Heartland Institute urges Oxford to cancel speaker

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The Heartland Institute, a right-wing American think tank, has called on Oxford University to bar Dr Peter Gleick from speaking at the forthcoming Oxford Amnesty Lecture series.

These calls come as a result of Gleick’s role in using questionable tactics to uncover Heartland’s plans to discredit climate science earlier this year.

Amnesty told the Cherwell that although they have no role in who speaks at the series, they have raised the issue with the organising body and expect a decision to be made during this week. Dr Gleick was unable to comment on the matter.

Gleick, an environmentalist and prominent water expert, claims to have discovered documents earlier this year showing that the Heartland institute was planning to provide $100,000 to sway teaching in Kindergartens and “focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain.”

Dr Gleick is also mentioned directly in the documents, with Heartland claiming that, “Efforts at places 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 Heartland Institute, however, accuses Gleick of forgery, commenting, “The document is a fake created by Gleick or a co-conspirator, but Gleick has yet to confess to writing it and has not asked his allies in the environmental movement to take it down from their Web sites.”

However, Gleick said in a statement, ‘I made no changes or alterations of any kind to any of the Heartland Institute documents or to the original anonymous communication.’

Gleick admitted using a false name to obtain the confidential documents from the institute, and apologised publicly in February, writing in the Huffington Post, “My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts – often anonymous, well-funded and co-ordinated – to attack climate science.”

The Heartland Institute, however, considers Gleick’s apology insufficient, and the Institute’s president, Joseph Blast, commented in a statement, “All scientists should be outraged that Oxford University should honor Gleick with a guest lecture. The actions Gleick has admitted to having taken… all make him unqualified to speak to students or as a scientist.

“The oldest university in the English-speaking world should be ashamed to associate itself with him,” Blast said. “John Locke, Linus Pauling, and Edwin Hubble must be spinning in their graves.”

Many students expressed the view that, although Gleick’s tactics were not ideal, the result vindicated the means. Luke Hughes, a student at Merton and the founder of Think Climate commented, “Yes, I absolutely think he should be allowed to speak. Regardless of whether or not what he did was right, he should still be allowed to speak about his important research.”

He added, “Although Peter Gleick could have been more open about it, considering the information that he found, I don’t think the Heartland Institute can really take the moral high ground.”

Some students were vexed by the aggressiveness of the Heartland Institute, with Isra Hale, a student at St Hugh’s, stating, “Of course he should be able to speak. For one, the Heartland affair should have nothing to do with the lecture series, and it would be a travesty for freedom of speech if he were to be prevented from giving his lecture. We can make our own minds up about the matter” before adding, “Given what was uncovered, I don’t understand how can they can be so vocal in their demands. It all seems very hypocritical to me.”

Others expressed concern that climate science was becoming overly politicised. Whilst OCA declined to comment, Tom Rutherford of OULC commented, “The teaching of the issue of climate science, and science more generally, should be based upon facts and credible theories, and not on the views of pressure groups who have a direct interest in distorting the evidence for climate change.”

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