Cue the “abyss staring back” and “ends justify the means” soul-searching on the case of HuffPo’s Peter Gleick admitting to less than forthright methods to obtaining the right’s game plan on pushing climate change denial in schools.
At the beginning of 2012, I received an anonymous document in the mail describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland Institute’s climate program strategy. It contained information about their funders and the Institute’s apparent efforts to muddy public understanding about climate science and policy. I do not know the source of that original document but assumed it was sent to me because of my past exchanges with Heartland and because I was named in it.
Given the potential impact however, I attempted to confirm the accuracy of the information in this document. 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. The materials the Heartland Institute sent to me confirmed many of the facts in the original document, including especially their 2012 fundraising strategy and budget. I forwarded, anonymously, the documents I had received to a set of journalists and experts working on climate issues. I can explicitly confirm, as can the Heartland Institute, that the documents they emailed to me are identical to the documents that have been made public. I made no changes or alterations of any kind to any of the Heartland Institute documents or to the original anonymous communication.
I will not comment on the substance or implications of the materials; others have and are doing so. I only note that the scientific understanding of the reality and risks of climate change is strong, compelling, and increasingly disturbing, and a rational public debate is desperately needed. 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.
Of course, pearls a-clutch’d at the Gray Lady, Andrew Revkin:
One way or the other, 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.
Let’s keep in mind that the far broader tragedy is that the lack of “rational public debate” with the climate change denial side existed for years before Gleick, with a massive, multi-billion dollar effort to convince the world that setting the place on fire is fine and that science itself is suspect. As bad as Gleick’s admitted actions are, he’ll face the consequences for it. He’s owned up to what he’s done and is now presumably ready to deal with the results of his actions.
That’s far more than I can say for the folks who are trying to push ignorance and cynicism as “critical thinking in the classroom.” Sadly, the result of this will be the right yelling PETER GLEICK ARGUMENT OVER WE WIN as victory shorthand at every climatologist, published paper, data compilation, graph, chart, scientific conference, public testimony and collected journal showing of the slow demise of our environment, so in that respect Revkin is at least somewhat correct.
The effort to paint Gleick’s misconduct as ultimately damning the entire preponderance of evidence in favor of man-made climate change will be overwhelming in the days and months ahead. What Gleick did does not “call into question the validity of the science” no matter how badly the deniers want to think it magically does, any more than the “Climategate” emails did last year. Resistance to such an effort has to begin here and now. Journalists who should know better however will probably not be able to resist the temptation. What Gleick did was wrong, but it doesn’t make the deniers right.[UPDATE] Tbogg nails it.
You can’t have a”rational public debate” with people whose whole reason for existence is to obfuscate the truth by paying big bucks to scientist/whores for whom ‘scientific inquiry’ means first posing the question “How much does it pay?” to be followed (after a brief period of haggling) with “What do you want it to say?”. From there corporate fronts like the Cato Institute, the Hoover Institute, the Heritage Foundation take the scientific 3-card monte game that has been handed to them and they round the edges, smooth out the rough spots, couch the language and cherry-pick the most easily digestible nuggets of bullshit which they dole out on 3×5 cards to Fox News, English tabloids, and an assortment of conservative bloggers and lesser whores who are paid to appear objective and thoughtful. What completes this Puke Funnel Circle Of Life is for national writers (like, for example: Andrew Revkin) to write very concerned why-can’t-we-all-get-along columns bemoaning the fact that, even though we know the world is round, there are those who believe otherwise and, in all fairness and with all due respect, their voices must be not only heard but given equal weight.
My mistake is once again making a rational argument designed for rational actors, when the denier side is just there to take any and all “rational” anything and club it to death like a case of baby seals, grunt loudly, and demand that their rights for clubbing baby seals are being infringed upon. They’re not here to rationally discuss anything, they’re here to bury it under a mountain of manure, dump thermite on it, and dance around the flames while making shadow puppets on the teevee box.