Global Warming: Man or Myth?

Scientists can also wear their citizen hats

Do Not Take Your Eyes Off Lex Luthor (Heartland Institute)

with 26 comments

Just as scientists view the entire body of evidence to support a conclusion, I think we should all judge an individual by the entire body of his accomplishments and not by his one regrettable mistake. Who among us has not made mistakes? By focusing on Dr. Peter Gleick’s mistake, we are not only being unfair to this man but we are taking our eye off the issue that we should all be focused on: Heartland Institute is threatening the education and future of our children!

Is this not a red cherry tree?

Is this not a red cherry tree?

Read on to see why Peter should be congratulated for his academic achievement and tireless communication efforts to benefit society and why Heartland Institute’s actions should make you angry.

According to the Pacific Institute website:

Dr. Peter Gleick

Dr. Peter Gleick

“Dr. Peter H. Gleick is co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security in Oakland, California. His research and writing address the critical connections between water and human health, the hydrologic impacts of climate change, sustainable water use, privatization and globalization, and international conflicts over water resources.

Dr. Gleick is an internationally recognized water expert and was named a MacArthur Fellow in October 2003 for his work. In 2001, Gleick was dubbed a “visionary on the environment” by the British Broadcasting Corporation. In 1999, Gleick was elected an Academician of the International Water Academy, in Oslo, Norway and in 2006, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.

Gleick received a B.S. from Yale University and an M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He serves on the boards of numerous journals and organizations, and is the author of many scientific papers and seven books, including the biennial water report, The World’s Water, and the new Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water.”

In 2011, Peter received the Ven Te Chow Award from the International Water Resources association. The Ven Te Chow Memorial Award and Lecture is one of the most prestigious awards of the IWRA, named in honor of founder Prof. Ven Te Chow (1919-1981), the eminent water scientist who was a leading figure in water resources in the second half of the 20th Century.

In 2008, Wired Magazine named Peter as “one of 15 People the Next President Should Listen To” in their 2008 Smart List.

Some examples of his public and professional service: (a huge list can be viewed here)

• National Academy of Sciences Committee on Himalayan Glaciers, Hydrology, Climate Change and Water Security, 2011-
• Chair, American Geophysical Union Task Team on Scientific Ethics, 2011-
• National Academy of Sciences Committee on Climate, Energy, and National Security, 2009-
• Singapore Institute of Water Policy’s International Advisory Panel, 2010-2012• Expert Group on Policy Relevance of the World Water Assessment Program, United Nations, 2008-
• Climate Advisory Group of the California Academy of Sciences, 2007-2008
• State of California Climate Change Technical Advisory Group, 2007-2009
• World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Water Security, 2008-2010
• Member of AAAS Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Sciences Section (Section W): February 2007-2011.
• National Academy of Sciences Committee on Ecological Impacts of Climate Change, 2008-2009
• U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Human Impacts of Climate Change Advisory Committee, 2007-2009.
• National Academy of Sciences Committee on Advancing Desalination Technology, 2006-2008

Peter has written ten books about the water crisis and what society can do to solve it. His latest book (in preparation) is titled United States Water Policy for the 21st Century to be published by Oxford University Press.

Peter has been an author on 133 peer-reviewed journal articles, reports, book chapters, and proceedings.

Peter has testified before 32 Congressional and Legislative bodies. His most recent was a May 9, 2011 briefing on Capitol Hill titled “The Vulnerability of U.S. Water Resources to Climate Change.”

Peter has authored 58 op-eds, commentaries, book reviews, editorials, and letters to the editor as a means to educate the average citizen about climate change and water security.

Peter was also willing to step into the lion’s den to communicate science to the general public. By that I mean asking to be a blogger at Forbes and Wall Street Journal are still hold-outs when it comes to accepting well-understood science. Peter knew most of his blogs would be received with inflammatory comments but he still hoped that he might be able to reach the fence-sitters among the readership.

Peter was passionate about defending climate science and its scientists who have taken a beating by Heartland Institutes and others who, for political or financial reasons, find well-established human-causes warming to be inconvenient. It was becoming increasingly clear to Peter that the misinformation was steering this country down a dangerous path. This frustration was apparent in his 2010 and 2011 Climate B.S. of the Year Awards (BS means Bad Science).

Nina Federoff, President of AAAS

Nina Federoff, President of AAAS

Many of us are very frustrated. Last week Nina Fedoroff, the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), confessed that she was now “scared to death” by the anti-science movement that was spreading, uncontrolled, across the US and the rest of the western world.

“We are sliding back into a dark era,” she said. “And there seems little we can do about it. I am profoundly depressed at just how difficult it has become merely to get a realistic conversation started on issues such as climate change or genetically modified organisms.”

It is because of groups like Heartland Institute that we are being led astray. Unfortunately, Peter made a mistake in his attempt to expose the nefarious ways of Heartland. He was man enough to admit it and there have been consequences. (Of course, the person who released thousands of emails in 2009 still has not come forward to admit his guilt. The bad guys are never honorable.)

Scientists are held to a very high standard so when one of them does make a mistake it is deemed newsworthy. Worse, if there is even a suggestion of wrongdoing, there is overwhelming attention. For example, an analysis of news/web coverage of the accusations against vs. exonerations of the climate scientists involved in the 2009 stolen email controversy, showed that coverage of the accusations dwarfed coverage of the multiple exonerations.

News Headlines: Accused vs. Exonerated

News Headlines: Accused vs. Exonerated

We should all be focused on the real story here:

Heartland Institute is threatening the education and future of our children!

As I have written about in the previous two blog posts (Hey Kids, Have a Smoke and Denial and Heartland Serves Threatening Letters, Climate Science Legal Defense Fund & PEER Hit Back), Heartland Institute has a history of undermining science education and supporting the Big Tobacco industry that was caught trying to get our kids to smoke.

Heartland Institute’s President Joseph Bast staunchly defended “Joe Camel,” the infamous campaign to addict younger children.  Heartland got tobacco funding for many years, along with a Philip Morris Board member.

Heartland's President supports Joe Camel Campaign

Heartland's President Supported Joe Camel

As described in the Joe Camel Wiki page, [emphasis mine]

Internal documents produced to the court in Mangini v. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, San Francisco Superior Court No. 959516, demonstrated the industry’s interest in targeting children as future smokers.[5] The importance of the youth market was illustrated in a 1974 presentation by RJR’s Vice-President of Marketing who explained that the “young adult market . . . represent[s] tomorrow’s cigarette business. As this 14-24 age group matures, they will account for a key share of the total cigarette volume – for at least the next 25 years.”[6] A 1974 memo by the R. J. Reynolds Research Department points out that capturing the young adult market is vital because “virtually all [smokers] start by the age of 25″ and “most smokers begin smoking regularly and select a usual brand at or before the age of 18.”[7]

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Heartland has tried to sabotage our children’s educationSee this DeSmog Blog post about The Skeptic’s Handbook.  Heartland Institute printed 150,000 copies for distribution across the US including 850 journalists, 26,000 schools, “19,000 leaders and politicians”.  In fact, one of my colleagues here received the mailer. (A better handbook that promotes accurate science is John Cook’s The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism.
You should also see this brilliant post at ClimateSight which shows how Heartland Institute has used the same tobacco industry playbook to undermine climate science education.
If you really want to understand what motivates the people running Heartland Institute and other organizations of deception, you must read Merchants of Doubt by Oreskes and Conway. Warning: do not read this book if you are in a  good mood because it will make you very angry.
As John Mashey reported at DeSmog Blog:

The NY TimesLA Times and many others criticized Heartland’s inept plan to hire David Wojick to create an alternate-reality K-12 climate science curriculum. But Heartland’s school ground attack on science is nothing new, as is evident in the organization’s own commentary: “Heartland has tried to make material available to teachers, but has had only limited success. Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective.”

One of the best known Heartland incursions into the schoolyard occurred in 2008, when the institute mailed teaching materials to 11,250 schools in Canada. In 2009, Science derided Heartland for sending copies of The Skeptic’s Handbook to 14,000 US school board officials. Heartland’s Environment and Climate News mocked one school board president for his refusal to use it.

But Heartland began its classroom misinformation campaign much earlier. During 2002-2003, E&CN ran ads exhorting readers to “discuss an E&CN article with your school-age child… and his or her teacher.” I hope parents avoided the common “Smoker’s Lounge” ads in those issues.

 Imagine that!

Telling school children to read a newsletter that promotes smoking and undermines science!

Dr. Peter Gleick is a great man for all that he has done to advance the issues surrounding climate change and water resources. Do not judge him solely on his one mistake. If you do, Heartland Institute, and those that are jeopardizing our children’s education and the safety of their future, will win the PR battle that is preventing us from actions that will not only protect our health and national security, but will move America aheadin the race to win the next great technology revolution that is clean, renewable energy.

Stop looking at the dirt on Superman's cape, lest we lose sight of Lex Luthor

Stop looking at a little dirt on Superman's cape, lest we lose sight of Lex Luthor

 Stop looking at a little dirt on Superman’s cape, lest we lose sight of Lex Luthor.

Update (02/24): Dr. Judith Curry and I speak on KPCC Radio (NPR) about Peter Gleick and Heartland. We did not agree.

Update (02/24): All of you out there with children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins. Picture them in your head right now. What would you do to stop an organization that you knew was sabotaging these children’s education and whose membership supports companies that were caught red-handed trying to hook them on deadly cigarettes?

I bet that posing as a board member to verify insider documents is mild compared to what you were just willing to do in your head. Right?

Update (02/24): Video targeted at Heartland Institute:

 Other posts:


Written by Scott Mandia

February 23, 2012 at 11:56 am

26 Responses

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  1. Thanks for adding some much needed perspective to the coverage, Scott.

    This is exactly the kind of thing the deniers and their funding sources don’t want — a broad and deep look at the entire hierarchy and funding food chain that promotes smoking, defends asbestos, tells us climate change is anything less than the immense threat that science tells us it is, etc. That old line about the disinfecting qualities of sunlight simply leaps to mind.

    This is why I keep insisting that people who want to understand what’s going on start with the outstanding book Merchants of Doubt. It’s packed with details going back several decades about the efforts of people with economic power to sell the health of others to make even greater profits.

    Lou Grinzo

    February 23, 2012 at 1:46 pm

  2. Thank you Scott,

    The Heartland Institute promotes an amoral brand of monopoly capitalism , They are heavily funded by carbon cartels of oil and coal — their message is to disregard science in order to hide the ethical failings of their client’s misdeeds.

    To my mind, Dr. Gleick correctly made an instinctive reaction based on species preservation. In a destabilizing world, it was a quick reaction, but necessary. The false debate over ethical misdeeds can only occur after we all realize the science and the inevitable climate changes to come.

    Thanks for this article.


    February 23, 2012 at 2:04 pm

  3. Thanks, Scott. Indeed, this is part of a much bigger conversation about the future of our climate.

    Aaron Huertas

    February 23, 2012 at 5:16 pm

  4. True words, Prof. Mandia.

    In general, I find the ‘oh noes he made one single mistake, so he’s bad bad bad!’ argument to be a silly one. Unfortunately it appears all too often in the context of US politics, as a way to terminate thought.

    I accept that humans are imperfect, and I realize the important thing is to look at a person’s words and deeds as a whole, instead of focusing on minor imperfections.

    And I’ll apply the same standard when looking at climate change contrarians. One single scientific mistake does not a denialist make; it is by repeatedly making mistakes — nay, repeatedly insisting on making a whole string of mistakes — that a contrarian becomes a denialist.

    — frank

    frank -- Decoding SwiftHack

    February 24, 2012 at 1:48 pm

  5. Scott, thanks for your side of the open dialog. At the same time, I offer also thanks to a lot of independent thinkers (aka skeptics) for their effective dialog. Those independents have finally and effectively opened up a public dialog; they are real heroes in climate science advancement. An open public debate that has been postponed for ~20 yrs is accelerating nicely now. The public is showing it’s appreciation through more open media treatment.


    John Whitman

    February 24, 2012 at 5:37 pm

  6. Excellent. Just excellent.

    Shelley Powers

    February 24, 2012 at 11:46 pm

  7. Do you want to mandate the teaching of mainstream climate science in high schools? Do you want to forbid teaching or discussion of criticism directed at mainstream climate science?

    Your post says very clearly that your answers to my questions will be Yes and Yes.

    Please explain how you can fail to see that both mandates are unconstitutional. More important, please explain how you can so fervently oppose the spirit behind the constitutional prohibitions that make the mandates unconstitutional?

    Mandia: I teach Global Climate Change and in this course we discuss both natural and human-cuased climate change. All lines of evidence point to human-caused climate change being 80% – 120% of the warming in recent decades so that is what is taught. We also discuss the various climate sensitivity values and various temperature projections. My students are well aware that the real discussion is about how much warmer it will get, how quickly it will do so, and what is the range of likely impacts. Solutions to the energy crisis are taught at the end. BTW, my colleagues in physics do not teach that gravity causes things to float upward. My colleagues in nursing do not teach that there is a controversy about whether smoking is harmful.

    Theo Goodwin

    February 25, 2012 at 1:18 am

  8. Scott, you and your colleagues are always accusing Heartland of stifling debate, yet you never accept their open challenges to debate. Gleick apparently didn’t have the cojones to do so, even though accepting Heartland’s offer would have given him the opportunity to attend their headline event and speak personally with all those shadowy donors he’s so obsessed with unmasking. Sounds like a job for SuperMandia! If you are right and they are wrong it should be a cakewalk!

    Mandia: Let me clue you in to why the deniers always ask for debates. Having two people debate a topic immediately reinforces the notion that there is a debate and suggests that it is evenly divided. If there were to be a debate, it would need to have 98 on one side and two on the other. Science progress via peer-reviewed research and not by showmanship. That is why Heartland wants the debate. They have no science but they do have showmen.


    February 25, 2012 at 2:02 am

    • [Mandia: Let me clue you in to why the deniers always ask for debates. Having two people debate a topic immediately reinforces the notion that there is a debate and suggests that it is evenly divided. If there were to be a debate, it would need to have 98 on one side and two on the other. Science progress via peer-reviewed research and not by showmanship. That is why Heartland wants the debate. They have no science but they do have showmen.]

      Scott – What would the American people think if President Obama ducked debates? You have an image problem and you’re managing it poorly. You seem not to understand that Americans could care less about consensus or the 98%. The appeal to authority never ever works and is basically an anti-American value and you don’t get that. You can insist on preventing children from being educated in a fashion to challenge authority but then you create a society of un-thinking automatons. I wonder if you have ever had a student stand up to you in your class? There are many issues unresolved in climate science and hiding from them by ducking debate doesn’t help your cause. The longer you avoid debate the longer it will take to get compromise and resolution. You haven’t figured out a way to get the public to want to follow you and by taking the authoritarian/dictator tact that you do, you create further divide. You don’t get it yet and that is what is sad.

      Mandia: Even President Obama would not accept a debate about whether the earth is flat or spherical. There are NO unresolved issues as to WHY the earth is warming. No debate about that.

      Sundance (@0Sundance)

      February 25, 2012 at 10:33 am

      • So no issues on atmospheric water vapor, aerosols, clouds, models, uncertainties, etc… feel that everything is settled to the same degree as knowing that the Earth is spherical? We can stop all the funding because all we need is your word. You know it all and you have not one single question or concern?

        Again you entirely miss the point that few others feel as certain as you do. The remainder of us mere mortals (I saw your Hallowen outfit) hear Dr. Hansen claim “game over for the planet” on the XL Pipeline impact with no research to back him up and then Dr. Weaver claim Alberta tar sands are not a big factor in warming the planet based on actual research. Dr. Hansen’s authoritarian claim is being disputed in front of the public’s eyes by Dr. Weaver and Dr. Hansen suffers a loss of credibility and trust as an authoritarian. Do you get it yet? Probably not.

        Mandia: A better analogy: medical professionals are convinced that smoking is causing an increase in lung cancer so people should quit smoking ASAP. Do they know precisely the mechanism that causes the cancer? No. Do they wait to know that before they tell people to stop smoking? We KNOW that CO2 is dominating the warming and it will get even warmer if we keep on our emission paths. No uncertainties there. Basic physics known for more than 100 years.

        Sundance (@0Sundance)

        February 25, 2012 at 11:44 am

      • Scott – your medical expert analogy is flawed. First of all public trust in medical professionals is much higher than public trust in climate scientists. Trust in Climate science has been and continues to erode. You can defend your profession all you want, but the data is there to support my point.

        Click to access Climategate_Opinion_and_Loss_of_Trust_1.pdf

        What Dr. Gleick has done will only serve to further damage Trust in climate science. Other people already understand what I am saying. You may see him as a hero but few others will.

        This paper also points out that greater sense of individuality lessens acceptance of expert opinion which is what your argument id based upon. A great example of this is President Obama who smoked 95% of his adult life. He chose to ignore medical experts and risk cancer which is exactly the point I am making that you continue to sidestep and refuse to understand. Experts know that having children out of wedlock is bad for children yet people increasingly put their children at risk as we are seeing more births out of wedlock than ever. Drug use over time causes huge risk to humans and people still choose to take drugs. You seem not to understand the flawed nature of humans and the large amount of human population that is prone to self-destructive behavior that leads them to resist experts/authority . Until you understand this you will be frustrated and you won’t understand why what seems logical to you will not be accepted by large numbers of the public. By trying to force your expert/authoritarian tactics on the public you only widen the rift and push a larger segment of the public into the fight or flight response. My experience over time in a career that requires moving people to new behavioral patterns, has taught me that people do not respond well to such tactics. People need to be persuaded. Closing off debate is a failed strategy and will continue to be a failed strategy in trying to change the public’s mind and thus their behavior.

        Mandia: As long as the public keeps listening to the loud megaphones of misinformation such as that held by Heartland, they cannot get to the *real* debate about solutions. Using your logic, we should all be welcoming the debate about phlogiston and the flat earth. I say that is a waste of time. Let us teach our children about where there are real scientific debates so that they can become better decision-makers. There is no debate about why the climate is warming – it is because of human activities. Physics is physics and observations are observations. Shall we debate gravity because a bird appears to defy it by flight?

        Sundance (@0Sundance)

        February 26, 2012 at 12:17 pm

  9. “All lines of evidence point to human-caused climate change being 80% – 120% of the warming in recent decades so that is what is taught.”

    And what is the proof for this?

    Bob B

    February 25, 2012 at 11:12 am

  10. Oh dear… I have just been reading a Chris Mooney essay about the republican denial of science.–_and_reality?page=entire

    He calls it the “smart idiots” effect:
    “The fact that politically sophisticated or knowledgeable people are often more biased, and less persuadable, than the ignorant. It’s a reality that generates endless frustration for many scientists—and indeed, for many well-educated, reasonable people.”

    It also refers to the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication – and concludes that we may talk and argue about it, but nobody will be changing their minds on this issue. Pity.


    February 25, 2012 at 11:48 am

    • rpauli:

      But you and Mooney forget to see that this isn’t a natural state of affairs. Having just read Prof. Mandia’s blog post, can’t you already see where this “‘smart idiots’ effect” is coming from?

      It’s manufactured, dammit — manufactured by a bunch of PR groups funded by anonymous rich crazies.

      So can we friggin’ stop thinking of this as a natural state of affairs already?

      — frank

      frank -- Decoding SwiftHack

      February 25, 2012 at 1:59 pm

      • PR groups funded by anonymous rich crazies.

        Frank, did you even read the Heartland docs? [snip] Pete gave up his freedom so that you could read em. And you’re too lazy to even do that!

        Mandia: Please do not flame.


        February 25, 2012 at 4:57 pm

      • papiertigre: I think you want to be seen as part of Heartland’s artificially manufactured ‘rabble’.

        — frank

        frank -- Decoding SwiftHack

        February 25, 2012 at 10:01 pm

  11. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
    The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. In fact, you or someone you know may have experienced some form of identity theft.
    The crime takes many forms. Identity thieves may rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish a telephone account in your name. You may not find out about the theft until you review your credit report or a credit card statement and notice charges you didn’t make—or until you’re contacted by a debt collector.
    Identity theft is serious. While some identity theft victims can resolve their problems quickly, others spend hundreds of dollars and many days repairing damage to their good name and credit record. Some consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities, or be denied loans for education, housing or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. In rare cases, they may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.


    February 26, 2012 at 2:39 pm

  12. You might actually learn something Scott:

    Bob B

    February 26, 2012 at 7:09 pm

  13. The editorial staff of one of the nation’s largest papers has spoken on the “fakegate” affair and they fault the lack of honest debate as a serious problem. Expect much more outcry for public debate as more people learn about what Gleick did.,0,3701177.story

    Sundance (@0Sundance)

    February 27, 2012 at 10:25 am

  14. papiertigre:

    I’m impressed! I didn’t know that manufactured ‘citizen commenters’ can cut and paste!

    Bob B:

    Wow, I’m even more impressed! I didn’t know that manufactured ‘citizen commenters’ can cut and paste … a URL!


    Indeed. From the way the “public outcry” consists of copypasta, we can see just how not-angry the public is over Heartland’s ‘non-profit’ shenanigans. Or something.

    Also, you disappoint me. Why bother rephrasing prepackaged talking points in your own words? That’s just too inefficient.

    — frank

    frank -- Decoding SwiftHack

    February 27, 2012 at 2:24 pm

  15. “Mandia: As long as the public keeps listening to the loud megaphones of misinformation such as that held by Heartland, […]”

    Mandia, are you crazy? All the western world’s mainstream media have been blaring the Global Warming message since Al Gore’s AIT; and tiny Heartland is louder than that? Have you taken leave of your senses?


    April 4, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    • All the western world’s mainstream media have been blaring the Global Warming message since Al Gore’s AIT

      So where did you get your ‘skepticism’ from? Some brave samizdat publication that only exists underground?

      — frank

  16. Peter is a self confessed thief.

    Mr Mandia – do you propose to phish for more documents from Heartland using an assumed identity?

    Have you engAged in similar activities to GLEICK?

    Would you encourage schoolchildren to act as Gleick? Would you be happy if your children engaged in wire fraud?

    The law may consider motif when considering sentnce but will still find you guilty.

    It is not ok to break the law. Gleick has broken the law.


    April 4, 2012 at 9:00 pm

  17. […] news was focused on what Dr. Gleick did wrong and not what Heartland was doing wrong. As I wrote in Do Not Take Your Eyes Off Lex Luthor (Heartland Institute), Peter Gleick is a great man who made a mistake. The focus should NOT have been on him but on […]

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