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November 26 2011

06:23

Did UK Police Quietly Sideline ‘Climategate’ Hacker Investigation?

The UK police force tasked with investigating the hacking of emails and documents from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (the debunked "Climategate") seems to have quietly de-prioritized its investigation earlier this year, according to documents released under the UK Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The Norfolk Constabulary police force’s responses to FOIA requests indicate that the amount spent on attempts to identify the hacker in the last year was just £5,649.09 - with all but £80.05 spent on invoices for work carried out previously by private companies, suggesting police work on the investigation has ground to a halt.

Earlier this week, the hackers (ironically calling themselves “FOIA”) illegally released a second set of hacked material consisting of 5,349 emails and 23 documents from UEA. The university and independent reviews suggest these are leftovers from the initial November 2009 theft – in the words of one climate scientist, “two-year old turkey.” 

While nine independent inquiries have cleared the scientists of any wrongdoing in the wake of the baseless ‘Climategate’ episode, the person (or persons) responsible for the hacking has gotten off scot-free to date. The FOIA documents seem to indicate that the police investigation was derailed and perhaps dropped earlier this year.

The grand total spent by Norfolk police on the UEA hacker investigation since the November 2009 theft is just £80,905.11.

To illustrate the vast gap between this figure and the expenditures reported publicly about other UK police investigations, see the infographic below.

 

Norfolk Constabulary invoked an exemption under the FOIA rules to refuse to confirm or deny whether other UK security services such as MI5 or MI6 have worked on the investigation. A statement from Norfolk police did confirm it is receiving "ongoing assistance" from the UK’s domestic terrorism agency, the National Domestic Extremism Coordination Unit, and that it was helped early in the investigation by London's Metropolitan Police. But the current status of their involvement – and how high a priority this investigation is for these agencies – is unclear.

While the Guardian reports that police say the latest leak could produce more leads and claim their investigation is ongoing, the FOIA documents show that the last time any money was actually spent on this case was in February 2011, when the £80.05 in "officer expenses" were filed. 

In response to the publication of the tiny £5,649.09 annual expenditure, a Norfolk police spokeswoman told the Guardian it is "relevant to note that the figures relate only to additional expenditure and do not include officer and staff time on the investigation, which is not routinely recorded."

It is entirely plausible that British security agencies have spent millions and are poised to make an arrest. But the budget certainly indicates that it hasn’t been a high priority for the Norfolk police force.

If there is a serious investigation underway, surely the officers would incur more expenses than the cost of a few boxes of paper and doughnuts?

One FOIA response from the Norfolk Constabulary in September 2011 was particularly troubling, and it doesn’t exactly square with the police force’s statement to the Guardian this week:

"There are currently no police officers or police staff, within Norfolk Constabulary, working full time on the investigation into the acquisition of data from the computers at the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit. The Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) and the Deputy/SIO retain responsibility and resources are allocated if and when necessary."

There is a vital public interest in confirming that the UEA emails were criminally hacked and in turn, identifying those responsible and their connections.

Among many reasons for continued police diligence, climate scientist Phil Jones said he contemplated suicide after the initial email theft in 2009. So it is important for investigators to get to the bottom of this crime in order to mete out at least some justice for this baseless attempt at character assassination of climate scientists.

The ongoing harassment of climate scientists – including death threats in several cases – cannot be ignored by law enforcement agencies. If police were able to confirm the identity of the UEA hackers and bring them to justice swiftly, it would hopefully have a chilling effect on the vicious smear campaign against climate scientists.

If in fact there is a robust police investigation ongoing, then the public needs to have confirmation about that. Investigators can provide some indications of their progress without compromising the investigation, and they owe at least that courtesy to the public.

As it stands now, these FOIA results showing very little expenditure on the investigation indicate that the Norfolk police effort is completely inadequate.

If the investigation was sidelined for much of 2011, as the FOIA documents indicate, then a formal review must commence immediately to determine the reasons for that lapse in judgment.

British officials should also seriously consider the suggestion from Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Edward Markey that the U.S. intelligence community should assist in the investigation.

Markey explained the significance of this investigation in a statement:

"This is clearly an attempt to sabotage the international climate talks for a second time, and there has not been enough attention paid to who is responsible for these illegal acts. If this happened surrounding nuclear arms talks, we would have the full force of the western world's intelligence community pursuing the perpetrators. And yet, with the stability of our climate hanging in the balance with these international climate treaty negotiations, these hackers and their supporters are still on the loose. It is time to bring them to justice."

Whatever the reason for the low UK police expenditures, it is clearly time for a more coordinated international investigation into this crime. 

View the FOIA documents: [1][2][3][4][5][6]

Image credit: Richard Peterson/Shutterstock

AttachmentSize UK-Govt-Expenses-on-ClimateGate.jpg193.36 KB

November 22 2011

23:38

Real 'Climategate' Scandal: UK Police Spent Measly $8,843 In Failed Attempt to Identify Criminal Hacker

Richard Black at the BBC points to the real 'Climategate' scandal that needs further investigation - why the UK police have done such an astonishly poor job investigating this criminal hacking, as evidenced by their tiny expenditures to date this year. From Climate Emails, Storm or Yawn?

I have it from a very good source that it absolutely was a hack, not a leak by a "concerned" UEA scientist, as has been claimed in some circles.
 
The Norfolk Police clearly see it as a criminal act too, a spokesman telling me that "the contents [of the new release] will be of interest to our investigation which is ongoing".
 
Groups like UCS are, however, beginning to ask where that investigation has got to.
 
I have been passed information stemming from an FoI request to Norfolk Police showing that over the past 12 months, they have spent precisely £5,649.09 [US$8,843.64] on the investigation.
 
All of that was disbursed back in February; and all but £80.05 went on "invoices for work in the last six months".
 
Of all the figures surrounding the current story, that is perhaps the one that most merits further interrogation.

Stay tuned for more information when Black writes further about his (real) investigation into the incompetent police effort to identify the thieves behind the East Anglia CRU hack.

Image credit: Patrick Hermans / Shutterstock

19:53

East Anglia SwiftHack Email Nontroversy Returns: What You Need To Know

The desparate attempt by climate change deniers to sully climate scientists returns today with the release of 5,000 emails stolen back in 2009 during the original "Climategate" hacking of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit email servers. 

Other than a great attempt at ruining another Thanksgiving holiday for American scientists, the bottom line conclusions on this story are identical to the 2009 release: 

1. There is nothing in these emails that in any way disproves the enormous body of peer-reviewed climate science. As even the Koch-funded BEST study recently showed, climate change is real, global temperatures are rising and human activities are responsible.

2. The 'new' emails appear to come from the same batch stolen from the University of East Anglia in 2009.  The denialosphere blogs are trying to frame it as ‘Climategate 2’. Cherry-picked quotes from the emails are once again being taken out of context by skeptic bloggers and irresponsible media like the Daily Mail in a last ditch attempt to smear climate science, and derail COP17 talks in Durban.

3. It's not a coincidence that this new release of hacked emails comes just days before the Durban COP17 climate conference, much as the first release from the hacked files came just before Copenhagen. When the world’s governments start to make progress toward climate action, the polluters panic and resort to desparate measures.

4. Remember that this was an illegal hacking of emails, and this second batch represents a continued breach of privacy of these scientists whose personal emails were released to the public.  The UK police investigation into the hacking is still ongoing, and this new episode should compel them to redouble their efforts to find out who these criminal hackers are, and bring them to justice.

 
As one climate scientist told Joe Romm at ClimateProgress:
“Two years ago, emails were released and the American people were lied to about their content.  Now, we are expected to be gullible enough to believe the original liars a second time.”

Gavin at RealClimate.org is calling this "Two year old turkey" and has this to say: 

A couple of differences in this go around are worth noting: the hacker was much more careful to cover their tracks in the zip file they produced – all the file dates are artificially set to Jan 1 2011 for instance, and they didn’t bother to hack into the RealClimate server this time either. Hopefully they have left some trails that the police can trace a little more successfully than they’ve been able to thus far from the previous release.
 
But the timing of this release is strange. Presumably it is related to the upcoming Durban talks, but it really doesn’t look like there is anything worth derailing there at all. Indeed, this might even increase interest! A second release would have been far more effective a few weeks after the first – before the inquiries and while people still had genuine questions. Now, it just seems a little forced, and perhaps a symptom of the hacker’s frustration that nothing much has come of it all and that the media and conversation has moved on.

Media Matters has an excellent post that every journalist covering this story should read: Memo to Media, Research First, Then Report on Climate Emails.

Brad Johnson at ThinkProgress has another must-read: Climategate 2.0: Have Journalists Learned Their Lesson?

Union of Concerned Scientists issued a fantastic response, including this great quote from Francesca Grifo, senior scientist and director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) Scientific Integrity Program:

These leftover emails should be met with a collective yawn. It’s time to condemn the real perpetrators in this story: the hackers who stole and released university property. The hackers and their allies are resorting to desperate measures to distract the public when our focus should be on how to respond to climate change.”

The University of East Anglia reaction, as seen on the Washington Post

 “These emails have the appearance of having been held back after the theft of data and emails in 2009 to be released at a time designed to cause maximum disruption to the imminent international climate talks. This appears to be a carefully-timed attempt to reignite controversy over the science behind climate change when that science has been vindicated by three separate independent inquiries and number of studies – including, most recently, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature group.”
 
“As in 2009, extracts from emails have been taken completely out of context,” the statement added. “Following the previous release of emails, scientists highlighted by the controversy have been vindicated by independent review, and claims that their science cannot or should not be trusted are entirely unsupported. They, the University and the wider research community have stood by the science throughout, and continue to do so.”

Skeptical Science has the rundown of the nine independent investigations which cleared the climate scientists:

  1. In February 2010, the Pennsylvania State University released an Inquiry Report that investigated any 'Climategate' emails involving Dr Michael Mann, a Professor of Penn State's Department of Meteorology. They found that "there exists no credible evidence that Dr. Mann had or has ever engaged in, or participated in, directly or indirectly, any actions with an intent to suppress or to falsify data". On "Mike's Nature trick", they concluded "The so-called “trick”1 was nothing more than a statistical method used to bring two or more different kinds of data sets together in a legitimate fashion by a technique that has been reviewed by a broad array of peers in the field."
  2. In March 2010, the UK government's House of Commons Science and Technology Committeepublished a report finding that the criticisms of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) were misplaced and that CRU’s "Professor Jones’s actions were in line with common practice in the climate science community".
  3. In April 2010, the University of East Anglia set up an international Scientific Assessment Panel, in consultation with the Royal Society and chaired by Professor Ron Oxburgh. The Report of the International Panel assessed the integrity of the research published by the CRU and found "no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit".
  4. In June 2010, the Pennsylvania State University published their Final Investigation Report, determining "there is no substance to the allegation against Dr. Michael E. Mann".
  5. In July 2010, the University of East Anglia published the Independent Climate Change Email Review report. They examined the emails to assess whether manipulation or suppression of data occurred and concluded that "The scientists’ rigor and honesty are not in doubt".
  6. In July 2010, the US Environmental Protection Agency investigated the emails and "found this was simply a candid discussion of scientists working through issues that arise in compiling and presenting large complex data sets."
  7. In September 2010, the UK Government responded to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report, chaired by Sir Muir Russell. On the issue of releasing data, they found "In the instance of the CRU, the scientists were not legally allowed to give out the data". On the issue of attempting to corrupt the peer-review process, they found "The evidence that we have seen does not suggest that Professor Jones was trying to subvert the peer review process. Academics should not be criticised for making informal comments on academic papers".
  8. In February 2011, the Department of Commerce Inspector General conducted an independent review of the emails and found "no evidence in the CRU emails that NOAA inappropriately manipulated data".
  9. In August 2011, the National Science Foundation concluded "Finding no research misconduct or other matter raised by the various regulations and laws discussed above, this case is closed".

Image credit: Cory Thoman / Shutterstock.

17:41

Climategate Hackers Slither Again in the Night

Steal More; Reveal Less

The Climagegate hackers appear to be at it again, spraying the internet with dozens of out-of-context quotes from a new batch of stolen emails - in a transparent attempt to disrupt the climate talks starting next week in Durban, South Africa.

The emails, from a source that denierblogger Tallbloke identifies as "Our old friend 'FOIA'," appeared with the same serendipitous timing - and in the same devious way - as last year's more-devastating tranche: accordig to the Guardian, they were "leaked" on a Russian server and then sprinkled into the denieresphere through the usual suspects: Wattsupwiththat, ClimateAudit, AirVent and the already mentioned Tallbloke. We can undoubtedly expect a fresh round of breathless "mainstream media" coverage from the Murdoch empire.

These emails are even more ridiculous than the batch released last year. First, the hackers didn't have the decency to release the emails in context - rather they just pulled the quotes they thought would be effective in casting doubt. Second, the thieves mined only 5,000 of more than 220,000 emails they say they have in hand. This strains credulity: if there was anything in the remaining emails that was even vaguely incriminating, you can bet they would have found and released it. Third, the "best stuff" that they actually released is worse than trivial:

Take this for example: "<0813> Fox/Environment Agency: If we lose the chance to make climate change a reality to people in the regions we will have missed a major trick in REGIS."

This is apparently a reference to the Regional Climate Change Impact and Response Studies being conducted out of East Anglia University in the U.K. And the apparent intent of the quote is to say that scientists believe that their work will be wasted if they don't find a way to get people's attention with the considerable evidence that they have discovered that climate change is, in fact, a devastating threat.

It's clear enough that governments like Canada's own are committed to ignoring the climate threat - at least as long as their oily buddies can continue to cash in by making matters worse. It's also clear that Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre are desperate to portray themselves as clever contrarians, and they will make whatever allies are necessary to keep up the facade.

But really, is this all there is? They have 220,000 stolen emails and they can't find a single out-of-context quote that would overtake the so-successfully misused "hide the decline" line from 2009?

Mike Mann, quoted in the Guardian story above, is right. This is pathetic.

July 22 2011

18:13

Could News Corp. Double Agent Neil Wallis Be Behind Climategate Hacking?

As if this week's Rupert Murdoch Phone-Hacking Scandal wasn't enough, it now appears that the University of East Anglia CRU email hacking scandal (a.k.a. Climategate) might actually be the work of the same News Corp henchman who helped to feed insider information from a Scotland Yard police investigation directly to Murdoch's News Corp.

Neil Wallis, one of the key figures in the hacking of the phones, voicemails and electronic communications of anywhere from 4,000 to over 12,000 people, was essentially a double agent working by day as Executive Director of News of the World, and simultaneously as a public relations consultant during the police investigation into the scandal. Wallis conveniently reported back to News Corp on Scotland Yard's investigation. 

While Murdoch's henchmen were getting the skinny on the police investigation, the police were convincing other news organizations not to cover the story.

After the November 2009 hacking of the computer server at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, the victimized climate science unit sought public relations guidance to help fight back against allegations of scientific misconduct.  

Guess who they hired - Neil Wallis and his PR firm Outside Organisation.

And what of Wallis' work in restoring the reputation of climate scientists? Well, the myth that the emails disprove climate change is still circulating. Fox News and other Murdoch-owned news channels were among the earliest and most vocal mouthpieces working to establish the myth, and continue to promote it to this day.

Neil Wallis' role in the original CRU hacking is still unproven, but if his involvement in the NOTW phone hacking scandal is any indication, there is reason to question his interest in Climategate. 

News Corp's allies at Fox and Friends are telling us that the scandal is overblown that we should move on, but let's hope Fox News doesn't have the last say in this. Joe Romm is calling for an independent investigation into the scandal - one that does not involve the possibly compromised Scotland Yard. Perhaps the first step should be to see whether any climate scientists' phones were hacked?

Head over to ClimateProgress to read Joe Romm's coverage and to Daily Kos for Keith Olbermann's thoughts, and check back for more on this 'metastasizing' story.

Here is Romm on Keith Olbermann's show discussing the Neil Wallis scandal:

See video

July 07 2010

22:55

Climategate Is Dead! Or Long Live Climategate?

An exhaustive six-month independent review into the Climategate emails has concluded that the “rigor and honesty” of the climate scientists caught up in the non-scandal are “not in doubt.” [PDF]

The investigation, led by Sir Muir Russell, found no grand conspiracy among scientists brainwashed by the U.N. IPCC and Al Gore to dominate the planet by dreaming up man-made global warming, as the right wing media and blogosphere insisted in the wake of the Climategate nontroversy that followed the theft of emails and documents from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) late last year.

The report confirms again that climate scientists’ findings remain sound. Some of its key findings:

“On the specific allegations made against the behaviour of CRU scientists, we find that their rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt.

In addition, we do not find that their behaviour has prejudiced the balance of advice given to policy makers. In particular, we did not find any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments. ” (pg. 11)

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While this 160-page independent report should settle once and for all any lingering suspicion about the actions of the handful of scientists most frequently cited in the emails, it is unlikely to appease the conspiracy theorists who fear the U.N. is going to steal their liberties and zombify their babies under a New World Order.

As with birthers and truthers and others who cling to extreme conspiracy theories in the face of overwhelming evidence, once people are lured by the fear-induced frame suggesting that dark forces are at work to control them, they apparently can’t tell reality from fiction. Even when handed a giant stack of scientific studies documenting what is known about climate change, some still deny the blatantly obvious conclusion that the world is warming, humans are driving that disruption, and we had better get cracking to confront this challenge.

The Russell report did confirm earlier criticisms that the handful of scientists targeted by the Climategate attacks failed to display "the proper degree of openness" when dealing with public requests for information.

Fair enough, that criticism has been previously acknowledged as valid, and efforts are already underway to ensure increased transparency at CRU and other scientific institutions.  The call for greater transparency and openness among scientists and their institutions is necessary and welcomed, but certainly they aren’t the only ones who deserve that reminder. 

What institution on the planet would pass muster under such intense scrutiny?  Certainly not the U.S. government agencies, which often deny or impede FOIA requests, or global corporations like BP, Massey Energy and Koch Industries, which seem to revel in hiding information from the public all the time.  More transparency is needed everywhere, not just among scientists in lab coats.  But they get the message loud and clear.

Professor Phil Jones, who stepped down as CRU’s director during the investigation, will finally get back to work, having accepted a new title of Director of Research.  Climate scientists at institutions around the world can continue to expand upon our understanding of global warming, with greater openness and interaction with the public than ever before. 

The overwhelming body of evidence and data underpinning our understanding of climate science remains intact, confirmed, and freshly exonerated yet again.

The only real question left unanswered is who was behind the actual crime - the theft of the emails, as Joe Romm writes at ClimateProgress:

"I would call this a CSI-type review, because of its incredible forensic thoroughness, except that it didn’t look at the actual crime — the hacked emails — only the charges against climate scientists.  The investigation found there was no fire, only smoke.  Yes, the report found “that there has been a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness, both on the part of the CRU scientists and on the part of the UEA” — and they made many useful suggestions to improve that important failing.

But they found no evidence of any wrongdoing that undermines climate science.  And that is what this is all about — the science — not the scientists, no matter how much the anti-science crowd tries to change the subject."

But will this thorough debunking of the main allegations made by the Climategate conspiracy bloggers and their fans at FOX News suffice to end the attacks on climate scientists? Will it deflate Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's witch hunt of climate scientist Michael Mann?  Will it be the “final nail in the coffin” of climate denial? 

Not a chance.  Climate deniers like Cuccinelli have no respect for science.  They are only interested in ensuring further political dithering while the planet burns.  Expect them to label it another whitewash, as usual, and continue their antics to distract the world from taking much-needed action. 

But the U.S. Congress and international negotiators must now accept that the science of climate change is completely sound, and use it to craft policies to protect future generations from the ravages of climate change.  They no longer have any semblance of an excuse to delay. The world's engineers, physicists and entrepreneurs can work together to find solutions to global energy challenges and build resilience to cope with the damage already done to climate systems. But only with international cooperation can real progress be made to safeguard future generations.


Read the entire final report of the Independent Climate Change E-mails Review [PDF attached].

AttachmentSize FINAL REPORT.pdf1.4 MB

July 01 2010

19:47

Penn State Completely Exonerates Climate Scientist Michael Mann On Bogus Climategate Accusations

Pennsylvania State University today issued its final report thoroughly exonerating climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann of any wrongdoing in the wake of the “Climategate” myth that emerged late last year when thousands of emails and documents were stolen from a computer server at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in the UK.

In the days following the posting of the stolen material onto the Internet, right-wing bloggers and media outlets loudly issued allegations of misconduct among climate scientists mentioned in the giant trove of emails.  Conspiracy theorists on the right cherry-picked flagrantly out-of-context portions of the email collection in order to gin up a grand tale suggesting that man-made climate change is a fraud concocted by all of the world’s leading climate scientists, the much-despised United Nations IPCC, and, of course, Al Gore. 

Despite their success in elevating this nontroversy to the national level via Fox News and other right wing media, every single independent investigation of the climate scientists involved has since cleared them of any misconduct and verified the science underpinning the IPCC’s consensus position that manmade climate change is real.
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In February, Penn State officials concluded the first round of inquiry into Professor Mann’s conduct, finding no evidence to support the accusations against him. 

That did not stop the right-wing attacks on Professor Mann or Penn State, with some notorious climate skeptics attempting to spin the exoneration as a whitewash.  (True to form, skeptics repeated the ridiculous 'whitewash' allegations again today upon hearing of the final report clearing Mann.)

In order to thoroughly extinguish any lingering doubts about the panel’s findings, school administrators decided to convene a separate Investigatory Committee of Dr. Mann’s faculty peers and distinguished scientists to continue to investigate the allegation that Dr. Mann "engaged in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting or reporting research or other scholarly activities."

Today, that committee issued its final report clearing Mann of any wrongdoing on the final issue, and found “no substance to the allegation.”

The committee’s report concludes: 

“The Investigatory Committee, after careful review of all available evidence, determined that there is no substance to the allegation against Dr. Michael E. Mann, Professor, Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University.

More specifically, the Investigatory Committee determined that Dr. Michael E. Mann did not engage in, nor did he participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research, or other scholarly activities.


The decision of the Investigatory Committee was unanimous.”

Dr. Mann welcomed the news of the final report:

"I'm pleased that the last phase of Penn State's investigation has now been concluded, and that it has cleared me of any wrongdoing. These latest findings should finally put to rest the baseless allegations against me and my research."

Additional excerpts from the committee’s report:

“A particularly telling indicator of a scientist’s standing within the research community is the recognition that is bestowed by other scientists. Judged by that indicator, Dr. Mann’s work, from the beginning of his career, has been recognized as outstanding.”

“All of these awards and recognitions, as well as others not specifically cited here, serve as evidence that his scientific work, especially the conduct of his research, has from the beginning of his career been judged to be outstanding by a broad spectrum of scientists. Had Dr. Mann’s conduct of his research been outside the range of accepted practices, it would have been impossible for him to receive so many awards and recognitions, which typically involve intense scrutiny from scientists who may or may not agree with his scientific conclusions.”
(pg. 18)
...
“To date, Dr. Mann is the lead author of 39 scientific publications and he is listed as co-author on an additional 55 publications. The majority of these publications appeared in the most highly respected scientific journals, i.e., journals that have the most rigorous editorial and peer reviews in the field. In practical terms, this means that literally dozens of the most highly qualified scientists in the world scrutinized and examined every detail of the scientific work done by Dr. Mann and his colleagues and judged it to meet the high standards necessary for publication.” (pg. 18)

June 29 2010

17:56

Lies Concocted By Climate Deniers Likely To Stick Around Despite Corrections

It takes less than a minute to tell a lie that can spread around the world, yet it can take days, months, or years to correct it.  Sometimes the truth never catches up to the lie.

As Newsweek’s Sharon Begley wrote this past weekend, nowhere is this challenge demonstrated more clearly than in the wake of the ‘Climategate’ stolen emails controversy and the recent retraction by the Sunday Times of London surrounding its bogus ‘Amazongate’ reporting. 

Begley details how, despite multiple investigations concluding that climate science remains on solid ground and exonerating the main climate scientists targeted in the University of East Anglia attacks, the “highly orchestrated, manufactured scandal” still manages to fool a large portion of the public into thinking that climate change warnings are overblown.

Begley writes:
A lie can get halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its boots on, as Mark Twain said (or “before the truth gets a chance to put its pants on,” in Winston Churchill’s version), and nowhere has that been more true than in “climategate.” In that highly orchestrated, manufactured scandal, e-mails hacked from computers at the University of East Anglia’s climate-research group  were spread around the Web by activists who deny that human activity is altering the world’s climate in a dangerous way, and spun so as to suggest that the scientists had been lying, cheating, and generally cooking the books.

    But not only did British investigators clear the East Anglia scientist at the center of it all, Phil Jones, of scientific impropriety and dishonesty in April, an investigation at Penn State cleared PSU climatologist Michael Mann of “falsifying or suppressing data, intending to delete or conceal e-mails and information, and misusing privileged or confidential information” in February.

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Climate deniers were quick to pick up the Climategate story when it first emerged, and their efforts to spread lies about climate scientists and the integrity of climate science as a whole – aided and abetted by right wing bloggers and Fox News – have played an integral role in driving public opinion in the wrong direction on the critical subject of climate change. 

The Sunday Times of London, which back in January helped to spread another denier myth known as “Amazongate,” recently ran a lengthy retraction, disappeared the article and apologized to Dr. Simon Lewis, the scientist whose work and quotes the paper mangled.

Yet the Times’ retraction begins by repeating the lie:

"The article "UN climate panel shamed by bogus rainforest claim" (News, Jan 31) stated that the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report had included an “unsubstantiated claim” that up to 40% of the Amazon rainforest could be sensitive to future changes in rainfall.

That could further confuse the public, which has been proven to be susceptible to such instances of mixed-messaging.

Joseph Romm from ClimateProgress.org refers to several examples of this, noting:

“One of the strongest, most-repeated findings in the psychology of belief is that once people have been told X, especially if X is shocking, if they are later told, “No, we were wrong about X,” most people still believe X.”

While it is always important to set the record straight – even that effort carries significant risks. Sometimes clarifying the truth “can paradoxically contribute to the resiliency of popular myths,” as the Washington Post pointed out several years ago.  Efforts to debunk false accounts can counter-intuitively help perpetuate the myth rather than clarify the facts.  Numerous psychological studies have shown how people struggle to separate lies from facts.  When presented with evidence refuting persistent myths, people often misremember the false statements presented to demonstrate the myth as true. 

In the case of myths perpetuated by climate deniers, Media Matters for America notes: “that's what right-wing media outlets and figure are counting on -- setting public opinion against science before the truth gets in the way.”

This pattern is so effective that ethically-challenged public relations professionals and corporations have institutionalized the practice.

Take for example BP’s stubborn insistence that its disastrous gusher in the Gulf of Mexico was initially only leaking 1,000 barrels a day – or that there are no large plumes of oil beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

The company must have known that these absurd claims were false – and particularly insulting to the intelligence of Gulf Coast residents who knew better – yet BP clings to these lines any way.  Why?

Because if they stick to it long enough, the lie will have spread around so widely that the public will accept it as fact, even in the case of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  That could help the company save some face, and perhaps avoid some of the mounting legal actions against it.

The Sunday Times’ retraction is an important example of the key take-away lesson for media outlets.  Had the Times’ editors bothered to verify the story before running it, we may never have seen this level of confusion in the public about threats to the Amazon from climate change.  Ditto for the entire Climategate saga – had reporters read the emails themselves and investigated the context of statements cherry-picked by deniers to fuel doubt, Climategate would have fizzled out quickly under scrutiny.  But that’s not how it happened, and we will continue to face the consequences of the mythical tale spun by deniers for the foreseeable future.

Lies are terribly difficult to correct – a stark reminder to all involved in covering the events of our time that getting the story correct is always better than being the first to spread a rumor or lie that might never be fully debunked.  Get it right the first time, and communicate honestly with your audience.  Don’t we all owe each other at least that much?

March 16 2010

12:11

More distractions on the climate front

Category: climate Posted on: February 2, 2010 9:15 AM, by James Hrynyshyn Never mind that the first decade of the 21st century was the warmest on record. Or that 2009 tied for the second-warmest year. Neither of those stories are consuming much airtime and web- and print-space. No, the biggest stories on the climate beat involve allegations [...]

March 02 2010

02:40

'Climategate' professor admits to withholding information

The professor at the centre of the 'climategate' row, has admitted sending 'some pretty awful' emails refusing to send information on to other scientists.
02:29

On the trail of the lonesome pine

The imminent risk of catastrophic climate change was clear even before MPs began looking into the charges against the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit.

February 18 2010

21:12

Selective Journalism

The echo chamber is alive and well and currently bouncing Phil Jones' bastardized quote all over the global media. Recap - Phil Jones speaks to the BBC about climate change. The Daily Mail selects part of his response, stripping it of its context and conclusion and using that selection as proof that even Prof. Jones is backtracking on the causes of climate change.

Here is the ACTUAL exchange:

BBC: Do you agree that from 1995 to the present, there has been no statstically-significant global warming"

Prof Jones: Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995-2009. This trend (0.12 per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods and much less likely for shorter periods.

The difference between Phil Jones' actual answer, and the answer that is being trumpeted by the media is dramatically different. They tell an opposing story. One answer supports a trend and the other negates it. One is a correct quote and the other is a partial answer manipulated to support a false conclusion.

This is an outrage; It has absolved each and every journalist who chose to run this mis-quote of any responsibility of factual, fair and un-biased reporting. It reaches into the realm of lying. Fine if Prof. Jones actually did say what the media is reporting but the fact of the matter is that he didn't. A five year old knows that anything taken out of context can be contrived to support a point and contrive this point they did.

I'm not posting this to argue about the science; I'm here to point the finger at journalists and ask them at what point did they decide to check their integrity and conscience at the door.

 

 

February 07 2010

08:45

'Climategate' Professor Phil Jones 'considered suicide over email scandal'

Professor Phil Jones, the scientist at the centre of the "Climategate" leaked email scandal, has told how he considered suicide over the affair.
08:45

'Climategate' Professor Phil Jones 'considered suicide over email scandal'

Professor Phil Jones, the scientist at the centre of the "Climategate" leaked email scandal, has told how he considered suicide over the affair.

February 04 2010

16:24

Douglass and Christy: Bad science; disingenuous commentary

David Douglass and John Christy (inset) are lousy scientists who flee from structured, peer-reviewed debate and then generously misrepresent the facts in opinion pieces published by ideologically driven websites; at least, that’s the inevitable conclusion from an open letter (attached) from Lawrence Livermore National Lab scientist Ben Santer.

Santer is more measured in his language and criticism. He doesn't call Douglass et al "lousy scientists," but he points out with great care that their science is lousy. In particular, a paper that they had written in the International Journal of Climatology with B.D. Pearson and S. Fred Singer was flawed by a statistical error so egregious that it should never have seen the light of day.

After a writing team led by Santer ripped the article apart – carefully, methodically – Douglass and Christy howled about imagined censorship and manipulation in scientific publishing, but made no actual effort to respond in the journal in question, preferring to take their complaints to websites where no one would double-check their facts.

Now, they have used the theft of the East Anglia emails to revive their complaints, wondering aloud on the right-wingy website American Thinker about whether there is A Climatology Conspiracy?

<!--break-->The argument is pathetic. Subjected to criticism for poor quality work, Douglass, et al, fail to respond to the criticism and then claim a conspiracy to keep them silent. And the consistently unreliable Dr. S. Fred Singer, is now nowhere to be seen, regardless that he was only too happy to earn a publishing credit by lending his name to the original article, and who publicized it in a U.S. National Press Club conference announcing, “Nature rules the climate: Human-produced greenhouse gases are not responsible for global warming.”

 

This is yet one more example of how the denierguys have used, and will continue to use, the emails stolen from the Climatic Research Unit at the East Anglia University in Norwich, UK. They will scramble out of their holes, take a couple of cheap shots, declare climate science mortally wounded and then, just at the point they might otherwise have adduced evidence, they will disappear. Would that those intervals were longer.   

AttachmentSize SanterOpenLetter3_v5.pdf545.94 KB

January 24 2010

20:24

Nature takes on stolen emails

There's a great editorial in the most recent edition of the scientific journal Nature Geo Science that takes on the illegal hacking of emails at the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit.

The editorial is behind a firewall, so here's a few of the main points for those who don't have a subscription:

Amidst the calls for more caution in communication, it must be remembered that e-mails are an essential scientific tool when research groups span continents and schedules are tight. Yes, there is a limit to what should be put in writing. But in messages that are not meant for the public eye, there must be room for an open-minded and opinionated discussion, for example, of the quality of papers published by other authors. And when writing to someone who is familiar with the context, there is generally no need to choose every word quite so carefully.

And this:

"The alternative — making every private e-mail between scientists unambiguous and fit for public consumption — would seriously hinder the progress of science."

 

<!--break-->

December 03 2009

13:30

Climategate: Phil Jones accused of making error of judgment by colleague

Phil Jones, the professor at the centre of a row over climate change data, has been accused of making an error of judgment by his US colleague.
02:08

Ben Santer Savages the CRU Email Thieves

Ben Santer, a climate researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, has written a long, but very worthy lette, blasting the thieves who hacked into the East Anglia Univesity's Climatic Research Unit and defending its erstwhile director, Dr. Phil Jones.

Santer, who has made a global reputation by "mining" historical climate data to advance scientific understanding, says that in the wake of the email thefts, a different kind of mining is currently underway - a form that isn't interested in advancing science in the least.

"This form of mining seeks to find dirt - to skew true meaning, to distort, to misrepresent, to take out of context. It seeks to destroy the reputations of exceptional scientists - scientists like Professor Phil Jones."

The full letter is reproduced below:

<!--break--> Dear colleagues and friends,

I am sure that by now, all of you are aware of the hacking incident which recently took place at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU). This was a criminal act. Over 3,000 emails and documents were stolen. The identity of the hacker or hackers is still unknown.

The emails represented private correspondence between CRU scientists and scientists at climate research centers around the world. Dozens of the stolen emails are from over a decade of my own personal correspondence with Professor Phil Jones, the Director of CRU.

I obtained my Ph.D. at the Climatic Research Unit. I went to CRU in 1983 because it was - and remains - one of the world's premier institutions for studying the nature and causes of climate change. During the course of my Ph.D., I was privileged to work together with exceptional scientists - with people like Tom Wigley, Phil Jones, Keith Briffa, and Sarah Raper.

After completing my Ph.D. at CRU in 1987, I devoted much of my scientific career to what is now called "climate fingerprinting", which seeks to understand the causes of recent climate change. At its core, fingerprinting is a form of what people now call "data mining" - an attempt to extract information and meaning from very large, complex climate datasets. The emails stolen from the Climatic Research Unit are now being subjected to a very different form of "data mining". This mining is taking place in the
blogosphere, in the editorial pages of various newspapers, and in radio and television programs. This form of mining has little to do with extracting meaning from personal email correspondence on complex scientific issues. This form of mining seeks to find dirt - to skew true meaning, to distort, to misrepresent, to take out of context. It seeks to destroy the reputations of exceptional scientists - scientists like Professor Phil Jones.

I have known Phil for over 25 years. He is the antithesis of the secretive, "data destroying" character being portrayed to the outside world by the miners of dirt and disinformation. Phil Jones and Tom Wigley (the second Director of the Climatic Research Unit) devoted significant portions of their scientific careers to the construction of the land component of the so-called "HadCRUT" dataset of land and ocean surface temperatures. The U.K. Meteorological Office Hadley Centre (MOHC) took the lead in developing the ocean surface temperature component of HadCRUT.

The CRU and Hadley Centre efforts to construct the HadCRUT dataset have been open and transparent, and are documented in dozens of peer-reviewed scientific papers. This work has been tremendously influential. In my personal opinion, it is some of the most important scientific research ever published. It has provided hard scientific evidence for the warming of our planet over the past 150 years.

Phil, Tom, and their CRU and MOHC colleagues conducted this research in a very open and transparent manner. Like good scientists, they examined the sensitivity of their results to many different subjective choices made during the construction of the HadCRUT dataset. These choices relate to such issues as how to account for changes over time in the type of thermometer used to make temperature measurements, the thermometer location, and the immediate physical surroundings of the thermometer. They found that, no
matter what choices they made in dataset construction, their bottom-line finding - that the surface of our planet is warming - was rock solid. This finding was supported by many other independent lines of evidence, such as the retreat of snow and sea-ice cover, the widespread melting and retreat of glaciers, the rise in sea-level, and the increase in the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. All of these independent observations are physically consistent with a warming planet.

Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof. The claim that our Earth had warmed markedly during the 20th century was extraordinary, and was subjected to extraordinary scrutiny. Groups at the National Climatic Data Center in North Carolina (NCDC) and at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York (GISS) independently attempted to reproduce the results of the Climatic Research Unit and the U.K. Meteorological Office Hadley Centre. While the NCDC and GISS groups largely relied on the same primary temperature measurements that had been used in the development of the HadCRUT dataset, they made very different choices in the treatment of the raw measurements. Although there were differences in the details of the
three groups' results, the NCDC and GISS analyses broadly confirmed the "warming Earth" findings of the CRU and MOHC scientists.

Other extraordinary claims - such as a claim by scientists at the University of Alabama that Earth's lower atmosphere cooled since 1979, and that such cooling contradicts "warming Earth" findings - have not withstood rigorous scientific examination.

In summary, Phil Jones and his colleagues have done a tremendous service to the scientific community - and to the planet - by making surface temperature datasets publicly available for scientific research. These datasets have facilitated climate research around the world, and have led to the publication of literally hundreds of important scientific papers.

Phil Jones is one of the gentlemen of our field. He has given decades of his life not only to cutting-edge scientific research on the nature and causes of climate change, but also to a variety of difficult and time-consuming community service activities - such as his dedicated (and repeated) service as a Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Since the theft of the CRU emails and their public dissemination, Phil has been subjected to the vilest personal attacks. These attacks are without justification. They are deeply disturbing. They should be of concern to all of you. We are now faced with powerful "forces of unreason" - forces that (at least to date) have been unsuccessful in challenging scientific findings of a warming Earth, and a "discernible human influence" on global climate. These forces of unreason are now shifting the focus of their attention to
the scientists themselves. They seek to discredit, to skew the truth, to misrepresent. They seek to destroy scientific careers rather than to improve our understanding of the nature and causes of climate change.

Yesterday, Phil temporarily stepped down as Director of the Climatic Research Unit. Yesterday was a very sad day for climate science. When the forces of unreason win, and force exceptional scientists like Professor Phil Jones to leave their positions, we all lose. Climate science loses. Our community loses. The world loses.

Now, more than at any other time in human history, we need sound scientific information on the nature and causes of climate change. Phil Jones and his colleagues at CRU have helped to provide such information.
I hope that all of you will join me in thanking Phil for everything he has done - and will do in the future - for our scientific community. He and his CRU colleagues deserve great credit.

With best regards,

Ben Santer

December 01 2009

20:01

Professor at centre of climate change email row stands down temporarily

Professor Phil Jones, the director of a research unit at the centre of a row over climate change data, has said he will stand down from the post while an independent review takes place.

November 26 2009

21:15

"Climategate" - giving deniers the power to say whatever they want

There's nothing like a good "second-day" story to absolve the average journalist (very average in this case) from any responsibility to support his contentions with, say, a smattering of evidence.

Admittedly, second-day stories are tough in a paper like the Toronto Sun where space is at a premium. You want to update the reader with the news, but you still have to provide enough of the original story to provide context. Unless you're Lorrie Goldstein, in which case you can short-cut your way to today's opinion without making any effort to support it with actual factual references.

In his column today on the "Climategate" story of emails stolen from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, Goldstein offers this as a synopsis of what the purloined emails prove:

"Apparently they (the scientists involved) 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."

Did they just? <!--break-->Well, you'll have to take Goldstein's word for it because he didn't offer a single quote to back up his sweeping condemnation. He didn't even mention whether he had read any of the emails himself; he was too busy getting hysterical about the horrifying collaboration of Big Government, Big Business and Big Green. Truly scary.

For people who are interested in the detail of what appeared in those emails and for a second opinion about what the authors might have meant in the writing, read the next post. For a mindless recitation of ideological cant, based on a cursory reading of yesterday's news, you can always fall back on the Sun.

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