Shameful

Let me begin this post by saying the following. The Earth is warming, and has been doing so exponentially faster for more than a century. This warming was initiated by  exponentially rising levels of  carbon dioxide. That carbon dioxide, rich in long-sequestered  C14-poor carbon, was put there by humans. None of these findings of climate science are any different today than they were a week ago.

What has happened in the past week, however, is the revelation that Peter Gleick, a champion for ethical science, has himself engaged in deception in order to get internal documents out of the Heartland Institute, a denialist institution founded to counter cancer research linking smoking to lung cancer.

The apparent facts of the case are as follows. Gleick self-reports [1] receiving a document from an anonymous individual who claimed the document came from within the Heartland Institute. Gleick then pretended to be a board member of the Institute and requested additional documents, which were sent to him. The Heartland Institute claims a policy document is a forgery; other documents are authentic, forcing them to apologize to donors mentioned in the other documents.

We are now at a delicate time. Over a year ago, emails from East Anglia University climate scientists were stolen and disseminated on the web, resulting in a fake controversy known as “ClimateGate.” The press focused more on cherry-picked statements in those emails than on the crime committed in obtaining the mails. Now, we have a science ethicist obtaining by subterfuge internal documents from a  denialist institution. Those documents reveal that the Heartland Institute’s current crusade to sell doubt about climate research is fueled by energy industry insiders. Will the press focus on the revelations, as they seemed to with the stolen East Anglia emails? Or, will they focus on the scientist who obtained the Heartland Institute documents without critically evaluating what those documents reveal?

Worse, will the press conflate the bad behavior of a single person with the quality of evidence for human-induced climate change? We must all be vigilant, and in the coming days resist the power of the Ad Hominem and Red Herring logical fallacies that will attempt to distract us from the truth: the planet’s climate is changing, we are responsible, and all that remains is to establish policy for how to deal with the problem.

 

[1] http://www.npr.org/2012/02/22/147263862/climate-scientist-admits-to-lying-leaking-documents?ps=cprs and http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/ethicists-blast-chair-of-science-ethics-panel-for-taking-global-warming-skeptic-groups-papers/2012/02/22/gIQAMZqjTR_story.html

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