Climategate 2 In Context
On November 22, 2011 a second “miracle” occurred: a link to a file called “FOIA2011.zip” appeared on several of the prominent skeptic blogs: climateaudit.org(1), wattsupwiththat.com(2), the AirVent (3), Tallbloke’s Talkshop (4) and JoNova(5). This time it didn’t take people long to realize it’s importance, and it was soon picked up by the skeptic blogosphere. The file contains over 5000 emails between scientists, most of who are in the global warming camp. It also contains 23 documents, an encrypted zip-file, and a message, that reads:
“Over 2.5 billion people live on less than $2 a day.
“Every day nearly 16.000 children die from hunger and related causes.”
“One dollar can save a life” — the opposite must also be true.
“Poverty is a death sentence.”
“Nations must invest $37 trillion in energy technologies by 2030 to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at sustainable levels.”
Today’s decisions should be based on all the information we can get, not on hiding the decline.
This archive contains some 5.000 emails picked from keyword searches.
A fewr emarks and redactions are marked with triple brackets. The rest, some 220.000, are encrypted for various reasons.
We are not planning to publicly release the passphrase.
The message continued with a list of quotes taken from the emails. Each quote is accompanied by the number of the email it is taken from.
The emails themselves definitely look real, as acknowledged by the University of East Anglia (UEA), where they were taken from, on their website. They have issued a statement condemning the release, but confirming their veracity (4).
At the time, November 2009, when the emails were taken from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the UEA, only a subset of a bigger collection was released. It seems this time another set of emails from that same collection has been released. This means no email can be more recent than November 2009. The encrypted zip-file might contain the full collection, but since the password has not been made public, so far we can only guess. Anyone interested in having a look at the file, can download it here (5), or use the searchable database here (6).
Climategate 1 – When, What, How?
The first release of emails, that we can now in retrospect call “Climategate 1”, occurred on November 17, 2009. Initially the link to the file went unnoticed. When its contents were understood and verified, it went viral on the blogosphere. It contained over 3000 documents, and over 1000 emails between climate scientists. Up to this date it remains unclear how the file ended up in the hands of those who published it. Some think it must be a hacker, others are convinced it’s an insider. The name of the file “FOIA2009” seems to refer to the requests made to the CRU under the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) (more on this below). The case is still under investigation by the Norfolk police.
Leading Up To Climategate 1
It all started with the “Hockey Stick”, a temperature reconstruction based on tree rings, by Michael Mann and others, published in the 2001 IPCC report. This graph showed more or less flat temperatures up until the last century, when they suddenly started rising dramatically. A clear sign of global warming. Or was it? Stephen McIntyre (of climateaudit.org; he started the blog to defend himself against attacks by climate scientists) got curious, and started investigating. He dug into the “Hockey Stick”, and over the years expanded to other proxy-based reconstructions, and to the actual temperature record based on thermometers. His findings, and the obstruction he met from climate scientists are described in detail on his blog.
One of the things he was after, was the raw data used by the CRU to calculate their global temperatures. After friendly requests and much hassling, Phil Jones, the head of the CRU, would not give in. He would not share his data, stating in one of the emails:
“The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone”
This email was of course not sent to McIntyre, but to close colleagues of Jones. Nevertheless, McIntyre found out about the FOI-Act, and started sending in requests, helped by loyal readers of his blog. This in turn led to an internal FOI process at CRU, that finished the 13th of November. A few days later, on the 17th, the file “FOIA2009” was made public, the last email being from the 13th.
Lessons From Climategate 1
First, a short overview of the theory of anthropogenic global warming. It rests on four pillars:
- The green house equation, that states that an increase in green house gases such as CO2 leads to an increase in temperature. This equation is however very basic, and does not take into account feedback loops and other effects. So in order to really be able to predict warming, three more pillars are needed.
- The temperature reconstructions that cover one or two millennia.
- The global temperature based on data from temperature stations.
- And the models, that predict warming for the future.
All these last three pillars are important to the theory, and the emails deal with aspects of all three of them.
The emails gave a close look at how climate scientists at CRU and other institutes operated. Many of them were very prominent in the global warming movement: lead authors of the IPCC, and heads of research institutes, scientist involved in proxy reconstructions, in global temperature calculations and in climate models. They were not a few rotten apples, but the crème-de-la-crème of climate science.
The picture that emerged was not pretty. There was talk of corrupting the peer-review process, of deleting data, of “dishonest presentations”, and other practices that go against the spirit of science. The emails also showed that many of the criticisms levied by the skeptics were correct. Doubt was expressed about the ability to correctly model the climate. But all this was kept internal, only to be seen by those part of the “Team”, the group of climate scientists promoting the theory of global warming. Articles by skeptics expressing criticism were rejected or delayed as long as possible. Their own articles were given special treatment to make sure they could be included in the IPCC reports, and those reports themselves were made to downplay uncertainties.
Science is done via articles, not emails, so one could argue that however bad some scientists come across in their emails, the science itself still stands. But this point of view is too simple. It neglects how the peer-review process has been undermined. It also neglects that the emails show that some articles are known to be incorrect, not only by skeptics, but also by climatologists supporting the notion of global warming. And it overlooks the general unscientific attitude displayed some climatologists.
(To continue on Climatgate II second part)