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Reuters: “ANALYSIS-Hacked climate e-mails awkward, not game changer”; Hackergate contest — Rename “Climategate” after the crime, not the victim

By Joe Romm  

"Reuters: “ANALYSIS-Hacked climate e-mails awkward, not game changer”; Hackergate contest — Rename “Climategate” after the crime, not the victim"

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  • Embarrassing climate e-mails will have limited impact
  • Scientists behaving badly won’t change evidence….

WASHINGTON, Nov 23 (Reuters) – Revelation of a series of embarrassing e-mails by climate scientists provides fodder for critics, but experts believe the issue will not hurt the U.S. climate bill’s chance for passage or efforts to forge a global climate change deal.

Already dubbed “Climategate,” e-mails stolen from a British university are sparking outrage from climate change skeptics who say they show that the scientists were colluding on suppressing data on how humans affect climate change.

Reuters got the headline and analysis right, but we don’t name these things after the victim of these illegal hacks — a livable climate.  We name them after the crime or its location a la Watergate.  Certainly in this modern version of The Purlioned Letter, a better name would be Hackergate, if only because Nothing-gate isn’t catchy enough to catch on.  But I welcome your suggestions.  The winner of this contest gets … absolute nothing.

You might want to read climatologist Raymond Pierrehumbert’s commentary on DotEarth, “On Science and ‘Cyber-Terrorism’.”  And I’ll repost the University of East Anglia statement below.  Here’s some more from Reuters, after it quotes a few of the professional anti-scientific disinformers:

But others say the damage may be limited as the evidence is still overwhelming that a buildup of greenhouse gases is melting snow on mountain tops and shrinking global ice caps.

“The issue of scientists behaving badly does nothing to invalidate the science,” said Kevin Book, an analyst at ClearView Energy Partners, LLC in Washington. “This does nothing to the U.S. climate bill, which will be decided mostly by economic forces, not environmental ones.”

Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale Project on Climate Change, said the release of the e-mails will be remembered mostly as as embarrassment to the researchers.

“It shows that the process of science is not always pristine,” said Leiserowitz. “But there’s no smoking gun in the e-mails from what I’ve seen.”

Leiserowitz, who is a social scientist, said the e-mails would provide fodder for the 2 to 3 percent of the general public that are hard-core climate change doubters. “For that small group it is like meat to the wolves.”

At U.N. climate talks set for next month in Copenhagen, the top producers of greenhouse gases are expected to reach political agreements on tackling climate change, but not agree on hard targets for taking action.

The e-mails may serve as good gossip in the halls at the meeting, but will not play a big role otherwise, experts said.

For one thing, the researchers involved were only a handful out of thousands across the world that have contributed to a vast convergence of data that shows the world has warmed.

“Whilst some of the e-mails show scientists to be all too human, nothing I have read makes me doubt the veracity of the peer review process or the general warming trend in the global temperature recorded,” said Piers Forster, an environment professor at the University of Leeds.

I agree with George Marshall’s analysis in the UK’s Guardian that “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?” and that “Jones should speak to every journalist who calls, go on the offensive and defend his science.”  Yesterday UEA’s Climatic Research Unit finally released a statement, which I reprint below:

It is a matter of concern that data, including personal information about individuals, appears to have been illegally taken from the university and elements published selectively on a number of websites.

The volume of material published and its piecemeal nature makes it impossible to confirm what proportion is genuine. We took immediate action to remove the server in question from operation and have involved the police in what we consider to be a criminal investigation.

The material published relates to the work of our globally-respected Climatic Research Unit (CRU) and other scientists around the world. CRU’s published research is, and has always been, fully peer-reviewed by the relevant journals, and is one strand of research underpinning the strong consensus that human activity is affecting the world’s climate in ways that are potentially dangerous.

CRU is one of a number of independent centres working in this important area and reaching similar conclusions. It will continue to engage fully in reasoned debate on its findings with individuals and groups that are willing to have their research and theories subjected to scrutiny by the international scientific community. The selective publication of some stolen emails and other papers taken out of context is mischievous and cannot be considered a genuine attempt to engage with this issue in a responsible way.

The raw climate data which has been requested belongs to meteorological services around the globe and restrictions are in place which means that we are not in a position to release them. We are asking each service for their consent for their data to be published in future.

In addition to supporting the police in their enquiries, we will ourselves be conducting a review, with external support, into the circumstances surrounding the theft and publication of this information and any issues emerging from it.

Comment from Professor Phil Jones, Director of the Climatic Research Unit:

The following email, which I can confirm is genuine, has caused a great deal of ill-informed comment, but has been taken completely out of context and I want to put the record straight.

“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 from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline. Mike’s series got the annual land and marine values while the other two got April-Sept for NH land N of 20N. The latter two are real for 1999, while the estimate for 1999 for NH combined is +0.44C wrt 61-90. The Global estimate for 1999 with data through Oct +is 0.35C cf. 0.57 for 1998.”

The first thing to point out is that this refers to one diagram – not a scientific paper – which was used in the World Meteorological Organisation’s statement on the status of the global climate in 1999 (WMO-no.913).

The diagram consisted of three curves showing 50-year average temperature variations for the last 1000 years. Each curve referred to a scientific paper and a key gives their details.

Climate records consist of actual temperature records from the mid-19th century and proxy data (tree rings, coral, ice cores, etc) which go back much further. The green curve on the diagram included proxy data up to 1960 but only actual temperatures from 1961 onwards. This is what is being discussed in the email.

The word ‘trick’ was used here colloquially as in a clever thing to do. It is ludicrous to suggest that it refers to anything untoward.

Jones will need to do a great deal more than that in the coming days.

NOTE:  The cartoon above was adapted from one by Mike Luckovich by the science blogger with the nom de plume (nom de fur?) Eli Rabett.  He has a good post on the hacked emails here.

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39 Responses to Reuters: “ANALYSIS-Hacked climate e-mails awkward, not game changer”; Hackergate contest — Rename “Climategate” after the crime, not the victim

  1. Ron says:

    This website takes the view that the hacked emails change nothing. There are plenty of sites which treat it as presaging the end of global warming. The problem is that there seems to be little common ground between the two parties. To try and overcome that a colleague and I set up a web site a few months ago to present a balanced, objective, view. It is at:
    http://www.climatedata.info
    We’ed grateful if you could let us know if you think we have succeeded.

  2. Eli Snyder says:

    I posted this on greenfyre’s, and thought it might be worth reposting here:

    I’ve been thinking about strategy and Sun Tzu, and I think it’s always wise to check against Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido.

    I admit I’ve been thrown off balance by the strength and viciousness of this attack — but the stronger the attack, the more it puts the opponent off balance. Keep one point, maintain equilibrium, and the opponent will defeat himself.

    I tend to forget this in the heat of battle, but it is good to revisit it:

    “If your opponent strikes with fire, counter with water, becoming completely fluid and free-flowing. Water, by its nature, never collides with or breaks against anything. On the contrary, it swallows up any attack harmlessly. ”

    Perhaps instead of striking back, we should bend and flow and absorb this attack, allowing the opponents to throw themselves off balance and ultimately defeat themselves. Here’s a possible frame for that:

    In science, we welcome all forms of criticism. Criticism and skepticism make science stronger. Let us, by all means, investigate this to the fullest extent, make all of the data and methods as open as possible, and we will see what the scientific conclusions are.

    You want openness of data? By all means, let’s have openness of data. You want an investigation? Let’s investigate thoroughly. Let’s check and double-check the science and find out for sure what the evidence really shows.

    If the science is sound (which it probably is), then the claims of fraud will be exposed for the unfounded lies that they are, and their proponents will look all the more foolish for jumping to conclusions without evidence.

    A good example of how off-balance the opponent is right now was provided by Glenn Beck (who has not, in my opinion, been keeping one point lately):

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/23/fox-news-glenn-beck-on-climategate/#more-13123

    “If your gut said, “Wait a minute, this global warming thing sounds like a scam.” Well, I think you’re seeing it now. We told you this was going on, without proof, because we listened to our gut.”

    That’s an outright admission that he’s not living in an evidence-based reality, and that he makes unfounded accusations without proof.

    Ironically, he seems to be getting this from Steven Colbert, who said this in a performance for the Bush administration:

    http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/stephencolbert/a/colbertbush.htm

    “it is my privilege to celebrate this president, ‘cause we’re not so different, he and I. We both get it. Guys like us, we’re not some brainiacs on the nerd patrol. We’re not members of the factinista. We go straight from the gut. Right, sir?

    That’s where the truth lies, right down here in the gut. Do you know you have more nerve endings in your gut than you have in your head? You can look it up. Now, I know some of you are going to say, “I did look it up, and that’s not true.” That’s ’cause you looked it up in a book. Next time, look it up in your gut. I did. My gut tells me that’s how our nervous system works.”

    Only Beck is serious!

    Maybe we shouldn’t strike back. Maybe we should just keep on giving them more rope…

  3. JJM says:

    This is very disturbing and it may indeed be a game changer we shall see. The damage may be that the term “peer reviewed” will lose it’s authority as far a climate science is concerned.

  4. caerbannog says:

    So Inhofe wants hearings. Great idea. Boxer will have the last say. Climate-scientists should go for it.

    Some suggestions off the top of my head.

    1) CRU is a British, not an American institution. Point that out. Make the point that NASA/NOAA (“we Americans”) have been much more open with our data/methods. Hate to go the furriner-bashing route, but that’s what will play well with the rubes on this side of the pond. Don’t excuse CRU — but do point out that they were “provoked” by a continuous stream of dishonest attacks into letting their tempers get the better of them. Emphasize the “high road” taken by NASA/NOAA.

    2) What have deniers done with all that data/code that American climatologists have made available to the general public for many years now? Nuthin…zippo…bupkis. Point out that the Brits should never have been reluctant to supply all the data that they could, legally… because the deniers would have sniffed at it a bit and then done not much else. A witness reading off a detailed list of all the data and model-code available for free and then spending a moment of silence listing all the research that deniers have produced from that freely-available data could make for some effective CSPAN footage.

    3) The out-of-context stuff. Lots of it is pretty obscure, but there are a number of examples that could make deniers look really stupid. The “trick” is one. Mann’s MWP “containment” remark is another. Go back 1,000 years and you have half a MWP. (Hard to “contain” something that you have only half of!). Go back 2,000 years and you get (“contain”) it all. Point out that you can’t contain 1 gallon of milk in a 1/2 gallon carton. The testimony here should be light-hearted and geared to producing laughter from the Senate floor. (Try to do to the deniers what Jon Stewart does to fox news).

    4) Journal censorship, pressure on editors? The natural response is “Soon/Baliunas 2003″. That paper is so pathetically bad that you could explain its flaws to a high-school student (or Senator, for that matter). There are other garbage papers out there, but they require a bit of a technical background to understand where they went wrong. Soon/Baliunas is in a class by itself. Make the deniers own that paper. Let it be known that Inhofe himself was pushing that paper like mad after it was published, and tear it apart in front of him. Even Boxer will understand the details, and then she’d have great fun asking Inhofe’s witnesses if they would be proud to be listed as co-authors of that paper.

    5) Make sure our witnesses are well-published, telegenic, and personable (Peter Ward, perhaps?). Inhofe will almost certainly call that stuffy, pompous Monckton. Counter him with personable American scientists (a touch of a Southern drawl wouldn’t hurt).

  5. Brewster says:

    If it’s going to be named after where it happened, it should be CRUgate, but I’m afraid the hackers have their name, and will keep pushing it.

    Since their articles outnumber the sane ones at least 10 to 1, ClimateGate it shall be…

  6. Carey says:

    How ironic that Judith Curry would ask for “transparency” on climate change issues by posting on a blog run by Steve McIntyre, who was hiding his own links to industry for many years.

    Can’t make this stuff up.

  7. Paul Schofield says:

    One thing that I have rarely seen in this is a copy of the graph in question. It took me a while to find the relevant report, but there is a pdf copy here, and the graph in question is right on the front cover.

    Maybe useful to further discussion?

  8. Jim says:

    HackerGate.

    With Watergate, the questions were:

    Who broke into the hotel room?
    What were they trying to do?
    And for the cover-up, What did they know and when did they know it?

    Those should be the questions about HackerGate. Who hacked the emails, for whom were they stolen, who knew about the crime, and when did they know it?

  9. ken levenson says:

    great new report just out for Copenhagen –

    http://www.copenhagendiagnosis.org/

    does a great job of summarizing our predicament and knocking down denier talking points in a very sober and firm fashion. everyone should have a look..

  10. Dano says:

    Well,

    The campaign to smear with innuendo is similar to the Swift Boat campaign and the Swift Boater himself is ensuring the story continues to get play.

    So the re-name should, IMHO, echo that campaign.

    o Climate Boat.
    o Hack Boat [connotes both a computer hack and the hacks pushing the campaign].

    Best,

    D

  11. Dennis says:

    Carey writes:

    “How ironic that Judith Curry would ask for ‘transparency’ on climate change issues by posting on a blog run by Steve McIntyre, who was hiding his own links to industry for many years. Can’t make this stuff up.”

    You make an excellent point, and it goes a lot further. The deniers have been extremely deceptive for many years. We’ve yet to see accurate credentials and affiliations of all the signers of the “Oregon Petition,” and that thing is over ten years old. Marc Marano’s so-called “report” of 700 “scientists” dissent over climate change is riddled with false information about what certain people actually believe and includes many people who are not scientists (e.g., TV weathermen), but that document has never been corrected. Nonetheless, we continue to hear about these “facts” from the denier crowd. For them to crow about the contents of these stolen emails is the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.

  12. CRUster’s Last Stand…

    Darn, it almost works… I think that in the fullness of time, this is going to be looked upon as the moment when the deniers truly jumped the shark / made a last stand… because this is apparently the best they’ve got – and it is NADA with respect to the underlying science.

    Unfortunate PR debacle for the scientists who are being smeared, yeah, but it really smacks of desperation more than anything else by the.

  13. Dano says:

    I’ve been asking for the source code and data for the OISM petition for years. Where is it?

    But back OT.

    Renaming “Climate Gate” to a more appropriate name, like Swift Boat.

    Best,

    D

  14. flatearthertrolldenier says:

    Been reading the comments hear and I have to say that you wanna-be egg heads are trully pathetic in your dogged devotion to the this ad-hoc religion…sad, very sad.

  15. ids says:

    Considering the hiding and obfuscation of data by the scientists coming to light, it is scary to imagine what Joe Romm, [snip]

    [JR: Sorry, look elsewhere to post your obfuscation.]

  16. JM says:

    The damage may be that the term “peer reviewed” will lose it’s authority as far a climate science is concerned.

    Because … ? Why? Because people who never understood it in the first place think it’s been compromised?

    Wow. Powerful stuff.

  17. JM says:

    Been reading the comments hear and I have to say that you wanna-be egg heads are trully pathetic in your dogged devotion to the this ad-hoc religion…sad, very sad.

    Quiet, honey. The adults are talking.

  18. JM says:

    Considering the hiding and obfuscation of data by the scientists coming to light

    The evidence of which is … ? What, exactly?

    it is scary to imagine what Joe Romm….

    “Scary to imagine”? That’s how you people work, isn’t it? Fear and make-believe.

    [JR: I snipped out the crap from the original, too.]

  19. Tim says:

    Given that this just gives more b.s. fodder to denialists, perhaps “Denigrate” might fit the bill. (Yeah, I know it ain’t perfect, but then again, what is?)

  20. pete best says:

    Oh yes climate science is misusing peer review somehow whilst all other sciences that do not threaten our way of life (or so they say) don’t because only scientists care about them.

    Climate science has thousands of practising scientists and related scientists too. We gonna go all out on those involved in atmospheric physics, thermodynamics, complexity, computer code, geology, chemistry, solar and its system etc. This is just pure hubris aint it and nonsense.

    I aint for swaying. AGW might be being politicised to a ludricous extent but thats just the lasty gasp of the denialists and gasp it will be.

  21. Leif says:

    Desperation-gate. These folks are grabing at straws as the evidence mounts against them.

  22. paulina says:

    SwiftHack (derived from Dano above)

    The swifthackers are trying to smear and “intimigate” scientists and mislead the public.

  23. Chad says:

    The sad thing is, the actual *science* unvieled the last few days is devastating news for both humanity AND the denialists. Not that the deniers actually pay attention to actual science, the the confirmation that Antarctica is melting is a mighty blow to their “But what about Antarctica?” line of arguments.

    Btw, does anyone know how much of an effect this melting ice has on temperatures, both local and global? It takes a heck of a lot of energy to melt fifty gigatons of ice. I ballparked it in my head at roughly similar to all the energy humans use in a year. This is still a small fraction of a percent of all the energy we are bathed in each year, but how does this affect the net global balance, and more specifically, how does it affect the local environment?

  24. David B. Benson says:

    CRUhack

    No gate about it as no onsite perp (as far as we know).

  25. Dano says:

    You have to hand it to them.

    Lawsuits, Congressional investigations, using -gate, selective quotes spread first among the free Message Force Multipliers…quite the Swift Boat operation. They have it down, don’t they?

    And the opposition…well…still trying to herd cats into a dog-shaped box.

    Best,

    D

  26. Dano says:

    Vail,

    Whatever.

    Best,

    D

  27. Mike#22 says:

    “One has to wonder if it is a coincidence that this email correspondence has been stolen and published at this time. This may be a concerted attempt to put a question mark over the science of climate change in the run-up to the Copenhagen talks.”

    –Statement from Professor Phil Jones, Head of the Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia.

    –Climatic Research Unit update – November 24, 3.30pm

    http://www.uea.ac.uk/mac/comm/media/press/2009/nov/homepagenews/CRUupdate

  28. Dano says:

    Mike:

    Apologies, and no offense intended to you personally

    No f’n sh–.

    Really?

    Ya think?

    Wow. I never thought.

    And the blast faxes and e-mails from the science community to reporters….they went out…

    Best,

    D

  29. Dano says:

    Back OT.

    Anybody.

    Anything better than Climate Boat?

    Anybody?

    Hello?

    Swiftclimate Boat?

    Best,

    D

  30. Anna Haynes says:

    Naygate? or, from “Four Horsement” image, Neighgate?

  31. Anna Haynes says:

    Horsemen, dammit.

  32. Dan R says:

    The Great Denier Trouser-Wet.

  33. TimOfEngland says:

    To be clear I am a supporter of limiting emissions/destruction of our environment etc.
    as for “HarryGate”, As far as I can see the emails are not a problem simply containing some unfortunate choices of words/phrases.

    It is the READ_ME file created by “Harry” (not actually his name) that has caused a furore among computer database programmers and techies such as myself. IF the contents are genuine, then there ARE some questions that need answering. I’m not saying the answers will be comfortable for CRU. But the methods “Harry” used need explaining and verifying.

  34. Ed says:

    The nice thing is that the climate itself is working within the laws of physics and these are not bound by the laws of politics. Thus in future times when the sun reaches it’s maximum again (which will happen within the next decade) all these talks will seem as pointless as dragging water to the ocean (as an old Dutch proverb states). The only force powerfull enough to prove these climate change deniers wrong is the climate itself. Unfortunately it does not discriminate and seperate the good from the wrong. Maybe humanity will do so, but we’ll have to sweat that out, won’t we.

    People, who stop making sence end all debate into a frenzy of opinions backed up with even more opinions. Thus the question is not wether climate change is happening or wether it is caused by human beings, the question is, how will humanity act on that knowledge in the face of the economic problems that inevitably will arise out of that reaction. Are we willing to sacrifice comfort now or let someone else pay the price later. Are we a race of altruists or a race of bloody selfish idiots. What does the credit crunch, the economic Ponzy scheme and the demise of the international banking system tells us. Indeed “Greed is good!” and it will be that greed that will provoke reactions like these untill antartica has shed it’s last into the southern arctic ocean. Then still greed will take over and the few rich will fight the empoverished middle classes.

    What this is, is nothing more and nothing less then a classical class strugle in the Marxistic Leninistic sense of the word. The rich profit from their way of life and in doing so they will bleed the middle classes into poverty. The last man standing will be an arogant capitalist eating the last grapes. Or in the world of the Cree:

    Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.

    Greetings, Ed

  35. Mike#22 says:

    Wattagate?

    Dano, no question we are looking at industrial strength information war with a clear strategy to disrupt the normal progress of our governments and institutions. One guess as to who paying for it.

    CRU’s responses are no weaker than Gore’s have been, or Kerry’s, or all the rest of the targets. I don’t get it either. They are not guilty of anything–they should just yell “FOUL” as loud as possible.

    A while back someone mentioned the idea that we need to develop a better immunity to these tactics. With all the communications technology we have today, we should have a quick robust response to these (age old) smear tactics. Instead of grumbling. Prosecution?

  36. Dano says:

    Nothing ‘-gate’ Mike. That’s their frame. Turn it back on Morono. Something ‘Boat’.

    I can’t remember the name of the blogger, Steve…Steve…he died young. Anyway, he always wrote to hit back hard and slap these b—-es and bullies right away, as bullies don’t expect it. IME it works and this is the way to go. These standard weak responses are exactly what the denial industry counts on.

    Best,

    D

  37. FishEagle says:

    @Ed. It is inevitable that the debate will degenerate into a Marxist-Leninistic issue. That’s a good thing. If there is a presumption that we’ve got a problem with climate climate and that some political solutions are needed to mitigate them it means that the proponents of the climate change crisis have done a good job in creating awareness around the issues, and will hopefully continue to do so.

    I’m a staunch supporter of capitalism. I think the proposed Copenhagen treaty, in its current format, is completely unacceptable. But that’s another discussion.

  38. Greg Gordon says:

    Let’s see. Reuters is owned by the Rothschild family.
    Rothschild family is the main player in the New World Order.
    New World Order is attempting a takeover of the US government.
    US government will attempt to charge a carbon tax to generate revenue.
    Money will finance our enslavement.

    Anything out of Reuters is tainted and is not to believed.

  39. James Williams says:

    @caerbannog

    Obviously you haven’t read many of the emails or you would know that many “climate scientists” on this side of the pond are also implicated in the absolutely anti-scientific aspects of this scandal. Read the data and emails, then comment. Don’t be am ostrich unless that is what you are determined to be!