Climate-Gate at 10

November 11, 2019

10 Years ago, emails hacked from a climate research center, were selectively edited and released strategically to a credulous, ignorant and click-seeking media.

Sound familiar?  I think it was the opening shot in the global fossil oligarchy’s war on democracy.

Guardian:

The email that appeared on Phil Jones’s computer screen in November 2009 was succinct. “Just a quick note to encourage you to shoot yourself in the head,” it said. “Don’t waste any more time. Do it today. It is truly the greatest contribution to mankind that you will ever make.”

Nor was it very different from the other emails that were arriving in Jones’s inbox. Others described the climate scientist as the scum of the earth. Some authors promised to kill him themselves. Most of the messages were riddled with obscenities. All made troubling reading.

As to the cause of this outpouring of hatred, that was straightforward. Jones headed the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, from which a tranche of emails had just been hacked and made public. These, it was claimed, showed that he and fellow researchers were faking the evidence that suggested our planet was heating up dangerously.

The affair was dubbed Climategate by those who deny the existence of global warming and it remains one of modern society’s most troubling affairs. Many observers believe it helped delay measures that might have slowed climate change and given humanity more time to cut atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, its key cause.

Climategate marks its 10th anniversary this month – an opportune moment to reflect on just how serious was its impact on society, and to look at the effect it had on those who were trying to stop Earth from being ravaged by rising seas, spreading deserts, disappearing coral reefs and suffocating heat.

At the time, climate-change deniers were desperate to find ways to undermine the idea that global warming was real, and as Jones’s unit had provided key data that supported this notion – by showing how land temperatures on Earth had been rising sharply in recent decades – his work was considered fair game. So they responded gleefully by ransacking his hacked emails for signs he may have been fiddling results and asserted, in blogs, they had found telltale signs.

These claims were then picked up by media outlets hostile to global warming. “Scientist in climate cover-up told to quit” ran one headline. “Scientists broke law by hiding climate data”, claimed another.

At the time, climate-change deniers were desperate to find ways to undermine the idea that global warming was real, and as Jones’s unit had provided key data that supported this notion – by showing how land temperatures on Earth had been rising sharply in recent decades – his work was considered fair game. So they responded gleefully by ransacking his hacked emails for signs he may have been fiddling results and asserted, in blogs, they had found telltale signs.

These claims were then picked up by media outlets hostile to global warming. “Scientist in climate cover-up told to quit” ran one headline. “Scientists broke law by hiding climate data”, claimed another.

At the time, climate-change deniers were desperate to find ways to undermine the idea that global warming was real, and as Jones’s unit had provided key data that supported this notion – by showing how land temperatures on Earth had been rising sharply in recent decades – his work was considered fair game. So they responded gleefully by ransacking his hacked emails for signs he may have been fiddling results and asserted, in blogs, they had found telltale signs.

These claims were then picked up by media outlets hostile to global warming. “Scientist in climate cover-up told to quit” ran one headline. “Scientists broke law by hiding climate data”, claimed another.

Subsequent investigations by journalists showed these claims were unsupportable, however. Guardian writer Fred Pearce studied the leaked emails and produced a book, The Climate Files, from his research. “Have the Climategate revelations undermined the case that we are experiencing made-made climate change? Absolutely not,” says Pearce. “Nothing uncovered in the emails destroys the argument that humans are warming the planet.”

Pearce was writing for the eco-friendly Guardian, but his views were supported by many others, such as Mike Hanlon, former science editor of the Daily Mail. “Scratch and sniff as we did, there was no smoking gun, no line that would show that there had been a conspiracy to fabricate a great untruth,” he said later. Thus, from the Guardian to the Daily Mail, the notion that Climategate represented “the worst scientific scandal of a generation” – as one UK newspaper had claimed – was found in the end to be unsupportable.

This point is emphasised by Fiona Fox, head of the UK’s Science Media Centre. “British climate science was subjected to huge scrutiny by the world’s best journalists and it stood up to the test. If you look at where we are now in terms of public trust in climate science, it’s hard to sustain the argument that Climategate was fatally damaging to the field.

Was it fatally damaging to the planet? Stay tuned.

 

10 Responses to “Climate-Gate at 10”

  1. terry123a Says:

    There is a tiny problem, NOAA ocean rise trends on land not sinking, Relative Sea Level Trend 170-092 Tower Pier, UK is one example, zero ocean rise since about 1950. Either Tower pier is rising or the ocean is not.

    It would help a lot if people like Mann were able to explain this tiny problem when they make their predictions instead of ignoring the data which does not agree with their hypothesis.

    • Frank Price Says:

      terry123a: The tiny problem is that you’re falling victim to confirmation bias; this is classic cherry-picking. I don’t know what’s going on at Tower Pier, but there’s lots of noise in sea level rise (SLR) data. Land in Greenland & Iceland is rising & measured sea level dropping because the loss of the weight of ice no longer depresses Earth’s crust. This effect will reach as far as parts of Norway & Scotland. In Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, groundwater extraction is lowering land level, exacerbating SLR. Overall average is SLR, moderated or worsened by local situation. There is no question that SLR effects are increasing & will make many coastal areas uninhabitable, with cascading effects on migration of people, changes in food supplies, economic losses, social instability, & more.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      All sea level is local.

      Let’s see that again: All sea level is local

      There are a number of factors that determine a coast area’s sea level and changes:
      – Different mass distributions gravitationally attract seawater differently. [Ice mass loss in Greenland, say, will lower local sea level. See image at bottom.]
      – Long term isostatic rebound of the planetary crust changes local height (e.g., Scandanavia slowly rising, Maryland slowly lowering).
      Coastal buildup/slump of unlithified coastland, whether gaining or losing sediment.
      – Land over magma chambers (parts of Italian coastline are the geological equivalent of a trampoline).
      – Changes in ocean currents (US east coast sea level rises as the Gulf Stream collapses)
      – Increase of overall ocean volume from land ice melting.
      – Increase of overall ocean volume from thermal expansion.

      Here’s a simplified explanation

    • dumboldguy Says:

      “terry123a” is just the same old denier (or POE) that has been visiting Crock for some time—under a new handle—-there is undoubtedly a “123b” and “123c” waiting to replace him when he wears out his welcome this time

    • grindupbaker Says:

      Global sea level rise isn’t measured relative to the coast at any place, rather obviously. Global sea level rise is measured relative to the centre of planet Earth, for obvious geologic reasons. Colour-coded pictorials are available for any person who is interested in that aspect of the science, which obviously doesn’t include you so this comment is for others who might not have known.

    • mboli Says:

      That truly is a tiny problem!

  2. doldrom Says:

    “Have the Climategate revelations undermined the case that we are experiencing made-made climate change? Absolutely not,”

    Substantively Fred Pearce is right. But in the court of public opinion, this is one of the zombies that refuses to die, and it remains enormously influential.

  3. indy222 Says:

    In Monterey Bay, California, at the center (Moss Landing), “sea level” is rising in part because the land is falling. While also in Monterey Bay, at the Santa Cruz and Monterey ends, sea level rise is slower because the land is rising. All from land motion related to the San Andreas fault motions. Yes, sea level is local This nonsense about this pier or that is about as authoritative as an idiot senator throwing a snowball at Obama to prove climate change is a hoax.


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