RealClimate logo


Technical Note: Sorry for the recent unanticipated down-time, we had to perform some necessary updates. Please let us know if you have any problems.

One year later

Filed under: — gavin @ 20 November 2010

I woke up on Tuesday, 17 Nov 2009 completely unaware of what was about to unfold. I tried to log in to RealClimate, but for some reason my login did not work. Neither did the admin login. I logged in to the back-end via ssh, only to be inexplicably logged out again. I did it again. No dice. I then called the hosting company and told them to take us offline until I could see what was going on. When I did get control back from the hacker (and hacker it was), there was a large uploaded file on our server, and a draft post ready to go announcing the theft of the CRU emails. And so it began.

From that Friday, and for about 3 weeks afterward, we were drafted into the biggest context setting exercise we’d ever been involved in. What was the story with Soon and Baliunas? What is the difference between tree ring density and tree ring width? What papers were being discussed in email X? What was Trenberth talking about? Or Wigley? Or Briffa or Jones? Who were any of this people anyway? The very specificity of the emails meant that it was hard for the broader scientific community to add informed comment, and so the burden on the people directly involved was high.

The posts we put up initially are still valid today – and the 1000′s of comment stand as testimony to the contemporary fervour of the conversation:

I think we did pretty well considering – no other site, nor set of scientists (not even at UEA) provided so much of the background to counter the inevitable misinterpretations that starting immediately spreading. While some commentators were predicting resignations, retractions and criminal charges, we noted that there had not been any scientific misconduct, and predicted that this is what the inquiries would find and that the science would not be affected. (Note, the most thorough inquiry, and one that will have to withstand judicial review, is the one by EPA which, strangely enough, has barely been discussed in the blogosphere).

Overall, reactions have seemed to follow predictable lines. The Yale Forum has some interesting discussions from scientists, and there are a couple of good overviews available. Inevitably perhaps, the emails have been used to support and reinforce all sorts of existing narratives – right across the spectrum (from ‘GW hoaxers’ to Mike Hulme to UCS to open source advocates).

Things have clearly calmed down over the last year (despite a bit of a media meltdown in February), but as we predicted, no inquiries found anyone guilty of misconduct, no science was changed and no papers retracted. In the meantime we’ve had one of the hottest years on record, scientists continue to do science, and politicians…. well, they continue to do what politicians do.


442 Responses to “One year later”

  1. 1
    Kate says:

    Thanks for the link, Gavin!

    I appreciated your context in the early days of “climategate”. I am still fairly new to the world of climate science, and last year I was still in high school. The combination of spending most of my time studying or applying to universities, as well as my lack of scientific experience, made understanding papers and knowing what to look for challenging at best. When the media started yelling about fraud (as John Cook says, the approximately 132nd “final nail in the coffin of AGW”), it was incredibly helpful to have explanations and links to further context over here.

    It’s easier now, and RC has been a real help to me as I learn more about the topics I hope to research one day too. The posts here are written in accessible language, without oversimplifying the science, and are some of the most thorough, well-cited, and objective articles in the blogosphere (as much as I’m sure the so-called “skeptics” like to claim otherwise). Please keep it up!

    Regards
    Kate
    http://climatesight.org

  2. 2
    sharper00 says:

    The problem (for people who think climate science is all fraud etc) is that “Climategate” is a fixed and unique event in time. It’s certainly had a negative impact on the public perception of climate science over the last year but the further the event moves in the past the less effective it becomes.

    I think the ultimate legacy of “Climategate” is to leave the AGW skeptic community with a terminal case of email addiction. Having almost completely with the science most of the prominent skeptics seem to be completely focussed on getting more emails to quote mine/feed their addiction. Private emails written by people in unguarded moments are priceless when it comes to presenting individuals as mean or intolerant and who cares about science produced by mean/intolerant people?

    Meanwhile reality continues to produce data in an unmistakeable pattern. As mentioned in the post 2010 is one of the hottest years on record and Arctic/Greenland ice continues to melt.

  3. 3
    Snapple says:

    I never paid attention to global warming until Climategate. This scandal made me take a closer look, and I believe the scientists, not the denialists.

    I can’t understand all of the science, but I can see that the denialists mischaracterize what scientists say.

    Calling the scientists greedy liars reminded me a lot of the KGB’s AIDS propaganda campaign.

    I wrote about Climategate on Nov. 28, 2009. I am sure there is plenty of naivte in this article, but I did write:

    “I am going to reserve judgement until all of the data from the CRU becomes available to scientists because this scandal seems like a clasic case of kompromat.”

    I also wrote about these “patriotic” Tomsk hackers who attack sites the Kremlin doesn’t like.

    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2009/11/russias-hacker-patriots-embarrass.html

    About a week later, the British media speculated about Tomsk hackers and possible Russian involvement.

    I still think that there is Russian involvement here because Gazprom’s foreign business partners become their lobbyists.

    “Moscow has operated by making lucrative arrangements with foreign energy companies that become de facto lobbyists for the Kremlin within their own countries.”—”Why The Russia Spy Story Really Matters” (RFE/RL, 7-9-10)

    This seems like the Oil-for-Food corruption.

    I hope the scientists won’t let the campaign of persecution intimidate them. We need these scientists to speak up. I think Russian scientists also study global warming and would like to speak up for their own people, but they live in Russia.

    I notice that, with the exception of a few very elderly scientists, Russian scientists don’t join in the propaganda against our scientists. The Russian propaganda has to quote non-scientists like Andrei Illarionov, a Putin adviser who worked for Chernomyrdin.

    Cuccinelli even quotes these Gazprom/Kremlin propaganists in his suit to the EPA.

    I now have a lot of suspicions when I see that Attorney General Cuccinelli, whose dad is a gas lobbyist with “European” clients, is attacking the scientists and even quoting propaganda from a Gazprom-owned newspaper in his EPA lawsuit.

    I write to Cuccinelli’s deputy with my questions, but he never answers. I have been writing for months. They do’t even say one word, and I voted for him.

    I think we need to know who is giving our politicians money to run for office and to fool us into voting for them so they can help these corporations that persecute our scientists by telling lies about them.

    I believe the scientists, and I want someone to investigate the Cuccinelli family’s secrets. The Attorney General is supposed to be working for the public, not the interests of fossil fuel companies and maybe even foreign, government-controlled companies who funnel money for their propaganda through their American business partners.

    Virginians fought a revolution because they didn’t want to be ruled by a foreign tyrant. Cuccinelli says President Obama is like King George, but I think that Cuccinelli is like King George.

    I voted for Cuccinelli because I didn’t understand what he represented, but don’t believe a lot of these denialist Republicans any more.

    I hope our government is trying to find out if political donations from foreign entities are being disguised as payment for “professional services” to cooperating American businesses.

    Probably this is illegal. I hope our government agencies don’t let us down.

  4. 4
    Larry Saltzman says:

    I feel strongly that scientists no longer can just do what scientsts do, which is science. Scientists now have to become media savy and shrewd in ways that were never necessary in the past. It is naive to think the e-mail “problem” is over. The Congressional witch hunts start in January and scientists are the target. The know nothings in Congress will not care if you win the rational debate, they only care if they can make climate change science look bad to the public.

  5. 5
    Roger Albin says:

    Like the other posts on this site, RealClimate’s responses to Climategate were articulate, measured, and firmly based on scientific reality. An impressive contrast to MSM. Thanks.

  6. 6
    Edward Greisch says:

    It would be lovely to have the emails on the server of the real criminals, the ones who cracked into the CRU server. While waiting for someone to crack that one or the Koch Oil Co server, there is still: “Video proof David Koch, the polluting billionaire, pulls the strings of the Tea Party extremists”
    http://climateprogress.org/2010/10/14/video-proof-david-koch-the-polluting-billionaire-pulls-the-strings-of-the-tea-party-extremists/
    or
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JjQxPJOAfg&feature=player_embedded#!
    The Koch brothers own Koch Oil Company.

    When are they going to catch the crackers?

  7. 7
    Adam R. says:

    I think the ultimate legacy of “Climategate” is to leave the AGW skeptic community with a terminal case of email addiction.

    Working as I do in the skeptic-infested world of engineering, I can attest to this. The email kerfuffle has supplanted the “They were predicting cooling in the ’70s!” myth in messages from colleagues moved by the urge to jab my well known climate sensibilities. As far as they are concerned, “Climategate” nailed AGW’s coffin shut, and not a hundred official inquiries could open the box and make the dead walk. The victory of the dis-informers could hardly have been more complete if genuine malfeasance had been uncovered.

  8. 8
    Thomas says:

    I think the lasting legacy of Climategate will be to make scientists more wary of what they write in private, and this is not a good thing.

  9. 9
  10. 10
    Eli Rabett says:

    Eli’s take on the hacking has been that the primary legacy will be to drive home the Niemoeller lesson to scientists, many of whom have thought that they could sit out the attacks on Mann, Santer, Jones and others. The lesson that still has to be learned is that someone who attacks you in the Wall Street Journal is not your friend at AGU.

  11. 11
    Jim Redden says:

    As you have, and others continue to point out, the mischaracterizations, and out of context pluckings of quoted bits from the purloined emails, were mostly used to support dubious narratives that wrongly promotes doubt.

    The pre-Copenhagen timing of the event, and the instant lies that emerged as talking points by those who had an agenda to derail climate science remains particularly both disappointing and disheartening to the state of some human beings moral compass.

    The whole scheme manifold reeked of a sophisticated orchestrated preplanned disingenuous affair—conducted by those smart enough to both know better and the truth.

  12. 12
    Dave Berrt says:

    There is one element of the e-mail kerfuffle that I haven’t seen addressed, and that is the cultural clash between the use of e-mail in academia (until, perhaps, the last few years) on the one hand, and the use of e-mail in business on the other.

    When e-mail was invented, it was used for private conversations within the academic community. I recall being introduced to e-mail as a CS undergraduate in 1981; this was well before commercial services were available (in the UK, at least). E-mail messages were transient, informal and unofficial. Later on, disk space became cheaper and messages were stored for longer, but the culture was by then well established.

    Sometime later, e-mail became widely used in the commercial world. Here, messages were just electronic versions of memos and letters. They were more likely to be regarding as a formal part of communications. If a company was involved in lawsuits (as companies in the USA routinely are), or was investigated for wrongdoing, e-mails were treated in the same way as other written documents.

    This difference of cultures persisted for a long time. It certainly persisted well into the 1990′s, when some of the “climategate” messages chosen by sceptics were sent. These days, the “business” e-mail culture has become dominant.

    My guess is that many of the people reading the leaked e-mails would not be aware that they were written in a different work culture from the one they themselves have experienced. Does this seem true to others, or I am misjudging the situation?

  13. 13

    #10 Eli,

    Thank you.

    What an amazing illustration. I had heard it before, but never knew the back story. That was illuminating and powerful, and a lesson we should all be considerate of.

  14. 14
    Rod B says:

    Kate (1), just for the record, I am a skeptic and have pretty much the same opinion of RC that you do.

    I do admire your gumption. Keep up your endeavors and thirst for knowledge.

  15. 15
    Harold Pierce Jr says:

    Adam R says: “Working as I do in the skeptic-infested world of engineering,…”

    Engineers who design HVAC systems for buildings, large complexes of these such as shopping malls, factories, warehouses, etc study long-term local weather data so they can select the proper equipment for maintaining a comfortable interior enviroment for the inhabitants and workers. Thus, they might find the local weather data is at odds with the claims of the climate scientists suchas those relating hot years and warming trends.

    Some engineers spend most of their time in the field and have not experienced any noticable change in climate, that is to say the pattern of weather is about the same over the long term, for example, engineers who work on oil exploration and production platforms out in the ocean. Incidently, oil companies keep detailed records of weather and climate data which are used for their maritime and world-wide operations. Perhaps this is the resaon they are skeptical about the claims of the climate scientists.

    You might check out “Global Warming: a closer look at the numbers” by chief engineer Monte Heib at:

    http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/greenhouse_data.html

    This article has been cited on many blogs, but I find there are suspicious numbers in Table 1 for the emission of GHG’s from natural sources. He didn’t exactly say where he obtained these numbers but only gives reference to the CDIAC and to the IEA’s “Greenhouse Gases and Climate Change” whose reports cost $400 each for non-members. He also didn’t state what model of the climate he used for these calculations or the specific humidity.

    Monte Heib is a mapping engineer whose is employed by the WV Office of Miner’s Health, Safety and Training.

    [Response: You are right to be suspicious. The numbers are very wrong. And despite them being shown to be wrong over and over again, they are still quoted by the credulous. Credit to you for not to falling for it. - gavin]

  16. 16

    My regards to Snapple(3.) for acknowledging that voting for Cucinelli was a mistake. Not many people at any place on the political spectrum seem willing to admit to errors nowadays. Let that be a lesson to all of us!

  17. 17
    Woobaka says:

    I ditto Snapple’s (#3) first remarks. I was never seriously interested in climate science (don’t get me wrong, I believed there was a threat and done what I could to cut my personal emissions, and as a fresh into the field ecologist, it was a field I was likely to deal with given the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of natural sciences).

    “Climategate” intitially rang alarm bells for me, and as a result I investigated what was going on. It didn’t take long before I was completely unconvinced by the “skeptics”. I suspect Snapple and myself are not alone, and that “climategate” actually contributed a great deal to getting people involved in countering “skeptic” nonsense on all sorts of fora.

  18. 18
    Adam R. says:
    Harold Pierce Jr@15 Adam R says: “Working as I do in the skeptic-infested world of engineering,…”

    Engineers who design HVAC systems for buildings, large complexes of these such as shopping malls, factories, warehouses, etc study long-term local weather data so they can select the proper equipment for maintaining a comfortable interior enviroment for the inhabitants and workers. Thus, they might find the local weather data is at odds with the claims of the climate scientists suchas those relating hot years and warming trends.

    That’s my field, as it happens, wherein I inhabit the arcane corner known as direct digital control systems.

    MEs, who have to account for degree days in their designs, should all know better, especially given the fact the professional organization, ASHRAE, acknowledges the fact of anthropogenic climate change and promotes green building standards to abate emissions. Nevertheless, many MEs I’ve met are staunch deniers, and explain ASHRAE’s position as “just politics”. How the hell that explains it in present day America, I have no idea.

  19. 19
    Donald Oats says:

    Thanks for the year of commentary on the CRU affair; it is so hard to get beyond sound-bites and the denierati in Australian media, so sites like RealClimate are invaluable for “hearing” it from the scientists at the coalface.

    Last year in Australia we had politicians touring around with professional deniers (I am not happy to call them sceptics as they are not) sowing confusion in the hope of reaping votes for “their side”. The good news is that some climate scientists have come back from the field and headed into the bush to explain their work and the uncovered data in plain english – hopefully this will go some way to countering the buffoonery of the politicians who previously toured the bush towns.

    Keep up the good work on this site, it is appreciated.

  20. 20
    Oxford Kevin says:

    Thank you Gavin for providing the context. A lot of the information you provided I know that myself and others used on news websites like the Guardian in the UK to push back against the skeptics.

    The format of this blog though didn’t always make things easy because I would often remember having read something in the comments which I needed for a response and it wasn’t always easy to find it using searches amongst the thousands of comments. After a while I did start capturing some of the stuff in a private wiki but I missed a lot of stuff in the early stages that I never had time to go back and collate. A pity because there is a huge amount of useful stuff in the comments of the blog entries on swifthack.

  21. 21
    Isotopious says:

    The impression I got from the CRU emails was that the scientists were ‘defending AGW at all costs’. And it gave me the feeling that in a hypothetical scenario, even if the scientists had data that falsified AGW, they would unlikely share that info.

    I know that’s unlikely to be true, but I think that’s what many people may have sensed, a bit like the feeling of “being cheating on”.

    So although no wrong doing was found, no one believes you now? Can’t blame them?

    [Response: You greatly overestimate how many people care about this, or even remember it. For people already predisposed to not want to believe the science, it strengthened their conviction (confirmation bias in action), but for most everyone else, they shrugged it off. If people want to jump to conclusions without assessing the weight of the evidence, they certainly can be blamed when they come to erroneous conclusions. I'm happy to point people to the evidence and the studies, but while you can lead a contrarian to science, you cannot make them think. They have to do that for themselves. - gavin]

  22. 22
    Lou Grinzo says:

    First and foremost: Let me give all of the climate scientists of the world a standing ovation, especially those who are making an effort to communicate with the public. There is no more honorable profession than teacher, and right now we lay people desperately need the most effective educators we can find regarding this topic.

    Second, I hope everyone here thinks about this theft of e-mail and how it’s been twisted by the deniers in their public statements. This has never been a battle of competing scientific theories; it has always been a public relations conflict between scientists seeking to improve our understanding of a very complex and critically important subject and a group of people who want to resist accepting and acting on that knowledge because of ideological and/or financial reasons. In other words, don’t be lulled into thinking that the deniers can be overcome purely by the depth and quality of scientific findings. If that were true, the deniers would have drifted off into history by the early 1990′s.

    Finally, let me urge everyone, yet again, to read (or re-read) Merchants of Doubt. It reads like a horror story in places, but sadly it’s true.

  23. 23
    lucia says:

    Gavin–
    My visitors always ask and I can’t answer: Was the break-in to the WordPress Admin area only? Or did they hack onto the hosted account on the server?

    [Response: They used something to directly access the backend mySQL database (to export the password/user details to file prior to erasing them in the database) and to monitor logins to the ssh account. Neither of these things are standard WordPress functions. I conclude therefore they must have hacked both, though the actual entry point is obscure. - gavin]

  24. 24
    DavidCOG says:

    Fascinating read, Gavin. Thanks.

    > I think we did pretty well considering…

    You did an effing brilliant job. Kudos to you all.

    So pleased that Prof Jones came back and is working again.

  25. 25
    Isotopious says:

    I too shrugged it off, because I knew it was rubbish. However, in conversation with others, many with a scientific background did not like what was inside those emails, and felt it was terrible. However, that was not always the case, many experienced folk did not like the witch hunt that followed, and thought that was terrible also.

    You are however ‘defending AGW at all costs’, no? That’s what it looked like to me, a group of very passionate scientists…

    What happened to being dispassionate, Gavin?

    [Response: Where did I ever claim to be dispassionate? Strikes me as a very odd thing to want. Nothing worthwhile ever gets done without passion - whether that is developing a climate model, building a house, writing a novel, or running a blog. And no, we are not defending 'AGW at all costs', but rather defending scientists from being personally abused as part of someone else's war on the potential policy implications of that science. None of us signed up for that when we did our PhDs. - gavin]

  26. 26
    Sou says:

    At times I expect it must be hard to keep up the motivation for this site. Spending a day at the beach, or otherwise relaxing must be a great temptation.

    So I have to add my heartfelt thanks for providing invaluable information in a digestible manner. The articles and the comments have greatly helped my learning, and prompted me to contribute to discussions on the matter in other fora. The inside knowledge you shared in the light of the scandal of the stolen emails was a primary source for refuting the nonsense written on blogs and in the mainstream media.

    Realclimate.org is not just a site to learn about climate change and global warming. It’s a must read for anyone who loves learning about science. Particularly for those of us who don’t have the time or depth of knowledge to get all our science information from journals.

    Thank you so much for keeping the site going for so long, and hopefully for a long time to come. Many of us visit here regularly and we always learn something new and important.

  27. 27
    Isotopious says:

    Sorry Gavin, but this time you are wrong. Whether you are passionate about your climate model or experiment is irrelevant to its outcome.

    [Response: Sure. when did I claim the opposite? - gavin]

  28. 28
    John Coffee says:

    Gavin, I believe you meant to say “not defending ‘AGW at all costs’”, rather than what you wrote in #25. Better correct it quickly or some skeptic will get a hold of it and post it on the web for all to see.

    BTW, great site with informative articles!

    [Response: ;-) thanks. - gavin]

  29. 29
    Rattus Norvegicus says:

    As someone who accepts the consensus (after more than a little research and actually reading key papers) the initial reports in the denialosphere worried me. Because of this decided to take a look at all of the emails. So last year over the Thanksgiving weekend (a four day weekend and the end of November here in the US) I read or skimmed every email in the whole damn dump attempting to characterize them. I would say that >~90% of them were reasonable scientific discussion of how to present results for the IPCC, discussions about ongoing research, etc. A few dozen were discussions about the FOI requests from McIntyre and his minions or just expressing general frustration with the denialists. Another few discussed ongoing article reviews or opinions about articles which had recently been published but which the researchers felt were substandard and should not have been published. This last class has been characterized as “undue interference with the peer review process”, but what they really were are just expressions of frustration with certain editors at some journals.

    The only one I found disturbing was Jones’ request to delete emails relating to the IPCC AR4 chapter on paleoclimate. However, the vast number of emails in the dump which would have been responsive to David Holland’s request seems to argue for the fact that none of the emails were deleted, except from the recipient’s inboxes. The ICO office’s finding that Holland should have be supplied with these emails (and which the CRU still held, until the backup server was seized by the police) shows that these emails were not destroyed. The manner in which individuals manage their inboxes and how they manage their emails is generally not under the control of the institution, but the backup policy is.

    Email Culture.

    I’ve been using email since the early 1980′s… In those days the internet was known as “ARPANET” and email was what was known as “source routed”. An ugly scheme utilizing what was known as bang routing or source routing. This meant that addresses would look something like: someserver!anotherserver!yetanotherserver!targetserver!user. Email in those days was unreliable (much worse than the USPS) and it might take days (I’m not kidding) for a message to be delivered, usually via UUCP. The introduction of UUNET in the late 1980′s revolutionized and made it usable for the majority of users who were not on the ARPANET or who lacked a connection to internet through anything other than a 19.2Kb modem (and this was fast, back in the day).

    Still it seems to me that email has always been a rather informal means of communication in the academic and engineering world and remains so today. If you could have seen some of the flames I sent off about the design of the cache when I was a company working on it’s first Intel based machine you would have seen how easy it was to mine quotes. Sometimes there was context provided, but most of the time shared knowledge was assumed. Lots of emails started with “You are wrong about…”. Sound familiar? And if you could have seen some of the emails sent amongst the software engineers complaining about the stupid designs of the ASIC people… (BTW it all got sorted out and and the resulting design was quite good, but a lot of heated argument led up to the final decisions on how things would be done).

    At least in the engineering and academic communities email remains an informal means of communication and I think that shows up clearly in the dump. I have never worked on the business side of a large organization, so I cannot comment of the standards of communication used there. I will say one company I worked for had a strict document retention policy (designed to thwart patent infringement discovery motions) which automagically deleted any emails over 60 days old. Perfectly legal as long as it was uniformly enforced. NOTE: I do not know how US discovery laws relate to UK FOI/EIR laws…

  30. 30
    lucia says:

    Neither of these things are standard WordPress functions.
    No. They are not at all standard wordpress functions.

    That’s what I wanted to know. There was a known vulnerability to wordpress near the time of climategate, but this sounds like it’s not related to that.

    Thanks.

  31. 31
    Isotopious says:

    [Response: Sure. when did I claim the opposite? - gavin]

    The answer to this must be another question:

    Have you ever challenged the AGW theory?

    [Response: Now that is an interesting question. It depends very much on what you think 'AGW theory' is of course. For the extremists who think that it means that CO2 is the only thing causing climate to change, then of course - I have worked on trying to understand paleo-climate changes, ocean variability, solar influences, volcanic effects etc. which they would presume are a challenge to their caricature. If you mean the mainstream IPCC view (i.e. most of the warming in recent decades is due to ghgs - and I note this is not a theory, but rather a result), I have certainly been part of the groups who have been trying to see how robust that claim is to improved understanding of aerosol physics and chemistry, improved resolution of solar effects etc. So I think the answer must be yes. If you have a different conception of what 'AGW theory' is, let me know. -gavin]

  32. 32
    Balazs says:

    Dear Gavin,

    Climategate is obviously disturbing in many ways. I used to consider e-mails just as personal as making phone calls. Therefore, any of their use (let it be antitrust trials against corporations or ridiculing scientists) is like wiretapping without search warrants. Nevertheless, climategate will have long lasting effects. It was obvious from start that there will be no serious criminal charges (which would have been clearly bogus) or any misconduct identified by the inquiries (which would have been questionable given the illegality of the hacking of e-mails). This does not mean that AGW will ever fly as high as before.

    Proponents of catastrophic climate change (including yourself and your boss James Hansen) made a number of critical mistakes in the last twenty years. You overblow the risks and underestimated the costs of combating climate change. I would like to hope that you and many other scientists, who are proposing immediate actions are better scientist than economists, and your science is more robust than your understanding of the economy.

    The assertion that climate change can be stopped by increased energy efficiency and moving toward renewables missed out the fact that the primary driver of growing fossil fuel in the next several decades will be driven by the need to provide electricity to 1.5 billion people, who currently live without it. While 2 billion people in the develop world might be able to restructure their life around wind mills, solar panels and biofuels, such a solution would leave out 4-5 billion people from modern life. If you have heating or air conditioning in your office or at home and you take any form of transportation (including subway) to get to your office, you are already addicted to energy beyond your allowance based on your own science.

    While climategate might have marked the tipping point bringing down AGW, the forces behind it have nothing to do with big business or tobacco type confusion of the public understanding, but the recognition in the developing world that the current negotiations about limiting carbon emission is denying them from modern life. Somebody on this blog speculated that the hacking was carried out by some Russians with links to Gasprom. This might be true, but I won’t be surprised, if in the not too distant futures, we would start to see papers published by scientist from China or India disputing catastrophic climate change. They will be students educated in the US using American tax payers’ money. They will take climate models from NASA-GISS, NCAR or MIT and tweak them until they will get the results they want to show. They will publish in Chinese and Hindi, but they will sit on future IPCC panels as their countries’ delegate and insist on including those papers regardless, if you or anybody in the Western world are able to understand the details of their claims.

    I hope, my comments won’t discourage you and you will keep up with the work at Real Climate (which is definitely falling behind in traffic compared to a number of skeptic blog that I keep an eye on along with RC).

  33. 33
    Bob Sell says:

    Gavin, Ditto #26. I could not have expressed my appreciation for the work you do as well as “Sou” has done. Thanks.

  34. 34
    Paul Tremblay says:

    @balazs 132

    You write “Proponents of catastrophic climate change … made a number of critical mistakes in the last twenty years. You overblow the risks and underestimated the costs of combating climate change.”

    Do you care to actually cite specifics where Gavin has overblown the claims, or do you think merely stating so counts as proof? It strikes me that, unable to refute the solid science behind AGW, you revert to wild, vague claims that amount to little more than a rant.

    You claim that “increased energy efficiency and moving toward renewables [would] leave out 4-5 billion people from modern life.” What is your evidence of this?

    You also write that the downfall of AGW will be when students from China and India will “will take climate models from NASA-GISS, NCAR or MIT and tweak them until they will get the results they want to show.” It’s hard to make sense of this comment. You think that foreign students will use bad science (“tweak [the models]..until they get the results they want to show”) in order to refute good science? Do you think that these students will actually stop the earth from warming by such manipulation? Nor can I understand why you think people of the Western world won’t be able to understand the claims of these students. Obviously, if the papers are important enough, they will get translated. I can’t believe that scientific knowledge would be hindered because of a language barrier in this day in age.

    You hope that Gavin won’t get discourage by your comments and keep working on RC, which you add triumphantly, gets much less hits than the denial sites. Gavin as worked tirelessly on this site for a number of years, so I doubt one ill-informed post will make him lose heart. As far as this site getting less traffic, that doesn’t make it less valuable. Keep in mind that the denialist sites didn’t get the climate gate story right; Real Climate did.

  35. 35
    Isotopious says:

    31

    As long as you are attacking the theory to the same degree you are defending it, you are doing a good job. I sincerely hope this to be the case. Some, however, may find that position hard to swallow after reading some of the CRU email correspondence, which was the point behind my original post. Cheers.

  36. 36
    Donald Oats says:

    The whole notion of climate changing for any reason is something that most people don’t really think about, until it is mentioned in a newspaper or somewhere else. Then the thought is: “Well, climate is always changing, and that includes the time before humans; ergo, humans aren’t the cause.” This is pretty much the starting point for creating sceptics among the bushies in Oz, as far as I am able to ascertain. The only way to counter that – in a deeper way than a short rebuttal – is for field scientists in a span of disciplines to tour the outback/rural towns, and to give a straight up-and-down account of their research, and its relevance regarding AGW.

    While it is great to see that some field scientists – fieldwork garners respect among the rural folk as it demonstrates commitment to truth in a way straight computer modelling cannot – are in fact touring now, I think that their respective institutions need to step up to the plate and provide a dedicated sabbatical for doing precisely this sort of outreach work. Something like six months free of office and teaching responsibilities would do it. While on tour it should still be possible to write up publications and the like. How about it, universities?

  37. 37
    Typical Joseph says:

    In the words of Van Storch:

    “I have been often in the crosss-fire of alarmists and skeptics, two politicized gangs of climate activists – who often have something useful to say, but who are conditioned by their respective loyalties to their “agendas”, while not being too much interested in providing the cold and impassionate science needed to come up with reasonable and acceptable climate policies.”

    Or, to be more philosophic, Reinhold Niebuhr:

    “Frantic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith but in doubt. It is when we are unsure that we are doubly sure.”

    Kind Regards

  38. 38

    Hulme’s piece in the Guardian is thoughtful, though he does give climategate perhaps too much credit in having had a positive influence in the end. I wrote a reply to his editorial here:
    http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/mike-hulme-on-the-impacts-of-climategate/

    As to your in-line reply in 21, Gavin, I think you may be underestimating the effects on the public. Besides the obvious confirmation bias at work in people already negatviely predisposed towards climate science, I think there were many people who didn’t have a strong opinion either way who didn’t like what they read in the media and in the emails. This was of course partly due to the spin put on it by the media and the blogosphere, but from the shift in public opinion for example or comments/questions from newbies to the climate debate I think it is clear that this episode had quite some effect on how people perceive the science, and not only on contrarians.

  39. 39

    Balazs 32: Proponents of catastrophic climate change (including yourself and your boss James Hansen) made a number of critical mistakes in the last twenty years. You overblow the risks and underestimated the costs of combating climate change.

    BPL: What part of “drought will increase until harvests fail all over the world and human civilization falls” did you not understand?

  40. 40

    Iso 35: As long as you are attacking the theory to the same degree you are defending it, you are doing a good job

    BPL: Should astronomers spend as much time attacking heliocentrism as defending it? Do you think all issues are unsolved and 50-50 forever?

  41. 41
    The Ville says:

    Isotopious:
    “However, in conversation with others, many with a scientific background did not like what was inside those emails, and felt it was terrible.”

    There is a difference between being offended and something actually going on. If only well mannered people were employed, a large chunk of the population would be unemployed.

    I personally have sent emails to people I know that are critical of others, emails are used like that. The fact that someone else would interpret it as being ‘terrible’ doesn’t really have a lot of credibility when those that think it is ‘terrible’ do the same themselves.

    Emails are used as a form of communication that is somewhere between vocal and written communication, where vocal communication is commonly informal and written communication is considered formal. If some amateur media types (bloggers etc.) think that email is the same as writing a research paper, then they do not understand the media they use, at least they don’t in an intellectual way.

    There is a lot of history that dictates how we perceive different types of communication in the ‘West’ (using cold war terminology). You have to go back to Greek culture and the way the Catholic church developed to understand it.

  42. 42
    Snapple says:

    One person wrote that I have noted the possibility of Russian involvement.

    In his suit to the EPA, Attorney General Cuccinelli cites a somewhat edited RIA Novosti translation of an article in Kommersant (Business). Kommersant is owned by a very powerful Gazprom-connected mogul named Alisher Usmanov. He is one of the richest people in the world, and in my opinion this is because he used his KGB connections to steal so much when communism fell.

    I won’t say too much because he sues everyone. But here is his photo and some information.

    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2010/11/russian-mogul-alisher-usmanov.html

    Cucinelli is using a Russian-based Uzbeki gangster’s newspaper as “proof” that our greatest scientists are manipulating their research.

    Cucinelli’s dad is a career gas lobbyist. He has “European” clients. I keep e-mailing Cuccinelli’s deputy my questions, but he doesn’t respond. I think it is very possible that Cuccinelli is servicing his dad’s clients.

    Russian experts know this sort of thing is going on. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty writes:

    “Moscow is skillfully advancing its interests in the West, not through intelligence but business, often supported by crafty industrial espionage, influence-buying, and under-the-table deal-making…

    In Western Europe, Moscow has operated by making lucrative arrangements with foreign energy companies that become de facto lobbyists for the Kremlin within their own countries.”—”Why The Russia Spy Story Really Matters” (RFE/RL, 7-9-10)

    Cuccinelli has called on us Republicans to be revolutionaries because Obama is supposedly like King George. Well, I think Cuccinelli is like King George, and it has made me revolt–against him.

    I see this shameless subversive brandishing Alisher Usmanov’s Kommersant/Gazprom/Kremlin propaganda as “proof” that our scientists are greedy liars right in an American court.

    You scientists could point what I am saying out in your newspaper op-eds. I have all the links on my site.

    Kommersant is owned by Usmanov, a powerful Gazprom operative; Kommersant attacked the scientists; Cuccinelli is quoting the RIA Novosti version of the Kommersant article as “proof” of scientists lying.

    Those are documented facts. I think a lot of ordinary people in the Tea Party would be very surprised to learn that Cuccinelli is citing a Russian mogul’s newspaper. Usmanov went to the school in Moscow for the spies and diplomats. He was on the Soviet “Peace Committee.” That was KGB.
    Many details of Usmanov’s biography point to his connections with the security structures. Much of what the KGB and its post-Soviet structures do is get other people to spread their propaganda, and money talks.

    Tell who Cuccinelli’s source is—Andrei Illarionov in Usmanov’s Kommersant.

    Illarionov was a Putin adviser. He worked for Chernomyrdin, the head of the Soviet Gas Ministry and then the head of Gazprom.

    This is a case of all roads leading to Gazprom…

    There is also a short booklet by Roman Kupchinsky called “Gazprom’s European Web.”

    Read it:

    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2010/11/roman-kupchinsky-gazproms-european-web.html

  43. 43
    The Ville says:

    Isotopious:
    “As long as you are attacking the theory to the same degree you are defending it, you are doing a good job.”

    That makes no sense at all and is the mistake that the popular media makes.
    It implies the same should be done for all science and that people can pick and choose the theory they think is correct.
    That isn’t how our universe works!

    Ultimately there is only one ‘answer’ (albeit probably an extremely complicated one with plenty of complexity and flexibility) and others have to lose out.

    There isn’t a vote for how our environment or universe works.

  44. 44
    Anand says:

    “What was the story with Soon and Baliunas?”

    The story with Soon and Baliunas makes the Team look horrible. One can rewrite history, but not what is written in the emails.

    Why are there no detailed accounts of the most contentious issues in the emails – from the people who wrote the emails – instead of generalized platitudes like “it was written in haste”, “bravado”, “poor taste” etc?

    Doing so might bring over more than just the converted to your side, and even open some doors for reconciliation.

    [Response: You are not going to get much 'reconciliation' while you continue to make up stories. S+B was a first and foremost a breakdown in the peer-review process at a journal where a contrarian editor published a paper that used a ridiculous methodology and came to unjustifiable conclusions which were politically 'helpful'. The other editors at the journal were so embarrassed at this and at the failure of the publisher to deal with the situation, that six of the them resigned. This was (and remains) unprecedented. A claim that this reflects badly on people who were not involved in any of these missteps is disingenuous in the extreme. How could such a situation not reflect badly on the standards of that journal? - gavin]

  45. 45
    Deech56 says:

    Balasz @32 wrote, “Proponents of catastrophic climate change …” First of all, what Paul Trembley wrote @34. Second, the term “catastrophic” in the context of a scientific blog is ill-defined. Does it mean a lower climate sensitivity? Minor effects from a 3 or more degree temperature increase?

  46. 46
    Anonymous Coward says:

    Lucia,
    Gavin didn’t say the attackers didn’t get in through WordPress, only that other things were affected as well. Being able to run PHP code on a server is a pretty good start if you want to take control of the system. SSH is very resilient to outside attacks in comparison as long as you use strong passwords (or keyfiles).

  47. 47

    The comment that “scientists do”, is one that is crucial. Yes scientists must do what they do, but in light of the vast, gaping hole that the media is when it comes to science, scientists must do much more now. The media, newspapers, TV, radio and internet, have off loaded the responsibility of providing science of all sorts to their readers, listeners and viewers. Science has a low priority in the media and in most cases moves too slowly to be of any interest in the spectacle laced media need for “stories”. Its only spectacle and hyperbole that matter in the modern media. The competition for ratings means we can expect even more is the coming months and years. Scientists must now take on the added burden of becoming skilled and learned in how the mass media works and the ramifications of leaving the interpretation of their work to the under science-educated reporters and broadcasters. Hopefully something good will come of this “climategate” nonsense, especially if it motivates scientists to understand that they must consider the media, always.

    Great article Gavin.

  48. 48
    Sy says:

    ‘I hope, my comments won’t discourage you and you will keep up with the work at Real Climate (which is definitely falling behind in traffic compared to a number of skeptic blog that I keep an eye on along with RC).’

    And how many of these skeptic sites (or climate blogs like Climate Progress) are written by people who work full time in addition to their blogging? Of course it’s easier for guys who are retired (McIntyre/Watts) or who are paid to blog (Romm, Morano) to generate a vast volume of material compared to a group who are blogging in their free time, on top of having jobs to do.

    And in the blogosphere while more material doesn’t necessarily equate to more traffic, when you have a blog like RC which goes weeks at a time without a new post it will probably generate less traffic than one as prodigiously updated as WUWT or CP.

    Given that the RC group do some really important work in their day jobs though, that’s just the way it’s going to be.

  49. 49
    Snapple says:

    The poster Donald Oats writes about the denialists in Australia.

    The Russian-based Uzbek mogul Alisher Usmanov has invested in mining in Australia. This has been widely reported in the media and noted in his Wikipedia.

  50. 50
    David Kidd says:

    A year on from “Climategate”I would like to thank this site and those that contribute articles and information to it for their steadfast commitment to delivering detailed and accurate information and not falling into the temptation to match the strident tone of the denialist echochamber. Please pass my thanks to all involved especially those publicly named in the Media. I dont want to clutter up their innboxes but they do need to know that a lot of people are grateful to them and to the authors contributing to this site.It has been useful to me at various times during the past 12 months when to the average person it seemed, from the lack of alternative views, that the allegations were most probably the truth. Thank you everybody for being a “Thin red line” of truth and reason.
    Yours sincerely,
    David Kidd


Switch to our mobile site