Pacific Institute’s Work Rises Above the Gleick Fiasco

UPDATE: Founder asks for leave of absence in the wake of impersonation scandal

Founded in 1987, the Pacific Institute is housed in this Oakland Victorian.


The old blue-and-gray Victorian in Oakland’s preservation district is familiar turf for me and other journalists on the resources beat. It’s long been a place we could rely on for solid information and interviews.

The analysts who inhabit the rabbit warren of offices at the Pacific Institute are doing honest work on issues that are critical to the future of California and the West, notably where our water will come from. There are few issues more deserving of study than that one.

So I was troubled when, in the haboob of outrage surrounding the tragic missteps of its founder, Peter Gleick, this particularly intemperate remark appeared in the comments thread of the Climate Watch blog:

“Gleick is a liar-self admitted, and ALL the “research” which comes from his solely owned “Pacific Institute” is suspect, ad cannot and should not be trusted.  This is what happens when you lie, you cannot be trusted.”

I responded partly to correct the ownership point: The Pacific Institute is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit with a legitimate board of directors. It is not “solely owned” by anybody. It is true that Gleick is a founder and has been the public face of the organization for years, partly because he’s a dynamic presenter and a pithy sound bite. Now he’s taken a wrong turn and few are defending what he did to obtain sensitive documents from a nemesis of his.

UPDATE: In a brief letter to his board on Friday, Gleick asked for “a temporary, short-term leave of absence from the Institute,” in order for the “staff to continue to refocus on its work, while permitting the Board to conduct a full and fair review and determine an appropriate course of action.”

But the notion that his actions invalidate any — let alone “ALL” — of the Institute’s research is way off the mark. Over the years, the Pacific Institute has done much to advance public knowledge of natural resources in the West and apparently dozens of clients and funders, from the Bureau of Reclamation to the United Nations, agree.

Among many other works, Institute analysts wrote the recently released seventh volume of The World’s Water, a compendium of freshwater issues and insights worldwide. Matthew Heberger’s chapter on Australia’s Millennium Drought will figure prominently in an upcoming Climate Watch report on what lessons California and other states in the western U.S. can draw from the “Big Dry.” We’re going to need them. Take a look at the staff’s recent reports on best practices in agricultural water management, or the crucial role of water in producing electricity for the West, or nitrate contamination of groundwater in the San Joaquin Valley. These are things we need to know about.

Over the years, Pacific Institute analysts have been important sources for us on topics ranging from the future of hydro-electric power to rising sea levels. And In all of my interactions with the staff there, I have found them to be a smart, conscientious group of people, doing important work. That work should continue, with or without Peter Gleick at the helm.

Pacific Institute’s Work Rises Above the Gleick Fiasco 24 February,2012Craig Miller

10 thoughts on “Pacific Institute’s Work Rises Above the Gleick Fiasco”

  1. If the Pacific Institute is doing good work, why did EPA has scrubbed a total of $1,584,350 worth of grants to the Pacific Institute from its Grants Database? 

    1.  Probably because they had expired. You attempt to tar the Pacific Institute by innuendo. If the EPA really thought there was something untoward about the use of those grants, it would be pursuing legal action.

      1. Another “spin” of actual events:

        ON Feb. 22 it was at 11:41 am it was  reported that EPA has awarded Peter Glieck’s Pacific Institute $468,000 in grants.
        Later in the afternoon, the National Center for Public Policy Research issued a media release calling for Congressional hearings into the EPA grants to Gleick.
        Today, a commenter Brian Carter reported that the links in our original post didn’t work.
        We confirmed Carter’s observation around 12:30pm today.The site has saved the pdf -The question is here since these are public funds – is the EPA “hiding the decline” in funds to the now “suspect” Pacific Institute?

          1. Paul Mathews has posted the following on the climate audit website:
            What kind of institution issues press releases, then deletes them and replaces them with new press releases saying something quite different? As I noted on the ‘Gleick and the NCSE thread’, the Pacific Institute issued a press release on Feb 21 saying
            “Dr. Gleick has been and continues to be an integral part of our team”.
            They then deleted that and put one up on Feb 22 saying
            “Neither the board nor the staff of the Pacific Institute knew of, played any role in, or condones these events”.
            They then deleted that one from their website and put up the one Hilary quotes above.

  2. Hiding behind the non profit label (The Pacific Institute is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit ) suggesting that this provides some immunity or more integrity is ludicrous.  Non profit per above  is a “Tax Status” also given to others orgs. like churches.  Many of these organizations are well thought of others are mediocre and some basically ideologues who say whatever fits with their ideology.

    From Dr. Judith Curry’s website:”There are five attributes of ideologues:1. Absence of doubt2. Intolerance of debate3. Appeal to authority4. A desire to convince others of the ideological “truth”5. A willingness to punish those that don’t concurNote that each of these characteristics is anathema to science.”This institute under Gleick’s leadership has become ideologically driven.  He has faked a memo as Steve Mosher and Steve McIntyre have clearly pointed out.  He has ruined his career and destroyed whatever reputation this institute had.  I feel sad for the man but the facts are damning!

    1.  The Pacific Institute’s 501(c)3 status was mentioned to disprove the claim that Peter Gleick owns it.

      Your quoting Judith Curry regarding ideologues is interesting. Her blog harbors quite a few of them. Of course, Judith Curry herself is not an ideologue; she’s merely either confused or evasive on the subject of the climate-change dispute.

      1. The article paints the Company Gleick founded as a noble institute:
        ” Pacific Institute are doing honest work on issues that are critical to the future of California and the West”

        Given that the founder is a self confessed liar and probably a forger it remains to be seen if its work is “honest”.

        Not sure why you’d attack Dr. Curry – she an articulate voice of reason in this arena and she has done honest valuable work. She was stunned that Gleick did this for the “cause”. See:

  3. Does anyone get the Lee Atwater and his disciple Karl Rove connection here? The Koch brothers and Tea Partyers are glomming onto an admitted mistake by a great scientist, by any objective view. Have we ever heard of an admission of guilt from any of those folks? No, they continue to tar and feather, lie on an hourly basis (remember Swift Boat?) and this is just part of their M.O. It is disheartening that Dr. Gleick got so deep into his disgust and frustration for the lies and mud of their deceptions, that he pretended to be one of them to get the information to prove their deceit. Never a good thing! But, let’s face it–they have done so much worse and any objective person can readily see that. I have nothing to do with any of these folk, but I do read, I do research, and I know who the bad guys are and how deeply they are trying to effect our daily lives. On the scale of mistakes, this should be seen as low on the scale; however, because of his position, it is blown into a major case. Let’s get some balance here! Let’s not throw our own “do-gooder” mud in with the thugs. He made a mistake, he is paying for it, let’s get back to the problems of our planet that we CAN do some things about!

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Craig Miller

Craig is a former KQED Science editor, specializing in weather, climate, water & energy issues, with a little seismology thrown in just to shake things up. Prior to that, he launched and led the station's award-winning multimedia project, Climate Watch. Craig is also an accomplished writer/producer of television documentaries, with a focus on natural resource issues.

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