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Fakegate: Can’t Hide This Decline

The warmists were atwitter last week because they imagined they had their own equivalent of Climaquiddick -- someone fraudulently managed to get confidential documents from the Heartland Institute by portraying himself as a board member. Heartland has been at the forefront of supporting skepticism of hyperbolic climate claims, and has accordingly been put in the crosshairs by defenders of Big Science for years.

Names of confidential donors were publicly released, as were board-meeting notes and supposed strategy documents that critics claim indicated Heartland’s intent to subvert the teaching of science in the classroom. Amusingly, even the Koch brothers, the Left’s latest Goldsteins, were dragged into it:

The documents, leaked by an anonymous donor and released on DeSmogBlog, include the organization’s 2012 fundraising plan. It lists Heartland Institute donors, from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation (established by Koch Industries billionaire Charles G. Koch), to Philip Morris parent company Altria, to software giant Microsoft and pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly.

Michael Mann of Penn State, creator of the Hockey Stick, also weighed in:

These documents are breathtaking, and they reveal what many of us have long suspected: That there is a campaign afoot by groups directly funded by the fossil fuel industry and right-wing foundations such as Koch Industries to mislead the public about climate change.

In an editorial, the Los Angeles Times went full Godwin on the “deniers”:

Heartland officials say one of the documents was a fake, but the curriculum plans were reportedly discussed in more than one. According to the New York Times, the curriculum would claim, among other things, that “whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy.”

That is a lie so big that, to quote from Mein Kampf, it would be hard for most people to believe that anyone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”

What fiends, these deniers! Will they deny the Holocaust next?

Unfortunately for the narrative, Koch Industries claims that they have donated a grand total of $25,000 to Heartland over the past year, and none of it was directed toward climate-change projects, but instead to fund health care research. And while Heartland confirmed that several of the documents are genuine (and is pursuing a legal remedy), one of the documents -- the one upon which the most hysterical claims have been based -- was indeed very clearly faked, and it doesn’t reflect well on those who have seized on it:

There’s a reason that the majority of the quotes in the early blogging and reporting on this story seem to have been taken from the memo, including the initial post on DeSmogBlog. For example, someone named Richard Littlemore wrote “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.” That is all taken from the memo, not the supporting documents. The fundraising document actually contains no record that I can see of contributions from oil companies.

It will be hard to identify the author. I suspect that it will be easier to do if the climate-bloggers -- who may well know this person as a commenter or correspondent -- get involved in trying to find out who muddied the story by perpetrating a fraud on their sites.

Well, they did get involved, but not in the way hoped. On Friday in the American Spectator, Heartland’s Ross Kaminsky speculated that the culprit was none other than Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute, one of the more rabid defenders of the climate faith. As Anthony Watts notes:

While Dr. Gleick is presented as an expert in climate science, he’s mostly about water and water systems. Climate seems to be just an angry diversion for him. But don’t take my word for it, have a look at how he treats others on the topic when he thinks he’s among friends.

Why was he a suspect? Well, for one thing, he had recently been put in charge of a project by the National Center for Science Education to specifically combat what Heartland had been purported to be doing, so he certainly had motive. But there was also evidence:

The data shows that the file was created on a computer set to the Pacific time zone (signified by the -08:00 in the timestamps), where Gleick is based but where Heartland does not have an office. The stolen documents show their creation in the Central time zone.

Interestingly, Gleick, who would normally be preening and prancing in glee at this sort of attention to the Heartland Institute has so far been utterly silent at his Forbes blog and on his Twitter feed.

Of course, Kaminsky was promptly attacked:

Comments I received include tidbits such as: “Perhaps this experience will give you pause before jumping into misrepresentations of scientists on the basis of out-of-context stolen emails.” And “Ross Kaminky’s [sic] politically-motivated diatribe against the defenders of sound science only illustrates how low Heartland Institute and it’s [sic] supporters will go to misrepresent science and facts inconvenient to them.” And “So basically there is no proof that it is a fake, just speculation.”

But my favorite, for obvious reasons: “I hope that Mr. Kaminsky will be prepared [to] fully retract and apologize to Dr. Gleick once he is ruled out as the possible culprit.”

Well, sadly for those demanding an apology, yesterday Gleick confessed to the document theft, though not (yet) to authoring the fake, whereupon it didn’t take long for the Daily Kos to elevate him to hero status. If not Gleick, someone created the fake document from selective and out-of-context quotes from the documents Gleick stole to make Heartland look as evil as the warmist fever swamp fantasizes it is.

What is it that Heartland really wanted to do? The horrific plan is explained in the previously linked Christian Science Monitor article:

Each module would inject skepticism into the scientific consensus on climate change.

OMGaia! They’re going to “inject skepticism” into a science class. Are there any depths to their depravity and duplicity? What next? Will they be teaching logic, and critical thinking? Also, they’re opposed to “responsible” climate mitigation (i.e., wrecking the nation’s economy with unnecessarily high energy costs while doing little or nothing about climate mitigation). The fiends!

As I’ve noted in the past, it is not the skeptics who are anti-science.

Many in the climate change community have condemned what they call “skeptics,” often to the point of declaring them de facto criminals and assigning them to the same category as Holocaust deniers. They tell us that “the science is settled” and that we should shut up. But every scientist worthy of the name should be a skeptic. Every theory should be subject to challenge on a scientific basis. Every claim of a model’s validity should be accompanied by the complete model and data set that supposedly validated it, so that it can be replicated. That is how science works. It is how it advances. And when the science is supposedly “settled” and they refuse to do so, it’s not unreasonable to wonder why.

For the record, I greatly resent being called a “denier,” with its clear — and fully intended, as the LA Times analogy reveals — connotation to Nazis. I am a skeptic. I don’t “deny” AGW, because I don’t have sufficient knowledge of how climate works, or its history, to confidently have a strong opinion about it. What I do deny is that the proponents of the theory do have such knowledge or competence, and my doubts were buttressed by the release not just of the emails that revealed their duplicitous and unscientific behavior, but of the shoddy and unreplicable climate data sets and models themselves.

So, yes, I guess I am a denier. Here’s what I deny.

deny that science is a compendium of knowledge to be ladled out to school children like government-approved pablum (and particularly malnutritious pablum), rather than a systematic method of attaining such knowledge.

deny that skepticism about anthropogenic climate change is epistemologically equivalent to skepticism about evolution, and I resent the implications that if one is skeptical about the former, one must be similarly skeptical about the latter, and “anti-science.”

As someone who has done complex modeling and computer coding myself, I deny that we understand the complex and chaotic interactions of the atmosphere, oceans and solar and other inputs sufficiently to model them with any confidence into the future, and I deny that it is unreasonable and unscientific to think that those who believe they do have such understanding suffer from hubris. To paraphrase Carl Sagan, extraordinary policy prescriptions require extraordinary evidence.