Obviously there’s been lots of discussion in the past few days about the Heartland documents and, in particular, the fake Heartland 2012 Strategy memo. I presume that CA readers are familiar with the discussion at climate blogs and elsewhere. I’ve been busy on other matters this week, but have followed the discussions and commented a few times at Lucia’s. Having not posted thus far, it’s hard to know where to begin.
By way of disclaimer, I spoke at the Heartland conferences in 2009 and 2010. In 2010, I was a local celebrity in the wake of Climategate and received a standing ovation when my speech was announced. As part of my remarks, I reminded the audience that, notwithstanding Climategate, many serious scientists were concerned about the impact of global warming on entirely different grounds and urged the audience to view concepts like “fraud” and “hoax” as unhelpful in understanding the issues. (See remarks here). As was observed at the time, I received very tepid one-hand-clapping applause afterwards. The audience liked Monckton much better. However, some people told me afterwards that I had said things that needed to be said to that audience. As CA readers are aware, I disliked the libertarian trappings of the event and wasn’t included in the original program for the much reduced 2011 conference, though I was sent a late invitation (and declined.)
The present situation is rich with irony. The provenance of the Climategate dossier remains unknown. According to evidence of the Information Commission’s Office to Muir Russell (not included in their report), its exclusion of personal information “could be indicative of a whistleblower”. Nonetheless, it was unambiguously reported by the Guardian and other media as being “hacked” or “stolen”. The provenance of the Heartland documents is relatively clear. Someone pretending to be a director of Heartland tricked a secretary at Heartland into sending documents from a recent board meeting to an email address purporting to be that of a Heartland director but, in fact, belonging to someone else. The document with the most damaging quotes was then fabricated. Nonetheless, the dossier was unambiguously described by the Guardian and other media as being “leaked” by an “insider” at Heartland.
Many other ironies have been observed in respect to both Heartland and Climategate. However, the fact that the most damaging Heartland quotes were fabricated and contained only in the fake memo inevitably limits the parallels and raises a host of legal issues that did not arise in Climategate.
Another curiosity in the fake memo is the undue prominence of Peter Gleick and his exchanges at Forbes, an anomaly that has occasioned comment at a number of locations (e.g. Mosher at Lucia’s, Pielke Jr).
The Board Documents
Jan 16 – Heartland board package prepared. Pdf’s made of 2012 Budget, 2012 Fundraising Plan, Binder 1 including Fourth Quarter 2011 Financial Report, Notice of Meeting, Agenda. All of the above documents are shown as deriving from Joe Bast’s directory on the P: drive.
Jan 17 – Heartland board meeting.
Jan 25 – Pdf made of contact information of the Heartland board of directors. Document from p: drive of Z. McElrath.
Jan 29 – Minutes of Jan 17 board meeting (rtf format from c:\Users\Admin\Documents\2012\heartland).
Early Feb – According to Heartland on Feb 15 here, “an unknown person fraudulently assumed the identity of a Heartland board member and persuaded a staff member here to “re-send” board materials to a new email address”.
The Fake Confidential Strategy Memo
On or before Feb 13, the “unknown person” or an associate (who subsequently called himself Heartland Insider), fabricated a document entitled “Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy Memo”. Its pdf version was created on Feb 13 at 12:41 Pacific time.
Although media that were duped by the fake memo have tried to argue that its contents are fully supported by the board documents, in my opinion, numerous claims in the fake memo, including the money quotes that animated so many articles, are readily seen to be unsupported by the unfabricated documents, as well as being untrue.
1. The fake memo stated that Heartland planned to develop a Global Warming curriculum aimed at “dissuading teachers from teaching science”. This damning phrase occurs nowhere in the board documents or elsewhere.
2. The fake memo put the Koch foundation, prominent in climate activist demonology, in a place of particular prominence and stated that it was funding Heartland’s climate programs to the tune of $200,000 in 2011 and that greater contributions were being sought in 2012. In fact, Koch had contributed only $25,000 to Heartland’s Health Care (HCN) program in 2011 and $200,000 was being sought for this program in 2012. (Quite aside from other marks of forgery, it is inconceivable to me that Bast would make this sort of error in a board memo.)
3. The fake memo stated that Heartland was seeking contributions for their climate programs “especially from corporations whose interests are threatened by climate policies”. There is no support for this in the document and it appears to be untrue: the board documents show that Heartland’s climate activities were almost entirely financed by an individual.
4. The fake memo exaggerated the scale of Heartland’s climate programs. It said that they sponsored NIPCC to “undermine” the IPCC (a term not used in the actual documents and a word more characteristic of activist than skeptical literature) and that, additionally, it “paid a team of writers” to produce editions of Climate Change Reconsidered (actual documents – team 0f “scientists”, double-counting the expenditures.
5. The fake memo said that it was “important to keep opposing voices out” of Forbes, which was characterized as having previously been “reliably anti-climate”, but which had now begun “to allow high-profile climate scientists (such as Gleick) to post warmist science essays that counter our own”. There is nothing remotely supporting this assertion in board documents or elsewhere. The anomalous prominence of Gleick (as opposed to the more logical Hansen, Gore or Mann, Jones and the Climategaters) attracted attention in later commentary.
6. The fake memo said that Heartland was coordinating “with external networks (such as WUWT and other groups capable of rapidly mobilizing responses to new scientific findings, news stories, or unfavorable blog posts”, a sort of skeptic answer to the Climate Rapid Response Team of Scott Mandia, John Abraham and Peter Gleick. There is nothing in the actual documents to support this.
7. The fake memo proposed the cultivation of “more neutral voices” such as Revkin and Curry, an idea that surprised both Revkin and Curry and which is not supported in the actual documents.
8. The fake memo gave the impression of “increased” activity in 2012, describing Heartland as “part of a growing network of groups working the climate issues, some of which [they] support financially”, whereas the actual documents showed reduced activity in 2012, as a result of declining funding, with no plans to hold the climate conference that they had sponsored for the previous few years.
Lucia observes in a post today that the fake memo also purports to show intentional deception on the part of Heartland officers by, for example, deliberately concealing the confidential memo from part of the board of directors (“distributed to a subset of Institute Board and senior staff”). See her post for other examples.
David Appell has posted a provisional timeline for the dissemination of the Heartland documents, a timeline that I’ve examined, but re-considered here.
On Feb 14, at 9:13 a.m. Pacific (12.13 pm Eastern), HI (apparently using the account email@example.com) sent an email containing the seven board documents listed above plus Heartland’s 2010 IRS 990 (available at the Heartland website, re-posted by sourcewatch on Jan 18, 2012) as follows:
Dear Friends (15 of you):
In the interest of transparency, I think you should see these files from the Heartland Institute. Look especially at the 2012 fundraising and budget documents, the information about donors, and compare to the 2010 990 tax form. But other things might also interest or intrigue you. This is all I have. And this email account will be removed after I send.
The distribution to supposedly 15 recipients (Mosher questions whether this number can be relied on) resulted in three blog articles around 3-4 p.m. (Eastern), each with distinct archives of the documents: Brad Johnson at Thinkprogress, Brandon Demelle at Desmog and (separately) Richard Littlemore at Desmog. (Demelle and Littlemore archived their versions separately.)
The first article out of the blocks was Brad Johnson’s here at blogtime 3:10 pm, though the first comment is timestamped 12:18 pm. It was tweeted by Andy Revkin at 3:56 PM. My interpretation is that Johnson’s article was published at 3:10 pm Eastern and that the comment timestamps are inconsistently in Pacific time. The version of the Johnson article that is presently available (Feb 20) is primarily directed at Heartland’s plan to engage David Wojick to develop a curriculum and does not directly quote from the fake Confidential memo. Johnson included (what appears to be the first) reference to the National Center on Science Education (NCSE) in this context, linking to a statement by the NCSE that they had “begun a new program to fight global warming denial in textbooks and classrooms”. Peter Gleick, who had been anomalously featured in the fake memo, became a director of the Oakland-based NCSE on January 17, 2012.
The second article to be published was Brad Demelle’s at Desmog. It included a link to Johnson’s article. The print version of the article (h/t David Appell) is timestamped 14:13 (timezone not stated); the first comment is at 16:39 blog time; it was tweeted by Carbon Meme at 4:29 pm Eastern and Leo Hickman at 4:44 pm. My conclusion is that it was published around 4:13 pm Eastern (implying that the time in the “print” version is Mountain time.) Demelle said only that the documents were “obtained by Desmog” without any reference to Heartland Insider. Demelle’s article was primarily based on the fake memo and included most of its juicier quotes (but, interestingly, not the one about “dissuading teachers from teaching science”.
The Littlemore article at Desmog was observed by David Appell to have been published only one minute after Demelle’s article (see print version . It had a separate archive of the articles on the Desmog server – compare the names: Littlemore’s versions have later names. Littlemore’s article attributed the documents to an “anonymous donor” self-styled as “Heartland Insider”:
An anonymous donor calling him (or her)self “Heartland Insider” has released the Heartland Institute’s budget, fundraising plan, its Climate Strategy for 2012 and sundry other documents (all attached) that prove all of the worst allegations that have been levelled against the organization.
It is clear from the documents that Heartland advocates against responsible climate mitigation and then uses that advocacy to raise money from oil companies and “other corporations whose interests are threatened by climate policies.” Heartland particularly celebrates the funding that it receives from the fossil fuel fortune being the Charles G. Koch Foundation.
Revkin and Early Tweets
As noted above, Revkin’s 3:56 pm tweet about Brad Johnson’s blog post is the first third party notice of events that I’ve located.
At 4:38 pm Eastern, Revkin sent a second tweet, which amusingly praised Peter Gleick for the impact of his Forbes blogging:
Kudos to @petergleick as alleged @heartlandinst climate doc shows impact of his Forbes.com blogging: http://t.co/uLEFnGVq
Revkin’s tweet linked to a blog post at Revkin.net (revkin.tumblr.com/post/17620769391/alleged-heartlandinst-climate-doc-i-mportant). Revkin’s blog post began:
Alleged @HeartlandInst climate doc: “[i]mportant to keep opposing voices out” of Forbes.com, where @PeterGleick has countered disinformation:
“Efforts at place such as Forbes are especially important now that they have begun to allow high-profile climate scientists (such as Gleick) to post warmist science essays that counter our own. This influential audience has usually been reliably anti-climate and it is important to keep opposing voices out.” The rest.
Revkin later deleted the blog post; I’ve only been able to locate a partial cache of the blog post (see here).
However, before its deletion, Revkin’s blog post and tweet widely disseminated the story. See the numerous reference at Topsy here, notably including a re-tweet by Leo Hickman of the Guardian at 4:44 pm.
Revkin continued to tweet about the documents, including wonderment (6:40 pm) at the strange idea of Heartland “cultivating” him.
Hickman’s own first tweet on the topic had occurred six minutes earlier when he had re-tweeted a 4:29 pm tweet by carbonmeme linking to Demelle’s article at Desmog. Hickman sent two more tweets on the matter at 4:53 pm (all Eastern unless otherwise designated.)
In three tweets around 5 pm, John Timmer (j_timmer) of Ars Technica (linking to Revkin) appears to have been one of the first commenters to draw attention to the later much-highlighted claim that Heartland was trying to “dissuade teachers from teaching science”, also connecting the proposed Heartland work on curriculum to NCSE’s recent announcements:
Heartland’s education strategy: calling topic “controversial and uncertain” “effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science”…
Heartland climate docs came via @Revkin – link to collection here…
Note the Heartland docs indicate they’re working on a school curriculum. Should sound familiar to the @NCSE.
Josh Rosenau, a program manager with National Center for Science Education (NCSE), of which Peter Gleick became a director on January 17, retweeted Timmer and continued to tweet and retweet actively throughout the next few days, eventually getting into a dispute with Pielke Jr about Peter Gleick. At 6:01 pm, Rosenau commented about the proposed curriculum:
Saw it, and am intrigued. I guess someone’s worried about @NCSE’s climate change efforts!
Other green bloggers turned up soon thereafter on Twitter and elsewhere: Scott Mandia at 5:13 pm; Joe Romm at his blog here at 6:03 pm; John Cook (Skeptical Science) at 6:40 pm. Susan the Policy Lass shows up at 7:02 pm, immediately taking umbrage at the idea of Heartland “undermining” the IPC process:
“At present we sponsor the NIPCC to undermine the official United Nation’s IPCC reports” – There you have it. Undermine. #heartland
and shortly afterwards took offence at another fabricated quote:
“climate change is controversial and uncertain- two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.”
At 8:41 pm, Chris Mooney showed up on twitter, expressing his initial disbelief at the “dissuading” statement:
“dissuading teachers from teaching science” — I can’t *believe* this quote is real.
Later in the evening (Eastern), blog articles were posted by Greg Laden, Joe Romm, Deep Climate and other green blogs. Laden was particularly impressed by the most recent revelation, highlighting it as follows:
The story continued to spread like wildfire on the activist blogs.
Happy birthday Galileo! Here is an update on modern-day flat earthers of @Heartlandinst http://gu.com/p/35fdf/tw #eg
Goldenberg’s story was headlined:
Leak exposes how Heartland Institute works to undermine climate science: Libertarian thinktank keeps prominent sceptics on its payroll and relies on millions in funding from carbon industry, papers suggest
Goldenberg’s story included key phrases from the fake memo: “dissuading teachers from teaching science”, “This influential audience [Forbes] has usually been reliably anti-climate and it is important to keep opposing voices out.”
Leo Hickman tweeted Goldenberg’s story at 2:12 am Eastern (7:12 GMT), following up with numerous tweets and retweets through the morning. At 07:39 AM (EST), Hickman published his own story in the Guardian, describing the revelations as “hard evidence”. Hickman, who does not appear to have made any attempt to confirm the authenticity of the memo, relied heavily on the fake memo. Hickman quoted the false amounts and allocation of Koch contributions, harrumphing:
The funding of climate sceptic thinktanks in the US by corporate vested interests such as the Koch brothers has almost become a cliché, but here we have cast-iron proof of its influence, intent and extent.
Hickman, like Goldenberg, repeated the false quote about “dissuading teachers from teaching science”, repeating the quote for emphasis:
The co-ordinated effort to undermine the teaching of climate science in US classrooms has been noted before, but this still takes the breath away. Let’s just repeat that sentence so it can be fully digested: “His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.” But the dropping of jaws doesn’t end there. Next up, we learn that Heartland paid a team of writers $388,000 in 2011 to write a series of reports “to undermine the official United Nation’s IPCC reports”. Not critique, challenge, or analyse the IPCC’s reports, but “to undermine” them. The agenda and pre-ordained outcome is clear and there for all to see.
Next Hickman is deceived by the fake quotation about “undermining”:
But the dropping of jaws doesn’t end there. Next up, we learn that Heartland paid a team of writers $388,000 in 2011 to write a series of reports “to undermine the official United Nation’s IPCC reports”. Not critique, challenge, or analyse the IPCC’s reports, but “to undermine” them. The agenda and pre-ordained outcome is clear and there for all to see.
Hickman then wallows in the fake paragraph about heartland’s supposed interaction with Forbes, concluding this section as follows:
Again, much to digest here, but for me one thing stands out beyond the talk of trying to “cultivate more neutral voices” and “coordination with outside networks”. When you recollect all the hullabaloo expressed by climate sceptics about how climate scientists apparently try to close down debate etc, then this sentence says so much:
This influential audience has usually been reliably anti-climate and it is important to keep opposing voices out.
If you like your hypocrisy sandwiches served with a side order of double standards, then these leaked documents are certainly the place to dine out.
Once the Guardian had lent its authority, the story spread rapidly. Hickman watched closely, noting its mention at SMH in Australia, by Steve Zwick at Forbes (8:32 AM), MSNBC (10:15 AM), the Economist (12:35 PM), BBC (3:38 PM).
At 9:54 AM, James Gleick, Peter Gleick’s brother, tweeted on the Guardian story (re-tweeted soon after by Andy Revkin):
This fine news story features a cameo appearance by my brother and a mythical place called “Time Square.” guardian.co.uk/environment/20…
Gleick himself was strangely silent on the matter, a silence that was later observed at Lucia’s and elsewhere.
Heartland’s Statement on the Fake Memo
The story had broken late in the afternoon of February 14 and spread during the North American night. None of the media appears to have contacted Heartland for confirmation of authenticity or a statement.
Heartland issued a press release on February 15, stating unambiguously that the “Confidential Memo” (the one containing the juicy quotes) was fake and that the other documents had not been leaked by an actual insider or “anonymous donor”, but had been obtained by a form of identity theft:
One document, titled “Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy,” is a total fake apparently intended to defame and discredit The Heartland Institute. It was not written by anyone associated with The Heartland Institute. It does not express Heartland’s goals, plans, or tactics. It contains several obvious and gross misstatements of fact…
The stolen documents were obtained by an unknown person who fraudulently assumed the identity of a Heartland board member and persuaded a staff member here to “re-send” board materials to a new email address.
Most articles that disseminated the contents of the fake memo have included updates, reporting Heartland’s statement that the memo was fake. Many have argued (incorrectly in my opinion) that the assertions in the fake memo are supported by the actual documents and left their articles unchanged. Some articles have been changed. Few have been removed. The status as of Feb 18 is reviewed by a commenter at Judy Curry’s here.
The ramifications of these events are unfolding.
In legal terms, there are a number of important distinctions from Climategate. First and most importantly, the key document is fake. Over and above that, there is strong reason to believe that Heartland can show that the actual (and much less damaging) documents were obtained by a form of identity theft. We’ll see whether “Heartland Insider” covered his tracks as well as FOIA. Thirdly, whereas FOIA had, for the most part, removed personal information, the actual Heartland documents include a great deal of personal information.
Heartland has sent out legal demands to a number of blogs, which, thus far, have either been ignored or rejected.
As a few commenters wisely observed, it’s time to get out the popcorn.