So let me get this straight. During the non-event known as Climategate, hackers stole confidential emails from scientists at the University of East Anglia, and in many cases misinterpreted them, and the climate scientists received almost all of the criticism. Now, climate researcher Peter Gleick admits to obtaining documents from the Heartland Institute, the contents of which show a verified multi-million dollar campaign against climate science and effort to take the ideological battle into public schools (the only “fake” document in the bunch was the one that Gleick first received anonymously), and…. this climate scientist is receiving the lion’s share of the criticism, at least today, for his illicit acquisition of the documents. Here’s what Gleick had to say:

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 program 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.

Given the potential impact however, I attempted to confirm the accuracy of the information in this document. In an effort to do so, and 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. The materials the Heartland Institute sent to me confirmed many of the facts in the original document, including especially their 2012 fundraising strategy and budget. I forwarded, anonymously, the documents I had received to a set of journalists and experts working on climate issues. I can explicitly confirm, as can the Heartland Institute, that the documents they emailed to me are identical to the documents that have been made public. I made no changes or alterations of any kind to any of the Heartland Institute documents or to the original anonymous communication.

Gleick apologized for the lapse in judgment, and of course the Heartland Institute and its allies in combat want more than a pound of flesh. But the major difference between this situation and Climategate, as far as I can see it, is that Gleick admitted to the conduct, while the hackers who stole the Climategate emails haven’t. So the focus was kept on the emails in Climategate [or their mischaracterization by climate change deniers], but the focus is only on the acquisition of the emails in the Heartland Institute affair.

This is the kind of asymmetrical warfare we see constantly in the climate change battle. It’s actually explicitly covered in the Heartland strategy documents. The right attacks and attacks and attacks and has no interest in getting tripped up by ethics or hypocrisy. The scientific community bends and begs and self-criticizes. And we see the results; climate denial is a fast-growing industry in America, and the public doubts the facts behind climate change now more than ever.

You don’t have to agree with Gleick’s conduct to see the pattern here. And I’ll outsource the rest to Mr. Bogg.

David Dayen

David Dayen