The Climatic Research Unit’s leaked emails

160 megabytes worth of emails – ostensibly from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit – have apparently been obtained by hackers and posted online. Being emails between colleagues, they are written in a less formal style than public documents. Some blogs and news sources critical of the mainstream scientific view are hailing the emails as proof of poor practice within the scientific community, or evidence that the consensus view on climate change is incorrect or an intentional fabrication. Various climate change blogs have put up responses to the whole event and to those allegations:

Firstly, it isn’t clear that these emails contain evidence of any wrongdoing. Secondly, it hasn’t been established whether the documents are all genuine and unaltered. Thirdly, and most importantly, the consensus on anthropogenic climate change is bigger than any one specific institution. It is based on multiple lines of evidence that support the same conclusions – something that cannot be said about alternative hypotheses, such as that nothing is happening or that observed warming is not mostly being caused by greenhouse gasses.

RealClimate probably has the best analysis on the significance of all this:

More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords. The truly paranoid will put this down to the hackers also being in on the plot though.

Instead, there is a peek into how scientists actually interact and the conflicts show that the community is a far cry from the monolith that is sometimes imagined. People working constructively to improve joint publications; scientists who are friendly and agree on many of the big picture issues, disagreeing at times about details and engaging in ‘robust’ discussions; Scientists expressing frustration at the misrepresentation of their work in politicized arenas and complaining when media reports get it wrong; Scientists resenting the time they have to take out of their research to deal with over-hyped nonsense. None of this should be shocking.

It’s obvious that the noise-generating components of the blogosphere will generate a lot of noise about this. but it’s important to remember that science doesn’t work because people are polite at all times. Gravity isn’t a useful theory because Newton was a nice person. QED isn’t powerful because Feynman was respectful of other people around him. Science works because different groups go about trying to find the best approximations of the truth, and are generally very competitive about that. That the same scientists can still all agree on the wording of an IPCC chapter for instance is thus even more remarkable.

That said, you can be sure that climate change delayers and deniers will be milking these emails for years – using them to continue to cast doubt on the strength of the scientific consensus about climate change. Thankfully, it does seem as though the world’s political elites are increasingly aware of the strength of the scientific consensus and the incoherence of the views of those who deny it.

[Update: 3 December 2009] Nature has posted an editorial about this whole incident. It makes reference to two open archives of online climate data – maintained by the IPCC ( and the US National Climatic Data Center (

[Update: 14 December 2009] Newsweek has printed a comprehensive evaluation of the significance of the CRU emails, written by Jess Henig of It concludes that the emails sometimes “show a few scientists in a bad light, being rude or dismissive” but that the emails do not undermine the IPCC consensus, and that: “E-mails being cited as “smoking guns” have been misrepresented.”

[Update: 20 June 2010] Wrap-up video on the CRU emails

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

90 thoughts on “The Climatic Research Unit’s leaked emails”

  1. Science historian reacts to hacked climate e-mails

    A scandal erupted in the world of climate science late last week after anonymous hackers posted years worth of selected private email correspondence between a handful of prominent climate scientists. The emails were stolen from a server at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit in Britain.

    Climate skeptics — those who either doubt the mainstream consensus that Earth has warmed during the past century or who doubt human influence is the primary cause of any warming — have seized upon the contents of the emails as evidence that mainstream climate scientists have been involved in a conspiracy to block those with alternative views from publishing papers in academic journals, in addition to other allegations.

    Although the personal emails do not provide any scientific evidence that would counter the scientific consensus that human emissions are altering the climate system, they are likely to be politically damaging, because they raise the appearance of impropriety in the scientific process.

  2. “The theft and use of the emails does reveal something interesting about the social context. It’s a symptom of something entirely new in the history of science: Aside from crackpots who complain that a conspiracy is suppressing their personal discoveries, we’ve never before seen a set of people accuse an entire community of scientists of deliberate deception and other professional malfeasance.

    Even the tobacco companies never tried to slander legitimate cancer researchers. In blogs, talk radio and other new media, we are told that the warnings about future global warming issued by the national science academies, scientific societies, and governments of all the leading nations are not only mistaken, but based on a hoax, indeed a conspiracy that must involve thousands of respected researchers. Extraordinary and, frankly, weird. Climate scientists are naturally upset, exasperated, and sometimes goaded into intemperate responses… but that was already easy to see in their blogs and other writings.”

    Spencer Weart, author of The Discovery of Global Warming

  3. Climate change champion and sceptic both call for inquiry into leaked emails

    Both sides of climate change debate urge investigation as Met Office dismisses ‘shallow attempt to discredit robust science’

    Leo Hickman, Monday 23 November 2009 16.23 GMT

    Prominent voices on both sides of the climate change debate today called for an independent inquiry into claims of collusion between climate scientists after it emerged last week that hundreds of their emails and documents had been leaked that allegedly manipulated data and destroyed evidence for Freedom of Information Act requests.

    Writing in the Times, Lord Lawson, the former Conservative chancellor and long-time climate change sceptic, said: “The integrity of the scientific evidence on which not merely the British government, but other countries, too, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, claim to base far-reaching and hugely expensive policy decisions, has been called into question. And the reputation of British science has been seriously tarnished. A high-level independent inquiry must be set up without delay.”

    Bob Ward, director of policy and communications at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, said: “Once appropriate action has been taken over the hacking, there has to be some process to assess the substance of the email messages as well. The selective disclosure and dissemination of the messages has created the impression of impropriety, and the only way of clearing the air now would be through a rigorous investigation. I have sympathy for the climate researchers at the University of East Anglia and other institutions who have been the target of an aggressive campaign by so-called ‘sceptics’ over a number of years. But I fear that only a thorough investigation could now clear their names.”

  4. “Thankfully, it does seem as though the world’s political elites are increasingly aware of the strength of the scientific consensus and the incoherence of the views of those who deny it.”

    What makes it seem so to you? What are the elites doing now that they weren’t doing ten years ago which makes you think their beliefs have changed?

  5. You have to remain hopeful in one way or another.

    Troglodyte Republicans aside, most politicians now seem to find it convenient to say that they believe in climate change. Convincing them to support effective policies is a whole different story, of course.

  6. Just looking at the stream of crap on my facebook news page, I think you’re going to want to write a more comprehensive rebuttal to those decrying peer-review science as anti-skeptical, and as having hijacked science.

  7. Hacked climate scientists’ emails in context

    By Cory Doctorow on science

    A huge amount of email from the East Anglia Climate Research Unit was hacked and released onto the web, causing much rejoicing from the climate change denialists. They read through the corpus of email and found that the scientists working on climate change often have substantive disagreements with one another, which they debate vigorously in email, and cited this as evidence of a conspiracy to cover up dissent and present a scientific consensus on climate change.

    Futurismic’s Tom Marcinko does a great job of putting this in context, rounding up several links to other good commentators around the web. In a nutshell: science is about the advancement of competing theories and the evaluation of these theories in light of evidence. The East Anglia Climate Research Unit’s scientists disagreed in some particulars, and used peer-review to resolve them (and continue to do so). No one is paying them to cover up evidence that climate change isn’t real or isn’t caused by humans — but they are conducting science the way that scientists do.

  8. CRU hack, science, crime and ethics

    “Whether they are right or wrong about the science, a researcher has a moral obligation to use ethical and legal means to try and prevent the publication or use of work that they sincerely believe to be false and endangers human well being.

    That is not a crime, it is actually a moral duty. Further, there is no evidence that the CRU Crew did anything unethical or illegal in seeking to do this.”

  9. What are the elites doing now that they weren’t doing ten years ago which makes you think their beliefs have changed?

    One thing that seeems significant is that mainstream right-wing politicians no longer deny that climate change is happening. For instance, the Tories in both Canada and the UK say that they accept the science that the planet is warming due to human greenhouse gas emissions.

    There is a way to go before these parties will support effective policies, but this does seem like a mark of progress.

  10. That being said, it is depressing to read some quotations from back in 1988:

    “Those who think we are powerless to do anything about the greenhouse effect forget about the ‘White House effect’; as president, I intend to do something about it.”

    George H.W. Bush as a presidential candidate

    Later that year, he signed the National Energy Policy Act “to establish a national energy policy that will quickly reduce the generation of carbon dioxide and trace gases as quickly as is feasible in order to slow the pace and degree of atmospheric warming… to protect the global environment.”

    In some ways, it is remarkable how effective status quo actors have been at blocking meaningful policies since then.

  11. “One thing that seeems significant is that mainstream right-wing politicians no longer deny that climate change is happening.”

    Are you actually saying that a change in what Politicians say is evidence of a change in their beliefs? That is most politically naive, don’t you think?

  12. What politicians feel they have to say is significant. If those who might once have expressed skepticism no longer feel as though they can do so, it represents a shift in the scope of mainstream political discourse.

  13. Of course, politicians often say very different things to different audiences.

    What you say to environmental activists one day may differ substantially from what you say to the chamber of commerce or American Petroleum Institute the next.

    Politicians have to be slippery people to endure in their profession.

  14. That’s exactly why the limits of discourse are important.

    Everyone expects politicians to tailor their message to the audience they are speaking to. The kind of statements that go beyond what is ‘reasonable’ – and thus provoke outrage – are important markers for the overall state of debate on an issue.

  15. Obviously the limits of discourse are important – I agree with you entirely if you interpret your original claim in terms of public pressure determining what is possible to say in public, what is “truthy”.

    However, your original claim was

    “Thankfully, it does seem as though the world’s political elites are increasingly aware of the strength of the scientific consensus and the incoherence of the views of those who deny it.”

    Now, the notion of “awareness” is not “what you say in public”, but what you actually believe. You then interpreted that belief to be belief about what the public will swallow. But in this original claim, the belief is specifically about the scientific consensus and the incoherence of denial.

    So, I ask again, do you believe the elites are more aware of climate change than they were ten years ago, or, are they simply more pressured into not lying about it in public?

  16. Climate change

    Nov 26th 2009
    From The Economist print edition
    Leaked e-mails do not show climate scientists at their best

    IS GLOBAL warming a trick? That is what some saw in a huge batch of e-mails and documents taken from the servers of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, in England, and put up anonymously on the web. The result has been a field day for those sceptical of the idea of man-made climate change, who have combed through them, pouncing and pronouncing on snippets that seem to show scientific malfeasance.

    The CRU specialises in studies of climates past. For parts of the past where there were no thermometers to consult, such studies use proxy data, such as tree rings. Reconstructions based on these tend to show that the planet’s temperature has risen over the 20th century to heights unprecedented for centuries and perhaps millennia. They are far from the only evidence for believing in climate change as a man-made problem, but they are important, and the sharp uptick they show has taken on iconic value. A tree-ring reconstruction known as the “hockey stick”, which shows unprecedented 20th-century warming, has been a particular target of criticism by sceptics. It was published in 1998 by Michael Mann (then at Yale, now at Pennsylvania State University) and his colleagues, and featured prominently in the 2001 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

    Hence the eagerness with which bloggers fell on one of the stolen e-mails, sent in 1999 by Phil Jones, the CRU’s director: “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) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” Trickery associated with Dr Mann was catnip to the sceptics. But Dr Jones has clarified that “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.” The “hiding” concerned the decision to leave out a set of tree-ring-growth data that had stopped reflecting local temperature changes. That alteration in growth pattern is strange, and unexplained, but eliminating it is not sinister.

    Sadly, discussing these things rationally in public is hard. As Judith Curry, a climatologist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, observes, attacks on climate scientists, sometimes paid for by carbon-emitting industries when global warming first became a public issue, have made many researchers in the field nervous and defensive. This does not excuse attempts to resist transparency, but does help explain them. Though such attacks have become rarer, there is now little presumption of good faith between global warming believers and sceptics, even independent ones, as an episode like this illustrates. Little wonder that the scientists are looking tribal and jumpy, and that sceptics have leapt so eagerly on such tiny scraps as proof of a conspiracy.

  17. Where the Global Warming Data Is

    Several readers noted the latest fallout from the Climate Research Unit’s Climategate: the admission by the University of East Anglia that the raw data behind important climate research was discarded in the 1980s, “a time when climate change was seen as a less pressing issue” according to the Times (UK) article. The Telegraph quotes Phil Jones, beleagured head of the CRU: “Our global temperature series tallies with those of other, completely independent, groups of scientists working for NASA and the National Climate Data Centre in the United States, among others. Even if you were to ignore our findings, theirs show the same results. The facts speak for themselves; there is no need for anyone to manipulate them.” Some of the data behind these other results can likely be found in a new resource that jamie located up at the Real Climate site: a compilation of links to a wide variety of raw data about climate. From the former link: “In the aftermath of the CRU email hack, many people have come to believe that scientists are unfairly restricting access to the raw data relating to the global rise in temperature. … We have set up a page of data links to sources of temperature and other climate data, codes to process it, model outputs, model codes, reconstructions, paleo-records, the codes involved in reconstructions etc.”

  18. More Insight on Those Leaked Climate Change Emails
    By Maggie Koerth-Baker

    1) Evidence of vast conspiracy is sorely lacking. Ditto evidence disproving the scientific consensus on climate change. This isn’t the “nail in the coffin” of anything. However, the emails do prompt some legit questions about transparency and how professional researchers respond to criticism in the age of the armchair scientist.

    2) Theft is bad. But if you’re a researcher who can explain context to the general public, decrying theft shouldn’t be your primary objective right now.

    3) The Mainstream Media is covering this. They just might not be covering it the way you want, and that’s probably a good thing.

  19. Harrabin’s Notes: Debating the IPCC

    The CRU holds one of the key global data sets on temperature, so its data has helped underpin the IPCC’s conclusions.

    This report contributed to the current political consensus on the need for cuts in greenhouse gases (although not yet on the extent of the cuts).

    A minority of sceptics who mistrust the evidence of recent warming are hoping their view will be corroborated by the inquiry into the stolen e-mails from CRU, in which some observers claim to see alleged signs of collusion among climate scientists.

    Other scientists tell me they doubt the inquiry will affect the main course of scientific opinion, as the CRU temperature data set is very similar to the two other global sets, both in the US.

  20. Scientist in climate change data row steps down

    The research director at the centre of a row over climate change data said he would stand down from the post while there is an independent review.

    Professor Phil Jones, director of the Norwich-based University of East Anglia’s (UEA) Climatic Research Unit (CRU), has said he stands by his data.

    Sceptics claim the e-mails, leaked after a UEA server was hacked into, showed data was being manipulated.

    The hacking of the computer is being investigated by Norfolk Police.

    The files stolen from the computer include documents, detailed data and private e-mails exchanged between leading climate scientists.

  21. Stepping aside during the investigation may be the responsible thing to do, but it is going to lead to climate deniers claiming victory in an even more shrill way: “We got a hold of the emails and the director had to resign in disgrace!”

  22. I think the independent review will probably confirm what RealClimate and others have been saying: that the emails do not seem to demonstrate any gross scientific misconduct, and they certainly do not disprove the hypothesis that humans are causing the climate to change.

  23. How Important Is the East Anglia Climate Data Set?
    Let’s say it’s irredeemably corrupt. What would that mean for our understanding of climate change?
    By Juliet Lapidos
    Posted Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009, at 5:32 PM ET

    How vital to climate change hypotheses is the CRU data set?

    It’s important, but hardly a sine qua non. Three organizations assemble global temperature data sets, which researchers then use to identify long-term trends: CRU, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (The Japan Meteorological Agency also conducts similar work.) There are subtle differences among the sets, but they all point to the same general conclusion—that the earth has warmed by about 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century and a half.

    The question of whether CRU dumped “raw” data is a little deceptive, because CRU, NASA, and NOAA don’t put together first-order temperature measurements—that’s up to various national meteorological services, which rely on satellites as well as thermometer readings on land and at sea. The National Weather Service in the United States, and equivalent organizations abroad, then sort through the numbers and clean them up. This cleanup operation is, in part, a form of proofreading, like if station agents in Siberia report a temperature of 102, they probably meant 10.2. It’s also a “homogenizing” process that tries to account for the many variables that affect temperature over time—like when a population boom in a formerly rural area leads to an “urban heat island.” A national weather service might adjust the data so that urbanization isn’t mistaken for an increase in global temperatures. Much of these data are then stored at the Global Historical Climatology Network’s database.

  24. Editorial

    Nature 462, 545 (3 December 2009) | doi:10.1038/462545a; Published online 2 December 2009

    Climatologists under pressure

    Stolen e-mails have revealed no scientific conspiracy, but do highlight ways in which climate researchers could be better supported in the face of public scrutiny.

    The e-mail archives stolen last month from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (UEA), UK, have been greeted by the climate-change-denialist fringe as a propaganda windfall (see page 551). To these denialists, the scientists’ scathing remarks about certain controversial palaeoclimate reconstructions qualify as the proverbial ‘smoking gun’: proof that mainstream climate researchers have systematically conspired to suppress evidence contradicting their doctrine that humans are warming the globe.

    This paranoid interpretation would be laughable were it not for the fact that obstructionist politicians in the US Senate will probably use it next year as an excuse to stiffen their opposition to the country’s much needed climate bill. Nothing in the e-mails undermines the scientific case that global warming is real — or that human activities are almost certainly the cause. That case is supported by multiple, robust lines of evidence, including several that are completely independent of the climate reconstructions debated in the e-mails.

    First, Earth’s cryosphere is changing as one would expect in a warming climate. These changes include glacier retreat, thinning and areal reduction of Arctic sea ice, reductions in permafrost and accelerated loss of mass from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Second, the global sea level is rising. The rise is caused in part by water pouring in from melting glaciers and ice sheets, but also by thermal expansion as the oceans warm. Third, decades of biological data on blooming dates and the like suggest that spring is arriving earlier each year.

    Denialists often maintain that these changes are just a symptom of natural climate variability. But when climate modellers test this assertion by running their simulations with greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide held fixed, the results bear little resemblance to the observed warming. The strong implication is that increased greenhouse-gas emissions have played an important part in recent warming, meaning that curbing the world’s voracious appetite for carbon is essential (see pages 568 and 570).

  25. UN to probe climate email leak

    Raphael G. Satter

    London — Associated Press Published on Friday, Dec. 04, 2009 8:54AM EST Last updated on Friday, Dec. 04, 2009 10:09AM EST

    The United Nations will conduct its own investigation into e-mails leaked from a leading British climate science centre in addition to the probe by the University of East Anglia, a senior UN climate official said today.

    E-mails stolen from the climate unit at the University of East Anglia appeared to show some of world’s leading scientists discussing ways to shield data from public scrutiny and suppress others’ work. Those who deny the influence of man-made climate change have seized on the correspondence to argue that scientists have been conspiring to hide evidence about global warming.

    In an interview with BBC radio, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, said the issue raised by the e-mails was serious and said “we will look into it in detail.

  26. Breach in the global-warming bunker rattles climate science at the worst time

    Doug Saunders

    Norwich, England — From Saturday’s Globe and Mail Published on Friday, Dec. 04, 2009 9:19PM EST Last updated on Saturday, Dec. 05, 2009 11:33AM EST

    A short drive from the windswept North Sea coast of England, the Climatic Research Unit occupies a squat, weather-beaten grey concrete building on the campus of the University of East Anglia.

    This scientific bunker holds the world’s largest trove of climate-change data, gleaned from Siberian tree-ring counts, Greenland ice-layer measurements and centuries-old thermometer readings.

    Now the pirating of thousands of e-mail messages from within its walls has revealed a dangerous bunker mentality among the scientists who guarded those records and a data-fudging scandal that has created a crisis of confidence in global-warming science that is threatening to destroy the political consensus around next week’s carbon-policy summit in Copenhagen.

    Said one scientist working at the institute: “It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this has set the climate-change debate back 20 years.”

    The crisis intensified yesterday as the head of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the main scientific and political authority on global warming, announced an investigation into the university’s practices and the reliability of the findings that have underpinned the UN’s climate-change conclusions. The university has launched its own inquiry and on Wednesday ordered the CRU’s embattled head, Phil Jones, to step down until it is complete.

  27. Scientific Journal Nature Finds Nothing Notable In CRU Leak

    eldavojohn writes with an update to the CRU email leak story we’ve been following for the past two weeks. The peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature has published an article saying the emails do not demonstrate any sort of “scientific conspiracy,” and that the journal doesn’t intend to investigate earlier papers from CRU researchers without “substantive reasons for concern.” The article notes, “Whatever the e-mail authors may have said to one another in (supposed) privacy, however, what matters is how they acted. And the fact is that, in the end, neither they nor the IPCC suppressed anything: when the assessment report was published in 2007 it referenced and discussed both papers.” Reader lacaprup points out related news that a global warming skeptic plans to sue NASA under the Freedom of Information Act for failing to deliver climate data and correspondence of their own, which he thinks will be “highly damaging.” Meanwhile, a United Nations panel will be conducting its own investigation of the CRU emails.

  28. The Heat Is On
    ClimateGate supposedly reveals a scientific world gone corrupt, but really shows a political world gone mad.

    Here is how the story now known as ClimateGate broke: On Nov. 17, an unknown person somehow gained access to a huge cache of emails and data files from the University of East Anglia’s climate research unit (CRU) and put them on the Internet. The hacker posted links to the data on prominent climate-skeptic blogs, just weeks before the Dec. 7 start of the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen. Then, the documents were distributed with the ominous preface: “We feel that climate science is, in the current situation, too important to be kept under wraps. We hereby release a random selection of correspondence, code, and documents.”

    The approximately 1,000 emails and 3,000 documents purportedly showed that an elite cabal of climatologists had massaged decades of data to fool the world into believing in the myth of anthropogenic climate change. (The perpetrators offered no explanation why the scientists might want to do this. My best guess: All climatologists secretly despise GDP growth.) The scientists had apparently altered the world’s biggest record of global surface temperature readings, trashed discordant evidence, and publicly humiliated climatologists who reached differing conclusions.

    Climate blogs went wild. The British press soon glommed onto the story with characteristic maniacal glee. One typical post by James Delingpole in the Daily Telegraph, for instance, read: “If you own any shares in alternative energy companies I should start dumping them NOW. The conspiracy behind the Anthropogenic Global Warming myth … has been suddenly, brutally and quite deliciously exposed.”

    Within a day, the story caught on across the Atlantic — particularly in the right-wing press. Blogger Matt Drudge banged the drum with headlines declaring a “climate cult.” Glenn Beck and other Fox News anchors devoted hours to the story. And on Thursday, two members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (one the head of right-wing outfit Pajamas Media, which sent Joe the Plumber to cover the Middle East peace process) demanded that Al Gore — whose Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth featured the work of some of the climatologists embroiled in the scandal — give his award back.

  29. Canadian climate change scientist says hackers targeted him

    By Judith Lavoie, Canwest News Service
    December 4, 2009

    VICTORIA – Over the last year, there have been two break-ins at Andrew Weaver’s University of Victoria office and several attempts to hack into the computer system.

    The intrusions came as no surprise to Weaver, Canada Research Chair on Climate Modelling and Analysis and a member of the Nobel-winning International Panel on Climate Change.

    Like other scientists working in the climate-change field, Weaver says they face a well-orchestrated campaign of harassment by global warming skeptics.

  30. Climate change e-mails
    Reply all

    Dec 4th 2009
    A row over climate change e-mails grows louder

    AS POLITICIANS, policy wonks, businessmen, NGO types, hacks and hangers-on converge in Copenhagen for the forthcoming climate conference, a row over a set of e-mails from a previously obscure part of Britain’s University of East Anglia is becoming ever louder, if no more illuminating. Two weeks ago e-mails and other documents that had been leaked or hacked from the university’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) were sent to various websites. Those with a longstanding opposition to action on climate change, from bloggers to members of the American Senate to the Saudi government, are touting the e-mails as a resource with which to derail the Copenhagen talks.

    CRU’s researchers use various techniques to reconstruct the temperatures of times past. Some of the reconstructions they have been party to have long been the subject of technical criticism, sometimes in peer-reviewed literature, more frequently on blogs, notably Climate Audit, an award-winning blog by Stephen McIntyre. The critics have made many attempts to get CRU to distribute the raw data and computer codes which its scientists work on. The e-mails and other documents read as though the researchers were obstructive in dealing with some of these requests, that some of the data they used were in poor shape, that they may have indulged in spin when presenting some results and that they really did not care for their critics.

    The head of the CRU, Phil Jones, has stepped aside while the university undertakes an enquiry apparently centred on how the files got out and on how they relate to freedom of information requests. On Friday December 4th Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said that the organisation would also hold some sort of an inquiry, perhaps looking at the scientific substance of the issues and the scientists’ approach to the IPCC.

    The IPCC bases its work on papers that have been published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. In one e-mail Mr Jones talks of stopping a couple of papers that he holds in low esteem from being discussed in an IPCC report “even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is”. This does not look good, though it is worth noting that at least one of those papers was, in fact, included in the report. Other e-mails talk of trying to get editors at specific journals removed.

  31. What in the Hell Do They Think Is Causing It?
    Al Gore talks about global warming, those e-mails, and his new book.
    By John Dickerson
    Posted Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009, at 9:45 PM ET

    Q: How damaging to your argument was the disclosure of e-mails from the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University?

    A: To paraphrase Shakespeare, it’s sound and fury signifying nothing. I haven’t read all the e-mails, but the most recent one is more than 10 years old. These private exchanges between these scientists do not in any way cause any question about the scientific consensus. But the noise machine built by the climate deniers often seizes on what they can blow out of proportion, so they’ve thought this is a bigger deal than it is.

    Q: There is a sense in these e-mails, though, that data was hidden and hoarded, which is the opposite of the case you make [in your book] about having an open and fair debate.

    A: I think it’s been taken wildly out of context. The discussion you’re referring to was about two papers that two of these scientists felt shouldn’t be accepted as part of the IPCC report. Both of them, in fact, were included, referenced, and discussed. So an e-mail exchange more than 10 years ago including somebody’s opinion that a particular study isn’t any good is one thing, but the fact that the study ended up being included and discussed anyway is a more powerful comment on what the result of the scientific process really is.

    These people are examining what they can or should do to deal with the P.R. dimensions of this, but where the scientific consensus is concerned, it’s completely unchanged. What we’re seeing is a set of changes worldwide that just make this discussion over 10-year-old e-mails kind of silly. The entire North Polar ice cap is disappearing before our very eyes. It’s been the size of the continental United States for the last 3 million years and now 40 percent is gone and the rest of it is going. The mountain glaciers are going. We’ve had record storms, droughts, fires, and floods. There is an air of unreality in debating these arcane points when the world is changing in such dramatic ways right in front of our eyes because of global warming.

  32. The Real Climate Scandal
    Posted December 7, 2009

    Shocked by the hacked emails? Wait till you see what the other side’s been up to.

    By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 8th December 2009

    When you survey the trail of wreckage left by the climate emails crisis, three things become clear. The first is the tendency of those who claim to be the champions of climate science to minimise their importance. Those who have most to lose if the science is wrong have perversely sought to justify the secretive and chummy ethos that some of the emails reveal. If science is not transparent and accountable, it’s not science.

    I believe that all supporting data, codes and programmes should be made available as soon as an article is published in a peer-reviewed journal. That anyone should have to lodge a freedom of information request to obtain them is wrong. That the request should be turned down is worse. That a scientist suggests deleting material that might be covered by that request is unjustifiable. Everyone who values the scientific process should demand complete transparency, across all branches of science.

    The second observation is the tendency of those who don’t give a fig about science to maximise their importance. The denial industry, which has no interest in establishing the truth about global warming, insists that these emails (which concern three or four scientists and just one or two lines of evidence) destroy the entire canon of climate science.

  33. “The understanding of science as a social activity has changed quite radically in the last 50 years.

    The classic virtues of scientific objectivity, universality and disinterestedness can no longer be claimed to be automatically effective as the essential properties of scientific knowledge.

    Instead, warranted knowledge – knowledge that is authoritative, reliable and guaranteed on the basis of how it has been acquired – has become more sought after than the ideal of some ultimately true and objective knowledge.

    Warranted knowledge places great weight on ensuring that the authenticating roles of socially-agreed norms and practices in science are adequately fulfilled – what in other fields is called quality assurance.

    And science earns its status in society from strict adherence to such norms.

    For climate change, this may mean the adequate operation of professional peer review, the sharing of empirical data, the open acknowledgement of errors, and openness about one’s funders.

    Crucially, the idea of warranted knowledge also recognises that these internal norms and practices will change over time in response to external changes in political culture, science funding and communication technologies.

    In certain areas of research – and climate change is certainly one of these – the authenticating of scientific knowledge now demands two further things: an engagement with expertise outside the laboratory, and responsiveness to the natural scepticism and desire for scrutiny of an educated public.

    The public may not be able to follow radiation physics, but they can follow an argument; they may not be able to describe fluid dynamics using mathematics, but they can recognise evasiveness when they see it.”

  34. I’m very keen on this UK Guardian newspaper article explaining why the ‘Climategate’ email publicity is disproportionate and the underlying science not in doubt

  35. Quote from the above
    ‘Perhaps the most concrete example of journalists claiming to reveal “problems” with the CRU temperature record was a report on Newsnight (widely redistributed) in which a software engineer criticised computer code contained in the leaked email package. Neither of the two pieces of code Newsnight examined were anything to do with the HadCRUT temperature record at all, which is actually maintained at the Met Office. Newsnight’s response, when I challenged them on this, was: “Our expert’s opinion is that this is climate change code.” Presumably, then, the quality of the code I use to put together problems for our physics undergraduates shows that we should not trust results from my colleagues who work on the Large Hadron Collider on the grounds that “it is all physics code”.’


    Hacked e-mails show climate scientists in a bad light but don’t change scientific consensus on global warming.
    By Jess Henig |
    Dec 11, 2009

    We find such claims to be far wide of the mark. The e-mails (which have been made available by an unidentified individual here) do show a few scientists talking frankly among themselves— sometimes being rude, dismissive, insular, or even behaving like jerks. Whether they show anything beyond that is still in doubt. There are two investigations underway, by the U.K.’s Met Office and East Anglia University, and the head of CRU, Phil Jones, has “stepped aside” until they are completed. However, many of the e-mails that are being held up as “smoking guns” have been misrepresented by global-warming skeptics eager to find evidence of a conspiracy. And even if they showed what the critics claim, there remains ample evidence that the earth in getting warmer.

  37. “In late November 2009, more than 1,000 e-mails between scientists at the Climate Research Unit of the U.K.’s University of East Anglia were stolen and made public by an as-yet-unnamed hacker. Climate skeptics are claiming that they show scientific misconduct that amounts to the complete fabrication of man-made global warming. We find that to be unfounded:

    * The messages, which span 13 years, show a few scientists in a bad light, being rude or dismissive. An investigation is underway, but there’s still plenty of evidence that the earth is getting warmer and that humans are largely responsible.

    * Some critics say the e-mails negate the conclusions of a 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but the IPCC report relied on data from a large number of sources, of which CRU was only one.

    * E-mails being cited as “smoking guns” have been misrepresented. For instance, one e-mail that refers to “hiding the decline” isn’t talking about a decline in actual temperatures as measured at weather stations. These have continued to rise, and 2009 may turn out to be the fifth warmest year ever recorded. The “decline” actually refers to a problem with recent data from tree rings.”

  38. Are the CRU data “suspect”? An objective assessment

    There is no indication whatsoever of any problem with the CRU data. An independent study (by a molecular biologist it Italy, as it happens) came to the same conclusion using a somewhat different analysis. None of this should come as any surprise of course, since any serious errors would have been found and published already.

    It’s worth noting that the global average trend obtained by CRU for 1850-2005, as reported by the IPCC (, 0.47 0.54 degrees/century, is actually a bit lower (though not by a statistically significant amount) than we obtained on average with our random sampling of stations.

  39. Russians Claim More Climate Data Was Manipulated

    “On Tuesday, the Moscow-based Institute of Economic Analysis (IEA) claimed that the Hadley Center for Climate Change had probably tampered with Russian-climate data. The IEA believes that Russian meteorological-station data did not substantiate the anthropogenic global-warming theory. Analysts say Russian meteorological stations cover most of the country’s territory, and that the Hadley Center had used data submitted by only 25% of such stations in its reports. Over 40% of Russian territory was not included in global-temperature calculations for some other reasons, rather than the lack of meteorological stations and observations. The data of stations located in areas not listed in the Hadley CRU survey often does not show any substantial warming in the late 20th century and the early 21st century.”

  40. Scientists back global warming evidence

    10 December 2009, by Sara Coelho

    UK scientists have thrown their weight behind global warming science with a statement signed by 1700 researchers in support of existing evidence and upholding the conclusion that global warming is unequivocal.

    The evidence and the science is extensive and comes from decades of painstaking and meticulous research, by many thousands of scientists across the world who adhere to the highest levels of professional integrity, reads the statement.

    The initiative is the scientific community’s response to the ongoing questioning of core climate science and methods, after private emails between researchers were stolen from the University of East Anglia.

    The statement was coordinated by the Met Office and gathered over 1700 signatures in four days.

    ‘This tremendous response affirms our confidence in the science, and reinforces the immediacy of the challenge and the critical nature of the discussions at Copenhagen,’ write Professor John Hirst and Professor Julia Slingo in a note released by the Met Office.

    The statement reiterates that climate change ‘research has been subject to peer review and publication, providing traceability of the evidence and support for the scientific method.’

  41. So, I ask again, do you believe the elites are more aware of climate change than they were ten years ago, or, are they simply more pressured into not lying about it in public?

    I think they are a lot more aware. By and large, I don’t think politicians are science nerds. They become aware of scientific issues when they get a lot of public and media attention, and when they start to affect how people vote.

    One way or another, the world’s elites must now recognize that climate change is a major issue. Whether they are completely committed to fighting it or 100% determined to stopping those who are, it is no longer something that can be considered trivial or just a niche issue of concern to a few activists.

    That said, it is disappointing to see how far down the environment has been pushed on the average voter’s list of priorities by the world’s ongoing economic problems.

  42. “There is no doubt that the CRU e-mails are an embarrassment to climate science in general, and to paleoclimate in particular. I have read the “greatest hits”, and cringe along with everyone else at their content. But in my professional opinion, these e-mails reveal nothing more than brief, emotion-fueled remarks made in the face of unrelenting and often disingenuous attacks. Far more importantly, the conduct (questionable or not) of a handful of climate scientists in no way undermines the scientific support for anthropogenic global warming. The conclusions reached in the IPCC report do not critically depend on the work of these few scientists.

    One of the more unnerving impressions from the behind-the-scenes glance at climate research may be that subjectivity exists in climate science. My response is “Well, duh.” Scientists are not technicians, we are not following a cookbook or a yellow-brick-road. Rather, we make a myriad of decisions every day about our results, based on our interpretations, which in turn are based on (in this case) years of experience. Some aspects of climate science are more open to subjective interpretation than others (the standardization of some late 20th century tree ring paleoclimate records being near the top of this list). If a subjective choice changes the conclusion of a study, then the confidence in the conclusion is reduced and the associated uncertainties must be quantified. But the scientific process is self-correcting; if an inappropriate choice was made, then this will eventually be identified by other researchers, our scientific understanding will improve, and our confidence in the conclusions will increase.”

  43. Climate e-mails row university ‘breached data laws’

    A university unit involved in a row over stolen e-mails on climate research breached rules by withholding data, the Information Commissioner’s Office says.

    Officials said messages leaked in November showed that requests under the Freedom of Information Act were “not dealt with as they should have been”.

    But too much time has passed for action against the University of East Anglia.

    The UEA says part of a probe into the case will consider the way requests by climate change sceptics were handled.

  44. Climate change research sound, chief UK scientist says

    The UK government’s chief scientist says his confidence in climate science remains unshaken despite allegations about the withholding of research data.

    Professor John Beddington told the BBC the fundamental science behind man-made global warming was “correct”.

    He said he was concerned that the debate on climate change was becoming artificially polarised.

    But he urged scientists to be more open about the uncertainty of predicting the rate of climate change.

    He was speaking in the light of reports that the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit had refused to hand over data for public scrutiny.

    The Information Commissioner’s Office said messages obtained by hackers in November showed that requests by climate change sceptics under the Freedom of Information Act were “not dealt with as they should have been” under the law.

  45. Ed Miliband declares war on climate change sceptics

    By Daily Mail Reporter
    Last updated at 11:42 AM on 31st January 2010

    Climate secretary Ed Miliband broke his silence on the ongoing row about man-made climate change by declaring war on the ‘siren voices’ who denied global warming was real or man-made.

    Mr Miliband said the by the ‘climategate’ controversy that appeared to show that vital data was suppressed or manipulated by climate scientists, as well as the more recent revelation that the Intergorvernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had exaggerated claims about the melting of glaciers in the Himalayan mountains.

    ‘It’s right that there’s rigour applied to all the reports about climate change, but I think it would be wrong that when a mistake is made it’s somehow used to undermine the overwhelming picture that’s there,’ he told the Observer.

    He pointed to a wealth of research used to support the argument that climate change is man made – the physical effect of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, CO2 concentrations and observed increases in temperatures.

    ‘There are a whole variety of people who are sceptical, but who they are is less important than what they are saying, and what they are saying is profoundly dangerous,’ he said.

  46. “Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s The World this Weekend, Mr Miliband acknowledged that recent revelations had been damaging, but said it would be “devastating for future generations” to misinterpret them.

    “Yes it was bad a mistake that was made, yes the IPCC needs to reform its procedures… so these kind of mistakes don’t happen again.

    “But the truth is it doesn’t undermine decades of climate research and the overwhelming majority of scientists say that.”

    He added: “I think science is improved when criticised and improved when opened up. What I think is profoundly irresponsible is to suggest that one fact that was wrong about a glacier undermines the overall picture on climate change.”

    Mr Miliband spoke as the deadline set at the Copenhagen summit for countries to submit their pledges for reducing greenhouse gas emissions passed.”

  47. India Ditches UN Climate Change Group

    Several readers have told us that the Indian Government is moving to establish its own group to address the science of climate change since it “cannot rely” on the official United Nations panel. “The move is a severe blow to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) following the revelation parts of its 3000 page 2007 report on climate science was not subjected to peer review. A primary claim of the report was the Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035, but the claim was not repeated in any peer-reviewed studies and rebuffed by scientists. India’s environment minister Jairam Ramesh announced that the Indian government will established a separate National Institute of Himalayan Glaciology to monitor climate change in the region. ‘There is a fine line between climate science and climate evangelism,’ Ramesh said. ‘I am for climate science.'”

  48. “Climategate” scientist contemplated suicide

    The scientist at the centre of “climategate” says he contemplated killing himself after leaked e-mails were seized on by sceptics.

    In an interview with the Sunday Times, Professor Phil Jones also said he had been provoked into sending the e-mails.

    It was claimed the e-mails, leaked after a University of East Anglia server was hacked into, showed climate data was being manipulated.

    Prof Jones, 57, said he had received death threats over the incident.

    He told the newspaper: “I did think about it, yes. About suicide. I thought about it several times, but I think I’ve got past that stage now.”

    He agreed it became his “David Kelly moment” – a reference to the scientist who killed himself in the aftermath of the “sexed up” Iraq intelligence dossier claims.

  49. Undoing ‘The Curse’ of a Chain of Errors
    Anatomy of IPCC’s Mistake
    on Himalayan Glaciers and Year 2035
    By Bidisha Banerjee and George Collins | February 4, 2010

    The IPCC now has recanted the paragraph in question. Though the widely quoted claims were in print for nearly three years, the IPCC’s admission does indicate that scientific errors can be publicly identified and corrected.

    But the errors don’t end – or begin – with the IPCC report. A careful look shows a complex set of conflations and misquotations begun by some science journalists more than a decade ago, transmitted and compounded by members of the IPCC Working Group II writing team, and hopelessly muddled by hasty, confused press coverage.

    Dozens of articles and analyses of this situation, whether dashed-off blog posts or New York Times coverage, exhibit a curious consistency. Not a single article or analysis appears to include all relevant issues without introducing at least one substantial error. It’s as though the original documents contained a curse which has spread to infect every commentator and reporter. The curse seems to stem from not reading sources carefully (or at all), which, ironically, was the IPCC Working Group II’s central failing, and also a major issue in the documents that were the basis of the defective paragraph.

    The IPCC’s Himalayan glaciers mistake in the end can encourage stricter editing, closer scrutiny, and more transparency in the review process. In that case, the mistake will have served a valuable function.

    Increased attention to primary scientific literature may help avoid future errors and also serve as a reminder that the IPCC process often tends towards conservative statements. It’s also important to remember that the science is constantly being updated. Consider, for example, the recent finding that the IPCC models may have systematically overestimated the ability of the biosphere to grow in response to increased carbon. If this research proves right, the IPCC’s long-term temperature projections for the world may be a full degree Centigrade too low, and controversies now commanding headlines will recede into history.

    When the IPCC errs, it’s not always in the same direction.

  50. Pingback: Rebutting Wente
  51. Q&A: Professor Phil Jones

    Phil Jones is director of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA), which has been at the centre of the row over hacked e-mails.

    The BBC’s environment analyst Roger Harrabin put questions to Professor Jones, including several gathered from climate sceptics. The questions were put to Professor Jones with the co-operation of UEA’s press office.

  52. Daily Mangle

    Yesterday, the Daily Mail of the UK published a predictably inaccurate article entitled “Climategate U-turn as scientist at centre of row admits: There has been no global warming since 1995″.

    The title itself is a distortion of what Jones actually said in an interview with the BBC. What Jones actually said is that, while the globe has nominally warmed since 1995, it is difficult to establish the statistical significance of that warming given the short nature of the time interval (1995-present) involved. The warming trend consequently doesn’t quite achieve statistical significance. But it is extremely difficult to establish a statistically significant trend over a time interval as short as 15 years–a point we have made countless times at RealClimate. It is also worth noting that the CRU record indicates slightly less warming than other global temperature estimates such as the GISS record.

    The article also incorrectly equates instrumental surface temperature data that Jones and CRU have assembled to estimate the modern surface temperature trends with paleoclimate data used to estimate temperatures in past centuries, falsely asserting that the former “has been used to produce the ‘hockey stick graph’”.

    Finally, the article intentionally distorts comments that Jones made about the so-called “Medieval Warm Period”. Jones stated in his BBC interview that “There is much debate over whether the Medieval Warm Period was global in extent or not. The MWP is most clearly expressed in parts of North America, the North Atlantic and Europe and parts of Asia” and that “For it to be global in extent, the MWP would need to be seen clearly in more records from the tropical regions and the Southern hemisphere. There are very few palaeoclimatic records for these latter two regions.”

    These are statements with which we entirely agree, and they are moreover fully consistent with the conclusions of the most recent IPCC report, and the numerous peer-reviewed publications on this issue since. Those conclusions are that recent Northern Hemisphere warming is likely unprecedented in at least a millennium (at least 1300 years, in fact), and that evidence in the Southern Hemisphere is currently too sparse for confident conclusions. Mann et al in fact drew those same conclusions in their most recent work on this problem (PNAS, 2008).

  53. “In any public discussion there are bounds which people who want to be thought of as having respectable ideas tend to stay between. This is most easily seen in health care debates. In the US, promotion of a National Health Service as in the UK or a single-payer system as in Canada is so far outside the bounds of normal health care politics, that these options are only ever brought up by ‘cranks’ (sigh). Meanwhile in the UK, discussions of health care delivery solutions outside of the NHS framework are never heard in the mainstream media. This limit on scope of the public debate has been called the Overton window.

    The window does not have to remain static. Pressure groups and politicians can try and shift the bounds deliberately, or sometimes they are shifted by events. That seems to have been the case in the climate discussion. Prior to the email hack at CRU there had long been a pretty widespread avoidance of ‘global warming is a hoax’ proponents in serious discussions on the subject. The sceptics that were interviewed tended to be the slightly more sensible kind – people who did actually realise that CO2 was a greenhouse gas for instance. But the GW hoaxers were generally derided, or used as punchlines for jokes. This is not because they didn’t exist and weren’t continually making baseless accusations against scientists (they did and they were), but rather that their claims were self-evidently ridiculous and therefore not worth airing.

    However, since the emails were released, and despite the fact that there is no evidence within them to support any of these claims of fraud and fabrication, the UK media has opened itself so wide to the spectrum of thought on climate that the GW hoaxers have now suddenly find themselves well within the mainstream. Nothing has changed the self-evidently ridiculousness of their arguments, but their presence at the media table has meant that the more reasonable critics seem far more centrist than they did a few months ago.”

  54. “For example, a week ago Phil Jones, the director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, gave an interview to the BBC that was widely described as a debacle. The main reason was that the BBC reporter asked Mr Jones whether he would concede that global warming since 1995 has not been statistically significant. Mr Jones replied: “Yes, but only just,” and went on to note that there was a measured global warming of 0.12°C per decade since then, and that it tends to be harder to get statistical significance out of shorter time samples.

    This led to a Daily Mail headline reading: “Climategate U-turn as scientist at centre of row admits: There has been no global warming since 1995.”

    Since I’ve advocated a more explicit use of the word “lie”, I’ll go ahead and follow my own advice: that Daily Mail headline is a lie. Phil Jones did not say there had been no global warming since 1995; he said the opposite. He said the world had been warming at 0.12°C per decade since 1995. However, over that time frame, he could not quite rule out at the traditional 95% confidence level that the warming since 1995 had not been a random fluke.

    Anyone who has even a passing high-school familiarity with statistics should understand the difference between these two statements. At a longer time interval, say 30 or 50 or 100 years, Mr Jones could obviously demonstrate that global warming is a statistically significant trend. In the interview he stated that the warming since 1975 is statistically significant. Everyone, even climate-change sceptics, agrees that the earth has experienced a warming trend since the late 19th century. But if you take any short sample out of that trend (say, 1930-45 or 1960-75), you might not be able to guarantee that the particular warming observed in those years was not a statistical fluke. This is a simple truth about statistics: if you measure just ten children, the relationship between age and height might be a fluke. But obviously the fact remains that older children tend to be taller than younger ones, and if you measure 100 of them, you’ll find the relationship quite statistically significant indeed.”

  55. “Recently, attacks on the IPCC and the fundamentals of climate science have reached more aggressive levels. The most stunning blitzkrieg in this propaganda war was the illegal hacking into East Anglia University’s computer. Sir David King, former science advisor to prime minister Tony Blair, has said the computer hacking job has the hallmarks of a foreign intelligence agency. No one knows who the criminals were, but they certainly were not “whistle-blowers,” as Patrick Keeney suggests. East Anglia research dealt with an area of climate science unrelated to everything I have described above. Their Climate Research Unit focuses on paleo-climatology — the painstaking attempt to reconstruct a temperature record from proxy data, such as tree rings. Having read the stolen email record, it is clear that the out of context sentences given such overblown coverage do not suggest any dishonesty.”

  56. Green.view
    Climategate’s culture
    British MPs are concerned about the way climate scientists have worked, but not about their results

    Mar 31st 2010 | From The Economist print edition

    The University of East Anglia’s climate scientists, and indeed the results of climate science in general, are OK. The practice and culture of climate science, and the procedures of the university, are not. That is the conclusion of a report on the “climategate” e-mails by the MPs on the Science and Technology Committee of Britain’s House of Commons, the first of three different reports on the subject expected over the next few months. The e-mails, apparently stolen, have been seized on as evidence of various types of dishonesty and skulduggery in climate science since their release onto the internet late last year.

    The MPs’ most striking prescription is that climate science should hold itself, and be held to, a higher standard than heretofore when it comes to openness and transparency. When giving evidence to the committee, Phil Jones, the head of the UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU), from which the e-mails came, said that freely disclosing data and the computer codes used to work with them “has not been standard practice” in the field. “If it is not standard practice how can the science progress?” asked Graham Stringer, a member of the committee. “Maybe it should be standard practice,” replied Dr Jones, “but it is not standard practice across the subject.” The MPs concluded that in a field as significant and important to policy as climate change this was not good enough. They are calling for data and methodological workings to be made openly available. On occasions when data are provided to scientists on the basis that they will not be further promulgated (as with some of the data Dr Jones used from meteorological agencies in other countries) that should be made clear, with all requests redirected to the relevant data-holders.

  57. “In remarks he made at the launch of the report, the committee’s chairman, Phil Willis, said the current “culture of non-disclosure” was “reprehensible”. Evan Harris, another member of the committee, was quick to point out that that is not a word used in the report proper, which is supportive of Dr Jones and his colleagues: Dr Harris himself successfully moved an amendment to the report which said that, on the basis of the evidence seen, “the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact”, a conclusion that the university particularly welcomed. The report says that on the evidence the MPs saw no reason to think the scientists dishonest or their science besmirched, or to doubt the consensus among climate scientists that humans are warming the world and will warm it further. The MPs accepted that the much-blogged-about use of “trick”, when applied to a way of representing data, and “hide the decline”, as applied to a set of data in which tree rings that were held to be useful at some times were held to be useless at others, were in no way evidence of obfuscation. And it sympathised with the scientists’ frustration at having to deal with numerous freedom of information requests from people who the scientists believed wanted to obstruct their work.”

  58. Climategate’s Final Days

    “Climategate may be on its way out. An investigatory committee at Pennsylvania State University has formally cleared climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann of any scientific misconduct. Mann was central in the so-called Climategate scandal, where illegally leaked emails were purported to indicate examples of scientists trying to cover up any lack of global warming in their data. This finding by the committee (PDF) is another in a series of independent investigations that have all concluded that no misconduct has occurred.”

  59. Dutch review backs UN climate science report

    By Richard Black
    Environment correspondent, BBC News

    A Dutch inquiry into the UN’s climate science panel has found “no errors that would undermine the main conclusions” on probable impacts of climate change.

    However, it says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) should be more transparent in its workings.

    The Dutch parliament asked for the inquiry after two mistakes were identified in the IPCC’s 2007 report.

    The inquiry is the latest in a series that have largely backed “mainstream” climate science against detractors.

    The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) does not give the panel a completely clean bill of health, however.

    Whereas the IPCC’s landmark Fourth Assessment (AR4) from 2007 “conclusively shows” that impacts of human-induced climate change are already tangible in many places around the world and will become more serious as temperatures increase, PBL also says the foundation for some of the specific projections “could have been made more transparent”.

  60. CRU climate scientists ‘did not withold data’

    By Richard Black
    Environment correspondent, BBC News

    Climate scientists at a top UK research unit have emerged from an inquiry with their reputations for honesty intact but with a lack of openness criticised.

    The Independent Climate Change Email Review was set up by the University of East Anglia (UEA) after more than 1,000 e-mails were hacked from its servers.

    Climate “sceptics” claimed the e-mails showed that UEA scientists manipulated and suppressed key climate data.

    But these accusations are largely dismissed by the report.

    The review found nothing in the e-mails to undermine Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports.

    ‘Climategate’ inquiry mostly vindicates scientists

    But panel of inquiry chides some researchers for failing to share data with critics

    Raphael G. Satter

    London — Globe and Mail Update Published on Wednesday, Jul. 07, 2010 11:13AM EDT Last updated on Wednesday, Jul. 07, 2010 12:01PM EDT

    An independent report into the leak of hundreds of e-mails from one of the world’s leading climate research centres on Wednesday largely vindicated the scientists involved, saying they acted honestly and that their research was reliable.

    But the panel of inquiry, led by former U.K. civil servant Muir Russell, did chide scientists at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit for failing to share their data with critics.

    “We find that their rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt,” Russell said. “But we do find that there has been a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness.”

  61. Pingback: Reforming the IPCC
  62. “When President Obama, in a 2008 speech, described the science on global warming as “beyond dispute,” the Cato Institute took out a full-page ad in the Times to contradict him. Cato’s resident scholars have relentlessly criticized political attempts to stop global warming as expensive, ineffective, and unnecessary. Ed Crane, the Cato Institute’s founder and president, told me that “global-warming theories give the government more control of the economy.”

    Cato scholars have been particularly energetic in promoting the Climategate scandal. Last year, private e-mails of climate scientists at the University of East Anglia, in England, were mysteriously leaked, and their exchanges appeared to suggest a willingness to falsify data in order to buttress the idea that global warming is real. In the two weeks after the e-mails went public, one Cato scholar gave more than twenty media interviews trumpeting the alleged scandal. But five independent inquiries have since exonerated the researchers, and nothing was found in their e-mails or data to discredit the scientific consensus on global warming.

    Nevertheless, the controversy succeeded in spreading skepticism about climate change. Even though the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently issued a report concluding that the evidence for global warming is unequivocal, more Americans are convinced than at any time since 1997 that scientists have exaggerated the seriousness of global warming. The Kochs promote this statistic on their company’s Web site but do not mention the role that their funding has played in fostering such doubt.

    In a 2002 memo, the Republican political consultant Frank Luntz wrote that so long as “voters believe there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community” the status quo would prevail. The key for opponents of environmental reform, he said, was to question the science—a public-relations strategy that the tobacco industry used effectively for years to forestall regulation. The Kochs have funded many sources of environmental skepticism, such as the Heritage Foundation, which has argued that “scientific facts gathered in the past 10 years do not support the notion of catastrophic human-made warming.” The brothers have given money to more obscure groups, too, such as the Independent Women’s Forum, which opposes the presentation of global warming as a scientific fact in American public schools. Until 2008, the group was run by Nancy Pfotenhauer, a former lobbyist for Koch Industries. Mary Beth Jarvis, a vice-president of a Koch subsidiary, is on the group’s board.”

  63. Climategate a year later

    A short piece for the general audience of RTR radio, Perth, Australia.

    Remember “climategate”? The private correspondence among scientists stolen exactly a year ago, which some columnists pronounced to be the (approximately 132nd) “final nail in the coffin” of global warming. Remember the “errors” in the IPCC report that hit the media a short time later? “Amazongate”, “Himalayagate”, and so on? What has happened to “climategate”? What’s happened is this.

    First, the UK Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee exonerated the scientist at the centre of this tempest, Professor Phil Jones, finding that he has “no case to answer” and that his “reputation … remains intact.”

    Then Lord Oxburgh, former chairman of Shell-UK, and his panel likewise exonerated the researchers, finding that their “work has been carried out with integrity, and that allegations of deliberate misrepresentation … are not valid.”

    Another enquiry, chaired by Sir Muir Russell, found the scientists’ “rigour and honesty … are not in doubt”

    And in the U.S., two enquiries by his university cleared Professor Michael Mann, who published the first famous “hockey stick” graph, of all allegations.

    Finally, a few weeks ago the—conservative!—UK Government concluded that “… the information contained in the illegally-disclosed emails does not provide any evidence to discredit … anthropogenic climate change.”

    Not one, not two, but six vindications. This comes as no surprise to anyone with passing familiarity of the distinction between private chat and public actions.

    Retired Republican Rep. Warns Party: Ignore Climate at Your Own Risk

    By Kate Sheppard
    Fri Nov. 19, 2010 12:29 PM PST

    Sherwood Boehlert, the former Republican House member from New York , penned an op-ed in the Washington Post today taking members of his party to task for denying climate change. Boehlert represented New York’s 24th District in Congress from 1983 until he retired in 2007, and is now a special adviser to the Project on Climate Science.

    Like his fellow Republican Bob Inglis of South Carolina, Boehlert is baffled by the position of his colleague

    Nature Did Not Read the Hacked Emails

    Climategate. Exactly one year ago, on November 17, 2009, email messages and other computer files were illegally stolen from computers located at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU). These emails and files were then leaked to the Internet in a blatant attempt to derail international climate talks at the COP-15 Copenhagen Climate Conference. Two crimes were committed that day: 1) Emails were stolen and 2) Scientists were wrongly put on trial in the press and the blogosphere.

    These emails were spun by skeptics of man-made global warming as somehow proving that global warming is a hoax and that scientists were controlling what science gets published. Climategate was billed as the final nail in the coffin of anthropogenic [manmade] global warming (AGW).

  64. It doesn’t matter whether the hacked emails are valid or not. Al Gore’s use of affirming the consequent as a valid argument mode (it is not) discredited the entire Global Warming movement.

    Their constant use of the argument of pity (“species might die”, or “islands could sink into the sea”) to demand changes shows their ignorance of valid arguments and scientific debate. They just want want they want.

    The fact that they are using political methods and scare tactics, rather than scientific methods, shows that they are pushing a belief, not a fact.

    It almost seems to be a religious belief, the way they are behaving. They are working to silence anyone who doesn’t believe them.

    And I have counted many different instances of bad science:

    – Affirming the consequent
    – Argument to pity
    – Not understanding the laws of floating bodies
    – Not understanding that ice is not a hermetic seal to CO2
    – Not taking into account that the commercially available thermometers in early America did not have the precision available today
    – Not taking into account that airports are increasingly being paved
    – Not taking into account that the climate was at least this warm at the time of the Roman Empire

  65. “- Affirming the consequent”

    Affirming the consequent is not a fallacy in inductive logic. Inductive logic is verificationist – you make a hypothesis, and test for the results that you would expect. Every result you get which doesn’t falsify your data “affirms the consequent”. No particular piece of data proves you are correct, but if every piece of data fits your hypothesis, then the data fits your hypothesis. Of course this doesn’t prove your theory is true, but only in the sense that no theory can be proved to be true. Enough “affirming the consequent” proves any scientific theory to be true to a probability high enough to make serious decisions upon.

    “- Argument to pity”

    “Pity” is a term for a moral intuition associated with Christian parternalism. Everyone hates “Pity”, because pity takes agency away from subjects. But by calling a genuine moral intuition – which we might talk about more generally as “you feel bad that you’re causing bad stuff to happen”, by the name “pity”, you are just serving to ridicule and sidestep a serious moral problem: that there is a high probability that our everyday lifestyles will cause huge damage to other peoples’ lives. Realizing this isn’t fun, it doesn’t feel nice. So, it’s not surprising that you want to dismiss moral feelings as “pity”. Not surprising, but not particularly deserving of approbation either.

    “- Not understanding the laws of floating bodies”

    Do you really think there are scientists who don’t understand this?

    “- Not understanding that ice is not a hermetic seal to CO2”

    Hermetic seal? Is that another species going extinct? No, but seriously – if the ice all melts, that increases the amount of energy the arctic ocean will absorb. Which will warm the planet. Which may melt the tundra – which actually does need to be “hermetically sealed” in the frozen ground if we want the species to survive.

    ” Not taking into account that the commercially available thermometers in early America did not have the precision available today”

    Are you sure individual readings are terribly important? What would happen to the climate data if you took 1 sig. figure off of every temperature reading (rounding up and down, of course), and then re-did the averages. Would the average temperatures change much? At all? Has anyone tried this?

    “- Not taking into account that airports are increasingly being paved”

    This has been busted.

    “- Not taking into account that the climate was at least this warm at the time of the Roman Empire”

    I heard climate change caused the fall of the Roman Empire –

  66. Tristan,

    Thanks for responding to some of that. In particular, thanks for dealing with the more philosophical objections.

    I will put up a few brief responses of my own, also.

    The fact that they are using political methods and scare tactics, rather than scientific methods, shows that they are pushing a belief, not a fact.

    We have excellent scientific reasons for believing that climate change is a problem that human beings are causing by releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. There is a ‘consilience of evidence’ when it comes to the science of climate change: multiple, independent lines of evidence converging on a single coherent account. These forms of evidence are both observational (temperature records, ice core samples, etc) and theoretical (thermodynamics, atmospheric physics, etc). Together, these lines of evidence provide a conceptual and scientific backing to the theory of climate change caused by human greenhouse gas emissions that is simply absent for alternative theories, such as that there is no change or that the change is caused by something different.

    Certainly, there is more than enough evidence to justify being worried and taking precautionary action.

    It almost seems to be a religious belief, the way they are behaving. They are working to silence anyone who doesn’t believe them.

    I don’t think people concerned about climate change are trying to inappropriately silence anybody. That being said, it is frustrating when they repeat discredited arguments over and over again, as is the case with your comment.

    – Not understanding the laws of floating bodies

    This is just silly. Everyone knows that when floating ice melts, it doesn’t raise sea levels. Sea levels rise when water warms and expands, and when icesheets on land melt. No serious scientist thinks otherwise.

    – Not understanding that ice is not a hermetic seal to CO2

    I don’t know what you’re getting at here. Which ice do you think scientists think is trapping CO2? CO2 bubbles are definitely trapped in ice core samples, used to construct records of past climates. There is also the matter of methane clathrates.

    You need to be more specific before there can be any real response to this.

    – Not taking into account that the commercially available thermometers in early America did not have the precision available today

    If you don’t trust old thermometers, ignore them. We have lots of other sources of data on past temperatures. These include things like ice core samples, the distribution of pollen in lake sediments, and tree rings. By lining up a bunch of these indicators, we can construct fairly robust assessments of what the climate was like at different points.

    – Not taking into account that airports are increasingly being paved

    I think you are talking about the urban heat island effect here. It is real, but it doesn’t mean that climate change isn’t happening. Temperatures are rising globally, especially in the Arctic. That’s a well documented physical phenomenon, not an artifact that arose from the placement of weather stations.

    – Not taking into account that the climate was at least this warm at the time of the Roman Empire

    The Medieval Warm Period is another favourite of people who argue that we shouldn’t do anything about climate change. The regional climate in Europe may have been warmer then than during subsequent historical periods, but it was not an instance of global warming of the sort we are observing today.

    To take a bigger picture view, we know that greenhouse gases prevent infrared radiation from escaping into space. That means energy is trapped in the planetary system. That means the system warms. The chemistry and physics are very straightforward, and the consequences are worrisome.

  67. Climategate did not materially effect the outcome of Copenhagen. The reasons that the countries which met there could not agree had everything to do with diplomacy, politics and economics. They had absolutely nothing to do with what people in the room thought about the probity of a particular subset of climate science.

    What climategate changed was the response that came after. For those disappointed by the results, climategate provided a focus for displaced recrimination—something to blame. Doubt about climate change has regularly been helped along by concerted campaigns, and the climategate looked like more of the same. After all, no fraud had been found—but look! The media was all over it! And Copenhagen failed! Conspiracy!

    Then there were climate action’s fairweather friends. In general people don’t like to be associated with losers, and in Copenhagen the case for strong climate action spectacularly failed to get its preferred result. In this light, an increasing post-climategate tolerance for doubts about warming among the media and some politicians can be read, with just a little cynicism, as people making tactical use of climategate to distance themselves from an agenda they had once thought popular but which now looked increasingly lifeless.

    And what of those who were happy Copenhagen had failed? For them, climategate was a more comforting reason for that failure than the real ones. Copenhagen did not fail because governments didn’t want action on the climate, or even because no one is willing to take any action. It failed because they all wanted other countries to take more and different actions than the other countries would agree to. For people who don’t want there ever to be action, though, it is obviously happier to think that the case had been undermined by some dodgy emails than to recognise than that it still stood—and indeed still stands—but had simply failed to compel action.

    This reaction can be seen in its strongest form in American politics. For the Republican party, and for those voting for it, it is no longer necessary to argue about climate change. It has become acceptable to simply ignore it, professing some mixture of doubt, bafflement and apathy. Don’t we all know that the climate thing is over?

    But though this looks like a reaction to climategate, and to flaws in the products and processes of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, those factors are, again, the sizzle not the steak. At its heart this too is a response to Copenhagen, and the subsequent lack of momentum on climate action, and the administration’s inability to do anything about it. The case for action currently feels so weak that it can be held off with a flat palm of refusal-to-engage. Perceptions of climategate doubtless make that stance easier to hold. But they aren’t its underlying cause.

  68. Researchers at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been cleared of any scientific wrongdoing in the 2009 “climategate” uproar.

    “We did not find any evidence that NOAA inappropriately manipulated data or failed to adhere to appropriate peer review procedures,” said the report by the U.S. Department of Commerce Inspector General late last week.

    It was the latest of several U.S. and U.K. probes into accusations, based on leaked emails, that climate data had been manipulated or deleted to support the theory that global warming is caused by human activity.

    The other investigations have also cleared the scientists of wrongdoing.

    More than 1,000 emails were stolen from the climate research unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich and posted on the internet in November 2009, just before the big international climate change summit in Copenhagen.

    Among them were emails to and from scientists at NOAA, some of which discussed ways to stonewall skeptics of man-made climate change or freeze them out of peer-reviewed journals.

    The Inspector General launched its review after a request from Senator James Inhofe in May 2010. Inhofe has publicly expressed scepticism of climate change science.

  69. News

    NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth’s atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted, reports a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing. The study indicates far less future global warming will occur than United Nations computer models have predicted, and supports prior studies indicating increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed.
    Study co-author Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite, reports that real-world data from NASA’s Terra satellite contradict multiple assumptions fed into alarmist computer models.
    “The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show,” Spencer said in a July 26 University of Alabama press release. “There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans.”
    In addition to finding that far less heat is being trapped than alarmist computer models have predicted, the NASA satellite data show the atmosphere begins shedding heat into space long before United Nations computer models predicted.

  70. If an article has to use the word “alarmist” to prove its point, it demonstrates unreasonable, presumptive bias.

  71. Independent reviews of the so-called Climategate affair concluded there was no falsification of evidence by the researchers (Suppression Of Debate Is A Disaster For Science – Dec. 1).

    Meanwhile, a recent review (partially funded by a group that denied climate-warming science) of more than a billion pieces of data – five times the amount previously examined by anybody else – by Richard Muller, a Berkeley physicist who was skeptical about climate science, concluded that the consensus global warming conclusions, including the hockey stick model, are indeed supported by the evidence.

    The problem is not suppression of the debate, but is instead superficial and uninformed coverage of the science by the press.

    Carlo Ricciuti Hamilton, Ont.

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