Berkeley-based scientist admits to ethics violations

A prominent Berkeley-based scientist and environmental activist admitted to serious ethical violations in attempting to verify internal documents from an anti-global warming organization.

In a Huffington Post blog post published Monday, Peter Gleick, co-founder and president of the environmental protection organization the Pacific Institute and a recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, admitted to assuming a false identity in order to obtain internal documents from the Heartland Institute, a libertarian group that seeks to cast doubt on global warming.

Gleick, a UC Berkeley alumnus, has since resigned from his post as chair of the American Geophysical Union’s Task Team on Scientific Ethics, even as a number of environmental scientists publicly rallied to support him.

In his admission, Gleick said that at the beginning of February an anonymous person emailed him documents from the institute that, among other things, allegedly detailed plans from the organization to “muddy public understanding about climate science and policy.”

“My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts — often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated — to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved,” he wrote. “Nevertheless I deeply regret my own actions in this case.”

After gaining access to the documents, Gleick anonymously forwarded them to a number of journalists and climate change experts in an attempt to reveal Heartland’s questionable intents. Among other things, the documents allegedly reveal that one of the institute’s top priorities is funding efforts to change what schools teach about climate and environmental science.

The Heartland Institute lashed back forcefully, promising legal recourse and insisting that the documents are false.

“The so-called ‘2012 Heartland Climate Strategy’ memo is a complete fraud,” said Jim Lakely, director of communications at the institute, in an email. “It was not produced by any staffer at The Heartland Institute, nor anyone associated with The Heartland Institute.”

In attempting to verify the documents, Gleick impersonated a member of the institute’s board and obtained access to internal documents from the organization, which, he wrote, “confirmed many of the facts in the original document, including especially their 2012 fundraising strategy and budget.”

Lakely said in the email that the organization “is exploring all legal options” and has “been engaging in conversations with the FBI from the beginning.”

Even as the scandal gains national attention, Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist and climate modeler at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said he does not think it will make much of a difference.

“One person’s failings and misjudgments don’t change anything,” he said.

Schmidt said the Heartland Institute has a “terrible reputation” within the science community.

“They repackage the same old nonsense over and over again and try to get people to pay attention,” he said.

Sara Grossman covers research and ideas.

Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comment policy
  • [So he did what any truly motivated scientist is going to do: try to get
    proof. It’s how science works. In this case he had to lie.]

    And here we see a classic example from a brainwashed child on how the Left in academia have corrupted both science and the educational process. I guess students don’t read anything by George Orwell these days…

  • Nmehra21

    u r very best.I like this

  • JimmySD


    Don’t let this happen again!

    Why the hell did you apologize?Next time stand up proud and state that you have NO REGRETS for obtaining information that proves Heartland wants to indoctrinate children in our schools.

  • [Schmidt said The Heartland Institute has a “terrible reputation” within the science community.}

    Word up to Peter Glieck and the rest of the enviro-kooks: people who deliberately falsify info and distort the positions of others don’t have a favorable reputation with scientists in the real world either. Neither “there’s no climate change whatsoever” nor “there’s climate change, it’s all man-made, and we’re all going to die” is representative of the real situation. As with most highly polarized issues, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Time for these activists to be held responsible for their behavior…

    • Failz Again

       he didn’t distort or falsify Heartland’s position,
      this, of course, is lost on Tony M. who consistently exhibits his inability to relate to reality.
      Troll is as troll does, of course.
      Nice try Tony,
      as always we expect your next attempt at trollery to be as specious and asinine as every past attempt.

      •  If he didn’t, why did he resign, and if the facts supported his position, why did he have to use deception and misrepresentation to get his point across?

        Sorry to break the news to you, but you’re the “fail” around here.

        • libsrclowns

          It must be humiliating for a genius to get his pecker whacked in public.

        • LAWLS

          He never had any facts that could be confirmed though. They were simply memos that Heartland claimed were false. The only way he /could/ have confirmed them was by using deception. Unfortunately, people can’t overlook someone of power doing this and he essentially had to step down. I don’t think you can draw many (or even any) of those conclusions from what happened here (not that I don’t agree with you to some degree).

          • Stan De San Diego

             In other words, he couldn’t stand on the truth of his own position, and had to use deception and misrepresentation to advance his agenda. There’s a serious moral and ethical lapse when people who advocate a position rationalize lying to communicate what they consider to be the “truth”.

          • LAWLS

            Umm I’m not sure how any of that empty “blahblah… truth…deception…morals” talk has anything to do with what I said. But ok:

            I already told you why he couldn’t stand on the truth of his own position. Naturally Heartland is going to refute the memos. Scientists don’t make an opinion and then just sit there going “yeah I’m definitely right, I don’t need any proof or anything.”

            So he did what any truly motivated scientist is going to do: try to get proof. It’s how science works. In this case he had to lie. I’m sure you’d say that his actions were perfectly defensible if you agreed with his positions. So stop trying to preach morality and get to the bottom of it: you don’t agree with his positions.

  • Guest

    “My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts —
    often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated — to attack climate
    science and scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of
    transparency of the organizations involved,” he wrote. “Nevertheless I
    deeply regret my own actions in this case.”

    Seriously, just grow a pair and be like “Idiots like Heartland are not scientists, they receive money to ‘cast doubt’ on climate change and have a single purpose that in itself is antithetical to the scientific process, so f*&% them”. You don’t need to apologize for doing something unethical that exposes the lack of ethics in some other organization.

    • libsrclowns

      I think the Global Warming fever is breaking, as more and more scientists come forward to admit their doubts about the global warming paradigm. 

      Just last September, Ivar Giaever, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, resigned from the American Physical Society (APS) over that organization’s climate change orthodoxy. 

      In his resignation letter to APS, Giaever lambasted the society’s public stance that global warming is an incontrovertible fact:
      “In the APS it is ok to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible? The claim (how can you measure the average temperature of the whole earth for a whole year?) is that the temperature has changed from ~288.0 to ~288.8 degree Kelvin in about 150 years, which (if true) means to me is that the temperature has been amazingly stable, and both human health and happiness have definitely improved in this ‘warming’ period.”

      And recently in the Wall Street Journal 16 prominent scientists, including physicists, meteorologists and climatologists, came forward to express solidarity with Giaever, writing:
      “…large numbers of scientists, many very prominent, share the opinions of Dr. Giaever. And the number of scientific “heretics” is growing with each passing year. The reason is a collection of stubborn scientific facts. Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now. This is known to the warming establishment, as one can see from the 2009 “Climategate” email of climate scientist Kevin Trenberth: ‘The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.’”

      So why do so many still cling to the hope of climate change catastrophe? The scientists offer their own view in the Journal: 
      “Alarmism over climate is of great benefit to many, providing government funding for academic research and a reason for government bureaucracies to grow.”

      Fortunately this strange fever is breaking, and voters are becoming ever more suspicious of Clowns like algore and Barack the Fraud over government-mandated schemes to control their “carbon emissions,” which is just a bureaucrat’s way of curbing productivity, and therefore liberty.

      • LAWLS

        You don’t understand science very well do you?

        • Ad idiots like Al Gore do?  You don’t understand that despite the propagandization, there is NOT any “consensus” among “scientists” that global warming is undisputedly man-made, or can even be controlled by humans if they wanted to do so. There have been dramatic climate fluctuations even over the last thousand years, at times when the overall change in CO2 concentration has been negligible. In addition, there are high altitude researchers who point to solar flares and other events that show more of a correlation to annual temperature fluctuations than CO2 concentrations do.  If you really believe that CO2 is the culprit, then state your case by detailing the specific mechanics. Unfortunately, there are plenty of morons running around who can’t even draw a Lewis dot structure or resonance states of carbon dioxide, much less explain why a gas that comprises about 0.04% of the atmosphere has more of an effect on surface OR atmospheric temperatures than water vapor, which is the most prominent greenhouse gas in our atmosphere. But if you think you’re right, go ahead and explain how the IR radiated from the earth’s surface selectively strikes all those CO2 molecules and is reflected back, avoiding the broader IR absorption spectrum of H2O. Better yet, tell us how much energy gets stored in all those C=O  and C-O stretching/vibration events vs. the latent heat stored in all that water vapor. Let’s see if you can offer some specific details instead of merely a snide remark.

      • Basil

        You do know that Ivar Giaever, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, is NOT a Nobel Prize winner.
        He was (43 years ago) a Nobel Laureate, which is something different. No matter because Giaever has never published a legit research paper to back up his claims, and is outnumbered by the dozens of Novel Laureates who actually do have a background in atmospheric science, who have signed petitions acknowledging man-made climate change. Just another senile retired scientist who needs some extra $$ and gets the support of oil front groups like Heartland and Cato.

    • Guest

       And public research institutions don’t receive money for the sole purpose of “proving” global warming with the intent of giving the government a reason to take control of the lives of American people. Why isn’t that practice considered antithetical to the scientific process. You should stfu

Tags No tags yet