Climate Hackers as Cyber Terrorists

December 22, 2011

Don Shelby in the Minnesota Post:

One of the world’s most famous climate scientists, Dr. Michael Mann at the University of Pennsylvania, communicated often with Dr. Jones at East Anglia. In the original reporting, Mann was often quoted, misquoted and taken out of context. Though the investigations have found he did nothing wrong, climategate has nevertheless hurt him.

Mann told me that the people who can’t abide the idea of global warming being true “have no legitimate scientific leg to stand on.  So, they have turned to criminal acts in an attempt to distract the public and policymakers.” Dr. Mann is convinced that the criminal act shows the work of “industry-funded front groups and the individuals who do their bidding.”

The question is whether this can be characterized as a simple cybercrime — or are there elements of cyber-terrorism involved? Bombing a building is an act of terrorism, but it is not the goal.  The goal, according to experts, is to terrorize, immobilize and destroy one’s sense of security.

So I turned to one of the most respected cyber-terrorism experts in the country, Bruce Schneier.  Schneier has been called to testify before Congress. He is the author of eight books on the subjects of cryptography, warfare, crime and terrorism committed by cyber-criminals.

Schneier told me: “What I’ve been thinking about is whether the hack was intended to intimidate, threaten or bully. Then the crime becomes an effort to stop people from doing legitimate research. So, it is not just a data theft, but has a goal of creating a chilling effect, a threat, an intimidation.”

Schneier understands the cyber world, but also the law of unintended consequences. “We are moving into a world in which everything we do is persistent,” said Schneier.  By persistent, Schneier means it just doesn’t go away. “A phone conversation is actually archaic,” he said.  “Today the conversation is by email or social media and those conversations are persistent.”

If everything we say never goes away, it can be brought back and used to harm us. “Gotcha politics is a good example,” Schneier says. “Record everything a politician says and find the two sentences he or she uttered to destroy them.”

He quotes Cardinal Richelieu, “If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.”

I asked Schneier if “persistence” makes us less willing to communicate. “As we move in a world of persistent conversations, the ephemera disappears,” he said.

Ephemeral conversations
The ephemera he is talking about is the way we used to communicate — talking with one another.  The conversation is gone — it is ephemeral. “A lot of our privacy was incidental to the ephemeral nature of our conversations,” he told me. “Two million emails were subpoenaed in the Microsoft trial. Not long ago those conversations would have been ephemeral. They would have been a chat in someone’s office.”

Dr. Mann has long believed that intimidation was one goal of the cyber criminals. “They want to intimidate, stymie, harass scientists who are out in front on the risks of climate change, and they want to serve notice to other scientists of what will be in store for them if they speak out.”

Schneier said: “How open would you be in conversation if you thought your words would be on the front page of the newspaper the next day?” It is a trend. We have moved, he said, into a new world where we are losing the natural privacy we once enjoyed.

Not only are our communications on the internet persistent, but so is memory. Dr. John Abraham, thermal scientist at the University of St. Thomas, told me: “Those crimes were used to fabricate lies about world-class scientists — lies that are still being repeated today.”

Mark Twain said, “A lie can travel half-way around the world while the truth is still getting its shoes on.”

I’m hoping the shoes Scotland Yard and the FBI are lacing up are track shoes.

35 Responses to “Climate Hackers as Cyber Terrorists”

  1. Caerbannog666 – I presume yours is a convoluted way to agree that the Hockey Stick is no longer. Yes science progresses. It’s Mann still attached to his MBH98 ideas.

    • g2-b31f1590b0e74a6d1af4639162aa7f3f Says:

      If Mann were still attached to his MBH98 ideas, then why is he still working hard to produce new and improved temperature reconstructions? Example here:

      Mann is fully aware of the real shortcomings of MBH 1998 — that’s why he continues to update his work by publishing new paleoreconstructions. The fact that Mann objects to deniers’ dishonest attacks on imaginary shortcomings*** of his nearly 15-year-old work does not mean that he is still “attached” to it. Like the rest of the scientific community, he has moved on. It is you guys, not Dr. Mann and his colleagues, who are obsessed with MBH98. The fact that Mann defends himself from dishonest and incompetent denier attacks does not mean that he is still wedded to his work of 15 years ago.

      *** The favorite imaginary shortcoming is the deniers’ claim that Mann’s method generates hockey-sticks from random noise. But no competent analyst who is familiar with the the MBH98 processing methods (such as the singular-value decomposition, or SVD) would ever confuse random noise with tree-ring data. If someone had handed Mann random noise and told him it was tree-ring data, Mann would have known the he had been given random noise as soon as he looked at his singular values. The fact that deniers thought that they had found a real problem there simply demonstrates their incompetence.

      • It’s great to agree on something. However…would you mind letting Mann know what Mann thinks?

        Amazingly, the guy doesn’t know it yet!


        • g2-b31f1590b0e74a6d1af4639162aa7f3f Says:

          (This response is for the lurkers out there who have a basic understanding of how science works.)

          Mann’s original work was fundamentally correct, but it was a “first cut” work that left room for plenty of improvement (improvements that Mann has been working on in the nearly 15 years since MBH98.)

          It’s just like the global-temperature program that I wrote recently — my program takes in GHCN or CRU raw data and produces “first cut” global-average temperature results. The results it produces are fundamentally correct, as I am able to replicate the official NASA/GISS land-temperature index quite closely. But my processing methodology has many deficiencies; it is not what you would want to do to reconstruct temperature histories of small regions, and it does not do as good a job of computing detailed year-to-year temperature variations as the more sophisticated NASA approach. But the bottom line is, my program produces fundamentally correct global temperature results in spite of the fact that it doesn’t get all the details right.

          Likewise, the MBH98 method produced fundamentally correct results in spite of the fact that it, like my “first cut” global-average temperature program, didn’t get all the details right. The fact that a processing method, whether it is MBH98 or my own global-average temperature computation program, has deficiencies and can be improved one in many ways, does not mean that it produces invalid results. It just means that with additional work, it can produce *better* results.

          The bottom line is, MBH got the “big picture” right, even if it didn’t capture all the details of the temperature record correctly. Just like the way that my own program gets the”big picture” right in spite of the fact that there are many deficiencies in the details of my temperature computation procedure which prevent it from capturing all the details of the temperature record.

  2. Goalpost where art thou? The hockey stick has disappeared, and you still want to argue its.results have been confirmed? Is there anything you wouldn’t believe?

    The original HS was important as it showed centuries, millennia of temp stability followed by a sudden increase in the XX century. Nothing has ever come close as “smoking gun” for CAGW. Now we know temps have not been stable as claimed…for the same reason as above, in a same world that’d be seen as a huge dent in CAGW belief. We’re instead wasting time about as yet non-supportable claims around which half century was warmer. And that’s frankly ridiculous, regarding CAGW. It’s like claiming to be supported by a huge majority of people, only to be caught out as supported by an almost unquantifiable relative majority. It’s just NOT the same thing.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      please document “hockey stick has disappeared”.

      but before you do, better check AR4, chapter 6, pg 467,
      graph 6.10,
      the line designated MBH 99 — aka “the hockey stick”.

  3. g2-b31f1590b0e74a6d1af4639162aa7f3f Says:

    The original HS was important as it showed centuries, millennia of temp stability followed by a sudden increase in the XX century. Nothing has ever come close as “smoking gun” for CAGW

    Anyone who claims that the MBH “hockey-stick” is considered to be “smoking gun” proof for global-warming is totally unqualified to participate in *any* debate about AGW. The only appropriate response to anyone making such a stupid claim is to laugh him or her out of the room.

    Folks with sufficient attention spans are encouraged to watch this excellent Climate Crocks video (or watch it again, if they’ve seen it already):

    In the video, leading paleoclimatologist and National Academy of Sciences member Dr. Richard Alley sets the record straight about the strongest evidence for AGW (hint: it ain’t the hockey-stick).

  4. Please don’t waste your time in puerile attempts at shutting off debate. Also check your eyes with a good optician, I wrote of CAGW and you couldn’t read the C. C-less AGW is a different thing, and of course it is.

  5. And a Merry Christmas to you too livinginabox…and to your logging in today of all days to insult fellow human beings, and unable to write an argument. Is there nobody here capable of defending the relevance of Mann and his work, after the HS has disappeared with AR4?

    I don’t know if I qualify as a troll, but I’m definitely glad I’m not you.

  6. Is there nobody here capable of defending the relevance of Mann and his work, after the HS has disappeared with AR4?

    Is there nobody here capable of defending the relevance of Mann and his work, after the HS has disappeared with AR4?

    As in disappeared here?

    See the legend entry on the upper-left of the plot? The one that reads, “MBH1999”?

    Gee, that was hard to find — I’ll bet that I had to perform maybe 5 mouse-clicks to track it down.

    Oh, and one more thing (Peter’s too modest to toot his own horn here, so I’m gonna toot it for him).

    Peter’s videos have been endorsed by one of the leading climate-research institutions in the world, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Scripps features Peter’s YouTube channel on the “Best Bets For More Information” page of its web-site — linky here: Note the “” in the web-site URL — Scripps is part of the most prestigious public university system in the world, the University of California. When your work get noticed by “big guns” like that, you know that you must be doing something right.

    …but I’m definitely glad I’m not you.

    The feeling is more than mutual; that I can assure you.

    • caerbannog666: Your latest reply is a complete misfire.

      (1) The point was about the hockey stick not being recognized as such any longer. In AR4 the IPCC scientists do not anymore think that the modern rise in temperature has been totally unprecedented.

      The fact that AR4 still cites MBH1999 or any other of Mann’s papers says nothing about that point.

      (2) Figure WG1-6-10-l (c) exactly shows there is no more “hockey stick”. Thanks for finding it. And your point is?

      (3) Also you still haven’t managed to say a word about evidence for CAGW, rather than just AGW.

      I said that the MBH “hockey-stick” was the closest thing we have ever had to a “smoking gun” proof for CAGW. You mysteriously tried to talk about “global warming” instead. Peter’s videos on global warming (GW) or anthropogenic global warming (AGW), and whatever Scripps has to say about them, are not relevant in a discussion about evidence of CATASTROPHIC anthropogenic global warming (CAGW).

      (4) Unless you post here also under the name “livinginabox”, my text “I’m definitely glad I’m not you” did not apply to you. Are you fully aware of what are you replying to?

      Let’s say that the obvious mistake described in item (4) is completely consistent with your wholesale inability to read my comments, as shown in (1), (2) and (3).

      • livinginabox Says:

        “wholesale inability to read my comments”

        It’s not a matter of inability to read them. It’s more a matter of why should anyone bother?

        I’ve read enough to know your comments just aren’t worth reading.

        • l.i.b – thanks for confirming that you write comments without reading what you’re commenting on. It explains a lot. For example it explains why you reply to a comment I made in reply to caerbannog666 (unless you’re one and the same).

          In the meanwhile this is the site of the “sharpest climate denier debunker on YouTube” and still there’s not a soul capable to show how relevant is the Hockey Stick to contemporary science. Never mind showing any evidence for catastrophic AGW. Methinks it can’t be done because both would be antiscientific: HS has lost all its importance, and CAGW belongs to the future, not the present.

          Just read any (mainstream) scientific paper on either topic.

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