The leaked confidential documents from the Heartland Institute, a Chicago think tank skeptical about anthroman-made global warming, seemed to environmentalists to be the best Valentine's Day gift ever. The documents identified Heartland donors and outlined the foundation's fund-raising strategy for 2012. The smoking gun was one entitled: "2012 Heartland Climate Strategy," which included plans for "dissuading (K-12 teachers) from teaching science."
Global warming alarmists are still reeling from "Climategate," a leak in 2009 of thousands of emails which indicated prominent climate scientists were manipulating data and conspiring to keep dissenting views from being published in scientific literature. The Heartland documents were, they thought, the Climategate of the skeptics.
"These documents ... reveal what many of us have long suspected: that there is a campaign afoot by groups directly funded by the fossil fuel industry and right-wing foundations such as Koch Industries to mislead the public about climate change," said Prof. Michael Mann of Penn State University.
Dr. Mann was the author of the infamous "hockey stick" graph which purported to show that the Medieval Warm Period (950-1250 A.D.) never existed. Little confidence can be placed in Mr. Mann's data, and "even less confidence" can be placed in his conclusion the 1990s were the warmest decade in at least a millenium, said the National Academy of Sciences in 2006.
Dr. Mann was embarrassed when this Climategate email, from Dr. Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia in Britain, was made public: "I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e. from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline." He must have drawn satisfaction from a scandal involving skeptics.
Warmist glee was short-lived. The "2012 Heartland Climate Strategy" memo was a clumsy forgery. All the genuine documents revealed is that "a think tank which advocates the free market and is skeptical of global warming was raising money to, um, advocate the free market and promote skepticism of global warming," said Robert Tracinski, editor of the Intellectual Activist.
Peter Gleick, a scientist who specializes in water systems, has admitted posing as a Heartland board member to obtain the genuine documents, but denies authorship of the forged memo.
Mr. Gleick crossed an ethical line "that leaves his reputation in ruins," said Andrew Revkin of the New York Times. His "ethical morass" is compounded because he was chairman of the ethics committee of a professional society (the American Geophysical Union), said Mark Frankel, head of scientific responsibility for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The "broader tragedy," wrote Mr. Revkin, is that Mr. Gleick "has greatly set back any prospects of the country having the 'rational public debate' that he wrote -- correctly -- is so desperately needed."
Mr. Revkin is being disingenuous. Warmists don't want a "rational debate." They want skeptics to shut up and go away.
To argue, as the Heartland Institute does, that there is "a major scientific controversy" about global warming "is a lie so big that, to quote from 'Mein Kampf,' it would be hard for most people to believe that anyone 'could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously,' " said the editors of the Los Angeles Times.
"The impacts of global warming are already patently obvious," the paper's editorial board said. But if this were true, warmists wouldn't need to fabricate evidence.
A prominent scientist and former environmental minister, Fritz Vahrenholt, was to Germany what James Hansen of NASA, the original global warming alarmist, is to the United States. But now he's an apostate because "it hasn't gotten any warmer on this planet in almost 14 years, despite continued increases in CO2 emissions.
"I want new scientific findings to be included in the climate debate," Dr. Vahrenholt told Der Spiegel. "It would then become clear that the simple equation that CO2 and other man-made greenhouse gases are almost exclusively responsible for climate change is unsustainable."
Maybe that's why Peter Gleick felt compelled to undertake his undercover mission. But, as Atlantic editor and warmist sympathizer Megan McArdle sadly noted: "After you have convinced people that you fervently believe your cause to be more important than telling the truth, you've lost the power to convince them of anything else."
Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio ( firstname.lastname@example.org , 412 263-1476).