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February 17 2012


It’s a bird; it’s a hockey stick; it’s a faked document!


Heartland response would be a useful PR tactic

The Climate Strategy that was emailed to the DeSmogBlog with a package of material from the Heartland Institute’s Jan. 17 Board of Directors meeting is serving as an excellent distraction from the legitimate issues raised in the other documents and reinforced by the excellent research paper by DeSmogBlog contributor John Mashey.

The DeSmogBlog has no evidence supporting Heartland's claim that the Strategic document is fake. A close review of the content shows that it is overwhelmingly accurate (“almost too accurate” for one analyst), and while critics have said that it is “too short” or is distinguished by “an overuse of commas,” even the skeptics at weatherguy Anthony Watts’s WUWT say that a technical analysis of the metadata on the documents in question does not offer sufficient information to come to a firm conclusion either way.

But in the tradition of the famous, and famously controversial “hockey stick graph,” the challenge to the single document has afforded the DeSmogBlog’s critics – and Heartland’s supporters – something comfortable to obsess about while they avoid answering questions raised by the other documents.

In the case of the hockey stick, people such as Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit have led a chorus of criticism for years, alleging that a supposed statistical flaw in Michael Mann’s excellent and prescient work should be sufficient justification to dismiss not only Mann’s original graph, but all of climate science. This, notwithstanding the fact that dozens of other climate reconstructions have validated Mann’s conclusions and replicated the hockey stick shape of his graph. Thus, the hockey stick has been a convenient weapon for those (like Joe Bast, President of the Heartland Institute) who would like to take people’s attention from the legitimate science of climate change.

Now, we have a case where Bast admits that some dope on his staff emailed Heartland's whole board package to a stranger. Yet rather than praising the opportunity that this provides for independent observers to judge the performance of a taxpayer-subsidized body (Heartland is a registered charity), as Bast did when someone stole the so-called ClimateGate emails from leading scientists such as Mike Mann, the Heartland boss has attacked the veracity of the Climate Strategy and used that to attempt to dismiss the legitimacy of the other material (Heartland Institute Responds to Stolen and Fake Documents).

The deniergang echo chamber has since jumped on that chorus, with sites like Marc Morano’s Climate Depot, Steve Milloy’s Junkscience, and Anthony Watts at WUWT all sputtering in outrage, even as Watts confirmed that, well, the information in the document pertaining to him was, but for a rounding error, almost too accurate.

The DeSmogBlog is committed to accuracy. Joe Bast says the document is a fake, a statement we take with a grain of salt given the Heartland Institute’s previous dissembling on the subject of climate change and its discredited position on teh safety of second hand smoke.  In the circumstances, if the Heartland Institute can offer any specific criticism of the Climate Strategy or any evidence that it was faked and not, actually, written on Joe Bast’s laptop, printed out and scanned, we would be pleased to consider that evidence.

In the meantime, how about everybody take a moment to look away from the shiny penny in the magician's left hand and concentrate instead on the 100+ pages of damning evidence falling out of his right sleeve.


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December 15 2011


Signs of Action On Climategate Hacker Investigation: DOJ and UK Police Probe Denier Bloggers

Fantastic news for a change - the Guardian reports that the UK police are finally making some concerted attempts to identify the hacker behind the criminal invasion of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit.

The Guardian reports:

On Wednesday, detectives from Norfolk Constabulary entered the home of Roger Tattersall, who writes a climate sceptic blog under the pseudonym TallBloke, and took away two laptops and a broadband router. A police spokeswoman confirmed on Thursday that Norfolk Constabulary had "executed a search warrant in West Yorkshire and seized computers". She added: "No one was arrested. Investigations into the [UEA] data breach and publication [online of emails] continues. This is one line of enquiry in a Norfolk constabulary investigation which started in 2009."

Tattersall posted on his own TallBloke's Talkshop blog that:

"I got the feeling something was on the go last night when WordPress [the internet host for his blog] forwarded a notice from the US Department of Justice."

What excellent news to hear that the Justice Department is getting involved with this investigation, it's about time. Perhaps this came in response to the remarks by Rep Ed Markey (D-MA) last month?

Either way, it is reassuring to know that the investigation into the criminal hacking of climate scientists' emails is, in fact, ongoing.  Last month, we reported about troubling indications that the UK police effort seemed inadequate given the tiny expense reports divulged after a Freedom of Information request by a UK journalist. 

It will be interesting to learn what the investigation uncovers, if anything, from this week's actions. Since TallBloke's blog was one of the first that the hacker "FOIA" commented on when revealing the stolen goods, there may well be something of interest to investigators.

It's also interesting that Tattersall's first move after welcoming the police into his flat was to log out of his email. He writes on his blog:

"I managed to log out of my email on the big lappy as they sat down, to the annoyance of the Computer expert.

(Funny statement coming from a guy who has trumpeted the criminal hacking of the email accounts of climate scientists?) 

Only time will tell what investigators might learn from reviewing Tattersall's computers. Has he been in direct contact with the hacker? If not, has he communicated with any middlemen who might have relayed information that could lead to the hacker's identity? Perhaps they'll find an unlocked copy of the 220,245 encrypted emails that "FOIA" has teased the existence of, but so far have not been published online?

DeSmogBlog's Richard Littlemore has previously written about TallBloke's seemingly cozy relationship with the hacker FOIA. In his announcement about the release of the Climategate 2 batch, TallBloke refers to "our old friend FOIA". But later in the same post, he suggests he doesn't know the hacker's identity:

Message to ‘FOIA

Thank you, whoever you are, freedom of information is a principle worth upholding.

Tattersall is not the only target of the investigation by the UK Metropolitan Police, Norfolk Constabulary, Computer Crime Division and the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division. There are other denier bloggers whom the investigation is focusing on as well.

More from the Guardian:

"Both Tattersall and a US-based climate sceptic blogger known as Jeff Id said they had received a "formal request" via the blogging platform WordPress from the US Department of Justice's criminal division, dated 9 December, to preserve "all stored communications, records, and other evidence in your possession" related to their own blogs as well as to Climate Audit, a climate sceptic blog run by a Canadian mining consultant called Steve McIntyre. All three blogs had received messages from "FOIA" last month pointing to the link hosting a second tranche of emails first taken from the UEA in 2009.

During an interview with the Guardian last week before the seizing of his computers, Tattersall said that he had been questioned by Norfolk police "some two months" after the initial breach in 2009, but had heard nothing since. A number of climate scientists and bloggers are known to have been questioned by the police."

Brad Johnson at ThinkProgress points out that "Jeff Id" is the online name of climate denier blogger Patrick Condon who runs "No Consensus" a.k.a. the Air Vent.

Peter Sinclair caught wind of the DOJ action first, see his post: Has Denier Karma finally Run over its Dogma?

If you're interested in following the real-time reaction to this news, check out this Twitter action on hash tag #climategate

The right-wing and climate-denier echo chambers seem to be freaking out that the police are actually doing their job to identify the criminal hacker. 

Chris Horner seems particularly verklempt over this, bizarrely expressing sympathy for the criminal hacker in his op-ed today, as Media Matters For America points out:

"It speaks to the twisted pathology of climate science deniers that they'll condone, even defend, this sort of behavior."

Of course, we've seen this behavior repeatedly in our five years covering climate denial on DeSmogBlog, but it's absolutely still shocking to see the lows that they'll go to, and Chris Horner provided another example today.


Image credit: Elnur/Shutterstock

October 20 2010


Climate Audit: Is being offensive really the best defence?

In a breathless update on the tawdry Wegmangate tale of plagiarism, mining promoter and amateur statisitican Stepehn McIntyre (proprietor of Climate Audit) has tried to distract from the case at hand by imagining an earlier instance of plagiarism, allegedly committed by Edward Wegman's victim, Raymond Bradley.

For those just catching up, the blogger Deep Climate and his research partner John Mashey have produced a document that shows just how extensively the once-respected statisitician Wegman cribbed from one of his apparent victims (Ray Bradley) in a report that Wegman produced for Congress. Mashey argues that Wegman's errors and plagiarism were more than merely unprofessional: he says that they constitute a barefaced and illegal effort to mislead Congress. George Mason University is currently investigating the plagiarsim charges.

McIntyre has chosen to run interference on that complaint not by actually defending Wegman (whose shoddy work seems increasingly indefensible) but by attacking Ray Bradley, one of the authors of the iconic "hockey stick graph" that Wegman had been hired to attack. McIntyre points out in his post that Bradley had earlier used a series of figures from a 1976 book by H.C. Fritts and, according to McIntyre, provided inadequate credit.

This, however, seems less like plagiarism and more like an effort to build good science on a solid foundation. <!--break-->The first time Bradley used the Fritts work, in 1985, he said (and, to his credit, McIntyre quotes), "…the greatest strides in dendroclimatology hae been made in the last 10-15 years, largely as a result of the work of H.C. Fritts and associates at the Laboratory of Tree Ring Research in the University of Arizona; much of this work has been documented at length in the excellent book by Fritts (1976)."

Bradley then reproduced the figures and paraphrased some of Fritts earlier work, giving Fritts credit as he went. When Bradley produced a second book covering similar material in 1999, he used many of the same figures and credited Fritts about half as often.

Two points: First, there is no evidence here that Bradley was trying to hide the source of his material or that he was trying to claim credit for work done by Fritts. McIntyre's complaint - to the extent that it has any validity at all - is that Bradley didn't credit Fritts often enough. Fair enough, but this still appears to be the case of a scientist trying to advance the work of an admired senior scientist.

Second, and instark contrast, in the now infamous Wegman report to Congress, the authors made no effort to cite Bradley at all. Wegman's team just grabbed the Bradley material (unsourced) and, in several egregious instances, changed it to arrive an contradictory conclusions.

While Bradley was honoring the work of a leader in the field, Wegman's henchpeople were stealing material and then twisting it in what now appears to be an obvious effort to undermine the credibility of the original author.

And now, rather than make any effort to confront, explain or even defend the Wegman paper, McIntyre responds by throwing another clod of mud at Bradley. Bad form fellas. Typical, but still bad form.


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