Hacked CRU E-Mails Alter Conversation of Global Warming Debate

The New York Times headlines on Twitter displayed the following:  Hacked E-Mails Fuel Climate Change Skeptics

Apparently emails were hacked from a computer server at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia and have quickly made their rounds on the internet.

While skeptics are quickly verifying and shifting through the hundreds of email messages, the alarmists are franticly working to defuse the possible fall-out.  (I, on the other hand, have a nagging feeling that I’m being punked.)

The timing on the release of these emails is a little suspicious to me as it is so close to the Climate Conference in Copenhagen next month.  Then again, in a previous post, I questioned the timing of a re-release of the story that the snow cap on Mount Kilimanjaro is shrinking.

The blogosphere was rampant with commentary:

Raw Story:  Skeptics claim stolen emails prove global warming a hoax

“Now, however, those skeptics can barely contain their glee at the release of a cache of stolen emails that they believe prove global warming is nothing but a colossal hoax.”

I wouldn’t exactly call this feeling ‘glee’.  I actually feel outrage when I’ve been deceived.  The question I have for these alarmist websites, is why aren’t they outraged at the deception?  Instead they are turning it around and putting the skeptics on the defensive.

Wonk Room :  Think Progress – ClimateGate:  Hacked Emails Reveal Global Warming Deniers Are Crazed Conspiracy Theorists

“Global warming deniers are sifting through the illegally obtained letters of private correspondence for “proof” that the scientific consensus on climate change is actually a global conspiracy.”

Do I detect a hint of panic in the Wonk Room?  In this one sentence they include name-calling (‘deniers’), an accusation (‘illegally obtained letters …’), sarcasm (‘”proof”’) and mockery (‘a global conspiracy’).

Climate Progress – Hacked Hadley emails Hottest Decade on Record and the Oceans Planet keeps warming:

“Here’s what we know so far:  CRU’s emails were hacked, the 2000s will easily be the hottest decade on record, and the planet keeps warming thanks to us!

“The NY Times blows the story.”

How do you ‘know’ these things are true?  It appears that there has been deception and collusion in some of these studies.  Besides, even without these emails, there is sufficient evidence to debunk 3 different points in the Climate Progress sentence:  ‘the 2000s will easily be the hottest decade on record’, ‘the planet keeps warming’, and ‘thanks to us’.

Some highlights from the New York Times story:

In a 1999 e-mail exchange about charts showing climate patterns over the last two millennia, Phil Jones, a longtime climate researcher at the East Anglia Climate Research Unit, said he had used a “trick” employed by another scientist, Michael Mann, to “hide a decline” in temperatures.

Dr. Mann, a professor at Pennsylvania State, confirmed in an interview that the e-mail was real. He said the choice of words by his colleague was poor but noted that scientists often use the word “trick” to refer to a good way to solve a problem, “and not something secret.” “It sounds incriminating, but when you look at what you’re talking about, there’s nothing there,” Dr. Mann said.

Dr Mann’s explanation doesn’t really improve his case.  He is, in essence, saying that he was solving the problem of – hiding a decline in temperatures.  Not only are the alarmists cherry-picking the scientific data but they are hiding data that does not support their theories and hypotheses.

“The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t,” Dr. Trenberth wrote.

Other scientists went on to rebut him, saying that the fluctuations were not inconsistent with a continuing warming trend.

Dr. Trenberth said Friday that he was appalled at the release of the e-mails, which he said were private discussions.

But he added that he thought the revelations might backfire against climate skeptics. If anything, he said, he thought that the messages showed “the integrity of scientists.”

Here is the link to the e-mails in question:  Anelegantchos

Hacked E-Mails Fuel Climate Change Skeptics

New York Times

November 21, 2009

By ANDREW C. REVKIN

Hundreds of private e-mails and documents hacked from a computer server at a British university are causing a stir among global warming skeptics, who say they show that climate scientists conspired to overstate the case for a human influence on climate change.

The e-mails, attributed to prominent American and British climate researchers, include discussions of scientific data and whether it should be released, exchanges about how best to combat the arguments of skeptics, and casual comments — in some cases derisive — about specific people known for their skeptical views. Drafts of scientific papers and a photo collage that portrays climate skeptics on an ice floe were also among the hacked data, some of which dates back 13 years.

In one e-mail exchange, a scientist writes of using a statistical “trick” in a chart illustrating a recent sharp warming trend. In another, a scientist refers to climate skeptics as “idiots.”

Some skeptics asserted Friday that the correspondence revealed an effort to withhold scientific information. “This is not a smoking gun, this is a mushroom cloud,” said Patrick J. Michaels, a climatologist who has long faulted evidence pointing to human-driven warming and is criticized in the documents.

Portions of the correspondence portrays the scientists as feeling under siege by the skeptics’ camp and worried that any stray comment or data glitch could be turned against them.

The cache of e-mails also includes references to journalists, including this reporter, and queries from journalists related to articles they were reporting.

Officials at the University of East Anglia confirmed in a statement on Friday that files had been stolen from a university server and that the police had been brought in to investigate the breach. They added, however, that they could not confirm that all the material circulating on the Internet was authentic.

But several scientists and others contacted by the Times confirmed that they were the authors or recipients of specific e-mails included in the file.

The revelations are bound to inflame the public debate as hundreds of negotiators prepare to hammer out an international climate accord at meetings in Copenhagen next month, and at least one scientist speculated that the timing was not coincidental.

The documents will undoubtedly raise questions about the quality of research on some specific questions and the actions of some scientists. But the evidence pointing to a growing human contribution to global warming is so broad and deep that the hacked material is unlikely to erode the overall argument.

In several e-mail exchanges, Kevin Trenberth, a climatologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and other scientists discussed whether a string of recent years of relatively stable temperatures undermined scientific models that predict long-term warming.

“The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t,” Dr. Trenberth wrote.

Other scientists went on to rebut him, saying that the fluctuations were not inconsistent with a continuing warming trend.

Dr. Trenberth said Friday that he was appalled at the release of the e-mails, which he said were private discussions.

But he added that he thought the revelations might backfire against climate skeptics. If anything, he said, he thought that the messages showed “the integrity of scientists.”

Still, some of the comments might lend themselves to sinister interpretations.

In a 1999 e-mail exchange about charts showing climate patterns over the last two millennia, Phil Jones, a longtime climate researcher at the East Anglia Climate Research Unit, said he had used a “trick” employed by another scientist, Michael Mann, to “hide a decline” in temperatures.

Dr. Mann, a professor at Pennsylvania State, confirmed in an interview that the e-mail was real. He said the choice of words by his colleague was poor but noted that scientists often use the word “trick” to refer to a good way to solve a problem, “and not something secret.” “It sounds incriminating, but when you look at what you’re talking about, there’s nothing there,” Dr. Mann said.

Dr. Jones, writing in an e-mail, declined to be interviewed and pasted in the university’s statement.

Stephen McIntyre, a blogger who has for years been using his Web site, climateaudit.org, to challenge data used to chart climate patterns and came in for heated criticism in some e-mails, called the revelations “quite breathtaking.”

But several scientists whose names appear repeatedly in the e-mails said they merely revealed that scientists are human beings, and did nothing to undercut the body of research on global warming.

“Science doesn’t work because we’re all nice,” said Gavin A. Schmidt, a climatologist at NASA whose e-mail exchanges with colleagues over a variety of recent climate studies were included in the cache. “Newton may have been an ass, but the theory of gravity still works.”

He said the breach at the University of East Anglia was discovered after hackers who had gained access to the correspondence sought Tuesday to hack into a different server supporting realclimate.org, a blog unrelated to NASA that he runs with several other scientists pressing the case for global warming.

The intruders sought to create a mock blog post there and to upload the full batch of files from Britain – nearly 200 megabytes’ worth.

That effort was thwarted, Dr. Schmidt said, and scientists immediately notified colleagues at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit. Nearly all the material in the hacked files, which quickly spread to a variety of servers, originated with or was sent to climate scientists at the school.

The first posts that revealed details from the files appeared on Thursday at The Air Vent, a Web site devoted to skeptics’ arguments. Almost instantly readers there and elsewhere began posting excerpts that they felt illustrated scientific bias or dishonesty.

At first, said Dr. Michaels, the climatologist who has faulted some of the science undergirding the global warming consensus, his instinct was to ignore the correspondence as “just the way scientists talk.”

But on Friday, he said, after reading more deeply, he felt that some exchanges reflected a concerted effort to block the release of data for independent review.

He said that some e-mails mused about a way to discredit him by challenging the veracity of his doctoral dissertation at the University of Wisconsin by claiming he knew his research was wrong.

“This shows these are people willing to bend rules and go after other people’s reputations in very serious ways,” he said.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Hacked CRU E-Mails Alter Conversation of Global Warming Debate

  1. Colin Ward

    And thanks for the link to those emails. I’ve read a couple and they sound pretty rational people. I get a sense that they are keen to get it right and are arguing with each other over how to gather the most accurate data. http://tiny.cc/JMHiT