Werecow, I don't want to quote that monster response post. Too much work in editing down to the bits I need. So here are a few thoughts.
First -- and perhaps there's something wrong with my moral compass -- I don't find Gleick's actions in the sense of phishing out the real Heartland documents particularly reprehensible, although lots of other people seem to, and there is some sense that he had broken one or more laws at both State and Federal level in doing so. If he faked the strategy document, well that is reprehensible.
But according to his own words, it was against his own sense of ethics. It was also against the standards held by the National Center for Science Education, to the board of director's of which Gleick had been soon to ascend. He offered to withdraw and NCSE accepted. http://ncse.com/news/2012/02/source-heartland-leak-steps-forward-007220
What it does do, though, is cast doubt on how much his word can be trusted. Is he a political warrior or a scientist? How can we separate the two? The same comes up with James Hansen. He's prepared to advocate civil disobedience and get himself arrested in pursuit of his cause.
Now, on one view you can understand how a well-founded concern about the awful consequences of a failure to act could be prompt such passion. But such passion does not sit well with what one would think of as scientific objectivity. His actions have contributed, I'd guess, to a net increase in scepticism on this matter. And a reduction in trust in the scientific endeavour. For what payoff?
Second, you seem to imply that the Climategate stuff was obtained by hacking. This is an open question. The climate sceptics tend to the view that it was a leak from within. Perhaps time will tell. I regard it, either way, with a similar lack of moral revulsion. As to out of context, perhaps there should be a ClimateGate 3 to get all the other stuff out that the hacker/leaker is still holding.
As Dr Steve noted in the podcast, Climategate seems to have sparked an uptick in general public climate scepticism. I doubt that the public in general examined the emails at all. However the general sense of boys behaving badly, whether all too human or not, ill served the public perception of science. Of course it coincided with the utter failure of Copenhagen and some revelations about deficiencies in the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report, which also weakened the sense of scientific superiority in the general public.
Thirdly, perhaps Heartland's real programs are in themselves tendentious, but apparently whoever created the strategy memo didn't think them tendentious enough, and so invented the 'dissuading teachers from teaching science' line. That was certainly focused upon in much of the early reporting.
Fourthly, I was perhaps unclear about who invited Gleick to debate (offering to pay airfares and expenses). It was the Heartland Institute. The email exchange does not have the feel of rabid frothings from a climate denier organisation. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/02/23/peter-gleick-debate-invitation-email-thread/
Fifthly, with regard to the funding of climate sceptic organisations, I grabbed a couple of quick figures from here and there for comparison. My point was to rebut Dr Novella's suggestion that climate sceptics are lavishly funded by big oil, while the poor scientists languish unsupported. You point to other AGW-sceptic organisations, and there are many others beyond them I expect. But then I could in response point to the funding of many other supporters of the climate change consensus. My guess is that Greenpeace alone takes in more money annually than all the climate sceptic organisations all together. The claim that there's stacks of money in it for climate change sceptics is simply lazy.
Finally, as for boys crying 'Wolf!', here in Australia we are constantly pummelled by it. The Great Barrier Reef is going to be destroyed by climate change in 2000, in 2002, in 2004, in 2006, in 2008. It doesn't happen. Tim Flannery -- a palaeontologist, mind you -- has been constantly reported as warning that our major cities will run out of water. The CSIRO -- Australia's premiere scientific organisation -- a couple of years ago said that we were no longer in a drought, (like those experienced in the 1930s, and in the early 1900s), but that drought-like conditions had become the new norm because of climate change. The dams were drying out. One southern state, convinced that the rains had ended, has spent $5.7 billion on a desalination plant in order to replace the lost rainwater that will no longer fill the dams.
Now, in the past two years we have the most horrendous floods (which the leader of the Greens in Australia also blamed on CO2 emissions). Most major dams are at or near capacity. Last year Brisbane was flooded when an emergency release of water became necessary.
Flannery has now been appointed by the Australian government as Chief Climate Commissioner. He has purchased a house with absolute tidal water frontage on the Hawkesbury River, while five years ago he was warning how anyone on a beach front would need to be at least eight stories high to be safe from rising sea levels.
The peoples of Tuvulu and the Maldives are frightened that their islands shall be swamped, when in fact their land areas are actually stable or increasing.
Most of the overstatement comes from non-scientists, or from activist scientists in other areas. The media, or course, presented with a scenario of temperature rises between, say 1.5 and 6 degrees, or sea level rises of between ten centimetres and one metre, always report 'up to 6 degrees', or even 'scientists say 6 degrees', and 'one metre'.
Actual climate scientists are, for the most part, more circumspect. But science in general is going to have to carry the can for the failed predictions. It seems that in order to build political impetus for policy action on climate change, exaggeration has been common.
When the exaggerated claims all fall apart, who can blame the generally uninterested voter if he regards science with a gimlet eye?