ClimateSpin: Using the Stolen Emails to Cripple Policy

Wed, 2009-12-16 16:00Jim Hoggan
Jim Hoggan's picture

ClimateSpin: Using the Stolen Emails to Cripple Policy

The stolen email narrative is beginning to take shape, in a way that is both disingenuous and damaging, and a prime example is attached and linked here.

This article, by Stephen Hayward in the Weekly Standard, is a mash of good information and bad analysis - a strident overstatement of the case “proven” by the emails that were stolen from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia and released last month. It also seems to provide a case study for how the emails will be used to undermine action by people who are not well-informed about climate science and can be misled with a few sensible-sounding references.

It’s appropriate to acknowledge - on this and every occasion - that the emails in question, 13 years worth, contain some embarrassing excerpts. They show some of the quoted scientists to be frustrated, sometimes petty and, in a few unfortunate cases, prepared to hide data from critics.

An independent analysis of the emails, however, show that they did not, in any way, undermine the scientific foundation for our understanding of how and why the climate is changing. Even Hayward acknowledges that “Climate change is a genuine phenomenon, and there is a nontrivial risk of major consequences in the future.”

Having acknowledged that, however, he spent thousands of words arguing that the emails had inflicted a fatal blow on the science of climate change. He used the existence of the emails to argue points that are not, in fact, supported by the documents themselves.

He implied, for example, that the emails undermined the “notorious ‘hockey stick’ ” - a climate reconstruction graph that several of the email correspondents had worked on together.

This is simply not true. There is no compelling new criticism of the hockey stick in the emails. There is evidence that the scientists had debated fervently among themselves, working to ensure that they could account as far as possible for the potential problems in the reconstruction. There is evidence that they worked to withhold data from an enthsiastic critic of the “stick.”

But the emails go no further - and in dismissing this important scientific study, the Standard overlooks a huge body of independent evidence that shows that the hockey stick can be replicated by other scientists, using other information sources and other methodologies. That’s one of the most respected mechanisms for confirming a scientific theory: ensuring that results can be replicated.

In concentrating on the hockey stick, the critics are trying to pick at what they perceive to be a weak spot, and in doing so, they draw focus away from a larger body of evidence. It is a public relations sleight of hand.

The most serious charges arising from the emails is that the scientists tried to hide data - in one cases that the director of the Climatic Research Unit, Phil Jones, urged others to delete information that might be made  available through freedom of information laws in the UK. This is a very serious charge that the University of East Anglia is investigating. Jones has stepped down pending a resolution.

But, without justifying any alleged activities, it’s worth looking at the behavior of the critic from whom the scientists sought to hide data. Canadian mining official Stephen McIntyre has been a tireless critic of the scientists in question, reinterpreting their work in a way that tends to undermine their conclusions. That, too, is fair game in science - within reason.

But even since the stolen emails were released, McIntyre has shown himself capable of handling information in a way that must lead you to question his own motives - even his integrity. If he is capable in the current circumstances of removimng critical pieces of text from an email to substantially change its meaning, you could understand why the scientists would have been reticent to give him their data - to invite him to approach their carefully wrought science with the same, agenda-driven determination.

That, ultimately, is the issue here: what is the agenda of the people who stole the CRU emails? And what is the agenda of those who are so loudly criticizing the scientists as a result?

“Hacking” into the East Anglia system was not the act of some under-challenged 18-year-old. This is one of the more sophisticated computer systems in the world. Breaking in would have demanded serious expertise. And rounding up 13 years of emails from within that computer would have been a considerable additional technical burden.

Then, someone sifted through those emails, choosing to release 1,000, but aggressively highlighting just a few. This again is not the act of a youthful “hacker” indulging in a bit of harmless mischief. Someone spent a great deal of time on this project - someone who had a serious motivation to make us all doubt climate science.

There is, at this point, no proof that the people in question work for the fossil fuel industry. There are suspicious trails leading through Russia and Saudi Arabia, but no proof. There also is no proof that people like Hayward are other than credulous dupes of a decades-long campaign to make us all question climate science.

But when you look at the way this information is being used - when you read accounts like this, which allege a body of evidence which does not, in fact, exist within the email documents - you have to be suspicious.

There are lots of good reasons to address climate change, because doing so has may other benefits. Conserving energy saves money. Searchng for affordable alternatives to fossil fuels extends the supply of a finite resource. Avoiding the burning of fossil fuels promises health benefits for people around the world, and especially for those who live in crowded, polluted cities or near coal-fired electrical plants.

There are also real dividends to be had from being first in the race to develop great, green alternative technologies. You don’t have to be a climate activist to benefit from reacting to the threat of climate change.

But failing to react, especially on the strength of an agenda-driven and poorly informed argument - an argument that misinterprets or misrepresents information that was tainted from the moment it was stolen, would be a serious mistake.

Comments

What could be the biggest casualty of the all in climategate is the conventional press. They still seem to believe we live in an era where their opinion on some area of interest matters or has some sway over public opinion. Unfortunately for them the days of Joe Clarks luggage where they can manufacture a story are long gone. The way the AP initially handled climate gate by ignoring it for so long certainly removes any credibility they have on the matter now. Everyone can read the e-mails themselves. So the real question is what is the purpose of such an article other than to sway public opinion? Something a real unbiased journalist has no interest therin.
For the rest of us, describing climategate as anything less than a critical blow is an understatement. Since the types of attitudes and behavior revealed in cliamtegate are exactly what sceptics described prior to. Look for climate science to decrease in importance and credibility with the public overtime.
I can't see anyone being placated by the "trust us" arguement any longer. Climate science will have to deliver what it was so loathe to do before, provide credible evidence and produce a theory that can predict accurately outside of a computer model, as that is the scientific process.

“… They still seem to believe we live in an era where their opinion on some area of interest matters or has some sway over public opinion.” Indeed, this delusion used to be peculiar to mainstream media. Now, apparently, it affects everyone with a keyboard.

I had just gotten up and I couldn't believe my luck: Google Desktop told the the post had just gone up not so much as a minute before. I said to myself, "Self this is your chance to have the very first comment on a post at DesmogBlog!" That is me at 5:57 AM.

deleted by me. Sorry.

Perception is everything. I truly believe that most readers wanted to believe the emails were more damaging than they really were.

And then you have a hungry press...hungry for a story, and there you go. Oddly, this would not have happened 20 years ago, but back then, there was no Fox, CNN etc...

Very well written. I think you should consider writing a book.

Wait a second... What is that at the top of the pile on top of my desk?

I didn't realize that the CRU department at the University of Anglia had so much security. I would be interested in learning more if you could point me to a source. In any case, it would appear that fairly early on in the distribution of the stolen files the main people responsible for the dissemination weren't from Europe: the files were stamped with GMT -4:00 and -5:00. Places much of the action in the eastern part of North America. Also, Gavin Schmidt at Real Climate mentioned that about three days prior to this being made public a very odd message by someone calling himself RC at Climate Audit was posted at the blog with a link to a file that had been uploaded to Real Climate by hacking into that blog and then trying to hack a post to it on the main page of the Real Climate blog.

Sounds like a whistle blower to me. Or maybe amateurs...

"the files were stamped with GMT -4:00 and -5:00. Places much of the action in the eastern part of North America."

And this means "not a hacker" how? And you trust time stamps? Easy as hell to change.

Not much of a whistle blower. Hundreds of emails saying nothing... A few you need to read accompanying material to understand properly.

This only had legs because a campaign of false defamation was pre-arranged prior to their release.

Bluster, bluff, BS.

The last part of the article dealing with reasons to work on alternative energy is the best way to approach this.

The emphasis on CO2 and global temperature is a losing strategy.

To illustrate: A toddler grabs on to a stapler and you don't want him to hurt himself - you take it away and he screams his head off.

So don't take it away - give him a harmless toy to play with and he'll happily give up the stapler.

That's the thing - the alternatives have to take over from conventional energy by being better and cheaper - otherwise it won't work.

It definitely works with toddlers.

Rick, you spoke the 2 key words, better and cheaper. Currently, these alternative energies are not better and they are not cheaper. As a result, the green goofs want to tax the current energy we have.

Cheaper: We are thought to be at peak oil now; it will get more expensive as demand goes up and supply stays constant.

Better: Coal-fired plants put out sulphur dioxide, mercury and other metals, which are directly harmful to human health. Plus CO2, which heats air and sea, causing many consequent health problems.

and despite those fossil fuel challenges, green energy is still a loser?

well it is for now.

Oil scarcity mean recession, which means reduced demand which means oil is going to be the thing until something else is cheaper and it's going to take time.

Yes, we are at peak oil now. So why waste what little fuel we have left on schemes to stop CO2 emissions, which arn't going to have effect for a 100 years? Why funnel billions from us to poor countries when we can use those billions to stave off the effects of peak oil?

Trying to suggest questionable motives as the reason for certain actions is a difficult thing. Consider that people will weigh the fact that there are billions of $$$$$$$ in grants for research to reinforce the AGW story against some unknown "motivation" that the retired squash enthusiast may have. It is easier to see that their are far greater motive$$$ for Al Gore and his ex-Goldman Sachs buddy who have made million$$$ and stand to make billion$$$ in windfall profit$$$$$ on cap and trade, but not so easy to figure out how the retired squash enthusiast might be profiting. Maybe before the next ice age the AP will look into such matters.

All in all spinning is a human trait most evident in those needing to survive in the political jungle or those trying to sell things to others. No one has a patent on it to my knowledge and those on both sides of the climate issue engage in the practice. In the end I doubt that most folks have any more trust in journalists than they do in used car salesmen, so I wouldn't be too concerned about one story in the Weekly Standard.

I love the way you use the dollar sign for s, raises the gibberish to a whole new level.

Haha. Exxon pulls down $50 billion in profits and youre saying the other side has more vested interest. Get a grip, homes.

Youve lost. Non-sciency science isnt admissible in court, which is why the Supreme Court ruled in 07 that CO2 is bad, making the EPAs ruling last week totally expected (they were just waiting to pop it out at the right time). This is exactly like the tobacco rulings of the 90s.

You guys are just funny now.

http://en.rian.ru/papers/20091216/157260660.html

Climategate has already affected Russia. On Tuesday, the Moscow-based Institute of Economic Analysis (IEA) issued a report claiming that the Hadley Center for Climate Change based at the headquarters of the British Meteorological Office in Exeter (Devon, England) had probably tampered with Russian-climate data.

Analysts say Russian meteorological stations cover most of the country’s territory, and that the Hadley Center had used data submitted by only 25% of such stations in its reports.

Over 40% of Russian territory was not included in global-temperature calculations for some other reasons, rather than the lack of meteorological stations and observations.

The data of stations located in areas not listed in the Hadley Climate Research Unit Temperature UK (HadCRUT) survey often does not show any substantial warming in the late 20th century and the early 21st century.

That certainly does bring many findings into doubt.

Here is a link that I got from a friend that talks about how maritime shipping will be hammered by climate change legislation. Since just about everything we get in Canada had to be shipped expect prices to soar on all goods.

In the end all the corporations and business will be well protected and the entire costs will be offloaded onto the little guy. Companies could care less how much something costs as long as their is not a comparative disafvantage vis a vie another country.

How much this will impact the poorest of Canada's residents and diminish the quality of life for the rest of us remains up in the air. We can safely assume that the costs of this will be substantial.

http://www.climatelawreport.com/2009/12/articles/topic-alerts/in-the-wind-climate-change-legislation-may-present-unprecedented-challenges-for-the-maritime-industry/

Nice try, so the IEA is a Russian think tank run by some guy who is an advisor to Putin. So are a slew of new-con 'stink-tanks' 'advising' the Conservative government. There's no peer-reviewed science or referenced analysis to go with your hyperbolic allegation. Just your over-cooked fantasy. Again.

from the Russian paper:

Page 21

With Given the negative divergence of the temperature series until the mid 1950 years (up to 0,56 ° C) and a positive divergence of the temperature series in the mid-1990 years (up to 0,08 ° C) overstating the extent of warming of the staff HadCRUT, for the territory of Russia from 1870 to 1990-ies can be estimated as minimum of 0.64 degrees C.

So, CRU is guilty of "adjusting" the temperature in Russia downward, just like Australia, Antartica, Alaska.. gee, maybe the whole world ya think??? All this to get the warmest decade ever!! hahahahahahaha!!!

links down the left hand side (www.iea.ru/) ... The Fraser Institute, The Cato Institute, etc.

Whopper-tellers unite.

It is the data stupid, not the source!

The truth will come out, be patient.

You lack of enquiry speaks volumes about yourself.

So, the spin doctors and propaganda mills are reliable, the hard, verified data is not. And you determined all this.... how? Because it says something that you want it to say.

So now we'll hear of how all the NASA satellite data is fudged, the increased CO2 concentration in the air is not true, and that the glaciers are being melted late every night by hired hands wielding hair dryers.

Haven't you heard yet, Mark? Spencer and Christy are now also members of the conspiracy They consistently show Russia to be warmer faster than most of the world!

http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/146517/Climate-change-lies-by-Britain

from AP? independant? really?

Oooh, the AP is out to crush free civilization!

1) An overwhelming majority of international climate experts agree about much of the tenets of AGW and are honest.

2) An overwhelming majority of international climate experts are ignorant about their own expertise in a sudden and collective manner.

3) They have all agreed to conspire to delude the billions of folks on the planet and just a very tiny percentage of them (and mostly oil-funded and unpublished) are trying to save us all from this mass hoax.
Common sense and a sense of probability should lead one to the likely correct choice (#1) above.

Thats a pretty fair comment as I'm sure lots of people feel the same way as I know I did before the first incident of the Hockey stick graph.

Much like every other scam you will encounter in your life they all have similar elements that are not present in straight forward endeavors.

- the trust us only mentality
- Group think
- Secrecy and a lack of disclosure
- the ends justifies the means leading to a religious ferver
- a field require thousands of guesstimates by insiders who are too biased to make accurate judgement.
- A lack of evidence
- Contradictory evidence no matter how great is overlooked

CLimate science as a profession is only 20 years old and doesn't have many practices or history for guidance. I have no doubt that many in the profession feel they are 100% correct but Lumberjacks probably approve of clearcutting and lawyers think litigation is good for society.

Climate science no doubt has many honest practitioners but they are dealing with an issue we have very little understanding of and they are too biased to make any judgement calls on their own and their is no outside scrutiny.

The lack of evidence and the abandonment of centuries old scientific procedure relying on evidence and theoretical predictability in favor of consensus should be a wake up call to everyone. I could really care less is 110% of climate scientists agree on something I'm still not going to jump off a bridge with them. I want to see some solid evidence and use of the AGW theory to accurately predict outcomes. To date 100% of model predicitons have been wrong and the evidence is always unlinked to global warming or an outright falsehood. I'm looking for evidence of an icefree arctic in 2013 or extinct polar bears but every year they are both still there and growing at a rapid pace.

1) The rate of warming since 1975 is well beyond anything that nature can cause and this rate is unprecedented in the past 2000 years.

2) The troposphere is warming while the stratosphere is cooling which can only be caused by heat being trapped in the lower atmosphere (essentially what GHGs do).

3) The Arctic is warming much faster than elsewhere. This is consistent with increased GHGs.

4) Nights are getting warmer faster than days are getting warmer which is also consistent with increased GHGs.

5) Measured downwelling LW radiation is increasing which is consistent with increased GHGs.

6) Measured outgoing LW radiation leaving the top of the atmosphere is decreasing which is consistent with increased GHGs.

7) CO2 increases are, for the most part, due to human emissions and land clearance and these CO2 levels have not been observed in the past few million years.

8) The influence of CO2 on the climate is well established and a doubling of CO2 to 560 ppm will increase the climate by about 1.2C with feedbacks adding another 1-2C.

9) Every climate model that uses the best science to date shows that the warming since the Industrial Revolution could not have happened without humam emissions of CO2.

10) Natural forcings should be causing our climate to be cooling since the 1990s and the temperature is still warming. The sun is actually "weak" right now but temps are climbing.

There are more but this should satisfy anybody. The warming of the climate, especially since 1975 or so, cannot be explained by nature but is very well explained by increased CO2.

The warming we have seen is not beyond the ability of nature to create. 0.6 degree overall warming is certainly not exceeding the scope of the historical record of the planet. There also might be a good chance that this "warming" is just a thousands of compounding srounding errors by biased climatologists.

I agree with some of your ascertions but so what. The greenhouse effect is a mild forcing in the right direction. All the dramatic scenarios thrown out by the IPCC require large temperature changes which we have not seen or been provided valid evidence for. The concept that the earths climate is dominated by positive feedbacks and we will reach a tipping point has no basis in science and is simply pure conjecture by James Hansen. This is where the IPCC get their 6 degree figure.

To argue that the earths climate exists in a positive feedback state to c02 much like an atomic bomb exists in relation to a nuclear reaction defies common sense and logic. The lack of investigation regarding feedbacks in cliamte science is well known and really all we would be basing trillion dollar decisions on.

The fact that we have seen cooling for quite some time no with rising C02 should be enough to debunk any positive feeback/ tipping point theory.

The cliamte models are anything but well established and have a proven failure rate of 100%. I wouldn't base anything on what they predict and would I'd wager money with anyone against them.

The greenhouse effect does have validity, but it's cards have been far overplayed by experts telling us to trust them. It's like a game of poker where you are being bluffed and the guy drops his cards and he doesn't have a royal flush but a pair of two's. That is the effect of climategate. uch of the fear has been debunked.

Even the former head of the IPCC who is still a die hard global warming predicts that we will see cooling for the next two decades and then warming will start again. WHy would I take any of this junk science seriously now and why should anyone else.

"...however, show that they did not, in any way, undermine the scientific foundation for our understanding of how and why the climate is changing..."

All along this website has indulged the idea that depending on who you are, your ideas can't be trusted. Now you want to change the rules. The emails show that climate scientists, at least a select group mostly in paleoclimatology, have lost their objectivity. However, the hypotheses they proposed are still sound. I don't agree their hypotheses were ever sound, but I'll deal with the idea not the personality that proposed it.

The reciprocal should apply to the ideas of your antagonists, it's their ideas, not who they work for, or their political affiliation or whatever.

To date, there has not been a single credible journal article that shows a natural cause for the modern day warming while also showing how record high greenhouse gas concentrations are not significant.

NOT ONE.

Do people really believe that the scientists at CRU are able to squelch every scientist on the planet who tried to publish this landmark anti-AGW paper? Is there no sense of the low probability and the large scale of this conspiracy for this to be true?

If one throws out the HadCRU data and all papers by these folks, there is still a mountain of evidence for AGW.

Do the rapidly melting ice sheets and glaciers have access to these emails and joined in on the conspiracy?

Do the various climate models that show GHGs as the dominant forcing mechanism have access to these emails and joined in on the conspiracy?

Do the GISS, UAH, RSS data that show global warming of approximately 0.2C per decade over the past 30 years have access to these emails and joined in on the conspiracy? Certainly Spencer and Christy who run UAH and are well-known skeptics of AGW would not align themselves with AGW and yet their satellite-derived measurements track reasonably with GISS, RSS, and HadCRU. (BTW, 2009 will likely end up being a Top 10 or Top 5 warmest year since 1850)

Does the ocean read these emails and magically increase its heat content?

Does the cooling stratosphere (even accounting for ozone loss) read the emails and join in on the hoax?

Do the plants and animals read these emails and decide to die off and/or change their migratory habits so that they can support the conspiracy?

I could go on ad infinitum.

For quite a long time, we have known that a doubling of CO2 will warm the climate at least 1C and there is fairly good certainty that the resulting feedbacks will produce at least 2C additional warming with 3C more likely. We are also measuring CO2 increases of 2 ppm and climbing (except last year where there was a slight decrease due to the global recession) and we have levels that have not been seen in the past 15 million years.

Are we to conclude that these emails deny all of this evidence?

There are many scientists from many fields that have published data that show the effects of global warming and why humans are the primary drivers of this warming. These scientists include some of the obvious: climatologists, meteorologists, geologists, modelers, and oceanographers. Some less obvious include: biologists, marine biologists, zoologists, chemists, astrophysicists, economists, environmental politics reasearchers, and others. I am quite confident that MANY of these folks have NEVER spoken to the CRU folks nor emailed them.

It is obvious that pre-Copenhagen, the tried and true method of “if one does not like the message then attack the messenger or redirect the conversation” practiced by Big Tobacco and now ExxonMobil and their front groups (Heartland Institute, George C. Marshall Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, etc.) is alive and well.

Scott A. Mandia – Professor, Meteorologist, Concerned Citizen
http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/global_warming/

By "no credible paper" I assume you mean every paper on climatology that has come out of the CRU to date.

A lack of an explanation for warming is not proof for AGW and no doubt we have not seen many papers with other explanations they have been selectively weeded out by a corrupt peer review process.

What we do see though is a lot of evidence pointing to the AGW theory being highly exagerated and politicized for other objectives.

- global cooling for the last 10 years and no statistically signifigant warming for 15 years as the CRU climatologists say in their e-mails
- No signifigant warming of the planet that is outside any other period in the history of the planet
- A myriad of issues raised which all suffer from lack of evidence. IE endangered polar bears or lack of causation IE mount kilomunjaro losing snow due to a lack of precipitation not global warming
- Instead of evidence and predictability of models based on AGW theory to back up claims we see political consensus not science
- We see a much vaunted consensus of man having an effect on climate to include issues that have very little support in science, like the earths climate being dominated by positive feedbacks which lead to extreme warming.

All in all the global warming scare looks like its begining to end.

Please read this if you think "there has been global cooling recently":

http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/global_warming/global_cooling.html

Honestly, the "it's been cooling" meme has become the benchmark for separating those that understand climate science and the data from those that do not.

It is acceptable to make a mistake but now I am showing you how to correct that mistake. Please read.

"Do the rapidly melting ice sheets and glaciers have access to these emails and joined in on the conspiracy?"

Of the 3000 glaciers, about 50 have been studied. The question that has to be answered is this beyond normal variation? No it is not.

"Do the various climate models that show GHGs as the dominant forcing mechanism have access to these emails and joined in on the conspiracy?"

Climate models are not evidence. They are speculations of possible future. Once the future becomes the past not one of these models has been correct.

"Do the GISS, UAH, RSS data that show global warming of approximately 0.2C per decade over the past 30 years have access to these emails and joined in on the conspiracy?"

If the Russians are correct, that the CRU deliberately cherry picked stations, then all of their data on the recent warming is suspect.
http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/146517/Climate-change-lies-by-Britain

"Do the plants and animals read these emails and decide to die off and/or change their migratory habits so that they can support the conspiracy?"

Interesting, you people claim that if you are not a climatologist you have no right making comments about climate science. Now we have a climate scientist making comments about evolution, which you are not trained to evaluate.

Regardless of your trying to poke holes in little parts of the data, the US Supreme Court, NOAA, every respected peer-reviewed journal article, and the science faculties of every respected university on the planet agree there is a link between burning too much stored-up biofuel every year and global warming.

Further, its gotten hotter where I live. I can just tell. I dont like that.