Don’t let a thief steal into your heart

Quite a fuss about stolen emails over the weekend. Let’s review the story so far. Person or persons unknown hack into servers at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia and steal lots of emails and other documents [BBC 1, 2, Times, Bob Ward at The Guardian]. This is a criminal offence in the UK, the USA, New Zealand and many other jurisdictions. The criminals then release edited highlights of these documents and emails by putting them up on a Russian web server, and let the news out via what Nature calls “a relatively obscure climate-sceptic blog” (The Air Vent which may have been Andrew Bolt’s blog in Australia). Within a matter of hours, the usual suspects are out in force, screaming data manipulation, conspiracy to exclude climate sceptics from publishing, and fraudulent behaviour. Criminals are portrayed as whistleblowers, quotes are pulled out of private emails and taken out of context, and the end of climate science is proclaimed.

I’ve been reluctant to weigh in on this issue, because commenting on stolen and possibly edited documents strikes me as unethical. In a courtroom, improperly obtained evidence is not allowed to influence proceedings, and I would prefer to apply the same standard here. That hasn’t stopped the likes of Wishart (peer review is broken, climate science is dead), propagandist in chief Marc Morano (continuously updated “Climategate” coverage at his Climate Depot), or even now well out of the closet denialist, the NZ blogger sometimes known as Poneke (warming stopped in 1998 (yet again)). However…

I’ve been asked to comment on the issue a few times today, so I’ve been doing a little research. First, the content of the emails. I’m not going to link to them (see above) — but they’re easy enough to find if you want to. What I’ve read (and I’ve read some, but nowhere near all), look to me like the normal sort of email traffic you might expect from a bunch of working scientists, in a field where critics have been throwing mud at them for years. Are they pissed off? Yes. Are they rude? Yes, sometimes — and enjoyably so, from my perspective. Are they careful? Most of the time. Is peer review broken? No. Is there evidence of some vast, over-arching conspiracy? If that’s the best they can muster, then I’d have to say they’re bloody useless conspirators.

Nor is it a complete record. It seems to be widely acknowledged that this is only part of the hackers haul, so what is there in the rest? Certainly, there will be personal emails — private stuff, family stuff, stuff that any reasonable person would admit should remain out of the public domain.

But are there emails that portray a different picture, a more anodyne, boring portrait of science in action? Who knows? The editorial decisions have been made by a bunch of crooks, and all the noise is being made by people with an overt agenda.

All of which leads me to the crux of the matter. Cui bono, or as Jerry Maguire might say, show me the money. Are we supposed to believe that in the run up to a major international conference on climate change, when there’s a big climate bill being considered by the US legislature, and when we know that for the last 20 years there has been a concerted campaign and PR effort to derail action on reducing carbon emissions, that a “whistleblower” has been so moved by the behaviour of the CRU that they have broken the law to uncover this compelling story? Frankly, that’s unbelievable. But then so is much of the denial campaign. Believability and credibility is much less important than noise and column inches.

This whole affair looks like nothing more than another beat-up by the cranks, denialists and ideologues, a crude and unpersuasive attempt to add PR pressure in the run up to Copenhagen and Waxman Markey. With that in mind, let me ask another pertinent question. Who did it? Do they have links with the US think tanks who seem to be running the denial campaign? Perhaps a real investigative journalist might do some digging…

For excellent coverage on the story so far, I recommend Greenfyre’s: Mike’s been documenting events as they happen. RealClimate provides context for the most egregious quote mines here and here (and Gavin Schmidt has been heroically dealing with a flood of comments — over 1,000 at the time of writing). For something you’ll never read at Climate Depot or Wishart’s crank central, try this exposé of ethical behaviour by climate scientists confronted by rubbish, and for a candid opinion on the quality of Chris de Freitas and Patrick Michaels PhD theses — you’ll have to search the texts… 😉

[Richard Thompson]

73 thoughts on “Don’t let a thief steal into your heart”

  1. Poneke is an out and out denier. No matter how many times I have explained to him that global warming did not “stop in 1998” he ignores it and says it again. And again. And again.

    I have no time for these idiots. They deserve much worse than they will ever get.

  2. It’s always been more than a possibility that some of the scientists involved are allowing their advocacy to influence their science, even their results, so I would have liked to have seen less evidence of politics.

    That said, I’ve seen nothing that’s convincing evidence here that the IPCC science isn’t sound.

    On the subject of Poneke, no matter what your political perspective, the guy’s lost it, he’s become an off the wall, frothing at the mouth, loon.

  3. I think Wish-hard was claiming the dubious honour of being “the relatively obscure climate-sceptic blog” that cracked this story, at lest his fan club think he’s the hero. And he does seem to have been at the coalface on this and the NOAA hacking a couple of weeks ago. But given that he’s not the sharpest crayon in the pack and tends to be lead around by the nose by smarter denialist blogs, is it possible he has been set up by his mates as the stooge that takes the heat should it all go pear-shaped.

    1. I’ve revised the article to include the correct attribution: the hacked files were first mentioned in a comment posted at The Air Vent on November 17. I think Wishart’s only contribution was to get a telephone interview with Phil Jones in which Jones confirmed that at least some of the emails appeared to be genuine.

      Wishart is, however, pushing this as hard as he can. His response to this post was speedy, and par for the course (good for a laugh, not much else).

  4. Just 2 comments on the text of some of the emails. (1) The “scientist” who wrote “redefining peer-review” should do the honourable thing and resign their position as either Journal editor or IPCC contributor if they hold such a position. Perhaps, tongue in cheek, but that’s still not good enough. (2) Permanently deleting emails is really hard to do, if their IT were any good (*), archives should be available. A release of the “deleted email” in question would be interesting and would shed light on the reasons for deletion, sometimes a sender may simply wish to retract what has been sent as they may have gone over the top in their language.
    (*) Perhaps not so good as their system was hacked. But copies of that email will exist somewhere.

    As someone who does work at a CRI, our emails are now all archived – no thanks to the previous Labour govt. It really is a quite draconian bit of legislation, our telephone calls are not recorded, but it’s the same principle so I expect one day they will be as well.

  5. All these emails show, is the robust discussions of a group of people kicking around the issues and attempting to reach consensus in a dynamic and evolving environment as new data arrives and new theories are tested.

    The fact that the deniers place so much weight in these informal musing merely shows their naïvety and warped view of science and the collaborative process. The fact that this level of interaction has happened confirms to me the veracity of the people involved, the scientists behind climate change research.

    That out of all this bulk of material the deniers could only produce this handful of context derived suspicious innuendo from these scientists, starkly shows how desperate, manipulative and intellectually pitiful the deniers are.

    Lets move on to more important subjects.


    “George Monbiot Calls for Heads to Roll, Re-Analysis of CRU Climate Data
    The Guardian, 24 November 2009

    It’s no use pretending this isn’t a major blow. The emails extracted by a hacker from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia could scarcely be more damaging. I am now convinced that they are genuine, and I’m dismayed and deeply shaken by them.

    Yes, the messages were obtained illegally. Yes, all of us say things in emails that would be excruciating if made public. Yes, some of the comments have been taken out of context. But there are some messages that require no spin to make them look bad. There appears to be evidence here of attempts to prevent scientific data from being released, and even to destroy material that was subject to a freedom of information request.

    Worse still, some of the emails suggest efforts to prevent the publication of work by climate sceptics, or to keep it out of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I believe that the head of the unit, Phil Jones, should now resign. Some of the data discussed in the emails should be re-analysed. [….]

    Compromised Climate Scientists should be excluded from IPCC, Leading Climate Scientist says

    Professor Hans von Storch: […] There are a number of problematic statements, which will be discussed in the media and the blogosphere. I found the style of communication revealing, speaking about other people and their ideas, joining forces to “kill” papers, exchanges of “improving” presentations without explaining. “

  7. Ho, ho, thanks for the links – as always, the deniers quote selectively.

    Roger, you missed the best line of Monbiot’s article:

    ” The thinning of the Arctic ice cap was a masterstroke. The ring of secret nuclear power stations around the Arctic circle, attached to giant immersion heaters, remains undetected, as do the space-based lasers dissolving the world’s glaciers.”

  8. Roger, Don’t just post large chunks of copied text. We are all quite capable of following links. In your typical dishonest style, you don’t quote the parts of the Monbiot article that disagree with your views. Yes, Monbiot is saying various people have behaved unprofessionally and who knows, maybe some should lose their jobs. But that doesn’t in itself undermine the great mass of evidence for AGW. From elsewhere on the Guardian website in relation to this story, “A joint statement from the Met Office, Royal Society and the Natural Environment Research Council said: “The scientific evidence which underpins calls for action at Copenhagen is very strong.”
    As Danyl McLachlan put it more elegantly on his blog, would black holes suddenly not exist if Roger Penrose and Steven Hawking deleted a few emails?

    1. Funnily enough, in interview with 95bFM yesterday lunchtime I said “the laws of physics don’t change because someone hacked an email”, and Jim Salinger said something remarkably similar on Jim Mora’s “panel” yesterday afternoon.

  9. Roger need not apologise for anything. Your esteeemed ally in your warming climatastrophe crusade, George Monbiot, is quite clearly shocked and horrified. While attempting to downplay the incident, he also states quite plainly that Phil Jones should now resign, and that this is a “major blow.”

    With news now of law suits in both the UK and USA, the full depth of this scandal will become known. This too, is pertinent…

    “On his first full day in office, January 21, 2009, President Obama issued a memorandum to the heads of all departments and agencies on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The President directed that FOIA “should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails.” Moreover, the President instructed agencies that information should not be withheld merely because “public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.”

    Further trouble for the warming cause ahead I feel.

    1. I take George’s piece (titled The Knights Carbonic) to be satirical. After all, in the bits not quoted by Roger or mikh he writes the following (as an email from the aforementioned Knights):

      Our co-option of the physical world has been just as successful. The thinning of the Arctic ice cap was a masterstroke. The ring of secret nuclear power stations around the Arctic Circle, attached to giant immersion heaters, remains undetected, as do the space-based lasers dissolving the world’s glaciers.


      The capture of George W. Bush, a late convert to the cause of Communist World Government, was made possible only by the threatened release of footage filmed by a knight at Yale, showing the future president engaged in coitus with a Ford Mustang.

      Enough said.

      (And sorry Rob, you got there first!)

  10. …I think you’re quite wrong. The satire is totally separate, a sop if you like to the anxious to try to pretend all’s well.

    I think too, that honest scientists within the field will be distancing themselves from what on the face of it, looks like underhand tactics , propped up by poor science.

    1. Carol,

      You desperately want to to be right! So much so that you clap your hands over your ears and wail Waaaa Waaaa Waaaa when told anything that conflicts with your quasi religious beliefs.

  11. “…WTF is this ‘warming cause’, Mikh? As I’ve said here before, it’s not like we actually WANT to be right.”

    Carol, I would dispute that. But this is not the forum for it. AGW is an unholy mix of politics and science, and on the science side there’s been some chicanery. On the politics side, AGW is a Club of Rome, UN construct, and there’s been a s***load of chicanery.

    1. Ah yes, chicanery. About time you read the American Petroleum Institute’s 1998 memo spelling out their strategy for a “Global Climate Science Communications Plan”… PDF here and discussion here. It lays out a plan to muddy the waters on climate change, to portray uncertainty about the science, and to recruit scientists prepared to do industry’s bidding.
      This was 11 years ago, yet you can see their strategy and tactics still playing out in the shrill attempts at climate disinformation so obvious at the moment.
      Mikh, you’ve been played for a sucker.

      1. What the API might or might not have go upto is neither here nor there. The sceptics, at least the vast majority of them, have nothing to do with the API.

        1. “The sceptics, at least the vast majority of them, have nothing to do with the API.”
          They are just being told what to think by the API – although they are so small-minded they don’t realise it!

  12. Chris de Freitas in the Herald’s piece today:

    He did not agree with the hacking of emails. “I don’t for a moment think the ends justified the means.”

    I must to confess to some mild curiosity as to what a trawl through CdF’s email archives might uncover…

    1. I have met him several times and he comes across as ethical to the point of stuffiness. Unlike your cronies in the CRU he is probably smart enough to protect his emails even if there is nothing juicy in them. Your trawl would be disappointing for you.

  13. Well, you may find out a lot more. I don’t think the diggers and delvers have got half way through the last lot of CRU data, and with the impending court cases, (US and UK) over possible abuse of FOI requests, there’ll be plenty to keep us occupied. Particularly as the Copenhagen conference nears.

  14. Mikh – no there wont. You could try looking at the explanation for FOI stuff instead of jumping to conclusions.

    Just as matter of interest, what IS the point for you when find it impossible to ignore the evidence? No summer sea ice at the pole? sealevel rise at 5mm/yr? 10mm/year. MSU temperature records at 2 deg warmer? I’m assuming that you think GISTEMP, ocean temperatures etc are global conspiracy so what indicator do you believe?
    If all those proxy records are frauds (funny how only one talked about), then how do explain temperatures at ice core sites in both Greenland and Antarctica being warmer now than in the ice core for last 1000 years (at least)? Wait, let me guess, ice cores are also an elaborate fraud.

  15. “Leaked email climate smear was a PR disaster for UEA

    There was no evidence of conspiracy among climate scientists in the leaked emails – so why was the University of East Anglia’s response so pathetic?”

    About 50% of the comments have been censored. I wonder why!

  16. I’ve looked scaddenp, and I agree with George Monbiot, that …

    “…there are some messages that require no spin to make them look bad. There appears to be evidence here of attempts to prevent scientific data from being released, and even to destroy material that was subject to a freedom of information request…”

    Want a bit of light relief from all this guys ?
    Try this….

  17. So you perfectly comfortable that data made available confidentially from NWS with the agreement that it not be published can be overwritten by FOI? Until very recently NIWA data was confidential too – you had to pay to get it. I dont know if NIWA was a contributor but I can imagine they would be thrilled if their commercial data was released by another organization.

    Still waiting to hear what your threshold for evidence is.

    1. If it is paid for by the Crown (the employees of the organization are paid, directly or indirectly, by the taxpayer) it belongs to the Crown and subject to any Freedom of Information Act.

      1. Roger, you are ignoring the issue. What hadley wouldnt release is covered by legal agreements with NWS. Does FOI override that? I dont think so and so all this talk of lawsuits is going to be hot air.

        CRI employees (I am one) are employed by private companies. If the crown, through a research contract, pays for the data collection, then the crown owns the data, but our revenues are less than half from crown. Since science funding is so static, CRI go for other funding sources and that necessarily means there is private data. Regardless, FOI acts in UK or US cannot be enacted on a NZ company. (or a Korean, Finnish whatever national agency).

        Still waiting Mikh.

        1. If the data is not public it has no credibility. That is the bottom line. Agreements are irrelevant. If you want your research published in a reputable journal, front up with your data. If not you are in exactly the same position as I was producing reports for the company. They were not published. They were company property. You cannot have it both ways. If you want your papers/reports in the public arena smelling of roses then put the data there too. If not they can be judges on the same basis as a consultant’s report to Exxon.

  18. …and breaking news here, a possible lawsuit from the US based Science magazine…

    “For some time the main publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science Magazine, has effectively banned any papers that dissent with the global warming orthodoxy.
    Apparently there are some alarm bells ringing over at Science’s offices. In a breaking news post, they are contemplating criminal liability for the Scientists involved in this scandal…”

  19. – looks like a mouthpiece for a rabid right wing “think” tank to me. A selection of their website headlines; “Sarah Palin – misunderstood genius”, “Obama a racist”, “Birthers – not totally nuts after all”. Hmmm – well maybe not quite those headlines – but you get where they are coming from.

    Does NZ have a “Freedom of Information Act”, I thought it was something like “Public Records Act” or “Official Information Act”

  20. @23 you typing into a mirror again? That’s your position, not ours. As scientists we have a view of the world in shades of grey, you’re the one with the black and white viewpoints. We’re quite happy to look at evidence on its own merits, you’re the one that dismisses evidence based on it’s source and resorts to ad homenim slurs.

  21. While I agree that it would be better if all public (and they have been working on negotiating for just that) sometimes you live with realities. Fishery research uses and publishes catch-effort data which is only available in blurred or aggregated form. Better to work with than cursing in the dark. Note this from Gavin Schmidt.
    “The base of the all the temperature record analyses is the GHCN data (publicly available from NOAA) which is an assemblage of all the CLIMAT monthly reports put out by the national met services. GISTEMP augments that with some data sets from Antarctica and the better quality USHCN data (for the US only). HadCRU uses a small amount of additional data they obtained directly from the met centers (and which are the cause of the current trouble). The processing of the data differs, impacting mainly how the Arctic is covered. The year-by-year correlation is something like 0.97”

    So Hadley decides that the data set would be better if adding private data and does so. You dont like it – do your analysis without it – GISTEMP does just that. Given the correlation between GISTEMP and the agreement also with MSU data, you arent going to find dark secrets there. Tells you more about someones obsessions than it does about climate. Now why not same demands on say Spenser and Christie?

    You dont make global warming go away with rubbish like this.

    1. …baited breath..

      Fishing for a response?

      Small point: NZ is not the world. Even if Treadgold’s “analysis” had merit (which I doubt, from first principles), then it would make no difference to the global picture.

    1. Proof only that there are plenty of idiots in the world who only read one side of any story and havent looked at the explanation. You can safely assume that is going nowhere.

      Mikh – I rather suspect “no apparent reason” is the relevant clause here not to mention doubting the analysis anyway based on his conclusions being at odds with other climate indicators like glaciers. So is he submitting his findings for peer review?

      And to return to earlier point – I’m still keen to hear at what point the evidence becomes overwhelming for you.

    1. George is wrong about this, because he has chosen to buy in to the story as it’s being sold by sceptics. And that’s been carefully laid out… Note he isn’t resiling from the science, only one scientist. That looks to me much more like an emotional response than a rational one.

      It’s all PR. Read the API memo yet, mikh? Or try Jeff Masters’ excellent post today on the “manufactured doubt campaign” to diminish science. AS I said yesterday, you’ve been played for a sucker by some heavyweight PR people, apparently prepared to play really dirty.

  22. Monbiot needs to read the context too then he would stop moaning. Several good souls I think are doing this for him.

    I agree its a problem though – deniers only read the denialist spin on it and then assume that is the facts. Its making doing science a pain. Every time you get some junk published, the misinformation industry spouts it long and hard, never reports on the patient debunking and so public perception is molded by headline-grabbing stuff instead of the reality. On other hand, journals are more or less obliged to publish junk like Scafetta and West or they will be accused of censorship. Its easier to publish and let the science community respond than risk screams of AGW bias. However, the paper gets noticed but not the response. From comments here about Mann and Briffa, I would some people only get there information from CA.

    Its not a good climate for doing science in.

    1. You get caught with your fingers in the till and all you can do is to bleat about your righteousness. You lot have been claiming the high moral ground for years. Now you are hoist with your own petard. Funny! It is hilarious.

  23. Mikh, the email brouhaha is but a minor diversion from an unpleasant physical reality that you and your ilk deny at your peril.

    I would have thought the fiasco of the Bush administration’s “faith-based science”, would be enough to jolt any one out of complacency but, as they say, there’s a new sucker born every minute…

    1. What peril? The climate is not warming and has not been for some years. Warming does not follow CO2. CO2 follows warming. Your models do not work run forwards, backwards or sideways. Arctic ice is not doing what you say it is doing and anyway it has all happened before. If the climate does warm a bit there will be more food. If CO2 increase there will be more food. The downside of this is that there will be more people to eat it. There is a problem with this world and that problem is that there are too many people living on it. If you want to do something about that go and distribute condoms in the third world or, preferably, do something a bit more drastic than that.

      1. Man, just about the full denialist meme isnt it?
        “Its not happening”
        “Its happening but we are not to blame”
        ” It will be good for us”

        Actually 3rd world isnt the problem – resource shortage etc are due to consumption by first world.
        And as to the rest of it, you are extremely poorly informed but I doubt anything I say is going to change that so I want bother wasting my time.

        1. Actually BEING 3rd world , ie poor, IS the problem. Lack of access to reliable energy means you cannot refridgerate your food, study at night, support a health clinic, communicate, and a whole bunch of other stuff that the rest of us wouldn’t be without.

  24. “…as they say, there’s a new sucker born every minute…”

    yes, and “…no one ever went broke under-estimating the bad taste of the American public”

    and “…”I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd (sic) from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.”

    1. And how much effort have you expended finding the context for that remark? The scientists concerned are explaining but it would appear that like Roger, you arent interested in finding out. And a completely unambiguous version of the diagram in question is in IPCC but I doubt you have read that either.

  25. Scaddenp. We are only after the truth, and it’s a bit rich that you attempt to take the moral high ground when CRU (and thus the IPCC)have obviously tried to conceal the truth…

    The scientists are explaining ? I don’t think so. They are spinning, and in denial. To his great credit, and I will read him with a bit more interest because of it, George Monbiot is appalled. So am I.

    1. No – you perceive on basis of media that CRU are hiding truth and as far as I can see, have invested no time at all in investigating CRU side of story. The reasons for refusing FOI are extremely clear – see above and yet people are still spinning “they are trying to hide something”. Looking for the truth!!!?? Looking on CA perhaps? I notice Gavin has made hundred of responses over at RC. Read any of them?

      Briffa data – the in and outs of this in literature for 10 years but I guess reading that would be work. Why the hell are you so worked up about one proxy? I’m guessing because you can get worked up about it so try to blow it out of all proportion compared to rest of evidence.

  26. Would someone like to explain this:

    Year Fudge Factor
    1904 0
    1909 0
    1914 0
    1919 0
    1924 0
    1929 -0.1
    1934 -0.25
    1939 -0.3
    1944 0
    1949 -0.1
    1954 0.3
    1959 0.8
    1964 1.2
    1969 1.7
    1974 2.5
    1979 2.6
    1984 2.6
    1989 2.6
    1994 2.6
    1999 2.6

    The above figures are contained in this file:
    title=’Northern Hemisphere temperatures and MXD reconstruction’

    ; Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!!
    2.6,2.6,2.6]*0.75 ; fudge factor

  27. Ho hum, Roger, what is the context?

    IMHO, you lot made up your minds long ago, and rather than exhibiting an honest scepticism, merely parrot any “evidence” at all that might be twisted to support your shared delusions, bigotry and ignorance.

    If any climatologist can be shown to have falsified or wrongly interpreted their data, they deserve the same punishment given to Willie Soon for the same offence… hard labour in the mines of the American Petroleum Institute!

  28. The methods of your mentors/gurus/idols, in their words:

    “The game is communicating climate change; the rules will help us win

    [Roger: stopping spamming this thread with irrelevancies. Any more and you’ll be back to your own thread only. GR]

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