My Interview with WaPo Reporter Juliet Eilperin

February 24th, 2012 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Yesterday I was called by Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin, who was doing a follow-up story on the Peter Gleick “Fakegate” release of Heartland Institute documents.

Normally, I would not blog about talking to a reporter, but in my experience talking with a high-profile reporter like Juliet invariably leads to regret. Reporters will listen to my points, openly “agree” with me on many of them, and then take one poorly phrased snippet from a 20 minute conversation to make it appear I support their narrative.

If this does not happen when Juliet’s article appears, the strain might be too much for me to bear. My world would be shaken.

I’m just sayin’.

So, I thought I would recount to the best of my recollection what we discussed. Then we will see how well her article represents my views. If she ignores them completely, well, that would be better than what usually happens.

First, I pointed out that on the science of global warming I have been tagged a “lukewarmer”, sometimes attacked by both sides. I said that my position on the science of global warming causation is that I don’t think we know with any level of confidence how much of the warming in the last 50 years was due to humans versus nature.

Next, she asked why (a relative few) scientists on both sides of the issue choose to enter the public fray over global warming, even though they know they will be attacked by the other side. I said I think the primary motivation is about the same on both sides: we know the science has policy implications, and those of us who take a stand do so based upon our understanding of how those policies might help (or hurt) people or nature.

In the case of the outspoken IPCC-supporting ‘consensus’ scientists, they believe mankind is destroying nature and will cause the climate system to be increasingly hostile to life as we know it. (I did not venture into the quasi-religious motivation of some who believe humans should have zero impact on the natural world).

In the case of skeptics like me, I believe the science supports a climate system which is not so fragile, and that premature energy policies which circumvent free market forces end up killing poor people.

Next, Juliet seemed like she wanted a statement regarding the moral equivalence of the Climategate e-mail releases and Peter Gleick obtaining the confidential Heartland Institute documents. I said that if the Climategate e-mails were indeed obtained by a hacker, then both appeared to me to be illegal.

But I *also* emphasized that what the Climategate e-mails revealed was behavior which was clearly crossing the line for scientists…such as collusion to interfere with the peer review process.

In the case of the Heartland documents, in contrast, there was nothing there to see. Someone (Gleick?) had to forge an additional document to make it look like Heartland had nefarious motives.

I said I have not publicly condemned Gleick’s unauthorized access to the Heartland documents because doing so would be somewhat hypocritical on my part, since I did not also condemn the Climategate e-mail releases. Instead, I choose to evaluate what the documents from both sources contain and what they say about the behavior of ‘activists’ on both sides of the global warming issue.

On that basis, there is no moral equivalence.

Climategate reveals taxpayer-funded scientists behaving badly, and possibly illegally. The Heartland documents reveal the mundane activities of a privately-funded organization trying to bring some balance to the coverage of climate change science.

I don’t recall right now whether any other issues of significance were discussed in the interview, although there might have been.

It will be interesting to see how Juliet represents my views. I predict spin.

But if she accurately and fairly represents my views, I will apologize for doubting her.


37 Responses to “My Interview with WaPo Reporter Juliet Eilperin”

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  1. John L says:

    I’m thinking there will not be need for an apology

  2. artemis says:

    As a few sports stars have learned, as well as some politicians *ALWAYS* record interviews with the press. Don’t be dodgy about it, just carry a pocket recorder and let them know that you are recording. Don’t sign anything which prevents you from releasing your copy if they misrepresent you.

  3. Geo says:

    This entire incident may indeed be different however, wrt any potential spin. As we have seen in the recent days, there has been a splintering of the entire movement as to how to proceed. Some have offered stern condemnation, while others have glorified the acts of Dr. Gleick.

    So your representation of the interview may well have a sporting chance (this time) of coming to fruiton, via Ms. Eilperin’s take.

  4. Don Sailing says:

    Roy
    Why haven’t you posted an update on your daughters condition? I assume she is much better.

    • Thanks for asking, Don. She is home now, and will be in a wheelchair for about another 5 weeks before they will let her put weight on her pelvis. She is doing as well as can be expected….some days are harder than others.

      • Robin says:

        Hi Roy,
        I follow your blog and many others too, and I am finding the climate change goings on extremely engaging. It seems like a real time detective novel.

        But I thought I’d share my wife’s story with you. Long before we were married (she was 18) and in a car accident and fractured her pelvis in two places. As a result she was in a rotating bed for about 5 weeks. Long story short, God is great healer, she is fit and well (now 57) having had four sons and two daughters. The youngest is just starting her BSc at university. You might like to check us out at pamperstamper.com for a few family photos.

        Warm regards,
        Robin (New Zealand)

  5. GregO says:

    Dr Spencer,

    Thank you for taking your time to discuss this with MSM not to mention putting yourself in the line of fire. Ever since Climategate 1.0 I have been waiting, mostly in vain, for someone, somewhere in the media outside of a few (Forbes blogs, WSJ, Fox News) to wake up to the chicanery and nonsense that has been going on in the name of “climate science”.

    It is a good story and I am surprised journalists and media types fail to recognize it as such. It is no wonder to me why traditional American media like newspapers and magazines are doing poorly. I cancelled my subscriptions to Scientific American, Newsweek, and even Popular Science due to skewed, poorly informed climate-change reporting. I will not listen to NPR either. They all lost a long-time loyal customer.

    Maybe the tide is starting to turn:

    http://notrickszone.com/2012/02/23/gleick-scandal-grabs-goes-global-spiegel-climate-scientist-pilfers-secret-documents/

    European media is even more skewed than American so if this story is beginning to get traction in Germany, maybe American media will start reporting on what has been really happening.

  6. Chuckarma says:

    It doesn’t matter how fair she is, the editing process will “correct” any of that!

  7. Salamano says:

    Did you see Barry Bickmore commenting on your SB2011 Paper again..? (@ RC)

    “The fact is that Spencer and Braswell published a paper in which they made statistical claims about the difference between some data sets without actually calculating error bars, which is a big no-no, and if they had done the statistics, it would have shown that their conclusions could not be statistically supported. They also said they analyzed certain data, but then left some of it out of the Results that just happened to completely undercut their main claims. This is serious, serious stuff, and it’s no wonder Wolfgang Wagner resigned from his editorship–not because of political pressure, but because he didn’t want his fledgling journal to get a reputation for publishing any nonsense anybody sends in.”

    …Was this not already discussed before, or is there some element of ‘agree to disagree here’..?

  8. Pascvaks says:

    I wouldn’t expect to see much more than a ‘mention’ of you or your expressed opinions in anything ‘meaningful’ out of WAPO, regardless of the writer. Based on your recollection, what you’ve said wouldn’t even pay for the air to dry the ink, much less the ink itself, or the paper. When that little voice says “Don’t”, best to “Don’t”. Found it very enlightning myself to find out that reporters can’t take notes, don’t hear very well, and put words in your mouth. Best to let them talk about what they think and simply agree or disagree, saying no more than simply ‘yes’ and ‘no’. You’ll rarely be ‘quoted’ if you do, but you’ll find you agreed or disagreed to much more than you ever thought you did. Best “not”, ever. The trouble, pain, expense, of trying to correct something that’s already in print is too great a task for any mere mortal.

  9. Lars P. says:

    Thanks for giving it a try. I’m not holding my breath for the results but who knows. As some commenter already said, having his own record might be a good existence saving device in case somebody wants to inflict some damage.
    I think the warmistas are many. With each such tremor – as fakegate was one – a part of them split, like layers of the onion until only the hard core remains.
    The more are exposed to the truth the more will split. It is enough to be rational, stop for a moment and check the evidence. I don’t know how many such tremors can the bandwagon take before it disbands but we can see cracks on the walls.
    Wish you and all of us skeptics (including luke warmers:) ) good luck.

  10. Ron Dean says:

    Maybe I’m a bit thick here, but I *do* see a difference between the ClimateGate emails and the Heartland documents.

    The ClimateGate emails are *not* private emails, as some would like to characterize them. They are electronic messages crafted in the course of work that is paid for by tax payers, saved on servers that are paid for by taxpayers, and sent on communications mediums that are paid for by taxpayers. These emails are subject to British Law FOIA requests. As those very emails showed, the FOIA requests were stonewalled by the very authors of the emails, which is clearly illegal activity.

    The Heartland documents were private documents crafted by people paid by a private organization, stored on private servers paid for by the organization itself. There is no legal requirement for any internal documents that are paid for by a private institution to be made available to the public. There is no FOIA requests to be made of a private institution. The only documents that Hearland is legally compelled to provide are those relating to its 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.

    I see very little parallel between the two, and I do not think it hypocritical to praise the first for releasing documents that should have been available anyways, and condemning the second.

    • yes, you are basically saying what I said. My post was quite short…did you not read all of it?

      • Ron Dean says:

        Dr. Spencer,

        Yes indeed, I read all of it with interest.

        My comment was primarily directed at this sentence from your post:

        “I said I have not publicly condemned Gleick’s unauthorized access to the Heartland documents because doing so would be somewhat hypocritical on my part, since I did not also condemn the Climategate e-mail releases.”

        I do not see the hypocrisy in condemning Gleick, based on the argument I gave above. However, I can understand the appearance of such hypocrisy to someone who is not aware of the details of the cases.

  11. Sundance says:

    Andrew Light:

    “Light is an internationally recognized expert on the relationship between environmental policy and ethics.”

    Light was surely one of Gleick’s closest friends. Dr. S, I fear you are the frog in the scorpian/frog story. Juliet is not capable of being objective as it would betray her Husband. She was on a fishing expedition to find a skeptical scientists that fits the story and meme she wants. If she does use your name I’m sure she will condemn you as a pro-Heartland scientist for your participation in past conferences. There are 5 members of Obama’s staff that have personal involvement in 21 green companies currently being subsidized by Obama’s administration. Did Juliet write about that conflict of interest or its ethical implications?

    Her husband is just an extension of the Obama administration and surely a friend to Gleick. I predict a drive by hit piece intended to limit damage to Gleik.

  12. Pascvaks says:

    Hummmmmmmmmmm…
    “Fear of the Press”
    Sounds ominous in a ‘free‘ society, does it not?
    Though I believe that ’the Press’ has always been a sticky wicket to contend with, I do think that we are more at risk today than in eras past; that is, of being used and abused by the various cliques of wild-eyed reactionaries of this dying BIG old banner or that dying BIG old banner who are out to take advantage of any of us to push their own agenda and make a buck in the process so as to put food on their table. Is the Old Printed Paper Press dying? I think so. Is the free e-press dying, not a chance; it‘s growing by the day.

  13. Jeffery P says:

    Dr Spencer and other skeptics:

    You should learn to record any conversation or interview you have with journalists. It helps keep them honest and if you’re misquoted or taken out of context, you have documentation.

    A word of friendly advice.

  14. Dr. Spencer

    You write:

    “Next, she asked why (a relative few) scientists on both sides of the issue choose to enter the public fray over global warming, even though they know they will be attacked by the other side”

    Your answer was very good but this seems to be an ideal few sentences to remember.
    If she includes this particular paragraph – or one very much like it, in her upcoming article, then that should be an ideal opportunity to challenge the WaPo to summon “a few scientists” from both sides to publicly debate the fray over global warming.-

    One proviso from the skeptical side must be that The WaPo does not pick and choose the “skeptical scientists” but that you yourself and say Lindsen and/or Clark choose the team. As you yourself is a “Lukewarmer” it may be important that all the other players are singing from the same hymn-sheet.

    I doubt if there will be many from the CAGW side turning up.

  15. Chuck L says:

    Dr. Spencer,glad to hear your daughter is home and on the road to receovery. About your interview with Juliet Eilperin, my gut feeling is that it was a mistake, as she has always been an outspoken proponent of CAGW/Climate Change. I would be astonished if the article is fair but one can always hope

  16. Lance says:

    Unfortunately, I have a serious distrust of Media types. To often, I see people like yourself, trying to put out a good message, only to have it butchered by reporters and your meaning totally misrepresented.
    I do hope I’m wrong though….time will tell…

  17. Eilperin is married to Center for American Progress senior fellow Andrew Light, who specializes in climate policy. Wouldn’t it be nice if every activist group could own (or be married to) a Post reporter?

  18. -hv says:

    I would like to second Lance. I have a serious distrust of Media people, too. So many reports published are purposefully created to misled the public.

    Especially media coverages on countries, which Americans want to occupy are often full of plain lies. The situation with ‘Internet social media’ like facebook and twitter is often even worse. It is too easy for cia and such ‘services’ to spread there ‘information’, which serves their purposes.

    Behind media stories concerning ‘global warming’ issues there seems to be at least the big money coming from nuclear industries, ‘green industry’ might have their hands there, too.

    Please read the old good article by Richard S. Lindzen:

    “Global Warming: The Origin and Nature of the Alleged Scientific Consensus”

  19. Noblesse Oblige says:

    No chance at all for a reasonable report with integrity. Zip.

  20. SC Mike says:

    That your daughter has stabilized and is making some progress is good news. I hope the road you travel with her remains smooth, for it wil be long.

    It now seems pretty clear that the ClimateGate emails were released by an insider, a whistleblower if you will; their appearance was not a theft, the emails were not stolen by hackers. Great care was taken in preparing and sanitizing the emails. FOIA, as the culprit is now known, culled personal information (something Gleick did not do), focused on misbehavior, avoiding disclosure to the folks who funded the research, the public, through destruction of emails, false claims of confidentiality agreements, etc. There’s also the matter of using whatever means were necessary to prevent publication of papers that did not further “the Cause,” to include blackballing journals and editors.

    Gleick was an ethics guy, so here’s a question for ethicists: Does loyalty to an organization’s mission and values outweigh any responsibility to protect possible wrongdoing by the organization’s members? To put it another way, is it ethical to make known evidence of likely misconduct by individuals in order to protect the good name of the organization to which they belong?

    That FOIA had administrative access to UEA email stores / server(s) is pretty clear, as is the fact that s/he’s pretty savvy in the way s/he packaged up a third set of emails protected by high-level encryption as a form of insurance.

    I now in fact wonder if the existence of that encrypted store of emails is tempering the remarks of the principals who generated the bulk of the ClimateGate emails.

    • Ron Dean says:

      Actually, FOIA did not cull the personal information from the emails. If you get an original dump of the zip files provided by FOIA, all of the emails are intact – including personal contact information.

      The culling you are referring to is on sites that provide indexed searching of the emails. Those sites *do* remove the personal information before providing search results. But that’s the site’s policy, not a result of actions by FOIA.

  21. anything is possible says:

    “In the case of skeptics like me, I believe the science supports a climate system which is not so fragile, and that premature energy policies which circumvent free market forces end up killing poor people.”

    With a minimal amount of editing becomes :

    ” I believe the science supports a climate system which ends up killing poor people.”

    See how that works?

    It’s not what she writes you have to worry about – it’s what she leaves out!

    (Just kidding, I hope!)

  22. Scott Basinger says:

    Excellent strategy, Dr. Spencer.

    It’s much better optics to post before she does about what you talked about than complain afterwards when your comments are(probably) taken way out of context.

    We’ll see, but I’m about as skeptical as you are.

  23. Rafael Molina Navas, Madrid says:

    Dr. Spencer says:
    “In the case of skeptics like me, I believe the science supports a climate system which is not so fragile …”
    Do you really think the climate system should be considered “fragile”, if mean global temperatures increase a few degrees, after our throwing to the atmosphere – just in a couple of centuries – the amount of carbon that mother Nature fosilized over TENS OF MILLIONS OF YEARS?

  24. Pete says:

    Ms. Eilperin failed to explore the fundamental issue when she wrote …

    “Even some scientists who are organizing to counter the claims of climate skeptics in public, such as University of Illinois atmospheric sciences professor Don Wuebbles, said he and his colleagues need to be careful in how they wage their fight.”

    When the mission of an honest scientist is to perform research designed to uncover all reasons why Mother Nature does what she does, it is utterly inconsistent with that mission to “wage their fight” by “organizing to counter the claims of climate skeptics”, as if their incomplete understanding of an amazingly complex climate system is the only way to view Mother Nature’s product.

    Is it not clear that so-called “scientists” such as Professor Wuebbles, by choosing to organize for – and wage – a “fight”, have thereby removed themselves from a questioning pursuit of scientific knowledge in favor of an ego-centric pursuit?

    One wishes Ms. Eilperin had fully explored why there is such acrimony among those who accept, or reject, the idea of AGW. She mentioned enough of the indicia to get started – Climategate, Gleick, Wuebbles’ attitude – but then simply ignored the causative substance of the conflict.

    A wasted opportunity, to be sure.

  25. Sundance says:

    What a completely misleading effort by Juliet. Right off the bat in her title she sides with Gleick by ignoring his amoral and likely criminal behavior while implying that Heartland is run by idiots who were easily “Duped”. For us luddites she is suggesting that Heartland’s security was too lax. She goes on to offer false equivalence and sympathy for Gleick’s actions. Her position reminds me of someone whose twisted logic leads then to dismiss the crime of rape by reasoning that, “the woman (Heartland) was asking for it”.

    She provides oodles of sanctamonius we’re experts we’re right and your luddites, while she burried any criticism from those who don’t see Gleick as a saint on page 2. I guess Dr. Spencer didn’t provide the red meat needed by her to portray skeptics as crazy hypocrites.

  26. Red Baker says:

    Eilperin probably recorded her side of the conversation, which is legal, even without notification to you. You should do the same; or better, notify her that you are recording both sides, with the required “beep” to indicate recording. If she declines that condition, then you know the game was rigged from the start.

    There are some reporters who have demonstrated their (lack of) integrity already. Talking to them without a recording is pointless, probably playing into their hands.

  27. Martin Clauss says:

    Dr. Spencer,
    I just saw an article by Juliet Halpern (referenced at from Anthony Watts’ site, which is my OTHER FAVORITE site . . 🙂 about the Gleick issue, though that is briefly mentioned.

    There are no quotes from you; rather, it mentions you (along with Dr. Richard Lindzen – very good company from my view . . ! ) as a scientist that “questioned the extent to which humans contributed to the problem”. Of course, it
    ‘assumes’ the problem, rather than discussing there may be a large ‘natural’ aspect to the warming over the last century or so.

    The article starts out fairly balanced, but quickly becomes ‘warmist’ in nature.

    The link is:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/in-climate-wars-radicalization-of-researchers-brings-risks/2012/02/24/gIQAcQWsrR_story_1.html

  28. Meta Berum says:

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