Gleick’s deception

Peter Gleick

Record readers might recognize the name of Peter Gleick. His Oakland-based Pacific Institute has been a source on many water stories over the years, frequently calling for improved water conservation and efficiency, especially for California agriculture. Gleick himself is an internationally recognized scientist.

But today — certainly, over the past 24 hours — it has become clear that what Gleick will be remembered for is starting the latest battle over climate change.

By lying.

Gleick admitted late Monday to using someone else’s name to obtain documents from the libertarian Heartland Institute, documents which — if authentic — suggest Heartland was attempting to stop the teaching of climate change in schools.

Gleick then anonymously forwarded the documents to a select group of journalists. And the story has gained steam ever since.

Gleick went public and apologized late Monday, calling his deception a “serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics.” He said he was “blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts — often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated — to attack climate science and scientists…”

The reaction has been fascinating. Some are defending Gleick, saying essentially that the ends justify the means as information is revealed about Heartland’s agenda. Others say Gleick went way too far, undermining his own cause in the process. Heartland calls Gleick a thief.

To me, the story seems likely to further polarize the climate change issue in political circles — which is precisely what many scientists like Gleick do not want.

In his statement, Gleick says a rational public debate is “desperately needed.” That’s true. But by his own action, Gleick has created an environment in which such a debate seems even less likely today than it did yesterday.

And that’s a shame.

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