A prominent climatologist has confessed to releasing internal documents from the Heartland Institute, a conservative lobbying organization that denies a link between carbon emissions and climate change.
Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security in Oakland, Calif., admitted to using a fake identity to obtain the documents.

The confession was posted on his blog at Huffington Post. Gleick said he was attempting to verify information about Heartland’s budget and policies that he had received in an anonymous email.

“In an effort to do so, and in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name,” Gleick wrote.

The documents included a fundraising plan, budget, Form 990s for the organization and a memo document purportedly outlining Heartland’s 2012 climate change strategy.

Part of Heartland’s strategy, and one not denied generally by the organization, is to create K-12 curriculum to teach that climate change is “a major scientific controversy.”

The projected cost of the plan is to be $100,000, and the principal work is to be done by David Wojick, a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy.

The education plan, outlined in the memo document that Heartland disputes is authentic, reads: “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.”

Writing on desmogblog.com, Brendan Demelle and Richard Littlemore, two journalists who work to provide “accurate, fact based information regarding global warming misinformation campaigns,” claim to have analyzed the memo and declared it authentic.

“… (T)he Climate Strategy document is corroborated by Heartland’s own material and/or by its allies and employees,” they wrote. “It also uses phrases, language and, in many cases, whole sentences that were taken directly from Heartland’s own material. Only someone who had previous access to all of that material could have prepared the Climate Strategy in its current form.”

Heartland President Joseph Bast posted a statement on the organization’s website pointing readers to a new website (www.fakegate.org), insisting the memo is forged and discussing its potential impact.

“It has caused major and permanent damage to the reputations of The Heartland Institute and many of the scientists, policy experts and organizations we work with,” Bast wrote.

Heartland has extensive relationships with conservative organizations, even counting the Charles G. Koch Foundation among its donors. The organization also invited Cornwall Alliance spokesman E. Calvin Beisner to speak at its fourth annual Climate Conference in 2010.

The Cornwall Alliance is a coalition of religious leaders, primarily evangelical and fundamentalist in complexion, which released a joint statement called the Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship in 2000.

They subsequently released AnEvangelicalDeclarationonGlobalWarming and called for signatories to deny that carbon dioxide emissions are a pollutant.

Among the signatories in 2000 were D. James Kennedy, Charles Colson, James Dobson and R.C. Sproul.

Beisner said at the climate conference that the theological framework of Cornwall’s work was developed by Craig Mitchell of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Beisner also cited the scientific research of Roy Spener, a University of Alabama professor and a member of the Heartland Institute.

Melinda K. Ronn, media director for Cornwall, said Heartland and Cornwall have an informal relationship.

“We’re not a partnership,” she said. “They’ve been supportive of some of the work we do, and Cal (Beisner) did speak at their conference once.”

Ronn said Cornwall had no official statement on the leaked documents.

“Frankly, we’re not that involved with them,” she said. “We only heard about it through the news like everyone else.”

Although the relationship is informal, the work done by both organizations is similar, and Spener’s name appears as a signatory on the Evangelical Declaration.

Notable Baptist signatories include Richard Land and Barrett Duke of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, William Dembski of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Bruce Ware and Mark Coppenger of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

GregHorton is a freelance writer and adjunct professor of philosophy and humanities. He lives in Oklahoma City. 

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