Here we go again. Just like in 2009, on the eve of a major UN climate conference some hacker or group of hackers released a bunch of emails illegally obtained from a server belonging to the University of East Anglia’s Climatic research unit (CRU), with the hopes of derailing the UN talks, or at least creating uncertainty about climate science amongst the public. The incident in 2009 was termed climategate, and although it caused much uproar at the time —the media loves a controversy and played it up for all it was worth— the string of inquiries that came out of the climategate incident showed that the scientists involved had done nothing wrong.
The aims of these email hacks may be plainly transparent but, at least last time, they were successful. Not in overturning any climate science, but in raising doubts the public’s mind.
It is worth repeating same sentiment I had in 2009 after the original emails were hacked. If you are alleging that climatology is flawed then the proper response is more science not hacked emails. Emails, regardless of what they might say, do not have the capability to overturn decades of climate science done by thousands of individual scientists.
This point was made abundantly clear in the months following the email hack when a string of inquiries exonerated all the scientists involved:
- The independent Climate Change Email review headed by Sir Muir Russell cleared the scientists and dismissed the allegations they data had been manipulated, finding that the “rigour and honesty” of the scientists at the Climatic Research Unit were not in any doubt.
- The UK House of Commons Science and Technology committee inquiry found that Professor Phil Jones (head of CRU at the time) had “no case to answer“, that his reputation “remains intact“, and that the emails and claims raised in the controversy did not in any way challenge the scientific consensus that “global warming is happening and that it is induced by human activity“.
- The Scientific assessment panel, headed by the former chairman of the oil giant Shell-UK, Lord Oxburgh found that the work carried out by CRU had been “carried out with integrity” and the scientists at CRU were fund to be “objective and dispassionate in their view of the data and their results, and there was no hint of tailoring results to a particular agenda… their sole aim was to establish as robust a record of temperatures in recent centuries as possible.“
- An inquiry by Penn State university into the actions of Michael Mann (principal author of now famous hockey stick graph) cleared him of 3 out of 4 charges leveled against him. It didn’t rule on the 4th charge saying it would need to investigate further.
- A second inquiry by Penn State university into the actions of Michael Mann cleared him of the 4th charge stating that “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.”
- The US EPA examined every email and found that there was no merit the claims being made against climate science and scientists. Stating that those making the claims “routinely misunderstood the scientific issues“, reached “faulty scientific conclusions“, “resorted to hyperbole“, and “often cherry-pick language that creates the suggestion or appearance of impropriety, without looking deeper into the issues.“
- The National Science foundation also investigated and exonerated Michael Mann and upheld the conclusions of the investigations conducted by Penn State university.
- The Conservative government in the UK formally declared that “the information contained in the illegally-disclosed emails does not provide any evidence to discredit the scientific evidence of anthropogenic climate change”.
- And finally at the behest of the US Senate’s arch denier Senator Inhofe, the Department of Commerce’s Inspector General also investigated and “did not find any evidence that NOAA inappropriately manipulated data or failed to adhere to appropriate peer review procedures”.
The investigation done at the request of Senator Inhofe is the most interesting to me. Not for any scientific reason as I doubt the Inspector General at the Department of Commerce is the most qualified person to pass judgement on such matters, but because presumably Senator Inhofe picked the venue most likely to be sympathetic to his (obviously wrong) opinions of what the climategate emails revealed. And even they were unable to dig up any dirt on the scientists involved.
More importantly in the two years since the climategate emails were stolen and released to the public no single scientific institution has changed it’s stance on the issue. In fact no scientific body of national or international standing rejects the notion of human caused climate change.
You know how the old saying goes: “Fool me once shame on you, fool me nine times shame on me”.
So what about these new emails? Do they reveal anything new? The first thing to note is that these emails are not new. They are all from the same period of time as the original emails, and involve mostly the same scientists, so if you have been paying attention you might be very tempted to say no, they don’t.
And you would be right, as far as the scientific relevance of the emails. But I think they do reveal something very important about the way scientists communicate with each other. Take a look at this email written by Raymond Bradley:
I’m sure you agree–the Mann/Jones GRL paper was truly pathetic and should never have been published. I don’t want to be associated with that 2000 year “reconstruction”.
Bradley was one of the authors of the original hockey stick graph, along with Michael Mann. But he clearly thinks that a subsequent reconstruction (which largely agrees with his own) done by his former collaborator is not very good. He says so in very strong language, and when asked about it by the New York Times he stood by his earlier complaints and made it clear that he expressed his disagreement directly to Michael Mann.
This example, and many more contained within the emails, show a healthy skepticism within the scientific community. Results from colleagues are not automatically accepted, and vigorous discussions using very harsh language about the validity of new research papers is common amongst climatologists.
This is in sharp contrast to the way the climate community is portrayed by the so-called auditors. But is also points to the fact that even when dealing with respected members of the climate community scientists don’t hold back from using strong language.
So if they are willing to call the work of highly respected scientists and close colleagues pathetic, it should come as no surprise that when talking about the work of, shall we say less than respected people who take every opportunity to turn molehills into mountains, the language is at least equally strong and harsh.
Last time the media pumped up the supposed controversy without bothering to check if the controversy was legitimate or manufactured, and as the string of inquiries found that the scientists had done nothing wrong it became clear that they were made to look like fools. This time around the media is displaying, much like the scientists in the emails, a healthy dose of skepticism, realizing that these emails are nothing more than a distraction from what really matters.
UPDATE: Peter Hadfield, as usual, had done a great job debunking this latest nonsense: