Climategate a year later

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.)


Posted by Stephan Lewandowsky on Wednesday, 17 November, 2010

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