Posted on | February 21, 2012 | 8 Comments
Peter Gleick did not have sexual relations with that woman. The president of the Pacific Institute did not leak the identity of Valerie Plame then order an investigation to discover who did it. He’s not a cynic. However, California’s leading advocate for realpolitik treatment of climate science stands accused by the libertarian Heartland Institute of “stealing” documents outlining Heartland’s 2012 strategy to undermine popular American acceptance of the clearly established and internationally recognized fact that human activity is driving climate change.
While not calling it theft, Gleick did confess Monday in his Huffington Post blog to having assumed a false identity — apparently that of a Heartland board member — to solicit documents from Heartland.
He sought them, he wrote, because a board package containing either similar or identical documents had been leaked to him by an anonymous source and he wanted to see if they were forgeries.
Satisfied about their authenticity, Gleick then leaked the documents, which led to a February 16 New York Times article tying Heartland to plans to sow doubt about climate change among children in schools.
Four days later, it was Gleick under attack in the New York Times, where shortly after his confession, he was described by reporter Andrew Revkin as having “destroyed his credibility and harmed others.”
“That is [Gleick’s] personal tragedy and shame (and I’m sure devastating for his colleagues, friends and family),” Revkin added.
Before anyone else dresses for a funeral, it merits remembering that Gleick, a former recipient of a MacArthur “genius” fellowship, is innocent until proven guilty. He is not only one of the smartest men in California, but also one of the more honest, the kind prone to confession.
What Gleick did was wrong. In a movie, if a good institute tricked a bad one into into sending it confidential documents containing plans to fill the heads of schoolchildren with lethal hokum, the act might seem heroic. In real life, it might indeed be theft. But “destroyed”? “harmed”? “tragedy”? “devastating”? Shouldn’t those words be reserved for the effects of climate change? And what does it make Peter Gleick for having risked his career in an attempt to spare us destruction, harm, tragedy and devastation?
Update: 2/27/2012: The Pacific Institute today announced that its board has accepted Gleick’s offer to take leave of absence while it brings in independent investigators to review the Heartland affair.