The AGU is one of those big professional societies of scientists, with tens of thousands of members in the fields of earth and space science. They hosted their annual convention in early December in San Francisco. Prominent climate blogger Steve McIntyre attended, but only wrote a post on January 5 on his return from a trip to Asia. His report: none other than Peter Gleick was a featured speaker at the convention. Seems almost impossible, but McIntyre took photographs and has posted them at his site, climateaudit.org.
Do you know who Gleick is? Until February 2012 he was head of the AGU's Task Force on Scientific Ethics. That's when he was caught forging and then widely publicizing a fake document created to smear a small conservative think tank that had put on conferences featuring appearances by climate sceptics. I use the term "forging" carefully: I think that the evidence, summarized below with links for more detail, is sufficient at this point that the term can and should be used as to Gleick. Yet Gleick seems not to have lost any of his stature among his peers.
Going back to February 2012, besides his role at the AGU, Gleick was also head of something called the Pacific Institute in California, an environmental organization specializing in water issues, and something of a climate campaigner, including regular articles at Forbes magazine. On February 14, 2012 a then-anonymous individual e-mailed to several climate sites some documents said to have come from the Heartland Institute purporting to show that Heartland's climate sceptic efforts were at least in part funded by the Kochs and that Heartland knew that its sceptical efforts were "anti-climate." The documents were made public by DeSmogBlog and the Guardian. In rapid succession over the next several days: (1) Heartland admitted the authenticity of all of the documents except one, which it labeled as a forgery. The one in question happened to contain all of the information that was damaging to Heartland. (2) Gleick confessed that he was the source of the documents and that he had stolen the authentic ones by calling a Heartland staffer and pretending to be a board member. In his confession Gleick stated that his phishing exercise had been motivated by the receipt "in the mail" "at the beginning of 2012" of the strategy memo that Heartland had labeled as fake. (3) Numerous bloggers, including Steven Mosher and Roger Pielke, Jr. demanded that Gleick answer the question of whether he had forged the fake document. As far as I have been able to determine, he has never answered that question.
Within a day of Gleick's confession, blogger Megan McArdle, then with the Atlantic, had put together a series of damning observations and questions based on the documents and Gleick's confession that made it impossible to believe that the fake document had any source but Gleick's own forgery:
We know two things about the memo:
1. It must have been written by someone who had access to the information in the leaked documents, because it uses precise figures and frequent paraphrases.
2. It was probably not written by anyone who had intimate familiarity with Heartland's operations, because it made clear errors about the Koch donations--the amount, and the implied purpose. It also hashed the figures for a sizable program, and may have made other errors that I haven't identified.
Did someone else gain access to the documents, write up a fake memo, and then snail mail that memo to Dr. Gleick? Why didn't they just send him everything?
If an insider was the source of the memo, as some have speculated, why did it get basic facts wrong? (I have heard a few suggestions that this was an incredibly elaborate sting by Heartland. If so, they deserve a prominent place in the supervillain Hall of Fame.)
Why did the initial email to the climate bloggers claim that Heartland was the source of all the documents, when he couldn't possibly have known for sure that this was where the climate strategy memo came from?
Why was this mailed only to Gleick?
Plus, of course, Gleick has never denied that he forged the document.
Well, Gleick was suspended as head of the Pacific Institute. Oh, but by June 2012 he was back in charge, with no investigation or explanation. Gleick did disappear promptly from the AGU Task Force on Scientific Integrity, replaced by Linda Gunderson. At the December 2012 AGU convention in San Francisco, McIntyre asked Gunderson if the Task Force had thought to conduct any investigation of its former chair as to whether he had committed a major forgery intended to smear a professional rival.
Gundersen said that the Task Force had not considered the Gleick affair at all. It had done no investigation of Gleick’s conduct whatever. She said that Gleick wasn’t her responsibility and refused to be drawn into commenting on the affair in any way.
And of course, by December 2012, Gleick was back at the AGU convention as honored guest speaker, with no apology and no explanation.
Meanwhile, in 2011 the AGU established a Climate Communication Prize, intended, according to its president's statement, "to raise the visibility of climate change as a critical issue facing the world . . . ." This year's winner is former NCAR climate scientist Jeffrey Kiehl, who has since gone off into Jungian psychology. Here are a few of his statements on climate from his web site:
The planet has been warming for the past few decades. . . . These changes are having serious effects on life on Earth. Science tells us that the majority of this warming is due to increases in the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. The measured increased in this gas is due to humans burning fossil fuels, i.e. coal and oil. . . . Projections are that over fifty percent of species may be lost by the end of this century. . . . These are very dire predictions that can cause a sense of despair and hopelessness in us.
Are wild predictions that "over fifty percent of species may by lost by the end of this century" what passes for science at the AGU?
And also AGU, is there any reason why any member of the public should trust anything you say or do?