Views and debates on climate change policy
Home | Panelists | Staff Blog | RSS

Post Carbon

Climate-gate post-mortem

By Juliet Eilperin

At this point, many people may be wishing the controversy over the hacked e-mails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit would disappear. But now that the actual news has subsided, the inevitable public relations analysis has surfaced.

Joe Lockhart, a founding partner of the Glover Park Group who served as press secretary under President Clinton, makes the argument in Politico that Republicans might be mistaken if they think taking advantage of the uproar will help them at the ballot box next year.

On the other side of the Atlantic, British freelance journalist Fred Pearce writes that it's been a PR disaster. One of Pearce's own e-mails, dating back to 1996, actually surfaced among the pirated files.

And following up on an earlier post I wrote on this, the current president of the American Physical Society, Cherry Murray, alerted the group's members that APS is trying to avoid "a rush to judgment" on the matter. They should not take the "unsolicited email" they received from five physicists calling for a reversal in APS' policy as an official Society message, she wrote, adding the organization is "continuing to investigate how the senders obtained APS member email addresses."

Fabulous. A new investigation.

The full text of Murray's letter follows.

Dear APS Member:

Recently, you may have received an unsolicited email from Hal Lewis, Bob Austin, Will Happer, Larry Gould and Roger Cohen regarding the APS and climate change. Please be assured that this was not an official APS message, nor was it sent with APS knowledge or approval. A number of members have complained to APS regarding this unsolicited e-mail. If the e-mail addresses used to send this message were obtained from our membership directory, this was contrary to the stated guidelines for members' use of the directory. We are continuing to investigate how the senders obtained APS member email addresses.

As many APS members are already aware, the Council of the Society has tasked the Panel on Public Affairs to examine the 2007 APS statement on climate change for issues of tone and clarity. Duncan Moore, the current chair of POPA, is in the process of convening a subcommittee to carry out the task. The subcommittee, which he is also chairing, will report its recommendations to POPA in early February, and shortly thereafter POPA will post the text for a three-week APS member comment period. We will alert the APS membership by email when the posting occurs. Duncan Moore's subcommittee will use the comments it receives to finalize the wording in time for the April Council meeting.

Some members of the APS have asked the Society to craft a statement regarding the issues surrounding the release of climate files stolen from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. The CRU maintains the repository for temperature measurements used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The APS leadership has concerns about both the improper release of private e-mails and any premature rush to judgment regarding scientific integrity at the CRU. Both the CRU and the IPCC are in the process of investigating the affair. Once the full range of information is made available, the APS Panel on Public Affairs will examine the case and recommend how APS should act.

We will continue to keep the APS membership informed about climate change issues through postings on the APS home page; articles in APS News; commentaries on the APS blog, Physics Frontline; and direct email alerts to the membership when necessary.

Best Regards,

Cherry Murray
APS President


Juliet Eilperin

 |  December 10, 2009; 12:05 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Copenhagen's counting game | Next: The Soros plan


Please report offensive comments below.

When reading the Internet, one rule saves a lot of wasted time:

IUOUI = Ignore Unsuppoorted Opinions of Unidentifiable Individuals,
as such opinions are at best worthless.

Very few blogs are even remotely plausible places for debating actual science. "Blog-science" might rank above "twitter-science", but not much :-)

Posted by: JohnMashey | December 11, 2009 3:14 PM
Report Offensive Comment

M. Shey uses that old legal saw: if you can't argue the facts, argue the law". In his post he attacks the personalities and motives of the opposing view point, but does not address the underlying factual premise: the CRU conclusions have not been adequately challenged by a broad range of disciplines. These disciplines must reach beyond the close-nit climatology community surrounding CRU to include top flight staticians, physicists and chemists, including field researchers expert in the realities of climate proxy data collection. There should then be public hearings where MM and MBH can engage in thorough dialogue, as painfull as it may be for them personnally. The public deserves what they have come to recognize as "due dilligence" arround data quality, statistical assumptions and algorithm success in recreating past climate. Focussing on how the emails came to the public is unimportant, and in fact we cannot rule out the possibility that they were leaked by an insider Most Americans,and most posters on this paper, the NYT and others, doubt AGW. We need clear and convincing proof. Stop the mis-direction and make yourselves worthy of the claim to be scientists.

Posted by: beantownbilly | December 11, 2009 12:45 PM
Report Offensive Comment

This whole silliness is a sequence in which the APS has behaved like a normal science organization following normal procedures, and had its name abused by the 6 organizers who have frequently gone around the rules when they didn't get what they wanted. Mostly, they played this up for the public.
After 7 months of intense effort, they got <0.5% of the APS membership.

But none of this makes any sense unless you understand the network behind the 6 organizers.

Happer is a Professor @ Princeton, but far more important, is the *Chairman* of the George C. Marshall Institute (GMI) (explained below).

Austin is a long-time colleague of Happer's @ Princeton.

Singer has been a close ally of GMI for decades: his SEPP might as well have a subsidiary.

Cohen is a retired ExxonMobil manager.

Gould is aProfessor @ University of Hartford who seems to have found a new career in climate anti-science and cheerleader for the Viscount Monckton.

Lewis is an Emeritus nuclear physicist about whom I am still puzzled.

*GMI: was founded in 1984 by 3 eminent and politically very conservative physicists (Jastrow, Seitz, Nierenberg) to help Reagan sell Star Wars, against the advice of most of the physics community. Seitz was heavily involved in helping cigarette companies.

It exists to help political views bypass science, and was located for decades on Washington's K-Street (lobby central). It was mostly funded by strongly-conservative family foundations whose wealth was sometimes built on oil, chemicals, or munitions, although it has gotten money from ExxonMobil as well.

It has fought environmental regulation of any sort for decades. But, consider the 2 GMI employees who led the work from 1991 to present.

Jeffrey Salmon got a PHD in World Politics in 1985, then was a senior speechwriter for Caspar Weinberger and Dick Cheney through 1991. From 1991-2001, he ran GMI, then left to take an appointed "sciencey" position in the DOE:

In 2008, he "burrowed in", as they say inside the Beltway:, so we get to pay his salary.

In 2002, his place was taken by William O'Keefe, a 25-year veteran of the American Petroleum Institute, i.e., the oil lobby, with whom GMI had long been working.

GMI has been closely allied with Inhofe:

"In February 2005 GMI co-sponsored a Congressional briefing at which Senator James Inhofe praised Michael Crichton's novel State of Fear and attacked the "hockey stick graph""

So, if people are happy to get their science from Cheney's speechwriter and an oil lobbyist, they might also get their medical advice from t*bacco companies, who also helped fund Seitz and Singer for the work they did.

Anyway, the APS has been rather abused by these folks.

Posted by: JohnMashey | December 11, 2009 11:03 AM
Report Offensive Comment

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company