AP's Boring Borenstein: Gleick's Heartland Doc Theft 'Mirrors' Climategate Incidents

February 24th, 2012 3:52 PM

On Thursday, over 40 hours after the Pacific Institute's Peter Gleick (pictured here) revealed that he stole documents from the Heartland Institute by posing as one of that organization's board members, Seth Borenstein at the Associated Press finally broke the ice and filed a related three-paragraph "this is boring, you don't need to read it" dispatch. Two hours later, the AP science writer extended it to 500-plus words, but kept the headline as uninformative as possible -- "Scientist admits taking, leaking think-tank papers."

The "clever" failure to describe Gleick as a "climate scientist" (which he is) will dissuade many of those who see the headline from clicking through or reading further. By contrast, the headline at Borenstein's report on February 16 after Gleick (whom Borenstein did not name) disseminated the documents was: "INFLUENCE GAME: Leaks show group's climate efforts." In his longer item, Borenstein (or is it now "Boring-stein," Seth?) posits the howler that what Gleick did "mirrors" the Climategate email revelations which occurred in late 2009 and 2011. In your dreams, pal. The initial item plus excerpts from the longer one are after the jump.

Here is the short report filed Thursday at 3:06 p.m. (in full, for fair use and discussion purposes:

Ethicists are criticizing a prominent scientist for misrepresenting himself to obtain and then leak sensitive documents from a conservative think tank that campaigns against mainstream global warming science.

Peter Gleick (GLEEK), president of a California water research institute and winner of a MacArthur genius grant, admitted Monday night in a blog posting that he pretended to be a board member to get fundraising, budget and other documents from the Heartland Institute in Chicago. He said he then sent the documents to the media.

Gleick not only is prominent as an advocate of mainstream global warming science, writing articles for the popular press, but he chaired a scientific society's ethics panel as well. Last week, before revealing his document theft, he resigned as ethics committee chairman of the American Geophysical Union.

Note that the Pacific Institute's name is not in the report, and that Borenstein described it only as a "water research institute." The "About Us" page at the Institute's web site is a quite bit more ambitious: "Our aim is to find real-world solutions to problems like water shortages, habitat destruction, global warming, and environmental injustice." But Seth wants readers to think that Pacific is just some tiny little "water research" group that no one cares about, in the hope that those who get past the boring headline and actually read the story won't attach much significance to it.

Though he didn't see fit to name or appropriately describe the Pacific Institute, Borenstein's short report made darned sure to remind readers that what I call "globaloney" is "mainstream global warming science."

Here are several paragraphs from Borenstein's longer missive:

In the field of climate science, when someone - especially skeptics - did something ethically questionable or misrepresented facts, scientist Peter Gleick was usually among the first and loudest to cry foul. He chaired a prominent scientific society's ethics committee. He created an award for what he considered lies about global warming.

Now Gleick admits that he posed as a board member to get and then distribute to the media sensitive documents from a conservative think tank that is a leader in denying mainstream climate change science.

And ethicists are criticizing the man who took others to task for what they say was stepping way over the ethical line. The think tank, the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, is considering legal action against him.

Gleick, who won a MacArthur genius award and is co-founder of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security, was chairman of the American Geophysical Union's ethics committee.

... Gleick resigned chairmanship of the ethics panel last week.

... Heartland said the two-page strategy document was a fake and the others were stolen. The Associated Press, which received the documents, was able to verify the accuracy of several of the most sensational parts with the individuals named. The documents caused a stir, mirroring the hacking of climate scientists' emails two years earlier from a British research center.

Concerning Borenstein's final excerpted paragraph:

  • Heartland isn't the only party asserting that the strategy document is a fake. As I noted in earlier posts, cap-and-trade advocate Megan McArdle at the Atlantic has listed seven good reasons to doubt the memo's authenticity along with a "section-by-section analysis of what makes me uncomfortable." Ross Kaminsky at the American Spectator believes that "all evidence so far supports Heartland’s emphatic assertion that the document is a forgery," also suspecting that Gleick himself wrote it.
  • Besides one commonality, namely that documents were taken and disseminated, the breezy assertion that Gleick-Heartland "mirrors" Climategate is absurd. The Climategate emails showed that globlarmists were privately fretting that their beloved computer models weren't reflecting what was happening in the real world, and that their predictions that the world would warm because of higher carbon dioxide levels would become suspect. They also showed a dogged and decidedly anti-scientific determination to alter or omit inconvenient data, shield documents from skeptics, destroy source data, and ruin the scientific and public reputations of skeptics. All the Heartland documents demonstrate is that an organization which believes that the the "settled science" of global warming is far from settled and that the statist public policy prescriptions resulting from it will do serious damage to the world's economy and its inhabitants was trying to figure out how best to get its points across to the public and the education system. If that's scandalous, anyone working on improving the expression of his or her point of view is engaging in scandalous behavior. If Seth Borenstein thinks that the Heartland saga is "mirroring" Climategate, he must also think that he sees someone as handsome as Brad Pitt when he looks in the mirror every morning. For what it's worth -- far from it.

In an item time-stamped at 8:23 p.m. on Thursday, Laird Harrison at Reuters reported that Gleick is now being investigated by "the prestigious Pacific Institute," which, in the Institute's quoted words, "is deeply concerned and is actively reviewing information about the recent events involving its president." Good luck finding an establishment media report describing Heartland as "prestigious."

Harrison's report also leads me to wonder whether the AP's Borenstein got his longer missive out when he did to avoid having to report the existence of Pacific's investigation.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.