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Gleick confesses

Extraordinarily, Peter Gleick has confessed to being the person who blagged emails from the Heartland Institute.

In the latest revelation, Peter Gleick, a water scientist and president of the Pacific Institute who has been active in the climate wars, apologised on Monday for using a false name to obtain materials from Heartland, a Chicago-based think tank with a core mission of dismissing climate change.

Crucially, he seems to be denying the faking, although he doesn't appear to be letting on who did.

In the piece, Gleick made the odd claim that he carried out the hoax on Heartland as a means of verifying the authenticity of a document that appeared to set out the think tank's climate strategy. Heartland declared the two-page memo a fake.

"At the beginning of 2012, I received an anonymous document in the mail describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland Institute's climate programme strategy. It contained information about their funders and the Institute's apparent efforts to muddy public understanding about climate science and policy. I do not know the source of that original document but assumed it was sent to me because of my past exchanges with Heartland and because I was named in it," Gleick wrote

I have to say I don't know whether to be more stunned by Gleick's foolishness or the blogosphere's ability to deduce that it was him what dunnit.

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Reader Comments (251)

A couple of weeks ago I was lurking (with increasing disbelief) on Gleick's last thread on Forbes -

which was his take on the WSJ letter "Remarkable Editorial Bias on Climate Science at the Wall Street Journal". I went back just now to see how the thread ended up. The last comment was by Gleick 2 weeks ago, on page 13:

Peter Gleick, 2 weeks ago:

First, the stakes are too high for any geophysicist or climate scientists to even consider doing bad science for money — the stakes to their reputations and to the planet. Alas, this isn’t true for the organizations paid to deny the science.
Second, none of my funding or my Institute’s funding is used to support our conclusions. In fact our guidelines prohibit it.
Finally, all of our funding information is completely transparent and publicly available, which you would know if you had bothered spending 2 minutes on the web before making unfounded insinuations. But try asking the Heartland Institute for a list of THEIR funders. They refuse to provide it."

by fair means or foul....

Feb 21, 2012 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

I shoudl have said Peter Gleick, the AGU's 'former' Scientific Ethics Chair. He has been dumped forwith without as much as a comment from the AGU.

Will the AGU now proceed to take sanctions against it's 'former' Scientific Ethics Chair. Sort of makes a mockery of AGU's Task Force on Scientific Ethic remit if they don't. Perhaps the members of this task force would like to comment at their leader's sudden fall from grace;


David J. Chesney, Michigan Tech University, Houghton, Michigan
Floyd DesChamps, Alliance to Save Energy, Washington, DC
Karen Fischer, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island
Tim Grove, MIT Earth Atmosphere & Planetary Sciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Linda Gundersen, USGS, Reston, Virginia
Noel Gurwick, UCSUSA, Washington, DC
Dennis Moore, NOAA/PMEL, Seattle, Washington
Arthur Nowell, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
Len Pietrafesa, Coastal Carolina University, Conway, South Carolina
Jeff Plescia, Applied Physics Lab, Laurel, Maryland
Peter Schuck, NASA/GSFC CODE 674, Greenbelt, Maryland
Jagadish Shukla, Geo Mason-Center Ocean/Land Atmosphere, Calverton, Maryland
Vivian Weil, Center for Ethics, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois

Feb 21, 2012 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

I think you are all missing an obvious interpretation of the 'confession' here:

"Gleick made the odd claim that he carried out the hoax on Heartland as a means of verifying the authenticity of a document that appeared to set out the think tank's climate strategy."

This 'document' could easily have been just a notice giving the date of the upcoming board meeting, at which time he might have presumed that documents setting out their strategy would be produced.

If so, he probably didn't alter it in any way - that message went in the garbage. All it did was alert him to the fact that documents were going to be produced at the board meeting, which almost always produces summary documents. Once he had the date of the meeting, his plan was hatched.

When the documents sent were found to be insufficiently damning, the fake was made.

As others have pointed out, he doesn't mention the fake in his 'confession.' And he doen'st really say the document that started all this was the fake, only that it gave him some kind of 'heads up' that there might be documents out there that could be useful to the cause.

Because he is not referring to the fake at all in his 'confession' he is not lying. He just doesn't talk about the fake at all.

Feb 21, 2012 at 4:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterSusan C.

@ Susan

They are lawyers' lies, which personally I suspect will be found wanting when properly parsed, so that a further admission will be required of Gleick.

It's always the cover up.

Feb 21, 2012 at 4:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Susan C

He also says:

I made no changes or alterations of any kind to any of the Heartland Institute documents or to the original anonymous communication.
(emphasis added)

So either he published the original document or is currently misrepresenting the document he did publish. Which is it?

Feb 21, 2012 at 4:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Oh yes, the same Peter Gleick who writes bogus one star reviews on Amazon for books by sceptics that he's never read.

The man's an idiot.

Feb 21, 2012 at 4:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

Well, still nothing from Mr Black about all this. Though commenters on his latest article are starting to ask why.

If I was Mr Black, I think I would have written to Gleick asking for a personal assurance that he didn't write the faked memo. Then I'd wait for a response. I might end up waiting for quite a while.

Feb 21, 2012 at 4:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

By Black's warped logic, since Gleick hasn't denied he faked the document, then he did.

As Iapogus pointed out above it is a big mistake to think of the likes of Black, Harrabin, or Hickman as journalists. Journalists are supposed to be sceptical and curious. They are environmental activists masquerading as journalists.

Feb 21, 2012 at 5:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka


"As Iapogus pointed out above it is a big mistake to think of the likes of Black, Harrabin, or Hickman as journalists."

I agree. The question is, how long can they continue with it before Joe Bloggs notices? It's getting harder to hide it by the day.

Feb 21, 2012 at 5:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

BTW, I haven't noticed it mentioned so far, but the WSJ has a must read op-ed today: "The Not-So-Vast Conspiracy"

Feb 21, 2012 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans


Thanks for the link to your perceptive article, Fakegate claims its first scalp. But one observation: you say, “he denies faking any material”. But does he? As others have pointed out (most recently Susan C), he hasn't. Here’s the relevant quote:

I made no changes or alterations of any kind to any of the Heartland Institute documents or to the original anonymous communication.

We know that the Fake Memo was not one of the HI documents. So, if he did fake it, his statement could be consistent with either (a) his having written the “original anonymous communication” and therefore having no need to alter it or (b) his having binned that communication and written an entirely new document. After all, as you say, he obviously has legal help. And either (a) or (b) would be a way of avoiding a charge of lying.

Feb 21, 2012 at 5:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobin Guenier

If Peter Gleick did (as he claimed) obtain the "strategy" document, he seems not to have the ability to dispassionately compare the wording with that of the normal Heartland language and style to see that something was seriously amiss. That goes for a number of others, like Roger Black and Desmogblog. They were too partisan, too much wanting to believe evidence that supported their story, that they fell for it. The forger was of a similar persuasion.
Like the Himalayan Glaciers, people should learn that an antonym of "sceptic" is "gullible". One should feel sorry for these people, except they have status (and sometimes a living) out of using their views do denigrate and impose costs on others.

Feb 21, 2012 at 6:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterManicBeancounter

Robin Guenier

Quite right. There is no mention as to which "anonymous" document (i.e. unsigned), written by whom (no denial that he did write it), or when.

It is this sort of chicanery he is known for, but, at the end of the day in court, neither the judge or jury will be favorably impressed by such clintonesque use of language.

I agree the confession was written by a lawyer, but there are too many holes, particularly in a civil tort case, as this will be. The burden of proof will be on him, it with be a lower level of evidence (preponderance of the evidence) and he will still look as bad in the eyes of the onlookers.

As for a criminal charge, I doubt it. Not with Eric Holder in the AG office.

Feb 21, 2012 at 6:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

I think Peter Gleick is in serious financial and legal you know what.

He admits to soliciting information to which he was not authorized to receive "using someone elses name."

Depending on whose name he used, that, my friends, is potential identity theft with intent to commit a fraud across state lines. There are a number of federal codes under which that act of comission could be prosecuted in addition to any state laws that were viloated. And publishing an unvalidated internal financial and strategy document with intent to harm a company is also a crime.

The basic straight forward federal penalty for idenity theft is 15 years plus fine and seizure of "personal" property used in commiting the crimes.

And that doesn't include a law suit the HI could and likely will pursue that could put Gleick in the poorhouse until the poles melt--which wouldn't seem to bad to Peter since he expects them to become tropical tropical paradises in a couple of years anyway.

He's in a tough spot. He can plead guilt to all charges and save a fortune in legal fees by serving time. Or he can fight it in court, spend a fortune in legal fees, and still serve time.

I think I'll make some more popcorn before I read the rest of the articles.

Feb 21, 2012 at 6:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterBMF

And just because it makes me smile... I have posted this a few times...

Leo Hickman

If you like your hypocrisy sandwiches served with a side order of double standards, then these leaked documents are certainly the place to dine out.

What a rag it has become...

Feb 21, 2012 at 6:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Dr Peter Gleick will be in Oxford on April 24 to give a lecture on human rights. Details at

Sorry but don't think he will be there ;)

Do they allow webcasts from prison ?

Feb 21, 2012 at 7:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

An amusing interlude on Gleick's fellow arch-warmist (and Wikipedia saboteur) William Connolley's blog "Stoat":-

Why do you call him a climate scientist? He looks like a water guy, from his pubs -W

With loyal friends and colleagues like that, Peter has no need to worry!

Feb 21, 2012 at 7:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

Hard to believe that Gleick would let a document like this motivate him to obtain docs illegally from the HI.

Feb 21, 2012 at 7:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterkramer

Why is everybody criticizing Peter Gleick? Gleick is a HERO, "for exposing the Heartland agenda". The Daily Kos even says so:

Here is a comment from that.

Climate deniers are hitting us and hitting us and hitting us. They are condemning our children to a world where between half (good outcome) and 97% (bad outcome) of them will die from climate related causes in the next 30-50 years. I think that's worth fighting for. I wish President Obama would think about his kids on this issue. If it was me, I'd declare marshal law and arrest the lot of them and disappear them into Gitmo.

Why can't you deniers be as reasonable as this?

Feb 21, 2012 at 8:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterSara Chan

A good theme for an article if any energetic writer reads this:

What do Peter Gleick, Michael Mann, and William Connolly have in common?

Hint: a certain lack of scruples in pursuit of "THE CAUSE"

Feb 21, 2012 at 8:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterSkiphil


I don't imagine that stoats have much of a reputation for loyalty. I always thought it was a strange choice of moniker - it is a type of weasel, after all.

Feb 21, 2012 at 8:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

James P:

No, it's not. A weasel is weasally recognised and a stoat is stoatally different.

Feb 21, 2012 at 9:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobin Guenier

"In the latest revelation, Peter Gleick, a water scientist"

See. He's a "water scientist." Not a "climate scientist." We all know those water scientists can't be trusted but climate scientists are completely different

Let's just hope that the actions of this lone rogue water scientist do not cast doubt on the impeccable integrity of climate scientists..

Feb 21, 2012 at 9:12 PM | Unregistered Commenteredward getty

"you say, “he denies faking any material”. But does he?"

Sweet. So, to parphrase Bill Clinton, it all depends on what your definition of "faking" is.

Now, where's the stained blue dress?

Feb 21, 2012 at 9:18 PM | Unregistered Commenteredward getty

Gloating over, everyone. Greg Laden assures us,

The best available evidence now suggests that the most damning of the "Heartland Documents" -- the strategy memo which explicitly states that Heartland's strategy is to interfere with good science education in order to advance their political agenda -- is legitimate.

I wonder what that evidence might be? He doesn't say ... hmm.

Feb 21, 2012 at 9:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobin Guenier

We are not supposed to be tabloid hacks (no offence to tabloid hacks...), or steering an agenda, we are meant to be trustworthy scientists.


Feb 21, 2012 at 3:44 PM | Tamsin Edwards

And I thank you for that. Appreciated.

Feb 21, 2012 at 9:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

Thank you, Robin. That was at the back of my mind.. :-)

Feb 21, 2012 at 9:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Let's just hope that the actions of this lone rogue water scientist do not cast doubt on the impeccable integrity of climate scientists..
Feb 21, 2012 at 9:12 PM edward getty

Can you imagine all those Winston Smiths in their grey little cubby hole offices at the BBC, Graun & NYT - diligently excising the words " brilliant climate scientist" from every piece they ever wrote about Gleick - dropping them into the Memory Hole and pasting in "disgraced water scientist".

Poor old Orwell - if only he'd lived to see Climatology his life would have been complete.

Feb 21, 2012 at 9:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

Feb 21, 2012 at 9:30 PM | Robin Guenier

Oh lord. I went and looked at that Laden post too.

The "one of these things is not like the others" defense is now obviated.

And this guy is supposed to have a PhD from Harvard (written in Latin and everything) in Archaeology and Biological Anthropology? Credibility obviated.

Feb 21, 2012 at 9:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

James P:

When I was about eight (a long, long time ago), I thought that was the funniest joke in the world. I never dreamt I'd have an opportunity to use it on the internet.

So thanks!

Feb 21, 2012 at 10:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobin Guenier

Feb 21, 2012 at 9:30 PM | Robin Guenier

I wonder what that evidence might be? He doesn't say ... hmm.


He does in the comment thread.

"That everything in it is confirmed by documents Heartland provided, and that the document existed prior to anyone outside Heartland having access to those documents."

Greg Laden was precipitate with his comments in the Tallbloke business a little while ago. This latest episode is something which he obviously cannot let go of.

Feb 21, 2012 at 10:02 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

@Robin Guenier

Currently the "best available evidence" tells me that Greg Laden and Peter Gleick can't really be scientists. I'm aware of assertions to the contrary but I'm simply finding it so difficult to believe that any *real scientist* could speak or behave as they do.

Feb 21, 2012 at 10:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterSkiphil

I haven't seen Stoat since he left BAS but I believe that name refers to his delightful 1980's style pony tail. He was also famous at BAS for his standard uniform of "Don Estelle" style shorts and sandals no matter what the season (presumably in anticipation of forthcoming warming). He was our union rep too (natch).

Feb 21, 2012 at 10:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterBuffy Minton

Assuming for the moment that the 2012 Strategic memo is a fake, then it virtually has to be Gleick that did it. He claims to have received the anonymously posted documents in January, 2010. He also claimed that he only released the documents on VD day after having carried out his hoax, verifying the authenticity of the documents after receiving them from Heartland. Thus if he did not receive it from Heatland, it was not something he could have verified.

The creation date on the 2012 Strategy memo is Feb. 13 and, in its metadata, no author is shown.. That differs from all of the other documents. Further, the timestamp on the memo comes from a locale in the Pacific Time Zone where Heritage has no offices. It is, however, where Gleick resides.

Given Glieck's revelations today, I'd say it highly likely that he fabricated it. Final proof will come in the near future, when Glieck is required under oath to produce the original tranche of documents he claimed to have been sent in January. This ought to be fun. Why is it that smart people make for incredibly dumb criminals.

Feb 21, 2012 at 10:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterGW

Poor Gleick he has now been demoted to just a glorified water diviner by former colleagues.

Feb 21, 2012 at 10:16 PM | Unregistered Commentermac

After more years than I care to think about spent teaching and working with teenagers and young adults, Peter Gleick and a few of his fellow extremists remind me of a type of very, very intelligent young person of either gender who become obsessed by the marks they earn from assignments and examinations which are not congruent with their view of their own brilliance; they then proceed to justify and promote themselves by enlisting supporters and defining their 'enemy' as some sort of evil individual. The target will usually see their accusers as mildly amusing and not any kind of threat. Teachers and other professional people over the years have discovered to their cost that these people are not in any way amusing when they become embroiled in a cleverly-manufactured scandal that has no basis in fact.
Most of these manufactured scandals fail due to the young people who manufacture them seeing themselves as superior beings who are far superior to their teachers and thus far too clever to fail. Sadly, some of these manufactured scandals do not fail with very nasty consequences for an innocent person who may lose their job and the respect of their profession.

Feb 21, 2012 at 10:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

@Robin Guenier

I did not coin the expression but 'Wiki-Weasel' has a rather nice ring to it, don't you think?

Feb 21, 2012 at 11:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar


Why is it that smart people make for incredibly dumb criminals.

Because they only think that they are smart.

Feb 22, 2012 at 12:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Ha ha! Glad others have also noted Stoat's 'why do they call him climate scientist. He is a water guy' spin.

Love the demotion to 'water diviner', Mac.

Feb 22, 2012 at 12:05 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

Pardon my techno-ignorance... but how do you make text bold here?

Or, for that matter, how does one create those nice quote blocks?

And any tips on creating better fake documents?

Yes, only joking about that last one.

Feb 22, 2012 at 12:13 AM | Unregistered Commenteredward getty

There's been another error. It is not 'water scientist.'

Gleick is a 'what, er, scientist?'

Feb 22, 2012 at 12:19 AM | Unregistered Commenteredward getty

Oi you lot, water scientists may not be the most fashionable of chemists, but the world would be a lot stinkier, unhealthy, and generally more unpleasant without them, and that's only considering the provision of clean water. Take the entire aquatic environment, and without even starting on reaction chemistry and you'd soon notice if there weren't any. Any given 'water scientist' will probably have done far more for the good of humanity than most 'climate scientists'.

Feb 22, 2012 at 12:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

The water witcher's rod has poked a gusher.

Feb 22, 2012 at 1:11 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Mac said:

I shoudl have said Peter Gleick, the AGU's 'former' Scientific Ethics Chair. He has been dumped forwith without as much as a comment from the AGU.

The AGU has issued a statement:

It says that he resigned on February 16, so it looks like he spent at least couple of days consulting his lawyers and spin doctors before coming clean publicly. AGU is strangely silent on whether they knew the real reason for his resignation, and why they left his name up on their website as Chair of the Ethics Committee.

This must be one of the shortest lived globally reported frauds ever. It indicates also that he realised the game was up almost immediately - perhaps it was when Mosher pinged him almost straight away as the likely culprit?

People like him don't realise that having some facility in academia is not the same as being a master criminal. He wouldn't last five minutes in your local plasma TV fencing outfit, let alone as Dr No on the world stage. That's what comes of imagining that you are a polymathic genius, I guess.

Feb 22, 2012 at 1:39 AM | Unregistered Commenterjohanna

Others are making the excellent point that Gleick's statements thus far are ambiguous and do not constitute a denial of him having being the author of the “Climate Strategy Memo”.

Perhaps HLI, or someone else with enough standing in the matter, should ask Gleick to clarify his position. James Delingpole comes to mind, in this regard.

Feb 22, 2012 at 1:50 AM | Unregistered Commenterperil sensitive

edward getty (12:13 AM) -
Look below the "Post" box and you'll see some examples of HTML which you can use for bolding &c. For example, the HTML tag with a "b" between the angle brackets turns boldface on; putting "/b" between angle brackets turns it off. The quote blocks are begun with the tag "blockquote" (again between angle brackets; you needn't concern yourself with the "cite" part) and ended with "/blockquote" between angle brackets.

Try some examples using the "Preview Post" button. Hope this helps.

Feb 22, 2012 at 2:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

You have to put the HTML tags in-line with what you write. You MUST use lower case to make it work

I will give you some examples of what you can do with UPPER case. When you do that, they will not be interpreted by HTML processor, and you can show them as I will demonstrate. If you write the letters in lower case. they will work, but only after you Preview Post. You start with <tag> and end with </tag> where "tag" can be blockquote, b, i, strike, strong

<BLOCKQUOTE>Look below the "Post" box and you'll see some examples of HTML which you can use for bolding &c.</BLOCKQUOTE>


Look below the "Post" box and you'll see some examples of HTML which you can use for bolding &c.
if I replace BLOCKQUOTE with blockquote.

Other examples would be This is <B>bold</B> <I>Italic</I> and <STRIKE> Strike through </STRIKE>
You can even mix them together -- for example <B><I><STRIKE> All three together </B></I></STRIKE>

This is bold Italic and Strike through
You can even mix them together -- for example All three together

Use of the <a href is complex. But 90% is covered with the examples above.

WORD OF WARNING! Use the Preview Post option to see what you do created before you post it. Bad form if you don't. You get sent to spend the week end living with ZDB .

Try playing with my examples. em and code give different effects, which you can see with Preview Post.

Feb 22, 2012 at 3:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Megan McArdle has a follow up to the Gleick confession at the Atlantic site:

Gleick has done enormous damage to his cause and his own reputation, and it's no good to say that people shouldn't be focusing on it. If his judgement is this bad, how is his judgement on matters of science? For that matter, what about the judgement of all the others in the movement who apparently see nothing worth dwelling on in his actions?

When skeptics complain that global warming activists are apparently willing to go to any lengths--including lying--to advance their worldview, I'd say one of the movement's top priorities should be not proving them right. And if one rogue member of the community does something crazy that provides such proof, I'd say it is crucial that the other members of the community say "Oh, how horrible, this is so far beyond the pale that I cannot imagine how this ever could have happened!" and not, "Well, he's apologized and I really think it's pretty crude and opportunistic to make a fuss about something that's so unimportant in the grand scheme of things."

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.

Feb 22, 2012 at 3:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Sorry... Stoat reminds me too much of choa... just can't imagine why anyone would take such a name. Can't be any brighter than Gleick.


Feb 22, 2012 at 5:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterMark T

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