Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Heroes and Zeroes In The Heartland, by Steve Zwick

     In catching up on the news and Peter Gleick revealing himself as receiver of the Heartland Institute's "DenialGate" documents. 

     I was reading this article written by Steve Zwick and thought: man this guy really nailed it.  I've gone through it a couple times now, trying to cut out highlights to post here, but it's too good, in one piece.

     It deserves to be echoed in its entirety.  I didn't change any wording. But I have taken over formatting, all highlights and colors reflect my reading, and I've added some extra links to relevant information.

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Heroes and Zeroes In The Heartland

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"Noted hydroclimatologist and author Peter Gleick has spent his adult life measuring the impact of climate change on water resources, and last night he took one for the team – actually, for the world – when he revealed that it was he who acquired and leaked documents to DeSmogBlog and others showing how the Heartland Institute – one of the loudest voices in the climate-change-denial choir – gets and spends its money.

"In so doing, he delivered a massive body blow to the denialsphere and moved the world closer to finding a solution to the climate-change challenge.  That’s because his find exposes yet another piece of the denial machine that has been assembled over the past two decades to discredit legitimate climate science.  It renders their utterances irrelevant, and provides yet more evidence that Heartland’s activities aren’t those of a charity, but of a PR agency acting on behalf of a few deep-pocketed paymasters who stand to lose if the world acts to mitigate climate change.

"Heartland responded first with holier-than-though threats against the media for posting the memos:
“It was an outrageous violation of ethics and the law,” wrote Heartland president Joseph Bast, in an e-mail threatening legal action against media outlets that make the documents available for download. “It doesn’t matter what you believe about climate change, or if you are a liberal or a conservative. You ought to understand and denounce this unethical behavior.”

"It then attacked Gleick:
“Gleick’s crime was a serious one,” wrote spokesperson Jim Lakely in an e-mail to reporters this morning. “The documents he admits stealing contained personal information about Heartland staff members, donors, and allies, the release of which has violated their privacy and endangered their personal safety… A mere apology is not enough to undo the damage.”

"This comes after Heartland also threatened to launch an investigation into a retired US Air Force Colonel Gary Wamsley who, in a private e-mail to Bast, criticized Heartland’s efforts to fund climate denial in the schools.
“You should be ashamed of yourself,” the Colonel wrote. “The United States already has a problem in keeping up with the rest of the world in science education, and now you want to play a role in further destroying our nation as well as our planet.  You are a traitor to your own country. I did not spend 30 years in the military to protect the likes of you.”

"Bast responded by attacking the allegedly-forged memo – as if that were the only smoking gun in this nasty affair, which it isn’t – or if it really were an obvious forgery – which it also isn’t, and ignoring all of the other memos.  Then he tried to scare the retired Colonel, who responded by posting the entire exchange on his web site.
“Since your letter is threatening, I’ve forwarded it to our legal counsel, forensics team, and the FBI,” wrote Bast. “It is important that you not delete the email from your sent file, or any other emails you may have exchanged with other people while preparing it, since this could be evidence in criminal and civil cases.”

"If Heartland were an innocent victim in all of this – if it were, say, a climate scientist who found his mails hacked and his character attacked just because his findings weren’t the ones certain industries wanted to hear – well, we could understand the vitriol.   

"But this isn’t an innocent scientist or even anything resembling a research organization.  It’s a group that cheered and jeered back in 2009, and again in 2011, after an e-mail server at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit was hacked, and the mails were twisted and distorted to look like something they never really were.
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Let’s examine these two incidents side-by-side, 
and the science that each purports to represent.

What Happened: Someone hacked into servers and extracted thousands of private e-mails between climate scientists, then they cherry-picked a few paragraphs from a handful of them and showed…
Well, nothing, really.

"Despite the best efforts of denialists to distort those mails, the most they showed was that the scientists of the IPCC go to extraordinary lengths to find the truth.  They examine all angles and are also a bit shell-shocked.

"The hackers – who didn’t just trick someone into sending out incriminating evidence, but actually broke into servers – have never shown their faces, while the deniosphere rants and rants about transparency and accountability.

"Bottom line:
Someone broke into computers, stole e-mails, and then distorted them to discredit an entire branch of science, in the process delaying action on one of the biggest threats to global security and the global economy.  The costs are incalculable.

Gleick says he received the questionable document in the mail, and then requested information from Heartland using an assumed name.

"He received that information.  Then, he went public with it.
Heartland only disputes the veracity of one memo – the one that came in the mail, and therefore can’t be traced through e-mail.  All the other mails, however, support the most damaging evidence from the memos.

"By coming clean, Gleick has once again shown that he puts truth above self-interest, and he even seems embarrassed by the fact that he resorted to using a fake name to get the docs.  (If he were a journalist, he’d have just posted the docs on his own site and bragged about how he got them.)

"Bottom line: A good man, frustrated by years of obfuscation and distortion, tricked a secretive organization into sending him documents that were circulating widely within the group, showing beyond a shadow of a doubt that Heartland is part of a global PR campaign to discredit climate science and delay action that could help 99.9% of the people on the planet, albeit at the expense of Heartland’s paymasters.

"Denialist “Science”
There is no denialist science – only disproven ideas blended with obfuscation and distortion.  

"They use the same methods to sow doubt over climate change as the tobacco industry to make us believe that smoking was good for us.  They pluck irrelevant and/or outright false bits of data out of hundreds of thousands of pages of material and use it to discredit an entire branch of science.  It works because they keep it simple, and because science has been slow to respond in kind.

"Climate Science
More than 150 years of theorizing, testing, modeling, and refining have led to a global consensus among climate scientists that the earth is warming, that man is the cause, and that it will cost us trillions if we don’t act to solve it.  

"This is science – real science of the sort that put a man on the moon, doubled our life expectancy, and gave us Rogaine (too late for some of us).  

Science is a process, not a person; 
it’s a body of ideas, not snippets of information.

"The Debate
There is no debate – only science on one side and obfuscation on the other.
"Until now, most of what the general public knows has come through competing blogs or isolated blurbs of disinformation. 

"The merchants of doubt, to use the phrase coined by Naomi Oreskes & Erik Conway in their excellent book of the same name, know that the science is massive and complex, but they attack it by sprinkling a few illegitimate seeds of doubts onto the fertile ground of public imagination.  It’s like graffiti – something a slacker can “create” in a matter of seconds,  but which a gainfully employed man needs hours to erase.

"This tactic has wasted the time of too many gainfully-employed men, and that has cost our economy dearly.  A problem that was relatively inexpensive to fix a decade ago will now cost us trillions if we continue to ignore it, and hundreds of billions to fix.

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The Antidote
Rather than try and hit these mind-weeds as they materialize, I have created what I’m calling a Climate Science Book Club, where we will examine a new wave of works which are designed with the general public in mind.  
These are books published by respected scientists like Michael Mann and Spencer Weart, or lifelong conservatives like John Reisman.  I’ve chosen a few that are not only comprehensive, but well-written and easy to grasp, and will include a few that denialist posters suggested as well.  
By focusing on books instead of blogs, we will be limiting our discussion to well-structured treatises and, I hope, elevating this “debate” above the level of tit-for-tat sniping that the denialists have created.
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Forbes.com contributor Steve Zwick ~ Green Tech ~ 2/21/2012 



I believe Chris Mooney's interview with Michael Mann makes a sobering bookend to this little series.  It sure does give food for thought. ;-)

Michael Mann - The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars ~ February 20, 2012

Our guest this week is Michael Mann, the prominent climatologist and, above all, leading defender of his field—and himself—against political attacks.
Michael Mann is an American climatologist and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University. He's a co-founder and contributor to the blog RealClimate.org, and a fellow of the American Geophysical Union. He has over 150 peer reviewed publications to his name, and The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars is his second book.

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