23 Feb 2012

Megan McArdle on the Heartland Institute / Peter Gleick Affair

Climate Change, Conspiracy 21 Comments

Wow this is pretty interesting. I kept hearing allusions to “fakegate” and leaked/stolen documents from the Heartland Institute during the last week, but I was too busy to really read up on it. Well today I spent a good hour catching up, and holy cow there are some interesting twists and turns. As the Dude would say (if I remember the quote), a lot of ins and outs, lotta interested parties.

I don’t have time to walk you through it now; I may write up a more formal post for a dedicated website. In the meantime, Megan McArdle has been awesome on this issue. Go to her archives and start at the February 16 one, then start working towards the present. McArdle gives her reasoning for suspecting a forgery early on, and her commentary on Peter Gleick’s confession–as well as the hilarious response by the “climate realists”–is superb.

The reason I like McArdle’s take on this stuff, is that she actually sounds like she is coming to the issue with no axe to grind. Obviously there are pro-Heartland people who are going ballistic at “these blatant criminal acts” etc. etc., and of course good old Joe Romm says (a) they started it and (b) all’s fair when it comes to saving the planet. So McArdle is refreshing in this context, because she explains what the basic facts are and then comments on them in a pretty straightforward way.

Disclosure if it matters to anybody: I was a paid speaker at (what I think was) the first Heartland conference on climate change. I summarized my work on the economics of climate change, most of which you can see in this Independent Review publication. After that talk, Heartland didn’t invite me back to future conferences (at least as a paid speaker). I was hoping the leaked documents would explain what I did wrong, but alas, nothing there…

21 Responses to “Megan McArdle on the Heartland Institute / Peter Gleick Affair”

  1. joshua says:

    Yep. It’s interesting that we’ve now had leaks on both sides and they both point to the AGW crowd being willing to lie for their cause. Not that I believe the skeptics are all shining beacons of truth, but it’s an interesting trend from the so-called honest peer-reviewed establishment side of things…

    Disclosure: I’d never heard of the Heartland Institute before this leak, and when I first saw headlines with the words “Heartland leak” I wondered if it was referring to a new oil spill….

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      I haven’t caught up on the Heartland thing – but what “lying for their cause” are you referring to with the first leak?

      A lot of the talk about “tricks” with the data has been misconstrued.

      Take an economics example – Brad DeLong has been puzzled for a while now with how to filter the volatility in unemployment claims. I’m not sure if he’s resolved his concerns on that yet, but if there were a good way of dealing with it, it would be quite natural to say “I’ve got this new trick for the UI claims data”. It doesn’t mean people are lying when they’re cleaning data like that.

      But perhaps I’m confused and you’re referring to another issue with the first leak.

      What do you think about that British newspaper article that misreported the Met’s position? The Met had to clarify that it absolutely did not say what the skeptics were suggesting it said.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        A lot of the talk about “tricks” with the data has been misconstrued.

        Not all of it.

      • Teqzilla says:

        What “tricks”? I can only think of a single trick and this was the ‘Mann nature trick’ which was used to ‘hide the decline’ and this was manifestly not an example of misinterpretation. Keeping with the topic Steve Mcintyre, who was criticising what later became known as the trick long before the leaked emails, gave a talk to a heartland conference on this subject in 2010


        • Major_Freedom says:

          I can only think of a single trick and this was the ‘Mann nature trick’ which was used to ‘hide the decline’ and this was manifestly not an example of misinterpretation.

          I love it how so many solar induced global warming deniers are trying to paint the “hide the decline” as referring to the number of trees in the upper altitudes, rather than the reconstructed temperature readings from tree ring data. Mann’s 1998 Nature paper didn’t even truncate any tree ring data, and we’re supposed to believe that’s what “the trick” meant?

      • Greg Ransom says:

        Daniel, you are utterly uninformed on this topic.

        I’ll stop there.

        • Daniel Kuehn says:

          I’m glad we can always count on you for constructive insights, Greg.

          I’ll stop there.

  2. Teqzilla says:

    This has been a very fun scandal so far and it will get even better if it turns out that Gleik is, as seems quite likely, guilty of forgery in addition to wire fraud. Greg Laden, Desmogblog and others have tied themselves to the Gleik mast by celebrating his ‘bravery’ and claiming his admission of deception has authenticated the memo which heartland insists is a fake. Should it be revealed that he forged it a lot of quite unpleasant people are on the hook.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      This statement from the strategy memo:

      “His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.” [bold added]

      the bolded part to me is a red flag that this memo is a fake. It reeks of a political alarmist’s writing. Only political alarmists believe that skeptics are anti-science, and therefore believe skeptics would plot and conspire to “dissuade teachers from teaching science.”

      It would be like a vulgar Keynesian claiming to have a memo from the Mises Institute that said something like “Our efforts should be effective at dissuading teachers from teaching how to help the unemployed and get traction in the economy again.”

      • Bob Murphy says:

        Bingo. You’re right MF I can’t understand why more people aren’t resting their entire case on that. Of COURSE the people at Heartland don’t think they’re “anti-science.” Even if they DID think that, they wouldn’t announce it like that. It would be like watching a meeting between the Godfather and his consigliori and them saying, “We’re going to do something really immoral and sinful tomorrow.” No, that’s not how they think of what they’re doing.

        The fact that all the Desmog / Joe Romm types are still believing it’s a real memo–having the audacity to say Gleick “confirmed its authenticity” (!!)–just shows how out of touch they are. Either they are quite consciously lying through their teeth, or their view of their opponents is so warped that they actually think they are fighting Mr. Burns from the Simpsons.

  3. Bob Murphy says:

    A few points because I have to get ready for traveling next week and won’t be able to blog much:

    ==> People interested in my take on the “hide the decline” “Nature trick” should read this old post. I still think the word “hide” should be very concerning to scientists, but “the decline” is the opposite of what most Rush Limbaugh fans probably believe.

    ==> Something is not quite adding up in this Gleick thing. The guy who went on the attack in the American Spectator didn’t say, “We strongly suspect it was Peter Gleick…” but instead (if I read it right) came out and flatly fingered the guy as the culprit. That seems weird to me. (A) How could they have known for sure? If it turned out it was somebody who then handed the stuff to Gleick, Heartland would look bad. and (B) Even if they knew for sure, why not just let nature take its course?

    ==> Plus, as McArdle says, what Gleick appears to have done (even by his own admission, let alone if he forged that one document) is so nuts, that the whole thing is just plain fishy.

    ==> What’s funny is that the situation is so perverse, that I am actually entertaining the notion that Gleick got diagnosed recently with an inoperable tumor and took a $1m payment for his soon-to-be-widow to take a dive like this to help Heartland. I mean, I’m kidding about those specific details, but my point is that that is how bad this seems to me, for the “climate realists” who champion truth, peer review, and stable sea levels. And yet, even though I’m entertaining cockamamie conspiracy theories to try to give Gleick the benefit of the doubt, the Desmog guys are literally praising him as a hero and whistleblower. (You can’t be a whistleblower who doesn’t work for the organization. Woodward and Bernstein weren’t whistleblowers, though Bradley Manning was.)

    • Greg Ransom says:

      Bob — The circumstantial evidence is very strong that the guy produced the forgery. PDF times, tone, mistakes with the data, who had possession of the document, the guy is proven to have very bad character and judgment, and on and on.

      For exactly the same reasons that conspiracies have a low probability, this has a very high probability of this guy having produced the thing that is in his possession.

    • Greg Ransom says:

      McArdle also has a version of the tumor theory.

      My version:

      The “tumor” is the leftist ideology/”good intentions”/lying is ok to defeat the ones “tumor”.

  4. Bob Roddis says:

    I always liked Joe Bast, Heartland president for life. He was in a panel discussion with Murray Rothbard, Richard Ebeling, Larry Reed and Lew Rockwell in 1989. He’s in the middle between Ebeling and Reed.


  5. Silas Barta says:

    What if DeLong were talking about a “trick” to “hide the growth” in unemployment, which coincided with his avowed effort to prove that

  6. Silas Barta says:

    Oops, that was supposed to be to Daniel_Kuehn.

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