Global Warming and Earthly Lies

Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute and a prominent climate change expert, admitted Monday that he lied. Gleick pretended to be someone else in order to obtain documents from the Heartland Institute, which has challenged mainstream scientific consensus on the role of man in global warming.

Last week, Gleick was the chairman of the American Geophysical Union’s Task Force on Scientific Ethics. Now he isn’t. As New York Times blogger Andrew C. Revkin weighed in, “Gleick has admitted to an act that leaves his reputation in ruins and threatens to undercut the cause he spent so much time pursuing.”

Bravo to Gleick for admitting that he lied “in a serious lapse” of his own and “professional judgment and ethics.” At least he had the integrity to own up to his mistake.

But Gleick doesn’t look all that noble when you look at his excuse. In a statement released on The Huffington Post, Gleick said he lied because he wants “a rational public debate.” That’s sort of like Newt Gingrich saying that his extramarital affairs were partially driven by how passionately he felt about this country.

Heartland President Joe Bast accused Gleick of “stealing” internal documents to “embarrass a group that disagrees with his views.” Enviros love the karma here. In 2009, someone leaked emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit that uncovered the vindictive and censorious side of the global-warming community. Climate change activists were reduced to complaining that the emails were leaked. Now Heartland has had to take a bite of that bitter apple.

In addition, Heartland spokesman Jim Lakely charges that one of the leaked documents — a two-page strategy memo — is “a complete fake.” It uses the sort of language a true believer in global warming might think skeptics use. The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle “is inclined to believe” Heartland on this.

But Gleick did not admit to faking the memo. Chris Lehane — the former Al Gore flack who is representing Gleick pro bono — notes that the two-pager contains “previously unknown facts” since confirmed. Lehane says Heartland should “get off its Trojan high horse and come clean by explaining the identity of its secret large donor.”

The folks at the Heartland are particularly indignant about Gleick’s vaunted rationale — that he was “frustrated” at skeptics’ efforts to “prevent this debate” — because Heartland invited Gleick to a debate. Gleick declined the offer.

He isn’t talking to the media. A representative told me that Gleick would speak to Heartland only if the organization released the names of anonymous donors. That tells me Gleick doesn’t really want a debate; he wants a monologue.

Indeed, in 2001, Gleick told U.S. News & World Report, “The debate is over.”

This is how the global-warming community operates. Activists accuse skeptics of being anti-science and dishonest under the apparent belief that they are honest and analytical. They’re filled with their integrity until they get frustrated. They say that they only want to debate, except the debate is over. Then they wonder why skeptics don’t believe them.

Email Debra J. Saunders at [email protected].

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