About the significance of the CRU hack, and this look behind the curtain at climate science at work

Summary:  Follow-up to Important News, still breaking, about Climate Science propaganda.

The best analysis of this to date IMO is this: “Baby Steps“, Jeff Id, The Air Vent, 21 November 2009.  Below is long excerpt.  I recommend visiting his website to see some of the best coverage of this issue.


There are several people who want to claim that these emails and data have no meaning, there are others who feel they spell complete doom for the global warming movement. We all have our own opinions on the matter and while this blog is not dedicated to moderate views, it is dedicated to real views. What the scientists need to understand is that their work affects everyone, and thus we have a right to know.

… These new emails do not provide any huge revelation of collusion, we already knew about that. They don’t provide any smoking gun proving intentional corruption of data for a conclusion (although the Jones quote was good enough for me). They don’t have any proof of making a conclusion in exchange for money or proof of changing a conclusion for personal benefit. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t expect any of that. The mechanism of reward for certain results is exactly what some of us expected it to be.

What the emails show is that there is some good science going on. There are some quality open discussions in them for sure.

What they also show however, is a pattern of elimination of dissenting views. They show an advocacy by some ’scientists’ which belies scientific credibility. These few names are universally limited to the top people in the field — think about what that means. These are the ones who actively work to make sure that dissent is unpublished and are often the loudest in public to discredit others. Mann (creator of the bogus Al Gore hockey stick) seems to be the worst offender along these lines but he clearly has a circle of trusted friends. Finally, these files show a lot of money involved in the industry. Big dollars are in play with big travel budgets, prestige and a lot of power for those who follow the main player’s lead.

What is probably the #1 legal issue is the FOIA obstruction and the conspiring with government officials to block legal and properly worded requests. Of that we have proof. Again, we outsiders (non team members) are not surprised. It’s been pretty obvious that something was happening but what we have is complicity of the government in blocking legal Freedom of Information Act requests.

For those who would sweep this under the rug — not so fast. There are serious issues brought to the foreront by the emails which need to be addressed. Global warming affects everyone. Whether it’s through massive taxation and regulation or more storms. We do have a right to know where the conclusions come from and how they are arrived at.

For instance:

  • I want to know what they mean when Mann says – “don’t think that the entire AGU hierarchy has yet been compromised!”
  • I want to know why it’s ok to ignore “certain” FOIA requests but not others.
  • I want to know why it’s ok to cover up alleged temperature data extracted from trees when the data doesn’t agree with temperature.
  • How did Saiers get removed from the GRL {Geophysical Research Letters}?

There are a thousand questions which remain unanswered. These emails have at least taken a step toward verifying a complaint by outsiders about why some papers which seem quite accurate don’t get published. Now we know.

The emails are a step forward in understanding of both positives and negatives in this highly politicized science.

Baby steps.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the following:

Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.

Some of the posts about climate change on the FM website:

  1. An article giving strong evidence of global warming, 30 June 2008
  2. More forecasts of a global cooling cycle, 15 July 2008
  3. Two valuable perspectives on global warming, 4 August 2008
  4. Good news about global warming!, 21 October 2008 – More evidence of cooling.
  5. One of the most interesting sources of news about science and nature!, 27 October 2008
  6. Watching the world change before our eyes, 29 November 2008
  7. The Senate Minority report is out: “More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims”, 12 December 2008
  8. My “wish list” for the climate sciences in 2009, 2 January 2009
  9. How warm is the Earth? How do we measure it?, 28 January 2009
  10. Science in action, a confused and often nasty debate among scientists, 5 February 2009
  11. Richard Feynmann, one of the 20th centuries greatest scientists, talks to us about climate science, 12 February 2009
  12. Lost voices in the climate science debate, 22 April 2009
  13. Aerosols (pollutionants, like soot) as a driver of climate change, 8 May 2009
  14. A look at the temperature record of Alaska – any sign of global warming?, 17 May 2009
  15. Big news from NASA about the causes of climate change!, 6 June 2009


Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

10 thoughts on “About the significance of the CRU hack, and this look behind the curtain at climate science at work”

  1. Great post FM; good to see some measured response on a hot-button issue, rather than overblown reactionism. Baby steps indeed. Have you seen the response at RealClimate? Some quotes for a bit more perspective, though it’s important to remember the source:

    “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 timing of this particular episode is probably not coincidental. But if cherry-picked out-of-context phrases from stolen personal emails is the only response to the weight of the scientific evidence for the human influence on climate change, then there probably isn’t much to it.”
    — “The CRU Hack“, no author, Realclimate

    And from a comment, which I very much agree with:

    “This is an argument for total transparency in data and methods.”

    I fear the most significant effect of the leak is radical skeptics using these emails as their justification for perpetual rejection, regardless of any data put forth. This kind of insider loss-of-face is the very sort of fuel to feed the dyed-in-the-wool denialists (note I didn’t say skeptics) who have no interest in facts and only look at information that verifies their preconceived ideologies and worldviews; in that sense, these emails, while not central in the overarching case for anthropogenic climate change, could sow the seeds of entrenched resistance for a very, very long time. Look at how long the ‘death panels’ nonsense has persisted.

    Finnally, anybody with a public platform should take note of this whole episode; nothing is totally private on the net.
    FM reply: I think you concern is a bit off-base.

    (1) “most significant effect of the leak is radical skeptics using these emails as their justification for perpetual rejection”

    Who are those “radical skeptics”? What political influence do they have? The editors and journalists of the mainstream media are largely true believers. Similarly, AGW-advocates have occupied the major scientific journals and major science-political institutions such as the IPCC.

    I recommend concern about the out-of-control political and scientific institutions, whose advocacy of AGW far outstrips the current evidence. In short, as always one should focus on those who have power — not those who do not.

    (2) “nothing is totally private on the net.”

    As the emails advising each other to delete emails suggests, your advice is already being taken to heart.

    (3) As for the RealClimate response: “Some quotes for a bit more perspective”

    It’s all strawman attacks. As I have noted so many times on this site, rather than respond to actual critiques AGW-advocates often prefer write responses to make-believe attacks (or, as in this case, ones from fringe individuals — not the people (often “credentialled” scientists, engineers, and such) seriously working with the data.

  2. jamesglendinning

    If a government employee knowingly releases false information to the public, he is subject to criminal prosecution. If any individual (gov or civ) knowingly releases false information to congress, he is subject to criminal prosecution. Does anyone know of any laws over in the UK that would be similar in purpose?
    FM reply: Government officials release false information to the public as a matter of routine. As seen the popular wisdom “Never believe any rumor until the government denies it for the second time.”

  3. Man FM, you just won’t cut me any slack, will you? Is it something personal ;)

    No doubt institutions acting too boldly is a concern, as evidenced by our rush to the Iraq Invasion without due consideration; I fear the current climate change bill being mulled-over is a potentially massive boondoggle.

    But, I think your dismissal of the fringe denialists and conspiracy-theorists is perhaps a bit premature; as you’ve said yourself on this site (to me actually), the extremes often drive debate and events because of their passion. Observe the ability for a small number of dedicated ideologues to shut down healthcare town-halls. The reach of conspiracy theories on the internet through chain-emails is a variable nobody can fully quantify, and Glenn Beck commands a substantial audience that takes him very seriously; like I said, reference the persistence of theories on death panels and Saddam’s WMDs long after factual debunking. You’ve fought these people a number of times on this very site over issues like the stimulus and torture.

    You are correct though, there is a cognitive vacuum in the climate change community that refuses to address a number of serious critiques. Like the second quote, and you’ve said before, transparency and inclusion of a wider circle of viewpoints would go a long way towards addressing this; I’m afraid, though, that many people have staked their careers on this issue, and it can be very difficult to shift a person when it comes to their bread-and-butter (or public reputation).
    FM reply: I agree. When thing are in balance, a focused minority can tip the balance. More broadly, new ideas from come the fringes.

    But the current climate science dynamic consists of powerful forces dominating the information flow, using it to implement public policies that will increase their power. Worrying about the fringes in such a situation is nothing but a diversion.

  4. Scientist are an interesting subculture, with our own unique set of behavioral norms. It is uncool to ascribe nefarious motives to ones colleagues, even if one is sure they are indeed lying scheming bastards. The best thing to do is wait. If the guy is really up to no good, eventually he will get caught breaking one of the major science rules. He will falsify data, suppress another’s work, something like that. Then he is fair game. These guys are toast.

  5. Gentlemen,

    As this is a British scandal, I dug up a quote from the BBC show, “Yes, Minister”, which is good enough to post in the long version and leave to Fabius to judge whether or not to edit. Ironically, the show isn’t about environmentalists, but the quote might as well be:

    “It is only totalitarian governments that suppress facts. In this country we simply take a democratic decision not to publish them.”

    “How to discredit an unwelcome report:

    Stage One: Refuse to publish in the public interest saying
    1. There are security considerations.
    2. The findings could be misinterpreted.
    3. You are waiting for the results of a wider and more detailed report which is still in preparation. (If there isn’t one, commission it; this gives you even more time).

    Stage Two: Discredit the evidence you are not publishing, saying
    1. It leaves important questions unanswered.
    2. Much of the evidence is inconclusive.
    3. The figures are open to other interpretations.
    4. Certain findings are contradictory.
    5. Some of the main conclusions have been questioned. (If they haven’t, question them yourself; then they have).

    Stage Three: Undermine the recommendations. Suggested phrases:
    1. ‘Not really a basis for long term decisions’.
    2. ‘Not sufficient information on which to base a valid assessment’.
    3. ‘No reason for any fundamental rethink of existing policy’.
    4. ‘Broadly speaking, it endorses current practice’.

    Stage Four: Discredit the person who produced the report. Explain (off the record) that
    1. He is harbouring a grudge against the Department.
    2. He is a publicity seeker.
    3. He is trying to get a Knighthood/Chair/Vice Chancellorship.
    4. He used to be a consultant to a multinational.
    5. He wants to be a consultant to a multinational.”

    (Oh. Yeah, the show was a satire…)

    Best, A. Scott Crawford

  6. Re #5:
    Heck, why single out environmentalists? Seems to me this is the blueprint for any institutional spin, be it government, corporate, or NGO. Great stuff; “Yes, Minister” is solid gold, the kind of broad insights that you rarely get from narrow-issue focus.

  7. Well… er, complexfatwa,

    Yeah, I agree about the broad applicability of the supposed satire of the writing for “Yes, Minister”, but Fabius usually likes posters to stay on topic in a given thread. Frankly, whenever I’m preparing youngsters who’re about to have to deal with British Bureaucrats, spies, officers and the like, I usually buy them the complete “Yes, Minister” and “Yes, Prime Minister” collection on DVD and have them watch the whole bunch whilst taking notes… so closely does the ACTUAL behavior of British wonks and officials mirror that of this satirical show.

    Now for those interested in 4GW topics, there is one particular “Yes, Minister” episode that’s a MUST see, dealing with a cover up regarding the sale of a particular type of resettable element able to be used in the making of bombs, manufactured in the UK, to known terrorist groups. Many readers will be amazed at how very very closely the “fictional” devices at the heart of the episode “Whiskey Priest”, mirror the actual operational difficulties the UK-USA coalition in Iraq had stopping IED attacks early in the conflict. As is often noted in 4GW conversations: there is such a thing as an allied or friendly NATION, but no such thing as a friendly foreign Intelligence Agency.

    The difficulty is quite like that an American might face regarding the sale of .50 caliber SABOT or “SLAP” rounds to Irish Republicans, even officially “decommissioned” ones, as if said American applied the oft quoted British reasoning regarding the sales of Arms to those likely to use said arms against British allies, “Either one is IN the Arms Trade, or one ISN’T”, well… there’d be no moral or ethical problem for said American… following the British model, as said former “terrorists” wouldn’t currently be targeting the British Royal Family or Dukes or Earls or such (although it’d seem likely they’d have quite a few former associates less peacefully inclined towards London).

    Joking aside, and returning to 4GW discussions: If the U.S. Republic were to have it’s own reserved 4GW type units/planers, SHOULD those individuals follow their orders to the letter, even to the extent of conceiving of/preparing for operations against foreign Nations that were long standing Allies of the U.S. Republic? As I understand it, doing so would be the DUTY of these individuals, however much grief it might cause their handlers/superiors explaining why their pet “Wild Ducks” had put together some hypothetical operational plan to say, sabotage something in Canada say (an example that provided Michael Moore gist for his sole box office dud). After all, just because someone prepares a situation or plan for a WAR GAME, in his or her role as THE RED TEAM, there’s no expectation that anyone will actually implement the Red Teams operations, even if said Red Team actually won the War Game in question by using it.

    Lastly… Complexfatwa… yeah, it COULD be a blueprint to be used by American Federal agencies, but my experience is that they don’t actually bother wasting energy on long winded answers or explanations. Would it surprise you to read that I personally cannot get ONE SINGLE Federal agency to respond to my FOIA request submissions through MY LAWYERS, and am probably going to have to go to a judge before I see one single federal record proving I ever existed? LOL.

    As for NGO’s and corporations, and international organizations…. It’s my experience that requesting documents from those types of organizations is only justified IF ONE ALREADY POSSESSES the documents one is requesting… it’s kind of a catch 22. Because if one doesn’t already have the goods, a formal request merely leads to those organizations shredding or destroying exactly the data asked for, as well as any other potentially criminal material related to said request. YET if one already HAS said documents, collected via a reliable source or turned over to the appropriate government authority, then when said organization starts destroying their evidence and files, thinking they’re protecting themselves from a gadfly/auditor like myself, what they’re really doing is convincing a whole group of Special Agents and prosecutors that it’ll be worth the man hours to open up an official investigation.

    (Sorry, Fabius… I know we’ve covered this before, but it’s worth bringing up again considering what happened with the financial markets and General Motors).

  8. I liked the advice to governments from “Yes, Minister”. In this instance it’s pretty obvious that stage 1 is being followed carefully – nothing is being published by any government on the Climategate issue. But now there is an even better tactic at work, and that is to distract from the issue by making ever more outrageous claims. I saw on the national news here in Canada tonight that polar have been forced to start eating their cute little cubs due to global warming, although there is still not one word in the media about the liberation of the information from the East Anglia CRU. I think that it’s best to laugh about it, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnkCa5-Zc8Q

  9. zoagria , there is an old saying, there is only one thing worse than being an enemy of the US and that is being an ally.

  10. myopinionhere, for raw data look here: GISS. For your area. For more fundemental data and climate models (including source code of the models ): here.

    Hmm such a conspracy, look there is all the data and the source code for the climate models. Must be another Moon landing conspricy (or the greatest one of all … the Earth going around the Sun … everyone knows the the whole Universe revolves around the Earth).
    FM reply: So few words, so many errors. Here we see the mind of a true believer at work, whose faith allows him to ignore new evidence of any magnitude and importance. Why not tell myopinionhere to genuflect before reading?

    (1) “for raw data look here”

    False. That’s not the raw data. It’s highly adjusted data. NASA has refused to release the raw data, the adjustment algorithms, or station list (from which people could assemble equivalent datasets).

    (2) The hacked emails from the CRU show that the scientists in that circle privately admit the gross flaws that skeptics have alledged in the global surface temperature database (my favorite is this). For a few of the peer-reviewed papers about this see these article by Roger Pielke Sr: here and here. See Pielke’s Sr’s Wikipedia entry here.

    (3) Most esp, that the global warming singal from 1980-2000 (there’s been no warming since) results totally from the adjustments to the raw data. Which does not disprove its existence, but makes release of the raw data important for others to review and replicate their analysis. Which makes the refusal of NASA and CRU to release the raw data very problematic. Their refusal of even Freedom of Information Act requests probably sparked the “hack”, the release of info by an insider.

    (4) The need to see the raw data makes the CRU’s loss of much of the older data so disturbing. See “Climate change data dumped“, The Times, 29 November 2009. This is based on an article by Roger Pilke Jr. from 12 August 2009, describing the CRU’s woeful reply to a FOIA request. They’re working to recreate the lost datasets.

    (5) “For more fundemental data and climate models (including source code of the models ): here.”

    This is just silly. This mass of poorly documented code of these models would require a multi-disciplinary team of experts to analyse both its operation and underlying assumptions. The hacked emails are filled with mocking and discouraging comments about the state of CRU’s programs (see here for examples).

    Much of the problems with the data collection and models results from underfunding. The proponents of AGW made a tactical decision not to warn about AGW and ask for funding to improve their systems, but instead go immediately to public policy changes. That may prove to have been a serious error.

    (6) “such a conspracy”

    The allegations of a conspiracy are made by the lunatic fringe, not by any of the skeptics in the climate sciences or major amateurs in the field. It’s serves the pro-AGW folks as a convenient strawman (one of their favorite modes of discouse) to avoid serious issue.

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