Hacked emails: They're trouble, serious trouble, but not BIG trouble

“Climate scientists should not let themselves be goaded by the irresponsibility of the deniers into overstating the certainties of complex science or, worse, censoring discussion of them. “

This is one of the annoying voices of reason currently dampening what the denial industry is lauding as “climategate.”

The story, for those catching up, is about a series of emails hacked from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. They are embarrassing, sometimes humiliating evidence that climate scientists - even really, really good ones - are human and are apt to make mistakes or write intemperately when they think they aren’t being watched.

The quote above comes from the Washington Post editorial today, and it regrets that in a “climate of denial,” certain “researchers show how not to respond to global warming skeptics.” Basically, the Post says that denial of denial should be based on evidence, not on counter tactics. Then, the editors conclude that, yes, the actual climate change deniers have had a couple of good days of chortling, but: “None of it seriously undercuts the scientific consensus on climate change.”

An even harsher wake-up call came today from UK Guardian columnist George Monbiot (inset). DeSmog regulars will recognize Monbiot as a fellow traveller - one of the most outspoken advocates for sensible policy on climate change, a tireless defender of science and a snarling critic of the intellectual and financial corruption rife in teh denial industry.

But here Monbiot turns the pointy end of his pen toward CRU Director Phil Jones, calling (for a second time) for his resignation and - well - tut-tutting at the whole inadequate reaction to the current tempest. As Monbiot says, when you have been caught making a mistake, there are two reactions: you can wear out your voice - and your credibility - arguing over the details and severity of the actual offense; or you can say you’re sorry and show why we should believe that you won’t do it again.

Currently, Jones and company have been leaning toward the former, and they’re drawing out a tedious conversation in the process.

It’s hard to watch this - galling to see the deniers having such fun in this manufactured debacle. It’s worse having to listen to sage advice that goes against people whom we have come to respect enormously. I don’t personally know that Jones has to be sacked, but I have to admit that it would be savvy for him to at least offer to step aside before someone in authority makes a move to give him a push. Then we can all get back to the science, which is overwhelming and frightening, regardless of the quibbles raised in this, so-ephemeral little crisis.


Say the perpetrators of what some hold are illegally obtained emails, alleged of casting doubt on the suspected veracity of the taxpayer assisted, ostensibly settled, science of global warming are brought to court.

Their legal council, also taxpayer assisted, would claim legal precedent:


The FUNDING made them do it!

I don’t think it makes any sense for Jones to stand aside, frankly. I have said so in some detail at George Monbiot’s blog. Here is a link to my comment there: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2009/nov/25/monbiot-climate-leak-crisis-response?showallcomments=true#CommentKey:2fdd8826-b353-4f4b-85d9-37e9c2cdde5d
Repeating some key bits here:

The formal response of Professor Jones is appropriate, and to actually demand resignations over this is nuts. Professor Jones has said:


“My colleagues and I accept that some of the published emails do not read well. I regret any upset or confusion caused as a result. Some were clearly written in the heat of the moment, others use colloquialisms frequently used between close colleagues.

We are, and have always been, scrupulous in ensuring that our science publications are robust and honest.”

(end quote)

Is there ANY credible reason to think there’s more to it than this? His regret is appropriate, and more careful working of private emails will be safer, but I don’t think he even really owes anyone an apology here… just a clarification of context now that the stolen emails are public. Demanding more than this – like a resignation, or standing aside – is simply contributing to the work of the hacker, who pretty clearly just wants to disrupt and distort the work of these scientists.

To propose resignations over this is absurd, and runs the serious risk of promoting not more integrity, but less – a sanitized level of caution that actively impedes the work of combating the flood of disinformation.

Call for integrity by all means. I share that. Warn people that emails are never safe and that it is a good idea to write any email with a recognition that it may be stolen. It will be good if people are more careful about what can be misinterpreted in private emails.

There is no indication here of any lack of integrity, and resignations would be an over the top, unjust and actively destructive response to this affair. The stolen emails are damaging and serious – not because any of the email authors acted improperly but because they are so easily distorted and manipulated. Don’t make the damage worse.

PS. What markup can we use in these comments?

What is so little about this crisis? You have world leaders and governments taxing businesses and passing laws restricting individual freedoms and liberties based on lies. How many other scientists took this manipulated science and simply passed it on as fact to other young skulls full of mush? I’ll be damned if this isn’t some little crisis. This is a world scandal. You have not seen the end of this by any means.

Here’s where I think you’re right. Politicians seize opportunities to elevate themselves and gain greater authority. It’s the nature of the beast.

Climate science is presenting itself as something they can grab onto. It’s something they can use. Centralized power is always the goal.


Wow! George Monbiot Hammers the Global warming religion and their inability to accept reality. For those not in left wing climate circles Monbiot is an ordained minister of the global warming religion. He took to his pulpit daily to talk of the end of days and spread fear amongst his flock.

Now he is calling for resignations and for the climate coverup to end. If George Monbiot can be honest about the implications of Warmergate why can’t everyone else in the pews of the church?

Desmog is George Monbiot still coming to Toronto this saturday? Is it still open to the public? I want to shake monbiots hand he is the first honest global warming preacher I have seen to date!

“They are embarrassing, sometimes humiliating evidence that climate scientists - even really, really good ones - are human and are apt to make mistakes or write intemperately when they think they aren’t being watched.”

What a joke! For alarmists, all skeptics are corrupts, paid by evil oil companies, but when alarmists try to manipulate the data and censure theirs opponents, they are just humans!

GreenMachine wants to shake George Monbiot’s hand because he is so honest - I am sure I wouldn’t have the same desire if ever I met Greenmachine in the flesh.

His rendering of Monbiot’s article is, in fact, completely dishonest. What Monbiot said was this: Yes there is a small number of people here who have behaved in a disappointing and disturbing way but this does not shake the scientific understanding of global warming.

This is how he put it:

“But do these revelations justify the sceptics’ claims that this is “the final nail in the coffin” of global warming theory?(8,9) Not at all. They damage the credibility of three or four scientists. They raise questions about the integrity of one or perhaps two out of several hundred lines of evidence.”

And at the end he came up with a tale ridiculing those who ascribe the knowledge gathered on this point as just a matter of a world wide cabal of climate scientists.

One can agree or disagree with M.’s assessment of these scientists’ behaviour but what one cannot do is saying, as Greenmachine did, that
he was hammering “the global warming religion” and calling “for the climate coverup to end”.

Greenmachine,why did you think you could get away with these lies ?

Wow you are out of touch just quoting one of Monbiots articles immidiately after climategate. Did you read his article today? Did you see his appology for not being more sceptical of scientists global warming claims he made to readers on their message board? He asks global warming advocates to stop denying the e-mails and asks for Jones to resign! Keep your spin to yourself green machines characterization of Monbiot is acurate and quite surprising since he was one of the biggest GW advocates.

Stop fooling yourself Arie your being played like a pawn, the world will not end and carbon emissions will do nothing but rise! If you want to argue about the global warming theory but please keep the truth within arms length.

He also referred to the scientists’ opponents as “scumbags”. You appear to be an opponent of the scientists. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2009/nov/25/monbiot-climate-leak-crisis-response

The usual reaction to sceptic’s lies being exposed is to come up with another, uh, shall we say misrepresentation.

That he asked for Jones to resign is quite compatible with his belief that the scandal is limited to a few men.He is certainly not asking for the whole community of climate scientists to retire and go fishing.

Since once again we didn’t get any quotes I will provide some for you from the latest entry on his blog.

“Climate sceptics have lied, obscured and cheated for years. That’s why we climate rationalists must uphold the highest standards of science”

“It is true that climate change deniers have made wild claims which the material can’t possibly support (the end of global warming, the death of climate science). But it is also true that the emails are very damaging.”

And about the papers that Jones wanted to keep out of the IPCC report:

“One of these papers which was published in the journal Climate Research turned out to be so badly flawed that the scandal resulted in the resignation of the editor-in-chief. Jones knew that any incorrect papers by sceptical scientists would be picked up and amplified by climate change deniers funded by the fossil fuel industry, who often – as I documented in my book Heat – use all sorts of dirty tricks to advance their cause.”

(Yes, I agree with Monbiot that this particular Jones’ message LOOKS awful but that is looking at the case from the PR angle given the denialist community’s tendency to misrepresent, malign and cheat)

“The handling of this crisis suggests that nothing has been learnt by climate scientists in this country from 20 years of assaults on their discipline. They appear to have no idea what they’re up against or how to confront it. Their opponents might be scumbags, but their media strategy is exemplary.

The greatest tragedy here is that despite many years of outright fabrication, fraud and deceit on the part of the climate change denial industry, documented in James Hoggan and Richard Littlemore’s brilliant new book Climate Cover-up, it is now the climate scientists who look bad. By comparison to his opponents, Phil Jones is pure as the driven snow. Hoggan and Littlemore have shown how fossil fuel industries have employed “experts” to lie, cheat and manipulate on their behalf. The revelations in their book (as well as in Heat and in Ross Gelbspan’s book The Heat Is On) are 100 times graver than anything contained in these emails.”

This sad episode only goes to show that lies will be found out. There is no evidence that CO2 drives climate. The main (95%)greenhouse gas is water vapour, avan the IPCC agree on this. We produce 3% of the total annual global CO2 budget the rest is from natural sources. This comes from the US Dept of Energy and the IPCC agree though their agreement is hard to find. All ice core data shows that temperature rises come before CO2 rises indicating that CO2 does not drive temperature. The theory of the greenhouse effect fails in its backradiation because this violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics which cannot happen. The GHG theory was disproved in 1909 by Dr, Wood a British atmospheric physicist.
Climate is driven by the sun and clouds as shown by Dr. Henrik Svensmark in his work on cosmic rays and cloud nucleation.

Well, that’s the rhetoric, now here’s the context.

95% water vapour: which is in balance with solar energy input, therefore a greenhouse effect is maintained. That’s like saying my cup of coffee is 95% water; but what would it taste like without the coffee?

We produce 3% carbon: the 3% total is a *net increase*; the rest of nature manages to balance the inputs and outputs of carbon so there is no net increase in atmospheric carbon. Civilized humans produce the bit that makes the difference.

Ice cores: yes, that’s physics; if temperature rises then carbon production goes up due to oceanic and land-based flora and faunal changes. So what? There is no precedent for the current change, therefore the ice-core lag just shows the natural process.

2nd law of thermodynamics: how does it violate the Law? Net entropy increases, regardless of local change (local can mean the whole of Earth in relation to the Universe).

Sun and clouds: yep, climate is driven by the sun, as are clouds. A bit confused there, I think.

Any more?

The following was a response I posted on The Unsuitablog following a comment that included the link the the Wall Street Journal opinion article on the CRU hack. Put yourself in the shoes of a climate scientist…


I would rather not use the opinions of WSJ as they have a history of climate change denial, so instead I would recommend their (albeit selective) page of raw emails:


The problem here is that they are all out of context. Granted, the people involved have been monumentally stupid in using certain phrases, and (undoubtedly) suggesting hiding data, but without the entire threads of conversation it’s pretty difficult to know the basis on which the phrases were used. Don’t forget there is an ongoing, and very nasty battle going on between the industry-sponsored (and government approved) denial position, and a load of scientists who are trying to be as objective as possible. How would you feel if for every peer-reviewed article you produced there were 100 articles that had not gone through the same rigours taking the opposite position, mostly in tabloid newspapers and on astroturf web sites?

I would be pretty pissed off, and very defensive. In fact I would probably develop a bit of a siege mentality, which is what the emails seem to be suggesting. In essence, the people named in the emails are trying to make sure there is nothing at all that the denialists can use against them that is not in the public domain: **remember that most observations are actually publically available, so if the denialists wanted to create their own opposing data sets and models then they could easily do so, but they are conspicuously absent.**

The emails look bad, but the raw data hasn’t changed, and so the outcomes remain the same.

There are just as many, if not more, peer-reviewed studies that refute man made climate change.

I repeat, there are just as many, if not more, peer-reviewed studies that refute man made climate change.

It is painful to watch an apologist contort themselves.

Where are these many documents?

And by “peer reviewed” I don’t mean approved by your friends ;-)

“Contortion” implies putting yourself into an uncomfortable position. I’m very comfortable saying what I do, thank you very much.

Desmogblog now seems to be read, and contributed to, in the kindergarten community as well.

Such tremendous whoppers, in the presence of adults who know better, generally only come from the mouths of urchins.

Farnishk doesn’t believe there are scientific papers that balance global warming alarmism. He writes: “Where are these many documents? And by ‘peer reviewed’ I don’t mean approved by your friends.”

1) Here’s a link to 450 papers, all peer-reviewed and skeptical of the claims of alarmists: http://www.populartechnology.net/2009/10/peer-reviewed-papers-supporting.html

2) Farnishk is pulling the same ‘trick’ that we see in ClimateGate. a) Put pressure on publications to NOT run countering science, b) put pressure to FIRE editors who do run countering science, c) repeat the Orwellian mantra over and over, ‘there is no debate’, d) then tell journalists, “See, there is no countering science to our claims of alarmism.”

Farnishk alleges that realists might use friends for peer reviews. To the contrary, Farnishk is accusing others of exactly what we see in ClimateGate.

We now know that there were a limited number of alarmist peers reviewing each other’s papers. In many instances, the alarmists papers were simply re-published with little change and the author’s names in different order. There is a fascinating grid published of the IPCC peer-reviewers, linking together a very small club (Mann, Jones, Santer et al) who are reviewing each other’s work. We also now know (merely confirmed, we knew long ago) that editors at Science and Nature knew ‘just who to go to’ to get a new paper supported or killed to match the dogma.

Peer review doesn’t mean the science is correct. This is misunderstood by non-scientists. Peer review merely means that the editors believe something ‘new’ is being published.

How many of Einstein’s 300 papers were peer reviewed? It appears just one. Einstein didn’t trust peer reviews.

Energy & Environment is not a credible source:

You have articles by the usual denialists; also outdated stuff and papers shown to be wrong.

Greenfyre has debunked this list:

and http://greenfyre.wordpress.com/2009/11/18/poptarts-450-climate-change-denier-lies/

what a source…wikipedia is in bed with the rest of your “ilk”. give me a break. (i’ll footnote it later vj and correct any grammar mistakes)

Sonya Boehmer-Christiansen, the editor of Energy and Environment, is, as far as I know, the only editor of a ‘science’ journal who has brazenly stated to have a ‘political agenda’ (see the quote in Wikipedia that originally comes from the Chronicle of Higher Education).

It is not hard to guess what that agenda is. She is an ‘advising member’ of the ‘Scientific Alliance’, a pseudo-scientific group set up by the British businessman Robert Durward. Durward has refused to reveal who is behind the funding of this group (if I am not mistaken it was his group that allowed that British busdriver to spend sixty thousand pounds on harassing Al Gore in a law suit - the outcome of which has been widely misrepresented among denialists in their usual fashion).

The journal is only taken seriously, if there, among sceptics, that is to say a largely ill informed crowd. It is, as has been reported earlier on this blog, not listed in the Journal Citation Report that lists 6000 peer reviewed journals.

Perhaps the biggest fallout to occur from Climategate is now the weak science of climate change.

Anyone who has every walked by a university knows that the peer review process and data collection are the linchpin to any scientific theory. Now we find out the data is manipulated and the peer review process has been rigged to prevent opposing points of view.
Global warming can not be taken seriously by anyone who does not have a pre-existing political interest therin.

THe real world example called upon for empirical evidence such as melting glaciers, mount kilimonjaro, missing polar bears have all been debunked with other causes for said results.

Their really is nothing left to hold up global warming alarmism, Coppenhagen will be the last best hope after that old age will kill the beast that is global warming.

AGW is not going away as an issue. Not until the left finds something to replace it. It has to be a global issue that requires nations to work together to save humanity from itself by centralizing international authority. If AGW won’t work, something else will. It’s about finding and taking advantage of power grab possibilities.

You are always one of the most shrewd commenatators on this blog. I agree with your assessment, it is unforutnate that this day and age their is no common set of facts or principles people on the left and right can agree on. We just have a society of competing ideologies where each side is right and the ends always justifies the means.

Reality and the ramifications have not yet caught up with journalists, activists and politicians. If the data underpinning a theory is found to have been fabricated you have to start over and re-examine the data. Even today it was revealed that new zealands ground based temperature data was faked using manns computer program, it shows almost zero warming! If the “consensus” is simply a pr tool achieved by restricitng opposing peer reviewed research and exagerating the pro research, what does that say?

For an eco activist that hates people and business, for a guy loaded up with green stocks and for a left wing politician the current line of “denier” and “consensus” will work. For everyone else in the middle it is a big question mark that will not receive electoral support especially for higher taxes. Australlia just had 5 Liberals quit the party and the rest are working to remove their leader, mr. Rudd unless he drops the green schtick.

The activists will have to be placated with another issue but it will be up to them to find it. Shouldn’t be tough with the myriad of environmental probles on the globe.