The fakery done to make the Heartland Institute appear to be lying about global warming matters for one reason: It’s proof that the global warmists/changist/disruptionsists are willing to lie to advance their goals. Thanks to the shenanigans that went on at East Anglia we already knew that, but the forging of documents to smear Heartland take the story into Dan Rather and the National Guard territory. Not only are they quite capable of plotting to “hide the decline,” they’re evidently just as capable of smearing their opposites. To make the obvious crystal clear, what they’re doing on both ends of this story is not science.
That leads me to discuss why the story doesn’t matter all that much, in terms of the overall climate debate. The fact is, Heartland and East Anglia just do not occupy the same space in the public’s consciousness. East Anglia, where the decline was hidden, was the global warming movement’s inner sanctum. It was held up as above reproach, just reporting the alarming facts. Being honest here, I had never heard of the Heartland Institute until the fake memos were leaked. Heartland has never been analogous to East Anglia. The lead of East Anglia’s emails portrayed an institution rotten at its core, peddling pseudoscience and hiding its real data from the public that had paid for that data to be gathered. If anything, the fakery done to Heartland has enhanced its reputation just by elevating awareness that they exist and were deemed enough of a threat for someone to hack them and forge a memo to smear them.
For my own part, Heartland has had nothing at all to do with my views on climate. I came to be a skeptic of global warming alarmism because I actually spent several years in science, on the production team for the Hubble Space Telescope. Science is a humbling occupation, or should be. As we discover more about the universe around us, we constantly see our cherished assumptions challenged and often shattered. When politicians and Hollywood actors with no backgrounds in science at all run around shouting “The sky is falling! The science is settled!” they’re showing none of the humility that we ought to attach to real science. They’re betraying the arrogance typical of their fields. Their own statements and behavior should spark skepticism in healthy minds.
I’ve also been close enough to real science to see when it can go awry, when the press release and the news cycle get in the way of what the science actually says. Individual scientists’ ambitions, jealousies, grudges and alliances also play too great a role in what gets respect and funding and what doesn’t. I’ve seen it when a major NASA official reacts with a sneer to a new finding simply because that official hadn’t heard of the scientist who wrote the paper. That aspect of modern science doesn’t get talked about enough — how personalities and the media can and do distort the scientific process in large and small ways every day. And related to that, not enough attention gets paid to how the government grant process dictates what gets research dollars and press boosts after the fact. When you have, at one end of the process, politicians demanding action on some so-called scientific issue, and on the other end, those same politicians influencing which projects get the grants, you have a potential conflict of interest and an open door to corruption. We saw that corruption in the leaked East Anglia emails.