Climategate 2.0: Denialists Serve Up Two-Year-Old Turkey

Not satisfied with the fake scandal that was Climategate 1.0, climate denialists have returned with another collection of quote-mined excerpts from the same batch of e-mails hacked from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU) two years ago.

The original release of quote-mined stolen e-mails coincided with the lead-up to Denmark's Copenhagen Climate Conference in 2009, where world leaders met to discuss and agree on actions to address man-made climate change (so much for that). Once again, this new batch of e-mails just so happen to surface before the gathering of world leaders for the climate conference in Durban, South Africa, which is to start next week.

Given that the quote-mined excerpts from the stolen e-mails contain nothing that challenges the robustness and validity of the veritable mountain of scientific evidence that underpins man-made global warming, its timing and content (or more accurately, lack thereof) strongly suggest this is yet another desperate attempt to influence public opinion and distract the policymakers attending the Durban conference. This is, no doubt, why prominent climate modeler Gavin Schmidt labels the new e-mail release "Two-year old turkey."

Another Climate Conspiracy

Perhaps the most charitable way to characterize Climategate 1.0 is that at its heart is the preposterous notion that climate scientists are engaged in a gigantic conspiracy.  Of course we at Skeptical Science could point out the many ways in which this notion is wrong, but then we'd just be part of the conspiracy in the eyes of the conspiracy theorists, wouldn't we?

Despite the stolen e-mails being nothing more than private discussions being taken out of context and misrepresented by denialist blogs and mainstream media, a number of investigations were conducted to ascertain any wrongdoing on the part of the climate scientists whose e-mails had been hacked. Hardly surprising then, that every single one of the 9 separate Climategate investigations has exonerated the climate scientists.  Despite the fact that the Climategate 1.0 e-mails contained no damning evidence, and the Climategate 2.0 e-mails contain even less (as Barry Bickmore put it, they're the B-list, benchwarmer e-mails), the climate denialists, seeing chum in the water, are once again predictably having a feeding frenzy over these stolen emails.  In contrast, Media Matters demonstrates how innocuous these e-mails become once their context is taken into account.  As Stephan Lewandowsky put it,

"The scandal isn’t the emails, it’s the hacking"

The theft and release of private email correspondence between climate scientists represented the best imaginable opportunity to expose a 'conspiracy' in the climate science community.  That none was found further exposes the emptiness of the conspiracy argument.  Nothing in the Climategate leftovers served up this time around offers anything more in this regard.  It's leftover two-year-old turkey; there's just no beef.

Why Serve Up Two-Year-Old Turkey?

Although more of these stolen e-mails will be drip-fed by the skeptic blogs and journalists over the coming weeks, it's likely they will continue in the same vein as Climategate 1.0 - an attempt to frame climate science as some sort of conspiracy.

Clearly the majority of the public won't have the foggiest idea of what these e-mails refer to, even when context is provided, which is undoubtedly the reason why they are trotted out to a scientifically naive audience.  But this begs the obvious question: why resort to stealing, quote-mining, and distorting decade-old e-mails if there is evidence that the climate "skeptics" are right?

Well, that question answers itself. Climate change "skeptics," including the handful of skeptical climate scientists, such as Richard Lindzen, Roy Spencer, Judith Curry, etc., have no substantive evidence that undermines the scientific evidence behind man-made global warming.  None. Which doesn't mean that the consensus is a done deal, or 100% certain. Of course it isn't, but to move the science forward requires evidence, something not accomplished by trotting out quote-mined out-of-context statements stolen from e-mails written a decade ago.

The (Skeptic) Emperor Has No Clothes

So let's just point out, for the sake of clarity, how many "skeptic" hypotheses explain the observations in the figure below. Unlike the mainstream view, that would be Zero. Zip. Nada. There is no coherent consistent hypothesis presented by skeptics that can explain the observations that are 'fingerprints' of greenhouse gases warming our planet.  That's right, climate "skeptics," including those few "skeptics" who are actual climate scientists, would have you accept what they say on the basis of faith, not evidence.     



Indeed, what we've found at Skeptical Scence is that virtually every single "skeptic" scientific paper falls apart upon close examination, rather like a vampire exposed to direct sunlight (for example see here and here and here and here, to list a few). Yet in spite of this serial wrongness and lack of an overarching hypothesis, the "skeptics" are unable to accept they are wrong. In a scientific sense it's difficult to take them seriously, even though they do enormous damage by misinforming the public.

Facing Up to Reality

Any rational reader of climate blogs will be aware that the evidence-based case for climate change/global warming grows ever stronger with each passing year.  Indeed, many of the extreme weather events of the last 18 months are entirely consistent with expectations outlined in earlier IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports. 

We also have recent studies which indicate that the current warming of both hemispheres, at the same time, is unique within the last 20,000 years. A finding which is supported by a just-published paper showing the polar ice sheets are retreating in a synchronous manner for the first time, which puts the current warming into context.

And, in the more bad news department, we have a recent paper of regional warming trend projections, which indicates that all of the contiguous United States will experience 2°C of warming (above pre-industrial) within 20-30 years.  And this at a time when southern US states are struggling with record drought.


What the evidence shows us is that rather than retreating from reality as the climate denialists would have us do, humanity must ignore these empty distractions and confront our new reality.

The Earth's climate, and the universe at large, are unerringly mathematical and follow physical laws, they will not be fooled by "skeptic" distractions, and neither should we.  As John Cook pointed out during Climategate 1.0, the question the denialists failed to ask was:

Has 'Climategate' changed our scientific understanding of global warming?

This question was never asked because of the answer:

The evidence for human-caused global warming is as solid as ever.

The answer to this question during Climategate 2.0 remains the same; in fact, in the meantime we have discovered that CRU has actually underestimated global warming!  The only real difference is that two years have passed, and time is running out to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.  The longer we wait to take serious action, the worse the consequences and the more expensive adaptation and mitigation will be.

Posted by Rob Painting on Wednesday, 23 November, 2011

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