Pro-science pushback helps put release of second batch of climate scientist emails in perspective


Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia (credit: Wikipedia, Creative Commons)

The release this week of another 5,000 emails obtained from the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit server in the UK has been greeted, at least by some reporters, with a more judicious reserve than we witnessed in 2009. Prompt responses by scientists and climate bloggers contributed to keeping things in perspective this time, something that was not done effectively in 2009, when the media’s ill-considered complicity with denialist spin elevated the contents of 1,000+ climate scientist emails to the status of a supposed scandal. The result then was a setback for serious public discussion of climate science findings and the urgent issues of climate policy and diplomacy. Hopefully people will keep their eye on the ball this time.

The UK Guardian, which can usually be counted on as more likely to get the story straight than most of the US media, had this piece: Climate scientists defend work in wake of new leak of hacked emails. Latest leak appears to be attempt to undermine public support for international climate change action ahead of Durban talks.

[UPDATE November 25: Here’s another nice piece of work in the Guardian from November 24: The leaked climate science emails – and what they mean. Just some good basic journalism. Why is it so hard to find this sort of coverage in the US newspapers?]

Good piece by Jason Samenow at the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang blog: Climategate 2.0: Do new emails undermine global warming science?

… In a seeming effort to take another swing at the integrity of climate science, a second crop of emails was anonymously released Tuesday, apparently from the same place as 2009:Britain’sUniversity ofEast Anglia.

The “new” emails (not new in that they are from 2009 and earlier) – while trumpeted by some climate skeptics as “spectacular” and draining life from the manmade global warming movement – mean little substantively from a scientific standpoint, just like the set that preceded them. …

I could not agree more with [MIT climate scientist Kerry] Emanuel when he says the the contents of the Climategate emails are not the real scandal, but that it’s instead the effort to discredit climate change science.

The true scandal is … to dismiss an entire scientific endeavor based on the privately expressed sentiments of a few (a very few) researchers working in an environment of ongoing harassment.

There are surely meaningful topics to debate in climate science. Competent people can disagree about how big of a problem global warming is. But the scientific community has largely moved beyond the scientific issues brought to light in the Climategate 1.0 emails and more emails on the same issues only serve as an unneeded distraction.

Good piece by the intrepid reporter Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones: Climategate 2.0: Will the Media Do Its Job This Time? Rather than smearing scientists, reporters might want to try some actual reporting.

Revkin in the New York Times: Another Treaty Negotiation, Another Batch of Climate Science E-Mail

Union of Concerned Scientists statement: Hackers Release Batch of Stolen Emails from Scientists – Science Group Calls on British Authorities to Increase Efforts to Identify Hackers

Calling attention to some good work in the progressive climate blogging community:

At the excellent Skeptical Science: Climategate 2.0: Denialists Serve Up Two-Year-Old Turkey

From our friends at DeSmogBlog in Canada: East Anglia SwiftHack Email Nontroversy Returns: What You Need To Know

Peter Sinclair at Climate Crock of the Week: Bad News for Deniers: Grown-ups Weigh in on Email Leftovers

John Abraham, ahead of the curve, at Daily Climate: We are smarter this time around

The indispensable Joe Romm at Climate Progress: Fool Me Once, Shame on You, Fool Me Twice, Shame on the Media: More Stolen Emails Can’t Stop Catastrophic Global Warming, Only We Can

Shawn Lawrence. Otto, author of Fool me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America: Climategate 2.0? Pay no attention to the energy industry behind the curtain

Don Shelby at MinnPost: How will the media handle Climategate Version 2.0?

Two good posts by Jocelyn Fong at the watchdog group MediaMatters:

Memo To Media: Research First, Then Report On Climate Emails

Media Already Botching Reports On Hacked Climate Emails

An example: Associated Press picking up denialist spin before even looking at emails:

University hit by new climate leak ahead of talks

By RAPHAEL G. SATTER, Associated Press

November 22, 2011

The content of the new batch of emails couldn’t be immediately verified — The Associated Press has not yet been able to secure a copy — but climate skeptic websites carried what they said were excerpts.

Although their context couldn’t be determined, the excerpts appeared to show climate scientists talking in conspiratorial tones about ways to promote their agenda and freeze out those they disagree with. There are several mentions of “the cause” and discussions of ways to shield emails from freedom of information requests.

Michael Mann response via Twitter:

Michael E. Mann #CRUHack2 “cause” I’m referring to? Communicating science in face of massive disinformation effort e.g. my GSA abstract

GSA (Geological Society of America) abstract he’s referring to:

2011 GSA Annual Meeting in Minneapolis(9–12 October 2011)Session No. 268

Public Policy: The Not-So Great Divide—Where Science Meets Public Policy

Minneapolis Convention Center: Room L100FG

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Paper No. 268-1


Mann, Michael E., Dept. of Meteorology and Earth and Environ. Systems Institute, Penn State University, Walker Building, University Park, PA 16827

Climate scientists have an important role to play in informing the public discourse on human-caused climate change. Our scientific expertise provides us a unique, informed perspective, and despite recent high profile attacks against climate science, the public still affords climate scientists the greatest trust to deliver an honest, unbiased assessment of the potential threats posed by climate changes. Yet, as with all areas of science where powerful special interests perceive themselves as threatened by the findings of science, scientists enter the public fray at our peril. Our efforts to communicate the science are opposed by a well-funded, highly organized disinformation effort that aims to confuse the public about the nature of our scientific understanding. In recent years, the disinformation campaign has demonstrated a willingness to attack individual climate scientists as a means of achieving a broader end: discrediting climate science itself. These attacks are rarely fought in legitimate scientific circles such as the peer-reviewed scientific literature or other scholarly venues, but rather through rhetorical efforts delivered by nonscientists, using ideologically aligned media outlets, special interestgroups, and politicians.

Scientists are massively out-funded and outmanned in this battle, and will lose if leading scientific institutions and organizations remain on the sidelines. I will discuss this dilemma, drawing upon my own experiences in the public arena of climate change.

Richard Littlemore at DeSmogBlog: Climategate Hackers Slither Again in the Night

There’s more, but we’ll end with this by Stephan Lewandowsky at The Conversation:

There is a real climategate out there


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  1. Pingback: Michael Noble’s Mea Culpa Speaks for Us All (Climatehawks, that is) « Dystopian Present

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