Remembering ClimateGate

November 11, 2015

This month marks the 6th anniversary of the tragically overblown nothing-burger known as “climategate”, still a thing on the minds of climate deniers, pretty much dead to everyone else.   I’m reminded of the whole affair by Exxon’s current position that their 40 year record of accurate climate research has been quoted “out of context” by journalists, who have compared the company’s internal science to its public statements, and its funding of openly climate denying organizations – the very definition of irony.

Now, on the verge of yet another international attempt to rein in the rise in greenhouse emissions, the most high profile current science denial initiative is another attempt to replicate the climategate model, with the US House Science Committee’s move to access personal email communications from government scientists.


The Climatic Research Unit email controversy (also known as “Climategate”)[2][3] began in November 2009 with the hacking of a server at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) by an external attacker,[4][5] copying thousands of emails and computer files to various internet locations several weeks before the Copenhagen Summit on climate change.

The story was first broken by climate change critics[6] with columnist James Delingpole popularising the term “Climategate” to describe the controversy.[7] Those denying the significance of human caused climate change argued that the emails showed global warming was a scientific conspiracy, that scientists manipulated climate data and attempted to suppress critics.[8][9] The CRU rejected this, saying the emails had been taken out of context and merely reflected an honest exchange of ideas.[10][11]

The mainstream media picked up the story as negotiations over climate change mitigation began in Copenhagen on 7 December.[12] Because of the timing, scientists, policy makers and public relations experts said that the release of emails was a smear campaign intended to undermine the climate conference.[13] In response to the controversy, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released statements supporting the scientific consensus that the Earth‘s mean surface temperature had been rising for decades, with the AAAS concluding “based on multiple lines of scientific evidence that global climate change caused by human activities is now underway…it is a growing threat to society.”[14]

Eight committees investigated the allegations and published reports, finding no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct.[15] However, the reports called on the scientists to avoid any such allegations in the future by taking steps to regain public confidence in their work, for example by opening up access to their supporting data, processing methods and software, and by promptly honouring freedom of information requests.[16] The scientific consensus that global warming is occurring as a result of human activity remained unchanged throughout the investigations.[17]

Desmog UK:

Lamar Smith, a Republican member of the US House of Representatives, has declared war on the Obama administration, NASA and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to undermine attempts to prevent dangerous climate change, report Kyla Mandel and Brendan Montague from Washington DC, USA.

Speaking at the (Exxon funded) Heartland Institute’s climate denier conference in Washington DC today, the Texas congressman described how three subpoenas for EPA staff emails and texts have now been issued following claims about “secret emails” and personal use of email accounts by the agency.

This follows a similar-spirited freedom of information request submitted to the EPA by Chris Horner, a senior legal fellow for the Energy and Environment Legal Institute supported by the ExxonMobil funded Competitive Enterprise Institute.


Below, I spent months talking to Mike Mann teasing out the details of the famous “hide the decline” email, to be able to tell the story accurately, for the record.  In listening now, my disgust with the perps comes thru in my somewhat less than Journalistically even tone of voice.

A colleague just reminded me of this jewel of a column.  It’s a useful reminder that in 2009, the Washington Post’s go-to Climate denial science expert was Sarah Palin:

With the publication of damaging e-mails from a climate research center in Britain, the radical environmental movement appears to face a tipping point. The revelation of appalling actions by so-called climate change experts allows the American public to finally understand the concerns so many of us have articulated on this issue.

“Climate-gate,” as the e-mails and other documents from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia have become known, exposes a highly politicized scientific circle — the same circle whose work underlies efforts at the Copenhagen climate change conference. The agenda-driven policies being pushed in Copenhagen won’t change the weather, but they would change our economy for the worse.

palinleftThe e-mails reveal that leading climate “experts” deliberately destroyed records, manipulated data to “hide the decline” in global temperatures, and tried to silence their critics by preventing them from publishing in peer-reviewed journals. What’s more, the documents show that there was no real consensus even within the CRU crowd. Some scientists had strong doubts about the accuracy of estimates of temperatures from centuries ago, estimates used to back claims that more recent temperatures are rising at an alarming rate.

This scandal obviously calls into question the proposals being pushed in Copenhagen. I’ve always believed that policy should be based on sound science, not politics. As governor of Alaska, I took a stand against politicized science when I sued the federal government over its decision to list the polar bear as an endangered species despite the fact that the polar bear population had more than doubled. I got clobbered for my actions by radical environmentalists nationwide, but I stood by my view that adding a healthy species to the endangered list under the guise of “climate change impacts” was an abuse of the Endangered Species Act. This would have irreversibly hurt both Alaska’s economy and the nation’s, while also reducing opportunities for responsible development.


11 Responses to “Remembering ClimateGate”

  1. Sean Munger Says:

    It’s amazing that people still believe in the silly conspiracy theory of “Climategate.” But they do. “CRU emails faked!” is an article of faith among deniers along the same lines as the now-discredited “pause.” It’s very annoying to have to refute it time and time again.

  2. indy222 Says:

    A climate zombie for all the un-dead in the Republican Party.

  3. ubrew12 Says:

    “on the verge of yet another international attempt to rein in the rise in greenhouse emissions…[along comes] another attempt to replicate the climategate model, with the US House Science Committee’s move to access personal email communications from government scientists.” Exactly right. The timing is the same, the strategy is the same, everything is the same. Having failed to ‘dazzle them with brilliance’, Exxon’s ranks of well-funded deniers are trying the ‘baffle them with bvllsh8t’. Climategate birthed the Koch-brothers funded BEST (i.e. Berkeley) survey, which has already answered ANY reservations Lamar Smith may have about the modern temperature record. I suggest if Smith is not sure what the modern trendline is, he call Charles Koch to testify as to WHY his BEST survey did little but match the other surveys, and why he clearly must hate free market capitalism for that to have happened. Graph:

  4. This summer I met a German peace activist (Munich Mahnwache) – one of the really good guys in this world – who could even quote some of the Emails by heart. In 2015! It took quite some effort to debunk all the antiscientific BS on climate he had “researched” on the internets.

  5. omnologos Says:

    you’re basically back arguing against the “it’s a conspiracy” idea. for 6 years in a row. climate progress it ain’t

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Peter, may I respectfully suggest that you give Omno a short vacation? His need to say something—ANYTHING, no matter how obtuse and mindless—and seek attention is crapping up too many threads lately.

    • jpcowdrey Says:

      “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” – Albert Einstein

      He was talking about you, maurizio.

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