Newsweek: Newspapers Retract ‘Climategate’ Claims, but Damage Still Done

I am often critical of the near-death Newsweek — see Why has a Newsweek economics editor, Stefan Theil, written “basically a condensed version of the climate denier viewpoint”?

But they have a great science editor (see Why climate change is “even worse than we feared”).  And Sharon Begley has written another good piece:

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.

Of course it bears pointing out that Newsweek blew the Mann story (see “Newsweek staff who play fast and loose with the facts are imperiling not just their profession but the planet“).

In perhaps the biggest backpedaling, The Sunday Times of London, which led the media pack in charging that IPCC reports were full of egregious (and probably intentional) errors, retracted its central claim””namely, that the IPCC statement that up to 40 percent of the Amazonian rainforest could be vulnerable to climate change was “unsubstantiated.” The Times also admitted that it had totally twisted the remarks of one forest expert to make it sound as if he agreed that the IPCC had screwed up, when he said no such thing.

It’s worth quoting the retraction at some length….

You can find it all here:  Sunday Times retracts and apologizes for shameful and bogus Amazon story smearing IPCC.

… In another retraction you never heard of, a paper in Frankfurt took back (apologies; the article is available only in German) its reporting that the IPCC had erred in its assessment of climate impacts in Africa.

The Times‘s criticism of the IPCC””look, its reports are full of mistakes and shoddy scholarship!“”was widely picked up at the time it ran, and has been an important factor in turning British public opinion sharply against the established science of climate change. Don’t expect the recent retractions and exonerations to change that. One of the strongest, most-repeated findings in the psychology of belief is that once people have been told X, especially if X is shocking, if they are later told, “No, we were wrong about X,” most people still believe X.

For a discussion of those findings, see Memo to “Reality” Coalition: Don’t call coal ‘clean’ seven times in your ad.

As Twain and Churchill knew, sometimes the truth never catches up with the lie, let alone overtakes it. As I wrote last summer in a story about why people believe lies even when they’re later told the truth, sometimes people’s mental processes simply go off the rails.

Having an active, well-funded disinformation campaign and a status quo media doesn’t help either!

14 Responses to Newsweek: Newspapers Retract ‘Climategate’ Claims, but Damage Still Done

  1. James Newberry says:

    It seems the political analysis by the writer concerning the statement: “spread around the Web by activists who deny that human activity is altering the world’s climate” is a bit juvenile. These are clearly PR agents of a multi-year campaign financed with billions of global corporate dollars, in order to protect the investments, interests and agenda of worldwide hydrocarbon mining industries (like BP) and the war-making weapons systems that are based on them (and their bankers). (See for example, the book Climate Cover-Up)

    Atomic fission (aka nuclear) is the other side of this coin, based on more mining of uranium. Maybe we can have our clean energy choice as long as it depends on global mining industries.

  2. Leif says:

    In my view, the fastest way to deploy green energy would be to emphasize “on site deployment” with a positive component of profit to the home owner. You would remove a good portion of the energy bills for many homes, freeing that money to stimulate the economy. Not go to a Swiss Bank Account with no tax collection. The reason Big Money Likes fossil fuel is because of BIG PROFIT! Well Big Guys, it is time to take a hit for humanity and chip in, at least until we get the ship on a sustainable course. Then, if we have to, we can go back to you ripping off the population. Given free rain, free dumping, bought congress, media, and judicial system, inside trading and more, you have proven that you win all the marbles. Us little people are just not competitive. The down side is that with your rules the EARTH LOOSES.
    And it is curtain call for humanity.

  3. Paulm says:

    Well guess what, global warming is going to cause massive earthquakes and within the half century and the earth is going to trip into to a Hot House Venus climate state.

  4. mike roddy says:

    Let’s hope Newsweek goes flat busted. Time has been far better in their climate coverage and everything else.

  5. Tim L. says:

    Too bad no real journalists ever dug into the “Climategate” nonsense from the get go to find out who funded the hacking and the spreading of the lies. My bet is on Big Oil, starting with Koch Industries.

  6. mike roddy says:


    The breakins were clearly the work of fossil fuel company Black Ops, since this occurred at more than one location, with highly capable perpetrators. Journalists won’t find the trail, since oil companies can purchase secrecy and deniability. And it’s not likely that commando types are going to have an awakening of their consciences.

    That being said, journalists blew this story, and thanks for reminding us. Plenty of evidence shows it to be the work of professionals, and nobody seems to care.

  7. Prokaryote says:

    “Plenty of evidence shows it to be the work of professionals, and nobody seems to care.”

    How much longer do we have to wait (how much worse – irreversible) till skeptics are hold responsible for the denial they spread (Criminal charges)?

    Intelligence has identified climate change as a national security threat, but why don’t they act on the skeptics?

    Misinformation, denial-skeptic on climate science is “russian roulette”(as the MIT put it in perspective to their models) – the essence of stupidity. This is not about winning a game or gaining some financial performance – this is about the survival of the entire human species.

    How direct do you have to say (yell, scream, cry) this message till people realize that we are in real trouble?

  8. John Mason says:

    One of the messages tested by ICE back in 1991 (see Climate Cover-up, p. 32) was “Who told you the Earth was warming… Chicken Little?”

    Second comment below the story linked by Prokaryote:

    “Remember the story of Chicken Little running amok yelling, “The sky is falling. The sky is falling.” This guy should be locked in a padded cell with Al Gore and they can scare and bore each other to death.”

    Well, fancy that!

    Cheers – John

  9. Shub says:

    The IPCC would do well to retract that ‘bizarre’ initial statement and rewrite it, with better citations.


  10. Raul says:

    If the dispersant attaches to water on one end of it’s molecular
    shape and is sprayed from the air, do bits of the dispersant
    attach to water vapor and just float away to the clouds?

  11. Menth says:

    @Mike Roddy
    “The breakins were clearly the work of fossil fuel company Black Ops, since this occurred at more than one location”

    Where else did these weasels hack into?

  12. Chris Dudley says:

    Happy Birthday Joe! A body warming story might be this one:

    An adaptability limit to climate change due to heat stress

    Maybe not what you had in mind though.

  13. mike roddy says:

    Menth, #11, a group of people disguised as security maintenance personnel broke into the computers at the climate science laboratory at the University of Victoria. They were of course never apprehended, and weakly investigated. The Black Ops may have succeeded by electronic means at the East Anglia computers, but a night time break in is possible, too.

    We were all victimized, but scientists more so. Their response to this organized criminal activity was far too muted.

  14. Sorry, kids. You’re all going to die because your grandparents were dumb as rocks. More dangerously, they were only being told what they wanted to hear. Nobody wants to downsize their lifestyles, and that’s precisely what’s required to stop global warming.

    “Give me convenience or give me death!”