Peter Gleick’s alleged crime

Another day, another distraction from the real issue at hand. Yes, a hitherto respectable member of the climate science community, MacArthur fellow, and all-round good guy has admitted appropriating someone’s identity to obtain private records of a climate-denial think tank. Was this wrong? Yes, although no more so than was the ostensible betrayal of trust on the part of a long list of whistleblowers. Daniel Ellsberg comes to mind. And he is now remembered as “an icon of truth-telling.”

As much as I hate to admit it, the most cogent commentary on the matter so far arrived in the form of a tweet, from Naomi Klein:

And what about the fact the Heartland Institute impersonates a scientific organization every day?

Does this matter have anything at all to do with the science of our changing climate? No. And I can’t think of any else of use I can contribute to the discussion. Plenty of others have more thoughtful things to say. Greg Laden is a good place to start.

The Heart(land) of the Denial Campaign

Someone has leaked a treasure trove of insider documents from the Heartland Institute, which until now has been a major source of climate change obfuscation in the U.S. There’s plenty of illuminating information to chew on, including detailed budgets and an IRS 990 form. Shades of “climategate” reversed?

Much is being made of one line from a strategy document, a line that could easily be the result of sloppy editing, or at perhaps a Freudian slip. Or maybe not. Here’s the entire paragraph, with the offending phrase in bold:

Development of our “Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms” project.

Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective. To counter this we are considering launching an effort to develop alternative materials for K-12 classrooms. We are pursuing a proposal from Dr. David Wojick to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science. His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science. We tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $100,000 for 20 modules in 2012, with funding pledged by the Anonymous Donor.

It is possible, in my opinion, that the author meant to write “dissuading teachers from teaching climate science” or something similar. That would make sense from the point of view of those of us who believe our students should actually know something about science.

On the other hand, the context is critical here and it could very well be that the phrase means exactly what it says. Again:

His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.

This could mean that the author recognizes that teachers, especially of younger students, are wary of teaching any scientific subject that comes with political baggage. The obvious examples are evolution and climatology. So the plan is for the Heartland curriculum to draw attention to the controversial nature of climate science in hopes that teachers would then give it a miss, not to actually dissuade teachers from teaching science in general.

This is still a disingenuous, dishonest and an entirely despicable thing to do. But I, for one, do not want to be accused of taking anything out of context. That’s more the Heartland Institute’s style.

UPDATE: Heartland claims that “at least” one of the leaked documents is false. But considering that there is nothing in any of the documents that is inconsistent with what we already knew about the Institute, it seems reasonable to remain skeptical about the denial. After all, denying is what the Heartland folks do best.

If you’re reading the Wall Street Journal, you’re part of the problem

For reasons that can only reflect poorly on the paper, the Wall Street Journal recently decided it was a good idea to publish an op-ed that recycled some the of the most soundly discredited notions associated with the climate change denial movement. The piece was signed by 16 ostensible “scientists,” though only four have any experience with climatology, and even they work on the extreme fringes of respectable research.

The same editors refused to publish a letter from a longer list of actual climatologists, a letter that does reflect the science of the day and one that the journal Science did see fit to publish.

The WSJ’s “travesty” of an editorial decision continues to reverberate around the blogosphere almost two weeks later. Here’s a roundup of the response, which has been summarized thusly:

… flaring anti-science syndrome suffering climate denier and delayer inanities often divert people from valuable and productive activities. Prominent eruptions of this malady, however, drive white-cell like effort to respond and dampen the damage…

Calling it like it is

Two examples of why blogs are better than mainstream news coverage, when it comes to confronting reality and doing something about it, one from the climate wars, one from the front lines of women’s health.

First, Andy Revkin, a former New York Times journalist who still blogs there. He calls out a coal-industry-backed attempt to silence one of the world’s leading climatologists as the “Shameful Attack on Free Speech” that it is. By launching a Facebook campaign to convince Pennsylvania State University to cancel a scheduled talk by Michael Mann, the coal interests have indeed shamed themselves.

Andy adds:

Antidemocratic, hateful, and coal-backed smear campaign against a scientist I’ve sometimes disagreed with but who has every right to state his case at Penn State or anywhere else.

A few hours after Andy’s post, the Fb page disappeared. Penn State is sticking to its guns, too. Score one for the good guys.

Continue reading “Calling it like it is”

Tea Party shenanigans

As if you needed another reason to lament the state of American politics:

Across the country, activists with ties to the Tea Party are railing against all sorts of local and state efforts to control sprawl and conserve energy. They brand government action for things like expanding public transportation routes and preserving open space as part of a United Nations-led conspiracy to deny property rights and herd citizens toward cities. (New York Times, Feb 3, 2012)

The story ends on what would be a humorous note:

“The Tea Party people say they want nonpolluted air and clean water and everything we promote and support, but they also say it’s a communist movement,” said Charlotte Moore, a supervisor who voted yes. “I really don’t understand what they want.”