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But their Emails!

Posted on 30 November 2018 by David Kirtley

But their Emails

Here we go again. It's always emails with these people.

First there was "Climategate!" — the misquoting, selective quoting, and uninformed quoting of stolen emails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) in Great Britain. Emails between CRU scientists and other climate scientists around the world promised to peel back the curtain and reveal the global warming scam. Alarmist scientists had used "tricks" to "hide the decline"! They "can't account for the lack of warming" so they have to fake the temperature data! The whole thing is a hoax!

Not so much.

With out-of-context quoting you can make scientists say anything. And that was the case with Climategate — it suffered from an extreme lack of context. The full context of the emails simply showed scientists discussing their work openly with each other. They show that they are merely human — they are argumentative as well as congratulatory; they get angry, with each other and the contrarians who attack them and their work.

Despite contrarians' promise to reveal the nefarious world of scheming scientists, the larger context of emails plus the peer-reviewed literature merely shows how science works. The literature gives us the finished products of scientific research, while the emails give us a glimpse of the back-and-forth between scientists as they hash out their experiments, data, and interpretations, and work toward publishing their results. This science has withstood assaults like Climategate (and the nothingburger Son of Climategate: Climategate II) because there is no nefarious world to reveal here.

But that has not stopped the contrarians from trying the same thing over and over again. The latest example is the use of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests — which are designed to allow taxpayers to have access to certain government records — to litigate for the release of more emails. Of particular interest are the emails of one Michael E. Mann, because apparently all of climate science hinges on his work, especially the “Hockey Stick”. Show that Mann’s research is fake and the entire house of cards will crumble.

In 2011, the American Tradition Institute (ATI) brought a lawsuit against Dr. Mann and the University of Virginia (where Mann was a professor from 1999 to 2005) for the release of his emails, claiming that as a public university professor, Mann’s emails were effectively government records that should be turned over to anyone who asked under Virginia’s FOIA law. The case went all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court, which rejected this premise and blocked this email release in 2014.

What is a climate science denying outfit like ATI supposed to do? Move on to a more “compliant” state. ATI morphed into the Energy and Environment Legal Institute (EELI) and brought a lawsuit in Arizona against the University of Arizona and two of its professors: Malcolm Hughes,  a coauthor of Mann’s on the famous Hockey Stick papers, and Jonathan Overpeck, a lead author on the IPCC’s fourth and fifth Assessment Reports.

EELI claims they are bringing these lawsuits in the interests of open science, to make the workings of scientific research available to all American arm-chair “scientists”. That sounds like a lofty goal. Except they also say they want the emails released in order to “embarrass both Professors Hughes and Overpeck and the University [of Arizona].” They also have not sought data, results, or other study information — only emails. Well, that doesn’t sound very “scientific”.

One wonders, if the shoe were on the other foot, and the private correspondence and paperwork of EELI were made available, what might the public learn about this “charity.

In the end, the courts in Arizona have proved to be more compliant than in Virginia: the emails will be released. But only after hours and hours of wasted time by Drs. Hughes and Overpeck in sifting through their years of emails to cull any truly confidential information:

Dr. Hughes testified it took him ten weeks to go through all the emails, and he lost an entire research summer to reviewing old emails as well as losing a grant that expired. Dr. Overpeck testified it took him six weeks to go through everything and he was unable to use his sabbatical. (Source)

This “wasted time” is another of the unstated goals of such lawsuits: take precious time away from climate scientists’ real research by burying them in frivolous busy-work.

In a preemptive move Michael Mann has decided to publish his own copies of the emails that the U of AZ was forced to release to EELI:

Of course, I wish I did not need to do this. But since these emails will be handed over any day now to David Schnare [of EELI], it is our hope to use this exercise instead as a teaching moment and an opportunity to further public appreciation and understanding of science...

You can access Mann's emails here, (enter “mail_guest” for both username and password).

In days and weeks to come, contrarians (who think they are arm-chair scientists) might sift through the U of AZ emails in hopes of finding some nugget to embarrass Mann, Hughes, Overpeck or any of the numerous scientists they email every day in their effort to understand how the climate system works. They may uncover more “tricks” used by scientists as they describe their research. There may be strong disagreements between scientists. There may be ridicule of the contrarians who pepper scientists with amateurish questions.

But the hoped for climate change scam will still fail to materialize from this new batch of emails. Anyone reading these emails (really reading them — not just poking at them to try to find “gotcha” phrases) will find scientists merely working together to understand the climate, and trying to find the best way to communicate what they discover to the wider world.

Thanks to jg for the illustration.

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Comments 1 to 24:

  1. Gunslingers tend to have what are these days politely called "chaotic lifestyles" and Schnare appears to coincide with both of those attributes.

    If there's a single good thing that's come out of the whole episode, it may be the photochop in this article. :-)

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  2. "One wonders, if the shoe were on the other foot, and the private correspondence and paperwork of E&E were made available, what might the public learn about this “charity."

    Probably that its funding comes from individuals and corporations closely associated with the fossil fuel sector like the Kochs and Exxon Mobil. 

    This is the world turned inside out, where professionals carrying out their duty as part of an endeavour to understand the natural world in a way that has great benefit to everyone must constantly defend themselves from a very tiny yet incredibly well funded front group.

    And this is a multi phased attack on the science, not only is the intent to get more raw material that can then be feed into the widespread disinformation machine created by the fossil fuel sector, it will also have a chlling effect on scientists who will then be looking over their shoulders for the next attack.

    And it also encourages people who don't want any change in their lives to become ever more resistant to change as they are convinced once again the "evil elites" are out to get them.

    This will only end when the fossil fuel sector no longer has the millions of dollars to spend fueling this disinformation machine. The British Royal Society asked Exxon Mobil to please stop funding climate change denial over a decade ago, but the only thing that has changed is the money from Exxon Mobil to the network of denial "think tanks" has gone "dark" now.

    And as long as the money keeps flwoing to these groups the garbage will keep shooting out of them. 88 people just died in a climate change related disaster in California and many more are unaccounted for and the catastrophic impacts of a hothouse world are sobering to say the least. The IPCC has just made clear, we have very little time left to take real measures to avoid a world that will almost certainly be unable to support our current population plus some.

    And the people who take money from the fossil fuel sector still try and prevent those real measures from being implemented because it would mean they would have to find another occupation.

    There will always be a need for people who fill the roll scientists do now, do we really have a need for people who distort reality in such a way it places our entire species at risk of extinction...

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  3. It's really quite simple: Unless we stop burning fossil fuels, civilization will collapse from the consequences of Global Warming. But if we stopped burning fossil fuels immediately, civilization would collapse before the end of the week. Of course, this is not a real choice, we all get up in the morning and pretend that what we do isn't ruining the future. We are all lying to ourselves.

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  4. David Kirtley: Recommend that you change the acronym for the Energy and Environment Legal Institute from E&E to EELI. The acronym E&E is used by a E&E News -  respected news organization focusing on energy and the environment.

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  5. Good catch, John. Changes made.

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  6. What you have with the EELI and other climate sceptics groups is a marriage of convenience between fossil fuel interests, libertarian small government fanatics, scientific cranks, conspiracy theory people, ignoramuses, and hired guns. Read any climate sceptics website and you find these characters lurking.  

    Their propaganda is nothing more than personal attacks,  material taken out of context, and bullying. They are not genuine sceptics or whistle blowers, they traffic in muck raking. They have no shame, no conscience, and no ethical standards, and know nothing about anything of value.

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  7. Curiously enough I was reading this article at the end of a television episode of Dr Who, where the Dr time travelled back to the time of King James and the persecution of so called witches. I thought it an ironic sort of coincidence.

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  8. Avowed fence sitter here . . . 


    I am reading the entire thread of emails and following the discussion, but I am afraid it does not put climatologists in a good light when I read something like this . . .

    But there are real questions to be asked of the paleo reconstruction. First, I should point out that we calibrated versus 1902-1980, then "verified" the approach using an independent data set for 1854-1901. The results were good, giving me confidence that if we had a comparable proxy data set for post-1980 (we don't!) our proxy-based reconstruction would capture that period well. Unfortunately, the proxy network we used has not been updated, and furthermore there are many/some/ tree ring sites where there has been a "decoupling" between the long-term relationship between climate and tree growth, so that things fall apart in recent decades....this makes it very difficult to demonstrate what I just claimed. We can only call on evidence from many other proxies for "unprecedented" states in recent years (e.g. glaciers, isotopes in tropical ice etc..). But there are (at least) two other problems — Keith Briffa points out that the very strong trend in the 20th century calibration period accounts for much of the success of our calibration and makes it unlikely that we would be able be able to reconstruct such an extraordinary period as the 1990s with much success (I may be mis-quoting him somewhat, but that is the general thrust of his criticism). Indeed, in the verification period, the biggest "miss" was an apparently very warm year in the late 19th century that we did not get right at all. This makes criticisms of the "antis" difficult to respond to (they have not yet risen to this level of sophistication, but they are "on the scent").

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] For context, if you are going to quote an email exchange here, please also include who sent the email and to whom they sent it, including the date.  That will enable others to help you improve your understanding of the science in question.

    Briffa and the divergence issue is discussed here and here.

  9. I need to put my thought in context.  Science to me is sacrosanct.  A key element of science is the understanding that when data contradicts a theory then one discusses the validity of said theory; one does NOT worry about responding to "the antis".  As a scientist one should question the theory.  That is incredibly simple and extremely damning to me.

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  10. JP66, the email you quote is a single email relating to climategate taken completely out of context, which shows the whole problem with these thefts / hacks. It's hard to even know what they are really saying, other than they appear to be arguing whether a paleo climate reconstruction of the medieval warm period is reliable, notice its in reference to "a" reconstruction.

    I don't see what "theory" this undermines. Greenhouse gas theory, human impacts on climate,and future modelling of temperatures obviously do not rely on reconstructions of the medieval warm period.

    What theory do you claim it undermines? What is it you think they are really saying?

    Yes they are also talking about problems they are having with analysing the past, misakes that might have ocassionally been made, people attacking their work and how they should respond to this. Wouldn't any normal person do this? Why do you think this is somehow nefarious or abnormal?

    If this is the so called smoking gun in climategate its laughable.

    I do agree with you if the latest data and the accepted theory diverge then question the theory, but this is not apparent in this case.  Also question whether the data is reliable, as it often turns out the data is wrong, for example the problems where the satellite temperature record originally showed a cooling, when it turned out there were problems with the satellite sensors or something.

    Please note that many groups have analysed the MWP and found it was no warmer than temperatures over the last decade.


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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Indeed, the first volume of the 4th National Climate Assessment released by the Trump Administration found this to be the case, with regards to the MWP:

    Last 1,700 years

  11. JP66 @8

    Virtually every peer-reviewed article backs up the theory of athropogenic global warming mostly forced by massive fossil fuel use.

    The 97% consensus on global warming


    If you're straddling a fence then one half of your body is being crushed up against the wall of evidence.

    The models being discussed in these taken out of context emails don't "prove" that anthropogenic global warming is happening, they are an attempt to model what we might expect to see in coming years given specific forcings. And even if the models could be discredited totally - which they haven't been - it doesn't change the basic science telling us why the globe is warming so rapidly and what is almost certainly the main forcing. Coarbon dioxide absorbing huge amounts of longwave EM ratiated by the Earth.

    A forcing that has been understood for well over a century and more than a century ago climate sensitivity was calculated before we even understood the fundamental mechanism that causes the greenhouse effect. Namely photons being quantized to be absorbed by certain molecules but not others.

    Svante Arrhenius - Climate Sensitivity


    The idea is not to wait until there is nothing we can do about this growing global catastrophe, the signal rose above the noice over two decades ago. The idea is to let the overwhelming evidence on this existential issue determine policy. Something that still isn't happening not because the evidence is not far above a rational doubt, but because people skilled in hitting the scientific method where it's most vulnerable - in the constant application of skepticism - keep demanding 100% certainty before we change anything. There is zero genuine skepticism being applied by these people to their own positions.

    That's not science, I'm not going to put in blunt words what it is but that is not science and there is nothing sacrosanct in playing silly bastards with an issue that is already killing large numbers of people every year and driving entire essential ecosystems like coral reefs to the edge of existance.

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  12. It's a bit disappointing that already, and even here, David Kirtley's concerns described above are being fulfilled- cherry-picking, misrepresentation, fake concern etc.

    JP66 quoted a passage out of context, which was part of an email discussion that went on for several emails (10 July 2000 email by Ray Bradley, with replies by other people). The discussion was evidence of scientists doing science and working hard, talking together, to try to get to the bottom of what was happening 1000 years ago, well before thermometers and barometers.

    Even if JP66 didn't look at the other emails in the discussion, they could hardly have missed key lines in the one he/she cherry-picked. After explaining some of the difficulties of sorting through data to get valuable information, Ray Bradley wrote:

    In Ch 7 we will try to discuss some of these issues, in the limited space available. Perhaps the best thing at this stage is to simply point out the inherent uncertainties and point the way towards how these uncertainties can be reduced. Malcolm & I are working with Mike Mann to do just that.

    That's leaving aside the fact that the email thread was yet another example showing the dedication of scientists. They were working late into the night. (Researchers do not stick to 9-5 hours. For a lot of them, like the ones writing these emails, it's a 24-7 commitment.)

    Now if anyone is concerned about how scientists view or speak about fake sceptics, they hold them in the same contempt as I do. Who can blame them?

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  13. i do love the fact that worshippers at the "church of the eternally concerned" hold climate scientists to much higher standards than just about any other human - living or dead

    I beleive even Einstein had issues with data conflicting with theory

    the earth is round, evolution is the best theory that explains the diverstity of life on earth and AGW is the best thoery that explains the data - get over it

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  14. Michael Mann vs. Climate Deniers & more

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  15. The Consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming Matters

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Please set image widths to below 500.

  16. SInce David Schnare claims to be performing a Public Service through this Public Process it seems reasonable that someone could do FOIA request for all of his emails, starting form the date he began using this Public Mechanism to perform this Public Service.

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  17. Instead of trying to angle to get David's emails though some version of a FOIA, maybe Drs. Hughes and Overpeck could Publicly request tha David Schnare do the honorable things of being totally transparent "In the Public Interest he claims to be Concerned about" by sharing all of his emails - without reviewing them for potential Personal Confidential Interests.

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  18. Since the EELI is not the owner of the emails is it possible to legally require them to only present them as full email strings. No partial presentation allowed. And no paraphrasing allowed.

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  19. JP66 @ 8 and 9:

    As it stands your drive-by reflects the shoddy behaviour the pointed out in the article. If you are truly interested in the science, and not another muckraker, would you kindly provide directions to the email you cited so we can get more context?

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  20. JP66's cited email was part of the tranche hacked years ago.

    Seems unlikely JP66 is reading the latest release, and instead is trawling contrarian blogs.

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  21. No. My quote was not previously released. 

    A theory is valid until one piece of data invalidates it.  1 million papers become irrelevant if data invalidates the hypothesis.

    The hockey stick graph is not a useful bit of data because it is too controversial and is based on a combination of proxy data and thermometer data.  The NAS said it should not have been given the importance it was afforded, and the original paper said it should only be a piece of the picture, but the posters here use it as THE proof.


    That is one example of why I remain on the fence.

    People here are just as biased as the people on WUWT.  For a layman interested in parsing the best evidence posters here are not helping.


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    Moderator Response:

    [DB]  Please learn what constitutes a scientific theory.

    Also please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can be rescinded if the posting individual treats adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.

    Sloganeering snipped.

  22. JP66, @ 21 & 22

    "No. My quote was not previously released."

    Yes it was. I found your quote on several other websites for example here, just by googling it and it certainly forms part of climategate according to them. Whether it does or does not doesn't actually seem that significant anyway, nobody is denying that it's real.

    Why for example would it be wrong to stitch recent temperatures onto a paleo reconstruction? You don't say. I cannot see the problem. Science combines data sets all the time. Nobody has shown a specific problem in the way the data is stitched together, and obviously modern instrumental data is going to be more accurate than modern paleo data.

    There were some criticisms of Manns statistics in the official enquiry, but this is a separate thing. Official reviews of his hockey stick did not say it was fundamentally wrong.

    "and the original paper said it should only be a piece of the picture, but the posters here use it as THE proof."

    Proof of what?

    Like I said additional papers have been done using different approaches and found much the same result of a relatively weak MWP, so things do not hinge around M Manns original paper. This seems to be fairly compelling evidence relating to the MWP. Even if the MWP was warmer than today, what do you think that would prove?

    "I will never post here again because it is apparent this site is against discussion. You just lost points in the war."

    But your problem is you dont discuss things. You have not specifically addressed points people have raised above including myself. Instead you just repeat yourself and go onto new issues, and you just make assertions.

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  23. JP66 appears to be another one of the 'too many' who deliberately divisively polarize themselves away from improved awareness and understanding, to the detriment of the future of humanity.

    Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, especially the Climate Action Goal, is essential for the future of humanity. Too many people have developed desires that lead them to divisively polarize away from that improved awareness and understanding.

    Division and polarization are clearly a serious problem when they happen regarding 'the constantly improving understanding of things that are understandably evidence based'.

    Division and polarization can also occur regarding matters of personal Opinion or Preference (matters that have no real evidence as a basis, are just matters of belief and faith) such as:

    • what city has the best sports teams
    • what sport is best
    • what type of music is best
    • what type of cuisine is best
    • which spiritual belief is best.

    But those issues are inconsequential to the future of humanity. And all Opinions regarding them need to be respected as long as they do not lead people to act in ways that are harmful to the advancement of humanity to a sustainable better future.

    The correct (and constantly improved) understanding of matters that matter to the future of humanity is what matters. Humanity only advances by improved awareness and understanding.

    New things, like new technological applications, may or may not be advancements. Many people fail to understand that. They incorrectly perceive new technological developments as advacements of humanity.

    Improved awareness and understanding of the sustainability or harmfulness of any activity is always an advancement (no matter how unpopular it is). A developed liking for a belief or way of living can undeniably develop damaging resistance to improved awareness and understanding.

    Unfortunately the developed competitions for 'impressions of superiority relative to others', with popularity and profitability as the measures of acceptability, have resulted in many people developing preferences that lead them to choose to divisively polarize themselves away from improved awareness and understanding.

    The case of climate science, and the divisive polarization of people away from improved awareness and understanding of it, is clear evidence that the socioeconomic-political systems that develop people who choose to avoid improving their awareness and understanding need to be corrected.

    That correction would result in governing and limiting the actions of everyone based on improved awareness and understanding. It would require correction of developed popular incorrect beliefs that unjustly excuse harmful and unsustainable pursuits of personal benefit and profit.

    That means finding ways to correct the people who incorrectly understand important matters, and keeping people who resist improving their awareness and understanding from significantly impacting Others (essentially the correct application of The Rule of Law, and correction of incorrect applications of Law).

    That is the challenge of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, not just the Climate Action one. The future of humanity requires the challenge of people like JP66, who choose to divisively polarize themselves away from improved awareness and understanding, to be corrected (to learn to change their mind) or be disappointed by being limited contrary to their incorrect developed personal desire to be freer to believe and do whatever they please.

    The freedom to be incorrect regarding matters that matter is harmful to the future of humanity.

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  24. This is JP66 just saying I can't discuss the issue because my login keeps getting deleted which, by the way, doesn't happen on the "anti" sites when you oppose their view point.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Because you were on multiple occasions unable to comport your comments with this venue's Comments Policy, and because you previously voluntarily ceded any claim to posting any further comments here, your wished were honored and your posting privileges were rescinded, Mr Peck:

    "I will never post here again because it is apparent this site is against discussion"

    The commenting privileges of your other sock puppet account were also removed, as was those of this one.

    Moderation complaints snipped.

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