NY Times 'Climategate' Editorial A Reminder That Media Have Failed Miserably Covering Climate Science

The New York Times deserves praise for its excellent editorial on Sunday, “A Climate Change Corrective,” which rightly confirms that the “Climategate” non-scandal has been thoroughly investigated and revealed as a political attack on scientists, not the grand United Nations conspiracy concocted by industry front groups and the right wing echo chamber.

Five separate reviews have found no evidence whatsoever to back up the outrageous claims made by skeptics and deniers that the state of climate science has in any way been weakened by the theft and public airing of years’ worth of emails and documents from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit last winter. 

The Times’ editorial correctly calls on all the media outlets that amplified the bogus conspiracy theories from the Climategate noise machine to return to the subject and set the record straight for their viewers.  Far too much ink and airtime was spent on inflating the mythical Climategate conspiracy, and ever since there has been hardly any effort made to explain this episode accurately – as a baseless political attack on climate science.  It is imperative that all the outlets that fell into this trap and perpetuated the Climategate nonsense now spend the time necessary to ensure that their audiences know the truth.  

The Times editorial expresses hope that the “debunking of Climategate, will receive as much circulation as the original, diversionary controversies.”

Aside from the difficulty associated with correcting a lie once it has circulated this widely, editors at media outlets who lent credence to the Climategate myth must do some deep soul-searching to figure out why none of their reports initially probed the real conspiracy in this matter – the coordinated, political attack on climate scientists ginned up by a network of climate change skeptics who turned the mountain of stolen material into a sensational global news story. 

Al Gore Calls For Ken Cuccinelli To End Witch Hunt Against Michael Mann

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore over the weekend called for Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to end his baseless witch hunt against climate scientist Michael Mann. 

Ignoring the fact that the University of Pennsylvania completely exonerated Professor Mann of any wrongdoing in the wake of the mythical “Climategate” media frenzy, Cuccinelli vows to continue his political attacks on Mann and the whole of climate science. 

In a blog post featured on Huffington Post over the weekend, Gore calls Cuccinelli’s attempts to subpoena ten years’ worth of Michael Mann’s documents “an assault on academic freedom” and “an affront to the scientific process.”

“It is time for Cuccinelli to end his witch-hunt,” Gore concludes.

Climategate Is Dead! Or Long Live Climategate?

An exhaustive six-month independent review into the Climategate emails has concluded that the “rigor and honesty” of the climate scientists caught up in the non-scandal are “not in doubt.” [PDF]

The investigation, led by Sir Muir Russell, found no grand conspiracy among scientists brainwashed by the U.N. IPCC and Al Gore to dominate the planet by dreaming up man-made global warming, as the right wing media and blogosphere insisted in the wake of the Climategate nontroversy that followed the theft of emails and documents from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) late last year.

The report confirms again that climate scientists’ findings remain sound. Some of its key findings:

“On the specific allegations made against the behaviour of CRU scientists, we find that their rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt.

In addition, we do not find that their behaviour has prejudiced the balance of advice given to policy makers. In particular, we did not find any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments. ” (pg. 11)

Penn State Completely Exonerates Climate Scientist Michael Mann On Bogus Climategate Accusations

Pennsylvania State University today issued its final report thoroughly exonerating climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann of any wrongdoing in the wake of the “Climategate” myth that emerged late last year when thousands of emails and documents were stolen from a computer server at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in the UK.

In the days following the posting of the stolen material onto the Internet, right-wing bloggers and media outlets loudly issued allegations of misconduct among climate scientists mentioned in the giant trove of emails.  Conspiracy theorists on the right cherry-picked flagrantly out-of-context portions of the email collection in order to gin up a grand tale suggesting that man-made climate change is a fraud concocted by all of the world’s leading climate scientists, the much-despised United Nations IPCC, and, of course, Al Gore. 

Despite their success in elevating this nontroversy to the national level via Fox News and other right wing media, every single independent investigation of the climate scientists involved has since cleared them of any misconduct and verified the science underpinning the IPCC’s consensus position that manmade climate change is real.

Lies Concocted By Climate Deniers Likely To Stick Around Despite Corrections

It takes less than a minute to tell a lie that can spread around the world, yet it can take days, months, or years to correct it.  Sometimes the truth never catches up to the lie.

As Newsweek’s Sharon Begley wrote this past weekend, nowhere is this challenge demonstrated more clearly than in the wake of the ‘Climategate’ stolen emails controversy and the recent retraction by the Sunday Times of London surrounding its bogus ‘Amazongate’ reporting. 

Begley details how, despite multiple investigations concluding that climate science remains on solid ground and exonerating the main climate scientists targeted in the University of East Anglia attacks, the “highly orchestrated, manufactured scandal” still manages to fool a large portion of the public into thinking that climate change warnings are overblown.

Begley writes:
A lie can get halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its boots on, as Mark Twain said (or “before the truth gets a chance to put its pants on,” in Winston Churchill’s version), and nowhere has that been more true than in “climategate.” In that highly orchestrated, manufactured scandal, e-mails hacked from computers at the University of East Anglia’s climate-research group  were spread around the Web by activists who deny that human activity is altering the world’s climate in a dangerous way, and spun so as to suggest that the scientists had been lying, cheating, and generally cooking the books.

    But not only did British investigators clear the East Anglia scientist at the center of it all, Phil Jones, of scientific impropriety and dishonesty in April, an investigation at Penn State cleared PSU climatologist Michael Mann of “falsifying or suppressing data, intending to delete or conceal e-mails and information, and misusing privileged or confidential information” in February.

George Monbiot Rips UK Sunday Times For 'Amazongate' Lies And Stonewalling

Intrepid British journalist George Monbiot has a piece in The Guardian today that absolutely smashes the London Sunday Times’ handling of its botched ‘Amazongate’ story.  The Times was forced to retract essentially its entire January article,  which badly mischaracterized the work and words of rainforest expert Dr. Simon Lewis, to whom the paper sheepishly apologized earlier this week.

Monbiot took some time to try to figure out how the Times could have possibly allowed the sham story to run in the first place, but his efforts were met with aggressive stonewalling by Times’ editors, who trampled transparency in order to cover their own behinds. 

Exactly who at the Times was responsible for re-writing the story after a totally different version was read back to Dr. Lewis over the phone by the reporter Jonathan Leake, remains a mystery.

UK Sunday Times Retracts Bogus ‘Amazongate’ Story, Apologizes to Simon Lewis

Ending a dispute that has dragged on for months, London newspaper The Sunday Times has finally retracted and apologized for an article filled with blatant misinformation and smears against the IPCC and climate researchers that it ran in January, creating a nontroversy which deniers tried to label “Amazongate.” more accurately dubbed the episode “Leakegate” after the Times’ reporter Jonathan Leake, who wrote the article in question.

The Times published a lengthy correction to the bogus article and disappeared the original from its website.

Since the bogus article ran in January, scientists and researchers who study the Amazon have tried to correct the misinformation it spread.  Chief among them was Dr. Simon Lewis, an expert on rain forests at the University of Leeds, who filed a 30-page complaint against The Sunday Times with the UK Press Complaints Commission in March. Lewis alleged that the paper had mangled his quotes, which ended up far from the remarks he actually made in interviews with the reporter, and that the paper had published “inaccurate, misleading or distorted information” about climate change in the article.

Scholars & Rogues Digs Deeper: Who Audits the Auditors?

[Update June 17th] Scholars & Rogues sparked a vigorous discussion about various tree-ring chronologies, and readers are encouraged to look through the discussions on S&R as well as McIntyre’s Climate Audit for all the juicy details.  We also wish to note a correction made by Angliss regarding which graph was in discussion, but that point was not quoted by Desmogblog here. 

Finally, we wish to highlight Desmogblog’s interest in the subject.  We distinguished below between “the new famous ‘hide the decline’ statement, which Fox News picked up as meaninghide the decline in all global temperatures’,” vs. the more subtle discussion points of specific pieces of climate evidence. 

Last week we mentioned a detailed analysis by Scholars & Rogues about how the stolen emails lack enough context to draw conclusions about climate science.  This week in part 2, Brian Angliss gets more into the nitty-gritty details, challenging statements made by self-appointed Climate Auditor and mining executive Steve McIntyre and others. 

Often McIntyre’s discussions are not commented on by climate scientists, because they aren’t worth replying to. does when a response is warranted, but most claims and assertions go unchecked, becoming memes within a small subsection of passionate climate scpetics.  Angliss has found numerous misrepresentations within McIntyre’s writing, calling him out on exactly the kind of thing he likes to accuse real climate scientists of. 

Putting Conspiracy Theories to Rest: Scholars and Rogues puts 'Climategate' in Context

As the stolen emails non-scandal from November retreats slowly in the rear-view mirror, it’s worth a quick re-cap of why it was so exciting in the first place.  Emails without context can be made to fit any story that someone wants to tell, which is one of the reasons we don’t like to release email correspondence that is inherently out of context.  Brian Angliss at Scholars and Rogues gives us an elegant run-through of how the stolen CRU emails are taken hopelessly out of context and cannot, in and of themselves, contribute to our understanding of climate science.

Given the demonstrated unreliability of electronic records that have been sorted or analyzed using automated tools, it’s unreasonable to make firm claims either of scientific misconduct, ethical lapses, or illegality based on only the published CRU emails. It takes full inquiries and investigations where the investigators talk with the involved parties to truly understand the details and the context surrounding claims like those made against the climate scientists mentioned in the published CRU emails. To date, three such inquires have been completed, and while there may be some areas where the inquiries can be fairly criticized, the fact that the results of all three agree with each other strongly suggests that Tim Osborn’s claim, rather than Geoff Sherrington’s, is closer to correct in this case – “It is impossible to draw firm conclusions from the hacked documents and emails.”

There is little that can dissuade someone who is convinced of a certain narrative, but fresh angles and a fresh perspective, such as Angliss offers, are an excellent part of the solution.  Check out the full article for interviews with both skeptics and scientists, and a fascinating look at how a study of computer bug fixes can be used to illustrate the incompleteness of the electronic trail.  See the full post at Scholars and Rogues

House Select Committee Hearing Thursday On Political Attacks Against Climate Scientists

The U.S. House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming will hold a hearing on Thursday to examine the recent string of politically-motivated attacks against climate scientists.

Several prominent climate scientists will testify and field questions at the hearing, entitled “Climate Science in the Political Arena,” including some who have been targets of such political attacks themselves.

Look for plenty of questions from the GOP minority about the Climategate non-scandal that deniers remain obsessed with, despite the exoneration by the British House of Commons of the CRU scientists at the University of East Anglia targeted by the hackers.


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