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Climate scientist admits lying to obtain 'Denialgate' docs

Gleick cops to social-engineering of rightwing thinktank

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A prominent climate scientist, well known for his outspoken condemnation of climate scepticism, has admitted that he was the individual who recently leaked internal documents from rightwing think tank the Heartland Institute. Peter Gleick said he obtained the documents by using "someone else's name" in "a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics".

Gleick, who in recent times has been seen as something of a spokesman for the warmist point of view, made the admission on his Huffington Post blog last night. Speculation had been rife on the internet for some days that he was behind the Heartland leak, dubbed "Denialgate" by some.

The documents, originally released by a climate-activist blog* after being supplied by Gleick, included various pieces of internal Heartland information and a short memo summarising some proposed climate advocacy which Heartland intended to undertake. The summary, presented as a Heartland document, has been condemned as a forgery by the thinktank, though it does little more than repeat passages found elsewhere in the leaked material. Gleick now says that he was sent it anonymously, which led him to masquerade as a Heartland board member in his efforts to confirm the document's authenticity.

The Heartland Institute issued a statement in response to Gleick's confession, saying:

Gleick's crime was a serious one. The documents he admits stealing contained personal information about Heartland staff members, donors, and allies, the release of which has violated their privacy and endangered their personal safety.

Gleick claims he committed this crime because he believed The Heartland Institute was preventing a "rational debate" from taking place over global warming. This is unbelievable. Heartland has repeatedly asked for real debate on this important topic. Gleick himself was specifically invited to attend a Heartland event to debate global warming just days before he stole the documents. He turned down the invitation.

Gleick also claims he did not write the forged memo, but only stole the documents to confirm the content of the memo he received from an anonymous source. This too is unbelievable. Many independent commentators already have concluded the memo was most likely written by Gleick.

The organisation had previously stated that it intended to see whoever had obtained its documents jailed.

The main revelation from the documents which had caused comment was that Heartland intended to produce a series of prepared modules for use by science teachers, which would present a more sceptical viewpoint on the issue of global warming/climate change than is the norm in schools. This was seen by many as a red-hot insight into a secretive campaign, though had the modules ever been produced they would by their very nature have been published openly.

Dr Gleick for his part had recently joined the board of US nonprofit the National Center for Science Education, whose mission had formerly been solely to defend the teaching of evolution in American science classes but which has now widened its remit to promote teaching of climate change from a firmly warmist position.

Dr Gleick had also recently organised a group letter (pdf) from warmist scientists calling for urgent and immediate action to limit carbon emissions, in which he and his co-signatories claimed that a "McCarthy-like" campaign of intimidation was being waged against them. He had previously achieved some fame for his thesis that bottled water is evil.

Comment

Though one Reg hack did initially assess the leak as "at least as good as the 'Climategate' e-mails", this seemed a bit exaggerated. The Climategate leaks cast doubt on the integrity of peer review in climate science and on the way in which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change operates, not to mention the interaction between government and prominent climate scientists - and some climate scientists' own internal doubts as to the correctness of their theories.

The Heartland leaks by contrast revealed only that a warming-sceptic thinktank might in future release some educational materials, a thing which was already being done by warmists and which is, sadly, a routine tactic for advocacy organisations.

That being the case, the main impact of the affair would seem to be on Dr Gleick's reputation.

New York Times blogger Andrew Revkin, one of the most widely-read environment correspondents in the world, commented: "Gleick’s use of deception in pursuit of his cause after years of calling out climate deception has destroyed his credibility." ®

Bootnote

* DeSmogBlog. A publication run by a Canadian spin doctor working for green businesses and without any significant climate or science expertise, funded by convicted illegal-gambling kingpin John Lefebvre.

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