Saturday, June 23rd 2012, 7:41 AM EDT
Andrew Revkin, longtime environmental reporter for the New York Times who now writes its Dot.Earth blog, has delivered the unkindest cut of all to the Heartland Institute, the Chicago-based think-tank known for its skepticism of global warming catastrophe scenarios.
In a variant of the claim that an individual is libel-proof because his reputation is already so damaged it cannot be hurt further, Revkin argues that the Heartland Institute is so ineffectual that it could not be harmed by the underhanded actions taken against it by global warming advocate Peter Gleick. Gleick (who headed the Task Force on Scientific Ethics and Integrity of the American Geophysical Union!) had masqueraded as a member of Heartland's board so as to obtain internal documents. Along with a bogus document -- absurd on its face -- in which Heartland allegedly said it was aiming "at dissuading teachers from teaching science," he disseminated them to sympathetic journalists and websites, which had a field day with the material. Greenpeace used the list of donors to lobby each of them to withdraw their financial support.
Despite the obvious harm these actions caused Heartland, Revkin writes: "Any impact on Heartland from his [Gleick's] actions has to be gauged in comparison to any substantive impact you think Heartland had on climate discourse or decisions at levels that matter. Can you list for me the group's real-world accomplishments and then say Peter's actions did anything except hurt himself?" Does this contemptuous dismissal constitute a fair assessment of Heartland's impact, or is it wildly off the mark?