Why Peter Gleick is the “Milken Moment” for climate change


Updated: In February, Peter H. Gleick, a renowned water and climate analyst who has been studying and making the scientific case for global warming, came clean. Unfortunately, his transgression involved deceptive maneuvers to thwart and expose the Heartland Institute’s global climate strategy. Heartland’s strategy allegedly included trying to “muddy the waters” regarding the accuracy of climate science.

But before I address “the Gleick issue,” it’s worth noting that the scientific evidence in support of global warming is unequivocal. The New York Times, among others, reported that there is scientific consensus since 2007 that global warming is “‘unequivocal’ and that human activity is the main driver.”

And based on that proof, in my work at the Carbon War Room, we’ve found at least $5 trillion in cost effective climate change solutions that could be deployed without further government incentives. So, while we are working on solving a science-based issue, we are solving it with market driven solutions, demonstrating that believing in climate change and the free market are not mutually exclusive.

Now back to Gleick. Gleick has admitted to forwarding documents to prominent journalists covering climate change that describe details of the Heartland’s climate program strategy. While Gleick received these documents anonymously in the mail, he subsequently made two major mistakes.

First, he lied about his identity. In an attempt to confirm the accuracy of the anonymous documents, Gleick solicited and received additional materials directly from Heartland using someone else’s name.

Second, he deceived the very journalists who have supported his work on climate change. Gleick forwarded the documents he had received to them and experts on climate issues, but he did not reveal himself as the source.

At issue is whether this one act of deception undermines all of Gleick’s credibility. Further, it raises the question of whether it actually undercuts rather than supports the science behind climate change.

A Milken moment

Now, I am going to go out on a limb and reference Michael Milken, the former financier and now philanthropist (Update: he’s been a philanthropist since the 1970’s) noted for his role in the development of the market for junk bonds during the 1970s and 1980s. Milken’s position gave him access to insider information that he traded on. He was caught and indicted on 98 counts of racketeering and securities fraud in 1989.

While the severity of Gleick’s lapse of judgment, certainly does not eclipse that of Milken, each were sitting with information at their fingertips, which they misused — and misused badly.

The SEC permanently barred Milken from the securities industry, yet his sentence was reduced to two years for testifying against former colleagues and good behavior.

Despite Milken’s significant character flaws, he has been cited by noted people like author, George Gilder who wrote in his book, Telecosm, “Milken was a key source of the organizational changes that have impelled economic growth over the last twenty years.”

In other words, Milken opened up markets, exposed issues, loopholes and discrepancies in the capital markets through his own indictment.

Milken has since gone on to co-founded the Milken Family Foundation Milken Institute, which has been instrumental in driving significant advances in medical research. So added to his checkered life, he has changed medicine for the better.

How does Milken connect to Gleick?

Gleick has sought a “rational public debate” regarding climate change. While his deception was a discredit to himself and possibly to all climate researchers, it has also put in the open questions about Heartland and its tactics. While Gleick has been less than honest, has Heartland also been less than honest?

My answer is really – who cares? What we do care about is an honest rational debate. Gleick said, “scientific understanding of the reality and risks of climate change is strong, compelling, and increasingly disturbing.” Perhaps Heartland and others have fact-based evidence that conclusively shows otherwise.

Now that dishonesty is out in the open, could this be the beginning of an honest rational discussion about climate change?  I hope so.

So what about that $5 trillion that we discovered could be invested in climate change solutions?  In the last 10 years, we have invested over $1 trillion into climate change solutions – $243 billion of that in 2010 alone. To accelerate that deployment to the scale required we have to make business decisions for our future based on facts – honest facts for an honest debate.

So, while naysayers try to “muddy the waters” on scientific evidence, trillions of investment dollars are forging ahead to solve our climate issue with market driven solutions. It seems that the onus for proof is on those trying to debunk climate change.

Meanwhile, climate change is driving economic growth and creating jobs. And who wants to stop economic growth that?

Jigar Shah is the CEO of the Carbon War Room, a nonprofit that harnesses the power of entrepreneurs to implement market-driven solutions to climate change and create a post-carbon economy. By bringing project finance and growth capital together with infrastructure entrepreneurs, corporations, governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), he identifies and eliminates market barriers, driving environmental improvements alongside economic growth.

Shah founded SunEdison in 2003 with a new business model, the solar power services agreement business (SPSA). The SPSA uses mature technologies and required no new legislative action. The SPSA model launched solar services into a multibillion dollar industry. SunEdison now has more solar energy systems and megawatts under management than any other company.

Image courtesy of Tim’s photostream Flickr Creative Commons



Great article! Yes, Polar caps still melting, Texas is still in Drought, No winter this year, Spring comes sooner. Yeah there is no warming, get real folks Americans are beginning to see the changes for themselves No amount of heartland nonsense can mask the reality!

Paul Milligan

“At issue is whether this one act of deception undermines all of Gleick’s credibility. ”

Also at issue (and unavoidably more important) is the validity of the documents. The key document has been refuted, by the heartland association, as a fake. Perhaps it is or perhaps not. Still, you avoided the question! Is it a fake and, if so, who faked it. The elephant in your room can’t keep quiet much longer.


I think only the whole story in the bible in unequivocal, as declared even by the pope and not just the NYT. Is global warming a religion?
Imo Fakegate demonstrayed how little funding scientifically unbiased scientists in Climate science are recieving as compated to heavily biased mainstream scientists. Haretland only has a micro budget of 4.4 million!


While accepting that many people would disagree with their arguments, he wrote: “The goal of the Journal of Medical Ethics is not to present the Truth or promote some one moral view. It is to present well reasoned argument based on widely accepted premises.”
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, he added: “This “debate” has been an example of “witch ethics” – a group of people know who the witch is and seek to burn her. It is one of the most dangerous human tendencies we have. It leads to lynching and genocide. Rather than argue and engage, there is a drive is to silence and, in the extreme, kill, based on their own moral certainty. That is not the sort of society we should live in.”
He said the journal would consider publishing an article positing that, if there was no moral difference between abortion and killing newborns, then abortion too should be illegal.

Scott Somerville

Would your assessment of Gleik [sic] change if it turns out that he himself forged the “Strategy Memo” he claimed to receive from an anonymous source?

Jazz King

Yawn. Another Gleeeick apologist who slyly omits the most important point: That the only damaging thing against Heartland was a forged memo, proly fabricated by Gleeeick himself.


Ok, I do understand your desire to get your greedy fingers on 5 tn USD of taxpayer money. Can you give us a hint how we mere mortals can become part of the UNFCCC Nomenklatura as well? Greetings to your chairman, the Figueres guy whose sister happens to be boss of the UNFCCC.


Sorry Dirk, that 5 Trillion was spent in Iraq, trying to steal their Oil. In my opinion the Iraq war was nothing but a bungled burglary, how unfortunate Us taxpayers were left on the hook for it!

Emma Le Bon

Great article. Come on people its not like you can pigeon hole Gleick in the same place as Murdoch. Yes what he did was ‘deceiving’ but its not as if he obtained the information hoping he would be asked to pen a best selling book and have his story sold to the newspapers. I think its sad that the real story has been so overshadowed by the fact that he lied to obtain the information.

The issue of climate change has been manipulated by political parties for years, to gain more following, used by local councils to justify increases in taxes for recycling and refuse collections. What Gleick has done has brought to the public’s attention the investors behind, think-tanks’ like Heartland. I understand that science and scientists have virtues to be rigorous and transparent but come on the look how much the story has been in the news! Hero or villain, call him what you will but he has the subject of Climate change placed back in the public domain.

I think this article is a stern reminder of why we cannot afford to let this Gleick debate turn into a ‘Climate-gate’ drama:


Jim Corcoran

“As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.” Worldwatch Institute, “Is Meat Sustainable?”

“The livestock sector emerges as one of the top contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Livestock’s contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale and its potential contribution to their solution is equally large. The impact is so significant that it needs to be addressed with urgency.” From the UN Food and Agricultural Organization’s report “Livestock’s Long Shadow”

Why would someone choose to be vegan? To slow global warming for one! Here are two uplifting videos to help everyone understand why so many people are making this life affirming choice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKr4HZ7ukSE and http://www.veganvideo.org

Ryan Petty

I chuckled when I read, “before I address the ‘Gleik issue,’ it’s worth noting that the scientific evidence in support of global warming is unequivocal.” This gem was bolstered by the statement that the venerable NYT had reported this as fact. Well then, it’s all settled. Case closed. I have but a simple question: Shouldn’t science and scientists be challenging consensus rather than conceding to it? So, why the need to act like a Wall Street inside trader and misrepresent oneself? Shouldn’t the science speak for itself? Judging by his behavior, it seems Mr. Gleik introduced a little religious fervor to his scientific endeavors, but why? Why?

Dan Moutal

“Shouldn’t science and scientists be challenging consensus rather than conceding to it?”

No. That is absolutely not what they should do.

They should follow the data wherever it takes them, and as My colleague John Cook is fond of saying there is a consensus of opinion (among scientists) because there is a consensus of evidence.

I’ll grant you that quoting the NYTimes is not particularly compelling evidence of this consensus, but Wikipedia does a good job of collecting links to the various scientific opinions on the issue


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