What started as a spirited debate over global warming has turned into another scandal that has further discredited the motives and actions of the people who maintain that humans are having a devastating effect on the world’s climate. Dr. Peter Gleick, president and co-founder of the Pacific Institute, an environmental research and advocacy organization based in Oakland, California, has admitted to fraudulently obtaining confidential documents from the Heartland Institute.
Heartland, based in Chicago, is a free-market think tank that tackles a variety of important public policy issues, such as health care, education and climate change. (Readers will note that the author serves as an advisor to Heartland on environmental affairs, which is an unpaid, voluntary position.) Early this year, Heartland Senior Fellow James M. Taylor got into an entertaining public debate with Dr. Gleick over the “reality” of anthropogenic global warming at Forbes.com. Both Taylor and Gleick argued their positions passionately. Unable to counter Taylor’s positions effectively, an increasingly frustrated Gleick turned to the tactic that so many alarmists eventually use: impugning the motives of the people who disagree with him. He wrote: I wonder, however, if Taylor would publish the list of who really DOES fund the Heartland Institute. It seems to be a secret — no information is listed on their website about actual contributors of that $7 million budget that they use to deny the reality of climate change (and previously, the health effects of tobacco — their other focus).
In the past, Heartland used to release its donor list, but stopped doing so after radical opponents used that information to try to harass funders. In Taylor’s words:
The Heartland Institute used to [release the names of donors], while similarly appealing to other groups to do the same. However, environmental activists and other extremist groups used the information to launch a campaign of personal harassment against Heartland Institute donors while simultaneously refusing to release the names of their own donors. It is funny how Gleick rants against the alleged harassment of Katharine Hayhoe yet remains silent about the harassment of people who disagree with him.
Taylor had thus inadvertently signaled Gleick how to hurt Heartland: release the names of the people who support the organization. Accordingly (by his own admission) Gleick called the Heartland Institute, identifying himself as a Heartland board member whose e-mail address had changed. A Heartland staffer then sent Gleick confidential documents based on the doctor’s false identification. Those documents were subsequently posted on the Internet at DeSmogBlog, a popular alarmist website. Other alarmist sympathizers on the web and in the mainstream media then picked up the story.
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