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The CRU hack

Filed under: — group @ 20 November 2009

As many of you will be aware, a large number of emails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia webmail server were hacked recently (Despite some confusion generated by Anthony Watts, this has absolutely nothing to do with the Hadley Centre which is a completely separate institution). As people are also no doubt aware the breaking into of computers and releasing private information is illegal, and regardless of how they were obtained, posting private correspondence without permission is unethical. We therefore aren’t going to post any of the emails here. We were made aware of the existence of this archive last Tuesday morning when the hackers attempted to upload it to RealClimate, and we notified CRU of their possible security breach later that day.

Nonetheless, these emails (a presumably careful selection of (possibly edited?) correspondence dating back to 1996 and as recently as Nov 12) are being widely circulated, and therefore require some comment. Some of them involve people here (and the archive includes the first RealClimate email we ever sent out to colleagues) and include discussions we’ve had with the CRU folk on topics related to the surface temperature record and some paleo-related issues, mainly to ensure that posting were accurate.

Since emails are normally intended to be private, people writing them are, shall we say, somewhat freer in expressing themselves than they would in a public statement. For instance, we are sure it comes as no shock to know that many scientists do not hold Steve McIntyre in high regard. Nor that a large group of them thought that the Soon and Baliunas (2003), Douglass et al (2008) or McClean et al (2009) papers were not very good (to say the least) and should not have been published. These sentiments have been made abundantly clear in the literature (though possibly less bluntly).

More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is 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. The truly paranoid will put this down to the hackers also being in on the plot though.

Instead, there is a peek into how scientists actually interact and the conflicts show that the community is a far cry from the monolith that is sometimes imagined. People working constructively to improve joint publications; scientists who are friendly and agree on many of the big picture issues, disagreeing at times about details and engaging in ‘robust’ discussions; Scientists expressing frustration at the misrepresentation of their work in politicized arenas and complaining when media reports get it wrong; Scientists resenting the time they have to take out of their research to deal with over-hyped nonsense. None of this should be shocking.

It’s obvious that the noise-generating components of the blogosphere will generate a lot of noise about this. but it’s important to remember that science doesn’t work because people are polite at all times. Gravity isn’t a useful theory because Newton was a nice person. QED isn’t powerful because Feynman was respectful of other people around him. Science works because different groups go about trying to find the best approximations of the truth, and are generally very competitive about that. That the same scientists can still all agree on the wording of an IPCC chapter for instance is thus even more remarkable.

No doubt, instances of cherry-picked and poorly-worded “gotcha” phrases will be pulled out of context. One example is worth mentioning quickly. Phil Jones in discussing the presentation of temperature reconstructions stated that “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” The paper in question is the Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) Nature paper on the original multiproxy temperature reconstruction, and the ‘trick’ is just to plot the instrumental records along with reconstruction so that the context of the recent warming is clear. Scientists often use the term “trick” to refer to a “a good way to deal with a problem”, rather than something that is “secret”, and so there is nothing problematic in this at all. As for the ‘decline’, it is well known that Keith Briffa’s maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the “divergence problem”–see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while ‘hiding’ is probably a poor choice of words (since it is ‘hidden’ in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.

The timing of this particular episode is probably not coincidental. But if cherry-picked out-of-context phrases from stolen personal emails is the only response to the weight of the scientific evidence for the human influence on climate change, then there probably isn’t much to it.

There are of course lessons to be learned. Clearly no-one would have gone to this trouble if the academic object of study was the mating habits of European butterflies. That community’s internal discussions are probably safe from the public eye. But it is important to remember that emails do seem to exist forever, and that there is always a chance that they will be inadvertently released. Most people do not act as if this is true, but they probably should.

It is tempting to point fingers and declare that people should not have been so open with their thoughts, but who amongst us would really be happy to have all of their email made public?

Let he who is without PIN cast the the first stone.

Update: The official UEA statement is as follows:

“We are aware that information from a server used for research information
in one area of the university has been made available on public websites,”
the spokesman stated.

“Because of the volume of this information we cannot currently confirm
that all of this material is genuine.”

“This information has been obtained and published without our permission
and we took immediate action to remove the server in question from
operation.”

“We are undertaking a thorough internal investigation and we have involved
the police in this enquiry.”

Update II: Please comment on the next thread.


1,092 Responses to “The CRU hack”

  1. 651
    Charles says:

    A response for gt4:

    You wrote: “As a long time reader of CA and RC I can testify to one dramatic difference between the skeptics and the believers, the skeptics are more tolerant of dissent.”

    That is not my experience. What I find is that they are tolerant of just about anything because that suits the purpose of sowing confusion and casting doubts on rigorously-conducted, peer reviewed science. Moreover, those who operate such sites, while they are free of course to do so and to come up with their own hypotheses about climate change, fail in being able to develop a comprehensive, collective model that explains recent climatic phenomena.

    “My point is only that “Climate Research” is a lucrative little business that is fully funded by the government and dependent on the continued belief in a man made crisis.”

    Your comments here suggest a lack of understanding of how researchers apply for and receive government funding. First, as an academic who works in a mid-sized, research oriented university, I can assure you that scholars seldom “get rich” off of the funding they receive for research. First, the research activities use up the funds, which is exactly what is intended. Second, government demands accountability; you have to account for how the funds are spent.

    And the notion that funding is only granted to perpetuate the existing research supporting AGW is absurd. If that were the case, why would the Bush administration have funded climate research at all, since most of that research was developing and supporting the AGW model?

    Your closing comment to Gavin also suggests a misunderstanding. You wrote: “I am sure you are sincere in your belief in AGW.”

    But belief has nothing to do with scientific investigation. Gavin doesn’t believe in AGW in that same way that one might believe that Van Gogh was a great artist. Gavin and other scientists develop theoretical models based on what the observational and experimental data tell them. Further, researchers are cautioned not to fall in love with their hypotheses; the challenge is to be as objective as possible. The sincere ability of scientists to remain objective and to re-formulate hypotheses and theories on the basis of new findings is what you should be praising.

  2. 652

    #644 Ray Labdbury:

    LOL. I love the brutal truth. Brilliant!

  3. 653

    I am a scientist, just not a physics (neurobiologist). I recognize in these emails the true colors of the daily aspects of doing research: being tough on colleagues, the raw competition and all the rest. Also, while these are the aspects of science that I don’t necessarily love, I don’t see any unethical behaviour emerging from these emails (at least those I could read so far).

    Yet, I think this episode should be of enormous importance for every major discipline in science nowadays and not only those working on climate changes. It shall change the way scientists interact with general public.

    Honestly, I don’t know whether to be grateful to the folks at CRU for their naivite’ or whether I should think they behaved as complete morons for not seeing this coming. Skeptic community is extremely ideological: it doesn’t surprise me they would do steal material just to have the opportunity to cherry-pick and mis-interpret stuff.

    The least the CRU should do now is to go mail by mail, one by one and explain to the public why there is nothing scientifically wrong with what they did (If there is, they should lose their job the day after of course, as it would happen in any other scientific field).

    This is something that I’d ask as a scientist and as sustainer of man induced global warming.

  4. 654
    caerbannog says:

    (As this thread grows, I’m going to continue to repost this earlier post of mine along with Gavin’s response, so that nobody misses it)

    Just a quick question (or two) to Gavin, if you feel the need to spend even more of your weekend downtime answering questions here.

    Given that all of your climate-modeling source-code has been available for public scrutiny for quite a long time, and given that anyone can download and test it out, how many times have climate-model critics have actually submitted patches to improve your modeling code, fix bugs, etc? Have you gotten *any* constructive suggestions from the skeptic camp?

    [Response: Not a single one. - gavin]

  5. 655
    MadRocketScientist says:

    Ray said “Well, except that natural forcers would be causing the planet to cool substantially about no. So… what exactly is the basis of your belief that the planet is warming “naturally”?”

    Forcers? What forcers would cause the planet to cool naturally? And would those forcers be enough to overcome the additional warming from CO2, NH4, heat islands, etc.?

    Gavin?

  6. 656
    Jay says:

    Gavin, If you would please post the question and answer : )

    Given the land use changes of the past 50 years and the increase of asphalt and decrease of tree cover, just look at google maps, is there a possibility in your opinion that the warming we have seen could be more related to that than GHG. I have experienced over and over the effects of stepping from shade to full sun, or a forested area to a cleared one. That combined with the heat of combustion and power production must go somewhere. I have seen on surfacestations.org, I know your feelings on the matter, that the rural temp. measurements are nowhere near the increase of urbanized ones. I have also looked at all the pictures and seen the metal and asphalt surrounding those stations. Stuff like this has me confused. Could you please clarify how I am thinking on the wrong track? Thanks in advance.

  7. 657
    NB says:

    Well, I am very mildly interested in this global warming stuff, but I do find the global paranoiah and fascination with conspiracy theories quite scary. My personal advise to you – stop threatening the hacker with a legal action. You will have to go through as much of this stuff and explain it as well as you can. Otherwise I am afraid we can get a civil war or some climate related terrorism in the years to come. Any attempt to suppress this stuff or brush it aside may bring a disaster.

  8. 658
    dhogaza says:

    Gavin,

    “a) Requesting that scientists delete email correspondence
    b) in the knowledge that those emails may be subject to FOI

    [Response: This was ill-advised. - gavin]”

    Ill-advised, but not unethical?

    And if he’d said “unethical”, you’d ask, “unethical, but not ill-advised”

    Stupid games, stupid games.

  9. 659
    Al says:

    Xyrus says:
    21 November 2009 at 11:38 AM

    Here’s what I don’t get, irrespective of the emails.

    The skeptics and their more extreme brethren always claim there is some sort of global conspiracy by climate scientists, and are now using this hack to further their agenda (similar to how FOX news used the “terrorist fist jab” to further their own agenda.

    But the question is why? If there really was a global conspiracy, then why would it exist? There’s got to be some driving reason behind it, and usually such reasons are money, power, or both.

    So let’s examine that. Let’s start with money. The typical argument is that their is a conspiracy so that climate scientists can ask for more funding to continue to line their pockets with grants and the like.

    Really? Let’s just think about that for a moment. In the US, out of the trillion+ national budget where does climate science rank? The total spent on climate research doesn’t even register. In fact, you could increase it a hundred fold and it would still only make a small percentage of the budget.

    Most researchers are tenured or government positions. The government certainly doesn’t pay in the 7 figure range, and I’m not aware of any Universities that do either. They’re not AIG where they pay out inhumanly large bonuses. To find those pay grades, you have to go to the private sector. And while there may be private sector researchers, they make up a small percentage of the group.

    Ok. Not a lot of money. So could it be power? Considering that there are thousands of researchers, what kind of power would they be after? The ability to enforce energy and environmental awareness on everyone?

    Whenever I hear climate conspiracy, I always ask WHY? Why is there a conspiracy? What would researchers gain from such a conspiracy? At least with other conspiracies, you have some pretty solid reasons. With a climate conspiracy, worst case scenario is what? Wide adoption of renewable energy? Less pollution? A thicker ozone layer? Heaven forbid.

    A climate conspiracy? Really? Is it really so hard to show reproducible research to counter the climate change consensus that the debate has boiled down to “IT’S A CONSPIRACY!!!!”?

    Yeah. Like acid rain was a conspiracy. Like the ozone depletion was a conspiracy. Those darn evil scientists, always looking to harm society for their personal gain.

    It’s not a conspiracy in that sense. But it is an ideology, in every sense

  10. 660
    petek says:

    “It’s funny. Everyone is focusing on and defending the word “trick.” That’s not the important word or phrase. The key is “hide the decline.” In the end it’s just an argument about chartmanship. There is a technical problem with endpoint smoothing here.”

    Great, back to Latin, no definition problems exist. U would prefer m< native German, easier to use and more precise than English. May speakers of BE or AE sort out their communication problems?

    Is it all about climate change? No, the real scandal is the fact that some criminals dared to enter the private life of some scientists. This is not tolerable and the criminals should be prosecuted. A difficult day for Gavin, it is not primarily about climate science. Thank you hackers for exposing personal details as well – oh, we have no problems withs terrorists and other sick people (Irony).

    Once again the question?

    I do not want to insult sceptics. I want a single open source model created by the sceptics (source code is more than welcome), which explains the temperature rise in the late 20th century, excluding X ( X = natural variability).

  11. 661
    MarkB says:

    gt4 (#634),

    Talk about extremely misleading claims (as well as inappropriate insinuations). And you cry about being “censored” here? Perhaps you don’t realize that there’s much more money to be made and fame acquired in the realm of global warming contrarianism (Lindzen’s $2,500 per day from Exxon ring a bell?), as compared with the comparatively modest salaries of average scientists. Skeptics (the few qualified ones there are) receive grant money as well, which further deflates your conspiracy theory.

    Tom writes (#629),

    “After this, the average person is going to see the believers and the first thing they will think is this episode.”

    I’m sure that this is the supreme hope of your crowd. Objective observers are perhaps less inclined to readily comply with your wishes.

  12. 662
    Odd Man Out says:

    Gavin, I’m impressed with your candour and willingness to engage in debate. Carry on.

    In 558, you wrote ..

    Sometimes, in climate as in a lab-based science, you just don’t get good data. And that doesn’t allow you to conclude anything.

    Of course, but there’s a problem here, which is well known in other scientific fields too. Much science consists of disproving null hypotheses by collecting and analyzing data. If you collect and analyze the data and it just does not contradict the null, then one possibility is as you say: the data is duff. The other is that the data is good, the null hypothesis stands, and you have no publishable result.

    That good data disappears right along with duff data. It doesn’t even make it to peer review, never mind through peer review. It might be invaluable in future. It can take man years or be impossible to duplicate.

    Some medical journals have started to insist that, if any result is going to be published, the proposal to conduct the study be registered before any data collection is done, and that all data collected be released upon publication. For too long, good data was buried, sometimes because the result was insufficient to demonstrate the falsity of the null, and in some malicious cases because the result was adverse and would have interfered with the marketing of some product.

  13. 663
    Joe V. says:

    Mr. Ladbury,

    It is said that insult is the last recourse for inteligent conversation. Calling people ignorant, denialist or an idiot does little to ensure your own intelligence. The evidence is not incontrovertible that WE are warming the planet. Your insistence that it is, is the reason for the current discussion. Gravity is incontorvertible, not AGW. I am not disputing the issue, but please, lets be honest.

  14. 664
    G barnes says:

    response to Gavin 622

    .
” I would be careful about using other, independent paleo
reconstruction work as supporting the MBH reconstructions. I am attaching my
version of a comparison of the bulk of these other reconstructions. Although
these all show the hockey stick shape, the differences between them prior to
1850 make me very nervous. If I were on the greenhouse deniers’ side, I
would be inclined to focus on the wide range of paleo results and the differences
between them as an argument for dismissing them all.
”

    was contained in one of the hacked emails from M Mann to K Briffa. He seems to be expressing some doubts

  15. 665
    Rod says:

    Why do the skeptics assume that in the absence of climate change research no climate research would be occurring? The scientists currently looking into AGW would likely be doing other research, it’s like some bizarre lump of labor fallacy.

  16. 666
    BBC says:

    “CRU data includes extra information from Nat. Met. Services which were given on the understanding that they could not be passed on to third parties except as part of the gridded data set. This information is something that the relevant NMS’s sell commercially and so they often have legal mandates not to undermine their own revenue streams by giving things out for free.”

    Can you not understand that your position that AGW is a dire threat to humanity which requires the urgent re-ordering of our economies AND that some of the data which supports this cannot be released because of the commercial interests of scientists or their employers, is completely incredible to any intelligent person?

    [Response: I'm just telling you why the situation exists. I did not design it and I would change it if I could. If this bothers you and it should, write to your representative and ask that met offices release more of their data to the WMO CLIMAT network and release CRU from their prior agreements. Inundating CRU with FOI requests is a waste of time. -gavin]

  17. 667
    Steve Fish says:

    Alan Clark — 21 November 2009 @ 9:17 AM:

    All of the gripes, personal comments, and mistakes involved in producing a research paper are completely irrelevant. A good paper is finely crafted to be accurate and reproducible, and this is what is important, not the e-mail between collaborators and competitors.

    I would be embarrassed if someone showed you a video of all of my gripes, personal comments, and mistakes I made while building my house, but I think the final product will stand any scrutiny. Just what important information relevant to the “profound implications for the long term viability of the planet” do you think was hidden until you saw the e-mails?

    Steve

  18. 668
    manacker says:

    Ray Ladbury

    Add this one to your 644.

    If you have put in the hard study based on rational skepticism (see Wiki for definition) and found holes in the science supporting the premise that AGW, caused principally by human CO2 emissions, is a potential serious threat, then you are a RATIONAL SKEPTIC (a group, which appears to be growing).

  19. 669
    Sue Jones says:

    I am sorry that you have to waste your time answering the misconceptions that have arisen from this theft. I am sure you have better things to do than to justify your working methods. The contrarians have always accused you of manipulating the data and now they will put the purloined emails to more scrutiny than they ever put to the data itself or to the published papers, to uphold their suspicions. They will seize on every word and bend it to suit the mindset that human activity is not affecting our atmosphere and that you have “tricked” them. No doubt this will keep them very busy for a long while.

    The game is becoming more interesting than the men´s final at Wimbledon. In a sense both parties are right. The sceptic/contrarians/deniers are wary of an hypothesis that, if true, demands they change the very principles on which their lives are based. They want a solid guarantee, 100% certainty. Anything less arouses deep suspicion. And no amount of hypothesizing will convince them unless they get to stick their fingers in the wound and see it for themselves.

    The unscientific public is totally confused, a peculiar psychological state to be in (with a little cognitive dissonance thrown in to make it even more uncomfortable..) They don´t understand the science, because they can´t be bothered to study it, and they have been subjected to a concerted campaign by the private interest brigade to persuade them everything is ok and natural, and allay their fears. They are right to demand certainty before they commit themselves.But the problem appears to be that as far as climate change is concerned, there can be no certainty, 90% is not enough. And because the whole issue of climate change is as uncertain as it is fearful, it is far easier to accept that it is untrue and point fingers at the scientists. That way they get to keep the SUVs wth a clear conscience.

    Except it is not a game. The trump belongs to Mother Nature. I predict that with the stirrings of a new El Niño event, the next few years will bear out the IPCC and subject us to irrefutable proof that the planet is moving to a warmer state. Maybe we would have had the chance of averting this if the warning signs had been heeded. But they were not. Science and scientists have always battled, throughout history, against the tide of public hostility and disbelief, but that has never changed what is true in the end.

    And in the end the truth will out, however hard they paw through those emails, however hard they convince themselves it is all a lie.

    Sadly, I feel the hypothesis that human activity is adversely affecting the climate, will soon be verified by simple irrefutable evidence for all to witness. But by then it may be too late.

  20. 670
    Leo G says:

    OK enough with this soap opera, can we move back to the science now?

    Gavin, have you been following Dr Roy Spencers’ work relating to clouds? I have a gut feeling, that this may be where the “heat” is going. Sitting here in Vancouver, for the past 2 weeks, we have been having torrential downpours at about 3-9*C. Multiply this effect and it seems to me, that the cooling ability of our atmosphere must be awesome.

    Leo G

  21. 671

    Tom wrote: “There will always be believers. But this will be done as a mainstream issues. After this, the average person is going to see the believers and the first thing they will think is this episode.”

    Tom, you don’t understand. There are literally hundreds of peer-reviewed journals around the world ready to publish anti-global warming evidence if it exists…some will accept almost anything gladly even in different languages.

    Mainstream science is not about believers and non believers. It is about what you can prove…it goes back to the 1600s as permanent written records The written proof is written in what is called permanent scientific journals (more or less) or written down at scientific conferences…From at least 1824- Fourier and the first climate model being done in 1896 (Svante Arrehnius) and the huge body of thousands of studies proves that humans are warming the planet.

    …even an economist and a geologist have published about human-caused climate change.

    It is why you are still alive today most likely. This method of proof gave you the medicines that have kept you alive this long and kept out bad medicines and germs that might have killed you.

    This method of proof made it so that you are not walking in your own and your neighbors poop outside in the street. There was a lot of scientific debate about that one too. Luckily, the methodology of proof won out and outdoor sewage was eliminated (under protest!)…that wasn’t done by belief, but by proof.

    This is the way mainstream science works…not by belief…but by being able to prove something. It took proof to *change* mainstream science into accepting that human-caused global warming was even happening…and that only with new technology such as being able to look at atoms.

    It has a lot of limitations, but it is self-correcting and progressing because the evidence is always there for the rest of human-kind to debate.

    This is literally rocket science. It is so involved that only experts can understand it…

    …kindly explain to me the importance of the differences in oscillations per centimeter of water vapor vs. carbon dioxide (CO2 is closer to the spectrum where the Earth is giving off most of its heat energy). Explain the importance of 240 watts per square meter vs. 239 watts per square meter squared of the Suns’s energy at the upper edge of the atmosphere (If carbon dioxide stops one watt per meter squared of energy leaving, you get global warming-the basic concept being worked out in 1824 by Fourier).

    This is a basic understanding that climate experts need to know to be able to debate this. This is hard evidence…not belief. No experts right now can prove anything against human caused climate change anymore with evidence.

  22. 672
    KirkOlson says:

    [Response: Science is not decided by majority vote. -gavin]

    Now where have we heard that before?

  23. 673
    Jere Krischel says:

    [Response: Wrong. The consensus on the main planks of the science is solid. No need for one to purchase it. - gavin]

    Gavin, we may all agree that water vapor and co2 are greenhouse gases, but what a difference it makes when you have alarmists claiming that a change of 0.03% to 0.04% concentration of co2 will cause 20 foot rises in sea level. The “main planks” as you say may be on firm ground, but the uncertainty bars around the magnitudes we’re facing are open for debate.

    You can at least admit that, right?

  24. 674
    Tracy says:

    Frank says, I think regarding scientists:
    “Amount of trust and respect left now = 0″

    If you truly do not have any trust and respect for the current methods of pursuing and publishing science, then I suggest that next time your wife finds a lump in her breast, send her to a mechanic. Don’t take vaccines. Don’t take antibiotics. Leave your child’s leukemia untreated, if such a tragedy were to come to your family. And don’t go claiming the method is only bad for climate change, not medical research. Because medical research is big money, big business, big politics, in just the same ways. It is fraught with problems, which scientists constantly discuss, complain about, try to fix, and endlessly debate. But we still make drugs, cure things, understand things better, by increments. That is what science does.

  25. 675
    Gavin (no not that one, a different one) says:

    Gavin, just wanted to say thanks for the excellent job you have done injecting some sanity into the discussion of this issue. There aren’t too many who would have spent their Saturday on this, and your comments have been spot on. Keep up the good work!

  26. 676
    MosesZD says:

    “It is tempting to point fingers and declare that people should not have been so open with their thoughts, but who amongst us would really be happy to have all of their email made public?”

    I’d venture a guess at: “anyone without something to hide”.

    That stupid old line of jackanapes reasoning. Nobody has the right to break into my computer and read my email even though I have nothing to hide. The bottom-line is that not only is it illegal and immoral, but it’s a gross violation of my privacy.

    Something I cherish quite strongly as I’m, by nature, extremely private. I’m so private and respect the privacy others so much it took five years for me to get over my inhibitions of opening my wife’s bills and bank-account statements.

    My wife!

    And that’s even though I’m an accountant, pay all the personal bills and reconcile her checkbook every month. Even today, years later I won’t open things addressed to her that I’m not absolutely sure of…

  27. 677
    Balthazar says:

    I don’t know much about science, but I get very sceptical about the sceptics, after reading about this. Before hearing about this hacking, I had my mind open, that there might be something in their claims, but after this I’m getting convinced of the opposite. Presenting evidence that a website is “screening” comments as evidence that global warming is a hoax?! Calling it the “greatest scandal ever” in science?!? Everyone should know it is very common to moderate blogs/sites with comments etc. Still, I have never myself had a comment rejected, even when fiercely attacking the blog owners. They moderate because – honestly – the Internet is full of spam, trolls etc… signal-to-noise-ratio might get awfully low if they don’t.

    Also, to those of you who says that anyone with nothing to hide would gladly have their work e-mails for sometimes as long as thirteen years made public: I assume you don’t do anything criminal in your appartments do you? Surely not. So, can I break in and search it? I’m sure you have nothing to hide. If I find something suspicious I will make it public, so it can be discussed by the general public, and I’m sure you’ll have an explanation for it. Before you go on mocking me, saying your apartment is private and work e-mails are work: Everyone who are fairly accustomed to this “modern invention” of e-mails, would know that e-mails tend to get written in a very colloquial way, like a phonecall, but they might get read like they were a formal letter. People seldom think of this when they write— they get emotional, over exaggerate etc…. it’s the nature of e-mails and therefore tend to get very private, even if they officially are work related.

  28. 678
    Jere Krischel says:

    ” We trust our scientists for the same reasons. They took rigorous science and mathematics courses at reputable institutions, they were vetted by a job search committee that included personal reference checks, they publish data that is peer-reviewed and then they release their findings to the world for the utmost scrutiny. What more do you want?”

    I want them to be able to admit when they are wrong. Vesting such trust in figures of authority leads them to believe they must always be seen as “right”, otherwise their authority will be diminished. This means that correction becomes a lesser option to staying the course and insisting there is no elephant in the room.

    In fact, I want them to be skeptical of their own hypotheses. I want them to work hard to disprove their theories, to expose all possible data and argument that may poke holes in their own beliefs.

    No matter how you explain away the context of various gotcha moments in the emails, one thing is perfectly clear -> there is no evidence that could convince these people that their basic premise was wrong. This is not science.

    [Response: Which basic premise is that? The reason you aren't seeing debates in the emails over whether CO2 is increasing because of human activity is because it's done with. We know the answer. Why don't we debate whether CO2 is a greenhouse gas? Because that too is over. What people debate now is not the 'basic premise', but the details - and as you can read there is plenty of debate about that. - gavin]

  29. 679
    Winston says:

    654 – caerbannog

    In the interests of balance, Gavin, how many patches for the same code based on the same availabilty have you had from the proponents of climate change?

    [Response: From complete outsiders, fixes to the makefiles etc. But all of the bug fixes and code improvements have been internal or from our official collaborators - gavin]

  30. 680
    Jere Krischel says:

    “The oceans continue to become more acidic with human-caused CO2 emissions, independent of climate change observations and models. Important marine organisms that make calcium carbonate shells and structures are beginning to die off because of the increasing acidity of the water. Coral reefs in the Galapagos are dying now and other reefs are threatened.”

    Really? How ever did life survive in the oceans in ages past when the CO2 levels were many times higher?

    You want to look at reasons for reef die off, look at agriculture run off. Making an enemy out of plant food just doesn’t make sense.

  31. 681
    Jere Krischel says:

    “Then lets start checking the existence of gods, truth in astrology, existence of alien visitors, efficiency of homoeopathics, etc. Go on, if you have time and stomach for that.”

    The show is called “B*llsh*t” on showtime, and is hosted by Penn & Teller. They’ve got episodes on all of that.

  32. 682
    Steve Fish says:

    M Yoxon — 21 November 2009 @ 10:56 AM:

    You are a little at risk for sounding like you think that scientists should be like public figures. I think that the quality of the science is what is important, not the individuals e-mails, home life, or prurient propensities. You are falling for the denialist hype.

    Steve

  33. 683
    Phil. Felton says:

    Charles says:
    21 November 2009 at 5:26 PM
    A response for gt4:

    You wrote: “As a long time reader of CA and RC I can testify to one dramatic difference between the skeptics and the believers, the skeptics are more tolerant of dissent.”

    That is not my experience. What I find is that they are tolerant of just about anything because that suits the purpose of sowing confusion and casting doubts on rigorously-conducted, peer reviewed science. Moreover, those who operate such sites, while they are free of course to do so and to come up with their own hypotheses about climate change, fail in being able to develop a comprehensive, collective model that explains recent climatic phenomena.

    I quite agree, anytime a post is made contrary to the belief on CA the claque descends on the poster with venom and abuse, with few exceptions they are not tolerant at all! And that’s the way SMcI wants it.

  34. 684
    Steve Fish says:

    eric — 21 November 2009 @ 5:23 PM:

    Oops, you seem to be talking to yourself. Somehow your name got into my name field. This probably happened while I was doing a Ctrl + f search for your name to reread your post.

    Steve

  35. 685
    Ray says:

    Gavin – thank you for dealing with this crap. 600+ messages, and a horde of triumphant denialists must be very discouraging.

    But don’t give up. You’re doing important work. If people of reason don’t speak up, then we’re truly lost.

    I have to admit though, I’m beginning to suspect that the real answer to Fermi’s paradox is the depressing one.

    I am also amazed that hackers combing through 10+ years of emails couldn’t even come up with (or plain make up – they’re clearly unethical) something more damning than the trivial stuff we’ve seen. You guys are saints, at least compared to people I’ve had the misfortune of dealing with.

  36. 686
    Anne van der Bom says:

    steve mosher,
    21 November 2009 at 4:09 PM

    They should have trusted that open debate would yield the next right action in the shortest time possible.

    Debate? Are you referring to is an endless repetition of innuendo, strawmen, faulty logic and debunked talking points usually found on ‘skeptic’ sites? Opening up the data and playing nice would not help this ‘debate’ moving forward because the purpose of this ‘debate’ is stagnation. A bit more data would not change that.

  37. 687
    MadRocketScientist says:

    [Response: I'm just telling you why the situation exists. I did not design it and I would change it if I could. If this bothers you and it should, write to your representative and ask that met offices release more of their data to the WMO CLIMAT network and release CRU from their prior agreements. Inundating CRU with FOI requests is a waste of time. -gavin]

    For those of us in the US, do our reps have any real pull in this regard, or is it up to the UK government? BBC is right, this data is too important to tuck behind IP barriers.

  38. 688
    Michael says:

    668 comments? Wow, is that a record?

    Anyway, can we go for 1000 comments??? Yes, we can!

  39. 689
    Keith says:

    Steve McIntyre has confirmed that emails purportedly from him, are genuine.
    That doesn’t mean all of the content is genuine of course, but it should push support for an investigation of the leak. If none of the content was genuine, it wouldn’t be a leak would it ? Jones has already confirmed that the CRU has been hacked – an investigation must follow. So…. where’s the investigation ?

  40. 690
    Polyaulax says:

    Well,I think Open Day is going rather well. Numbers are up,and the facilities seem to be coping. The biggest attraction seems to be the ‘Hang On To The Wrong End Of The Stick’ tent;we’re measuring some very powerful grips…’Declaim and Run’ is also a popular attraction…’Find The Key Words’ is solid,and ,as usual,bringing up some novel constructions. ‘Link The Researcher With The Paper’ is providing sterling challenge,as ever. Let’s do it again next year!

    And a big thanks to Gavin,and the clean-up volunteers!

  41. 691
    George Hebbard says:

    I know the hacking, and posting was unethical. But so is waterboarding.

    The two opposing viewpoints- 1) we can solve the problem of overpopulation and misuse of resources by driving the world back to the stone ages, and
    2) we can enrich-en the people of the world so that they move to reasonable family sizes if we use technology properly, constitute WAR.

    Which way will you have it?

  42. 692
    EL says:

    217 – On Political Support
    Copenhagen is already doomed to fail. People have always resisted new science because of their ideologies. The world was not accepted as round overnight, nor did people accept the earth’s revolution around the sun overnight. The catholic church just recently backed off of its charge on Galileo. Climate science will be no exception to this historical trend. Have you even seen the global cooling proposition put forward by so many of these anti-climate people? The math is flat out wrong, but people support it regardless.

    233 – On Have yet to see evidence…

    Even a little kid can find evidence for global warming.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0kIaCKPlH4

    234 – On Legal “in any case, intellectual property rights are rights, not duties, and can be waived”
    Scientists do not have the power to waive away legal responsibilities. The supreme court in America is currently reviewing a case called Bilski, and the case has very much to do with intellectual property. The question before the court is very simple: Can people patent ideas? The case is very important for business methods, software, genetics, mathematics, and various other patents of abstraction. Likewise, there are many powerful industries fighting for and against any decision.

    Lets not pretend that scientists could extend their hand and the legal responsibilities would just disappear.

    288 – On tricks…

    I’m a mathematics major myself, and the term trick is used quite frequently in the field. In fact, there is an old saying in mathematics: “If a trick is used often enough, it’s a technique.” Perhaps you should read a good dictionary.

    Journals have always been under constant pressure to keep shitty papers out of the system. Do you have any clue about how many people post nonsense proofs on problems such as p=np, one way functions, etc? There is thousands of so called proofs that are flawed. Journals are under pressure to keep the trash out of the system so that mathematicians do not waste their time reading bullshit. The same can be said of science journals.

    289 – On Perception
    On higher levels in any field, you will find discussions like these. In mathematics, most people are only exposed to the absolute certain view of mathematics. Behind the scenes, mathematicians are arguing for and against various things. Is the proof really a proof? Is this statement clear enough? What does the proof really mean?

  43. 693
    Chris KP says:

    Thanks for the post. It is no mean feat to add some semblance of context to such a large and diverse collection of correspondence and you’ve done a good job. There will continue to be much speculation as to the motives and methods of obtaining and disseminating these emails, but as far as I can see, so much of the issue is to do with history and context.

    An understanding of the use of the term “trick” (for example) and scientists’ discussions of appropriate/useful data to include in studies is what seems to be missing from so much of the fog sweeping across the blogosphere at present.

    Reading emails without knowing the entire conversation (often carried out in emails, phone conversations, face-to-face communication, second and third-hand accounts, published papers, etc over a period of weeks, months or years) is fraught with error. Indeed this is why students should study science at school – not to learn facts and figures, but to learn about the processes of science, to understand to critical value of controlling variables and to recognise all possible sources of error.

    It is not just those who have something to hide who would prefer not to have their email made public but anyone whose email exists in a broader context – that is everyone – especially if the publicising process is anything like it has been with this CRU hack.

  44. 694
    Anne van der Bom says:

    gt4,
    21 November 2009 at 4:54 PM

    I have posted on CA talking down the name callers.

    In the interest of ‘real debate’, did you post Gavin’s response to your ‘lucrative funding’ overview in your post 634?

  45. 695
    Tony Rogers says:

    Gavin. Your response to #604 above: “…The issues with the base CRU data have been discussed above (and here), but to recap, CRU data includes extra information from Nat. Met. Services which were given on the understanding that they could not be passed on to third parties except as part of the gridded data set. This information is something that the relevant NMS’s sell commercially and so they often have legal mandates not to undermine their own revenue streams by giving things out for free. Now I don’t really know how key that is, and how flexible they might be to rethinking those agreements, but while they exist, CRU is in a bit of a bind…”.

    This is an example of what really makes me struggle! What you have said about the difficulties CRU has in releasing their data may well be true. However, you seem to be asking us to believe that this is the reason why Phil Jones won’t let McIntyre or others have the data. It’s completely obvious to everyone that this is not the case. Jones hates McIntyre would do anything he can to make life difficult for him. He will use any excuse he can get hold of. He can be seen to be actively searching for ways to avoid fulfilling FOI requests!

    If it was the case that Jones would just love to give McIntyre the data but is just hamstrung by the system, we would see that in the emails. He would perhaps be finding a way around the problem with a non-disclosure agreement or whatever other methods you guys use when you exchange such data. Trying to spin it any other way just winds people up.

    [Response: Dealing with the avalanche of politically motivated and vexatious FOI demands and other requests I would imagine takes up a large percentage of the time that Jones has available to do research. This has been going on for years. Any initial goodwill that would have existed has very likely been eroded at this point. - gavin]

  46. 696
    MS says:

    As a layman, I understand the dilemma that climatologists are facing: there is some strong evidence that the world temperature is currently rising. The question is – how this rise is correlating with human activity? Is it ciclical? Were world temperatures higher throughout the human civilization? Why?

    Since most of those scientists are working for the public or semi-public institutions, they all depend in their research on public funding. The amounts of grants in any research is obviously directly depending on the importance of discoveries those grants generate – and WHAT can be more important then a way to save a humankind?! Thus is a collusion between climate scientists and politicians: neither one of those doesn’t want to be portrayed as inept during critical changes of the Earth’s climate; thus the alarmist’s statements of doom’s day scenario; thus, possibly, some tweaking of data that do not confirms the mainstream theory… This positions gives to politicians – a posture of “Wight Knights” fighting for humanity and more votes; to scientists – status of “Saviors of The World” and more grants…

    It is all understandable, and, in the long run, probably serves some good: saving energy can’t a bad thing. What bothers me is a lack of data, or inability to process it, or, to the contrary – an excess of data to know how to integrate it into exsisting models. Earth is much more complex system to predict it’s temperature in 2025 by concentration of CO2; there are thousands and millions of factors that can affect its condition, many of which are probably not even considered yet. In fact, climatologists remind me a lot of economists: they can explain perfectly fine the past events – but never a future one…

    [Response: Not true. The impacts of pinatubo and the trends since 1988 were both predicted ahead of time. -gavin]

  47. 697
    turbobloke says:

    A bit late with this, but I see that someone has mentioned Jones’s “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real tempsto each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline. ”

    This e-mail dates from 1999, so what decline from 1961 could he be talking about? Everyone knows that at the time 1998 was the hottest year on record.

  48. 698
    pough says:

    I’ve been reading through some of the emails. The honesty on display is actually quite refreshing. I’m getting a picture of some people who really just want to work on their science and the denialists are gadflies. I keep expecting to read secret confessions of fraud, but what I end up reading is stuff like “the latest outrageous claims and inept science by John Christy, David Douglass, or S. Fred Singer”.

    Now I know that when they think nobody is looking… they still call their opponents buffoons and they lament the fact that they can’t just spend their time honestly figuring things out.

  49. 699
    TC says:

    [Response: I'm just telling you why the situation exists. I did not design it and I would change it if I could. If this bothers you and it should, write to your representative and ask that met offices release more of their data to the WMO CLIMAT network and release CRU from their prior agreements. Inundating CRU with FOI requests is a waste of time. -gavin]

    This just seems incoherent. If the CRU group was interested in having the data released, they could easily respond to the FOI request with “these three parties need to sign off on data release, here’s who to contact”. Done. Instead, it’s obvious from the emails that they are actively working to prevent release, actively looking for any excuse not to share data.

    Surely, at some level you must see that this looks ridiculous given the scope and seriousness of the claims being made. After all, everything is based on the raw data, right? If we are truly facing a planetary catastrophe, don’t you think people would be willing to step up and defend every last part of their work, including raw data, intermediate steps, choices in analytical approaches, etc? That’s a simple question.

  50. 700
    Steve Fish says:

    Clarity Please — 21 November 2009 @ 11:33 AM:

    The debate is political, not scientific. You want a database of tens of thousands of research articles that are consistent with the consensus and the few hundred that are opposed? I don’t believe that you are a practicing scientist.

    Steve


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