Leaked climate-change denial lobby docs came from water scientist

Water scientist Peter Gleick admitted that he was the source for the anonymous leak of documents from the climate-change-denying Heartland Institute. The documents -- obtained under a false name, and then leaked -- showed Heartland's budget, corporate donors (Koch Industries and Philip Morris featured heavily), and a plan to produce deliberately confusing materials about climate change for use in middle school curriculum.

It is clear from the documents that Heartland advocates against responsible climate mitigation and then uses that advocacy to raise money from oil companies and "other corporations whose interests are threatened by climate policies." Heartland particularly celebrates the funding that it receives from the fossil fuel fortune being the Charles G. Koch Foundation.

Heartland also continues to collect money from Philip Morris parent company Altria as well as from the tobacco giant Reynolds American, while maintaining ongoing advocacy against policies related to smoking and health.

Heartland's policy positions, strategies and budget distinguish it clear as a lobby firm that is misrepresenting itself as a "think tank" - it budgets $4.1 million of its $6.4 million in projected expenditures for Editorial, Government Relations, Communications, Fundraising, and Publications, and the only activity it plans that could vaguely be considered policy development is the writing of a curriculum package for use in confusing high schoolers about climate change.

Leaked Heartland documents

Heartland Insider Exposes Institute's Budget and Strategy (notes on the leaked documents)

The Guardian on Gleick's admission


  1. Wait, I thought “journalism” was when you took a press release & then read it on the air & then had talking heads explain their opinions on the press release.  What is this “investigation” that this guy did?  Does Not Compute!

    1. agreed.  i don’t understand what he’s apologizing for.  does he work for a scientific organization that doesn’t want this type of press?

      1.  I’m not an expert on journalistic ethics, but it seems to me that the greater good of exposing a fraudulent agency that is actually a real life Captain Planet villain outweighs the misrepresentation.

    1. Yes, but this does address most of the concerns about why the memo seemed so different from the other documents (especially in regards to different metadata). So the case that the memo is fake becomes much weaker. Seems legit now. 

  2. Wait ’til the PopTech guy shows up here and starts demanding apologies.  When Techdirt mentioned Heartland last week, he provided the regular commenters hours of amusement.

  3. Somehow, I can’t help thinking of Koch et al with Snidely Whiplash mustaches and/or mini-thems.

    1. Screw up the planet for future generations

    2. Something something

    3. Profit!

    If the memo is true, good for this guy. He has nothing to apologize for.

  4. Gleick claims he received the fake memo from an anonymous source, and blagged the rest of the genuine information to corroborate it.

    He claims (sort of an in a less than straightforward fashion) that he did not construct the fake memo.

    And yet he was fingered by several commentators as the source that released the documents precisely because the fake memo had several of his stylistic tics, and referred to him (and Forbes) in glowing and some would say inappropriately prominent terms.

    The fake memo also singles out several more prominent climate scientists / analysts he’s had public run-ins with.

    So the memo he claims he didn’t write is the one that pointed the finger at him in very short order as the distributor.

    I suppose it’s possible to frame it as heroic if you squint through your green-tinted glasses. To me it just looks stupid and counter-productive for everyone.

    1. You do realize that we can view your past “activity” right?  We can actually see that pretty much your entire posting history has been devoted to flat-earth, climate denial right?

      1. I saw where Heartland has a couple of interns on staff.  Wonder if they got moved off of commenting on the perils of electric cars or denying climate change; and now spend their days trying to discredit the source of these leaked documents. 

        1. The wagons were circling as soon as this story came out. The Koch-suckers have been busy: McArdle, Reason and so on..

    2. It’s unfortunately complex.

      While it’s easy to focus only on the fake memo, let us not forget that the more damning donor list is real.  I do wish Gleick hadn’t faked the distracting memo and I agree he should be chastised for that action; At the same time, his exposing of these evil idiot donors who are contributing to the literal destruction of our children’s future was, indeed, heroic.

      From the Heartland Institute website:

      Apologies: The Heartland Institute apologizes to the donors whose identities were revealed by this theft.


      I also find it hilarious how evil entities like the Heartland Institute didn’t have such qualms with the exposure of hacked emails in the bullshit, so-called “Climategate” so-called “scandal”.

  5. In order to accept AGW, one must accept all of the following:

    1. That the climate is changing
    2. That is it changing “differently” than it ever has before .
    3. That it will be bad for humans.
    4. That it is caused by humans
    5. That there is anything that can be “done” about it.

    Which of these do you agree with? As a “skeptic” I can debate all of these except #1 which is pretty much undeniable. I mean, there is no such thing as a static climate.

    1. what is AGW?  but i’ll take the bait…
      you can debate the facts all you want, it doesn’t make you right. 
      the science is in, has been in, for decades, it confirms all 5.

      1. What I’d like to know is, given the potential effects of human-caused climate change, do we really want to keep polluting until the effects are catastrophically obvious and irreversible (if they aren’t already)?

        You know, not everyone who’s exposed to asbestos gets cancer. Removing it from schools and other buildings is expensive, so let’s stop until more research has been done.

        1.  We’ll all be long dead before it reaches catastrophic levels in any case. Why worry? It’ll give your kids a challenge.

        2.  Unfortunately, it’s going to keep going.  Look at VicqRuiz’s comment above or Daniel Smith’s comment below to see why.  The price of fuel, the Superbowl, plasma TVs — all these things are much more important to Americans than the world their children and grandchildren are growing up in.

          Just look at the vitriolic hate spewed by folks like Bogs_dollocks when people dare to share with him a few factual observations about the thermodynamics of atmospheric CO2.  It’s because if they acknowledged the truth they might have to feel bad about passing on a ruined world to their children.  So much easier to assume that those who acknowledge simple truths about the physical reality we all inhabit are evil, evil liars.

          The capacity of human beings for self deception in their quest to maximize pleasure and eliminate pain and guilt is breathtaking.  The skies will turn black before most of these people are willing to acknowledge that there’s a problem.  (Even then I bet there’ll be think tanks insisting that the black, smog-choked skies were not caused by human industry or transportation.)

    2. AGW is a very simple model. In order for it to be false, one of the following would have to be true:

      1. Carbon dioxide isn’t increasing from emissions, but comes from somewhere else.
      2. Carbon dioxide levels aren’t increasing; our readings are thrown off by something, and our emissions go somewhere else.
      3. Carbon dioxide can increase without changing the thermal energy balance; the extra heat goes somewhere else.

      Or if you think it is happening but won’t be bad, you could say:

      4. The effects of increased heat won’t be anything like the models and won’t disrupt any climate we rely on. They will be something else.

      Each of these raises some questions any true skeptic would be interested in. If you can point to any serious investigation of them, where people take measurements and make models to find out the details of what is happening, by all means.

      Because so far I haven’t seen one, ever. All I find are shills from groups like Heartland who pretend to find doubt by creationist-style nitpicking, but not doing a shred of their own homework. And that’s not “skepticism”, it’s dishonesty, and it’s something to be exposed not debated.

    3. I suppose you *could* start a debate on 2-5 but why bother? 1, 2 and 4 are debates that the Deniers lost decades ago.  Do you have anything that hasn’t been thoroughly discredited for years, if not decades?  3 is irrelevant to whether or not AGW is happening as is 5.  Are you attributing sadistic intentions to Mother Nature in #3 such that she’ll alter the climate if she thinks that it would whip our butts?  Does this also apply to rocks falling off of cliffs such that they won’t fall if they don’t bash someone’s head in?   3 is also more properly stated as “bad for humans if they sit on their fat asses and do nothing whatsoever about it (ie. the current policy)”.

    4. To accept AGW, you only need to accept that the climate is changing and that it is caused by humans.

      To be motivated to *do* anything about it, you have to believe that the climate is changing, it will be bad for humans and something can be done about it.

      Notice that you don’t have to believe that it was caused by humans in order to be motivated to do anything about it. The idea that we shouldn’t fix something that threatens us just because it wasn’t our fault is silly.

      We know the climate is and has changed, we know that it is bad for humans and we know we have the technical ability to radically alter the climate therefore, we should do something about it.

      1. we know we have the technical ability to radically alter the climate therefore, we should do something about it.

        Now you’re talkin!!!

        As opposed to those who adopt the politically-doomed stance of “We can solve AGW if we just make energy as expensive as fuck.”

      2. What is that ‘technical ability to radically alter’ the earth’s climate? I’m skeptical but you sound as if you’ve got something worthwhile.

  6. Clearly it is impossible to be too cynical. That makes me sad, but at least it mitigates how often I’m surprised by the tactics of bastards.

  7. The identity of the Climate Change Deniers with the Tobacco Cancer Deniers really should be emphasised more.  We see exactly the same kind of innumerate bullshit from both.  “How can we know that smoking is bad for you?  All these ‘theories’ about tobacco causing cancer are just based on complicated computer models that can’t even predict exactly when even one person will croak so how can they predict the future health of whole populations?”

  8. “a plan to produce deliberately confusing materials”

    You’re attributing dishonest intentions without evidence.
    Just because people don’t agree doesn’t mean they are dishonest. The only confusion arises from bringing light on half-baked “scientific” conclusions which are propagated with overstated confidence.

    1. The evidence for dishonest intentions is provided by the Heartland corporate donor list.  Anything funded by the Koch bros, in particular, should be eyed sideways with hairy eyeballs.

      1. Anything funded by the Koch bros, in particular, should be eyed sideways with hairy eyeballs.

        Yep, that’s why I don’t watch PBS any more, and why if I get sick in Balmer, I’ll tell the EMT “Keep me away from that bad ol’ Johns Hopkins!!”

        1. I watch NOVA because it’s good.  It’s not like it’s made by The Kochs.  If anything it serves as a constant reminder of how they try to greenwash/buy good publicity to try to muddy the waters of their actual scummy practices.

    2.  Actually, the science on AGW is stated with the right amount of confidence.  Providing confidence intervals is a standard part of science, especially a science so heavily dependent on statistics as climate science.  Climate scientists’ estimates of the effects of AGW both on global temperature and on other aspects of climate have been incredibly conservative compared to the observed effects. 

      This is not to say there aren’t “global warming alarmists” out there somewhere making much less defensible predictions.  So far, though, the actual climate scientists have been right on or not quite alarmist enough.

  9. Stupid “science”.  Getting in the way of my anti-intellectualism.

    Surely the morally bankrupt oligarchs who spend fortunes trying to discredit science because it threatens their bottom lines are the ones to be believed here…….

  10. With a budget of only US$ 7 million, a drop in the ocean as compared to the WWF, Sierra Club,  Greenpeace, and EDF budgets, and the billions spent to-date on so-called climate change research the one thing that is clear is that the HI punches incredibly well above it’s weight. 

    Especially since someone such as Peter Gleick thought it necessary to obtain HI documents by fraudulent means, and when those proved to be too mundane, either create a fake document or have one created for him.  

    Leading to the greatest own goal in the history of the climate change debates.

    1. Regardless, what he obtained by fraudulent means was real, and it shows what most people know:  That these companies spend big money to try to discredit science.  Now move along.

      1. The key document has been identified as a fake, a counterfeit work by either Gleick or an associate.

        Questioning a hypothesis is not discrediting science, it is science.

        “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

        ~ R. P. Feynman

        Unquestioning activism for a particular belief is not science, rather it is faith – either religious or secular.

        In the world of AGW activism, US$ 6.5 million is a drop in the ocean.

        “Remember, environmental issues are one of several matters with which Heartland is concerned. Yet, according to DeSmogBlog’s purloined documents, Heartland’s total budget in 2011 was less than $5 million.

        The exact number was a measly $4,638,323.This is peanuts. Pocket change. Compared to the $238 million the World Wildlife Fund spent in 2011, Heartland’s resources amount to bellybutton lint. The US arm of the WWF had 50 times the number of dollars at its disposal.”

        AGU | AGU Encourages Integrity in all Aspects of Climate Change Discourse

        Scholarly Society Rejects Deception Regarding Heartland Institute Documents


        Gleick’s scientific, as opposed to activist, colleagues are properly dismayed by his actions regarding the HI.

        1. AGW activism isn’t really science, it is trying to help ourselves with policies based on scientific evidence. That it costs more to achieve such aims than it does to spread lies about them should not surprise anyone.

          Also: investigating a hypothesis is science, ignoring evidence is not. Shouting “but what if tobacco doesn’t cause cancer” is not real questioning, and refusing to act on the balance of opinion while that is happening is bad policy. It’s not what Feynman, the expert you quote, was talking about at all.

          Of course, your comment history is full of comments about how AGW is probably wrong because scientists advocate it. That tells me a lot about what you really think about unquestioning activism.

          It also shows me that you were OK with the e-mail theft and its misrepresentation as ClimateGate, so it’s hard to believe you’re upset with Gleick’s methods, instead of that he revealed something. If it’s any consolation, I don’t think anyone at the Heartland Institute will get death threats the way Mann still does.

        2. Richard Feynman didn’t trust experts because he had confidence in his own abilities to reason on problems using only his own acumen.  He was an exceptional human being in this respect.  You are not.

          Now note that in the case of AGW you have two sets of experts telling you different things: MBAs and PR flacks working for the oil industry and conservative think tanks saying one thing and climate scientists saying roughly the opposite.  Feynman wouldn’t have trusted either — but ultimately he has to choose “true” or “false”, siding with one or the other.  As a physicist he would, if he were alive today, assess the evidence for himself and as a result would believe in the reality of AGW. 

          I have no idea what policy opinions he’d endorse as a result.  But this is a separate question from the reality of AGW.  Making that distinction is key to not looking like an idiot in these sorts of conversations.

      2. Peter Gleick subterfuge at least so far reminds me Alexandre Yersin bribing two guards at a mortuary in order to get access to the body of a victim of  bubonic plague. (who cares).

    2. “so-called climate change research” Do you have any credentials whatsoever to go after the actual scientists who study climate change? And if you do, why are you wasting time here? Go publish your work.

    3. But unlike WWF, Sierra Club,  Greenpeace, and EDF – the Kochs and Heartland are talking out of their ass. They are wrong. Doesn’t have to do with the budget, is the lies people object to.

      1. So you claim.  

        Does that make it so?

        No, of course, not.

        Science, unlike faith based activism, is not about absolutes.

        What is the motto of the first scientific society?

        The Royal Society of Britain.

        ‘Nullius in verba’

        which roughly translates as

        ‘take nobody’s word for it’.

        That sums up science and is the dialectic opposite of indignant belief-based activism.

        1. You obviously haven’t got a clue as to what ‘fact’, ‘theory’ et al mean in a scientific context. This is the sort of weasely tactic that let’s the ignorant say things like ‘evolution is just a theory’.

          It’s a fact. Not only that, but the fact you don’t get it, doesn’t change a thing.

          You cannot wish your fables into existence. Assuming you truly do not know.

          But, come think of it, you do know and are just in the misinformation and lying camp.

    1. After reading the above comments, it is somewhat reassuring to find rare adults,  amongst AGW proponents, such as Megan McArdle and Andy Revkin with an adult perspective and understanding of the issue:

      Peter Gleick Confesses to Obtaining Heartland Documents Under False Pretenses


      Peter Gleick Admits to Deception in Obtaining Heartland Climate Files


      Creating a fake document is fraud.
      Trying to pass off such an amateurish counterfeit document as belonging to one’s opponents is white collar wire crime.

      1. So why don’t you take a break from the computer and have a good long cry about the poor victimized oligarchs?  Isn’t it so infuriating how scientists just won’t let them brazenly lie to the public about really serious resource constraint problems?  Should throw all the stupid scientists in jail already.

        Also, Jamie Dimon is my hero.


  11. Can we stop condemning our children to the greenhouse gas ovens like trailer trash neocons? Climate change was a lab coat consultant’s wet dream!Meanwhile, the entire WORLD of SCIENCE and the UN had allowed carbon trading to trump 3rdworld fresh water relief, starvation rescue and 3rd world education for justover 26 years of INSANE attempts at climate CONTROL.
     Science poisoned the planet originally with their pesticidesthat they denied for decades as being dangerous, so science madeenvironmentalism necessary in the first place. It’s not a crime to say climatechange is real when it can’t be proven either way. It was a consultant’s wetdream and I promise history will call its followers end of the world freaks,and superstitious omen worshippers. “I see the signs. I see change….”

    1. The problem you describe is the result of money and corporate influence, not science as an entity itself – which despite how it may seem sometimes, is essentially neutral in terms of politics, profitability, and so on.

      In your example, the scientists who developed pesticides did not then control how profit-minded corporations used them, and are not responsible for that. Anyone denying that they were dangerous if used inappropriately either were not scientists, or were being paid to lie if they were.

      You’ve wonderfully illustrated the problem – the reality of science is distinctly separate from politics and profit, but because politicians and corporations are the ones in control of the world when the general population hears about science-related things they hear what the politicians and corporations want them to hear, which in most cases is a gross distortion of the actual science. And then when the actual science is used to argue a point (such as, say, AGW), there are people who refuse to believe it.

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