What Heartland is doing is harmful, because it gets in the way of public consensus and action. Was Gleick right to lie to expose Heartland and maybe stop it from causing further delay to action on climate change? If his lie has good effects overall – if those who take Heartland's money to push scepticism are dismissed as shills, if donors pull funding after being exposed in the press – then perhaps on balance he did the right thing. It could go the other way too – maybe he's undermined confidence in climate scientists. It depends on how this plays out.
It's good to know that environmentalists feel this way about telling the truth. We have had similar insider views on truth-telling from, for example, the Open University's Joe Smith, who reported the decision to issue tactical lies over the nature of the global warming debate.
Hard also to avoid Stephen Schneider's famous quote:
...we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This “double ethical bind” we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.
I guess Dr Garvey has cast his vote for effective rather than honest.