The Real “Climate-Gate”

November 23, 2011

The Conversation:

Emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit have once again been hacked and released on the internet. The timing is similar to the “climategate” scandal of 2009, with emails published just before an important UN climate conference. Does this mean the science is in doubt? Quite the opposite, says Stephan Lewandowsky.

An ambulance pulls up behind you. You know it’s an ambulance because you can read AMBULANCE in your rear view mirror. But you can also read it when you look at the vehicle directly; because the human visual system has the ability to quickly correct complete inversions or left-right reversals of letters. In fact, a complete inversion is easier to read than letters that are rotated only partially.

This human ability to process complete inversions more quickly than just partial distortions, alas, lends itself to exploitation by ruthless propagandists who seek to create a chimerical world in which up is down, left is right, and good is smeared as evil.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the netherworld of attacks on climate scientists.

Remember “climategate”? The illegal hack of personal emails released just before the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 that some columnists pronounced to be the (approximately 132nd) “final nail in the coffin” of global warming?

Remember the “errors” in the IPCC’s 2007 report? “Amazongate”,“Himalayagate”, and so on?

What has happened to “climategate”?

What’s happened is this.

First, the UK Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee exonerated the scientist at the centre of the tempestProfessor Phil Jones, finding he has “no case to answer” and that his reputation “remains intact.”

Then Lord Oxburgh (former chairman of Shell-UK) and his panel likewise exonerated the researchers, finding their “work has been carried out with integrity, and that allegations of deliberate misrepresentation” are “not valid.”

Another enquiry, chaired by Sir Muir Russell, found the scientists’ “rigour and honesty” to be beyond doubt.

Two enquiries by his university also cleared Professor Michael Mann – who presented the first of now innumerable “hockey stick” graphs – of all allegations.

Ultimately the (conservative) UK Government concluded “the information contained in the illegally-disclosed emails does not provide any evidence to discredit … anthropogenic climate change.”

Not one, not two, but by now nine vindications.

 

This comes as no surprise to anyone with even a passing familiarity with the distinction between private chat and public actions.

And what has happened to the IPCC “Whatevergates”?

What’s happened is this.

First, the Sunday Times apologised and retracted its “Amazongate” story. There is no “Amazongate”; there is only the Amazon rainforest threatened by climate change.

Then the Dutch government accepted responsibility for erroneously informing the IPCC that 55% of the Netherlands are below sea level. In fact only 26% are at risk of flooding because they are below sea level, whereas the other 29% are, err, at risk of flooding from rivers.

And about a year after “climategate” broke, the BBC finally apologised to the University of East Anglia for its misleading coverage of the “climategate” pseudo-scandal.

All that’s left of the “Whatevergates”, therefore, is red-faced apologies and one indubitable IPCC error: the incorrect projection of the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers to 2035, as opposed to the more likely 2350. This error was drawn to the public’s attention by, wait for it, an IPCC author.

Can we now forget about “gate” in connection with “climate”?

No.

Because there are too many real climategates that must not escape attention.

First, there was another batch of private emails posted by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a “think” tank notorious even by American standards. Those emails — yes, a second hack — revealed the real climategate by being truthful, with one scientist stating: “Those who deny the biophysical facts of the world would deny … gravity” and “we’re not in a gentlepersons’ debate, we’re in a street fight against … merciless enemies. Colleagues … are getting threatened with prosecution by … [US Senator James M.] Inhofe.”

That is the second real climategate: the McCarthyite attempts by Senator Inhofe to criminalise climate scientists — attempts to criminalise those who, 35 years ago, predicted the temperature rise by century’s end to within 1/10th of a degree.

This is no isolated incident: Virginia’s Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, has launched several frivolous lawsuits — despite losing an earlier one — against the University of Virginia in what the Washington Post called a “war on the freedom of academic inquiry”“. And Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman evoked Pastor Niemoeller’s cry against the erosion of humanity under the Nazis: “First, they came for the climate scientists…”.

The real climategate involves active censorship within NASA by Bush appointees, which the agency’s Inspector General later found to have “reduced, marginalized, or mischaracterized climate change science”.

The real climategate involves Bush White House staff replacing assessments of the National Academy of Sciences with a discredited paper by two individuals with no expertise in climatology. This paper, funded by the American Petroleum Institute, was so flawed its appearance in a peer-reviewed journal led to the resignation in protest by three editors and the publisher’s unprecedentedacknowledgement of mishandling.

Those are not merely historical episodes because the real climategate encompasses the ongoing complicity of some media organs.

In Canada, the real media climategate involves the ongoing list of defamatory articles by the “National Post.” The tabloid is finally being sued by Professor Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria.

In Australia, the real media climategate involves the national daily newspaper, whose misrepresentations of science are legendary and, sadly ongoing.

Those real climategates are the tip of an iceberg of venality enveloping anti-science interests and their enablers.

And just a few hours ago, another illegal release of personal emails among scientists was dumped on to the world in the lead-up to the next climate conference in Durban. First Copenhagen, now Durban. When the science is so rock solid that it can no longer be reasonably doubted, all that is left is to steal private correspondence in a desperate attempt to disparage those who are trying to protect the world from the risks it is facing.

Joseph Welch famously brought down Joe McCarthy with a simple question: “Have you no sense of decency?”

This year has already witnessed multiple events that break climate records: thedrought in East Africa, the worst drought in Texas’ recorded history, and record breaking storms and floods in the US south. Those events, anticipated by climatologists decades ago, should remind us that those who persecute and harass scientists, or mendaciously misrepresent their actions and findings, have no sense of decency.

That is the real climategate.

8 Responses to “The Real “Climate-Gate””

  1. livinginabox Says:

    Thanks for this.


  2. Thanks for this article. I wrote an article on the FakeGates a while back:

    http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474978331351

    And another on “The Art of Harassment:”

    http://climatelies.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474978584547

    The denialist industry knows that they can completely lie about anything and everything and their ideological amateur followers will start drooling like Pavlov’s dogs. As you point out, despite the first email hack being demonstrated as nothing more than a sideshow, there are many amateur denialists out there that still repeat it as if it were important.

    It’s a sad world where facts don’t matter any more.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      “there are many amateur denialists out there that still repeat it as if it were important.”
      and some of them post here!!

    • BlueRock Says:

      The stolen CRU emails were little more than ‘evidence’ to confirm the beliefs of those who just *knew* there was a global conspiracy. But those people would have accepted graffiti on the back of a toilet stall door as compelling evidence if it confirmed what they wanted to be true.

      The more unfortunate fact is that some of the reality-based community were fooled – and some still are – that it was a significant event.

      ‘Hardcore’ deniers represent a very small percentage of the population. The much bigger problem is apathy, largely driven by lack of understanding about how quickly and how bad things will get if we don’t start serious mitigation very soon.

      > It’s a sad world where facts don’t matter any more.

      It’s a circling of wagons by authoritarians:

      * Authoritarians Versus Reality. “…the U.S. is full of authoritarians … people with this psychological profile are driving our political polarization, as well as the divide over factual reality in the U.S.” http://www.pointofinquiry.org/jonathan_weiler_authoritarians_versus_reality/

      Of course, it’s not just a US issue – plenty of similar ideologues in the UK, Australia, … wherever the fossil industry has a strong presence and big propaganda budget.

      We’re currently suffering a torrent of lies from the conservative UK government to justify their gutting of the solar industry. [expletives redacted]


  3. Excellent post, Peter.

  4. daveburton Says:

    One stricking feature of these emails is just how ugly they are, how strikingly nasty and ruthless Mann, Jones, and some of the rest come across. They don’t behave like scientists, they behave like cutthroat politicians. E.g.,

    email 1680.txt
    date: Wed, 29 Aug 2007 12:03:05 -0400
    from: Michael E. Mann
    subject: Re: Something not to pass on
    to: Phil Jones

    Phil,

    I would not respond to this. They will misrepresent and take out of context anything you give them. This is a set up. They will certainly publish this, and will ignore any evidence to the contrary that you provide. s They are going after Wei-Chyung because he’s U.S. and there is a higher threshold for establishing libel. Nonetheless, he should consider filing a defamation lawsuit, perhaps you too.

    I have been talking w/ folks in the states about finding an investigative journalist to investigate and expose McIntyre, and his thusfar unexplored connections with fossil fuel interests.Perhaps the same needs to be done w/ this Keenan guy.

    I believe that the only way to stop these people is by exposing them and discrediting them.


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