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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. 351

    #193: Richard Ordway and #212 caerbannog:

    Please read Smoke, Mirrors & Hot Air – How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco’s Tactics to Manufacture Uncertainty on Climate Science (2007) at http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/global_warming/exxon_report.pdf

  2. 352
    Fran Barlow says:

    Secular Animist@183 said:

    Moderators, please DO NOT open up these comment pages to the endless stream of idiocy vomited forth by weak-minded ignorant Ditto-Heads who pollute every general-interest forum (e.g. newspaper websites) on the Internet with their slavish recitation of the inane talking points that the fossil fuel corporations pay Rush Limbaugh to spoon-feed them.

    I second the motion …

    In my opinion, the policy as currently implemented is if anything rather too permissive. Anything asserting/strongly implying conspiracy or “social engineering” or “IPCC fraud” or other major and repeatedly debunked talking points ought to be savagely culled.

    It’s not as if there is a shortage of other places on the internet where such nonsense can be retailed.

  3. 353
    Windguy says:

    I don’t really see how it all can be factual. They have obviously cherry picked the emails as much as they cherry pick their graphs. For a hacking and only 60Mb or 150Mb of data only available, my own email account goes way over that! So something doesn’t give here, if the hackers were trying to show a proper falsification or conspiracy was really happening, then it wouldn’t boil down to 60Mb of data and then only 5 (random?) emails picked to show that conspiracy.

    Like a good poem, these 5 emails will be dissected for years to come about the “real” meaning of them.

    For CRU though, if they republished those emails in context with the other forwarding emails in those group of emails, they may alleviate “some” conjecture.

    Or in the end, these hackers might have learnt something, then falsified the emails. The emails with Gavin CC’d in on, have you seen these emails before?

  4. 354
    Justin says:

    Let me at least ask one question.

    Doe any of the climate change scientists see a way to “fix” global warming with a carrot instead of a stick?

    Is there any way to “fix” this problem (if indeed there is one) WITHOUT enriching Al Gore and a few thousand others who will line their pocket with my family’s income?

    Nobody wants a ruined planet, me included. Nobody I know wants dirty water, disappearing rain forests, holes in the ozone, or man made global warming. I don’t know enough about the science to even be a skeptic. I’m a CPA, I can discuss tax code with anyone. But this entire issue has been used as a giant stick waved at everyday folks. What I do know is accounting, finance, and I have 6 years experience dealing with investment bankers who are salivating at the chance to make TRILLIONS off of this, at the expense of the people.

    Any suggestions?

  5. 355
    jyyh says:

    Never trust an e-mail, never trust e-commerce, there are hackers about. I don’t know what people in the Linux community are saying about this, but then its another thing. I, and likely many more people, would be interested on the system these data were stored, just for to know what sort of system not to use when commercing over the web.

  6. 356
    tom madison says:

    why wasnt all the data in the open and such

    this wouldnt be a problem

    weird feeling suits will show up about this

  7. 357

    Gavin,

    In your opinion, what percentage of global warming is due to human causes vs. natural causes?

    [Response: Over the last 40 or so years, natural drivers would have caused cooling, and so the warming there has been (and some) is caused by a combination of human drivers and some degree of internal variability. I would judge the maximum amplitude of the internal variability to be roughly 0.1 deg C over that time period, and so given the warming of ~0.5 deg C, I’d say somewhere between 80 to 120% of the warming. Slightly larger range if you want a large range for the internal stuff. – Gavin]

    [For 40 years, your climate predictions has been wrong. For the last decade, your climate predictions have been wrong, so I’d say somewhere between 80% to 120% of your predictions have been wrong. Slightly larger range if you want a large range for the internal dialogue stuff. – poorsinner101]

    Climate change is a change in the statistical distribution of weather over periods of time that range from decades to millions of years. It can be a change in the average weather or a change in the distribution of weather events around an average (for example, greater or fewer extreme weather events). Climate change may be limited to a specific region, or may occur across the whole Earth. (WIKI)

    Don’t climates change over time by definition? How can humans stop climate change? Doesn’t the Sun warm the Earth? Which is worse for humanity, an ice age or a warm Earth? These are my questions.

  8. 358
    Pekka Kostamo says:

    This is modern warfare. It is between organizations (not nations), often seeking to remain invisible. The weapons are information and disinformation, money, propaganda, deceit, burglary… Anything that might bite. There are no limits, no agreements, no regulations, no reliable allegiances, no thruths, no morals.

    To study it, you may start with:
    http://cryptome.org/cuw01.htm

    It is a book that explains a number of things, valid also beyond this incident. The “war on science” has been going on for a good while but it is only one side front.

    One particular fundament being that rational thought is rather rare and sporadic in human decisionmaking. Facts are not a strong play, emotions are much stronger.

  9. 359
    Chris says:

    The whole “trick” excerpt is boring compared to other stuff. Read the whole thing. The central issues at stake are:

    Did they, or did they not, make efforts to hide data from curious outsiders?

    [Response: No. – gavin]

    Did they, or did they not, make efforts to delete correspondence in a suspiciously defensive or even illegal manner?

    [Response: Defensive, yes. – gavin]

    Did they, or did they not, massage their models, cherry-pick or even fabricate data in order to support their claims? If so, WHY?

    [Response: Not in the slightest. – gavin]

    This is the stuff serious people care about, no matter what you believe about AGW. I hope, as folks scour the emails and other files, the unambiguous truth will come to light.

  10. 360
    Tim McDermott says:

    Gavin,

    Just for fun, have you considered issuing DMCA takedown notices against websites hosting emails you wrote? Unless you have explicit agreements surrendering your copyright on anything you write at work, I’m guessing that the rights remain with you. Too bad you didn’t register them. Statutory damages for copyright infringement is 150,000$ per copy.

  11. 361
    BJ_Chippindale says:

    One thing I noted when looking at the kerfuffle over the AR4 e-mail delete thing, is that there was a big stink fostered by CEI and consequent FOIA requests, for raw data relating to the 1980s. I am sure the scientists are aware of the problem of retrieving data from that far back… I am not sure everyone else is.

    Go back to the 1980s and everything was archived on tape. To maintain that data (and I know because I had the job of doing this for another government agency in the 1990s), you have to read the tape and rewrite the data. Often the format of the machine that wrote it is quite different from the machine that you now have to read it. There are hardware issues which once overcome are followed by software and formatting issues.

    Nobody had to delete that raw data, it deletes itself from one decade to the next unless there is a heavy investment in maintaining it. The processed data is still available, and as noted in the e-mails, the raw data involved had been reprocessed by NOAA and GISS and the Russians when it was still fresh.

    Just saying…

    BJ

  12. 362
    rechoboam says:

    I have worked in molecular biology labs; been part of multicentre clinical trials; reviewed grant applications and so on and so on. I have NEVER encountered anything like this. The language used here is so far from what researchers in other fields would consider professional that I am incredulous. I reiterate, if respected researchers in the fields of say immunology or molecular biology sent emails like these out, the recipients would simply not know how to respond. I must say, for the first 24 hours I assumed that the whole thing was a hoax put out by a very dedicated global warming sceptic. If it is actually true, well,..look, I don’t know what to say. It is beyond indefensible…just one question for the people above defending the authors- do you UNDERSTAND that scientists are supposed to be impartially reviewing evidence and publishing the results without fear or favour? Coming up with a priori hypotheses and then finding results that fit is not part of the deal!

    [Response: Nor is it something that actually happened. -gavin]

  13. 363
    rechoboam says:

    One more thing, as the author above said:

    “I would be happy to have all my e-mail correspondence directly related to my work published in the public domain.”

    Not only that, were it possible, I would be happy to release a transcript of every telephone conversation and face to face conversation that I have ever had that related to my research. There is nothing I am embarrassed about because I have integrity.

  14. 364
    KRM says:

    Could someone explain this one?

    Neil

    There is a preference in the atmospheric observations chapter of IPCC
    AR4 to stay with the 1961-1990 normals. This is partly because a change
    of normals confuses users, e.g. anomalies will seem less positive than
    before if we change to newer normals, so the impression of global
    warming will be muted. Also we may wish to wait till there are 30 years
    of satellite data, i.e until we can compute 1981-2010 normals, which
    will then be globally complete for some parameters like sea surface
    temperature.

    Regards

    David

    [Response: Doesn’t make much sense. Warming is defined by the trends which do not depend on the anomaly baseline. Going from -1 to 0, or from 0 to 1 is exactly the same increase. Picking a normal period (1951-1980, or 1961-1990, or 1971-2000) is completely irrelevant for that. – gavin]

  15. 365
    Dan Basica says:

    Gavin,

    You imply the emails released are a just a few and out of context. Ok, I’ll buy that. Then release the rest of the correspondence so we can make up our own minds on how they fit in the context of things.

  16. 366
    Dappled Water says:

    The deniers are right, all public employees have no right to privacy, they’re public servants, not private ones right?. If the public paid for it they have the right to that information.

    In the US I expect the CIA, FBI, Homeland Security, Pentagon, DARPA, etc , etc will be declassifying all correspondence and circulating it, for all and sundry, any day now…………

  17. 367
  18. 368
    Will says:

    Fascinating. Group Polarization, Attitude Bias, Group Think, and mega egos on all sides.
    I’ve got popcorn and a front row seat.

  19. 369
    David says:

    David: I respect the scientific method and I believe that human understanding of our global climate is in its infancy.

    BPL: But you clearly don’t know anything about this old, old field, or you wouldn’t say something so silly. Want a timeline? Just Google the “Hadley” Hadley climate center was named after. BTW, even AGW theory is 113 years old.

    David: BTW BPL, was that arrogance or just condescension? Impressive either way – you insult my opinion and knowledge, while ignoring the whole point of the statement.

    I didn’t say anything about how long the field of climate science has existed. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you just didn’t read carefully. Or do you believe that if climate science is an “old, old field,” it necessarily correlates to a strong understanding of our global climate?

    BTW, 113 years of AGW theory, wow! That IS a long time BPL! Especially in the context of earth history, global climate changes and human knowledge!

  20. 370
    Aaron Kulkis says:

    Dappled Water:
    “The deniers are right, all public employees have no right to privacy, they’re public servants, not private ones right?. If the public paid for it they have the right to that information.
    In the US I expect the CIA, FBI, Homeland Security, Pentagon, DARPA, etc , etc will be declassifying all correspondence and circulating it, for all and sundry, any day now…………”

    So your argument is that basic research into temperature data has the same national defense issues as such things as weapons penetration capabilities and armor thicknesses on military vehicles and navy ships?

    Sorry, but that logic just doesn’t hold water — the only people who would buy into that argument would have to be idiots.

  21. 371
    jlc says:

    First and last visit to RC.

    Pro-glow posters are obsessive and fanatic. They (as well as the famous emails) demonstrate hostility and vindictiveness to anyone who seeks clarification. If they want to experience a more honest and open discussion without the name calling (that they impute to climate non-hysterics), they should visit, eg, CA , WUWT, et al, where they will get a courteous reception (if they behave courteously).

    I appreciate that you have opened up your responses on this historic occasion which will, hopefully wean us away from lunatic fringe warming mania.

    I’m pretty sure sure that neither Gav, Mike, Phil, Kev or any of the other gurus who are so much smarter than Pat, Des, Rick, Lucia, Fred, Steve, Anthony, etc., believe in their heart of hearts that sea levels will rise more than a metre in the the next 100 years.

    It will, of course, be less than this.

  22. 372
    Van Grungy says:

    I agree with Will…This thread is fascinating…

  23. 373
    caerbannog says:

    Hey Dan (#255),

    Gavin doesn’t work for the CRU.

    No need to thank me for the free clue.

  24. 374
    Rich Vail says:

    I’m not a climatologist, but I am a Ph.D. and I believe myself to be a reasonably intelligent individual. It seems to me that the emails requesting the deletion of all emails on (subject) be deleted to avoid FOIA requests for data is rather damning in and of itself. Especially if that request is for specific data in order to replicate a study.

    [Response: No-one has deleted data needed to replicate a study or even suggested doing so. – gavin]

    Now if such a destruction of email/data is to prevent someone from replicating a study…isn’t that in fact a criminal act? If not publicly so, but from a scientific stand point.

    For example, several years ago a group of scientists claimed to have devised a way to create “cold fusion”…but NONE of their research was replicable…and so were publicly thrashed (in a figurative way). Now…if these scientists at CRU have hidden/destroyed their data files in order to prevent anyone from replicating their research, does this not call into question EVERYTHING they’ve done? Does this not call into question ALL of their research?

    As you can see, I’m not hysterically accusing anyone of anything, merely asking a reasonable question. I’ve taken the time to track much of the information that is now publicly available and come to my own conclusions. Now, is the what if part…

    If this hack, and the information that has been released is proven to be accurate, what response will this site take?

    Ladies and Gentlemen, thanks for your time.

  25. 375
    Squidly says:

    [Response: He’s pointing out that there is a long list of claims that GW is a hoax, not that there is any actual evidence that it is. – gavin]

    The problem that I have with this is, it is up to the theorists (hypothesis really) to “prove” that AGW is real, not the other way around. But, instead, the proclamation of “settled science” and “debate is over” is presented. I must have been sleeping through the 90’s as I don’t recall any such “debate” and can’t seem to find reference to such either.

    Now, the question is, have the theorists proven the theory? Some might suggest yes. I would however have a real problem with such an assertion.

    I would like to state at this time however, I am very glad to see that at least this article has been allowed to have seemingly free commentary. Rather refreshing. I have been to the blog many times, have tried posting questions, and have had NONE posted. And I just simply asked some very pointed and direct questions, no adhomen, just questions. Nice to see that you may be willing (for a time at least) to open up a little.

    If this continues, perhaps Gavin would engage with me in discussion of software development practices and methodology, as I am a computer scientist of 30 years, with a decidedly (from what I have read) vastly different views of these subjects than Gavin.

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment here! I appreciate it!

  26. 376
  27. 377
    Marion Delgado says:

    Bear in mind that for what the Canadian researcher Robert Altemeyer calls the high right-wing authoritarian* mind-set, the national idols, which in the case of the US and to a degree Australia, Canada, etc., are business and businessmen and corporations, the corporate cover-your-ass knife-in-the-back anything-to-win sociopathic culture is in fact superior to science. If science doesn’t work that way, with one eye on the lawyer’s phone number and the other one on your bank statement, well, that’s yet another scandal, isn’t it!

    *A term of art, to a degree, since ardent Soviet patriots, especially in the Brezhnev era, were also high RWAs according to Altemeyer, who actually surveyed them.

  28. 378
    Graham Wayne says:

    Gavin, may I simply express my sympathy for all scientists who believe that truth is not subservient to ideology. I try to support rationality by posting in the climate change threads in the Guardian and I was very dismayed by the timing and nature of this scurrilous disinformation ploy. If MI5 or the CIA were opposed to climate change they could hardly have done a better job.

    But the fight for rationality and scientific principles is not lost, it just got harder. Fair enough. We will have to put in a bit more effort, that’s all (and protect ourselves from the increasing desperation of those who would like us to revert to the superstitions and fear of the dark ages while paradoxically accusing us of exactly what they themselves are trying to do).

    Sometimes I ask myself if such people are actually worth saving from themselves. After a cold shower and a beer, the answer always remains ‘yes’.

  29. 379
    DaveS says:

    ***”In the US I expect the CIA, FBI, Homeland Security, Pentagon, DARPA, etc , etc will be declassifying all correspondence and circulating it, for all and sundry, any day now………… –Comment by Dappled Water ”

    Excellent analogy. If Gavin’s data and methodology were to fall into the wrong hands, God help us all. He is exactly like the CIA.

  30. 380
    Risto Linturi says:

    Surprisingly little was found that is of any essence. We are all human and our expressions are easily misunderstood, especially when one benefits from the misunderstanding. Most of us also express ourselves badly in private occasions and experiment on thoughts that are not really intended or ready. Always we also see things from our own viewpoint and this should be clearly understood. This did not harm my confidence in the climate science or public awareness raising you guys are doing, and I fully expect all fair and balanced people react likewise. Mudslinging is a part of all politics and huge sums of money and power are at stake. Please keep up the important work.

  31. 381
    ccpo says:

    Joe says:
    20 November 2009 at 3:05 PM

    Remember that the comments here are moderated, so you can’t really trust the comments here to be representative of anything but the opinions of the moderator.

    Yeah? Try posting a dissenting view at WUWT. I’ve never posted a lie, a slander, or anything else but the truth there, but I am banned. That dumb arse even came here and stated he’d let me back in. Did he? No.

    Pull your head out.

  32. 382
    Alan of Oz says:

    By all acounts I’ve read Newton was considered a genius in his own time but not a nice person at all. But seriously thanks for the timely article, it got a lot of attention on slashdot when someone posted it as a reponse to the CRU story.

  33. 383
    Gavin Greenwalt says:

    In regards to “tricks” I have another excellent example:

    Tricki.org

    “[…] a brand new Wiki-style site that is intended to develop into a large store of useful mathematical problem-solving techniques. Some of these techniques will be very general, while others will concern particular subareas of mathematics.”

  34. 384
    billga says:

    Storm in a teacup. Science is always messy yet still better than anything else. Nature still holds the answer. Back to work everyone.

  35. 385
    ccpo says:

    118
    Bob Kutz says:
    20 November 2009 at 3:33 PM

    …amounts to ad hominem attack on Anthony Watts. His web site and his personal opinions regarding AGW are far far more balanced and scientific than most of what’s allowed on this site.

    Do you kiss your wife and kids with that mouth? Perhaps you were thinking of the Uber Objectivist Fox News?

  36. 386
    ccpo says:

    303
    Tim McDermott says:
    21 November 2009 at 12:24 AM

    Gavin,

    Just for fun, have you considered issuing DMCA takedown notices against websites hosting emails you wrote? Unless you have explicit agreements surrendering your copyright on anything you write at work, I’m guessing that the rights remain with you. Too bad you didn’t register them. Statutory damages for copyright infringement is 150,000$ per copy.

    Please, god, let just one scientist have the nerve.

    I have a rather serious question. Remember last winter when all over the blogosphere acolytes of Watts, et al., were posting that by the end of summer or fall Climate Change would be a thing of the past? That the tide would be turned? I posted here about it several times as evidence that denialist rants were coordinated attacks.

    Here’s the question: Do we have any clue as to when the e-mails were actually taken? Let us do keep in mind it is very unlikely it was only once.

    If there were multiple attacks AND they are shown to have started sometime before the spamming of those comments that AGW was dead in ’09, that would be an indication of a wide ranging conspiracy – and a thing for federal prosecutors to attend to.

    Cheers

  37. 387
    James Racer says:

    Thank you for a coherent and eloquent response to this. If only more writers had such clarity and candor.

  38. 388
    Tom says:

    I have been an avid reader of this site since its inception. I have found it invaluable.

    But I am seriously concerned, not simply about the contents of these emails, but the response this information is prompting.

  39. 389
    Jonathan Fischoff says:

    I have read through many of the emails, and I think that people are going to initially draw the wrong conclusions, like global warming is a hoax.

    What I was surprised by was McIntyre’s posts are forcing some climate scientist to make correction and fix mistakes. I thought you guys just saw him as an idiot? Say what you will about blog science, he might be the sole, albeit, hated exception, but his nit-pickyness seems to actually result in more accurate papers. Kudos to McIntyre’s, and kudos to the scientists improving their papers.

  40. 390
    Bob says:

    Many of the items obviously have been delivered to us out of context. Or are being willfully taken out of what context is provided, even. There is no guarantee at this point that any given item is genuine. It doesn’t matter that the people involved were rude, disrespectful, whatever. I have no idea the context in which the seeming peer review shenanigans took place, either in terms of the norms of that activity or in terms of the specific context of the correspondence.

    But the people involved, some of whom are respected climate scientists, are obviously hiding information from FOIA/analogous requests. And conspiring to do so. Here in the US that is in itself a criminal act. It’s not proof of actual scientific wrongdoing, but it is also not what the scientific white hats are supposed to be doing in their struggle against the supposedly invalid complaints of those who disagree.

    It’s actually the kind of thing the AGW skeptics would predict out of you. The more nasty ones, in fact.

    It’s smoke for sure. Maybe fire. Maybe we’ll find out.

    One more thing. Since when are scientists so unfriendly to skepticism? I have been appalled to read all of the too-hasty “now I’m no skeptic!” disclaimers made by people here claiming to be scientists. I hope they’re not who they imply they are. Isn’t skepticism central to the scientific method?

  41. 391
    Neal J. King says:

    This whole thing is a public-relations nightmare. Maybe it will blow over on its own, but I doubt it: It is more likely that it will continue to expand into the blogosphere, with the help of CA and right-wing conservative bloggers.

    I think the only thing that will help is if the principals involved (e.g. Jones, probably Mann) in the more targeted emails spend the time to reconstruct what was going on at the time and provide context and explanation for what was really meant – and make it public. Maybe embarrassing, and certainly a waste of time from a scientific perspective; but otherwise, the argument over the behavior of the scientists will continue to power the ongoing media “debate” over the validity of the science. This is not a good time for this to happen: The Copenhagen meeting is coming up fast, and the discussion on what to do about GW in the Senate is just around the corner.

    The attitude that all this email stuff is so “inside baseball” that no one outside can comprehend it is understandable, but it won’t wash in the realm of public discourse. The stance that “This mess is due to the criminal act of hacking non-public information, and should be ignored by the public,” is simply a non-starter: After all, the Pentagon papers and the Tobacco Institute papers were also published through activity that was illegal, but nobody cut them any slack because of that.

    It’s really too bad that there ISN’T a worldwide conspiracy of “AGW warmists” to coordinate the PR response, because a detailed and self-consistent explanation is going to be needed to put the fire out.

    The danger doesn’t lie in the content of the emails, the danger lies in the response (or lack thereof). This could be like Clinton’s handling of the Monica Lewinsky problem.

  42. 392
    bobbyv says:

    hey rc, you can end this by adopting a culture of TRANSPARENCY!

  43. 393
    Paul UK says:

    I think this is a sign of serious desperation.
    The fall of the denier regime, resulting in more outrageous acts and comments.

    Real desperate stuff. Whenever I see AGW deniers get more aggressive and more outrageous I just feel that we are winning. How low will they go?

  44. 394
    PhilP says:

    As a 20+ year researcher, I have been open-minded to the possibility of AGW but very skeptical of the “90% certain” front that is put forward. Despite this view, i have benefited greatly from climate-change related funding, as many scientists have in the last 5-10 years (and will in the next 5-10 at least).

    Reading of these emails has in-fact softened my skepticism a little, as i am now reassured that there appears to be a diversity of views to some extent, even amongst the “inner-sanctum”. This is a good thing, as we are still very much in the early days of understanding how our climate works, and clashing of ideas is essential in furthering our knowledge. I am also reassured to see that very senior scientists are still engaged in doing actual scientific work.

    Some of the so-called ‘questionable’ conduct of the researchers is nothing too far out of the ordinary in my experience, and is simply indicative of scientists trying to further or protect their respective careers and influence. It’s ugly …. but that’s the nature of the business of being a scientist nowdays and these sots of behaviors are inevitable when money, ideas, reputations, and personalities are involved.

    The ‘scoop’ that the peer-review process is not ‘pure’ will also not be new to many of us. Hopefully this episode will result in increased scrutiny and openness in the climate science community, which appears to have been somewhat lacking to an outsider. In the long-run, the softening of the siege mentality which shows up in the email exchanges, will be beneficial to the cause of improving our climatic understandings.

    Gavin … all credit to you for freeing up the blog to more critical viewpoints, and for taking the time to deal with them on this issue… this blog has gone up quite a few notches in my opinion because of your approach.

    Keep at it …

  45. 395
    charlie says:

    > Charlie said “You know, I’ve always wondered why we scientists never seem
    > to use anything like pgp in email communication with each other. Maybe its
    > time to start?”
    >
    > In government and business, the two drivers of communication encryption
    > are privacy legislation (that is, the privacy of the citizenry who’s
    > personal details are contained in the emails/data) and commercial
    > sensitivity. Neither applies to science. Science is supposed to be
    > transparent.
    >
    > Comment by NZ Willy — 20 November 2009 @ 4:26 PM

    I’m all for transparency in science, but that doesn’t mean I leave the door to my office unlocked at night. Apparently the implicit assumption that Russian oiligarchs aren’t trying to hack into one’s computer and steal private correspondence in order to embarrass an entire community of researchers isn’t a good one, and needs to be tossed.

  46. 396
    Michael says:

    I’m surprised at all commentators wishing for WUWT and CA’s servers/inbox to be hacked/open to scrutiny and drawing a moral equivalence between that and what has happened to CRUT. Those websites are not publicly funded so why should the public see their inner workings?

    regards

    Michael

  47. 397
    David A. Burack says:

    What has always struck me about the published as contrasted with this bootlegged literature regarding anomalies in the data for such things as tree rings is that the authors typically try to explain if not use “tricks” (nothing necessarily wrong with that use of the word) on the outliers that vary toward the cooling side. That’s my impression,OK? I would have more confidence in the slicing and dicing if the same tricks were applied to the same data on anomalous outliers on the warming side. I expect Gavin’s reply if his energy holds up would be for me to cite some examples. Fair also. I haven’t got his energy.

    On a slightly related note from the microbiological political science sphere, this GW debate is an echo of the similar politicized debate that plagued Baltimore/Imanishi-Kari cell research a couple of decades ago: how to handle the outliers and gaps in the data records. Same misunderstandings about how real science works. Things ended up arguably vindicating the original science/scientists alright, but there were some career-bending intermediate stages.

  48. 398

    glenn: Have you no decency? I know the answer to that one!

    BPL: We have the decency not to hack other peoples’ computers and steal their private emails.

  49. 399
    Stewart says:

    Tim @ 303 –
    You assume that the writers of the emails retain copyright in them. This is probably not true. Usually, emails written by a person in the course of their work, using work computers and work email addresses, are owned by the employer.
    There may be some truly “private” emails (i.e. emails written from a private account) amongst the rest. But most of them seem to be from non-private email accounts.

    Also, Dapland @ 306. I think it’s funny you compare science-related correspondence with law enforcement and intelligence agencies. You really think they are comparable? Really?
    Open and transparent science is a pain though, isn’t it.

  50. 400

    Another denier: Seems like this mess should have been cleared up by simply giving data/methods to those that request it.

    BPL: It’s all publicly available and always has been. The constant charge that scientists are concealing data and methods is simply an example of the Big Lie technique–repeat it over and over and hope people never hear the truth.


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