Leading Climate Researcher Admits To Fraudulently Obtaining Heartland Documents
Peter Gleick, a prominent climate researcher and CEO of the Pacific Institute, admitted this week that he fraudulently obtained a collection of documents from a Chicago-based non-profit group called the Heartland Institute, which he then leaked to the media to reveal the organization´s plans to promote skepticism about anthropogenic global warming.
Dr. Gleick, who says he was frustrated with Heartland´s anti-climate-change programs, acknowledged posing as someone else in order to obtain the documents, which included fund-raising and other material intended only for the board and top executives of the Heartland Institute.
In a blog posting published Tuesday on the Huffington Post, Dr. Gleick said he had “solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name,” in an act he described as a “serious lapse” of his personal and professional ethics.
Dr. Gleick distributed the documents to several well-known bloggers and activists supportive of his work and critical of the Heartland Institute for their position on climate change. Some of these bloggers suggested the leaking of the material was the work of a whistle-blowing Heartland employee or ex-employee who had access to internal documents, when it was, in fact, arranged by Dr. Gleick.
The institute has vowed to legally pursue those who stole and leaked the confidential material, saying that at least one of the documents, which is in a different format and type style from the rest of the Heartland material, is fake.
But Dr. Gleick, 55, denies authorship of the most controversial documents, including an alleged strategy paper describing the institute´s plan raise funds to question anthropogenic global warming, and to influence school science curricula to include alternative theories.
Heartland has also created a Web site it calls “Fakegate”, where it describes its side of the ongoing controversy.
“The ℠Fakegate´ title of this Web site is in reference to Gleick´s refusal to come clean about how he obtained a fake “climate strategy” memo he and the rest of his gang claim was produced by The Heartland Institute or some mysterious ℠Heartland Insider´,” the Web site read.
“This stands in contradiction to Heartland´s consistent and unambiguous assertions that the so-called “climate strategy” document was not produced by any staffer at The Heartland Institute, nor any of our hundreds of fellows and policy advisors around the world,” Heartland said on the front page of the site.
In his statement, Dr. Gleick said he had received the dubious strategy document anonymously in the mail earlier this year, and that he did not know the source of the paper.
He said he tried to confirm the validity of the document because the disclosures they included would serve to weaken the institute´s stated mission.
“In an effort to do so,” he wrote, “and in a serious lapse of my own professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else´s name.”
Dr. Gleick said he then anonymously leaked the documents to “a set of journalists and experts working on climate issues. I made no changes or alterations of any kind to any of the Heartland Institute documents or to the original anonymous communication.”
“My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts – often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated – to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved. Nevertheless I deeply regret my own actions in this case. I offer my personal apologies to all those affected,” Dr. Gleick wrote, saying that he would not comment any further on the matter.
Dr. Gleick has since resigned from the board of the National Center on Science Education, and stepped down as chairman of the American Geophysical Union´s taskforce on scientific ethics. On Tuesday, the San Francisco Chronicle also dropped him as a columnist.
As a founder and president of the Oakland, CA-based Pacific Institute, Dr. Gleick has been a leading figure in researching and making publicly available information on the consequences of global warming.
His admission this week has generated an vigorous ethics debate within the climate community, with some more critical than others of Dr. Gleick´s actions.
Ethics expert Dale Jamieson acknowledged that Gleick´s misrepresentation was “unethical,” but told The New York Times that “relative to what has been going on the climate denial side, this is a fairly small breach of ethics.”
Cognitive scientist Stephan Lewandowsky said that “revealing to the public the active, vicious, and well-funded campaign of denial “¦ likely constitutes a classic public good,” against which the ethics of Gleick´s deception must be weighed.
Meanwhile, the president of the American Geophysical Union said the organization was disappointed with Dr. Gleick, calling his actions “inconsistent with our organization´s values.”
NASA climate modeller Gavin Schmidt called Gleick´s actions “completely irresponsible,” while Bryan Walsh of Time said they “hurt “¦ the cause of climate science.”
Greenpeace and other activist groups are hard at work this week to expose individuals who were revealed in the documents to be on Heartland’s payroll, saying they planned to pressure any publicly-funded institutions involved.
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