Tuesday, DeSmogBlog.com released documents that are, allegedly, the strategies of and the contributors to libertarian Heartland Institute. This think tank is a crucible and clearing house for global warming denial receiving major funding from industries that stand to lose from a policy that addresses CO2 emissions as a danger to our environment and national security. Looking over the environmental writings on the site, you can see that Heartland Institute is quick to extol any story that supports their world view, and dismiss any information that challenges it.
The Heartland institute is incensed by the leak, claiming the release of the documents constitutes theft and that one document, which outlines a 2012 strategy, was “a total fake apparently intended to defame and discredit The Heartland Institute.” Megan McArdle at the Atlantic tends to agree with the charges of forgery. Whether one or more of the documents are false, these claims of injury don’t pass the smell test when the same institute touted the release, by anonymous source, of e-mails from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in what they termed Climategate 2. These e-mails were damning. They showed that scientists work hard to get the data right and are not always in agreement. The conclusion of one commenter that the “global warming scare has been manufactured by a small group of scientists” isn’t even supported by the cherry picked citation in the article.
Whether all the leaked Heartland Institute documents are authentic may never be known. We will never have independent verification, and that shouldn’t matter. The arguments over global warming and the dangers we face with a changing climate are not resolved by sneaking internal communications from one side to the other. Exposing anonymously obtained documents may please those who benefit from embarrassing one side or the other, but they do little to nurture a debate in which we learn more, grow more and come to a fuller understanding of the risks we face and the steps we need to take.
Being incensed or smug about tripping-up your ideological counterparts will not make this a better world. Not today, not ever. We have a long way to go before we achieve a sustainable world. In developed countries, we have a hunger for energy that can only be sated by fossil fuels or nuclear energy. Those of us ringing the alarm on global warming and greenhouse gases should be conscious of our impact. If we want energy sustainability, it’s about more than putting up some windmills and stopping an oil pipeline. Those efforts are great, but address only one side of the equation. The best way to make replacing our energy usage with sustainable sources is to lower the bar. Make the goal more feasible.
When we use less energy, the impacts, regardless of source, are fewer, and the ability for sustainable sources to replace carbon sources is more realistic. Winning the argument won’t save the planet — lies of any sort do not bring us closer to understanding. Only action and honesty can do that.