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The morality of unmasking Heartland

“Truth is so precious that she should be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” Winston Churchill’s famous words were uttered during the war against the Nazis and referred to Operation Bodyguard, a deception…

Philosophers talk about the “dirty hands” problem: are lies OK in the pursuit of truth? Le Mast/Flickr

“Truth is so precious that she should be attended by a bodyguard of lies.”

Winston Churchill’s famous words were uttered during the war against the Nazis and referred to Operation Bodyguard, a deception that was intended to mislead the German high command about the date and location of the invasion of Normandy. Given the context, few would criticise Churchill’s statement.

Now imagine Bernie Madoff uttering the same words in defense of his acrobatic Ponzi schemes. Few would accept such glaring sophistry.

Where does Dr Peter Gleick’s revelation that he lied to a conservative think tank to access climate change documents fit on this spectrum?

This question gets us right to the heart of a central issue in moral cognition and philosophy: Are there immutable moral rules — such as “thou shall not lie” — or does morality legitimately involve a trade-off between competing ethical imperatives that includes consideration of the ultimate outcomes of one’s actions?

If there are immutable moral rules then there is little daylight between Churchill and the hypothetical Madoff — both violated a moral axiom by admitting the possibility that lying may be justifiable.

By contrast, if morality involves a balancing of ethical costs and benefits, then Churchill’s deception of the German high command quite plausibly was a moral act that quickened the pace of battle, thus hastening the defeat of the Nazis and the liberation of Dachau.

The Allies’ deception paled in comparison to the lives saved.

History is full of such moral balancing acts.

When Daniel Ellsberg released the classified Pentagon Papers in 1971 he undoubtedly broke the law. However, when the papers revealed that four consecutive Presidents, from Truman to Johnson, had consistently misled the American public about their actions in Vietnam, the illegality of Ellsberg’s action paled in comparison to the good that arose from informing the public of their leaders’ deceptions.

Ultimately, all charges against Ellsberg were dismissed, and the Pentagon Papers arguably helped accelerate the move towards peace in Vietnam.

What are we to make of the latest moral balancing act involving the leaked Heartland documents?

On Valentine’s Day an anonymous source emailed documents to various journalists that were leaked from the Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank.

According to its 2010 Prospectus, Heartland opposes “… junk science and the use of scare tactics in the areas of environmental protection and public health”.

Opposition to “junk science”? What junk science?

According to the Heartland Institute, “junk science” is the research that has linked tobacco to lung cancer and junk food to obesity. It is also, of course, the “junk science” known as climate research.

The leaked documents put names and dollar figures to Heartland’s opposition to “junk science” and revealed that it funded climate denial in at least three countries — the US, New Zealand and Australia. Well-known so-called “sceptics” were found to have been pay-rolled by the Institute, often contrary to those individuals’ earlier denials of funding by vested interests.

George Monbiot summed up the implications of the leaked information succinctly: “This is plutocracy, pure and simple.”

Then yesterday, another revelation.

Climate scientist Dr Peter Gleick wrote on the Huffington Post that he obtained the documents from Heartland by using someone else’s name, and then passed them on to journalists, thereby triggering an avalanche of exposure of the Heartland denial machine.

Is Gleick another Churchill or Ellsberg?

Legal issues aside, how does his subterfuge compare to the potential public good that has resulted from the documents’ release?

Many philosophers who study ethics agree that it is important to consider the consequences of one’s actions in a moral dilemma to come to an acceptable judgment. Rather than relying on moral strictures, this “consequentialist” approach argues that the morality of an action is evaluated by whether it brings about the greatest total well-being.

This reasoning is mirrored in the cognitive laboratory, where people’s responses are also often informed by the consequences associated with competing paths of action (the data are quite complex but it seems safe to conclude that most people are sensitive to weighting the outcomes of competing actions rather than being exclusively entrenched in immutable moral rules).

Does this mean there is an ethical imperative to consider Gleick to be another Daniel Ellsberg?

No. But it does mean that one’s ethical concerns should consider competing actions and outcomes rather than focusing on an individual’s chosen action in isolation.

Gleick has apologised for his use of subterfuge. His actions have violated the confidentiality of a think tank but they have also given the public a glimpse into the inner workings of the climate denial machine.

Had he not done so, no one’s confidentiality would have been violated, but then the public would have been kept guessing about the internal workings of one of the world’s most notorious serial impersonators of science. The Heartland Institute takes pride in its chimerical pseudo-“scientific” conferences and it is allied with “scientific” work that denies that mercury is poisonous.

In the real world, mercury is poisonous. In the real world, the number of weather-related natural disasters has tripled in the last 30 years, and the World Health Organization estimates that 150,000 people are already dying annually from the effects of climate change. In reality, many of the IPCC’s 2007 predictions have been found to be overly conservative rather than alarmist. And the latest IPCC report has reiterated the risks we are facing in the all-too-near future if we delay action on climate change.

Revealing to the public the active, vicious, and well-funded campaign of denial that seeks to delay action against climate change likely constitutes a classic public good.

It is a matter of personal moral judgment whether that public good justifies Gleick’s sting operation to obtain those revelations.

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105 Comments sorted by

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    1. Tim Benham

      Student of Statistics

      In reply to Scott A Mandia

      I followed your link and it doesn't have any threatening legal letters to retired 71 year old veterans that I can see. It has a letter from another organisation to Heartland. It links to a Crikey article that it says reports on these "legal scare tactics". That article, http://www.crikey.com.au/2012/02/20/heartland-launches-legal-action-against-climate-change-bloggers-journos/, however, doesn't mention anything about letters to retired 71 year old veterans. It has a copy of a letter to desmogblog.

      Do you have a credible source for the claim? Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with sending legal letters to veterans, "moms", or bloggers, if they have posted defamatory material.

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    2. brent hoare

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tim Benham

      Tim, suggest you try this one: http://www.berthoudrecorder.com/2012/02/19/heartland-institute-threatens-71-year-old-veteran/comment-page-1/#comments It's not hard to find, Richard Black on the BBC has called attention to it, resulting in over 5,500 page views, which Col. Wamsley has described as "incredible" (pers. com.). You can see all the correspondence there, and without wishing to sound immodest, some of the comments are quite illuminating too.

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  1. Troy Barry

    Mechanical Engineer

    Gleick's moral approach may be argued but it must inform how we view anything else he produces now. As has was the chair of the American Geophysical Union Task Force on Scientific Ethics we must also take Gleick's ethical approach into account when assessing the work of AGU and its members who appointed Gleick. And we cannot help wondering how far his ethics are shared amongst his peers in the climate science community.

    For example, if an attitude of "It is acceptable to lie in order to further…

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    1. brent hoare

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Troy Barry

      What Gleick did is obviously open to debate, but I think some of us are being a little precious, and a little too quick to make it into a tempest in a teacup.

      Accusations that Gleick's reputation is permanently stained, or that a fog of doom has been caused to descend over the credibility of the entire climate movement are unsustainable at best, and at worst patently absurd.

      Dr Gleick has exonerated himself by coming clean so quickly about having to engage in a minor and momentary act of deception…

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  2. Andrew Hack

    IT Project Manager

    Perhaps Peter Gleick might be more believable if he was someone a bit more neutral in the debate. Perhaps if he didn't waltz around accusing "sceptics" of being "deniers" as the author of this article does, he might command some respect and persuasion.

    I get your point thought, we need to look at the bigger picture. The bigger picture being the huge climate catastrophe that requires massive transfers of wealth, massive supra-national government encroachment and to nuke Western economies back to…

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  3. Tim Scanlon

    Author and Scientist

    The truth is always the only answer.

    Working in climate extension I have seen the misinformation campaigns and the methods that are used to enact them. The public needs to know about this, but they also needed evidence of it. Heartland have deliberately waged an anti-science war and should be exposed for the fraudsters they are.

    Gleik has done what is morally responsible, he has exposed the truth that Heartland are not to be trusted.

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    1. Troy Barry

      Mechanical Engineer

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Your ethics seem to preference one truth over another, specifically the contested truth of climate change over the uncontested truth of Gleick's identity. It is noted for future assessments of your contributions.

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    2. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Troy Barry

      Incorrect Troy.

      The science of climate change is well established and global warming is a measured quantity. Mercury does poison people. They are essentially facts, or as close to science ever gets to having facts.

      What Heartland are doing is paying people to ignore the mountains of scientific evidence and try to create doubt and extend misinformation. They aren't involved in scientific discussion, they are involved in deliberate disception of the wider public. They are opponents of the truth, thus Gleik was morally obliged to show that disception.

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    3. Troy Barry

      Mechanical Engineer

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      You just made that up to advance your political agenda - in line with your ethics. ;)

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    4. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Troy Barry

      Yes, I made up 180 years of scientific research as well.

      And I love the idea of the truth not being ethical. Are you a politician Troy? Because you have the right morals to be a politician if you don't like the truth.

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    5. Troy Barry

      Mechanical Engineer

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      "And I love the idea of the truth not being ethical." You certainly seem to, with your belief that it is "...morally responsible..." to lie about your identity to obtain information under false pretenses.

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    6. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Troy Barry

      "Your ethics seem to preference one truth over another, specifically the contested truth of climate change over the uncontested truth of Gleick's identity"

      I don't think there's any preference involved, but I note that you leave out the truths about Heartland's tax evasion and attempts to corrupt school education. Obviously you have you have your own preferences in truth.

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    7. Tim Benham

      Student of Statistics

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      "Gleik has done what is morally responsible, he has exposed the truth that Heartland are not to be trusted."

      I'm not sure about that but he has surely exposed the truth that Peter Gleick (sic) is not to be trusted.

      As far as I am aware the only document supplied by Gleick that is particularly disreputable to the Heartland Institute (HI) is the "Climate Strategy" document (CSD) http://www.desmogblog.com/sites/beta.desmogblog.com/files/2012%20Climate%20Strategy%20%283%29.pdf. This is the document…

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    8. James Szabadics

      BSc

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Nothing wrong with exposing the truth, but if you also create a false document and claim it as truth then try to justify that its OK to fabricate the truth and lie as long as the cause is worthy where does that leave science?

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    9. Tim Benham

      Student of Statistics

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Could you be a little more specific? that is a 23 page document that seems rather dull.

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    10. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Tim Benham

      Tim Benham: "As far as I am aware the only document supplied by Gleick that is particularly disreputable to the Heartland Institute (HI) is the "Climate Strategy" document (CSD)"

      Also try this one:

      http://www.desmogblog.com/sites/beta.desmogblog.com/files/(1-15-2012)%202012%20Fundraising%20Plan.pdf

      By the way, it's staggering what they got away with without paying tax. Also, they suckered Microsoft for some free software. Perhaps they qualified under "Providing relief to the poor".

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    11. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist: The Con is a bad Monty Python sketch, for climate sense see: http://www.thegwpf.org/

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      "Lots of tax-free lunches, dinners, and receptions", throw in an exotic high cost (high carbon) tropical tourist dive and several thousand hangers on from NGO's and you have an IPCC meeting.

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    12. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      "several thousand hangers on from NGO's"

      So those were tax-free charities were they?

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    13. Tim Benham

      Student of Statistics

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Thanks for the follow-up but I'm not sure what's wrong with their Major Project Fundraising. They appear to be trying to find funds for projects which fit their ideology. I don't know enough about US taxation law to know whether there is anything wrong with their program of exhibits, lunches and receptions. I would have thought these were fairly run-of-the-mill promotional activities.

      This is rather OT. The discussion is about whether Gleick's actions are justified. I don't see any grave malfeasance in HI's budget or fundraising activities that would justify resorting to illegality to expose.

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    14. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Tim Benham

      Tim Benham: "I'm not sure what's wrong with their Major Project Fundraising."

      So you tell me what is in the "Climate Strategy" document that you find so disreputable to Heartland that is not in the "Fundraising Plan" document. For example, the disreputable to Heartland "Climate Strategy" document has:

      "Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective. .. We tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $100,000 for 20 modules in 2012, with funding pledged by the Anonymous Donor…

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    15. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Also, judging by your "two wrongs make a right argument", I take it you agree Heartland was doing something wrong.

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    16. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist: The Con is a bad Monty Python sketch, for climate sense see: http://www.thegwpf.org/

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      i'm just pointing out the hypocrisy

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    17. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist: The Con is a bad Monty Python sketch, for climate sense see: http://www.thegwpf.org/

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      I don't see a problem in Heartland providing a counter case, and Chris there is a legitimate scientific case for a "luke warm" position, and producing teaching materials to support it. BTW, just because they produce the material does not mean teachers and curriculum organisers in the US will necessarily pick it up.

      Bear in mind that the Strategy Doc is a fake.

      Bear in mind that I don't necessarily agree with Heartland's position on every thing in the released documents. I support their right to make an argument and disagree with others, which is something you appear to want to suppress.

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    18. Tim Benham

      Student of Statistics

      In reply to Tim Benham

      I'm surprised that while several people have flagged my post as unconstructive, no-one has had the time to respond to any of the points I made casting doubt on the HI strategy document's authenticity. This is disappointing. I put a significant amount of time into compiling and checking the inconsistencies in the strategy document yet none of the numerous defenders of Gleick has any answer other than clicking the downvote button.

      I had hoped this forum was better than that.

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    19. brent hoare

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tim Benham

      Tim, fair enough, before flagging your post as unconstructive, I will first suggest you head off to DeSmogBlog's http://www.desmogblog.com/evaluation-shows-faked-heartland-climate-strategy-memo-authentic and the HuffPo piece at http://t.co/sJxzlCJx and see if your conclusions still stand up. I think you'll find all your points addressed and dismissed there, which saves the rest of us a lot of time.

      And if you want to see document that casts the HI in a very poor light, have a look at their last "Quarterly Performance Report" at http://heartland.org/media-library/QPR/QPR-2012-1Q-web.pdf. HI is simply an aggressive ideologically driven PR agency masquerading as a not for profit tax exempt 'think tank', conduct which I expect will be of more than passing interest to the IRS. Al Capone was not put away for theft or murder, he was taken down for tax fraud.

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    20. Tim Benham

      Student of Statistics

      In reply to brent hoare

      "Tim, fair enough, before flagging your post as unconstructive"

      Why do you think my post was unconstructive?

      "I will first suggest you head off to DeSmogBlog's http://www.desmogblog.com/evaluation-shows-faked-heartland-climate-strategy-memo-authentic";

      I don't think that it is at all convincing. The fact that many portions of the CSD echo other documents in the set is consistent with the hypothesis that the CSD was fabricated by someone in possession of the other documents in the set…

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    21. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Tim Benham

      So you complain about no response and yet you ignore my response to you. I'll repeat it in case you didn't notice it:

      Tim Benham: "I'm not sure what's wrong with their Major Project Fundraising."

      So you tell me what is in the "Climate Strategy" document that you find so disreputable to Heartland that is not in the "Fundraising Plan" document. For example, the disreputable to Heartland "Climate Strategy" document has:

      "Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective…

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    22. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Marc Hendrix: "I don't see a problem in Heartland providing a counter case"

      I'm not the one who said there was a document "particularly disreputable to the Heartland Institute". I'm just pointing out that this document merely says the same things as a genuine Heartland document, ergo, the genuine Heartland document is also "particularly disreputable to the Heartland Institute".

      "which is something you appear to want to suppress."

      Amazing. I want maximum possible disclosure of everything and you accuse me of wanting to suppress.

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    23. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      "i'm just pointing out the hypocrisy"

      I don't indulge in any tax-free lunches, dinners, and receptions. Also, I haven't noticed where you pointed out those "several thousand hangers on from NGO's" were being funded by tax-free charities.

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    24. Tim Benham

      Student of Statistics

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Developing curriculum materials to influence schools towards one's position isn't new or anything seriously wrong. The criticisms of HI mostly amount to "They have these outrageous opinions! And they're paying people to promote them!!". In a democracy that's generally allowed. The stuff relating to possible tax evasion for claiming stuff they shouldn't is pretty thin gruel and obviously post-facto justification: Gleick is no anti-tax evasion crusader.

      If claiming dodgy deductions justifies intrusions into our privacy, is anyone safe?

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    25. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist: The Con is a bad Monty Python sketch, for climate sense see: http://www.thegwpf.org/

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      The point is that the fake document does not say the same thing as the rest. There are significant differences in the detail and these likely to be subject to close examination should court case arise.

      Seems your max. possible disclosure only extends to one side. Or did I miss something.

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    26. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Marc Hendrikx: "The point is that the fake document does not say the same thing as the rest."

      Says who? I asked Tim Benham to point out anything in the "fake" document that is not in the Fundraising Plan document. So far he has failed to do that.

      "There are significant differences in the detail"

      What significant differences?

      "Seems your max. possible disclosure only extends to one side."

      So you tell us. What are you claiming I say shouldn't be disclosed?

      "Or did I miss something."

      Wouldn't be the first time.

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    27. Tim Benham

      Student of Statistics

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Chris O'Neill: "I asked Tim Benham to point out anything in the "fake" document that is not in the Fundraising Plan document. So far he has failed to do that."

      I'm a little reluctant to do others' homework for them. My original post here detailed the following in the CSD:

      (a) "dissuading teachers from teaching science". This phrase and nothing equivalent is in the fund raising document (FRD). In fact that document details a plan to fund the teaching of science (possibly wrong science, but that…

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    28. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Tim Benham

      Tim Benham: "I'm a little reluctant to do others' homework for them. My original post here detailed the following in the CSD:"

      OK. I didn't notice it the first time. Took a while for you to point this out.

      "(a) "dissuading teachers from teaching science". This phrase and nothing equivalent is in the fund raising document (FRD). In fact that document details a plan to fund the teaching of science"

      by paying David Wojick who "has contacts at virtually all the national organizations involved…

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    29. Tim Benham

      Student of Statistics

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      "If David Wojick is actually already involved in "producing, certifying, and promoting science curricula" for educational institutions then this is an appalling conflict of interest"

      I don't see the conflict of interest. If Wojick agrees with Heartland's take on the science why shouldn't he work for them? Whether these payments need to be discussed with Wojick's other employer(s) is a matter for him, not Heartland.

      "The basic problem with Heartland's activities is a lack of public disclosure"

      I'm not aware of any legal requirement for them to make such disclosures. If there's an ethical requirement for disclosure it would usually fall on the recipient.

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    30. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Tim Benham

      "Whether these payments need to be discussed with Wojick's other employer(s) is a matter for him, not Heartland."

      OK, so you think it's just an appalling conflict of interest for Wojick. Says a lot about how ethical Heartland is that it has no problem financing an appalling and secret conflict of interest.

      "If there's an ethical requirement for disclosure it would usually fall on the recipient."

      That would be a joke if it wasn't so serious. If I was a US taxpayer, I would want to know what private activities I am subsidizing.

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    31. Shirley Birney

      retiree

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      The ethics-free HI were pocketing donations from General Motors while the US taxpayers were bailing out GM.

      The misuse of dollars by these parasites seems unending,

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  4. Richard Conrad

    logged in via Facebook

    But what about the even more serious allegation that one of the documents was a fake?
    Surely it's one thing to obtain information by deceit but quite another to fabricate evidence against Heartland.

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    1. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist: The Con is a bad Monty Python sketch, for climate sense see: http://www.thegwpf.org/

      In reply to Richard Conrad

      And current evidence indicates it was Gleick that did the faking.

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    2. Shirley Birney

      retiree

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      @ Marc Hendrickx: "And current evidence indicates it was Gleick that did the faking."

      "Current evidence?" Links please?

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    3. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist: The Con is a bad Monty Python sketch, for climate sense see: http://www.thegwpf.org/

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Earlier blog discussion around who released the documents (now confirmed as Gleick) raised the possibility it was Gleick based on stylistic similarities between the fake strategy memo and Gleick's previous writings. see for instance
      http://rankexploits.com/musings/2012/tell-me-whats-horrible-about-this/#comment-89946

      Heartland have publicly named Gleick as the forger.
      see Wall street journal interview with Heartland President Jo Bast.
      http://nig.gr/9VC from 0:53

      However, if it turns out to be true based on what you have stated above, I don't think it would change your opinion of Gleick.

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    4. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist: The Con is a bad Monty Python sketch, for climate sense see: http://www.thegwpf.org/

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      let's wait and see Shirley.

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    5. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist: The Con is a bad Monty Python sketch, for climate sense see: http://www.thegwpf.org/

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Better still I sent Peter Gleick and email. Perhaps he'll provide a simple answer to a simple question.

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    6. brent hoare

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Richard Conrad

      Allegations that the "2012 Climate Strategy" document is a fake are looking increasingly bogus. IMO it easily passes a 'balance of probabilities' test. See comment with links above or DeSmogBog. When the document is confirmed as genuine this debate will move to a whole new level and HI will be in a very smelly pile of the proverbial. And wide open to accusations of defamation by many.

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    7. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist: The Con is a bad Monty Python sketch, for climate sense see: http://www.thegwpf.org/

      In reply to brent hoare

      only if you have one eye Mr Hoare.

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  5. Warwick Brown

    Retired

    I am uneasy when financial donors, large or small, to any think tank, cause or charity are able to be kept secret. I wish to see just about everything able to be viewed on the internet, from government documents to salaries and investments of superannuation funds. However, such secrecy is what we have to live with, even as I am not actually glad to see both the Heartland documents AND Climategate emails on view.

    In view of the posed question of whether in this case it was similar to asking whether…

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  6. Warwick Brown

    Retired

    I apologise. I meant that I AM happy to see both the Heartland and Climate documents on view

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  7. Michael Brown

    Professional & academic

    You'll never be taken seriously if you use the term climate denier. I can assure you there are plenty of well-qualified, heavy duty science people who think the CO2 theory is pretty weak, and getting weaker. Abuse doesn't help your case.
    And with regard to weather-related natural disasters, the global tropical storm intensity is at a 30 year low - completely contradicting the climate exaggerations put out by Munich Re - who obviously have a vested interest in scaring people into paying higher premiums.

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    1. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Michael Brown

      I strongly disagree with this peculiar other me. I say peculiar since he seems to be a professional without a profession, an academic without a field and a company director without a company. Given the vapourous CV, perhaps this other me isn't even called Michael Brown.

      As for the "heavy duty science people who think the CO2 theory is pretty weak", whenever I see lists of such people they typically include many people who do not work on climate or have gross conflicts of interest. Examples include the 16 scientists who cowrote an article for the Wall Street Journal and Bob Carter, who is being paid a (once secret) monthly allowance by Heartland Institute.

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    2. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      They have replied, but most of the authors haven't suddenly become climate scientists and there are still plenty of distortions.

      For example, their take on the resignation of the editor of Remote Sensing differs greatly from Wolfgang Wagner's resignation letter www.mdpi.com/2072-4292/3/9/2002/

      They also show a plot without margins of error and model ranges. An error that would be marked harshly in an undergraduate lab report.

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    3. Daryl Deal

      retired

      In reply to Michael Brown

      I find it interesting, Heartland Institute's hired astroturfing crowd are completely ignoring the work of John Mashey, in reporting both the Heartland Institute and S Fred Singer, for possible serious violations of a number of IRS Tax Codes!

      Link:- http://desmogblog.com/mashey-report-confirms-heartland-s-manipulation-exposes-singer-s-deception

      Or, is it the old story, make a lot of noise in the vain hope, their other inconvenient truths or evils will not come around to bite them in the posterior!

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  8. James Szabadics

    BSc

    Interesting developments in this story, I think people would be well advised to reserve their judgements on the ethics till the full details are available and verified .... WSJ aired a further allegation against Gleick today.

    The allegation is that Peter Gleick impersonated a board member of the Heartland Institute, stole his identity by creating a fake email address, and proceeded to use that fake email address to steal documents that were prepared for a board meeting. He read those documents…

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  9. Marc Hendrickx

    Geologist: The Con is a bad Monty Python sketch, for climate sense see: http://www.thegwpf.org/

    If readers want the considered views of a working climate scientist on the issue look no further than the following article by Judy Curry who Gleick mentions in his fake Heartland strategy memo. I am still wondering why The Conversation does not post any of Curry's articles. What are you people so scared of?

    See Gleick's Integrity
    Gleick’s strategy has failed on all counts. I don’t think this is from the Art of War, but I read it somewhere and it seems apt: When fighting a war, don’t waste a bullet on yourself (ouch).

    Rest here:http://judithcurry.com/2012/02/21/gleicks-integrity/

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    1. Daryl Deal

      retired

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Question One: When will Heartland Institute provide factual evidence to independently back up their claims that only one document is a fake?

      Strangely, 95% of the information that particular alleged fake contains, has been independently verified, by both external sources and Heartland Institute itself. Most vexing, is it not, the astroturfers get it wrong, yet again! Now, without the source code being released for open public view, to validate Joe's claims, one cannot take his oath free testimony…

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  10. Toby James

    retired physicist

    I've heard that identity theft is a pretty serious offense in the US.

    What are the wicked deeds the think tank has been up to?

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    1. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist: The Con is a bad Monty Python sketch, for climate sense see: http://www.thegwpf.org/

      In reply to Byron Smith

      Yeah, those jokers at the IPCC ought to be put on trial for spreading those untruths.

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    2. Danderson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Byron Smith

      You got some examples there Byron? With references please.

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  11. Dave McRae

    logged in via Twitter

    Detectives and journalists use deception and subterfuge against criminals and against people who are dishonest in order to get information that would be impossible or next to impossible otherwise to via honest means.

    The key test is lying to whom. Lying to a liar is permissible if it is to gain justice or informing the public. Lying to public is bad.

    The CRU mail hackers would also be heros too if indeed that had unmasked a conspiracy to distort science as Heartland dishonestly claims it does…

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  12. Sean Lamb

    Science Denier

    I was going to say it was dishonest of Dr Lewandowsky of construing comments that trace amounts of mercury had always existed in fish and that present levels don't represent a threat to health as saying mercury isn't poisonous.

    Then I realised that Dr Lewandowsky was only being dishonest in the service of a higher truth and that he is, also, a latter day Churchill or Ellsberg. Or perhaps a Primo Levi or a Sophie Scholl.

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    1. Tim Benham

      Student of Statistics

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Do you have a copy of the original article by Soon? my search ended at the WSJ paywall.

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  13. James Szabadics

    BSc

    Dr Lewansdowsky claims in the article that weather disasters have tripled in the last 30 years. This claim appears to be related damage costs rather than on data relating to extreme weather.

    We need to carefully consider the definition of a weather disaster. If a storm develops and then finishes over an unpopulated area is this a weather disaster if nobody was impacted? If it must damage a large number of human lives or human properties to be classified as a weather disaster than surely the…

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    1. Tim Benham

      Student of Statistics

      In reply to James Szabadics

      "Dr Lewansdowsky claims in the article that weather disasters have tripled in the last 30 years. This claim appears to be related damage costs rather than on data relating to extreme weather."

      I agree that is strange that Dr Lewandowsky (sic) would make that unqualified assertion when he wrote elsewhere http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/lewandowskyNormalization.html that after adjusting for the sort of factors you mention there is no significant trend in losses attributable to non-geophysical disasters.

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    2. Tim Benham

      Student of Statistics

      In reply to Stephan Lewandowsky

      This is a quote from the document to which I linked.

      "It turns out that after normalization, most of the time—but not always; Barthel and Neumayer (2012)—there is no longer an increase in disaster-associated losses over time. If we adjust the earlier losses to today’s figures, similar to the way in which we expressed the price of a 1966 Holden HR in today’s dollars, then most researchers have thus far failed to find a climate-associated trend in the data (see Bouwer, 2011, for a review).

      This is illustrated in the figure below, also taken from Neumayer and Bartel (2011), which shows temporal trends for Global losses from non-geophysical disasters after normalization, using two different normalization techniques. Neither trend line is significantly different from zero."

      It seems to me that this is consistent with my characterization. If this is wrong could you let us know why?

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    3. Stephan Lewandowsky

      Chair of Cognitive Psychology at University of Bristol

      In reply to Tim Benham

      1. disasters have tripled
      2. damage can be "normalized" to show zero trend but that work _virtually always_ fails to consider compensatory developments in fire fighting or warning systems and so on.

      point 1. tells us something about climate evolution (with some confidence but not certainty) whereas point 2. tells us something about the economics and human ingenuity.

      the two are not incompatible or contradictory and I do not dispute 2., although I am concerned that it may not hold for the…

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    4. James Szabadics

      BSc

      In reply to Stephan Lewandowsky

      Dr Lewandowsky could you please clairfy your position on the increased frequency of climate disasters and the relationship to population growth and subsequent inappropriate land zoning for human habitation in high risk locations. Could you concede that with no change in extreme weather event frequncy, climate disaster frequncy would rapidly escalate if more people lived in flood zones than 30 years ago due to urban planning pressures assocated with spiraling population? There was no mention of human population or population shift into more high risk areas in your links as a possible factor in disaster frequency.

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    5. James Szabadics

      BSc

      In reply to Stephan Lewandowsky

      So to sum up and seek further clarification - you appear to agree that increases in population and population expansion into high risk zones can already explain the increase in weather related disasters but you postulate that other technological factors that you cant quantitatively account for indicate that climate change is actually responsible for increased weather related disasters despite statistical evidence that extreme weather events show no trend?

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    6. James Szabadics

      BSc

      In reply to Stephan Lewandowsky

      The best explanation of the increase in climate disasters would logically be population growth and location of population growth in high risk areas that are routinely subject to weather impacts and not linked to any change in frequency or intensity of weather events based on the available data. I thank you for pointing out that in your link you did indeed at least appear to agree that population and population expansion into high risk zones can explain the increase in disasters yet in apparent contradiction you say that the increase in disasters " tells us something about climate evolution (with some confidence but not certainty)". With your surrender/withdrawal from further debate and parting name calling (!?) we will just have to live with the dichotomy of your explanations.

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    7. Tim Benham

      Student of Statistics

      In reply to Stephan Lewandowsky

      "1. disasters have tripled"

      That sounds dramatic but I don't know what it means. Are you talking about the number of disasters or the value of the damage caused? what is a disaster?

      "2. damage can be "normalized" to show zero trend but that work _virtually always_ fails to consider compensatory developments in fire fighting or warning systems and so on. "

      That these compensatory developments make a significant difference is your untested hypothesis. That the normalized data shows zero trend is, AFAIK, the current best peer reviewed conclusion. To omit this and prefer your own supposition seems irresponsible to me.

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    8. James Szabadics

      BSc

      In reply to Stephan Lewandowsky

      February 15, 2012: New paper in J. Climate by Jessica Weinkle, Ryan Maue, and Roger Pielke Jr.: "Historical global tropical cyclone landfalls."

      In recent decades, economic damage from tropical cyclones (TCs) around the world has increased dramatically. Scientific literature published to date finds that the increase in losses can be explained entirely by societal changes (such as increasing wealth, structures, population, etc) in locations prone to tropical cyclone landfalls, rather than by changes…

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  14. Marc Hendrickx

    Geologist: The Con is a bad Monty Python sketch, for climate sense see: http://www.thegwpf.org/

    One scientist understands the damage Gleick has done:
    from "Gleick apology over Heartland leak stirs ethics debate among climate scientists"
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/feb/21/gleick-apology-heartland-leak-ethics-debate

    Richard Klein, a climate researcher at the Stockholm Environment Institute, said he was astounded at Gleick's actions. "All I can say is: what was he thinking?" he said. "It's an own goal. It's not just his own credibility, his own integrity on the line. It's a whole community of climate scientists who, with the odd exception, want to do good science and make sure science is recognised."

    He went on: "It doesn't just blur the line between climate science and science policy. It blurs the line between what are acceptable and what are not acceptable methods. He is not perceived by the outside world as acting in his personal capacity. He acted also by responding as Peter Gleick the scientist and of course that hurts other scientists as well."

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  15. Marc Hendrickx

    Geologist: The Con is a bad Monty Python sketch, for climate sense see: http://www.thegwpf.org/

    Climate Scientist Roger Peilke Snr weighs in:

    "I have reposted below since the recent behavior (e.g. see) of Peter Gleick, co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security in Oakland, California, involving the Heartland Institute is just another example of the often vitriolic and unseemly behavior by some to discredit what are appropriate alternative viewpoints on the climate issue. Unfortunately, the action towards the Heartland Institute displayed by Peter Gleick is just another example of an attitude of a significant number of individuals in the leadership of the climate science community."

    http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/a-climate-science-post-on-september-4-2011-involving-peter-gleick/

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    1. Derek Bolton

      Retired s/w engineer

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Thanks for posting that Marc. Until I read it, I thought Pielke was worth some consideration.

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    2. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist: The Con is a bad Monty Python sketch, for climate sense see: http://www.thegwpf.org/

      In reply to Derek Bolton

      Suggest you start with this paper that provides a good summary of Pielke Snr position.

      Pielke Sr., R., K. Beven, G. Brasseur, J. Calvert, M. Chahine, R. Dickerson, D. Entekhabi, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, H. Gupta, V. Gupta, W. Krajewski, E. Philip Krider, W. K.M. Lau, J. McDonnell, W. Rossow, J. Schaake, J. Smith, S. Sorooshian, and E. Wood, 2009: Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases. Eos, Vol. 90, No. 45, 10 November 2009, 413. Copyright (2009) American Geophysical Union.

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    3. Tim Benham

      Student of Statistics

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      What has Roy Spencer to do with the morality of Gleick's apparent fraud? I couldn't find anything on the page you linked to about Pielke Snr, let alone his having a forked tongue.

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    4. brent hoare

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Well Pielke Sr would say that wouldn't he? So would Monckton (except he'd probably be more funny), but I'm not sure it adds much to the discussion.

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  16. Marc Hendrickx

    Geologist: The Con is a bad Monty Python sketch, for climate sense see: http://www.thegwpf.org/

    Time has an interesting article on this. Some excerpts:

    The Heartland Affair: A Climate Champion Cheats — and We All Lose

    Late last year, Peter Gleick — the president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security; and a respected expert on water-and-climate issues — co-authored a paper on the American Geophysical Union's (AGU) task force on scientific ethics and integrity. Gleick and his co-author Randy Townsend of the AGU wrote that advancing scientific work…

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  17. Alex Cannara

    logged in via Facebook

    Love it! Churchill & Ellsberg are both heroes to us Yanks. So Gleick looks like one for us too, especially since Heartland is one of our own good-old corrupt lobbying organizations. So I do apologize that the silver stake of honesty wasn't driven through Heartland up here first.

    It is interesting to see the usual apologists already commenting here, -- perhaps the local Australian Phony Science Clubs still think they can proceed apace? Would a Churchill let them?

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  18. Hengist McStone

    logged in via Twitter

    Yes, there's a strong case that the ends justify the means. But I don't see it quite as simply as the author's conclusions. Gleick is a climate scientist , and climate scientists don't enjoy the freedom to lapse into ethical grey areas like the rest of us (rightly or wrongly IMHO the latter). I'm not saying they are fair game but the anti-science brigade would love to tar all climate scientists with the same brush, which is why I have a problem with Prof Lewandowsky's conclusions that it's a matter of personal moral judgment. Neither Romm nor Revkin's judgment's count for much now. We are all waiting to see how Dr Gleick's peers judge him

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  19. Shirley Birney

    retiree

    Well it goes something like this which makes the money laundering Italian mafia look like Mother Teresa:

    The pro-religion Templeton Foundation, and Jack Templeton, its Chair, funds organizations that have an anti-science bias. The Templeton Freedom Awards are administered by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, a group that is most notable for its opposition to taking action against climate change and for being a defender of the tobacco industry that has traditionally given them funding…

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  20. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    I'm assuming the hacking of the East Anglia emails also constituted a public good, as it exposed impropriety in a publicly-funded institution?

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  21. Timothy Curtin

    Economic adviser

    Lewandowsky; 22 February 2012, 12.07pm AEST

    Is Gleick another Churchill or Ellsberg?

    Neither, and Stephan should not be putting "Legal issues aside". In scientific discussion the fraud perpetrated by Glieck is both illegal in California where he lives, and anti-science, as science can only progress with truth, and he is a self-admitted liar.

    BTW, Lewandowsky like his supporters here, some 100 or more, is himself guilty of emitting at least 365 kg of CO2 p.a. (according to the saintly US…

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  22. Danderson

    logged in via Twitter

    The real documents were so damning that 'somebody' (we know who) had to create a fake one to fit the narrative.

    No big oil funding for Heartland.

    Millions of big oil funding for green groups.

    Gleick invited by Heartland to speak with donation to charity on offer.

    Fake document offers contradictory false story about Heartland's attempts to silence opinion.

    Climate alarmists defend criminal, fraudulent tactics by their own.

    Anti-denial mob refuse to admit what's obvious to the rest of us (oh dear, see Desmogblog - who's got their head in the sand?).

    Heartland criticised for wanting non-alarmist, non-political school curriculum.

    Kudos to AGU and Gavin for having the moral decency to call it what it is.

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  23. Philip Dowling

    IT teacher

    "In the real world, mercury is poisonous. In the real world, the number of weather-related natural disasters has tripled in the last 30 years, and the World Health Organization estimates that 150,000 people are already dying annually from the effects of climate change."
    I find it extremely difficult to follow the logic here. I can find no strong evidence of climate change causing the deaths of an additional 150,000 people annually.
    Every time, I try to identify strong logical arguments by the proponents…

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  24. Keith McLennan

    logged in via Facebook

    The full quotation is: "In wartime, truth is so precious she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies." Churchill was not proposing a charter for bearers of false witness, but defending the importance of secrecy and deception in the context of fighting a war. To omit that vital qualification is misleading and, worse, misrepresents WSC.

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  25. Anthony Cox

    logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

    This is a brilliant article. The next time I am doing a plea in mitigation for some lowlife I shall call on professor Lewandowsky who has the uncanny ability of being able to look at a pile of dross and describe gold.

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  26. Timothy Curtin

    Economic adviser

    Well said, Keith McLennan.

    But then we have Shirley: "The ethics-free HI were pocketing donations from General Motors while the US taxpayers were bailing out GM. The misuse of dollars by these parasites seems unending, " Actually it was the GM Foundation, not GM per se, which gave the Heartland Institute $30,000 over the past two years, not enough for HI to buy even one Chev or Holden Commodore! Wow. Meantime WWF raises $375 million a year tax free for its campaigns of disinformation on all issues.

    Shirley just check your own ethics please.

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  27. Shirley Birney

    retiree

    Yet another feeble attempt at obfuscation by Timothy Curtin. The GM Foundation was set up by General Motors and last week General Motors' CEO Dan Akerson advised that “he is committed to reviewing GM's funding for Heartland when he returns to Detroit.”

    As at March 5, over 10,000 outraged owners of GM vehicles had signed a petition demanding that GM cease supporting Heartland’s attacks on science. How interesting too that Timothy Curtin endeavours to disconnect the foundation from the…

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