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Peter Gleick of the National Center for Science Education: Oh, the Company They Keep

David Klinghoffer

I said yesterday that disgraced climate activist Peter Gleick was scheduled to join the board of our Darwin/climate-enforcing friends, the National Center for Science Education, but then tendered his resignation. I wrote that based on the NCSE’s official statement. But an email correspondent points out that the NCSE’s own website, cached here, previously gave it as a fact that he had already joined the board as of January 13.
It’s odd, then, to find NCSE Programs and Policy Director Joshua Rosenau blogging about the story and characterizing Gleick as “someone with no formal ties to NCSE.” Come again? I would think that serving on the group’s board, as per NCSE’s website, counts as a “formal tie.”
Gleick is the fellow who lied about his identity to obtain private documents from the Heartland Institute, related to its fund-raising efforts on behalf of climate skepticism, a cause that Gleick and his erstwhile NCSE colleagues despise. Gleick now admits phishing and distributing the documents, which also included one incendiary and patently phony “Confidential Memo” that he clearly did not get from the Heartland Institute. Where the NCSE’s Dr. Gleick did obtain the fake memo is a question that a lot of people are wondering about.
I believe I also neglected to mention that Dr. Gleick held the additional distinction of serving as chairman of the American Geophysical Union’s Task Force on Scientific Ethics. Yes, he was that organization’s chief ethicist. You couldn’t make this stuff up.
Megan McArdle of The Atlantic has really been out front on the story. She wonders aloud today — and this occurred to me as well — if perhaps Gleick is unwell.

And ethics aside, what Gleick did is insane for someone in his position — so crazy that I confess to wondering whether he doesn’t have some sort of underlying medical condition that requires urgent treatment. The reason he did it was even crazier. I would probably have thrown that memo away. I might have spent a few hours idly checking it out. I would definitely not have risked jail or personal ruin over something so questionable.

Everything we’ve learned so far about this strange business suggests that Gleick has “issues” of some kind, independent of any scientific questions about global warming but obviously not independent of his work as a climate-science activist and expert. The NCSE knew Gleick well enough to ask him to join the board — a leadership role indicative of high regard, confidence and trust. Gleick must be fairly well known personally to NCSE staff, since he works just two miles away in Oakland. How did his problems, if McArdle’s reasonable speculation is correct, escape notice?
Josh Rosenau comments that, regarding the Gleick affair, “I don’t know how this is sitting with anyone else at NCSE.” Huh? He doesn’t know what anyone else at the organization where he works thinks about the public disgrace of a board member of the very same organization? How totally bizarre!
NCSE staff must not talk to each other very often, much as we’re supposed to believe they embraced Gleick without knowing him well. It sounds like an extremely odd and dysfunctional organization.