Poor old Richard Nixon, his voyeuristic penchant for taping his own conversations and tapping his rivals remains to this day the benchmark in self-incriminating scandals. So, how did a small bunch of climatologists from East Anglia manage to elevate their actions to en par with those that brought down a U.S. president? Why this parallel to WaterGate, what is ClimateGate?
Climategate, like its forbearer WaterGate, is a sensational and highly significant scandal. It also could bring down a respected institution or, at least, its reputation. In this case, the noble institution in question is non other than one of the pivotal, Global Warming evangelists, the Climate Research Unit (CRU). The CRU are a part of the University of East Anglia. But, why would the events in this relatively small university in the U.K. have such a significant, international impact on the Global Warming debate. Well, the CRU and their partner, the Hadley Centre (which is part of the British Meteorological Office [M.E.T.]), compile a surface temperature record that is crucial evidence supporting the Global Warming theory.
The origins and significance of the CRU and Hadley Centre
The Hadley Centre was setup ironically by the “Iron Maiden”, Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher. To say she’s not the environmentalists champion is perhaps an understatement. But, her actions have been the greatest gift to their modern cause of CO2-based, “pollution” reduction. Maggie wanted to prove Global Warming. Strange but true, but what would motivate her to do that? Why would she set up an “independent”, scientific body (the Hadley Centre) to provide the required evidence to prove Global Warming. To be fair, Maggie didn’t really care about the possible “pollution” problem, but she did really care about accessing nukes: both in the form of weapons and energy production. The seeming insurmountable problem she faced was the wide-ranging unpopularity of Nuclear in Britain at the time. She needed to gain public support her pro-nuclear policy and the way to do that was find a worse evil; namely, CO2. Later, in her memoirs, she admitted she never could have imagined the size of the collateral damage beast she unleashed in the process. She thought Global Warming would be a temporary expedient to convince the British public of the need to go Nuclear. Little did she know that it would fuel the Green’s, extremist, environmental movement for decades to come.
Anyway, needless to say the CRU and Hadley Centre are central to the Global Warming debate and are the focus of Climategate.
So, what is Climategate? Well, it essentially involved thousands of CRU emails being dumped on a Russian, email server. They were either hacked or, more plausibly, legally released by a whistle blower. But, either way, the huge significance of these emails is that they are very self-incriminating and damaging to the Global Warming movement.
The story of Climategate
The search for the raw, temperture data
We are often told there is a consensus among the world’s climatologists that Global Warming is beyond reasonable doubt. You then may be surprised to hear that hundreds of leading scientists actually describe themselves as “skeptical” of this doctrine. Some of these inquisitive “skeptics” wanted to exercise their basic, scientific right: namely, to verify the CRU’s results. Of course, without 3rd party replicability, any scientific result is groundless, unpublishable and, more importantly, wholly unacceptable at driving global, economic policy such as the push for Carbon Taxation. Perhaps most famously, Steve McIntyre, but also importantly Warwick Hughes, and Willis Eschenbach, were at the forefront of the data verification process requesting the CRU’s raw data. They wanted to see how the CRU interpreted their source data into a century of global, warming trends that backed Global Warming theory.
From around 2002, statistician, Steve McIntyre, among others, started asking the CRU for its source, raw, temperature data. But, polite requests received answers like this by its Head, Phil Jones:
“Even if WMO agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.” Phil Jones (2005)
To blanket refusals like this, requests had to be bolstered by the saviour of democracy, the Freedom of Information act (FOI). Skeptics wished to independently verify the CRU’s data analysis techniques. As publicly funded bodies, the CRU and Hadley Centres are required to divulge the fruits of their labours. Research paid for by the tax-payer is publicly open to the tax-payer. However, openness was the last thing on their minds.
Initial FOI requests were answered by claims that the raw data was on “web”, vaguely hinting it was somewhere on the WMO’s (World Meteorological Organization) website. However, when they were politely asked for greater clarification of where exactly on this website, the CRU repeatedly provided dead-end links. Then, as that line of obfuscation ran dry and proved inadequate to the task of shaking off the requests, the CRU claimed the raw was actually destroyed. Hold on here. So, what we’re saying here is that the primary, source data for the climate models, that are encouraging the world’s leaders to implement rapid and massive carbon taxation, had unfortunately been destroyed? How very inconvenient for the “inquisitive” skeptics? Sadly, the CRU could only provide the condensed, massaged data. The reason given, from the horses mouth, their own, was (and still is):
“Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites, only the station series after adjustment for homogeneity issues.” CRU website
The raw data was not lost, but hidden
Later, through the Climategate emails, we found out that the raw data was, believe it or not, actually in their private hands all along; not destroyed. Thus, they were shown to have actively avoided FOI requests through misdirection and falsehood. However, the ironic thing is that if Phil Jones actually just admitted from the off that he couldn’t provide the data, then the story would never exploded in his face. The truth of the matter was that the raw data was in total disarray, not that it “didn’t exist”. He could have handled the situation, which is not as embarrassing as it may seem, in much more transparent and professional way and saved himself a lot of grief. Phil Jones could have just handed over the data, that was presentable, and promised to forward on the “cleaned up” data when possible. Instead, he decided to lie and hand over no data at all. Thus, it seems he neither wished to admit that much of raw data was in disarray nor even hand over the “clean” sections. Have we something to hide perhaps? Perhaps and he didn’t help his cause much by serially coming up with excuses. A small lie grew into a bigger lie, and as he kept lying to protect the original lie, it turned itself into a juicy porker; talk about digging yourself 6 feet under.
Admitting data is in a poor state is no big deal. Personnally, I work with masses of data myself and can sympathise with such a situation. It’s normal for data to degrade over time as it becomes legacy. As people come and go from an organisation and, in addition, as data series naturally evolve, they can be hard to maintain and keep homogenous. Phil Jones had this problem. But, it is a common problem, and not really an embarrassment at all. The professional, and very acceptable thing to do, is to admit that the data needs “cleaning”, transparently show how you’re about to do it, then release it as soon as appropriate. However, this is not the approach he decided upon. Something to hide perhaps?
5 years of lies made possible by the U.K. governement
So, for about 5 years, scientists like McIntyre proceeded with their futile, FOI requests now via the U.K. government itself, but all to no avail. Even the politicians were unwilling to enact their own laws and force the CRU into full disclosure. This is where political posturing really shows its hand in the matter. The U.K. government’s reticence, their stonewalling of the skeptics by blatantly ignoring their own law of the land, is a sad episode by the “Right Honourable” men of parliament. They were willing to put their own reputations on the line to protect the CRU from investigation. Why would they risk such a thing? Surely, it wouldn’t be just to protect the reputations of a bunch of scientists in East Anglia? No, the game is much bigger than that and the politicians knew this. Consider this, without the CRU’s catastrophic, Global Warming, predictions where would the E.U.’s, massive, carbon taxation scheme be? This massive cost to society would be proved unnecessary and redundant. The E.U.’s Emissions Trading Scheme is Central Planning on a grand scale. That’s the motive, to shelter the CRU from prying eyes: protect the CRU, protect Emissions Trading. No, this is not a particularly bold or ground breaking statement. I was a member of the European Youth Parliament. We were frequently told that this is the prime objective of the E.U. We are currently in the long-awaited process of the deconstruction of the nation state to be replaced with a United States of Europe. Consequently, we wouldn’t want a few, “minor”, scientific anomalies from a research unit in East Anglia to put the Europe-wide, Carbon Taxation scheme into jeopardy would we? Needless to say, all FOI requests were promptly ignored by the British government.
Enough is enough – whistleblowing time
Fast forward in time to 19th Nov’09, as all attempts by the public to access public information still continued to be successfully thwarted. We are now on the eve of the much hyped, international conference on Climate Change (a euphemism for Global Warming). This conference was to be the “climatic” moment for all the hopes and dreams of the Green Movement. Copenhagen, was just about to start. A month before this meeting of the world‘s political leaders, a cynical bombshell was dropped. The explosion of inflammatory emails unleashed by a mystery “hacker” was to have large ramifications indeed. The unexpected release of these CRU, private missives was obviously a thinly veiled attempt to scupper the forthcoming conference. It was an attempt to overshadow and put an element of doubt into the validity of the Global Warming concept. Hophenhagen (as it was fondly coined) had very high expectations. It had the good intention of progressing the Kyoto protocol’s early foundations of tacit agreements and vague, emissions targets into a full, binding, international, Carbon Taxation scheme. Could the Climategate email release really dash these Hopes in Copenhagen?
Could a 1000 or so private emails of banter at one research unit be the Achilles Heel of the whole Global Warming movement? One thing about these CRU emails was that they were highly sorted and categorised. This was no haphazard dumping of data. One would almost say they were internally prepared by the CRU for their delayed but inevitable FOI release? These delaying tactics could last only so long after all. The emails were dumped anonymously on a Russian server either by this whistleblower or hacker. To this day, the perpetrator is not known: Warmists consider it a malicious hacker, skeptics lean towards the whistleblower possibility. I admit I also would lean to the latter. The reason being that the scale and quality of information presentation is so complex that probably only an insider could accomplish it so successfully. In addition, if they were a just a malicious fabrication as some rumour, surely the victims, namely the CRU, would refute them as baseless and libelous. Contrarily, of course, to refute them and to be later caught out that you lied would be worse and most likely career ending in disgrace. Consequently, Phil Jones is caught between a rock and hard place. As the emails have never been refuted, this logic is virtual proof of their validity. Therefore, who really cares at the end of the day if it was a hacker or not, they were never refuted by those implicated and thus can pretty much be deemed true and valid. So, what’s all this kerfuffle about?
The secrets behind the Climategate emails
So, what’s all the hype about, are these emails just a storm in a teacup and little more than inconsequential office banter? Well, they have told us a lot more than just idle gossip. They have been very interesting indeed actually, an explosive exposé one could say. They are a behind-the-scenes insight into the machinations behind the pro-Global Warming movement. A lot of the concerns sceptics had previously hinted at regarding data methodologies (most famously the “Hockey Stick“) were suddenly proved valid. For years, Steve McIntyre had called into question the statistics that underpinned the “Hockey Stick”. But, without access to the raw data, he could not prove his concerns beyond reasonable doubt. Climategate was just the proof they required of the large-scale malfeasance that was going on to save the the “Hockey Stick” juggernaut from, let’s face it, its inevitable demise.
The dirt dished up by Climategate; the CRU were guilty of…
- Active attempts to prevent the FOI release of their data and methods
- Attempts to prevent rivals from publishing in respected journals / IPCC reports:
“I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!” (Phil Jones ’04)
- Large amounts of dubious, data manipulation (e.g. “Hide the Decline” scandal):
- “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years, and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” (Phil Jones ’99)
- Raw data deletion (under the pretense that storage requirement was too high)
- Privately admitting there’s no temperature rise in past decade (publicly denying it)
I guess if you believe strongly enough in something, in an emotive cause such as imminent, catastrophic, man-made, Global Warming, you’ll do anything to defend and justify your position? The ends surely justify the means in this case? I’m sure the intentions were honourable by the CRU, at the start at least. This sort of “unprofessionalism” didn’t happen over night. It occurred by baby steps. As the threat of discovery of the data “fudging” became more and more serious, the little white lies multiplied and compounded upon each other. This lead to an eventual cover-up of quite considerable proportions and a few dirty tricks had to played along the way. Maybe someone from within the CRU, said enough is enough, at some point along this arduous process and he or she became the whistleblower?
Climategate indeed did create quite a stir, not the huge, wide-ranging one that it perhaps deserved, but, within certain circles, fairly significant. It sort of hit the mainstream press but not seriously. True, many people today would recognise the term, Climategate, but I would guess far fewer would know any particulars. Climategate was designed by the “hacker” to put a big tabby cat among the climate pigeons. It succeeded perhaps in many ways. It forced the U.K. government and the University of East Anglia (CRU’s parent) to hold a number of investigations into the alleged claims of professional misconduct. Not one, not two, but three major investigations later, however, and the CRU has been fully exonerated. 2010 was a golden year for the CRU and, thus the Global Warming movement. They re-established their credentials. Whether you think these investigations were truly “independent”, however, is another story altogether…
Full disclosure at last?
On 27th Jul’11, “encouraged” by the FOI act, the CRU finally released their data; well, a version of most of the raw, station data, anyway. Six months on, to their credit however, the reliability has not been seriously analysed and questioned. I have to say I agree with some of the comments being made at the flag-bearing, Warmist site, RealClimate.com on this one:
“Still no sign that any of the skeptics who had been demanding access to the CRU raw data have done anything meaningful with it”. RealClimate (Jan 2012)
The silence is deafening.
Are skeptical climatologists busy beavering away checking the methodologies employed on the raw temperature data? Is a comprehensive, or even a partial, review of the data about to be imminently published showing analytic inconsistencies? Or, is the Global Warming temperature trend sound after all? To date, the skeptics have kept stum about the whole affair. Have they embarrassingly realised they were wrong all along..?
Well, true, this silence is rather unhelpful and could even be a sheepish admonishment of guilt on the part of the skeptics? However, this is not necessarily so. There have already been plenty of studies that really put into question the quality of the CRU’s (and their collaborators in the U.S., NASA) methodologies. When reviewers have actually managed to access the raw data, and compare them to the CRU’s published, massaged results, the inconsistencies have been, for a long time, been shown to be blaring. If you’re interested, here’s just a few notable examples:: Mt.Isa, Gladstone, Darwin (in Australia), and New Zealand.
I, for one, am surprised and disappointed that we haven’t see a flood of reviews from skeptics concerning this data disclosure. It looks somewhat poor for their cause. However, conversely, this is not necessarily proof that the CRU’s data analysis was kosher all along.
Let sleeping dogs lie? No, the story continues…
Just when you thought the scandal had gone its full course: 5 long years of CRU procrastination and dissemination, an explosion of Climategate controversy, then a few years later “full”, CRU, data disclosure and exoneration. Well, it hasn’t. A few months ago, on 22 Nov’ 2011, there was a 2nd release of climate emails. This time the “hacker” has dumped even more, 5000 emails, on his preferred Russian server, and, guess what, it coincides with another major climate conference. This time it’s the turn of Durban, South Africa. Admittedly, this conference has none of the hype of Copenhagen: none of the world’s leaders are in attendance, none of the great hopes and aspirations of the Green movement are riding upon it. There is little sign of a binding, global, Carbon Tax coming from it. Nevertheless, just in case this were suddenly put on the agenda, more, potentially scandalous, emails have been released. As we speak, skeptics, such as Anthony Watts, are trawling through this “interesting” treasure trove of missives for possible juicy bits. Watch this space…
“It’s been fascinating to get a look at the climate hoax from the inside. The data fudging, the demonization of doubters, the knee-jerk rejection of alternate hypotheses, the quest for funding, the travel to exotic locations, the pal review, the left-wing politics, the fear of debate, the swagger in the early days, then the panic as the skeptics closed in–it’s all there.”
Anthony Watts (2012) of Watts Up With That?
In a nutshell, we can perhaps pose the question: has Climategate, as intended, inflicted terminal damage to the Global Warming movement? Well, many would argue that it was the detrimental bombshell that took the wind out of the sails of the very high profile Copenhagen conference. It may have swung public opinion enough to prevent important proponents such as President Obama from signing up to an international Emissions Trading Scheme. Alternatively, you could say Climategate had nothing to do with it. The problems of the GFC were quite enough to curb lavish, climate-based spending. The global economy is teetering on a double dip recession. Perhaps, there just isn’t enough money left in the pot for extra extravagances such as Carbon Taxation?
It has to be said, the discoveries of Climategate were not a particular surprise to many skeptics. The skeptics’ criticism of pro-Global Warming evidence was already at a very complex and mature state. So, when Climategate hit, it didn’t really tell us anything new. It was more just verification that the Global Warming argument could be deemed relatively flawed and some major players had tarnished their reputations by employing questionable tactics. Proponents will have to work hard to recover their professional respectability. Well, they won’t, as it happens, as most of them seem to be in complete denial and have just pretended Climategate never happened. They seem to prefer the use of the term, Whatevergate.
True, man-made, CO2-driven, Global Warming may exist. Never say never. But, one of the most important pillars of the argument, the CRU’s temperature dataset, crumbled in disgrace with Climategate. Can the rest of the Church of Global Warming remain standing in the face of such an important loss of structural (and scientific) integrity?