Changing Planet

Climate Researcher Lied to Get Documents, Triggering Ethics Debate

A top climate researcher—Peter Gleick, head of the Pacific Institute—admitted he lied to obtain documents from the Heartland Institute, which he then leaked to media and revealed the organization’s plans to challenge the scientific consensus on climate change.

Gleick resigned from the board of the National Center on Science Education, and stepped down as chairman of the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) taskforce on scientific ethics.

His admission has triggered an ethics debate in the climate community, with ethics expert Dale Jamieson calling Gleick’s actions “unethical” but adding, “relative to what has been going on on the climate denial side, this is a fairly small breach of ethics.”

Cognitive scientist Stephan Lewandowsky argued that “revealing to the public the active, vicious, and well-funded campaign of denial … likely constitutes a classic public good,” against which the ethics of Gleick’s deception have to be weighed.

The president of the AGU said the organization was disappointed with Gleick, whose actions were “inconsistent with our organization’s values.” NASA climate researcher Gavin Schmidt said “Gleick’s actions were completely irresponsible.” Bryan Walsh of Time argued Gleick’s actions “have hurt … the cause of climate science.”

In the U.K., a freedom of information act request for details on the funder of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a climate change skeptic group, was denied by a court on the grounds the foundation is not influential enough.

PTC Could Equal Permanent Tax Credit

The Production Tax Credit (PTC) that aids wind energy is set to expire at the end of 2012, but some legislators are fighting to save it, with Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado arguing that “every minute counts” in trying to forge a deal.

To avoid such struggles over regular renewals of the PTC, President Obama proposed a new corporate taxation plan that would make the subsidies permanent, as well as make permanent a research-and-experimentation tax credit that expired Jan. 1.

High Oil Prices a Drag

Since the start of the year, oil prices have been on the rise, putting adrag on economic recovery in the U.S., pushing up consumer prices and causing overall inflation—risking a repeat of early 2011, when high oil prices nearly pushed the country back into recession.

President Obama was scheduled to speak about the issue Thursday, and White House spokesman Jay Carney said that the rise in prices—despite a drop in domestic consumption and rise in production—“tells you that there are other things beyond our control.”

The threat high oil prices pose to economies across developed countries could trigger the International Energy Agency to release more oil from strategic reserves, as was done in spring 2011, argued Reuters analyst John Kemp.

The rising oil prices have U.S. consumers wondering why. The prices, experts said, have stayed high because of rising consumption in emerging markets, as well as the threat that Iran’s oil exports may be cut off. An International Energy Agency official said that other countries would be able to make up for a loss of Iran’s exports, which had been 2.2 million barrels a day, and to boost production, Saudi Arabia may restart its oldest oil field.

In response to the European Union’s decision to embargo Iranian oil, Iran halted oil shipments to Britain and France, and possibly other European countries. Major shipping countries are refusing to pick up Iranian oil, with one shipping executive saying it would be like “getting leprosy.”

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said he would get gasoline down to $2.50 a gallon. However Bryan Walsh said no president can deliver that—at least without making the U.S. economy tank.

Tar Sands Tussle

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would require approval of the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry diluted tar sands from Canada to Texas, which President Obama had earlier nixed.

The European Union held a vote on whether to ban imports of oil made from Canadian tar sands, but it ended in a deadlock.

The amount of tar sands is small compared with the amount of natural gas and coal in the world, so the tar sands alone don’t pose a major threat to the climate, argued a study in Nature Climate Change.

Some took this to mean that Canada’s tar sands are “not so dirty after all.” However, study leader Andrew Weaver—a climate modeler at the University of Victoria in Canada—argued that use of tar sands is “a symptom of the bigger problem of our dependence on fossil fuels,” and policy makers should avoid commitments to infrastructure supporting fossil fuel dependence.

Meanwhile, another study of tar sands sites found levels of air pollution—in particular nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide—were comparable to air above a large power plant.

Small Feet, Large Footprint

A new report on the carbon footprint of a diminutive creature—shrimp—shows they’re worse than cattle, at least when raised in aquaculture. When coastal mangrove forests are cleared to create shrimp farms, it’s the “the equivalent of slash-and-burn agriculture,” said study leader Boone Kauffman.

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

Mason Inman is a journalist who specializes in reporting climate change and energy. His work has appeared in National Geographic News, Science, Scientific American, Nature Climate Change and New Scientist, and he has reported from England, Switzerland, Bangladesh and Pakistan. His homepage is Failing Gracefully (
  • Andrew

    I cannot believe how much ethical hand-wringing and outright condemnation Gleick’s actions are eliciting from so-called journalists. They should be ashamed to use the title.

    This is what investigative journalism *IS*. Or at least what it used to be.

  • Mike Haseler

    “revealing to the public the active, vicious, and well-funded campaign of denial … likely constitutes a classic public good”

    This is just total carp. The British Wind Energy Association … heavily funded by big oil, probably has a bigger PR budget than the Heartland Institute which is as far as I know the only “big” sceptic group … with a budget of $5million that compares to the £15million just for the CRU. £300 million goes into academia for global warming research in the UK alone. £1billion goes into wind companies annually just in the UK. Even if their PR budget were 1%, it would dwarf the Sceptic budget.

    Multiply that to Europe, then to the world and we are talking at least 100:1 ratio between sceptic and warmists. It is much more likely to be 1000:1 given the amount spent by every layer of government on promoting global warming.

    I can tell you completely honestly, that no one is a sceptic for the money. There is no money being a sceptic. If you want to make money join a wind company, jump on the academic bandwagon that feeds off this global warming hysteria.

    To be frank, I am utterly disgusted with totally ill-formed comments like that of Dale Jamieson. His ill informed comment is just typical of the nonsense that the individuals who give of their own time and money to fight this non-science have been putting up with for years.

    He should hang his head in shame!

  • Mike Haseler

    I’ve just been to WUWT, where I read that Gleick was not only asked to speak at a Heartland event, he was even offered a fee. To be frank my jaw dropped.

    Gleick had said that his reason for attacking Heartland was because they were preventing a debate about the subject. The truth is the opposite. Heartland were extending the hand of friendship, they were asking to hear his views and he was almost literally biting the hand that offered to feed him.

    In my experience, this is just typical for this “debate”. We are accused of all kinds of wrong-doing, but the ones who stop any kind of debate are the eco-NGOs and their stooges in climate science.

    Worse, is the way good scientific work has been prevented from publication because the author has made the mistake of working in an area that comes up with conclusions that the IPCC do not wish the public to know.

    And that is very clear, from the way the connection between solar activity and climate is not so much as being repressed and totally denied if the reports about the next IPCC “novel” are true.

    How can scientists behave this way? How can they not engage in active debate, how can they repress open discussion, repress research that clearly indicates we should examine other paths forward. And I’ve got to say it how can the whole scientific community let this group get away with it? The world has not warmed this century, they are unable to predict the climate. Weather extremes are not increasing. There is growing evidence the positive feedbacks are non-science. Yet still other scientists treat this rogue subject like it has any credibility.

  • Ima Ryma

    About the climate, we are told
    What many experts choose to tell.
    Some do want an agenda sold.
    Some really mean to do us well.
    But, We the People of the world
    Don’t know the truth for all the lies,
    The back and forth of charges hurled,
    Lots of hot air to climatize.
    Politics and economics,
    Even religion plays the game
    Of smudge the truth with dirty tricks.
    The climate changes – what’s to blame?

    It’s said the truth will set us free.
    About the climate – the truth be?

  • mpaul

    Mason, can’t you see how radicalized you are becoming. Your logic is the identical logic that leads anti-abortion extremists to kill abortion doctors. There is no place in civil society for this kind of thinking. There is no moral defense for the argument that “its ok to lie, cheat and steal (and murder) if its in the pursuit of a noble goal”. Who gets to decide what’s a noble goal? If I think that the lithium in Prius batteries is poisoning ground water, does that mean that I can pore sugar in the gas tanks of all the Priui in my neighborhood and claim the moral high ground?? Where would such a system lead???

    The skeptics are exercising their right to dissent and to free expression. If you have the facts on your side, then state them and let democracy work.

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