Climategate sequel? Scientist lies to get Heartland Institute documents.
Climate scientist, Peter Gleick, lied to acquire – then leak to the press – documents from the Heartland Institute, an organization that argues that global warming poses no threat.
A prominent scientist who focused his work on global warming's threat to water resources has acknowledged that under false pretenses he acquired, then leaked to the press and bloggers, documents detailing contributions from donors and the 2012 budget for the Heartland Institute – a Chicago-based organization that argues that global warming poses no threat.Skip to next paragraph
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In a Feb. 20 blog entry on the Huffington Post website, Peter Gleick, who heads the Pacific Institute, based in Oakland, Calif., said he received an institute strategy memo earlier this year from an anonymous source. In an attempt to verify the information the memo contained, Mr. Gleick wrote, “I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else's name.”
The documents he received included budget allocations for climate-related projects, including the development of a K-12 curriculum on global warming.
One researcher's actions don't reflect the activities of the broader range of climate scientists, some analysts caution. But they also say that the incident could further polarize an already polarized climate-policy debate while undermining public confidence in scientists in general.
Heads of scientific organizations have decried what they see as a rising tide of anti-science in the US and are encouraging scientists “to shift into culture-warrior mode,” says Matthew Nisbet, a social scientist at American University in Washington who studies the ongoing debate over climate and energy policy.
Surveys indicate that “along with the Supreme Court and the military, science is our most trusted institution,” he says. “And climate scientists, across all demographic groups, hold high levels of trust, especially among young people of all political backgrounds.”
“Scientists are being mobilized as political combatants, which they are not trained to do, which most of them are uncomfortable doing, and which will significantly tarnish their image,” he says.
Whatever the longer-term effects might be, the Gleick affair has lit up the climate blogosphere.
Some who advocate action to combat climate change equate Gleick's actions with those of whistleblowers, who make sensitive information public despite the legal and personal risks they may face.
Others are more guarded. Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, notes that “it's wrong to obtain documents under false pretenses, just as it was wrong for hackers to have taken scientists' e-mails from the University of East Anglia” – a reference to “Climategate” in 2009.
In that case, a still-unknown individual or group took thousands of e-mails and documents – some highlighting hardball politics within the climate science community – from computers at the university's Climate Research Unit and released them to the internet.
Still, he says in a prepared statement, “Our criticism of the Heartland Institute's strategy of spreading misinformation about climate science still stands.”