The Heat Is Online

Peter Gleick's Tragic Lapse

As a longtime fighter against the oil and coal interests that bankroll climate skeptics, I am delighted by Desmogblog's posting of the Heartland disinformation documents. 

As a 30 year journalist who headed up a Pulitzer Prize winning project for the Boston Globe, I am appalled at the ethical insensitivity of Naomi Klein and others who have praised the falsification used by Peter Gleick to obtain them. Peter's work to promote awareness of the threat and magnitude of climate change over the years has been truly noble. But even he conceded that he committed "...a serious lapse of professional judgment and ethics..." 

I understand Peter's frustration. It's the same rage that has been smoldering for years in the consciousness of many of us -- Bill McKibben, Al Gore, Elizabeth Kolbert and others.

But for Klein and others to excuse Peter's fraud betrays a profoundly disturbing journalistic blindness.

Over the last 15 years, I have given more than 300 talks on the climate crisis. The most consistent response I received from audiences (especially in the earlier years  when the topic was far less publicized) was: "You're not with an environmental group. You're not with a corporation. You're not with a government agency. You're a journalist -- so we believe you."

Please think this through for just a moment. Society depends on the integrity of journalists to provide the factual basis for opinions, actions and decisions. If journalists are permitted to falsify their identities -- or any other portion of their presentations -- it robs society of a credible basis on which to form opinions or make decisions. When society has no solid informational ground to guide its actions, it leaves itself wide open to demagoguery and worse.

Peter Gleick's extraordinary contributions over the years have been invaluable. But no amount of righteous gloating over the disclosure of the Heartland documents should be allowed to obscure the indelible tainting of his legacy.

My sorrow for Peter Gleick far outweighs my delight at the exposure of the scummy practices of the Heartland Institute. Given all his years of service, Peter's lapse in judgment has, ever so sadly, turned him into a truly tragic casualty of the climate war.
                                         -- Ross Gelbspan