LAT Reporter Worries Over Gleick Heartland Doc Theft's Impact on Acceptance of 'Scientific Consensus'

While the Associated Press and the wire service's Seth Borenstein dither on what to report or whether to report anything about confessed document theft from the Heartland Institute by the Pacific Institute's Peter Gleick (a search on Gleick's last name at the AP's main national site at noon came up empty), Neela Banerjee at the Los Angeles Times incompletely reported the facts and fretted that the confession would "further deepen the uncertainty of many Americans" concerning "the scientific consensus on climate change."

What follows are the first five plus three other paragraphs from Banerjee's Tuesday evening report (bolds are mine):


Scientist Peter Gleick admits he lied to get climate documents

A noted California scientist and environmental activist has admitted that he assumed a false identity to obtain and distribute internal documents from a libertarian group that questions climate change.

In a statement published on the Huffington Post, Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute and a MacArthur "genius" grant recipient, revealed his role in disseminating a batch of recent fundraising and board meeting documents last week from the Heartland Institute in Chicago. The documents offered a glimpse into an organization active in combating assertions about the severity of climate change.

Gleick apologized for his actions, and said his judgment was clouded by his "frustration with the ongoing efforts — often anonymous, well-funded and coordinated — to attack climate science and scientists … and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved."

But Gleick's admission is sure to further intensify an already bitter debate between those who accept the scientific consensus on climate change and those who doubt it, and further deepen the uncertainty of many Americans about which side is right.

"This is going to stick," said Kert Davies, director of research for Greenpeace USA. "For those people who don't believe climate change is real or think that it's part of some U.N. conspiracy to control their lives, this will reinforce that view. Those who don't believe that, who think there is a massive conspiracy by corporate and conservative interests to muddy the science, on that side Peter Gleick is a hero for his temerity to do this."

... In a statement, the Heartland Institute repeatedly referred to Gleick's actions as a crime and said they were consulting legal counsel. Emails to Heartland and Gleick about whether Heartland had taken further legal action went unanswered.

"A mere apology is not enough to undo the damage," said Heartland President Joseph Bast. "In his statement, Gleick claims he committed this crime because he believed the Heartland Institute was preventing a 'rational debate' from taking place over global warming. This is unbelievable. Heartland has repeatedly asked for real debate on this important topic."

As the documents circulated last week, Heartland asserted that one of them, titled "2012 Heartland Climate Strategy," is a forgery. In his statement, Gleick said the chain of events began early this year when he received the purported strategy document from an anonymous sender. The disputed document mentions efforts by Heartland to make sure that Gleick's voice in particular is kept out of high-profile publications such as Forbes, where Gleick sometimes blogs.

Banerjee's report failed to mention something I noted yesterday (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), namely that several outsiders have asserted the likelihood not only that the "strategy" document is a forgery, but that Gleick may be its author.

The reporter's invocation of "the scientific consensus" is shown to be a pathetic distortion of reality in today's Wall Street Journal, where sixteen respected scientists working in related fields, while skewering the "proofs" of human-caused, CO2-driven global warming, write that:

In fact, a large and growing number of distinguished scientists and engineers do not agree that drastic actions on global warming are needed.The lack of warming for more than a decade—indeed, the smaller-than-predicted warming over the 22 years since the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began issuing projections—suggests that computer models have greatly exaggerated how much warming additional CO2 can cause.

That Banerjee's report is as flawed as it is would appear to be driven by a cultural problem at the Times betrayed by a Monday editorial that is so over the top it deserves a separate post which will come later today. Yes, I realize that most papers do a reasonably good job of keep the people who work on news and those who write editorials separate, but readers will see that the editorial's positions are so far from reasonable that, at least on climate issues, the wall might as well not be there.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.