Global Warming Is Losing So Badly, It Must Resort To Fraud And Forgery

by Jere Krischel

Everybody on the planet with a pulse has heard about Al Gore, and “The Inconvenient Truth.”  Some fair percentage might have heard of Climategate, and some subset of that group might have actually heard of Climategate II.  But beyond a tiny fraction of Forbes readers, and perhaps some of the more well informed activists on either side of the anthropogenic global warming debate, you probably never heard of Peter Gleick – at least not until February 20, 2012.

The story begins a little before that, though.  On February 15, 2012, several documents, purported to be from the libertarian think tank The Heartland Institute, were published on the web.  They included fairly sensitive donor information, some budget documents, fundraising plans, a few public tax documents, and detailed private contact information for the Board of Directors of The Heartland Institute.  But most importantly, they contained the ultimate smoking gun, the document titled “Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy.”  Within this document, every worst fear of Prius driving, earth-loving, tree-hugging liberals was confirmed.  The Koch brothers were conspiring to stop teachers from teaching science!  Fossil fuel interests were targeting global warming activists blogging on Forbes.com!  Evil retired-weathermen were being given money to cast doubt on the iron-clad science of anthropogenic global warming!  The horror!

Needless to say, the liberal-blogosphere lit up like a Christmas tree.  Without bothering to actually check sources, liberal news media outlets started running with the story, apparently assuming that due diligence had been done on the anonymous source of the Heartland leak by someone else.  And then things started falling apart.  People outside of the mainstream media started looking closer at the digital documents, and noted differences not only in the programs that created them, but also in the time zones they had been created in.  The smoking gun stood apart, both because it was a scanned document (rather than an original electronic one), as well because it had a timestamp which indicated the Pacific Time Zone (where, incidentally, Heartland has no offices).  Closer examination noted stylistic discrepancies, and one particular sleuth, Steven Mosher (who played a role in breaking the original Climategate story), focused in on an odd mention of a minor bit-player, Peter Gleick.

The suspicious bit went like this:

“Efforts at places such as Forbes are especially important now that they have begun to allow high-profile climate scientists (such as Gleick) to post warmist science essays that counter our own.  This influential audience has been reliably anti-climate and it is important to keep opposing voices out.”

Except Gleick has always been a minor player, and Forbes has never been the front line of the battles over climate policy.  Even more oddly, nobody by a poorly scripted Dr. Evil would identify themselves as “anti-climate” (a phrase which happens to be a favorite of Gleick’s).  Further analysis by Megan McArdle (who happens to believe in anthropogenic global warming) at The Atlantic made it almost certain that the document in question was a fraud, and that Heartland’s disavowal of it was true.

Now at this point, we don’t know exactly what drove Gleick to confess to using fraud to get Heartland to send him sensitive and confidential documents – but the noose was tightening, and it would have only been a matter of time before he was unambiguously identified as the mysterious leaker.  In his confession, he stepped lightly around the source and provenance of the smoking gun memo, stating that he received it in the mail anonymously, but remaining ambiguous enough so that if he was positively identified as the author of the “Confidential Memo”, he could claim that he had anonymously mailed it to himself and that his confession was only false by omission.  To date, he hasn’t provided any proof of his origin story (say, an envelope with a postmark), and given that the documents he defrauded out of Heartland just happened to be the exact documents one might use to create the “Confidential Memo”, it defies belief that an anonymous source would provide him only with the smoking gun, and not with all the supporting materials that must have been within easy grasp.

As it stands, some of the liberal-blogosphere is dutifully standing by their man, casting him as an intrepid investigative reporter, or some heroic martyr for the cause, but just as many are disavowing his actions, and fretting about the damage he’s done to their cause.  The mainstream media, while jumping on the original Heartland leak, has predictably given less attention to the turnabout, but just as they couldn’t stop Climategate from breaking into the common consciousness, Fakegate isn’t going to go away quietly.  Heartland promises to pursue every legal remedy at its disposal against Gleick, and a recent law passed in California against e-impersonation seems particularly appropriate, although given the general liberal bent of California politics, Gleick may not only be the first person convicted under that law, but perhaps the first person pardoned as well.

In the end, Gleick has behaved like the zealot he is, rather than like the scientist he wishes he could be.  For a zealot, the ends justifies the means.  For a zealot, the science is settled, and we must act now.

A scientist, on the other hand, starts with a falsifiable hypothesis, and then applies the most ruthless skepticism to their own closely held beliefs.