Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Climate Scientist Escalates Climate Wars

Climate scientist and journalist Peter Gleick has admitted (here) to obtaining under false pretenses and publishing private, internal documents of the conservative Heartland Institute (see here). He claims that he was led to do it by frustration over ongoing, unwarranted attacks on climate science and scientists. Whatever his motivations (and however great the satisfaction of witnessing Heartland's overwrought and hypocritical response to the hacking), the sad fact of the matter is that, as Joe Romm notes in his New York Times blog this morning (here),  Gleick's act has undermined his credibility as a scientist and lent credence to generally false claims, made by groups like the Heartland Institute, that climate scientists are driven by political, ideological, and financial commitments, rather than by the scientific evidence. Gleick's actions have escalated the already hot "climate wars," which is hardly in the interest of climate scientists or those seeking reasonable policy solutions to the very real problem of climate change.

At Forbes.com (here), Steve Zwick portrays Gleick as a hero for having delivered "a massive body blow to the denialshpere and moved the world closer to to finding a solution to the climate change challenge." In some cases, I might agree that a thief could be a hero, but not in this case. For one thing, it is not at all clear how much general damage Gleick has done to what Zwick calls the "denialsphere." Most sensible people had a pretty good notion of the Heartland Institute's agenda long before Gleick leaked the documents, the authenticity of which Heartland will continue to deny (with limited plausibility). For consumers of what Heartland (and similar groups) are selling, we already know that they are not particularly responsive to scientific evidence (of climate change). So, why should we expect them to turn their backs on anti-climate policy groups based on direct evidence of an anti-scientific political agenda? As for Zwick's contention that Gleick's act has moved the world closer to resolving the climate change problem, it is difficult to see how an act of admitted deception by a climate scientist possibly promote general respect for climate science and solutions to climate change.

Gleick may have burnished his credentials as a muckraking, investigative journalist, but at the expense of his reputation as a scientist, which is in tatters. His act does not serve the interests of the climate scientific and policy communities.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I actively moderate comments for spam, advertisements, and abusive or offensive language.