While former environmental reporter Andrew Revkin showed a double standard in his Wednesday coverage of Climategate versus his coverage of documents swiped from climate-change skeptics, he looked positively fair compared to the hostile reporting on the stolen documents Thursday by Times colleagues Justin Gillis and Leslie Kaufman, “In Documents, a Plan to Discredit Climate Teaching.” The reporters suggest a highly dubious two-page "Climate Strategy" memo "closely matched that of other documents" in tone and content, reminiscent of the paper's September 15, 2004 headline in defense of the infamous Rathergate fraud: "Memos on Bush Are Fake But Accurate, Typist Says."
Gillis and Kaufman accuse Heartland of fighting “climate science,” and cast its opponents as noble “defenders of science education.” Skeptics would accuse them of using classrooms to spread global-warming hysteria. (Last Christmas, a piece by Gillis was eviscerated by a climate scientist as “perhaps the worst piece of reporting I've ever seen in the Times on climate change.”)
Unlike the Times’s arms-length treatment of the “Climategate” emails, the Times embraced these stolen documents in much the same way it welcomed the secret and classified diplomatic cables from Wikileaks, while giving only lip service acknowledgment to Heartland pointing out at least one of the trove is a fake:
Leaked documents suggest that an organization known for attacking climate science is planning a new push to undermine the teaching of global warming in public schools, the latest indication that climate change is becoming a part of the nation’s culture wars.
The documents, from a nonprofit organization in Chicago called the Heartland Institute, outline plans to promote a curriculum that would cast doubt on the scientific finding that fossil fuel emissions endanger the long-term welfare of the planet. “Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective,” one document said.
While the documents offer a rare glimpse of the internal thinking motivating the campaign against climate science, defenders of science education were preparing for battle even before the leak. Efforts to undermine climate-science instruction are beginning to spread across the country, they said, and they fear a long fight similar to that over the teaching of evolution in public schools.
In a statement, the Heartland Institute acknowledged that some of its internal documents had been stolen. But it said its president had not had time to read the versions being circulated on the Internet on Tuesday and Wednesday and was therefore not in a position to say whether they had been altered.
Heartland did declare one two-page document to be a forgery, although its tone and content closely matched that of other documents that the group did not dispute. In an apparent confirmation that much of the material, more than 100 pages, was authentic, the group apologized to donors whose names became public as a result of the leak.
The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle convincingly argued that the two-page document is an obvious fake.
The Times condescendingly dismissed Heartland’s skeptical perspective:
The documents say that over four years ending in 2013, the group expects to have spent some $1.6 million on financing the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, an entity that publishes periodic reports attacking climate science and holds lavish annual conferences. (Environmental groups refer to the conferences as “Denialpalooza.”)
Heartland’s latest idea, the documents say, is a plan to create a curriculum for public schools intended to cast doubt on mainstream climate science and budgeted at $200,000 this year. The curriculum would claim, for instance, that “whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy.”
It is in fact not a scientific controversy. The vast majority of climate scientists say that emissions generated by humans are changing the climate and putting the planet at long-term risk, although they are uncertain about the exact magnitude of that risk. Whether and how to rein in emissions of greenhouse gases has become a major political controversy in the United States, however.
Environmental scientist Roger Pielke Jr. eviscerated a December 25, 2011 article by Gillis as “perhaps the worst piece of reporting I've ever seen in the Times on climate change.” This one isn’t much better.