Thursday, February 23, 2012

More Scientists Behaving Badly

By way of full disclosure, I am a Policy Advisor with the Heartland Institute. My guess is that I have spent about two hours ever doing anything in connection with it and the post is without renumeration in any form. But there you have it.

I not entirely in agreement with Heartland' s position on global warming. Everytime I delve into the topic, it seems to me that is entirely possible that human activity is causing warming but that it is almost impossible to be certain or to know the magnitude. Claims of catastropic consequences seem overblown and many of the proposed remedies are worse than the disease. I would think that policy responses are appropriate but not the ones most often advanced by the environmental left.

But, although there have been recent reports that scientific misconduct may be greater than we'd expect, I have never - ever - heard of scientists behaving as badly as some of the more adamant proponents of the "AGW as existential threat" school. We're all aware of the Climategate e-mails, but, now, someone apparently called Heartland and lied to get a staffer to send out a confidential package of materials for a board meeting. It appears that one of the documents - setting forth strategy on climate issues - is a phony although it is unclear where it comes from. It was not among the documents fraudulently obtained from Heartland.

So who lied to Heartland to get its documents. I would have expected the culprit to be a blogger or some clever but unknown person without a reputation to protect. It turns out to have been Peter Gleick — a MacArthur “Genius Award” recipient, a (recently resigned) chairman of the “Task Force on Ethics” at the American Geophysical Union, a (recently resigned) member of the National Center for Science Education, and current president of the Pacific Institute.

Megan McCardle (who supports carbon taxes in response to AGW) tells the story. Gleick doesn't admit creating the allegedly forged document. But he does admit lying to Heartland in order to fraudulently obtain its internal documents. As Megan McCardle puts it, "this is that this would be an absolutely astonishing lapse of judgement for someone in their mid-twenties, and is truly flabbergasting coming from a research institute head in his mid-fifties." She writes that "what Gleick did is insane for someone in his position--so crazy that I confess to wondering whether he doesn't have some sort of underlying medical condition that requires urgent treatment."

If AGW skeptics wanted to stage misbehavior in order to discredit people supported a more dire view of AGW, they couldn't have done better. You can't make this stuff up.

As an aside, the Heartland documents discuss an educational project in Wisconsin called "Operation Angry Badger." Until I read the leaked documents, I never heard of it and don't know the first thing about it.


Display Name said...

If only there were Policy Advisors at the Heartland Institute who could advise them of the error in their policies.

Terrence Berres said...

"Until I read the leaked documents, I never heard of it and don't know the first thing about it."

Further background here.

Anonymous said...

Statement at your link. He's cooked:


"The Board of Directors of the Pacific Institute is deeply concerned and is actively reviewing information about the recent events involving its president, Dr. Peter Gleick, and documents pertaining to the Heartland Institute. Neither the board nor the staff of the Pacific Institute knew of, played any role in, or condones these events. As facts emerge and are confirmed, the Board will inform all stakeholders of our findings and of any actions based on these findings. In the meantime we maintain our commitment to the smooth operations, governance, and mission of the Pacific Institute."

Dean Weichmann said...

So...Gleick is guilty of exposing Heartland. That does not make Heartland any less guilty.

Tom said...

Guilty of what, exactly, Dean? Having a conservative agenda? Wanting to influence public discourse and opinion?

Dean Weichmann said...

Tom, if Heartland is not guilty of doing wrong how it is that Gleick is guilty of exposing them? Indeed Heartland is trying to influence public opinion, nothing wrong with that.
So what is Gleick guilty of? Perhap exposing that Heartland is hypocritcal?