The best available evidence now suggests that the most damning of the “Heartland Documents” — the strategy memo which explicitly states that Heartland’s strategy is to interfere with good science education in order to advance their political agenda — is legitimate. The legitimacy of the document was being questioned because it was physically and stylistically different from the other documents with which it was released. We now know that the strategy memo was sent to climate scientist Peter Gleick and that Peter then took steps to acquire corraborating documents from Heartland (see “The Origin of the Heartland Documents.”) The “one of these things is not like the others” defense is now obviated.
There is a great deal of discussion regarding Gleick’s method of obtaining the other Heartland documents. Apparently, he sent Heartland a request for the documents and they sent them to him. We don’t know the exact details of how that went, but there is a good chance that this will place Peter in a negative light since he seems to have tricked the austere institution into doing something they probably didn’t want to do. Was this excellent investigative reporting? Nefarious trickery? I’m sure one’s opinion on that will be determined mainly by which side one is on in this absurd debate over whether we should accept the preponderance of evidence showing the reality of anthropogenic climate change or whether we should deny the scientific realities and stick with the corporate line that business as usual (burning off tens of millions of years of stored-up Carbon to maintain our flash-in-the-pan lifestyles of consumption and thoughtless greed) is the best thing for our planet and/or our pocketbooks. The bottom line is that none of these documents tell us anything substantially new about Heartland, but they do, importantly, confirm our worst fears about the intent and mission of that particular Libertarian “think” tank.
Had Peter Gleick obtained these documents using certain methods, and had he been a journalist, he would be up for a Pulitzer prize for investigative reporting. Had he obtained the corraborating evidence of Heartland’s unsavory strategies using a slightly different approach, he’d be fired by his editor. The thing is, Peter Gleick is not a journalist and it is absurd to hold him to “Journalistic Standards.” Peter is like the rest of us: He knows enough about the science, the politics, and the economics surrounding the issue of Anthropogenic Climate Change to have been very frustrated with the mindless zombie-like hate filled denialist movement, bought and paid for by the corporations and individuals with the most to gain from ignoring the science, to have risked falling on his sword for the benefit of the next generation. Thank you Peter. I don’t know yet if I will ultimately wish you hadn’t done this or not, but no matter what, there is a positive benefit to knowing the truth, and Heartland will never be seen quite the same way again in the future.
The documents themselves already showed a lessening of financial support for Heartland’s efforts to steer our national and international policies towards the cliff of unmitigated Anthropogenic Climate Change. Some of the donors, like Microsoft Corporation, were probably giving money to Heartland without realizing how bad an idea that was. Those donations will dry up. I’m told that some time today (maybe this has already happened) we will learn the name of the deep-pocketed “Anonymous Donor” who has focused his or her funding efforts on wrecking science education and similar activities. If that happens, regardless of that particular donor’s change of heart or lack thereof, other potentially “anonymous” donors may think twice before trusting their anonymity to Heartland, which appears overall to have certain limitations in the area of security and professional behavior.
The up side of all this is that we know more than we did before about important things. The downside is that much of the conversation in the press and the blogosphere over the last several days has been about the process and the activities of individuals and groups, not about the release of ancient Carbon into the atmosphere and its potentially dire consequences. Anthropogenic Climate Change is real, important, and needs to be addressed. Let’s do that.