Climate scientist admits deception, engulfed in drama

Peter Gleick, the scientist, the advocate, and the MacArthur Fellow, who helms the influential Pacific Institute, today admitted in his column that he did something he shouldn't have in his on-going struggle with the right-wing climate change skeptics at the Heartland Institute: 

I attempted to confirm the accuracy of the information in this document [that came to him anonymously from Heartland files]. In an effort to do so, and in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else's name.

Andrew Revkin, the most-storied of all climate reporters, unloads on Gleick as I don't believe I ever have heard him unload before, in all the years I have been reading him in the The New York Times.

Gleick’s use of deception in pursuit of his cause after years of calling out climate deception has destroyed his credibility and harmed others. (Some of the released documents contain information about Heartland employees that has no bearing on the climate fight.) That is his personal tragedy and shame (and I’m sure devastating for his colleagues, friends and family).

The broader tragedy is that his decision to go to such extremes in his fight with Heartland has greatly set back any prospects of the country having the “rational public debate” that he wrote — correctly — is so desperately needed.

Yes. Sad to see the climate science go up in the smoke of this self-destructive drama. Already Gleick is getting damage control advice from a prominent Democratic politico, and lawyering up for the inevitable lawsuits to come. 

The surprise is that Gleick's confession is not mentioned on the front of either the Times nor Drudge, though Drudge does link to Miami's record-breaking heat.


Suspect Gleick will soon become all too famous. This scandal is far more dramatic and eyecatching than the hacked emails of the so-called Climategate affair, and comparable in some respects to the tabloid tricks that have cost Rupert Murdoch and his papers so dearly

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  1. Steve Bloom

    More sad evidence that journos have a completely distorted view of reality.

    As you say, it is a surprise that it didn’t get front-paged at the NYT (A16 actually, a reasonable value of buried) after Revkin’s overwrought attempt to drive the coverage, but perhaps it’s a sign that the NYT editors have learned something since “Climategate.”

    Note that Andy had to partially walk that one back.

    Try this:

    “Scientists are in a knife fight” (Nature editorial from a couple years ago).

    “Our personalities are poorly suited to knife fighting” (scientists, collectively).

    “Condemn any scientist who acts as if they’re in an icky knife fight, plus, um, the fact that we do not cover the knife fight isn’t any sort of problem for journalism; blame society instead” (journos, collectively).

    This is working out so well, don’t you think?

    Less sarcastically, here’s the problem, Kit:

    To deal with climate change, we will need the participation and cooperation of not just scientists and activists, but bureaucrats, politicians and the media. The latter three are utterly failing. Since for public policy purposes the scientific case in entirely closed, more scientists need to start behaving like activists, but their personalities and training make them reticent to do so.

    Journos, OTOH, seem to have basically conceded defeat in the culture wars (the recent kerfuffle over “truth vigilante”-gate is illustrative). This makes them extremely prone to rushing to moral judgement about things (less so when the fault lies with the press itself, as when Judy Miller, Punch Sulzberger’s then-favorite dinner party hostess, was allowed to run amok on the front page of the NYT), as a means of avoiding covering the thing itself (tone rather than substance, i.e.).

    All of this does not leave us in a good place, does it?

    February 23, 2012
  2. Kit Stolz

    When it comes to climate policy, there’s no question we’re sliding backwards into a snake pit of blame and misinformation. Rationality is of little use there. Not sure even knives would help. It’s both troubling and sad, especially when a recent conference at Harvard showed, based on ample evidence, that cap-and-trade, which (as you no doubt know) is a market-based approach to sulphuric/acid rain emissions pioneered by the first Bush administration, precisely to deal with right-wing criticism of command-and-control bureaucracies, worked better and less expensively than even its advocates expected. It’s a policy that could actually make a difference in CO2 emissions, or so the experts say.

    I wish I could see a silver lining in the Gleick drama for climate science, but I can’t.

    February 24, 2012