An ultra-conservative American think tank has called for a ban on a lecture due to take place in Oxford next week.
Peter Gleick, a prominent scientist in the field of climate change, and an internationally recognised water expert, has been invited to speak as part of the annual Oxford Amnesty Lectures. He is scheduled to speak on “The Human Right to Water” on 24th April at the Gulbenkian Lecture Theatre.
The Heartland Institute, a group advocating free-market policies based in Chicago, has called Gleick “a bungling thief and scientific fraud” after he admitted to obtaining confidential documents from them using a false name.
He has apologised for his role in the exposé, which revealed plans by Heartland to sway teaching of science to kindergarten children as part of its campaign to discredit climate science.
The revelations brought embarrassment to some of Heartland’s corporate donors. Last month General Motors pulled its funding from Heartland.
Heartland’s president, Joseph Bast, pictured right, has released a statement calling on Oxford to cancel the lecture.
“All honest scientists should be outraged that Oxford University should honour Gleick with a guest lecture,” he said. “The actions Gleick has admitted to having taken – lying repeatedly and committing fraud, and then denying responsibility and refusing to take corrective action – all make him unqualified to speak to students or as a scientist.”
Environmental journalist James Garvey has defended Glick’s behaviour, arguing that he acted in a way that served the “greater good”. He commented: “If Gleick frustrates the efforts of Heartland, isn’t his lie justified by the good that it does?”
Fabienne Pagnier, Secretary and Treasurer of the Oxford Amnesty Lectures, confirmed the talk would go ahead, saying: “The 2012 series, like those before it, reflects Oxford Amnesty Lectures’ commitment to supporting freedom of expression and fostering robust debate about human rights.”
The talks are held annually on behalf of Amnesty International, although the charity is independent and is not related to the University.
A spokeswoman for the University said: “The Oxford Amnesty Lectures are not university lectures.”