The hacking of CRU (aka “Climategate”)

by Richard on November 26, 2009

Irony alert.

Pajamas Media on ‘Climategate’

So what does this all mean? It does not mean that there is no warming trend or that mankind has not been responsible for at least some of the warming. To claim that as result of these documents is clearly a step too far. However, it is clear that at least one branch of climate science — paleoclimatology — has become hopelessly politicized to the point of engaging in unethical and possibly illegal behavior.

To the extent that paleoclimatology is an important part of the scientific case for action regarding global warming, urgent reassessments need to be made. In the meantime, all those responsible for political action on global warming should stop the process pending the results of inquiries, investigations, and any criminal proceedings. What cannot happen is the process carrying on as if nothing has happened.

‘Unethical and illegal behavior’? What — you mean, like, stealing a load of email? As for the politicization of climate science, the ’skeptics’ have relentlessly been pursuing an essentially political agenda in their approach to this issue ever since it first appeared. Pots and kettles, gentlemen, pots and kettles.

I was surprised by the reaction of George Monbiot to this story.

It is true that much of what has been revealed could be explained as the usual cut and thrust of the peer review process, exacerbated by the extraordinary pressure the scientists were facing from a denial industry determined to crush them. One of the most damaging emails was sent by the head of the climatic research unit, Phil Jones. He wrote “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow - even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”

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

Even so, his message looks awful. It gives the impression of confirming a potent meme circulated by those who campaign against taking action on climate change: that the IPCC process is biased. However good the detailed explanations may be, most people aren’t going to follow or understand them. Jones’s statement, on the other hand, is stark and easy to grasp.

So the head of a serious and respected research outfit should resign because of a PR coup by folk who, let’s not forget, illegally hacked in to a private email system? It’s time to get real about this.

When the dust settles on climategate, the science will still be there. Nothing in this scandal does anything to alter the IPCC assessment or the increasing evidence for the need for action on climate change.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }


joe 11.26.09 at 11:29 am

We don’t know for sure it was a hacker. could have been an insider. Check your facts first.

i notice you shy away from commenting on the content of these emails. instead you just condenm speculative hackers.


Richard 11.26.09 at 12:46 pm

I’m not sure it makes a lot of difference in principle whether the emails were hacked or leaked. They weren’t released by the people to whom they belonged, which makes it stealing in my book. You might argue that theft is justified if it brings to light a greater crime, but it is cowardly not to ‘put our hand up’ for it. I didn’t comment on the content because, whilst I don’t doubt there’s some eyebrowing-raising stuff in the over-10 years of email (could you say you’re proud of every email you’ve ever sent? I’m not) I don’t believe this to be the scandal the ’skeptics’ are trying to whip it up to be.


Earl 11.26.09 at 1:58 pm

One man’s hack is another man’s leak. In this case, swallow hard and accept that what climate change advocates would have much preferred never to have seen the light of a public day has now been well and truly outed. It doesn’t matter who did the outing. But one things for certain, he is a hero for exposing what for cca’s is a very inconvenient truth about their own less than rigorous handling of the truth. What does matter is that cca’s have been forced to face out in the open what they have hidden and denied in public but acknowledged to one another in private. Discounting the significance of these “10 year old” e-mails detailing the fudged science of cca’s is without merit or persuasion. The genie is out of the bottle! The most militant cca’s do not have a media broom big enough to sweep this unethical politically driven collusion under the carpet. For all their bluff and bluster, militant cca’s are now exposed for the way they have biased and compromised the peer review process as a weapon to use against those to whom they do want to listen or those who constitute a threat to their income stream. All protest not withstanding, not just skeptics but all thoughtful persons find that it takes nothing less than an act of pure “faith” to have any confidence that these cca’s have not destroyed any quantity of material that they would find difficult to manipulate or explain away.


Richard 11.26.09 at 3:05 pm

I’m not going to argue with you, Earl. The evidence for anthropogenic climate change is compelling, and continues to grow stronger. This ’storm in a teacup’ shouldn’t deflect us from that essential fact.


Randy McRoberts 11.26.09 at 4:16 pm

I’m not going to argue with you, Earl. The evidence for anthropogenic climate change is compelling, and continues to grow stronger. This ’storm in a teacup’ shouldn’t deflect us from that essential fact.”

In short, shut up, the debate is over.


Earl 11.26.09 at 4:30 pm

There is nothing to argue. The facts speak for themselves. Those who so loudly and profitably advocated the specter of cc now find themselves hoisted on the petard of their own “tricks.” Cca’s now scramble to repair the torn tissue of their assumed integrity supposing that with unconvincing explanations they can calm this tempest of a perfect storm spawned by their biased unsettled science. As to his sorrow Lancelot found discovery and exposure of his dalliance with Guenevere fractured fellowship and trust so now cca’s find no refuge to which to retreat as their long-standing failures of professional and moral integrity are publicly exposed across the internet. True cca believers yet intone their once proud mantra, “the science is settled…” Like self-abused pagan priests dancing around a unfired altar, their most fervent display is unconvincing. Everyone can see that there is no fire on their altar. And unlike their mantra, they are unsettled.


Richard 11.26.09 at 5:27 pm

I don’t know what cca’s are, but if I’m supposed to be one I can tell you I’m not in the slightest bit “unsettled”. I’m impressed with your rhetoric though. You’ve scaled new heights of pomposity.


Earl 11.26.09 at 8:40 pm

I did not realize that the connection between cca’s and climate change advocates would be missed. Some of these persons are credible scientist. Starkly exposed in the harsh light of their own awkwardly plain spoken e-mails, a disappointing number of them are now by their own words demonstrated to be just ideologically driven purveyors of fraudulent manipulated data on a scale reminiscent of Piltdown.


Richard 11.27.09 at 2:56 pm

Calm down Earl. I’m not convinced that anything in ‘those emails’ reveals anything like the fraud that was seen in Piltdown. It’s worth remembering that, though Piltdown was a terrible fraud, it did not alter the main thrust of evolutionary biology.


J 11.27.09 at 3:36 pm

“They weren’t released by the people to whom they belonged, which makes it stealing in my book”

I don’t know about UK law, but this isn’t necessarily true in the US. Personal email you sent or recieved using your employer’s system belongs to your employer, not you. Likewise, revealing information that exposes criminal activity is generally not a crime.

I have a sneaking suspicion if a hacker released email that revealed this sort of scandal involving the Tories or the military, you’d be somewhat less concerned with legality.

“Nothing in this scandal does anything to alter the IPCC assessment”

Actually, this utterly destroys the credibility of the IPCC assessment, which is largley based on the work of these hacks. Nothing the IPCC says can be taken seriously at this point.


Richard 11.27.09 at 5:43 pm

Speaking of ’sneaking suspicions’, how seriously did you take the IPCC before this scandal?


J 11.27.09 at 6:34 pm

Not very.


Richard 11.27.09 at 6:35 pm

That’s what I thought.

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