Monthly Archives: February 2012
The furore took a new twist when Dr Peter Gleick, a world-renowned climate scientist and director of the Pacific Institute, owned up to having been the whistleblower. Apart from his having taken responsibility for his actions, his admission also performs the valuable function of validating the source of the documents and ensuring that the truth about Heartland sees the light.
He is a director of the Pacific Institute, whose board has published a short statement distancing itself from his actions, and he has just requested a short leave of absence while the matter is under investigation.
The text of an open letter to the Pacific Institute follows. You can write to them at info(a)pacinst.org .
I am writing to express my support for Peter Gleick and my hope that he will not lose his position over the Heartland furore.
I think anyone who values the scientific method as a means of seeking truth and knowledge is able to see the problem with his conduct, particularly in a climate of vicious denial. Climate scientists need to be like Caesar’s wife: impeccable, otherwise any misconduct will be turned into a media hoopla by the denialists, and used to cast aspersions on all climate scientists.
Nevertheless, this is a lot to demand, especially from scientists who are continually threatened with harassment in the form of nuisance litigation, smeared in public, and frequently subjected to threats of violence and even death; scientists who have been forced by circumstances to become activists in order to prevent their research results from being lost in a deluge of misinformation.
Gleick chose to make a public admission about his actions regarding the Heartland documents. This is the action of an ethical person who realised he had made a mistake, and who chose to accept responsibility and face the consequences. Given the content of the documents and the need to educate the public about the agenda of organisations like the Heartland Institute, it’s not hard to see why he did what he did. Who can claim that they would not have done the same if placed in the same position?
Some form of censure may be necessary and even desirable, to ensure that the climate community is not perceived as white-washing this (and I suspect Gleick would be the first to acknowledge this). But his actions should be weighed against a long and valuable career and a commitment to the truth. He should not face career ruin over what seems to have been primarily an error of judgement.