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Free speech and academic freedom

Filed under: — rasmus @ 12 February 2012

Update: Some related concerns from deepclimate.org, if these claims can be verified.

In a recent interview for a Norwegian magazine (Teknisk Ukeblad, 0412), the IPCC chair Rajendra Kumar Pachauri told the journalist that he had received death threats in connection with his role as a head for the IPCC. There have also been recent reports of threats and harassment of climate scientists for their stance on climate change (Kerry Emanuel. Katharine Hayhoe, Australian climate scientists, Phil Jones, Barton campaign, and Inhofe’s black list).

These incidents appear as an unpleasant deja vu from my past, smacking of attempts to suppress the freedom of speech. They remind me of the days when I did my national service as a border patrol at the Soviet-Norwegian border in 1988-1989 (Norway and Russia – then Soviet – share a 196 km long common border in the high north), where we stood up for our freedom and democracy. Freedom of speech was tacitly implied as one of the ingredients of an open democracy, which in our minds was the West. There was an understanding that the other side of the iron curtain represented an oppressive regime.

If the people who threat and harass climate scientists were to have their way, I fear we would be heading for a world resembling the other side of the iron curtain of 1989. The absence of oppression and harassment is a prerequisite for sound and functioning science. Oppressive regimes are not known for producing good science, and blind ideology have often been unsustainable. Therefore, threats and such dishonorable campaigns represent a concern.

Me at the Soviet-Norwegian border in the spring of 1989, where I served as a border patrol. The border was halfway between the yellow Norwegian and green/red Soviet borderposts seen in the photo, and the iron curtain involved a militarised zone on the Soviet side guarded by the KGB.

Another unpleasant aspect of the direction taken by the public discource is the character of the rhetoric, which too exhibit similarities to that of the cold war. I still remember some of the propaganda that could be heard on the radio – translated to Norwegian. Too often these days, the debate is far from being informative but has turned into something like a beauty contest and he-said-she-said affair.

So it is important to keep in mind: Don’t shoot the messenger who is only doing her/his job. It would really be a disservice to the society. Any open and free democracy has to be based on true information and knowledge. When big and powerful media corporations start to look like past state-run propaganda machines, where slogans have replaced common sense and expert knowledge, then we’re heading in the wrong direction.

In Norway, the there were calls for enhanced openness and respect (by our prime minister) after the terrible July 22 (2011) terrorist attacks (the terrorist also disrespected climate science). In this sense, the openness also means exposing all levels and all aspects of matters being disputed. As in sciences, it is important to elucidate the situation, and see if the arguments stand up to being critically scrutinized. This also means that all relevant information must be included – not just those which support one stand.

Flower response, more democracy, and more openness in Oslo after July 22, 2011.

I think that the science community needs a louder voice in the society, and there is a need for bringing some of the science-related debates closer to true science. We need to explain the virtues of the scientific method, such as transparency, replication of past results, testing and evaluating the methods and conclusions. These virtues lead to the most credible answers.

For example, we need to focus on question like the following: Is the strategy adopted objective? Does it give robust results? Or do the result depend on the context in which the analysis was carried out? In other words, we need to question whether the conclusions are generally valid.

Focusing on the real questions and doing science means being free, critical and sceptical – and not a climate of fear.


739 Responses to “Free speech and academic freedom”

  1. 351
    S.K. (Carbomontanus) says:

    To my judgement, the most harm that is comitted by contrarians in our time is by that quite general “war against science” and regardless. Many of us are quite dependent on rather elementary scientific procedure and knowledge in everyday life. It is our culture and way of life.
    I suddenly sat in a Jumbo- jet for 8 hours over the atlantic and could reat “Altitude 11500..12000 M, T -65..-70 C!”

    Now what on earth is that? In bright afternoon sunshine, Colder the the winter night records i Sibiria?..It must! have a natural explaination. Else, my very belief in Lufthansa and inj Nature will be torn apart.

    Even worse, a contrarian did claim again and again and again that climate change in recent years come because of the natural rocking of the earth axis in quite recent decades, and not because of CO2. (What about amateur astronomy then? it will have to be disqualified!)

    But in Tromsø, the first you do when you go out and piss in the morning is to look after whether the Earth Axis stands up right as usual, and then for the other stars to see what time it is in the morning. The Earth axis standing right is allways a good first sign. That will be a good day. But if it has tilted over, then it is a bad sign because then the world has gone under while you were asleep.

    Just think of messing up with such important things (Basic control referencfes of Nature) to have their right, And they do!

    That kind of political propaganda does ental rather severe damage to possible culture, civilisation, freedom, and independence. You will rather have to rely on the experts in rather elementary things. And that is dangerous because they may fool you.

  2. 352
    Martin Smith says:

    About Gavin’s view of Peter Gleick’s actions: I feel strongly both ways. I suppose Gavin is right that Gleick’s credibility as a scientist and as an advocate of science is diminished, but I think what he did is justified. He used deception to expose the actions of an organization that both uses and finances deception. He used deception to expose “merchants of doubt.” More people should do that. If scientists can’t do it and remain scientists, then they should appreciate the sacrifice Gleick has made, whether he knew it would develop this way or not.

  3. 353

    “extreme end of scientific understanding…” Dan H,given your laughable misreading of PDSI, (and failure to own up to the implication of that misreading), as well as propensity to post misleading links, why would a reader place credence in your definition of what is extreme?

    Despicable. And…Woof.

  4. 354
    Chris Crawford says:

    Septic Matthew writes: consider the parallel between Gleick and the administration agents who broke into Ellsberg’s psychiatrists office, as well as the fact that Ellsberg was probably guilty of the crime for which he was indicted.

    The comparison of Mr. Gleick’s action with the government agents who broke into the office of Mr. Ellsberg’s psychiatrist is a poor one. More important, I think, is the fact that, with 40 years’ hindsight, most people agree that Mr. Ellsberg’s actions were laudable. Regardless of the legal evaluation of Mr. Gleick’s actions, I think that they are similarly laudable. He shone light into the inner workings of a nefarious organization.

  5. 355
    flxible says:

    I’d assume Gleick has kept the digital record of the email that he was attempting to confirm before releasing it. What Heartland should be most concerned with is where the information originated, not on the successful attempt to authenticate same. Mr Gleicks authentication of the material before releasing it is actually commendable, regardless if some find the exact technique of questionable legality.

  6. 356
    Septic Matthew says:

    350, Chris Crawford,

    The distinction I was trying to draw in the two parallels was between government information that the public arguably has a right to know (and I agree that Ellsberg did the right thing), and private information which the public arguably has no right to know (and for which Congress has written generally popular laws to protect privacy.)

    I expect the CRU hacker/whistleblower (if found) and Peter Gleick to be indicted or cop a plea. After that, I don’t know.

  7. 357
    SecularAnimist says:

    Septic Matthew wrote: “I expect the CRU hacker/whistleblower (if found) and Peter Gleick to be indicted or cop a plea.”

    There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to even suggest that the person who stole the CRU emails was a “whistleblower”.

    Nor have NINE SEPARATE INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATIONS of the stolen CRU emails produced any evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing about which to blow a whistle.

    Tell me, though — do you “expect” the person(s) who stole the CRU emails to publicly confess and take personal responsibility for doing so, as Peter Gleick has done for releasing the Heartland documents that were sent to him? If not, why not?

  8. 358
    simon says:

    I find most of these comments disturbing, SOME posters here are effectively CONDONING the climate gate saga by their acceptance of Gleiks actions. And NO, you can’t say his actions were wrong…but.

    What is the law for? Once you start making exceptions where do you stop?

    This information was pretty much avaliable as public record, think about that, yet how did Gleick decide to obtain it? By breaking the law. The same applies to the UEA issue, the exact same response from skeptics, yes ..but…

    Gavin nailed this issue in an earlier post, irs not acceptable, its wrong, its illegal, it should not be done. This applies to both sides of the arguement.

    You don’t understand how much damage Gleick has done, this will only get worse, do I need to join the dots for you?

    Its time both sides stopped acting like juveniles and started working together. I am a skeptic, but I see both sides of the arguement, I read, have not closed my mind and if further information becomes avaliable that prods me to change my opinion, then I will.

    Kudo’s to the mods for not driving this subject until more information became avaliable, perhaps its time that we as posters adopted their attitude.

    Let ALL science speak and make your own mind up.

  9. 359

    #358 simon

    I admit I am only slight conflicted. I can not see that the action of Peter Gleick is on the same level of intrusion as the CRU hack. He merely asked for some documents, while the CRU hack was much more easily identifiable as a cyber crime.

    That said, I for one know that Heartland has participated in dissemination information that is not scientifically based and yet they are still selling it or inferring that thier views justify doubt in the strong and wel lvetted aspects of cliamte science.

    Outing such an organization is a favor to society, not a disservice. And no, I’m not condoning criminal behavior, but I’m not even sure that what Gleick did was a crime whereas it looks more to me as something an investigator or investigative reporter might do, and as we new do do on a regular basis.

  10. 360
    Hank Roberts says:

    > what is the law for?
    The law is for protecting personal financial records, explicitly.
    Good thing we have government agencies, eh?

    http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre10.shtm

  11. 361

    I am a skeptic, but I see both sides of the argument,

    Both sides eh? That pretty much says it all.

  12. 362
    SecularAnimist says:

    simon wrote: “What is the law for? Once you start making exceptions where do you stop?”

    I have yet to see a single commenter here say that an “exception” to “the law” should be made for Gleick.

    And as far as I know, neither has Peter Gleick himself asked that any “exception” to “the law” be made for him.

    Instead, Gleick has publicly acknowledged and publicly taken personal responsibility for his actions — conspicuously UNLIKE the person(s) who stole the CRU emails.

    Speaking of which, it would be most interesting to re-read some of the comments that deniers like yourself posted about the CRU email theft. I don’t seem to remember deniers raising a righteous clamor about the sanctity of “the law” at that time. Instead, it was all about the “courageous whistleblower” (even though there is not one shred of evidence that the CRU emails were released by a “whistleblower”).

    Indeed, I don’t seem to remember the Heartland Institute standing up for “the law” and demanding that the person(s) who stole the CRU emails be brought to justice. They were much too busy lying about the content of the stolen emails, and slandering the scientists whose emails were stolen.

    simon wrote: “You don’t understand how much damage Gleick has done”

    Not nearly as much damage as the Heartland Institute’s well-funded campaign of deliberate deceit and malicious, dishonest attacks on climate scientists has done, that’s for sure.

    As to how much damage Gleick may have done TO the Heartland Institute’s campaign of deceit, I don’t know — but I hope it is fatal.

  13. 363
    Susan Anderson says:

    Speaking of delicious, I was thinking of Gleick in the context of Deep Throat.

    On thoughtful people and the UCS, I had a particular thoughtful person in mind, and he was truly thoughtful, but I have to admit we finally parted company over his obduracy. What baffles me, to provide an example – reading and trying to absorb Mann’s new book, is how anyone can not be hit between the eyes by fine work, if they read with an open mind. Same with UCS – their work is largely unimpeachable.

    on Pauli vs. Bell Labs, sorry, I’m not going there. I do like judgmental people if they are clever with it, though, sometimes.

  14. 364
    simon says:

    @359 John

    Thanks for the response John. Its not for me to tell you what is right or wrong, thats your perspective, I wont eat your lunch for that.

    This is why I mentioned the rule of law, this determines from a legal perspective what is right and wrong, note that I through the UEA in there as well, another breach of the law, no exceptions.

    “Outing such an organization is a favor to society, not a disservice. And no, I’m not condoning criminal behavior..”

    And who determines this, you? Me? Gavin? Watts? Are any of us in a position to determine what is best for soceity, who should be allowed to have views, who shouldn’t? Thats a dangerous path you are treading on, consider that. Yes you are condining illegal actions, but you are prepared to make an exception, just like many skeptics with regard to the UEA, its wrong..but..

    “I’m not even sure that what Gleick did was a crime whereas it looks more to me as something an investigator or investigative reporter might do, and as we new do do on a regular basis.”

    Ley me clarify this, it is a crime, and if an investigator or reporter did this it would also be a crime, same with UEA, this is not somthing I would do, do people do this on a regular basis, god help us if they do.

    What is right, what is wrong, thats for the law to decide, with a good dash of morals thrown in, once you start making exceptions when do you stop.

    All of this applies to UEA, there are no exceptions, there can be no, its wrong…but, both Gleick and the UEA culprit are one, you cannot insert a degree test.

    Let ALL the science speak, let people make up their own minds, let people keep their minds open, subject to change.

    [Response: That is all very well, but not really as a general and universally applicable rule. There have certainly been times in history, and places on earth now, where there has been/is a clash between doing what was/is morally right and what was/is legal. We can all think of plenty of examples. However, breaking the law in the service of a higher morality requires a number of conditions before it makes sense - that the law itself is immoral (rather than simply the ends justifying the means), that responsibility is taken, that people are conscious of the potential consequences, and finally, that the end result actually makes things better (Note, this is a brief summary of my thoughts but I am sure there are more cogent defenses of this in many philosophy texts). I reject absolutely "the ends justifies the means" as a practical philosophical principle - that way lies disaster. Overall, I do not judge this instance to have met the criteria, but there may be circumstances that would. - gavin]

  15. 365

    #362 SecularAnimist

    This is a very good point. I applaud Peter for taking his stand and for taking responsibility for his stand.

    When will the CRU hackers claim responsibility for what they did?

  16. 366
    Martin Smith says:

    If the most likely climate change scenario for year 2100 does happen, including that we begin this year trying to stop it, is there a way to quantify the number of human deaths that will occur in 2100 because we waited this long? And then can we re-estimate given that the deniers successfully prevent us from taking action for 1 year, for 2 years, for 3 years, and so on? If AGW is bad for the human race, then at some point, the successful efforts of organizations like the Heartland Institute will be causing lots of deaths in 2100, and the longer we delay, the bigger the death toll. Heartland Institute-type organizations aren’t going to stop creating FUD because scientists above suspicion debate them into stopping. In the first place, they already believe there are no climate scientists above suspicion. You’re all in it for the grant money; you all have conflicts of interest; you all fudge results and hide bad data. They have already succeeded in spreading those memes. I think Peter Gleick decided it was time to go rogue. I think he was right to fess up, but I think he should have been positive about what he did, and I think he should have added, “and I will be doing this for the rest of my life.”

  17. 367
    simon says:

    @362

    “Speaking of which, it would be most interesting to re-read some of the comments that deniers like yourself posted about the CRU email theft. I don’t seem to remember deniers raising a righteous clamor”

    I agree with you, I posted that above, skeptics jumped all over it and made it an exception. its wrong…but, the hacker is a hero, so its okay..

    May I ask why you called me a denier?

    “Not nearly as much damage as the Heartland Institute’s well-funded campaign of deliberate deceit and malicious, dishonest attacks on climate scientists has done, that’s for sure.”

    You can prove that? You have evidence?

    Looks like there is no hope for change.

    Thank you for your time people and for allowing my comments Gavin.

  18. 368
    Chris Colose says:

    The responses on the blogs have been fairly predictable, with the “leak” serving largely as reinforcement tools, and the responses generally correlating with an individuals views about climate change. However, there needs to be broader perspective on this:

    1) First, we should never condone the illegal obtaining of documents (or falsification of documents if this happened). The actions by Peter Gleick were immoral, irresponsible, and possibly illegal. They should not serve as a template for future “debate tactics.” After all, some can appreciate the difficulties that Heartland must have encountered over the last several days, given the attack on their credibility in the face of possibly artificial or misused documents and claims. This was the same difficulty that many of the scientist victims of “climategate” had to endure for years when they had their personal e-mail discussions publicized and mangled to no end. Many of these persecutions based on misrepresentations of the e-mails were led by Heartland, but it does not mean we need to play tag with them. In both cases, this style of attack serves no scientific purpose and has the sole characteristic of character assassination.

    Nonetheless, some documents reveal interesting and troubling aspects of the Heartland initiative, including the intention to spread climate misinformation to K-12 classrooms. This should be kept in mind in the future.

    2) There should also be no double standards attached to the assault on climate scientists or on an organization with a “skeptical” agenda. The climategate leak was just as unethical and irresponsible as the release of Heartland documents. Judith Curry, for example, is on record of saying “The Uncertainty Monster Rests Its Case (thank you hacker/whistleblower)” in reference to climategate, yet was very quick to attack Gleick’s integrity.

    3) Many of us can sympathize with Gleick’s frustration over the lack of transparency by such private organizations, the absence of standards that skeptics are held to, as well the the growing spread of misinformation concerning climate change. This may be unavoidable, but the peer-reviewed literature is the best way to establish where there is and is not legitimate scientific argument. That strategy may be less effective in the popular media, but it is possible to develop efficient communication with the public while retaining honesty and integrity, maintaining consistency with the scientific literature, and not lowering to the standards of some of these anti-climate organizations.

    4) It should be clear that the physics of the atmosphere doesn’t care about any of this, nor does this impact that thousands of scientists that have the courage to tackle the uncertainties that exist in the Earth system. The science of radiative transfer, or the methodologies developed to diagnose climate sensitivity are in no way affected by events such as “leaked documents” or e-mails. Sea ice extent will not care about professional decisions, nor will altered animal migration patterns listen to the harsh words that opposing members of the debate have for each other.

    The reality of global warming, as well as a dominant human influence causing that warming, has now been established with high confidence. The evidence of a new climate and the associated concerns are compelling, and this alone will serve as testament to the power of physics, observation, and hard work by researchers over the next few decades. Whether humanity listens to this evidence is a tough matter, but the evidence does not need to be supplemented with “gotcha” games of this sort.

    Lastly, there have been several references by Gleick and Heartland with respect to “debating” the science. Interrogating the many mysteries and complexities of how the Earth system works is one of the greatest endeavors that can be pursued by a scientist, right along with studies investigating the origin of humans, or the possibility of life on other planets. Moreover, the science of climate is a fascinating multidisciplinary field involving work at the interface of paleoclimate, ice sheet dynamics, sea ice physics, observations from multiple pieces of information, modeling, carbon cycle work, cloud and aerosols, etc. There is no end to the legitimate discussions that those with a passionate interest in climate can have, without the need for personal attacks. It may be naive to suspect Heartland has any intention of pursuing this legitimate line of inquiry, but they will demonstrate that themselves over time; no one should try to expose them by such methods.

  19. 369
    Phil Mattheis says:

    Dan H (at 327) This internet thing is useful
    (whoever you are, however much they pay you)

    Google “Al Gore” and “the science is settled”, and you get an NPR report from 2007 about specific testimony Mr Gore gave at a congressional hearing.
    (at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9047642)
    ==================================
    “The science is settled, Gore told the lawmakers. Carbon-dioxide emissions — from cars, power plants, buildings and other sources — are heating the Earth’s atmosphere.

    Gore said that if left unchecked, global warming could lead to a drastic change in the weather, sea levels and other aspects of the environment. And he pointed out that these conclusions are not his, but those of a vast majority of scientists who study the issue.”
    ==================================
    There’s no smoking gun; nothing open to challenge here, for those of us paying attention, who don’t have competing personal or political agendas.

    There are the big questions, and there are the details. Chasing the unsettled details is what most scientists do – and occasionally those details add up to big new answers, usually with more questions.

    The “science is settled” for many big questions: gravity explains what keeps us standing on this spinning ball, evolving life explains how we beat shifting viruses and bacteria, the kind of life we know best requires liquid water, but isn’t the only kind of life…
    Global warming is real, and tracks directly with increased CO2 concentration, which is linked to our modern lifestyle. That science _is_ settled, if 97% of the relevant experts constitute a consensus. The rest is details.

  20. 370
    Andy says:

    Looking at this as a complete outsider, I agree with someone who earlier said these comments are disturbing. I also am disturbed that these comments seem to reflect the tone of some of the other articles and blogs I have read.

    From my perspective, I see a scientist who impersonated someone else to get documents, after which he included a document which was not part of the provided documents which resulted in misleading others. The issue of impersonating someone is wrong, but the misleading aspect is in my opinion the greater worry I have in this story. My question is that there doesn’t seem like much of a step here from adding a document out of context to creating misleading results in a scientific context.

    [Response: He states that the extra document was sent to him anonymously at the beginning of the process. Allegations of other actions are just allegations, and I would be very surprised if they were true. Opinions obviously differ on this point. - gavin]

  21. 371
    Tietjan Berelul says:

    Gavin, and all the others who replied to my post,

    I hold a bs in applied math. I hope that answers your question. There is no doubt in my mind that climate scientists are among the brightest scientists. In fact, reading the posts on most of the articles here leads me to believe that most people here are a lot smarter than I am. I most certainly did notmmean to insult anyones intelligence.
    As I have said before, i do not have the education to argue the science behind the AGW theory. However it is beyond me why people on this site cant understand that a lot of what is going on in climate science field just does not pass the smell test. I dont want to drag this out by beating a dead horse, but climate scientists have made quite a few poor judgement calls. The reason they have such a hard time communicating with the public is that they make it look like sometimes they want to be scientists, sometimes activists, sometimes politicians or bussiness people. The reason people like marc morano are having a field day with climate science is that that scientists continue go step outside their skope of expertise.

    What I was trying to say is that being a climate scientist is not anything like what people living behind the iron curtain had to go through. If skeptics had it their way, climate scientists would not live like the people behind the iron curtain ! To me that sounds like either you dont know what skeptics want or you dont know what life behind the iron curtain was like. You could not be more wrong if you believe that voicing liberal talking points In Europe could get you hurt. It probably sounds good with scientists battling skeptists, but it just not compatible with reality.

    The people who lose sleep over global warming, are the same people who think that some wingnut in Iran or North Korea with nukes is not something to worry about. The same naive people who think that starving people in poor countries care about global warming, and if we just send them enough money theyll start making solar panels.

    And of course 97% of people who choose to study climate science believe in global warming, what kind of argument is that ?

    [Response: A pretty silly one actually. Do all people only become doctors if they believe in the germ theory of disease? Or engineers because they believe in Newton's Laws? Surely if you thought that climate science was wrong and you were a beginning scientist, it would be a huge incentive to disprove an entire field. Nobel prizes etc. You are simply wanting to ignore the real reason why climate scientists agree on the main aspects - it's because there is a huge amount of convincing evidence for it. You keep trying to make the science about political worldviews, but it really isn't. CO2 doesn't care who you vote for. - gavin]

  22. 372
    SecularAnimist says:

    Martin Smith wrote: “Heartland Institute-type organizations aren’t going to stop creating FUD because scientists above suspicion debate them into stopping.”

    Exactly. Indeed, the whole and entire reason that organizations like the Heartland Institute exist, and receive millions of dollars in funding from fossil fuel interests, is precisely because scientists have already won the “debate”.

    That’s exactly why Heartland is not “debating” — they know they have lost the “debate”, so they are LYING.

    And yet, it seems that almost without exception, climate scientists continue to believe, and to behave as though, they are engaged in a scientific debate.

    To the extent that there ever was a legitimate scientific debate about the reality of AGW and the threat that it presents, that debate ended at least 20 years ago.

    What’s been going on ever since is not a legitimate debate — it’s a campaign of deliberate LIES by the losers of that debate.

  23. 373
    Septic Matthew says:

    357, SecularAnimist: Tell me, though — do you “expect” the person(s) who stole the CRU emails to publicly confess and take personal responsibility for doing so, as Peter Gleick has done for releasing the Heartland documents that were sent to him? If not, why not?

    [edit - please try not to assume motivations]

  24. 374
    dhogaza says:

    TB:

    As I have said before, i do not have the education to argue the science behind the AGW theory. However it is beyond me why people on this site cant understand that a lot of what is going on in climate science field just does not pass the smell test.

    Maybe it’s because we do understand the science behind the AGW theory better than you. And you’ve explicitly set a very low bar … who are you to be lecturing to a practicing scientist like Gavin that his work doesn’t pass the smell test when you admittedly aren’t capable of arguing the science?

    That’s hubris of a special form usually abbreviated “D-K” …

  25. 375
    simon says:

    Andy@369

    In truth Andy the skeptic blogs were similar with regard to the climate gate issue.

    The attidue seemed to be, yes it was wrong to steal the emails but, the hacker is a hero, or the truth comes out or, for the greater good…

    The emails were private discussions and thoughts over a period of time which is what people do. Now, if the emails were requested as part of a FOI issue and NOT provided that would be a different story.

    The UEA thief is no different to Gleick IMO, and frankly anyone posting here who can “kinda” understand why Gleick did this, and maybe its not so bad, must in truth apply the same reasoning to UAE email thief.

    Glieck has acted shamefully, that does not make climate change proponents guilty, only Glieck is guilty, and anyone who may have assisted him. He made a bad call, he will regret for the rest of his life.

    As for that budget memo, lets be clear, its a fake, this is only just starting and I suspect Mr Gliecks problems are only going to grow.

    But they are his problems, not the problems of AGW science, its just that proponents of same now have to deal with the mud being flung.

  26. 376
    Bill Jamison says:

    From Daily Climate:

    “Those who applaud his [Gleick's] actions can only do so if ethics no longer matter.”

    I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  27. 377
    dhogaza says:

    TB:

    The people who lose sleep over global warming, are the same people who think that some wingnut in Iran or North Korea with nukes is not something to worry about.

    Maybe your brain is incapable of worrying about multple threats simultaneously, but don’t assume you’re right about the rest of us, buster. If you don’t mean to insult people here, why are you insulting us?

  28. 378
    adelady says:

    chriscolose “It may be naive to suspect Heartland has any intention of pursuing this legitimate line of inquiry, but they will demonstrate that themselves over time; no one should try to expose them by such methods.”

    Naive?
    You have to deliberately avert your view from what is known about Heartland to be this naive. It’s a bit like the artificially contrived naivety of juries who are not allowed to know a defendant’s previous history of law-breaking to go this far.

    We are much more in the position of a judge who’s been given all the known information about someone before the court. Or better, to get closer to the sphere of professional behaviour, like a panel determining fitness to practise for a doctor or a lawyer. What they look at is past lapses of skill or judgement and any evidence of improvement or appropriate action that would justify allowing these wrongdoers to have any professional standing with the public.

    “they will demonstrate that themselves over time”
    They’ve already had plenty of time in the public sphere in relation to public health and other issues. If there’s any instance, ever, where they’ve been in the right about tobacco, asbestos or any other matter, I’ve not heard of it.

    They’ve been around for a very long time. If they want to advance a new method of operations, ie “pursuing this legitimate line of inquiry”, they should be explicit about how they will a) do that, b) demonstrate that their behaviour to date should be ignored in the future.

    Like all drug counsellors and parole officers, I’d be glad to see a positive outcome. Although, just like those people, I’ll be completely unsurprised to see things go on much as before.

  29. 379

    #364 simon

    I agree with Gavin’s response.

    Further, if Peter is found guilty of a crime then so be it. If I had done the same as he and been found guilty, then so be it. It was Peters choice in this case to do what he did. And if you are arguing that his outing Heartland is the same as hackers and Watts and Heartland quoting cherry picked statements of science out of context ultimately misleading the public are the same, the I strongly disagree.

    There is something called contentious objection and laws change based on knowledge understanding and evolution of understanding. There there is justice to consider, of which a judge may find someone guilty and still not punish depending on circumstance.

    How do you know I am condoning illegal actions? Who already determined a crime was committed. If Heartland sent him the documents, then I’m having a hard time finding a crime here, even if there was a misrepresentation (possibly that was a crime but I do not know). Or would you say he is guilty also because Heartland was not smart about their own security protocols?

    You are acting as judge and juror of Peter Gleick though. He has not even been charged with a crime as yet and since I’m not a lawyer, I still don’t know if what he did was illegal, or merely a deception that he used to get at a particular truth.

    What is right and what is wrong is not only for the law to decide, it is for the evolution of human kind to decide. And through time, laws change as we attempt to create a better sense of right and wrong.

    Oh, and I don’t know how right or wrong I am. Such things can be somewhat amorphous. Sort of like climate models with an estimated mean and error bars around it. But that does not mean that I am wrong just because there is uncertainty, nor does it prove how right I am.

    But I still think Peter made a brave decision for what he thought was the right thing to do. I wonder what I would have done in the same circumstance. One can never truly know such things though.

  30. 380
    Chris Crawford says:

    I’d like to correct Simon on a misconception:

    What is right, what is wrong, thats for the law to decide, with a good dash of morals thrown in, once you start making exceptions when do you stop.

    No, the law determines what is legal, not what is moral. We attempt to codify our moral standards in our laws, but all jurists recognize that the law is but an approximation of justice. There are plenty of situations in which the law condones something we know to be patently immoral; there are a few situations in which the law punishes an action that we know to be morally admirable. I believe the Mr. Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers provides us with an excellent example of a morally admirable action that was also illegal. I further believe that Mr. Gleick’s action is in the same class. I recognize, however, that moral standards are completely subjective and that it is futile to argue over different moral standards.

  31. 381

    Those that use tactics and methods of intimidation to suppress others from addressing wrongs as they are identified should have those methods set in the light of day. The documents Peter was sent are one thing. There there is this:

    http://www.berthoudrecorder.com/2012/02/19/heartland-institute-threatens-71-year-old-veteran/

    Where Heartland had the gaul to threaten a Col. USAF Ret. This I found upsetting and I responded and cc’d the Colonel:

    http://www.berthoudrecorder.com/2012/02/20/28790/

    This intimidation tactic is as old as lawyers have existed I imagine. I have had it lobbed at myself and those I know more than once.

    They just figure, what can these puny people do to us, we have five lawyers. We can scare them away by intimidation saying they are the ones committing crimes and we will put it in language that sounds scary and official.

    The last case I was involved with under these circumstances, the corporation lost, plus interest. But the scary letters, I remember each one, and each time I read one upon arrival, I just laughed.

    Philosophers have made their cases that though unscientific, there is a rationality that can be argued for, and that without rational argument the truth itself might suffer.

  32. 382
    Radge Havers says:

    Tietjan Berelul @370

    “However it is beyond me why people on this site cant understand that a lot of what is going on in climate science field just does not pass the smell test.”

    Like you, I am not a climate scientist. Nor am I as smart as many of the people here. That’s precisely why I’m very suspicious of “smell tests”, especially when they’re flogged by the inexpert. If you have a BS in applied math, you certainly know enough to understand that much in this world doesn’t conform to gut instinct. In fact the whole history of math and science is pretty much a testament to that, both scientifically and socially.

    Further, if you put sufficient energy into honest analysis of the so-called “debate” you will do a better job of discerning where the really bad smells are actually coming from. That is to say, if you understand who is lobbing the stink bombs, what is at stake, and why scientists get pretty damned upset over things like death threats, you will be in a better position to evaluate the issues both of science and of policy without getting caught up in all the peripheral distractions. That goes for me, you, and any concerned citizen doing due diligence.

    “The people who lose sleep over global warming, are the same people who think that some wingnut in Iran or North Korea with nukes is not something to worry about. The same naive people who think that starving people in poor countries care about global warming, and if we just send them enough money theyll start making solar panels.”

    Utter twaddle. Not true of anybody I know, and totally irrelevant to the implications of the science. Are these snide caricatures really the best you have to offer on the subject? It’s as though you’re straining to push an agenda without having any substantive opinion to offer. If so, perhaps it’s time to start asking some sincere questions and to avail yourself the unique opportunity to interact here with genuine experts in the field. The result could be refreshing after all the radio talk show dreck you’ve apparently been exposed to.

  33. 383
    Phil. says:

    [Response: That is all very well, but not really as a general and universally applicable rule. There have certainly been times in history, and places on earth now, where there has been/is a clash between doing what was/is morally right and what was/is legal. We can all think of plenty of examples. However, breaking the law in the service of a higher morality requires a number of conditions before it makes sense - that the law itself is immoral (rather than simply the ends justifying the means), that responsibility is taken, that people are conscious of the potential consequences, and finally, that the end result actually makes things better (Note, this is a brief summary of my thoughts but I am sure there are more cogent defenses of this in many philosophy texts). I reject absolutely "the ends justifies the means" as a practical philosophical principle - that way lies disaster. Overall, I do not judge this instance to have met the criteria, but there may be circumstances that would. - gavin]

    There have been many examples of people taking actions which they believed to be morally right but contrary to the law of the land, others’ opinions of that action depends on what side of the fence they are on. Several centuries ago a member of my family posted a papal bull in opposition to the then monarch because he believed it was the right thing to do. The monarch thought otherwise and he was executed, he knew that was the risk but he was prepared to take. Subsequently he was beatified by the church, which clearly agreed with his actions!

  34. 384
    Andy says:

    Simon

    I appreciated your answer as well as Gavin’s although sadly this is not what my take has been based on my reading of other responses here as well as elsewhere. My take on it is that there seems to be some type of a “justification” for this behavior, and any type of comparison to the pentagon papers seems like a huge stretch. My main issue still is the combination of the anonymous document with the authenticated ones. Even assuming the initial behavior was acceptable, and the allegations are false, I can’t see any reason to combine the documents other than to mislead.

    On a more practical point, I don’t think defense of this behavior is going to play out to well with the public in general, but who knows maybe society really has degenerated into completely polarized groups with a skewed moral compass

  35. 385
    dhogaza says:

    The attidue seemed to be, yes it was wrong to steal the emails but, the hacker is a hero

    Sorry, but I read many denialist blogs at the time, and your first clause (“the attitude was that it was wrong”) is not supported by the evidence.

    FOIA is regarded as a hero. Any effort to uncover FOIA (such as seizing Bishop Hills’ computer) is treated as a crime against humanity.

  36. 386
    Edward Greisch says:

    343 Horlinrot: Dr. Gleick did not shoot himself in the foot. Dr. Gleick provided necessary information. There are cases when a lie is justified. There are cases when a court will ignore a law or ethical precept to get information. This is one of those cases.

  37. 387
    John Mashey says:

    Back to the real world. Many people were surprised either:
    a) To see Heartland planning a K-12 “education” campaign.
    b) Or, given that fact, that they were receptive to David Wojick’s proposal

    Actually, Heartland has been trying for years to inject their beliefs into K-12, ineptly enough that Wojick may have seemed a step up.
    See Fakeducation For Years From Heartland” for the history and examples of their attempts.

    Do not miss the 5-minute trailer that starts
    “Like you, I’m not a scientist, but I have worked for one.”
    The 8-page backup has many more examples. (The scientists she worked for predicted 9-11, for instance.)

  38. 388

    Its all about the changing climate, not reputations, but there is absolutely no ethics with those who deny AGW’s reality. Best way to describe them is they completely ignore overwhelming evidences even when it shows in their backwards.. I live where its happening most acutely, since 2001 I’ve tracked it with thousands of sun disks measurements (a different most original method of measuring Global warming). I am a nobody, but mr no one can study, the topic is the reputation we should be talking about.

    Since I dont know his works, I am interested in Gleicks contributions though, his piece in the larger effort to understand the climate puzzle. I already know that he is human, and behold climate scientists are people, nor are they a collective like the Borg. The science has become much evolved and very capable of predicting the future. Wish I could say the same about those who dont listen, its warming big time contrarians! Believe it with your own measurements. If you find otherwise let us know. Only then should schoolchildren know about your findings.

  39. 389
    Chris Crawford says:

    I had a discussion with my wife over this issue, and I have altered my thinking somewhat as a result. The morality of such behaviors as Mr. Gleik’s, Mr. Ellsberg’s, or the CRU hacker depends on the social value of the revealed information. In Mr. Ellsberg’s case, the revealed information proved to be useful in the ongoing policy debate about the war in Vietnam. It’s not that the information supported one side or the other: the crucial factor is that it informed the debate and improved its quality.

    Applying this reasoning to the CRU emails, I think that released information did not inform the debate about climate change. It did not reveal skulduggery on the part of the practitioners; it did not reveal anything that would undermine our confidence in the science. Thus, the CRU hacker cannot claim any moral merit to their actions.

    Lastly comes the Heartland Institute material. Does it provide information that informs the overall debate on climate change? Ironically, it shouldn’t; were the American body politic engaged in a mature debate over climate change, then none of the material in the Heartland Institute documents would have any bearing on the debate. However, the material does serve to establish two points that ARE relevant to the current, deformed debate: 1) That the Heartland Institute is pursuing an agenda not primarily concerned with scientific truth; and 2) that some deniers are paid to present their case. The overall impact on the debate is to discredit a major voice in the political debate on climate change.

    However, the significance of these revelations is, in my judgement, too small to provide much in the way of moral justification for Mr. Gleik. The information is embarrassing to the Heartland Institute, but ultimately does not constitute evidence of egregious misbehavior. Yes, they’re trying to disseminate information reflecting their own views — that in itself is not misbehavior. Yes, some bloggers have been revealed to be in their pay. That’s embarrassing but doesn’t constitute misbehavior. Unpaid bloggers can claim higher moral ground but not much more.

    I therefore conclude that Mr. Gleik’s actions were morally questionable. Not as condemnable as the CRU hacker’s, and not as defensible as Mr. Ellsberg’s actions.

  40. 390
    CM says:

    Gavin @364,

    However, breaking the law in the service of a higher morality requires a number of conditions before it makes sense – that the law itself is immoral (rather than simply the ends justifying the means), that responsibility is taken, that people are conscious of the potential consequences, and finally, that the end result actually makes things better .

    The first criterion, “that the law itself is immoral”, would cover e.g. such a classical case of civil disobedience as Rosa Parks sitting in the whites-only section of the bus. It would (in my view unreasonably) rule out many others, e.g. Jim Hansen getting arrested at the White House pipeline protest. The laws requiring protesters to obey police orders to disperse, etc. are not in themselves unjust or immoral, but sometimes people break them to express the depth of their convictions about the immorality of something else, and to open up a channel of communication with the public and decision-makers. Not all supporters of civil disobedience would agree with me on this, I think; some take the ‘high ground’ that only direct disobedience of unjust laws is justified, or at least very much preferable to the other kind.

    This is just a side note – I don’t think it has much bearing on Gleick’s actions, and I haven’t seen him try to justify them in these terms.

  41. 391
    Septic Matthew says:

    372, [edit - please try not to assume motivations]

    Point taken, but he did ask me why I might expect something or not expect it. A succinct and accurate reply might have been “I have no idea”.

  42. 392
    Tom corby says:

    The Gleick case is interesting because of his duel role as a scientist and a journalist. As a journalist you could argue that the techniques he used (not uncommon in journalism) pass the ‘public interest’ test and are justified as he brings hidden corrupt practices into the public domain. Tick for good practice.

    As a scientist it grates ethically and is completely alien to the subject domain. Debit for poor practice

  43. 393
    Craig Nazor says:

    @327, Dan H said: “This term [settled science] is misused almost as much as ‘consensus.’”

    On another blog, Dan, you consistently denied that there is a scientific consensus that the human release of CO2 is the main driver of the currently observed warming.

    Is this what you mean by the misuse of the word “consensus”? Or has your opinion changed?

  44. 394
    Hugh says:

    They follow their interests. They are not interested in climate behavior as long as they get lots of money. So they harass the scientists.

  45. 395
    SecularAnimist says:

    simon wrote: “As for that budget memo, lets be clear, its a fake”

    Actually, it is not the “budget memo”, but the “2012 Heartland Strategy Memo” that Heartland claims is a fake. The strategy memo is the one that was sent to Gleick anonymously. The budget memo was sent by Heartland to Gleick, and its authenticity has been confirmed.

    And Heartland has presented absolutely no evidence whatsoever to prove that the strategy memo is a fake, except their assertion. And whether the strategy memo is “fake” or not, most of its substantive content has been confirmed as true by the information in the other materials that Heartland sent to Gleick, which everyone involved have acknowledged to be authentic.

    Somehow, it does not surprise me that you are willing to declare what is “clear” when you don’t even know which memo is which, nor does it surprise me that you are prepared to accept Heartland’s assertions without evidence.

    Your “skepticism” is very selective.

  46. 396
    Marco says:

    Simon @375 and dhogaza @385,

    Like dhogaza I have seen little evidence on pseudo-skeptical blogs that they thought the hack was wrong. The one thing that may be seen as such was the search for anything that may be taken as a clue that it was a whistleblower. That would suggest that some needed that consolation to justify reading the e-mails.

    And then you have people like Judith Curry, who explicitely thanked the “hacker/whistleblower” and now scolds Peter Gleick for doing what he did. Funny to see her lap dogs lapping it up, attacking anyone who points out this hypocrisy (Nick Stokes and Chris Colose in particular). Funny in a sad way.

  47. 397
    Matthew L says:

    Is anybody really that surprised or horrified by what Gleik “uncovered”? The HI are a PR, political blogging and lobbying group and the documents reveal that they raise money from parties with a financial interest to do the PR, blogging and lobbying. To be honest they raise not a lot of money either. Greenpeace and WWF do PR and lobbying too, rather more successfully and raise considerably more cash using ostensibly very similar methods (albeit with a more attractive cause). So where is the controversy?

    It seems to me that Gleik has destroyed his scientific reputation and career in order to reveal something not very surprising that is likely to meet with nothing more than a shrug and a “so what?” from the majority of citizens.

    The real tragedy is that he will very likely lose, if not his job, at least research project opportunities as funding bodies steer clear of somebody with a “record”. I think it is a salutary lesson to anybody with a career to lose to be VERY careful how involved in climate politics they get.

    You need to be reputation-free and have a very thick skin to be a PR, political blogger or lobbyist. Very few of them have another career they are in danger of losing.

    By the way, I must admit to having a sneaking admiration for this guy:
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/warrenmeyer/2012/02/09/understanding-the-global-warming-debate/

    Although I am a lot more convinced on the destructive effects of AGW than he is, he talks a lot of sense about the two sides of the argument “talking past each other”. It seems to me that many of the prominent “sceptic” scientists (Lindzen, Spencer, Christy etc) are simply doing what Gavin is always saying they should do and that is research to try and disprove the predictions of “catastrophic” global warming in order to get their Nobel Prizes.

    They all agree that the globe has warmed / is warming and that some of that can be attributed to human emissions of CO2. In his blog, Spencer seems to spend most of his time explaining the greenhouse effect to the lunatic fringe!

    These scientists dispute the extent of positive feedback amplification and the role of natural climate variability and clouds in the current models. Theirs is a valid field of scientific enquiry. To call them “deniers” just leads to resentment and angry shouting that obscures the scientific discussion.

    I also think it is a mistake to “peer review” their scientific papers out of the journals. Let them publish and be damned! If they do bad science it will quickly be found out and the debate can move on. By trying to prevent them publishing bad science it simply “martyrs” them and gives ammunition to the loony fringe view that there is a “climate conspiracy”.

    I think you have to distinguish between scientists sceptical of the predictions of catastrophe and the loony fringe of non-scientist bloggers. Just my 2p!

  48. 398
    Dan H. says:

    Craig,
    Yes. While there is enough support to claim that there is a “scientific consensus” that the Earth has warmed, mankind has helped to alter the climate, CO2 has risen, and is a greenhouse gas, there is not enough evidence to claim that a “scientific consensus” exists in support of CO2 being the main driver of climate.

    [edit - posting that kind of rebunked nonsense here does not help your case]

    [Response: What does your claim even mean "CO2 being the main driver of climate"? Are we talking about the 20th C? Glacial cycles? the Cenozoic? Or is it just a vague hand wavy kind of thing that sounds sciencey enough to fool someone into thinking it actually had some content? Please up your game. - gavin]

  49. 399
    Chris Dudley says:

    The situation I think of after looking at Andy Revkin’s partial quoting of the NYT rules for reporters (he ignored exceptions) is the undercover investigation of Food Lion. Wikipedia has this:

    “In the 1990s, Food Lion gained a degree of notoriety when it was the subject of an ABC News investigation. ABC had received a tip about unsanitary practices at Food Lion. Two ABC reporters had posed as Food Lion employees, and witnessed the unsanitary practices at Food Lion. Much of what they had seen was videotaped with cameras hidden in wigs that they were wearing. The footage was then featured in a segment on the news magazine Primetime Live, in which Food Lion employees described unsanitary practices, which included bleaching discolored, expired pork with Clorox and repackaging expired meats with new expiration dates, and the use of nail polish remover to remove the expiration dates from dairy item packages.

    The company responded by suing ABC for fraud, claiming that the ABC employees misrepresented themselves; for trespassing, because the ABC employees came on to Food Lion property without permission; and for breach of loyalty, the ABC employees videotaped non-public areas of the store and revealed internal company information. During the court battles between Food Lion and ABC, over 40 hours of unused footage were released that helped Food Lion’s case. In the unused footage, two undercover producers are seen trying to encourage violations of company policy; however, employees resisted and correctly followed sanitary practices.[18]

    Food Lion was awarded USD$5.5 million by a jury in 1997. The award was later reduced by a judge to $316,000. The verdict was then overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia. According to the court, even though ABC was wrong to do what they had done, Food Lion was unable to show that they had been directly injured by ABC’s actions – essentially that it was the actions of Food Lion that caused the damages, not the publication of those actions.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_Lion

    So, it sounds like ABC was primarily dinged for trying to entrap. It is not clear the Gleick was trying to encourage Heartland to commit tax fraud, he was uncovering evidence that they are doing so. It is not clear that his method was the only way to uncover that information, and perhaps a more experienced journalist could have done something different, but it may have been the only way he could think of.

    It concerns me more that this story was not uncovered by more established media much sooner.

  50. 400
    dhogaza says:

    Matthew L:

    It seems to me that many of the prominent “sceptic” scientists (Lindzen, Spencer, Christy etc) are simply doing what Gavin is always saying they should do and that is research to try and disprove the predictions of “catastrophic” global warming in order to get their Nobel Prizes.

    The problem is that they – Spencer in particular – have a history of churning out papers in defense of their thesis that are so obviously wrong that it’s hard to imagine they’re offered in good faith.

    At some point, when your pet ideas that you advance in order to influence public opinion are repeatedly shot down, a scientist should be willing to say “yeah, I’m wrong” and move on.

    These people don’t do so.

    But I’m sure they’re smart enough to know that publishing junk isn’t going to win them their Nobel …

    These scientists dispute the extent of positive feedback amplification and the role of natural climate variability and clouds in the current models. Theirs is a valid field of scientific enquiry. To call them “deniers” just leads to resentment and angry shouting that obscures the scientific discussion.

    They’re labelled deniers not because they dispute the extent of positivie feedbacks, but because they put forward really terrible and easily refutable arguments to support their positions. Lindzen’s “Iris effect” was apparently interesting enough and plausible enough to some that observational evidence to support it was sought by the wider scientific community, but observational data refuted it. That was … 15 years???? … or so ago and no one has put forward any argument in favor of there being no net positive feedback that rises to that level of being interesting.

    If they want to shed the label “denier” they’ll have to quit acting like deniers. Spencer, in particular, has a tendency to refuse to accept criticism of even his whackier stuff as being valid.

    I supposed they could be labelled “cranks” rather than “deniers”, but to technical types, including scientists, “crank” is no complement …


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