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Climategate a year later

Posted on 17 November 2010 by Stephan Lewandowsky

A short piece for the general audience of RTR radio, Perth, Australia.
(listen to the original audio podcast)

Remember “climategate”? The private correspondence among scientists stolen exactly a year ago, which some columnists pronounced to be the (approximately 132nd) “final nail in the coffin” of global warming. Remember the “errors” in the IPCC report that hit the media a short time later? “Amazongate”, “Himalayagate”, and so on? What has happened to “climategate”? What’s happened is this.

First, the UK Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee exonerated the scientist at the centre of this tempest, Professor Phil Jones, finding that he has “no case to answer” and that his “reputation … remains intact.”

Then Lord Oxburgh, former chairman of Shell-UK, and his panel likewise exonerated the researchers, finding that their “work has been carried out with integrity, and that allegations of deliberate misrepresentation … are not valid.”

Another enquiry, chaired by Sir Muir Russell, found the scientists’ “rigour and honesty … are not in doubt”

And in the U.S., two enquiries by his university cleared Professor Michael Mann, who published the first famous “hockey stick” graph, of all allegations.

Finally, a few weeks ago the—conservative!—UK Government concluded that “… the information contained in the illegally-disclosed emails does not provide any evidence to discredit … anthropogenic climate change.”

Not one, not two, but six vindications. This comes as no surprise to anyone with passing familiarity of the distinction between private chat and public actions.

And what has happened to the IPCC “Whatevergates”?

What’s happened is this.

First, the Sunday Times apologized and retracted its “Amazongate” story. There is no “Amazongate”; there is only the Amazon rainforest threatened by climate change.

Then the Dutch government accepted responsibility for erroneously informing the IPCC that 55% of the Netherlands are below sea level—when in fact only 26% are at risk of flooding because they are below sea level, whereas another 29% are … err … at risk of flooding from rivers.

Then the BBC apologized to the University of East Anglia for its misleading coverage of the “climategate” pseudo-scandal.

What is left of all the “Whatevergates” are thus red-faced apologies and, yes, one IPCC error: The likely date for the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers was given as 2035, as opposed to the more likely 2350—an error drawn to the public’s attention not by a newspaper or a “skeptic” blogger but …. by an IPCC author.

So one year’s worth of climategate has given us exactly one typo and 6 exonerations of scientists. Here then are the real questions that real journalists should have been asking for the past year:



Who is waging this campaign against climate science and why?

Those questions have answers; and if you are in Perth next Monday, you can hear the answers from Professor Oreskes, a historian at the University of California who has been researching the way in which vested interests try to manufacture doubt about science, during her free lecture at UWA. That’s a Monday evening, 22nd of November, 6pm in the Social Sciences Lecture Theatre at UWA.


Details of Naomi Oreskes' events

Place Time Details
Melbourne Wednesday
17 November
5.45 to 7.00pm
Where: Experimedia, The State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne.
RSVP: No booking required.
Media Contact: Prof. David Karoly, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, 0433 692 863.
Presented by: The Monash Sustainability Institute & The Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute. (Prof. Oreskes will be introduced by Prof. Karoly, with Q&A moderated by Prof. Dave Griggs, MSI. Merchants of Doubt will be available for purchase before the lecture, with signing and sales afterwards.)
Adelaide Thursday
18 November
6.00 to 7.30pm
Where: RIAus @ The Science Exchange, 55 Exchange Place, Adelaide.
Presented by: RIAus
Media Contact: Dr Lisa Bailey, Senior Programmes Coordinator, RIAus, 0427 490 088.
This talk will be livestreamed from
Perth Monday
22 November
Where: University of Western Australia, Social Sciences Lecture Theatre (parking P3, Hackett Entrance)
RSVP: No booking required.
Presented by: The Institute of Advanced Studies.
Media Contact: Prof. Stephan Lewandowsky, School of Psychology, UWA.
(Merchants of Doubt will be available for purchase from 5.30pm with the author signing afterwards.)


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Comments 51 to 69 out of 69:

  1. Btw, Daniel Bailey funny picture, but I am from the north hemisphere you see.
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  2. Okay, you win.
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  3. Ken Lambert said:
    I have no reason to not accept the truth of the below excerpt from NP
    KL surely has not read very many articles in the NP or he would not be making that statement. NP is a well known right wing, AGW denying and anti-science rag.
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  4. Ian @53, I have recently warned KL about the perils of quoting NP, and yet he still insists on using quotes from a newspaper run by ideologues to try and back up his arguments. That is a very weak argument to try and make-- resorting to using Corcoran as a source smacks of desperation.
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  5. Ken Lambert: Let me point out another thing about M&M's comment to Mann (because that was what it was: a criticism of Mann's prior work): did Mann get the possibility to reply? Yes? No? that would be a no, which is really odd. We thus have indeed a leak: a leak in the proper scientific process of allowing the author of a criticised paper to reply to that criticism. Thus, Mann expressed concern with that rather odd path. Mackwell then 'offered' Mann the option of sending a comment, which would be followed by a reply by M&M. Mann declined, after a flurry of hopelessly flawed papers in GRL indicated to him, and various others, that the Editors of GRL were clearly not doing their job. With new leadership, the "leak" of publishing hopelessly flawed papers and criticisms without letting the criticised author respond, was plugged- FYI: I recently got a comment published that I found was not reviewed at all by any of the authors I criticised. It made me upset and angry as a scientist that this had happened, and I have noted my dismay to the Editor of that journal. He did not respond.
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  6. Ian F, Albatros, Marco, What counts here is not the source of the story but whether or not it is true. Smearing NP and Corcoran does not address the truth of the quotation. Marco seems to carry the story further and refers to Mann not getting a right of reply by GRL as a 'leak in the proper scientific process'. An omission is a leak? - strange way to describe that. Or are you saying Marco that the Editor of GRL was deliberately ignoring Mann and publishing hopelessly flawed papers by design or neglect in order to damage Mann's reputation?? What of the report that 4 scientists had peer reviewed the subject paper which raised Mann's ire?? Is this false? Was there no peer review of 1,2,3 or 4 scientists involved? Are you asking us to believe that not only the Editor of GRL was biased or incompetent but 4 other scientific reviewers were similarly prone to passing hopelessly flawed papers for publication in a respected journal?? Pull the other one Marco - it has bells on it.
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  7. Ken, it indeed appears GRL deliberately ignored Mann. In fact, Mackwell implicitely admitted to Mann that they only would allow a reply by the criticised authors if the criticism was submitted as a comment. A "original paper" would just be reviewed by reviewers GRL selected, which apparently did not standard include those that were criticised. Now, the reviewers for M&M need not be biased, they simply may have been incompetent. Indeed, this appears to be the case here: follow-up comments by Huybers and Von Storch&Zorita showed that M&M's GRL paper was fundamentally flawed. Why did the three (not four) reviewers not see what Huybers and Von Storch&Zorita did see?! Simple: they were not competent enough. It is a major embarrassment for a journal to get a comment pointing out that a paper is wrong. Getting TWO is even more embarrassing. Finally, I like to point out again that I will soon submit a comment that will require the authors or the journal to retract a published paper, due to even the most basic aspects already being fatallay flawed. It was most assuredly peer reviewed, and yet those peer reviewers did not see the flaws. Worse even, well over a hundred papers have been published with the same type of mistakes (although this particular paper took it to new levels of incompetence). All peer reviewed. Mistakes are made. But if a paper criticises someone else's methods, it is not only common practice, but even morally appropriate to get the original authors to review the paper (not as sole reviewer, though!). The fact the GRL Editors did not do so is poor scholarship. A "leak" in proper scholarship. I hope the journal I will use to submit a general criticism will use reviewers from papers I criticise. If not, I merely have further confirmation as to why they published so many flawed papers: they are incompetent Editors.
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  8. KL, May I point out the irony, neigh hypocrisy, of you (falsely) accusing others of "smear". I am merely stating the widely-known facts about NP and Corcoran. NP is being taken to court for very good reasons-- NP repeatedly libeled Weaver (and other scientists) and frequently fabricates or distorts information pertaining to climate science. By knowingly doing so, Corocoran is actually smearing his own reputation. In short, the NP is not a credible, trustworthy, or impartial source of information on climate science. Anyhow, Marco has addressed the misinformation that you quoted from NP in his post @57. KL, is the theory of AGW/ACC a hoax? The reason I ask is that I'm trying to figure out what your position is, because you seem both skeptical of the nuts and bolts (i.e., the science and data) as well as the scientists. In fact, you seem to opportunistically attack the science and scientists whenever you think that doing so will reinforce/support your belief system. My assessment of your posts here at SS is that you are a contrarian and that you think/believe AGW is either a hoax or a non-issue. I could be wrong, so please do state clearly for the record exactly where you are coming from. You might not believe this, but I often naively wish that I could wish away AGW, to make it a non-issue-- but the fact is, is that AGW/ACC is a reality and multiple, independent lines of evidence support a warming of around 3 C for doubling CO2 (and we will easily more than double CO2). And warming is not the only issue, the negative impacts of ocean acidification are already making their presence felt.
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  9. KL #various Now that you've made the tacit admission that your main basis for intepreting the emails stolen from CRU is not acutally supported by the evidence, it's quite clear that you are aware that the premises for the starting point of your argument are fatally flawed. However, as you have not explicitly made this admission, and continue to pretend that everything is well with your argument, it seems that you are wasting your time trying to shore up an argument that you are aware is not supported by the evidence.
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  10. kdkd @59, Thanks for you post, it nicely summarises what seems to be going on here. I wonder what KL et al. think of the revelation that Wegman deleted emails? Note the difference between threatening to out of pure frustration after been harassed and actually doing so. Joe Romm has the juicy details at ClimateProgress. I eagerly await KL et al. condemning the scientific misconduct by Wegman et al. in the strongest terms possible.
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  11. Re: Albatross (60) I think we all know the answer to that. :) Our usual coterie of "skeptics" were conspicuous by their absence during the recent thread hijacking by The Contrarian. Their typical case of heads-I-win-tails-you-lose. Interesting to see if Congress opens up a can of whoop-a** on Wegmangate... The Yooper
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  12. Marco, Albatros, kdkd, Yooper Claiming that someone else on the other side of the argument did the same crime is not a defence. I will condemn proven misconduct by any scientist who has a duty to act in good faith. I don't know whether the GRL editor and his peer reviewers was in 'error' or not regarding the content of the published paper. That is not the issue. The issue is whether or not Mann improperly interfered with the GRL process. I note that none of you are challenging the accuracy of NP's narrative - just trying a general smear of NP on other matters. 'Plugging a leak' implies that the 'fix' was put in on GRL and the new editor to prevent publication of what Mann et al disagreed with. My AGW position is simple. There is no doubt surface warming has occurred - there is great doubt about the relative contributions of the various forcings - their accuracy of measurement and particularly the future trajectory of the TOA imbalance and the OHC measurement. That means that there is false 'certainty' in the claims by AGW protagonists of overwhelming evidence for the role of CO2GHG as the main driver of global warming.
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  13. Ken, I think there is a fine nuance you may be missing here; Mann, Bradley, Jones, et cetera were accused of misconduct... by people extremely biased against them. When impartial experts reviewed the matters (repeatedly) they found that it was all a bunch of hooey. Nothing rising to the level of academic misconduct. In contrast, Wegman is now accused of misconduct... by independent experts with no axe to grind in this fight. The review on Wegman isn't over yet... but when it is, chances are he's going to be found to have committed serious breaches. See the difference? Accusation by partisans which later proves false vs accusation by independent experts which is still ongoing.
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  14. Re: Ken Lambert (62) I don't have time to play in Upside-down World today, sorry. The Yooper
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  15. Ken, it is NOT inappropriate for someone to let an Editor know that he handled inappropriate. In fact, as a scientist I consider it inappropriate NOT to tell the Editor he has an obligation to science. Your interpretation of Mann's words reminds me of a well-known saying: ill-deemers are ill-doers. Regarding your view of AGW: what are your credentials to be able to claim with such certainty that "there is great doubt about the relative contributions of the various forcings - their accuracy of measurement and particularly the future trajectory of the TOA imbalance and the OHC measurement" ?
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  16. KL @62, "I will condemn proven misconduct by any scientist who has a duty to act in good faith." What an odd statement, in your posts here have demonstrated repeatedly that you will not accept proof or evidence that climate scientists are not guilty of any scientific misconduct-- six inquiries have largely vindicated them, but they are still somehow guilty of many nefarious goings on in your mind. BUT, when it comes to Wegman, when faced with compelling evidence you say that you will accept a guilty verdict if it can be proven he is guilty. So, I'm hoping that if GMU find Wegman guilty of plagiarism, and/or deleting emails and/or not disclosing material, and/or failing to actually validate M&M's work as stated, that you will accept that ruling. I'm assuming that the above statement by you also applies to a certain statistician working with climate data, and that if found guilty and by applying your logic, all 'skeptics' by association will be guilty of misconduct and cannot be trusted etc. Just a couple of points. I did not present the example of Wegman as a counter defense, you are making a strawman argument. I was speaking to kdkd when I mused about what you might think of Wegman's alleged scientific misconduct-- although now that three independent experts have declared it plagiarism, I think we can now safely drop the "alleged". And DeepClimate has proven that Wegman did not independently verify M&M's methodology, contrary to what Wegman was instructed to do and what he has claimed to have done. Anyhow, thanks for answering my questions about your position on AGW. One more question, and probably the only one that I should have asked earlier, what do you believe the equilibrium climate sensitivity to be for doubling CO2?
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  17. Marco #65 "Regarding your view of AGW: what are your credentials to be able to claim with such certainty that "there is great doubt about the relative contributions of the various forcings - their accuracy of measurement and particularly the future trajectory of the TOA imbalance and the OHC measurement" All I rely on Marco is the argument itself. Happy for you to refute the technicalities of my arguments rather than claim authority from a moniker. By the way I am an engineer (applied scientist) with a working knowledge of thermodynamics (first & second laws) and heat transfer.
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  18. Albatros #66 "all 'skeptics' by association will be guilty of misconduct and cannot be trusted etc." A bit of an ambit claim there Marco. Anyone who knowingly assists or colludes with the malfeasance surely could be charged with scientific misconduct and rightly so. The act of reading and quoting from a dodgy paper in the belief that it is correct can hardly be guilt by association.
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  19. Albatros #66 "what do you believe the equilibrium climate sensitivity to be for doubling CO2?" Anywhere from 0.6 to 3.0 degC.
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