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Do hacked e-mails expose scientists or skeptics?

Given the furor surrounding the pirated e-mails coming out of the University of East Anglia, what's the real takeaway lesson? Does it say more about the way renowned climate scientists work, or how climate skeptics have operated in shaping the public debate over global warming?

Posted by Washington Post Editor on November 23, 2009 12:55 PM

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bigjimsteele Author Profile Page :

Skeptics do not argue that there has not been recent warming. So the current AGW spin about emails are not affecting melting glaciers is simply misleading, but a great diversionary tactic

The skeptic's arguments are 1) attribution of warming -how does CO2 stack up against other variables? 2) How does the current warming compare to the past 1000 years 3) The need for scientific transparency and the ability to replicate results. 4) Science should be an objective pursuit that discourages advocacy because it corrupts the objectivity. In the past advocacy got disciplined. Climate science has tried to win arguments based on advocacy, politics and fear, and the suspected results of corruption are coming to light.

One of the arguments for CO2 as the main driver, is that climate models only match historic records if CO2 is added to the equation. I have no trouble stating CO2 is a contributor. But It assumes that all natural variability has been accounted for. Such hubris. Most admit we don't model clouds very well and that impacts climate much more than CO2. Solar scientists are continuously amazed at new solar phenomena. Ocean circulation is still not well understood. But clearly Jones, Mann et al have revealed not only the sentiment but attempts to sabotage the foundations of science by both marginalizing research on all these other variables that might discount the force of CO2 and thwarting attempts to replicate their results and assess their models.

To test AGW conclusions and replicate results, the data must be freely available, along with complete computer codes so investigators can assess the validity of the parameters that are used in these models. All natural variables must be scrutinized. It would make their models better, at the risk of hampering their advocacy. But they chose to support their advocacy!

Even more disturbing is journals like Nature writing editorials calling skeptics "deniers" who are harassing these climate scientists. Shocking! That is what science is. You publish your results. Some try to replicate it. They look at methods, consider any uncontrolled variables, and then respond to the conclusions. Those that disagree, look for problems. Scientists enter the field knowing that their data must be available for replication. But Nature is now painting this standard scientific practice as the realm of ignorant "deniers" harassing scientists. This double speak has George Orwell is turning in his grave.

Statistically AGW advocates have tried to hide the Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm period to dramatize recent warming with hockey stick graphs. Their use of proxies to create this dramatization has shown many weakness like using inverted sediments, selective tree rings, etc. Their proxies often diverged from instrumental measures, so they had to "hide the decline" and thwart Freedom of Information requests.

Such corruption has not only hurt the climate scientists, but it will have a backlash effect on those of us involved in other environmental research. I believe the most important thing we can do is fix our wetlands. But I fear when we advocate for this, it will always be against a backdrop of suspicion created by a few arrogant corrupt climate scientists. This manipulation must be dealt with severely to protect all of science.

Multikultur Author Profile Page :

Even an hour's reading of the released text and code comments is shocking...and far beyond normal sausage making gristle.

Our lifestyle, much of our accumulated wealth, and our national destiny may be at stake in the outcome. It's unseemly to ask people to make such massive changes based on an elitist "trust me" exhortation. And, of course, the risk that science will lose popular credibility for a generation is much higher and more immediate than the turning point in global warming theory.

1. Evidence in the so-called "documents" subfolders of the CRU release indicates that raw data was repeatedly manipulated to cause temperature history to conform to the hockey stick shape that activists and politicians need to sway public opinion. That misconduct could approach distortion with the intent to deceive.

2. The customary peer review process that protects us from scientific advocacy and fraud was clearly stacked in favor of the AGW hypothesis and actively repressed dissenting views.

3. Many recent developments within climate science cast substantial doubt that the AGW hypothesis is valid and predictive. As discussed in their own posts, and related comments in the computer code, hiding the recent temperature decline has absorbed much energy at East Anglia. Maybe they should spend that time evaluating alternative hypotheses.

Finally, in reading the MSM on this subject, an embarrassing role reversal is noticeable. The more detailed and thoughtful information is found in readers comments, while the main articles seem vague, confused, and opaque in comparison. Isn't it supposed to be the other way around?

hstelling Author Profile Page :

The absence in global warming/climate change reporting that there is mounting evidence that there is little man can do, is disconcerting. On my West Point Forum,
Col Donal Kavanagh USAF (Ret) wrote:

For anyone who is interested there is a great article/op ed on anthropogenic global warming at the following link. Seems to be pretty rational. When teamed with the latest info about the attempts to hide and statistically manipulate info to fit the "global warming agenda" it would seem that indeed the hysteria is overhyped. It's a pretty comprehensive and lengthy/chunky piece but there is a nice summary of points at the end.

harriet1 Author Profile Page :

It is strange and unfortunate that the problem, whether the issue is climate change or insufficient food, which is human overpopulation, is still not being addressed or even on the discussion table.
Species have multiplied themselves to extinction before but I believe it is we who are pushing the largest number of other species ahead of us.


jgmiller500 Author Profile Page :

Well funded, very sound science based on the efforts of thousands of real scientists of the last 2000 years or so still cannot accurately tell me if it's going to rain tomorrow. How or why would anyone continue to believe in the myth of global warming. Emails or not, there's no science behind it anymore. None of the models pan out and the data does not support the conclusion. If that is inconsistant with the scientific method please explain to me what it is.

fparker2 Author Profile Page :

What I find interesting today about the climate change e-mail issue is that this page is the only place on the WaPo web site that it is mentioned. Not a word on the news and opinion pages that I can find. I guess we have to go the the London press to find our news on anything that does not support the Gore Flow.

surf4phil Author Profile Page :

If you’re wondering how the robot-like march of the world’s politicians towards Copenhagen can possibly continue in the face of the scientific scandal dubbed “climategate,” it’s because Big Government, Big Business and Big Green don’t give a s*** about “the science.”

They never have.

What “climategate” suggests is many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t either. Apparently they stifled their own doubts about recent global cooling not explained by their computer models, manipulated data, plotted ways to avoid releasing it under freedom of information laws and attacked fellow scientists and scientific journals for publishing even peer-reviewed literature of which they did not approve.

Now they and their media shills — who sneered that all who questioned their phony “consensus” were despicable “deniers,” the moral equivalent of those who deny the Holocaust — are the ones in denial about the enormity of the scandal enveloping them.

So they desperately try to portray it as the routine “messy” business of science, lamely insisting, “nothing to see here folks, move along.”

Before the Internet — which has given ordinary people a way to fight back against the received wisdom of so-called “wise elites” — they might have gotten away with it.

But not now, as knowledgeable climate bloggers are advancing the story and forcing the co-opted mainstream media to cover a scandal most would rather ignore.

The problem, however, is those who hijacked science to predict a looming Armageddon unless we do exactly as they say, have already done their damage.

The moment they convinced politicians the way to avert the End of Days was to put a price on emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the unholy alliance of Big Government, Big Business and Big Green was forged.

Big Government wants more of your taxes. Big Business wants more of your income. Big Green wants you and your children to bow down to its agenda of enforced austerity.

What about saving the planet, you ask? This was never about saving the planet. This is about money and power. Your money. Their power.

If it was about saving the planet, “cap-and-trade” (a.k.a. cap-and-tax) — how Big Government, Big Business and Big Green ludicrously pretend we will “fight” global warming and “save the planet” — would have been consigned to the dust bin of history because it doesn’t work. We know it doesn’t work because Europe’s five-year-old cap-and-trade market — the Emissions Trading Scheme — has done nothing to make the world cooler.

All it’s done is make hedge fund managers, speculators and Big Energy giddy with windfall profits, while making everyone else poorer by driving up the cost of energy, and thus of most goods and services, which need energy to be lighted, heated, cooled, grown, constructed, manufactured, produced and transported.

DizzyRingo1 Author Profile Page :

I suggest that instead of chattering, some of you actually read the emails and perhaps even look at the list of organisations funding Dr Jones $25Mn research programme. After all, it's your tax dollar which has paid for much of it.

Don't just read the Main stream media - look at the original material. As Deepthroat said at Watergate - follow the money.

tucanofulano Author Profile Page :

Now that the world knows the entire "global warming" so-called "data" has been exposed as fake, made-up, phoney-baloney, politically correct, utter nonsense, and that the pseudo-scientists who hid all this for some 25 years have been exposed for the posers and scam artists they are, WHAT IS THE POINT OF SENDING THE POTUS TO DENMARK? Unless, of course, the politically correct PR nonsense being used to gain CONTROL over Americans (and everybody else) is the one and the only real goal . Anti-Americans like Boxer, Kerry, Feinstein, Reid, and Obama among others are pushing to completely take over Healthcare, Insurance, Banking, Autos, and everything that makes life worth living, e.g. freedom ! All are POS's.

JimZ1 Author Profile Page :

Scientists aren't going to forge data, especially for political purposes. When scientists propose, and presumably publish a theory, they go on record. They know that their reputation will suffer greatly if their theory is de-bunked, and in science, reputation is everything. (This is an excellent reason to avoid "scientists" without a reputation or with a poor reputation. They really have nothing to lose.) Another important, related point is that the climate-change skeptics who comment here anonymously won't be available for comment when life on earth begins to die.

captgrumpy Author Profile Page :

Why did the Post pick ALL believers in climate change for their opinions and then say we need robust debate ????
I think they are pulling a fast one and dont really want to know what the majority think.
If it was all proved wrong,how many academics would be out of a job ????
Maybe they think its more important not to add to the jobless rate but HOW MUCH MONEY is this going to cost the taxpayers??????

DavidWojickPhD Author Profile Page :

It is a good question but it is like asking which is more important, the message or the medium? The world now knows that even the most renowned climate scientists are politically motivated. The science has been completely politicized, so there is no scientific authority. Everyone is on their own, which is why everyone is so divided. But this has only happened because of the Internet revolution, which has enabled the skeptics to circumvent the central government and the central press. How it will turn out is anybody's guess. But a draw is a loss for those advocating radical action and at this point the game appears to be a draw. Ironically, revolutions tend to be paralyzing.

staterighter Author Profile Page :

The truth is that none of them really know what is happening or what is causing it. Scientists use processes and data and they attempt to reach conclusions but if one of them tells you that their findings are 100% certain you had better find out where they are getting their medicinal marijuana. I have worked with scientists and engineers for 12 years now and can tell you that with 99.9% certainty their intentions usually are good but their conclusions are not FACT they are only theory until proven as FACT.

JimZ1 Author Profile Page :

Scientists don't care about politics. However, they do care about world-wide extinction. The same corporate influences that guide the climate change skeptics now, at one time prevented remedies to curb pollution in the Great Lakes until the pollution became so bad that you could light the water with a match. (Maybe we're just doomed to repeat cycles of evolution and extinction until a civilization develops without neo-conservatives.)

ScottChallenger Author Profile Page :

Right wing radio and it's puppy dog followers have been going haywire on this. It is so entertaining listening to all the puppy dog conservatives use emotion and nonfacts to spin a web of conspiracy so deep and engulfing that it makes "24" look like South park. LOL, and thanks puppy dogs for the entertainment toady!!

SeaBlue1 Author Profile Page :

So obviously we have been lied to by Scientists protecting themselves from any challenge using available FOIA act data regarding Man causing Global Warming and the data has been denied and deleted as the emails clearly show .This is like when they insisted the earth was flat and it took years to get the truth out . Global warming data is being hiddden by our scientists ,which is totally against all they are supposed to do and should be exposed by the Media and investigated and corrected.

kgbkleve Author Profile Page :

Let's deal with realities and alleged factual data when discussing global warming. Is it real? Most certainly. Is it overstated in a maligned political agenda? Most certainly. How can some of the supporters of this alleged phenomenon be so impervious to scientific data that is rarely mentioned to counter the claim and responsibly argue that "global warming and climate change" are overstated and being manipulated to serve politics.
Facts: Planet earth is 5 billion years old, give or take a few million years. The modern industrial revolution is marginally 200 years old, give or take a few years. For all you scientists out there, please make a fraction from the 200 years of industrialization (pollution), over 5 billion years, the approximate age of planet earth. That is 200/5,000,000,000, then reduce this fraction to is lowest common demoninator. Convert this fraction into a decimal equation, and you can clearly see that man's input into what is transpiring globally with regard to the warming of our planet is inexplicable. The fact that mankind has had a minimal input of less than 200 years of industrial pollution does not qualify him and all his animal and egotistical arrogance to be responsible solely for this scientific, evolutionary process call "global warming."
Please stop sounding the doomsdy alarm
while advancing this transparent, politically poisoned agenda.
Is the planet getting warmer? Perhaps. Has this happened before? Perhaps.
Please, when espousing this tainted agenda to our school children, at least give them the other side of the story[evolution] so they can rationally decide for themselves.
P.S. I'm all for cleaning up industrial pollution and our environment, but I am sure "Mother Earth" will tend to her own agenda in her own time.

Blue_Navy Author Profile Page :

It's funny that both the Washington Post and the New York Times has a problem with the leak of these hack e-mails. Back in 1971, neither paper had any problems with stolen papers from the Pentagon by Mr. Daniel Ellsberg about the secret bombings in North Viet Nam. What? Two wrongs make a right?
Let me get this right. It's ok to print secrets as long as it was under President Bush, wrong if it's done under President Obama. The Post made some money in 1971, right? Then made money after the Pentagon Papers, right? Just say that the Washington Post just wants to make money on this globol warming. It's ok, you can feed your families with what you print. Just don't print any bad news about President Obama. Man made golbol warming is just a fraud, a lie, and just not true.

onewell Author Profile Page :

A better question for the Post to be asking might be "What questions should we be asking, 'cause we haven't been paying attention"

Approach climate science the same way you would a private company. In the past 20 years, it has become an industry unto itself. Lack of oversight has led to the current situation. Consider the following quotes from Mike Hulme's (University of East Anglia) book describing the utility of the Climate Change concept to the scientific community:

“The idea of climate change should be seen as an intellectual resource around which our collective and personal identities and projects can form and take shape. We need to ask not what we can do for climate change, but what climate change can do for us.”

“Because the idea of climate change is so plastic. It can be deployed across many of our human projects and can serve many of our psychological, ethical and spiritual needs.”

“We will continue to create and tell new stories about climate change and mobilise them in support of our projects.”

It is a running joke in this country that it is helpful to tack on the 'Climate Change' term to any proposal in order to help get it funded. This has been true for years. It is not a good situation.

This story has depth, as upcoming hearings will likely make obvious. There are interesting issues related to science and policy, and there will need to be some adjustments made to the overall science/policy framework in this country to prevent future gaming of the system.

Might be a good job for a business/policy focused reporter?

jfmeshna Author Profile Page :

It is in the nature of science to constantly question itself and all it's conclusions. It's what separates it from faith and it is what drives us towards a truth. We still debate the theory of evolution but that doesn't mean it's not true. It just means there's more to know and you have to challenge every idea to make sure you're on the right track and your ego isn't driving the research. Science is never satisfied with itself and that's the beauty of it. Inhoff will grasp at anything to keep his oil stocks paying dividends even if it means some one's grandma dies of asphyxia. He's not a scientist and does not respect the scientific method if he even knows what it is. He's just a hack taking advantage of public ignorance about the scientific process for his own personal gain and lining the pockets of the fossil fuel industry. He's all about greed.

chatard Author Profile Page :

Oh, no!! When scientists e-mail each other about how to lie and destroy documents and fudge data, it SAYS SOMETHING ABOUT THE SKEPTICS, NOT THEM!!! Mr. Washington Post Editor, are you tripping?

pgould1 Author Profile Page :

Well give the sleuths at the Washington Post this much.

Unlike their failed attempts to report on the Van Jones and ACORN scandals, this time around Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh only beat them by five days with this new story.

The news gap is indeed closing. The brilliant journalist majors at the Post are to be commended.


fmcdermott1 Author Profile Page :

There are serious questions about the validity of the data assembled at the CRU. They need to release ALL of their data and methodology (which is what real scientists do). Their data from the Yamal River Basin alone is highly suspect and, considering the large amount of money that is in play here, these issues need to be investigated and resolved. If Mann et al in fact fabricated data, then people need to go to jail.

rrelph Author Profile Page :

Viewing these purported emails as saying anything at all about 'climate skeptics' is like using TV ads by one candidate to learn about another candidate.

The emails do, however, indicate that 'renowned climate scientists' (no bias here!) are quite concerned with maintaining the public illusion that there are no open questions regarding the causes of climate change or predictions about the future.

One might consider reading Mr. Michaels' book "Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media" for how the need for an appearance of agreement has outstripped the need for actual good science, good reporting, and good policy.

AlexJ1 Author Profile Page :

Considering how out-of-context some of the email quotes are, I'd say it's run-of-the-mill for the dedicated deniers. And I do mean deniers - many with established records as fossil industry shills. True skeptics don't jump from one discredited talking point to another, and then attempt to make the entire mainstream climatology community look bad. Have a gander at some of the links here to get an idea of how highly spun some of the email innuendo is:

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