Fakegate Opens a Door
Most of the news about the Heartland Institute "Fakegate" controversy centers around stolen documents and the warmist scientist who confessed to his role in the matter. But the scandal also opens a door to the curious history of the charge that skeptics are merely in the pay of fossil fuel interests, a recurring theme once again picked up in the Fakegate affair.
It is worthwhile remembering that the usage of "-gate" in such scandals is derived from the initial 1972 story of a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. The story started out small, but it widened when questions about the burglary and its apparent motives were more thoroughly investigated.
Fakegate may offer a similar doorway into an elaborate scheme, more complex and nefarious than mere identity theft and fabrication of false documents.
In this case, the Wall Street Journal's 2/21/12 "Not-So-Vast Conspiracy" editorial opened the door ever so slightly about an otherwise unexplored older and bigger problem surrounding the entire global warming issue. Facts not mentioned in the editorial open it further.
The name of Ross Gelbspan indirectly figures in the WSJ editorial. A 1995 Harper's article cited in the editorial was written by Ross Gelbspan. The stolen Heartland Institute documents first appeared on the internet at the enviro-activist blog site Desmogblog. Its star blogger is Ross Gelbspan.
The door opens wider with the revelation that Pacific Institute scientist Peter Gleick confessed to inappropriately acquiring the documents. A little digging reveals a still-current Pacific Institute web page dating to April 2004 titled "Science, Climate Change, and Censorship" (backup link here), where Gleick says this about skeptic climate scientist Pat Michaels: "He is one of a very small minority of nay-sayers who continue to dispute the facts and science about climate change in the face of compelling, overwhelming, and growing evidence." Farther down that page is a prominent reference to Ross Gelbspan.
Compare Gleick's quote to a 10/29/99 Yes magazine article by Gelbspan, titled "The Global Warming Crisis," where Gelbspan describes fossil fuel industry education efforts:
That propaganda campaign -- especially as it was articulated by a tiny handful of scientists called "greenhouse skeptics" (many of whom received large amounts of undisclosed funding from fossil fuel interests) -- centered on the claim that climate change was not scientifically proven. More recently, as the science has become too robust to deny[.]
Al Gore's 2006 movie prominently attempted to illustrate a parallel with old tobacco industry efforts to confuse the public about smoking hazards. In the movie's companion book, Gore cited Ross Gelbspan for proof about a "leaked coal industry memo," saying Gelbspan discovered it.
Such citations only compound the problem here. Despite numerous books and magazine and newspaper articles repeating this allegation of "coal industry memo smoking gun evidence," all trace back to a 1997 book The Heat is On, by Ross Gelbspan. Curiously, author Gelbspan never says how he obtained the memo, and neither he nor any other accuser ever shows this memo in its full context. As I explained in a prior article, a particular phrase quoted in the memos has every appearance of being taken out-of-context in order to portray it as the primary goal of a sinister industry directive. However, these specific memos were actually a rejected proposal for a small pilot project PR campaign, and Gelbspan offers no proof of them being seen by fossil fuel industry executives outside the campaign.
More questions arise when astute readers see the same "memo words" on page 34 of Gelbspan's 1997 book that are seen on page 360 of Gore's 1992 Earth in the Balance, a problem I described at length in my article at ClimateDepot last year. Even more questions arise from the revelation that a now-defunct website promoting mostly anti-skeptic material was transferred from the University of Maryland's Center for Global Change to Gleick's Pacific Institute in 1996. Alan Miller was the director of the Center for Global Change, the same individual I described in my AT article last summer. Miller wrote about the leaked coal industry memo before Gelbspan did, in a 1994 book where he also directly thanked Al Gore's then-current White House "assistant" Rosina Bierbaum. I use the word "assistant" there, as Gore is seen relying on her in this White House 1997 Q&A press session.
If the current situation involving Peter Gleick looks eerily similar to the Watergate burglar story, is it not a good idea to start peeling back more layers of this mess, since there are indications that there has never been any validity to the portrayal of skeptic climate scientists as untrustworthy shills of the fossil fuel industry? Do this current controversy and all the problems surrounding it not reveal that we have potentially just the opposite problem -- the appearance of a White House-driven enviro-activist collaborative effort to confuse the public into believing there is no legitimate criticism of the idea of man-caused global warming?
Russell Cook's collection of writings on this issue can be seen at "The '96-to-present smear of skeptic scientists," and you can follow him on Twitter at QuestionAGW.