Peter Gleick, the Heartland Institute, and Scientific Ethics


Peter Gleick

The Heartland Institute is a climate denial shop well-funded by fossil fuel interests and standard right-wing extremist foundations, which has underwritten attacks on climate scientists and has plans to disrupt authentic climate science education in K-12 classrooms.  Peter Gleick is one of the most respected scientific researchers in the world, who has done extremely important work in climate and water research.

So it is frustrating, to put it mildly, to find that Gleick acquired internal Heartland documents by masquerading as a Heartland boardmember.  That is shockingly unethical practice, which in our business probably would get someone disbarred.  Gleick has already resigned several important posts, been denied blogging privileges in many high-profile sites, and seen his reputation — previously sterling — severely degraded, if not in tatters.

It is also important to keep it in perspective.  My view tracks that of Dale Jamieson, an expert on ethics who heads the environmental studies program at NYU, who commented:

What Peter Gleick did was unethical. He acknowledges that from a point of view of professional ethics there is no defending those actions.  But relative to what has been going on on the climate denial side this is a fairly small breach of ethics.

Spot on.  Those who trumped up the malicious and libelous “Climategate” scandal also stole confidential e-mails, then took them out of context, and then lied about what they had found.  Still waiting for apologies from the climate denialists.

In any event, we’ll learn more soon enough.  Heartland says that it is considering legal action, but I have my doubts.  As soon as its directors understand what they will have to disclose in discovery, they will figure out a way to let the legal matter drop and spend more of their time complaining on Pravda Fox News.

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