Climate Change Denial

November 22, 2009

SWIFTBOATING THE CLIMATE SCIENTISTS

George Marshall @ 11:46 pm

swift boatThe theft of 1,000 private e-mails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (UEA) shows that deniers have learned lessons from dirty politics and are running a new campaign to undermine public trust in climate scientists. The feeble response from the UEA and the climate science community shows that scientists are still totally underestimating the fragility of that trust and the crucial role it plays in building public belief.

The Importance and fragility of Trust
The lay public, when presented with confusing data and competing arguments  about climate change deploy the heuristic (a fancy word for a mentalof short cut) of believing the people they most trust. Trust in the communicator  is therefore a crucial precondition for belief in climate change.

Unfortunately the three main climate change communicators: politicians, journalists and environmental campaigners, are among the least trusted people in society- fighting it out for bottom place in the ranking with lawyers and car salesmen. No one would pay any attention to them at all if they were not drawing on the aquifer of public trust in scientists.

Climate scientists have always misunderstood the dynamic of public belief and trust. They assume that belief will be built on their data and that public trust is merited by their authority.  With the exception of a few outstanding communicators, they often make no attempt to speak to deeper values or make an emotional connection with the public – indeed they see that as contrary to their professional independence.

However, whilst it is true that there is an underlying respect for scientific expertise, there are many other more emotional and contextual components to real trust. We tend to trust people we know, who seem to be like us, who speak to our values and life experience, who appear to have integrity or- that most intangible quality- people whom we seem to like.

The Deniers have always understood this. They use language that is designed to appeal to deeper values (such as freedom, independence, progress). The narrative they tell of being determined (and even persecuted) free thinkers standing against the tide of oppressive and self-interested conformity is designed to create an aura of integrity and trustworthiness.

Scientists often seek public anonymity. The only person portrayed the front page of the IPCC’s website is the long dead Alfred Nobel on the side of a gold medal. Deniers by comparison realise that trust (and distrust) is all about personalities. They promote themselves (and their personal backstories) constantly. They are not a pleasant bunch, but they get lots of practice in creating a good impression and some (such as Lomborg and Stott) can be charming in person.

And they seek to demonise real science by picking out individuals to abuse. None more so that Dr. Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, a paleoclimatologist who prepared the famous hockey-stick graph.  Dr. Mann has had the bravery to stand publicly by his findings and has been subjected to an extraordinary campaign of vilification and accusations of distortion and falsification (there are 20,000 responses to a search for “’Michael Mann’ climate fraud”). Mann seeks to keep above the fray but he has plentiful grounds for a string of libel actions.

Hacking into UEA
The recent hacking of the servers of the University of East Anglia can only be understood within this landscape of competing appeals to public trust. The strategy is this: the source of belief in climate change is the trust in the scientists as open, accountable, honest and independent. If you can challenge those qualities you can undermine the public trust. Just by revealing the things that people say to their peers in private, you can suggest that they are closed, secretive and conspiring to their own ends. The further you have gone to uncover those documents- in this case hacking into a secure server- the more you imply that they were buried and hidden from view. even the New York Times and Washington Post can portray a crime as an act of public disclosure.

The denial industry (and hordes of climate nerds) has trawled through these e-mails and found sentences which, when removed from context, support their storyline that climate science is being deliberately distorted and exaggerated for a mixed bag of self interested and politicized ends. Even better for them, some of these quotations come from Michael Mann.

But you could find anything in here. I looked and found lots of references to lunch and fun, 94 to hate, 31 to love. Generally, though, the e-mails are extremely focused, technical, and, dare I say it, really dull. As noted on Realclimate.org, the website that Mann helped found, the e-mails contain “no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords”.

But this is hardly the point. This is an orchestrated smear campaign and does not require balance or context. The speed with which the emails have been cut apart and fed into existing storylines is remarkable. The story has been led from the beginning by the denial site climatedepot.com (I absolutely refuse to provide a  hyperlink)  where you find the entire page given to ‘Climategate’, ‘smoking guns’,  ‘blood in the water’ – lines that have all been fed to and doltishly repeated in the mainstream media.

Swift Boating the Climate Scientists
The coordinator of climatedepot.com is Marc Morano, a libertarian right self publicist and former aid to the outspoken denier Senator Inhofe, who has been seeking to become a kingpin in the climate denial industry. Marc Morano is not new to this kind of dirty fighting. According to the investigative site Source Watch,  Morano, whilst working as a journalist for the right wing Cybercast News Service,  was the first source in May 2004 of the smear campaign against John Kerry that later became known the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Although different in context and content, there are marked similarities between the Swift Boat campaign and the hacking of the UEA e-mails. Both were sophisticated strategies to undermine trust. Both identified trust and integrity as a major strength of the opponent and then played carefully chosen story lines to undermine them. At the very least the UEA e-mail campaign is an application of dirty political tactics to climate change campaigning.

Personally I suspect it goes further than that. The storyline is too clever, the timing on the brink of Copenhagen and the US climate bill too convenient. Obtaining compromising internal documents is the holy grail of presidential campaigns, so why would not campaigners who cut their teeth in US politics not seek to apply the same tactics against the poorly defended servers of a provincial university. I wait with interest to find out how these e-mails were obtained.

Call me a bastard and I’ll show you my birth certificate
And, the most disturbing similarity between the UEA hacking and the Swiftboat campaign, is that both rely for their success on the unwillingness of the opponent to rise to the debate and defend themselves. It is a generally accepted analysis that Kerry’s slow response was a huge strategic mistake which strengthened the smear. A weak response to an attack on your integrity, however ill founded, is read as guilt.

The UEA response has been frankly pathetic. It was informed by Real Climate of the hack on Tuesday 17th  but only responded reactively two days later when journalists caught onto the story. It refused to confirm whether the e-mails were accurate or not and, for a long time, refused to comment at all.

Now, in typical scientist fashion, it seeks to argue the data rationally. The UEA website states that “the selective publication of some stolen emails and other papers taken out of context is mischievous and cannot be considered a genuine attempt to engage with this issue in a responsible way”. Mischievous? Irresponsible? What naughty pixies.

Then the CRU director, Professor Phil Jones focuses on one of quotes: “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years amd from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline” For the smear campaign it is only those key words trick and hide that count- the rest can be made into anything it wants. Jones ignores this and responds with a detailed technical explanation of the passage with reference to the original graphs. It’s like responding to someone calling you a bastard by showing them your birth certificate.

One can only conclude that the UEA’s communications team is totally out of its depth. A less charitable conclusion is that they are defending the interests of UEA and are not concerned about (or have not understood) the damage to climate science.

An appropriate response
So might I suggest this would have been the appropriate response for Professor Jones:  speak to every journalist who calls, go on the offensive and defend your science. Clearly state that you are not prepared to have your hard working and committed colleagues  around the world defamed or slandered by the kinds of people who illegally hack into computers.  State that this is a desperate last ditch tactic by fanatics who have lost the rational debate.

And how about taking action against the criminals who hacked in? The stolen emails are currently on a website called www.anelegantchaos.org that has been set up for the purpose and is linked from all the denial websites. The owner of the site has written a self important introduction about the public interest of the site and the “disappointing insights” it provides. He has also put in a function to search the stolen property.

He is probably an egotist who enjoys the attention, so I am not going to name him. However his name, address and telephone number are all on the site registration.  If he had my private emails splattered all over his site he would be hearing from my lawyers – if he was lucky. The fact that there appears to have been no attempt to prevent this site is yet further evidence of the half hearted response of UEA.

Sadly, due in part to the lackluster response, I am sure that these wretched e-mails have now entered permanently into the mythology of climate denial. Scientists are going to have to be a lot more savvy and on the ball in future.

The theft of 3,500 e-mails stolen from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (UEA) shows that deniers have learned lessons from dirty politics and are running a new campaign to undermine public trust in climate scientists. The feeble response from the UEA and the climate science community shows that scientists are still totally underestimating the fragility of that trust and crucial role it plays in building public belief.

The Importance and Fragility of Trust

Although the weather has been behaving strangely, the serious climate impacts are still some way off and are an abstraction generated by computer models. As the public cannot understand the data (or evaluate the competing arguments they still hear in the media), they deploy the heuristic of believing the people they most trust. Trust in the communicator, then, is a crucial precondition for belief in climate change.

Unfortunately the three main climate change communicators: politicians, journalists and environmental campaigners, are among the least trusted people in society- fighting it out for bottom place in the ranking with lawyers and car salesmen. No one would pay any attention to them at all if they were not drawing on the aquifer of public trust in scientists.

Climate scientists have always misunderstood the dynamic of public belief and trust. They assume that belief will be built on their data and that public trust is merited by their authority. They argue that their data stands on its own merits and, with the exception of a few outstanding communicators, they often see make no attempt to speak to deeper values or make an emotional connection with the public – indeed they see that as contrary to their professional independence.

However, whilst it is true that there is an underlying respect for scientific expertise, trust has many other more emotional and contextual components. We tend to trust people we know, who seem to be like us, who speak to our values and life experience, who appear to have integrity or- that most intangible quality- people who seem to like.

On the other hand the climate change denial campaign has always centred on the psychology of trust. Deniers use language that is designed to appeal to deeper values (such as freedom, independence, progress). The narrative they tell of being determined (and even persecuted) free thinkers standing against the tide of oppressive and self-interested conformity is designed to create an aura of integrity and trustworthiness.

Scientists often seek public anonymity. The only person on the front page of the IPCC’s website is the profile of Alfred Nobel on the side of a medal. Deniers realise that trust (and distrust) is all about personalities. They promote their own (and their personal backstories) constantly. They are not a pleasant bunch, but they get lots of practice in creating a good impression and some (such as Lomborg and Stott) can be charming in person.

And they seek to demonise real science by picking out individuals to abuse. None more so that Dr. Michael Mann of Philadelphia State University, a paleoclimatologist who prepared the famous hockey-stick. Dr. Mann has had the bravery to stand publicly by his findings and has been subjected to an extraordinary campaign of vilification and accusations of distortion and falsification (there are 20,000 responses to a search for “’Michael Mann’ climate fraud”). Mann seeks to keep above the fray but he has plentiful grounds for a string of libel actions.

Hacking into UEA

The recent hacking of the servers of the University of East Anglia can only be understood within this landscape of competing appeals to public trust. The strategy is this: the source of belief in climate change is the trust in the scientists as open, accountable, honest and independent. If you can challenge those qualities you can undermine the public trust. Just by revealing the things that people say to their peers in private, you can suggest that they are closed and co-operating to their own ends. The further you go to obtain those documents- in this case hacking into a secure server- the more you imply that they are being buried and hidden from view. Thus a criminal act can be portrayed as an act of public disclosure.

The denial industry (and the hordes of climate nerds) have trawled through these e-mails and found sentences which, when removed from context, support their storyline that climate science is being deliberately distorted and exaggerated for a mixed bag of self interested and politicized ends. Even better, some of these quotations come from Michael Mann.

But you could find anything in here. I looked and found lots of references to lunch and fun, 94 to hate, 31 to love. Generally, though, the e-mails are extremely focused, technical, and, dare I say it, really dull. As noted on Realclimate.org, the website that Mann helped found, the e-mail contain “no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords”.

But this is hardly the point. This is an orchestrated smear campaign and does not require balance or context. The speed with which the emails have been cut apart and fed into existing storylines is remarkable. The story has been led from the beginning by the denial site climatedepot.com (I absolutely refuse to provide a  hyperlink)  where you find the entire page given to ‘Climategate’, ‘smoking guns’ blood in the water’ – lines that have all been fed to the mainstream media.

Swift Boating the climate scientists

The coordinator of climatedepot.com is Marc Morano, a libertarian right self publicist and former aid to the outspoken denier Senator Inhofe, who has been seeking to become a kingpin in the climate denial industry. Marc Morano is not new to this kind of dirty fighting. According to the investigative site Source Watch, http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Marc_Morano

whilst working as a journalist for the right wing Cybercast News Service, Morano was the first source in May 2004 of the Vietnam veterans smear campaign against John Kerry that later became known the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Although different in context and content, there are marked similarities between the Swiftboat campaign and the hacking of the UEA e-mails. Both were sophisticated strategies to undermine trust. Both identified a major strength of the opponent and then played carefully chosen story lines to imply dishonesty. At the very least the UEA e-mail campaign is an application of dirty political tactics to climate change campaigning.

Personally I suspect it goes further than that. The storyline is too clever, the timing on the brink of Copenhagen and the US climate bill too convenient. Obtaining compromising internal documents is the holy grail of presidential campaigns, so why would not campaigners who cut their teeth in US politics not seek to apply the same tactics against the poorly defended servers of a provincial university. I wait with interest to find out how these e-mails were obtained.

Call me a bastard and I’ll show you my birth certificate

And, the most disturbing similarity between the UEA hacking and the Swiftboat campaign, is that both rely for their success on the unwillingness of the opponent to rise to the debate and defend themselves. It is a generally accepted analysis that Kerry’s slow response was a huge strategic mistake which strengthened the smear. A weak response to an attack on your integrity, however ill founded, is read as guilt.

The UEA response has been frankly pathetic. It was informed by Real Climate of the hack on Tuesday 17th but only responded reactively two days later when journalists caught onto the story. It refused to confirm whether the e-mails were accurate or not and, for a long time, refused to comment at all.

Now, in typical scientist fashion, it seeks to argue the data rationally. On the UEA website the CRU director, Professor Phil Jones explains the meaning of one of the baffling selected quotes that refers to “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years amd from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline” For a smear campaign it is only the key words trick and hide that count- the rest can be made into anything it wants. Jones ignores this and responds with a detailed technical explanation of the passage with reference to the original graphs. It’s like responding to someone calling you a bastard by showing them your birth certificate.

One can only conclude that the UEA’s communications team is totally out of its depth. A less charitable conclusion is that they are defending the interests of UEA and are not concerned about (or have not understood) the damage to climate science.

So might I suggest this would have been the appropriate response for Professor Jones: going on the offensive, defending your science, and clearly stating that you are not prepared to have your hard working and committed colleagues  around and world defamed or slandered by the kinds of people who illegally hack into computers in a desperate attempt to undermine the honest and open process of public science.

And how about taking action against the criminals who hacked in? The stolen emails are currently on a website called www.anelegantchaos.org that has been set up for the purpose and is linked from all the denial websites. The owner of the site has written a self important introduction about the public interest of the site and the “disappointing insights” it provides. He has kindly put in a search function.

He is probably an egotist who enjoys the attention, so I am not going to name him. However his name, address and telephone number are all on the site registration. http://www.whois.net/whois/anelegantchaos.org If he had my private emails splattered all over his site he would be hearing from my lawyers – if he was lucky. The fact that there appears to have been no attempt to prevent this is further evidence of the half hearted response of UEA.

Sadly, due in part to the lackluster response, I am sure that these wretched e-mails have now entered permanently into the mythology of climate denial. Scientists are going to have to be a lot more savvy and on the ball in future.

30 Responses to “SWIFTBOATING THE CLIMATE SCIENTISTS”

  1. Graham Game says:

    Spot on George. I’ve never known so many deniers as now – they are coming out of the woodwork faster than ever. This UEA hack has been a major blow & the Plane Stupid Polar Bear video has been another gift for the deniers.

  2. Don Thieme says:

    You make excellent points here, George. All scientists need to stand together against this sort of theft of proprietary data and personal communications. We have thrown student out of university for far less.

  3. While the United Kingdom may not have Freedom of Information laws, one presumes that the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia does receive governmental funds (perhaps from multiple government sources). Thus, by U.S. standards, all of this correspondence should be public information. And by the way, it was not right wingers who leaked (for example) the gory details of Gov. Ryan’s (of Illinois) divorce from actress Jeri Ryan, or who leaked Sarah Palin’s personal emails — the list goes on. We suspect someone with a conscience who works at UEA’s climate center found a way to select and send these files — because a hacker would not know where to look.

  4. Les j says:

    Courts in both the UK and the US have stated that e-mails do not have the expectation of privacy. The employer owns the e-mail.

    If the employer is publicly funded, then the ultimate owner is the tax paying public. This includes emails from private accounts, sent to public e-mail accounts.

    On top of this, in both countries, there is “whistle blower” legislation, to protect the source of such information, from repercussions.

  5. Raven says:

    So what will you say when it comes out that the hacker was a whistleblower from within UEA who was disgusted with unethical and potentially illegal behavoir of his/her collegues?

    I realize that UAE is currently denying it but there is no way a random hacker could have assembled such a relevent collection of material that would have been stored on many different systems. The collection must have been assembled by someone inside UEA.

  6. Mike says:

    As a UK tax payer, I do not accept your description that these were “private emails.” They were public emails – my emails, because I am paying for this establishment. It’s also well precedented that, when using one’s employer’s email systems, there is no expectation of privacy.

  7. Frank Hardy says:

    You are absolutely correct. If someone is not trustworthy then people don’t care what facts they present because they don’t trust them to actually be objective facts. By the way, I put people who use “denier” in the untrustworthy category.

    I don’t think many of the people involved realize what will be the magnitude of the political fallout from this. Sean Hannity is like a caveman who just swings the same club over and over again. He has just been given a huge new club and he will be going “Bash, Bash, Bash” repeating the same email excerpts for the next few weeks.

    It is not game over, but it is very likely decade over.

  8. Dave Hampton says:

    Excellent – thank you George. Spot on. I liked this:

    “Scientists often seek public anonymity. The only person portrayed the front page of the IPCC’s website is the long dead Alfred Nobel on the side of a gold medal. Deniers by comparison realise that trust (and distrust) is all about personalities. They promote themselves (and their personal backstories) constantly. They are not a pleasant bunch, but they get lots of practice in creating a good impression and some (such as Lomborg and Stott) can be charming in person.”

  9. Albert Schwartz says:

    The obvious answer to the lack of context is to provide the full context. Release 100% of the raw data and a detailed explanation of the methodology used upon that data so any scientist could reproduce your work. Challenge your critics to find any errors and show your confidence in your methods and conclusions.

    Of course, what we’ve seen, so far, shows the UEA group was trying very hard to avoid that approach.

  10. Adrian Tait says:

    Thanks George,

    I’m glad you’ve responded so quickly, clearly and strongly. Some of us in the field (like me) need to be reminded from time to time that this is not just a scientific debate, nor even a political issue being played out under Queensbury rules. Without losing our own moral compass, we absolutely have to recognise that this is a tough struggle, for the highest stakes imaginable.

  11. Nik says:

    The agreement between two or more (more in this case) to deny Freedom of Information access goes directly to ethics, scientific and social. Arguably the denial under FOI is also unlawful. Which brings us to the legal definition “an agreement between two or more persons to commit an unlawful act is conspiracy”.

    What exactly would have been lost if the data had been made available to the skeptics? Nothing. The denial and tricks to evade FOI disclosure give insights into the characters of those involved and are probably the most interesting part of the hacked documents. One wonders how many worthy scientists were bypassed by the more ambitious and ruthless egos who occupy the top posts in climatology.

  12. Ed Gillespie says:

    George – that is a perfect riposte to this last desperate but still potentially deadly and dastardly undermining of the fragile public consensus – denial is such a comfortable place to be. We’ve been getting harassed too – as facist muppets/control freaks/propagandists:

    http://www.futerra.co.uk/blog/598
    http://www.futerra.co.uk/blog/599

  13. I’ve come to the conclusion that I haven’t got the stomach to get involved in climate change communication. It’s just too depressing and I like to keep things amusing. So let me be the first to point you to this:

    http://carbonfixated.com/newtongate-the-final-nail-in-the-coffin-of-renaissance-and-enlightenment-thinking/

  14. Bill says:

    Lie down with dogs and get fleas … it’s an age-old saying. The scientists should have stayed out of the politicians beds, and now it will take more than a shot of penicillin to recover their lost respect.

  15. Richard Barnes says:

    You say that the E-mails contain sentences which, “when removed from context, support their (the sceptics) storyline.”

    But we can see the context very clearly. Former pro-AGW people say they feel betrayed, “I feel sick to my stomach.”

    Do you contend that you do not find this material disturbing, to say the least?

    You say that the CRU has been ‘hacked’, then say “I wait with interest to find out how these e-mails were obtained.” The nature of the material suggests an inside job, not a hack. You allege ‘theft’. From whom, the British taxpayer?

  16. Harald Korneliussen says:

    Sad to see that the Guardian article misses the extremely pertinent lines about Marc Morano.

    Most of the things picked out of the stolen mails is BS, optimistic attacks relying on people not knowing how things work. There is only one thing in the leaked mails that is downright bad, and that is the sabotaging of the FOI requests.
    But as Cardinal Richelieu allegedly said, “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.” If that’s the best they could come up with in thirteen years of mails, I’d say they have been cleared of vastly more charges than they can be indicted on.

    Somehow, I think if we could see Marc Morano’s correspondence, he wouldn’t fare so good.

  17. Ed Gillespie says:

    Hugh Miller is the CRU poster and webmaster for the Greenock Telegraph.

    Using his internet alias, ShugNiggurath, we can find out highly interesting things like… he is 38, married and straight and into music blah blah, based on this dating site (http://www.okcupid.com/profile/ShugNiggurath/pictures)

    On Twitter he’s following several David Camerons, and a few political sites including Guido Fawkes
    http://twitter.com/ShugNiggurath

    On Facebook he has 1852 friends, a whole lot of them in the US, including a number of Texans in cowboy hats, some with guns etc as their profile picture…)
    http://www.facebook.com/shugmiller?ref=sgm

    ; )

  18. Although I consider myself in the opposite camp to you (I call myself a skeptic, not a denier), I’m impressed by your passion, but most of all by your sincerity. I’m very much impressed by your willingness to allow some (all?) contrary posts to your opinion piece. It shows convection in your beliefs, and trust that the truth will prevail. Well done! This is a large departure the “team’s” behavior with respect to RealClimate’s posts. Mann: “We can hold comments up in the queue and contact you about whether or not you think they should be screened through or not, and if so, any comments you’d like us to include.”

  19. madderinheck says:

    Unfortunately the line has been crossed. The climate scientists attempted to play politics and they at some point turned into advocates. Thus their credibility as independent scientists and their results will and should be discredited.

    We are basically back to base one. All of the work to date might as well be tossed out the window. Scientists with impeccable credentials and the highest levels of integrity need to be found to take over.

  20. Starchild says:

    Sorry, I do not know if you are scientist. From your post I suppose you are not.

    (1) Peer-review process is one of cornerstones of modern science. Actions described in e-mails are WAY out of normal review process I know. Actually they usually are explicitly prohibited by journal policies and ethics codes. Tampering with peer-review process, expecially to exclude opponents, are second most serious scientific crime after outright research fabrication. E-mails are clear enough and no amount of “context” could change interpretation. In any other research field I know, perpetuators would be expected to resign immediately on peer-review “games” alone.

    (2) “I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone” stance by Phil Jones is quite damning one, especially IN CONTEXT of repeated information requests. Again in branches of science, natural assumption would be that paper or papers in question are fraudulent. This could be cleared, but only afer serious explanation by author and INDEPENDENT and COMPETENT verification of research in question.

    This is major scandal concerning Ethics of Science. “Damage control” of yours could deal with public opinion, but I believe scientific community would not allow it just go away.

  21. Anna Haynes says:

    It seems everybody’s gotta learn that Swiftboat lesson…

  22. Dutch says:

    George, I cannot believe your denial of the real issue. Science and the cause have been greatly damaged by the goings on in East Anglia and the best you can do is attack the messenger? What on earth is wrong with you man?

    Instrad of proposing that the UEA scientists buck up their PR, surely you should be telling them to resign? Do you have no moral fible?

  23. susan says:

    Very interesting commentary, although you have failed to point out the possibility of the simplest of all explanations a la Occam’s Razor. Phil Jones is doing a poor job defending himself and his organization because his position is indefensible. I suspect he knows what is in the thousands of document files that you did not bother to mention and that they may very well put those e-mail files “in context.”

  24. Superbly written!

    As in the Briffa non-scandal, there is no proof whatsoever that the science supporting AGW is incorrect nor that there is a vast conspiracy.

    It is a shame that the general public is being mislead by the Singers, Moranos, Milloys, Moncktons, etc. on what is likely to be the most important issue of the 21st century.

  25. sam davis says:

    Being in the UK and having met the UEA staff, attended lectures etc all I can say is: naivety is what is driving the UEA response.

    These guys do not live in the politicised world; they are straight scientists surrounded by a culture which has mostly accepted CC since the 1980′s. After all, all anyone need do is look out of a window and see the changes. CC is accepted.

    On the other hand, “deniers” are people who live 4,000 miles away – most UEA people will literally have never have met a denier. They will not know what “swiftboat” means and will have no inkling of the import of what they do – as seen from the US. And they are not into politics. CC is not a political ball here.

    Going after UEA staff is like hunting the dodo – who had never met humans and don’t know it’s time to run away. UEA guys will have no experience of dealing with the situation and will have no means to judge the impact of what they do (or don’t do) in far off lands. It’s just not on their radar.

    :(

  26. Thomas says:

    “Peer Review” blah blah blah – you wouldn’t want to know what the attorneys think of the process when talking amongst themselves (spent a day with the other half during a seminar and they think it’s a joke, and three years ago it was brought to my attention that the issues presented in this little episode are rampant – pick and choose which journal based on who supports what rather than validity of the science – it’s “the good ‘ol boys” system to the max…). One would have thought by now the educated community would be well aware of the “paradigm problem” – and Peer review reinforces such dogmatism to the extreme. I now know why it has become such a big deal in the past 20 years – much easier to control the “message”…

    Say what you will about the e-mails, the data is already being mined and it is far more damning then the e-mails. I’d suggest you start looking at the sites that have begun tearing into that (and not just the harry read me file, though that too is quite a mind boggling display of “we don’t know what our programs are actually doing” (said as one who works in IT and has for the past 15 years) – and act like a logical person instead of a “true believer” – nothing in science should ever be considered “finished” and beyond debate, and it would be nice to see this course of investigation brought back into the bounds of science and removed from the areas of theology.

    I’d suggest that this defense is shameful to the extreme, especially given the contents of the e-mails. You’re going to have to do a whole lot better than this to stifle the tidal wave this is causing.

    I guess we shall all know much more after the investigations (and I mean congressional investigations & criminal investigations) are through somewhere down the road. The depths of the political and social fallout from this seems to still be going over all the “true believers” heads.

    I was somewhat critical – I’m no longer on the fence. The whole enterprise needs to be reevaluated with truly open and honest scientific debate & work, starting with a full disclosure of the historical data.

  27. Thomas says:

    Hmmm,

    I find myself being drawn to comment because I think these issues matter greatly. Usually I just lurk and read and try to learn and understand. To understand where I am coming from I should state that my major was philosophy (tripled the required hours as I found it rather interesting – this was back in the days when they were not so interested and obsessed with processing you through from start to finish as quickly as possible, so such was not so extraordinary…) with minors in poly-sci and business. Almost everyone else in the family majored in things much more mathematically related, including an uncle with a PhD in physics. Thus I have generally been able to find someone to help where I get lost… My professional career for the past 15 years has been IT – networking and such (I was not fond of my programming classes – in fact I really hated them – Fortran! so I will leave the code reviews going on to those better able to follow it, though I can states for such comments as have been found to be in the read me files is greatly disturbing…).

    There are a lot of comments about the peer review process. For anyone to state there are not issues with such is to be less then fully honest. Even in this thread there are comments about “making sure rubbish isn’t published” – though that actually was not the original intent of peer review. The question of rubbish was supposed to be AFTER publishing, where the traditional work of scientists testing and retesting others experiments and theories play out over time. It is supposed to insure relevance to the area the journal covered, ensure it wasn’t simply a rehash of previous work and catch glaring issues and obvious mistakes – though, again, anyone being honest will acknowledge much still makes it through the process as most reviewers are not going to go try to test everything presented in the paper – but then that is not what a review is for. It was assuredly never intended to play the role of gatekeeper (such leads to the reinforcement of paradigms, not the advancement of thought and understanding).

    My wife is an attorney, and a couple years ago we went to a conference (concerning environmental issues – which I now find quite ironic) where “peer review” became the lunch break topic of conversation. The conversation was substantially less then flattering in regards to reliability from the legal practitioners prospective. I will try to get her to post a comment on the issues that were raised when she gets back later today. I think such thoughts might be worth pondering in the current debate.

    It is interesting to note however that “peer review” was rarely seen as being of great importance outside of medicine prior to the mid 1950′s, and has over the past 20 years seemed to have become the only “accepted” method of “serious” academic publication (Einstein would have been in serious trouble had the current dogma been in place…). I saw this myself between my undergraduate studies 20+ years ago and my graduate studies (a far different field then my undergraduate studies – grad school was in education) a couple years back. The change between the two was radical and extreme – and it made finding acceptable citations for alternative views for my masters work almost imposable to find (though I also must say critical thought over the theories presented was less then encouraged…).
    Thus I find the whole thump the table and scream “peer review” to be somewhat disingenuous, at best.

  28. Wag the Dog says:

    No one seems to have realised the damage the stolen emails are doing to the AGW denial movement. The New World Order conspiricists are now integrating them into their global government conspiracy theories. Note how the alternative energy advocates lost credibility when 9/11 “truthers” adopted peak oil as a motivation for alleged government collusion in the WTC attacks. If the AGW denialists do not act now to disentangle themselves from the NWO crazies, when the public apply their heuristics both groups will simply be lumped together.

  29. SSte says:

    Mann: “We can hold comments up in the queue and contact you about whether or not you think they should be screened through or not, and if so, any comments you’d like us to include.”

    They don’t delete comments. They just hold them in queue before someone can respond. And whats wrong with that? Denialist climate blogs DELETE non-conforming posts. Realclimate doesn’t. They just give themselves the opportunity to respond.

    cheers

  30. Josie says:

    As William Connolley said, it is highly unlikely that a single person will have changed whether or not they believe in AGW as a result of this. Do you actually know anyone who has said (credibly) “I used to believe in climate change, and now I don’t”?

    The best commentary by far is here:
    http://denialdepot.blogspot.com/
    Some things you can only say with satire.

    UEA’s response- I completely understand it. The emails show nothing sinister to anyone who understands the context, but some of them are embarrassing (opinions about people that I’m sure the authors did not want made public etc).

    If the hacker had released the emails that they thought showed dodgy practices that would have been one thing, but releasing hundreds of random private emails is just an attempt at crass, vindictive (and criminal) bullying. Refusing to engage with it may be bad PR, but it is perfectly understandable. If someone put my private mail on the internet and then proceded to read mad conspiracies into it I would eat cold vomit before going on the telly to try to explain it. (Especially when Morano was also going to be invited on at the same time to shout lies and abuse at me)

Leave a Reply

0.208 seconds | Valid XHTML & CSS | Powered by Wordpress | Site Design: Matthew Carroll