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Federal

Jan 25, 2012

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Environment

Nov 24, 2011

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“These folks appear to have some very large industry groups behind them running the show, setting up forums for them on capitol hill (the latest sponsored by the infamous ‘Marshall Institute’) and its best for scientists not to exchange any emails with them–they will only quote you out of context and misrepresent your comments.” — Michael Mann, Wednesday, November 12, 2003.

Climate scientist Michael Mann is known for his reconstructions of past global temperatures — namely the hockey stick graph — which has withstood extreme scrutiny since it was first published in 1999.

But as the email above shows, Manne is not without some skill in predicting the future.

In late 2009, shortly before world leaders gathered in Copenhagen for UN climate talks, a cache of private emails originating from the University of East Anglia was released onto the internet.

Climate sceptics and deniers claimed the emails showed global warming to be a hoax cooked-up by a cabal of scientists. The claims of sceptics, repeated and amplified without question by some media commentators, were examined by nine separate investigations.

A legitimate criticism was that, in the face of a persistent deluge of inquiries, some scientists had occasionally sought to block Freedom of Information requests. There were legitimate concerns raised too that some scientists had sought to prevent what they considered to be faulty science from appearing in journals.

But the inquiries cleared the scientists of any scientific wrongdoing despite the pant-wetting squeals of some climate sceptic commentators (Andrew Bolt called it one of the greatest scandals in modern science). Despite the fact that these inquiries showed many commentators had misled their viewers and readers, few (if any) were able to muster an apology or a retraction.

In the past 48 hours, a new cache of 5439 emails and 23 documents has been released, along with a “README” file. A separate encrypted file has also been released. It isn’t known who was responsible for releasing the emails, except to say that they first appeared as links to a Russian server on some climate sceptic blogs (the link is now dead, but several mirror sites have been set up).

The emails cover the same 10-year period (1999-2009) as the 2009 release and despite two years having passed, Norfolk Police — with jurisdiction over the University of East Anglia — have said little to suggest they have made any progress on their investigation.

BBC environment correspondent Richard Black reported yesterday that a Freedom of Information request to Norfolk Police had indicated that since February, just £80 had been spent on the case. Only £5,649.09 had been spent this year, but Norfolk Police pointed out this only related to additional expenditure above officer and staff time.

A statement from Norfolk Police last night said the Operation Cabin enquiry team had been “determined and persistent in following all relevant lines of enquiry, some of which have been international in nature”. The new release of emails and documents had “given us fresh lines of inquiry,” said Detective Superintendent Julian Gregory.

US Democrat Representative Edward Markey called on the US “intelligence community” to offer their help to the British, saying “This is clearly an attempt to sabotage the international climate talks for a second time, and there has not been enough attention paid to who is responsible for these illegal acts.”

The UEA has suggested these new emails were most likely held back from release by the original alleged hackers.

Almost all the climate sceptic blogs, including Andrew Bolt’s and JoNova’s, have reproduced the text of the README file which cherry-picks from 85 of the 5349 emails.

The anonymous author of the README file claims there are another 220,000 emails that “are encrypted for various reasons. We are not planning to publicly release the passphrase”.

Early yesterday, I downloaded the entire zip file of emails and 23 documents so that I could search the text of the files myself.

The purpose of the README file is obviously to draw the reader’s attention to particular emails and — in many cases — only particular parts of emails, some of which are without context. The README file omits a significant number of emails that contain scathing criticism of the “science” being distributed by so-called sceptics.

The content of the emails is wide ranging. Some discuss holidays, others the technical contents of IPCC reports. There’s criticism about scientific papers published by sceptics and plenty of criticism of each other’s work.

But the cache of emails also reveals (like the first 2009 release did) the difficulties that climate scientists have in going about their everyday work, particular under a constant barrage of Freedom of Information requests and public criticism.

For example, in an email sent on September 8, 2009, Phil Jones indicates one reason he is reluctant to voluntarily release data to particular individuals — in this case Steve McIntyre, a Canadian mathematician, blogger and oil and gas industry man (searching for “McIntyre” in the emails returns more than 300 results, including some in 2003 where McIntyre is still using his “CGX Energy” email address).

“Years ago I did send much paleo data to McIntyre but have also had nothing but criticism on his blog ever since. As I said, this criticism on blog sites is not the way to do science. If they want to engage, they have to converse in civil tones, and if people don’t want to work with them, they have to respect that and live with it.”

In one email to the UEA’s Climatic Research Unit director Phil Jones on July 3, 2007, Penn State University’s Dr Mann writes:

“The UK FOIA seems like a real pain.  What McIntyre and his ilk are trying to do is to make doing science as unpleasant as possible for us. I suppose they think that discouraging the scientists is the best way to prevent the science from moving forward. Its really disgusting, and hopefully folks from higher up realise what is going on.”

In a June 5 2008 email, Phil Jones writes to Ben Santer, a leading climate researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory:

“A lot of people seem to think that because you’ve been accused of something, there must be something to warrant the accusation. Very few, including many climate scientists seem to understand the amount of mischief making out there — as we all know all too clearly.”

Continue reading “New Climategate emails reveal life is tough for scientists”

Environment

Oct 11, 2010

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The climate sceptic salesmen

The science might not agree with them, but climate sceptics have managed to grab a giant chunk of the media spotlight. It may be just a handful of people but they scream louder than most and are effective at getting their views heard.

Links

May 21, 2010

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The science of denial

From climate change to evolution, New Scientist is running a great series of special reports into denialism: how it works, how it spreads, how companies manufacture it, and why it's so hard to fight.

Environment

May 13, 2010

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Environment

Apr 7, 2010

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Journalism

Apr 1, 2010

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Environment

Mar 31, 2010

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Environment

Mar 11, 2010

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Environment

Mar 8, 2010

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The accusation of McCarthyism has been thrown around for years, usually in situations where there is no real parallel with Senator Joe McCarthy’s1950s witch-hunt aimed at uncovering Communists. Now Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe has called for climate scientists associated with the IPCC to be investigated for criminal violations the spectre of McCarthy has chillingly returned.

A document prepared by minority staff of the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works claims scientists mentioned in emails stolen from the Centre for Climatic Research (CRU) at the University of East Anglia are guilty of manipulating data and obstructing its release. It lists federal laws they may have violated and names 17 climate scientists — some of the most eminent in the world — who Inhofe’s staff claim should be investigated for possible criminal investigation.

The accusation of criminality against leading climate scientists takes the denialist campaign of harassment and intimidation to new heights, beyond that of cyber-bullying, character assassination and black operations.

“I am worried about it, I have to say,” Raymond Bradley told The Guardian. Bradley is the director of climate science research at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and one of those named on the list.

“You can understand that this powerful person is using the power of his office to intimidate people and to harass people and you wonder whether you should have legal counsel. It is a very intimidating thing and that is the point.”

In 1950 McCarthy famously produced a piece of paper that he said listed the names of known Communists working in the US State Department. Reputations were ruined simply by being named by the House Un-American Activities Committee.

One McCarthy tactic was to call for a blacklist of people to be banned from employment — in government, industry and, most notoriously, in Hollywood. To their eternal shame some Hollywood studio heads capitulated and denied employment to more than 300 people deemed un-American.

Today, the call for a blacklist has come not from Inhofe but from his fellow denialist Rep James Sensenbrenner, of Wisconsin (McCarthy’s state), who in November wrote to the IPCC demanding that scientists whose names appear in the stolen CRU emails be blacklisted from all further work with the IPCC.

Climate denialism long ago stopped being an argument about science and became a cause of right-wing populists determined to defeat the gains of liberals and progressives. It is perfectly natural Christopher Monckton should be travelling to the United States soon to address a rally of the Tea Party, a movement close to the far right of the Republican Party.

Sarah Palin has predictably taken up the denialist cause. A woman who believed Africa was a country can now quote from CRU emails in interviews. The jihad against climate science and climate scientists has energised the populist Right in the most politically backward US states.

Two weeks ago the South Dakota legislature passed a resolution calling for “balanced teaching of global warming in the public schools of South Dakota”, the type of resolution that now sees creationism taught alongside evolution. What does Ian Plimer think of his new friends?

The draft resolution noted there are “a variety of climatological, meteorological, astrological, thermological, cosmological and ecological dynamics” that affect climate. The inclusion of “astrological” and “thermological” suggests buffoons run South Dakota.

And last month the Utah House of Representatives passed a resolution rejecting climate science. One supporter of the Bill said “environmentalists were part of a vast conspiracy to destroy the American way of life and control world population through forced sterilisation and abortion”. You can’t make this stuff up.

In 1953, after he had left office, President Truman condemned McCarthyism as “the corruption of truth, the abandonment of the due process law”. Inhofe is the new McCarthy; environmentalism is the new communism. Murdoch news outlets around the world light the bonfires on which scientists accused of witchcraft are to be burned.

Denialism has become mad, bad and dangerous, and people of goodwill everywhere must resist it.