Climate scientist admits stealing docs from conservative think tank

Theft, deceit and outright lies: How ugly can climate science get?

Prominent climate scientist Peter H. Gleick relied on deceit and subterfuge to solicit a cache of sensitive internal documents from conservative think tank The Heartland Institute before leaking them to the press -- a fresh scandal that further darkens the highly charged debate on planetary climate change.

Gleick -- an internationally recognized hydroclimatologist and author of the respected annual report “The World’s Water” -- said he received an anonymous document in the mail that tipped him off to what he described as Heartland’s efforts to muddy public understanding of climate science and policy. He released the documents to expose their work “to cast doubt on climate science.”

In his blog on the Huffington Post, Gleick publicly confessed to deceitful tactics that he described as a serious ethical slip.


“In a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name,” Gleick wrote. “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 … nevertheless I deeply regret my own actions in this case.”

Following his admission, Gleick's resignation was accepted by the National Center for Science Education. His name appears to have been removed from a Task Force on Scientific Ethics at the American Geophysical Union (AGU), a prominent science organization.

Gleick declined to provide any additional information when contacted by

Heartland Institute president Joseph L. Bast blasted Gleick’s confession and actions, which he said put lives at risk and violated individual privacies.

"Gleick's crime was a serious one. The documents he admits stealing contained personal information about Heartland staff members, donors, and allies, the release of which has violated their privacy and endangered their personal safety,” Bast wrote in a statement posted Monday night to the group’s website.

The documents consist of climate policy statements, fundraising documents, board meeting notifications and even tax filings -- as well as a memo titled “Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy.” That memo, apparently the anonymous document that inspired Gleick to take action, describes plans to create an anti-global warming science campaign for grade schools that will “dissuad[e] teachers from teaching science.”

The Heartland Institute calls it a forgery -- and Bast says he believes Gleick may have written it.

"Gleick also claims he did not write the forged memo, but only stole the documents to confirm the content of the memo he received from an anonymous source,” Bast said. “This too is unbelievable. Many independent commentators already have concluded the memo was most likely written by Gleick.”

"We hope Gleick will make a more complete confession in the next few days,” Bast wrote.

Heartland said it is seeking legal counsel before pursuing any action and plans to declare its intentions on Tuesday.

The subterfuge echoes the November 2009 “climate-gate” theft of thousands of emails from the climate science department of the University of East Anglia, a scandal that revealed scientists colluding to hide information and blacklisting each other from various journals.

That theft gave climate science a bad name -- and Steve McIntyre, well-known author of the blog Climate Audit, said that this latest incident will continue to damage this field of science.

“No one should feel any satisfaction in these events, which have been highly damaging to everyone touched by them, including both Heartland and Gleick,” he wrote.

Marc Morano, publisher of the popular Climate Depot blog, told that Gleick’s revelation of his activities could ruin his career.

"Climate activists have been frustrated for years at their inability to convince the public and Washington to 'solve' global warming. So Gleick took it upon himself to reverse this trend," Morano said.

"He instead did massive harm to the cause he holds so dear."