On finding one’s email in the hacked climate science email files

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A search of the files of climate science emails hacked from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia finds Climate Science Watch working with scientists to set the record straight in pushing back on the denial machine.

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

When the original batch of 1,073 stolen/hacked/leaked climate scientist emails was released and posted on various websites in November 2009, in the so-called ‘climategate’ affair, I did a search to see whether any of my email correspondence with scientists had made its way into the file. I found several items that involved exchanges with several scientists during the period October 8-13, 2009. When a second batch of emails was released earlier this week, I searched again in the new file of some 5,000 emails, using a searchable database posted on one of the skeptic websites, and came up with several items from the same period. One thing I noted is that some of the emails released this week are duplicates of those released in 2009 — the two files are not entirely distinct. I’ll leave it to others to study this matter further.

I’m not posting a link to the hacked email file because I support neither the public posting of the emails nor the motives and behavior of the denialists, contrarians, and skeptics who have been cherry-picking and misusing the material in order to move political agendas and pick fights with the science community that they can’t win with meaningful scientific discussion. You can find the material readily enough if you care to look for it.

Because my email exchanges resulted in some posts on this website that included comments for the record by several individuals who were among those under attack by the war on climate science and climate scientists that is still ongoing, I can give an idea of the subject matter without re-posting email that I believe should be treated as private correspondence.

I initiated the sequence of exchanges in connection with the development discussed in an October 8, 2009, post — Competitive Enterprise Institute global warming denialists try another gambit seeking to derail EPA “endangerment” finding, which leads with:

With a challenge to the IPCC global temperature data record, the Competitive Enterprise Institute is on a political mission to head off EPA’s decision on an “endangerment” finding that could lead to regulation of greenhouse gases. “Their bottom line is an antiregulatory ideology,” we said to Environment & Energy Daily on October 7. “When they use science, they use it tactically, and they will go to war with the mainstream science community.”…

And included this from Environment & Energy Daily on October 7, 2009:

…The Competitive Enterprise Institute—a vocal foe of EPA’s efforts to finalize its “endangerment finding”—petitioned the agency this week to reopen the public comment period on the proposal, arguing that critical data used to formulate the plan have been destroyed and that the available data are therefore unreliable.

At issue is a set of raw data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, that includes surface temperature averages from weather stations around the world….

I was seeking clarification on the basic argument raised in the CEI petition, and concise short-turnaround comments for the record. As a result of the exchanges, I was able to post responses by Ben Santer and Phil Jones on October 13, 2009 — Phil Jones and Ben Santer respond to CEI and Pat Michaels attack on temperature data record, which leads with:

Prof. Phil Jones, Director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the UK and Ben Santer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory comment in response to a petition to EPA by the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Pat Michaels, which misleadingly seeks to obstruct EPA’s process in making an “endangerment” finding on greenhouse gases. This new CEI tactic is to call into question the integrity of the global temperature data record and, by implication, the integrity of leading climate scientists.

We also had this from Steve Schneider on October 14, 2009: Stephen Schneider comments on the CEI and Pat Michaels petition on the global warming data record.

With this we were able to contribute to coverage of the story at Greenwire/New York Times online on October 14, 2009: Scientists return fire at CEI and Pat Michaels for bogus charges on global temperature data record:

The New York Times and Greenwire reported on October 14 that climate scientists refuted claims, made in a petition to EPA by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, that essential data on the global warming temperature record had been destroyed, thus undermining the legitimacy of EPA’s prospective “endangerment finding” on greenhouse gases. The reporting picked up on statements made by Phil Jones of the UK Climatic Research Unit and Ben Santer of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on this Website.

This exchange pre-dated the release of the ‘climategate’ emails by more than a month. Given the issues raised in the October 2009 petition to EPA, one has to wonder who might have had advance knowledge of the email release and how it would be used to wage war on scientists associated with developing the global temperature data record.

Given what has been established and validated about the temperature record by multiple sources, most recently including the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) study, it is evident that the mainstream climate science position has prevailed and that the argument put forward in the CEI petition supported by a Pat Michaels deposition was basically spurious — just another denialist tactical thrust.

Another issue came up in my ‘climategate’ email exchange, in which one of the leading scientists raised issues about the quality of an early study by Michaels. We didn’t follow up on that and it won’t detain us here, at this time.

One final note, for the historical record: this exchange, in which Santer and Jones were responding to my request by commenting on the CEI/Michaels petition to EPA, did at one point lead Santer to make the offhand comment that the next time he saw Michaels at a scientific meeting he would be “tempted to beat the crap out of him.” This later became one of the iconic ‘climategate’ cherry-picks, and Ben was pilloried for it by the denialists as part of their phony uproar. Knowing some of the backstory on this, I actually found the remark fairly understandable, albeit a bit heated. But knowing Ben as the mensch that he is, I smiled when I read it and didn’t for a moment think that Ben posed any actual threat to Pat, other than to his intellectual reputation.

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15 Responses to On finding one’s email in the hacked climate science email files

  1. Rob Taylor says:

    Rick,
    The public is on to you all now. I have a science background (engineering), not an expert, but enough knowledge to smell a rat and question the “science is settled”. I was particularily amused by your passage “motives and behavior of the denialists, contrarians, and skeptics who have been cherry-picking and misusing the material in order to move political agendas and pick fights with the science community that they can’t win with meaningful scientific discussion”, that is exactly what skeptics are claiming against your movement/religious doctrine. When a movement resorts to calling people “deniers” when they dare to question or challenge scientific hypothesis, then you know there is something wrong, especially when the movement has suppressed information or will not release their raw data for independent review. Your movement would be better served to submit all of their data and models for public review and subject it to test and challenge (isn’t that how science is supposed to work?) and consider dissenting points of view. As an engineer I know that computer models can spit out any answer you want them to especially if you bias the paremeters, this is what your movement has been snared by. You cant dare allow all this information to be submitted for rigorous public review, because it wouldn’t stand the scrutiny. Another thing that is disingenous about your movement is labelling it as against climate change, if you know anything about the history of the earth and geology, the climate, ocean levels, and shorelines have ALWAYS been changing, and it is hubris to think that humans will be able to freeze that and control it. Maybe we will be able to someday but at a monumental cost. Until the scientific community can have an honest and open debate to explain how much real impact man-made CO2 has vs solar activity and other atmosphere components, the public will continue to smell a rat.

    • Rick Piltz says:

      Rob—

      Essentially, all of your points can be refuted in detail. I’ll just make a few comments, which I don’t usually stop to do in situations like this.

      First, you begin with the egregious opening: “The public is on to you all now.” This is not the way an intellectually serious ‘skeptic’ who is just interested in science talks. And you have it wrong on US public opinion. As just one recent example referring to survey analysis by one of the leading scholars in this field, see our recent post, “Dr. Jon Krosnick: Public opinion on climate change and its impact on voting”, at
      http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/2011/10/18/dr-jon-krosnick-public-opinion-on-climate-change-and-its-impact-on-voting/. You make things up without having even begun to analyze the relevant survey data.

      Second, you object to “calling people ‘deniers’ when they dare to question or challenge scientific hypothesis.” If you get familiar with this website you’ll see that we pretty much reserve the term ‘deniers’, not to those who are intellectually curious and ‘skeptical’ and engaged in learning about climate science, but rather to politicians, political operatives, PR fronts for industry interests, and attack dogs in the blogosphere, i.e., people who know better, or should know better, but whose minds are made up, who have ideological or political agendas that preclude being able to confront climate science objectively and honestly. What they’re up to has little, if anything, to do with real science. I think they pretty much know who they are. We plan to write about this some more, though we have raised the issue for years. See the recent post at Forbes by Peter Gleick, “The Rise and Fall of Climate Change Denial” (
      http://www.forbes.com/sites/petergleick/2011/11/21/the-rise-and-fall-of-climate-change-denial/ ), and our archived posts on the subject at http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/category/global-warming-denial-machine/.

      When you say scientists should submit “all of their data and models for public review and subject it to test and challenge (isn’t that how science is supposed to work?)” it suggests to me that you haven’t really looked into the way data are made available and at the way the climate science process works. There are thousands of scientists at hundreds of research institutions around the world working on the science of climate change and related areas including ecosystem science. Collectively, over a period of decades, they have created a monumental body of work that is developed on an ongoing basis through numerous peer-reviewed scientific journals. ‘Test and challenge’ is the modus operandi of the science community, and empiricist skepticism is their intellectual hallmark. Further, the leading scientists synthesize their findings in scientifically based assessment reports that can actually be read and understood by intelligent, focused readers who do not have a climate science background. But I would venture to guess that you haven’t spent even so much as a day or two familiarizing yourself with the relevant reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the US National Academy of Sciences. So perhaps you should show a little respect for the science community.

      If you want to study datasets, you might be aware that the National Climatic Data Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/ncdc.html ) and the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies (http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/) make the core global temperature record datasets available.

      But the planet has always warmed and cooled, hasn’t it? And maybe the warming trend of the past several decades is caused by the sun. I recommend you spend some time looking at the excellent website SkepticalScience.com, based in Australia. I believe there is much you could learn there, because your comment gives the sense that you haven ‘t really thought carefully about some of these issues, nor familiarized yourself with how climate scientists have addressed the many arguments that have been put forward by both skeptics and deniers over the years. Really, it’s not enough just to “smell a rat,” Rob, you actually need to know something. Go through whatever ‘skeptic’ arguments you think might have merit and see how they are addressed in Skeptical Science’s section “172 gobal warming and climate change myths” ( http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php ), which takes them up one by one, in summary form and in plain English, as the science community has addressed them. Then argue from at least having studied that much.

      Finally – and with all due respect to your engineering expertise, since I believe we are all standing on the shoulders of engineers – your engineering background is simply not a relevant credential for making a serious evaluation of climate science. This is an area of expertise. I would no more ask an engineer without expertise in the disciplines relevant to the science of the physical climate system to evaluate climate science than I would ask a climate scientist to evaluate the structural soundness of a skyscraper. If you want to know something about a heart condition, consult the leading cardiologists – and the cardiologists can tell you who their leading experts are. So can the climate scientists. I believe that we who are not climate science experts should pay respectful attention to the views put forward by those who are, and not be tempted to cherry-pick ideas and findings or seek outliers whose views we might find more politically congenial.

      In this vein, I would cite a notable study of climate science expert credibility published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. We wrote about it in our post, “New study finds striking level of agreement among climate experts on anthropogenic climate change” ( http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/2010/06/21/new-study-finds-striking-level-of-agreement-among-climate-experts-on-anthropogenic-climate-change/ ); and a related “Interview with Stephen Schneider on climate science expert credibility” (
      http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/2010/07/12/interview-with-stephen-schneider-on-climate-science-expert-credibility-study/ ).

    • caerbannog666 (@caerbannog666) says:


      Your movement would be better served to submit all of their data and models for public review and subject it to test and challenge (isn’t that how science is supposed to work?)

      Actually, climate scientists have released their data/model code for public review. With a bit of Google searching, you can find all the raw temperature data that NASA/CRU/etc. use to compute global-average temperatures. You can also find all of the tree-ring and other proxy data you need to perform your own independent verification of Mann’s “hockey-stick” and other paleoclimate reconstructions. Likewise, you can find all of the computer source-code used to perform those reconstructions. It’s all publicly available.

      The problem isn’t that scientists haven’t made their data/methods/code public, it’s that global-warming *deniers* (and yes, I do mean *deniers*) are too lazy to do anything with it.

      Let me give you an example: Deniers hounded the CRU for all of its raw temperature data for *years*. But the CRU couldn’t release it all due to the nondisclosure agreements that the CRU signed. The deniers started screaming about how the CRU was “hiding” the raw data from them in order to keep them from scrutinizing the CRU’s work.

      Well, at the time, the CRU was working hard to get permission from all the data stakeholders to release that raw temperature data publicly; well the deniers hounded the CRU and the FOI information office so much that the CRU ended up releasing the data before it got permission from all the data’s owners (risking future data cooperation agreements). That was four months ago. And what have the deniers who were hounding the CRU for that data done with it since? Nothing. Nada. Squat.

      This in spite of the fact that a competent programmer/analyst, using that raw data, could perform an independent verification of the CRU’s temperature results in a matter of *days*. I know this for a fact because I’ve done it myself.

      So if you deniers (and yes, I mean *deniers*) want to be promoted to genuine skeptics, then get off your lazy backsides and start backing up your claims about climate science with some real analysis work of your own. All the necessary raw data, documentation, and computer code (and yes, that includes climate modeling code) have been freely available to you for years (in spite of the fact that you were too lazy to look for it.)

      You can start with the CRU data (available at: http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/station-data/). All the documentation and software development tools needed to validate the CRU’s global-temperature results from the publicly-released raw data are freely available on-line. A skilled engineer with a solid technical background should be able to do this in a two or three weeks (allowing for whatever programming “learning-curve” time he/she needs).

  2. Rob Taylor says:

    Dear Rick,

    Thanks for letting my post make it onto your website and past the moderator, we’ll see if my reply makes it as well.

    Unfortunately you have been blinded by your advocacy, it understandable when you have devoted most of your career to something that is slowly falling apart under harsh scrutiny. Your links and references are all to sites that share your advocacy and the same cool-aid.

    I wouldn’t be too proud of referencing the IPCC as a standard of expertise. I watched the hysteria of the build-up to the Copenhagen conference with the pictures of polar bears standing on chunks of ice surrounded by water, and the politicians and the IPCC chairman indignantly claiming the “science is settled”, based on a summary report that hyped the potential dangers and suppressed dissenting views or ranges of uncertainties. As soon as I heard the “science was settled”, I was immediately suspicious because of my science background. The media was fed exaggerations from the IPCC report such as an expected 6 degree C temperature rise, and that the Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 (are people really that stupid to believe that?).

    Unfortunately, the climate “scientists” have been tainted by this whole process and advocacy and did not stand up to the exaggerations that have been pushed. It is easy to understand why the climate “scientist” community got caught up in all this hype with the immense political pressure that was involved, the vilification of dissenting views, and human nature when such vast amounts of money are involved. Contrary to your claim, the public does not trust this process, and I would suggest it will not be restored until we step back and an open and independent review (separate from political interference and environmental advocacy) is done of all data sets and models. Don’t just rely on the consensus of climate “scientists” – likely the same group that produced the “sterling” (yes I am being sarcastic) IPCC recommendations, encourage open and honest challenge and debate from dissenting views and all other kinds of scientists such as physicists, solar experts, geologists and others who are not implicated in this climate “scientist” consensus. That is how science is supposed to work, not science by advocacy.

    Contrary to your belief, I have followed and researched this topic for several years now and will keep an open mind as it further develops, it certainly is not “settled”. I think we should all agree that the climate will ALWAYS CHANGE. It is hubris to believe that with our current knowledge and technology that we adequately understand (at this stage – maybe we will in the future) the relationship between the sun, the earth, and its incredibly complex and variable atmosphere, and human impact; certainly not enough to justify huge transfers of money and imposition of global controls.

    I think you miss the point, as a professional engineer I do not claim to be an expert in this area, however engineers are pragmatists who can understand and take hard science and adapt it to the REAL WORLD. As you admitted, engineers have developed everything from the space shuttle, the computer, the internet (oops, maybe that was Al Gore), to the IPod (not just sky scrapers). From your bio: “Rick has worked as an educator, writer, and policy analyst and advocate since the 1970’s, in federal and state government, academia, and nonprofit organizations”, I take it that you do not have much of a science background or training and therefore just rely on what you are told. I also assume you have never developed or understood a computer model and how easily they can be manipulated based on biased inputs. This is what happened to the majority of the media (that then when on and spoon fed it to the general public) who do not understand science. Bernie Madoff was also a supposed expert in his field; perhaps his clients, the public, and media should have been more skeptical or challenging. You would do well to keep that in mind.

    Thanks for the debate.

    Rob

  3. sailrick says:

    “when they dare to question or challenge scientific hypothesis”

    AGW is not a hypothesis. It’s a theory. That’s because it has a mountain of evidence, with over 10,000 research papers used for the 2007 IPCC report. There are far more now.

    “Your movement would be better served to submit all of their data and models for public review and subject it to test and challenge (isn’t that how science is supposed to work?”

    If you mean the non scientist public has a say? no. Science isn’t a popular poll, thank God. As comedian Bill Maher has said, “since the topic is science, non scientists don’t get to vote”. Peer review is the process by which science is tested and challenged, as Rick said.

    No one says the science is ‘settled’ in all respects. Almost nothing in science is settled in all respects.

  4. sailrick says:

    It’s the so called skeptics who want to “subject it to test and challenge” in the popular media and by scientifically illiterate congressmen with a political agenda. It’s not scientific truth that they are after.

  5. bobarl says:

    Rob Taylor may have an engineering background but I don’t think he knows much about what climatologists have learned about what our fossil fuel use is doing to our only home, the Earth. First, he accuses scientists of “suppressing information for independent review.” I think he must be referring to the “Climategate” controversy which has long since been shown not to be a controversy at all, just scientists talking between themselves privately about their frustrations on how to pass on the information they have learned about our climate while overcoming all the deniers attempts to disprove their research wrong. He also seems to think climatologists are not aware of the fact that the climate has changed many times in the past or maybe he thinks they are trying to hide this fact. Scientists of course have explained all this many times but the difference now is the fossil fuels we use (70 billion tons every day, I think) that are being added to the atmosphere with all of the natural CO2 that is out there. He also seems to imply that sun activity may be the real cause of our climate changing but I have read that we are now in a fairly low solar minimum output. When I read his statement all I can think of is that he is using the same skeptic talk that is spouted out by the fossil fuel producers and people like Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma who is a staunch denier of anthropogenic climate change. I too smell a rat when I listen to the deniers and all I think they are doing is further raising the chances of our children and grandchildren suffering from the effects of the increasing amount of weather disasters they will have to face in the future. And I do not have a science background.

    • caerbannog666 (@caerbannog666) says:

      Actually, the papers that the “climategate” supposedly wanted to suppress contained errors that would get an undergraduate student dinged. The infamous Soon/Baliunas 2003 paper contained work of the quality that would land a student on academic probation at any reputable university.

      Other papers contained basic blunders such as detrending temperature data with a differentiation operation and then concluding that there’s no long-term warming trend in the data.

      Basically, the papers that the “climategate” scientists supposedly wanted to suppress were “amateur hour” efforts that should never seen the light of day in any respectable journal.

  6. Amoeba says:

    It’s hilarious, science as a democratic exercise.

    Let’s take a vote on how many angels push the Earth round the Sun, or is it the other way round?

    What next? The gravity conspiracy?

    What do those scientific experts know? Well quite a lot really. Our entire civilization relies increasingly upon numerous technologies that in turn rely upon scientific discoveries that the average person doesn’t understand in the slightest. The trouble is that many don’t have the vaguest clue about their lack of understanding. In their ignorance, they think they’re knowledgeable.
    For more information, search for the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

  7. Tony O'Brien says:

    Rob Taylor,
    It is really quite simple. We know with a high level of accuracy how much radiation comes in, what bands of radiation CO2 absorbs and re radiates, what spectra is not getting back to space and the downwards radiation from the atmosphere.

    Added heat, then it gets a little more complicated; we get feed backs. These feed backs range from instant (added water vapour) to millenia (weathering). The quick feedbacks are well understood and accounted for. There is debate on the longer term feed backs in magnitude and time frame.

    Scientists will in time fill in the blanks and reduce the uncertainty. Unfortunately, we already know that generally this will be bad news. We know the melting permafrost will produce Methane as well as CO2, but the current modelling assumes all CO2, where it is taken into account at all.

    Sticking your fingers in your ears and continuing to shout “not true, not true” is not a successful adaption method.

  8. mary knight says:

    This discussion is an excellent guide to some of the issues and science. I note the polar bear did not chime in.

  9. J Bowers says:

    Rob Taylor — “The public is on to you all now. I have a science background (engineering), not an expert, but enough knowledge to smell a rat and question the “science is settled””

    Real Climate: Unsettled Science:
    The phrase “the science is settled” is associated almost 100% with contrarian comments on climate and is usually a paraphrase of what ‘some scientists’ are supposed to have said. The reality is that it depends very much on what you are talking about and I have never heard any scientist say this in any general context – at a recent meeting I was at, someone claimed that this had been said by the participants and he was roundly shouted down by the assembled experts.

    The reason why no scientist has said this is because they know full well that knowledge about science is not binary – science isn’t either settled or not settled. This is a false and misleading dichotomy. “

    Christopher Monckton. 10/14/9 Minnesota Free Market Institute presentation:
    “…And I’m going to show you the latest science, which now doesn’t leave the question unsettled anymore this is now settled science, it is now settled science that there is not a problem with our influence over Climate. The science is in, the truth is out and the scare is over.”

    Ho-hum.

  10. J Bowers says:

    mary knight — “I note the polar bear did not chime in.”

    It’s swimming with the fishes.

  11. Robin Clarke says:

    Rick, I just wanted to say how I was much impressed by your cool and patient reply to the first comment here. Your reasonableness contrasting to the disposition of that first comment does not of course prove anthing of the science – but it does generally tend to be how the sound and the unsound reveal themselves for what they are. Cheers from a fellow voyager on the seas of heated scientific “controversy”.

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