Peter Gleick Refuses to Debate James Taylor

On January 13, 2012 The Heartland Institute invited Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick to debate James M. Taylor at its anniversary benefit dinner. The following is a transcription of that correspondence, which can also be found at the Climate Audit and Watts Up With That? blogs, among other places.

At 11:12 AM 1/13/2012, Jim Lakely wrote:

Dr. Gleick,

I’ve enjoyed the lively discussion via dueling columns and replies between you and James Taylor.

The Heartland Institute is in the early planning stages for our 28th Anniversary Benefit Dinner later this year. We usually  have a keynote speaker or debate for the “entertainment” portion of the event, and I was wondering if you’d be willing to come to Chicago to debate James Taylor. We’d donate $5,000 to the charity of your choice in lieu of an honoraria.

I think such a debate would be enlightening, and a lot of fun. Folks at Heartland don’t bite, and treat those with whom we disagree with respect. (You can ask Scott Denning at Colorado State University about how he was treated at our last two climate conferences, or go here to view his words of thanks at our 4th conference.)

Let me know if this offer is appealing to you, and if it might fit your schedule. (Our dinner is tentatively scheduled for the second week of August.)


Jim Lakely
Communications Director
The Heartland Institute


From: Peter H. Gleick []
Sent: Monday, January 16, 2012 1:39 PM
To: Jim Lakely;; James Taylor
Subject: Re: Debate Invitation

Dear Mr. Lakely,

Thank you for your email of January 13th, 2012, inviting me to participate in the Heartland Institute’s 28th Anniversary Benefit Dinner.

In order for me to consider this invitation, please let me know if the Heartland Institute publishes its financial records and donors for the public and where to find this information. Such transparency is important to me when I am offered a speaking fee (or in this case, a comparable donation to a charity). My own institution puts this information on our website.

Also, I would like a little more information about the date, venue, and expected audience and format. In addition, I assume your offer includes all travel and hotel expenses, economy class, but can you please confirm this?


Dr. Peter Gleick


At 03:25 PM 1/17/2012, Jim Lakely wrote:


Thanks for your reply. Travel and lodging expenses would be covered by Heartland. Our annual dinner is tentatively set for August. This would be a moderated debate, though details about the question on the table, the time for each side, etc., is yet to be determined.

I will get back to you on your other questions. But I’m sure you’ve seen James M. Taylor’s response to the funding questions at — a question he has answered publicly many times. In short: We used to publicly list our donors by name, but stopped a few years ago, in part, because people who disagree with The Heartland Institute decided to harass our donors in person and via email.

More donor information from our Web site:

Diverse funding base: Heartland has grown slowly over the years by cultivating a diverse base of donors who share its mission. Today it has approximately 2,000 supporters. In 2010 it received 48 percent of its income from foundations, 34 percent from corporations, and 14 percent from individuals. No corporate donor gave more than 5 percent of its annual budget.

Also from our Web site:

Policies regarding donors: The Heartland Institute enforces policies that limit the role donors may play in the selection of research topics, peer review, and publication plans of the organization. Heartland does not conduct contract research. These policies ensure that no Heartland researcher or spokesperson is subject to undue pressure from a donor.

And more donor policy/information from our Web site:

Q: Why doesn’t Heartland reveal the identities of its donors?

A: For many years, we provided a complete list of Heartland’s corporate and foundation donors on this Web site and challenged other think tanks and advocacy groups to do the same. To our knowledge, not a single group followed our lead.

After much deliberation and with some regret, we now keep confidential the identities of all our donors for the following reasons:

  • People who disagree with our views have taken to selectively disclosing names of donors who they think are unpopular in order to avoid addressing the merits of our positions. Listing our donors makes this unfair and misleading tactic possible. By not disclosing our donors, we keep the focus on the issue.
  • We have procedures in place that protect our writers and editors from undue influence by donors. This makes the identities of our donors irrelevant.
  • We frequently take positions at odds with those of the individuals and companies who fund us, so it is unfair to them as well as to us to mention their funding when expressing our point of view.
  • No corporate donor gives more than 5 percent of our budget, and most give far less than that. We have a diverse funding base that is too large to accurately summarize each time we issue a statement. And, as you know, we are under no legal obligation to release a detailed list of our donors — nor is any other non-profit organization. Our 990 forms are in full compliance with the IRS.

More here.


Jim Lakely


From: Peter H. Gleick []
Sent: Fri 1/27/2012 9:33 AM
To: Jim Lakely
Subject: RE: Debate Invitation

Dear Mr. Lakely,

After reviewing your email and after serious consideration, I must decline your invitation to participate in the August fundraising event for the Heartland Institute.

I think the seriousness of the threat of climate change is too important to be considered the “entertainment portion of the event” as you describe it, for the amusement of your donors. Perhaps more importantly, the lack of transparency about the financial support for the Heartland Institute is at odds with my belief in transparency, especially when your Institute and its donors benefit from major tax breaks at the expense of the public.

Thank you for considering me.

Dr. Peter Gleick


At 8:05 PM 1/28/2012, Jim Lakely wrote:

Dr. Gleick,

I’m sorry to hear that you’ve declined our invitation, but I am thankful that you gave it serious consideration. If you’d ever like to engage in a public debate with a Heartland scholar on the topic of climate change, our door is always open.

As for the “entertainment” bit … I think you misunderstand. That word was not intended to make frivolous what Heartland does — in general, or certainly at our annual benefit dinner. We’re a think tank. We love debate, and thrive on intellectual back-and-forth. To me, and our supporters, such a stimulating discussion IS ALSO entertaining. Learning should ever be so.

Regardless, the invitation to our benefit dinner is open. We’ll happily comp you two tickets if you’d like to come to one of the world’s greatest cities for a day of leisure and an evening with Heartland’s scholars, staffers and supporters.

Warm regards,

Jim Lakely