The Dark Side of Climate Activism

Feb. 23, 2012

Peter Gleick is a fraudster.

The president and co-founder of the Oakland-based Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security confessed this week that he used a stolen identity to obtain internal documents from the Heartland Institute, a public policy organization known for challenging the scientific and political orthodoxy on climate change.

Gleick decided he would stop at nothing to put a hurt on Heartland, which has the temerity to suggest that the threat posed by anthropogenic planetary warming might be just a tad bit overstated by climate-change alarmists. So Gleick  posed as a member of Heartland’s board of directors, gaining access to information to which he had absolutely no right.

‘Serious Lapse’

Gleick acknowledged “a serious lapse” in his “professional judgment and ethics,” while at the same claiming, in effect, that the devil — Heartland — made him do it. He was frustrated, he explained, “with the ongoing efforts — often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated — to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate, and the lack of transparency of the organizations involved.”

So how did the UC Berkeley-trained scientist, a former recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, advance the cause of transparency in the climate change debate? By anonymously leaking the sensitive materials he stole from Heartland to sympathetic journalists and to fellow climate change activists.

For all the sound and fury directed at Heartland by Gleick’s leak, it really was much ado about nothing. They are only surprising, wrote Time Magazine, “if you’ve paid exactly zero attention to the climate debate over the past decade.”

And as to the “well-funded” attack on climate change scientists, surprise, surprise, surprise, the Heartland memos, wrote Time, “indicate that fossil fuel companies don’t seem to be spending that much money on climate denial.”

What does that mean? That Heartland has not been bought and paid for by Big Oil, as Gleick and his fellow climate change activist so often claim. It means that some of us — I’d dare say most if not all of us — who question the conventional wisdom on climate change have come by our skepticism honestly.

When I hear Gleick and others insist that it is beyond scientific dispute that human activity has precipitated global warming, I am reminded of a scary Newsweek story in 1975 warning of “global cooling.”

Global Cooling

The scientific community was just as certain in 1975 that a new Ice Age was in the offing as it is today that a planetary meltdown will take place unless enlightened lawgivers in places likeSacramentodo something to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels.

Indeed, it was because of climate change hysteria — based on worst-case scenarios laid out politically-motivated scientists, driven  by environmental extremists who want us all living in little boxes, little boxes and driving around in Teensy smart cars — that the Legislature enacted AB 32, the nation’s most Draconian global warming law.

The law requires California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, eight short years away. It also requires that 33 percent of the state’s energy mix come from renewable sources — solar, wind, hydro — by the turn of the decade.

Robert Stavins, director of Harvard University’s Environmental Economics Program, blogged last year that, “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will require greater reliance on more costly energy sources and more costly appliances, vehicles and other equipment.”

Is it worth it? Yes, if climate change truly is the life-or-death threat suggested by Gleick and other activist scientists.

But what if the scientific community is dead wrong about climate change (just as it was back in 1975, when the overwhelming consensus was that a dangerous planetary cooling was underway)?

Then California’s global warming law makes no scientific or economic sense.

That’s the quite reasonable point that the Heartland Institute and other climate change skeptics are trying to make. And that’s why they are under attack by climate change activists like Gleick, the fraudster.

– Joseph Perkins

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