bigger fish to fry, such as Professor Richard Lindzen (Tues/Wed) and the US Declaration of Independence (Thurs).

      So if your American and “sceptical” it will probably get you so mad, by the end of the week, you will probably be complaining about your inability to exercise your Second Amendment rights (i.e. because I live in the UK)… Come back soon!

  11. It’s not whether Mann is naive enough, just that he is a batter known name, and the temperament is similar with focus on big oil funding skeptics, etc.
    Even in the hoax scenario, I doubt they thought Gleick would then try to illegally obtain documents.

  12. Now that Gleick has resigned, and confessed, and now that the president of the AGU, Mike McPhaden, has condemned Gleick actions, the question remains. Is it ethical to lie, cheat and fudge facts to promote your own personal view of the climate situation?

    That in a nutshell is what this is all about. Nothing more, nothing less. That is what started the whole thing. And no matter what, the demagogues seem to be in control. And no matter the side of the fence you may be on, it really is about the money.

    That last paragraph should get me flack from both sides.

      • Sorry, I wasn’t clear. What I am trying to say is that on both sides of this argument, there is a lot of money at stake. On both sides of the fence, it is about the money and the prestige.

        As for Peter Gleick, and his actions, my question remains unanswered.

        Is it ethical to lie, cheat and fudge facts (and data) to promote your own personal view of the climate situation? We have Peter Gleick’s position on this, anyone else wish to weigh in?

      • That is quite the leading question.

        I think that what Peter Gleick did was wrong, but I also think that he believed he was acting in the public interest. Clearly a line was crossed, but it’s not so black-and-white as some have described it.

      • “Is it ethical to lie, cheat and fudge facts (and data)”

        Whoa. Gleick admitted to a deception as to who he was (a tactic that is not exactly unheard of in journalism, by the way). There is no solid evidence that he fudged any facts or data, only speculation.

      • Well yes, he thought he was acting in the public interest. That’s the problem that skeptics are seeing too much of. Scientists thinking they are acting in the public interest, willing to stretch things to do so.

  13. This incident poses a problem. On the one hand, I do not like to win by playing dirty, especially when the strength of our case is scientifically overwhelming. However, on the other hand, one has to bear in mind the seriousness of the issue and also the urgency defined by tipping points, known and unknown, (re. the sudden increase in Arctic methane release), perhaps the time has come when this side of the fence should play by the same rules that the denialati seem to have set for themselves as exemplified the information revealed by the Heartland Institute whistleblower/traitor – take your pick.

    It is no use being a good loser when ‘loser’ is infinitely more significant than ‘good’. We owe it to our children and grandchildren not to let money yet again buy what it chooses and the devil take the hindmost. Worse still would be to lose to the stupidity displayed in the comments section of some denialati websites.

    • Playing by the same rules Heartland plays by, if by that you mean doing what Gleick did, appears to have made things worse, not better. At least, that’s my take on it. The problems standing in our way are not the secrecy with which Heartland shrouded their funders and budget, and exposing those things to public view in this particular manner has not helped our cause. The problem is that we lack a societal consensus on what should be done about climate change, and I fear that Gleick’s actions have made that problem much worse.

      Gleick’s actions strongly reinforce the other side’s argument that the science is not “settled” or a “consensus”, but is instead the product of a sneaky, underhanded effort by politically liberal climate scientists to push through liberal policy solutions and run roughshod over those who have legitimate questions about aspects of both the science and of the policy prescriptions that the science calls for. Look at it from the perspective of a typical man-in-the-street: a prominent scientist in the “warmist” camp, someone who had testified before Congress as to the importance of scrupulous scientific ethics and was the chair of the AGU ethics panel, has now had to resign his position in disgrace and publicly apologize for having engaged in fraudulent activity aimed at discrediting the other side.

      I think the writers at DeSmogBlog and elsewhere who now are now trying to present Gleick’s actions as justified, and are arguing that the forged strategy memo is in fact a legitimate internal Heartland document, are just making that damage worse.

  14. I have been trying to see if anyone can makes sense of what they are saying at Climate Audit. They are claiming that elements of the memo and the time-line point overwhelmingly to Gleick. Frankly I couldn’t follow their reasoning, but often I can’t, and thought someone else could explain why they are saying this.

    Martin V, I don’t think that if Heartland was trying to scam Gleick, that they would ever expect him to try to get confirming documents, just have him publicize that one, and then they would show it to be a fake. In fact they would have to let others at Heartland know of the deception if trying to entice him into getting more info from them. I don;t see how that makes any sense at all.
    I see two fascinating possibilities.
    1#. Gleick forged the memo and devised this entire deception (and even bigger if it was a conspiracy of warmists!) and somehow thought it would not be investigated by dozens of very sharp people with various agendas that would highly motivate them.
    #2 Heartland knew Mashey was about to dump all this similar info completely legitimately and they tried this scam as a pre-emptive strike to “Rathergate” the whole issue, but Gleick getting the legitimate docs fouled it up.
    Of course there are other possibilities as written about here and elsewhere, but those are the most spectacular.

      • Well, if you’re going just based on the confession, Gleick said that he received a document (presumably the forged strategy memo, though some people have made much of the point that if you parse the confession really carefully, it doesn’t actually say that unequivocally) from an anonymous source in the mail, and it was his attempt to verify the information in that document that led to his successful phishing attack against Heartland that resulted in his obtaining the legitimate documents.

        So if you accept that at face value, it’s a short step to realizing that whoever it was who forged the strategy memo almost certainly had access to Heartland’s internal documents (since they have so much in common). So that would mean there was a least one other person (presumably someone with access to the internal documents, who forged the memo before sending it to Gleick).

        The more I roll that scenario around in my head, the more I tend to believe those who argue that it’s more likely that, as you say, it was just Gleick acting alone, and he forged the strategy memo in a misguided attempt to make Heartland look worse than the real documents made them look. But I don’t actually know, obviously.

      • Winnipegman,

        Gleick ONLY confessed to the phishing of the genuine documents. If he did indeed forge the memo and lied about that in his confession he has pretty much sealed his fate and his career. To do that he would have to be confident that it’s origin will not be determined. I see no advantage he would gain from stalling on this issue otherwise. Of course he may just be panicking and hoping for the best.

        John, Why do you consider it less likely that someone sent the memo to him, as opposed to him forging it himself after receiving the other documents.?

        if it is shown that he did forge the document then the deniers will be shouting that all climate scientists who believe in ACC are corrupt and willing to do anything to prevent the truth from coming out that there is no danger from global warming.
        That is the sad part to me about this, that his “ethical breach” has giving a huge piece of propaganda to opponents of ACC, when it is pretty clear that the overwhelming majority of scientists would not engage in duplicitous behavior like this.

  15. Tony, for Gleick it is about ethics. Period. Stop trying to defend the indefensible. His bolt is shot. The hundreds of thousands of dollars in research grants given him and his teams are now wasted. Who can trust any further statements or results from him. As chair of the ethics committee, how has he coloured that organisation. His fall from grace will have dire consequences for him, and his associates. They will be painted with the same brush.

    If you wish to protect the honest and ethical scientists out there, then take the Peter Gleick’s of this world and hang them high (figuratively) to encourage the others.

  16. Winnipegman,

    Where did that come from?
    All i was doing was describing plausible scenarios and my reasoning for them, Where you get from anything I wrote that I am defending him?

    But I will try to respond to your comment in case you are interested in dialogue.
    I actually do NOT think his career is over IF he did not forge the memo. If it can be shown that someone DID send it to him, and he was verifying it, It is still ethical misconduct and will cause him future problems, but I think it is not nearly as big a deal.
    On the other hand if he forged the document and staged this whole thing on purpose, and has been lying to everyone, including his “confession” the consequences for him and the debate about ACC will be as I described above.

    • Sorry Tony, I do get strident sometimes. For me, it is cut and dried. Black and white. The claim that “I got it from someone else” and “I was trying to verify it”, say to me that no matter what, he was lying, period. If he was as ethical as so many have claimed, he would not have phished. End of story. If he was as honest as so many have claimed, he would have publicly questioned the provenience of the “received memo”. He would have tried to ” cast light on the dark”, he would have been open and aboveboard. He wasn’t. He was furtive and sneaky.

      I have recently read that a good description of the “Climate Debate” is that there are 3 dogs in the fight. The howling mad on the deniers side, the howling mad on the warmist side, and those believers somewhere in the middle. For me it is sort of “Hello, my name is Doug, and I believe the climate is changing, and I am in the middle”.

      I read a lot of stuff from both sides of the fence, Lots of excellent stuff from and on both sides. However, there is so much picking of nits, that the majority, in my opinion, have lost sight of the question. Namely, what can we do about Climate Change.

      Way too much defending of indefensible positions, There are no lines in the sand to be drawn, There is no perfect solution, There is no perfect model. Things will keep changing. There was an on line article recently bemoaning the fact that in a few locations the water was rising 4 mm per year, and the horrible things that would happen if this kept up. One of the Archaeological magazine was discussing the possibility of European hunters making their way to North America 19,000 to 26,000 years ago. A short time ago, an artifact was recovered 60 miles of the coast of Virginia. Water there is roughly 95 meters deep. Simple math says that in 23,000 years (avg) the water rose at a rate of 4 mm per year. How about that. Sorta takes the edge off of the worry of rising water. If both, or either side wish to have a positive impact regarding their beliefs, they had better KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid.

      A prominent scientist, on talk radio, hung up on the host and myself about 4 years ago after I asked the question, Why were the farmers and the ranchers on Greenland if everything was as cool as you claim. The nub of this discussion was that things were static for a long time and only recently had the warming began. When I questioned that, postulating that the temps were up and down by a lot, over long, long periods of time, The public heard a click.

      My own research shows that over the last 125 years, we have gained a small amount of temp. in this area. What caused this? my money is on cultivation of the land. Can I prove it? You tell me. All I know is that in the Spring, Summer and the Fall, when I am flying over cultivated areas as compared to uncultivated areas, there is one heck of an updraft. Warmer air moving up. Love to hear your thoughts.

  17. John, an interesting point for the Gleick as victim scenario would be if there were any media retrospectives on the Dan Rather fake memo in December or January, to give them the spark.

    On the other hand, if Gleick has received this fake memo and then phished for these docs as he said, why release the docs? Why not just publish the fake memo, or leak just the memo? By sending the docs, he lets everyone know that he committed the crime.

    • Miken,

      How do you like my 1800-word critique of Lindzen’s Westminster talk (posted on 28 Feb (despite his suggesting to me that to do so would be unwise) – asking him questions he can’t possibly answer? Or,if that sounds like too much trouble, my 17 statements he can’t possibly admit he does not accept as true (29 Feb)? I have invited Lindzen to sue me for defamation of character, or answer me but, of course, he will do neither… However, I think he is also now at serious risk of being exposed as a hypocrite…

      If you missed that – or are not interested in scientific integrity – what did you make of my criticism of the concept of Meritocracy in the good ol’ U.S. of A.? (1 Mar)? Then, as promised, very shortly (at midnight GMT) it is back to Delingpole/Climategate/Watermelons….

      However, on the topic of this post, Fakegate is not just not over, I think it has only just started: http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2012/02/28/434196/fakegate-heartland-scientist-debunked/

  18. Thread summary: Whatever the truth of the matter, everyone is wasting time examining minutiae. (Hmm… where is it I’ve seen this tactic before?)

  19. The e-mails Gleick sent are not in line with trying to verify the authenticity of the document. He asked for the contact info of the board. How does that verify the memo is accurate? He also never asks for the document that he has allegedly received and is trying to verify.

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