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Debunking the "Climategate" Diversion Tactic


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View Liz Judge's blog posts
09 July 2010, 3:18 PM
Ploy by climate deniers to discredit science is revealed as misleading sham
Courtesy of Treehugger

Six months after the media hoopla known as "Climategate," we begin to see more clearly and fully how our news establishments, both here in the United States and abroad, have failed us on reporting scientific fact and doing what they were created to do: uncover the truth.

We see it everyday on TV, online and in print: News establishments ceding serious investigative reporting, foregoing real fact finding, relinquishing truth seeking, in favor of this new idea of "fair and balanced" reporting that just shows two sides of any story—or worse, just offers us some opposing opinions—and calls it a day.

The two sides of the story are represented all too often by extremes, and any little opportunity to amplify the arguments or set the stage of a "battle" are seized upon and fully capitalized by media today.

You can blame the 24-hour news cycle that lends itself to lazy stories and quick soundbites, or worse, demands that from reporters; you can blame the downturn of a once-lucrative news industry; you can blame the advertising-based revenue models of traditional media outlets; you can blame a lost values and ethics code in journalism; or you can blame a society obsessed with conflict and crossfire—whoever or whatever you blame, the fact remains: We The People are getting desperately sold short on information, facts and especially science in today's so-called "news" reports.

Thomas Jefferson wrote that democracy depends on an educated and informed electorate. Today, it's not only democracy that depends on it; it's all of society. And it can be argued that we depend, now more than ever, on not just any kind of information but scientific information especially. 

So it's a total blow to the gut when the scientific information exists and is out there—encapsulated in volumes and volumes of scientific data, government agency reports from administrations of both parties, peer-reviewed scientific journal articles—and it still doesn't fully make its way through a mainstream media circus.

It's painful to watch the consensus and research of scientists from all over the world get laid to waste by a politically charged decoy like the "Climategate" story, which distracted the public from a whole body of sound science with some sparkly—albeit misguided—hacked-e-mail exchanges between a few people. The "Climategate" emails between a few scientists were not productive, not ethical, but they also can't possibly discredit the whole body of science and fact that exists.

One particular organization that helped cut through a lot of the crap to get to the facts was Media Matters. While the researchers at Media Matters sifted through the hundreds of stories that fueled this bogus "Climategate" beast, they found that much of the press on "Climategate" was based on rumors, unsubstantiated claims and shoddy reporting.

Over the few months since the alleged scandal, the real story, the truth, has unfolded. The few scientists who were wrongly accused of tampering scientific evidence have gone through thorough investigations and have been totally cleared. Outlets have retracted stories that perpetuated Climategate and escalated it. And yet even more scientific evidence supporting climate change has come out (of particular note: an important report by the crucial National Academy of Sciences.) And these are just a few examples. Of course, these facts and this science have garnered a tiny fraction of the press that the Climategate story got.

This week, Earthjustice joined Media Matters and 11 other organizations to urge outlets that reported on the original "Climategate" controversy to set the record straight. We joined together to urge these news outlets to highlight recent developments that completely disprove much of the evidence that supported the "Climategate" scandal with the same forcefulness and frequency that they reported the original charges.

Check out our letter and more examples of how climate change is proven, and how the media got the Climategate story all wrong (below and also here, on Media Matters):

Dear Editorial Boards and Journalists,

Last winter, newsrooms across the world raced to add the newest layer to the then-controversy over stolen emails, the reliability of climate science, and the legitimacy of the findings of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The journalistic arms race on both sides of the Atlantic, enabled by the lax publishing standards of Europe and fueled by oil industry-funded climate deniers in the U.S., resulted in the mutual destruction of accurate reporting and an informed readership. These false reports had a measurable impact on public opinion.

With the dust finally settling now six months later, it's painfully clear that news outlets across the globe hastily published hundreds of stories—based on rumors, unsubstantiated claims, and the shoddy reporting of their competitors—questioning the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activities are causing climate change. One by one, the pillars of evidence supporting the alleged "scandals" have shattered, causing the entire storyline to come crashing down.

According to The New York Times, the Independent Climate Change E-Mails Review today "cleared climate scientists and administrators at the University of East Anglia of claims of malfeasance rising out of the contents of folders of e-mail messages and files extracted from computers there and posted around the Web last November." The Times further reported that "the committee made it clear that nearly all of the attacks on the scientists and the university were unsubstantiated."

After the hacked emails drew criticism, a panel established by the University of East Anglia to investigate the integrity of the research of the Climatic Research Unit wrote: "We saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely that we would have detected it."

Responding to allegations that Dr. Michael Mann tampered with scientific evidence, Pennsylvania State University conducted a thorough investigation. It concluded: "The Investigatory Committee, after careful review of all available evidence, determined that there is no substance to the allegation against Dr. Michael E. Mann, Professor, Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University.  More specifically, the Investigatory Committee determined that Dr. Michael E. Mann did not engage in, nor did he participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions t hat seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research, or other scholarly activities." 

The British House of Commons Science and Technology Committee investigated the charges and concluded: "The focus on Professor [Phil] Jones and CRU has been largely misplaced. On the accusations relating to Professor Jones's refusal to share raw data and computer codes, we consider that his actions were in line with common practice in the climate science community."

London's Sunday Times retracted its story, echoed by dozens of outlets, that the IPCC issued an unsubstantiated report claiming 40 percent of the Amazon rainforest was endangered due to changing rainfall patterns. The Times wrote: "In fact, the IPCC's Amazon statement is supported by peer-reviewed scientific evidence. In the case of the WWF [World Wildlife Fund] report, the figure had, in error, not been referenced, but was based on research by the respected Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) which did relate to the impact of climate change." 

The Sunday Times also admitted it misrepresented the views of Dr. Simon Lewis, a Royal Society research fellow at the University of Leeds, implying he agreed with the article's false premise and believed the IPCC should not use reports issued by outside organizations. In its retraction, the Times admitted: "Dr Lewis does not dispute the scientific basis for both the IPCC and the WWF reports," and, "We accept that Dr Lewis holds no such view. ... A version of our article that had been checked with Dr Lewis underwent significant late editing and so did not give a fair or accurate account of his views on these points. We apologise for this."

In May of this year, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering released a report titled, Advancing the Science of Climate Change. According to a news release, the report concluded: "Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for—and in many cases is already affecting—a broad range of human and natural systems."

After analyzing 32 summary conclusions on the regional impacts of climate change in the IPCC's 2007 Fourth Assessment Report, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency concluded that "no significant errors" had been made.

Every newspaper, magazine and television show that reported on these bogus scandals owes it to its audience to set the record straight with the same forcefulness and frequency that it reported the original, disproven charges. Failure to publicly correct the record undermines the very heart of journalism—to report the truth.

Respectfully,
350.org
Alliance for Climate Protection
Center for American Progress Action Fund
Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture)
Earthjustice
League of Conservation Voters
Media Matters for America
Natural Resources Defense Council
Project on Climate Science
Safe Climate Campaign
Sierra Club
United Nations Foundation
World Wildlife Fund
 

Well done! Thank you very much for professional templates and community edition
lineturk

I think its very commanding and very challenging situation for all the groups ..who had been keeping eye on the transaction of the widening of roads..they are adversely conjured hence people facing problems in it. sesli chat

Well here's the thing. Outside of the Wall Street Journal, none of these supposedly "fair and balanced" lazy medias actually exist, outside of your imagination. sesli sohbet

Hi StreveGinIL:

There were five independent investigations that strongly disagree with you and your above claims. All five investigations affirmed these scientists' methods and science and rejected claims such as the ones you make above.

It sounds like your real problem is with the processes and conclusions of these five investigative panels, which all vindicated these scientists and asserted that their science or scientific process are sound and not in doubt. Two of the investigations' conclusions, which are in direct conflict with your assertions here, are below. I trust you've taken your riffs up with these credible panels directly.

One final note: After quite a bit of criticism of the science at the heart of this, your parting if/then logic statement -- "If it could get warmer without industrialization, how can anyone claim that this current period is warming because of our industrial activity? If it warmed up without industrialization before, then it implies this warming may also be from some other cause." -- sounds oddly antithetical to scientific method and the basis of sound climate science -- volumes of data, research, studies, models.

The Muir Russell investigation determined: 

“On the specific allegations made against the behavior of C.R.U. scientists, we find that their rigor and honesty as scientists are not in doubt,” said the new report, led by Muir Russell, a retired British civil servant and educator.

Likewise, the Michael Mann investigation determined (http://live.psu.edu/fullimg/userpics/10026/Final_Investigation_Report.pdf):

"After a careful review of all written material, and information obtained from the purloined emails, the interview of Dr. Mann, the supplemental materials provided by Dr. Mann and all the information from other sources, the Inquiry Committee found as follows with respect to each allegation:

Allegation 1: "Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions with the intent to suppress or falsify data? "
Decision 1: The Inquiry Committee determined there was no substance to this allegation and further investigation of this allegation was not warranted.
Allegation 2: "Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions  with the intent to delete, conceal or otherwise destroy emails, information and/or data, related to AR4, as suggested by Phil Jones?"
Decision 2: The Inquiry Committee determined there was no substance to this allegation and further investigation of this allegation was not warranted.
Allegation 3: "Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any misuse of privileged or confidential information available to you in your capacity as an academic scholar?"
Decision 3: The Inquiry Committee determined there was no substance to this allegation and further investigation of this allegation was not warranted.
Allegation 4: "Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or other scholarly activities?"
Decision 4: The Inquiry Committee determined that "given that information emerged in the form of the emails purloined from CRU in November 2009, which have raised questions in the public's mind about Dr. Mann's conduct of his research activity, given that this may be undermining confidence in his findings as a scientist, and given that it may be undermining public trust in science in general and climate science specifically, an Investigatory Committee of faculty peers from diverse fields should be constituted under RA-I 0 to further consider this allegation."

FINAL CONCLUSION of the Investigatory Committee as to whether research misconduct occurred:
The Investigatory Committee, after careful review of all available evidence, determined that there is no substance to the allegation against Dr. Michael E. Mann, Professor, Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University.
More specifically, the Investigatory Committee determined that Dr. Michael E. Mann did not engage in, nor did he participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research, or other scholarly activities.
The decision of the Investigatory Committee was unanimous.

"The change which has taken place in our climate is one of those facts which all men of years are sensible of and yet none can prove by regular evidence. They can only appeal to each other’s general observation for the fact.

I remember that when I was a small boy, say sixty years ago, snows were frequent and deep in every winter, to my knee very often, to my waist sometimes, and that they covered the earth long. And I remember while yet young to have heard from very old men that in their youth the winters had been still colder, with deeper and longer snows. In the year '72, thirty-seven years ago, we had a snow two feet deep in the Champain parts of this state, and three feet in the counties next below the mountains...

While I lived at Washington, I kept a Diary, and by recurring to that I observe that from the winter of '02-'03 to that of '08-'09 inclusive, the average fall of snow of the seven winters was only 14½ inches, and that the ground was covered but sixteen days in each winter on average of the whole. The maximum in any one winter during that period was 21 inches fall, and 34 days on the ground, the minimum was 4½ inches fall and two days on the ground...

Williams in his history of Vermont has an essay on the change in the climate of Europe, Asia and Africa."

That's Thomas Jefferson describing the multi-decadal changing climate back in 1809. (Read more here)
Normally we would say the anecdote from an old man isn't worth much, but this is TJ, the most brilliant man to ever dine in the White House, saying that the weather warmed from 1750 to 1809. Before the Erie Canal was dug, much before planes, trains, and automobiles.

Mike Mann says that Thomas Jefferson was a liar. I know who I'll believe in that argument.
Who do you think was the more careful observer?

Anyhow I thought you might like reading that.

About the media matter, that's a pretty pitiful list. Such a small handful of reports that you must forgive me. I blinked and missed the MSM climategate coverage. Or was it just the Amazon gate that got covered?

Any rate the IPAM is a Brazilian advocacy group, closely linked with the Woods Hole Research Center. The Times had no need to retract anything. The WWF reference is to an annonymous and unreferenced note on the exposure of the forest to fire risks, little more then a blog comment posted on the net in February 1999 and taken down four years later.
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/07/10/amazongate-proven-ipcc-based-their...

Well here's the thing.
Outside of the Wall Street Journal, none of these supposedly "fair and balanced" lazy medias actually exist, outside of your imagination.
The mentions of climategate on MSNBC = zero. The amount of times CNN reported on East Anglia emails = never. ABC NBC CBS = zip ziltch nada.

Oh sure they reported the whitewash, but that was months after the story broke.

Right now signing this pathetic petition just highlights the delusional quality of the listed members, the tiny band of faceless ecolobby money sinks.

Dear PaperTiger,

Thanks for the read, and thanks for taking the time to comment. I appreciate the discourse, but must correct you on your information. CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX all reported on and pushed the "Climategate" story.

Here is a detailed list of CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX reports on "Climategate" and the dates they ran:
http://mediamatters.org/research/201007010052.

Meanwhile, here an exhaustive list of other media outlets in cities around the country that ran and peddled this "Climategate" story:
http://mediamatters.org/research/201006300033.

Both of these lists combined amount to a huge amount of press around a story that was incorrect. We can only hope that these outlets devote the same amount of air time and coverage to correcting themselves and setting the record straight for the public that they did to promulgating this false controversy.

Dear PaperTiger,

Thanks for the read, and thanks for taking the time to comment. I appreciate the discourse, but must correct you on your information. CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX all reported on and pushed the "Climategate" story.

Here is a detailed list of CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX reports on "Climategate" and the dates they ran:
http://mediamatters.org/research/201007010052

Meanwhile, here an exhaustive list of other media outlets in cities around the country that ran and peddled this "Climategate" story:
http://mediamatters.org/research/201006300033

Both of these lists combined amount to a huge amount of press around a story that was incorrect. We can only hope that these outlets devote the same amount of air time and coverage to correcting themselves and setting the record straight for the public that they did to promulgating this false controversy.

@LizJudge -

I have to apologize on behalf of the entire crowd who don't accept CAGW as presented, for the simple-minded assertions of PaperTiger. I read his claims and thought, "WTF? This guy is an idiot."

On the other hand, you yourself state,

"It's painful to watch the consensus and research of scientists from all over the world get laid to waste by a politically charged decoy like the "Climategate" story, which distracted the public from a whole body of sound science with some sparkly—albeit misguided—hacked-e-mail exchanges between a few people. The "Climategate" emails between a few scientists were not productive, not ethical, but they also can't possibly discredit the whole body of science and fact that exists."

Shame on you. Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you DO know that the "few scientists" in the emails are not just ANY old scientists, but the lead authors of the IPCC technical Working Groups. They are not just ANY scientists, but THE TOP scientists in the entire IPCC organization. Shame on you for trying to pretend that these are scientists of no importance at all. They ARE few in number, but in terms of power within the global warming community, these scientists - Professor Phil Jones of CRU at East Anglia University, Michael Mann of the University of Virginia, and Keith Briffa of the CRU, plus a handful of others - were and are at the very APEX of the global warming issue on behalf of the claims about its anthropogenic nature and CO2 being its mechanism. Your disingenuous statements here border on mendacity. That is lying, to any who are unfamiliar to that term.

Those three are the pro-AGW VIPS who stonewalled the FOI process. They are the VIPs who adjusted data in various questionable ways and then had the balls to try to block people from discovering what those ways were. They are the singular and loudest voices in the scientific community arguing for government policies to be such and so - including Kyoto and the failed Copenhagen summit. They are the VIPS who blackballed several scientific papers and some scientific journals, and tried to blackball others . The evidence is in the emails and the files showing the computer code. And these are the emails that ALL FIVE panels refused to look into.

Out of well over 1,000 emails, the Muir-Russell panel chose to address only three of them, and they didn't even address the questionable passages in any of even those three. And Muir-Russell is the only panel that even bothered looking at ANY of the emails.

For every bit of science you allude to, there is another scientific study that shows evidence to the contrary. (Normally that would mean that the science is inconclusive.) There are, for example, 855 studies around the entire globe that argue that there WAS, in fact a Medieval Warm Period and a Little Ice Age - all over the world. See http://www.co2science.org/data/mwp/mwpp.php.

Michael Mann - when confronted with the MWP evidence to the contrary, which HAS been accepted science (not by "consensus," but by peer-reviewed studies) for decades and decades - said that the MWP was only a "local event." He HAD to say that, because it is nowhere to be found on his Hockey Stick. If it existed, Mann's work is flawed. As in wrong. 855 peer-reviewed studies argue against Mann. His work is only some statistical analysis; he never went out and collected one shred of any of the data he worked with. His analysis appears to have been flawed. Without that Hockey Stick "An Inconvenient Truth" has no teeth. If the Hockey Stick doesn't include the MWP, then it is wrong. And if it is wrong, so is the movie. And so is any assertion that the present warming is unusual or is the warmest "ever."

Mann is shown in the emails to be a bully, even to the people on his side. He is the one who twisted Keith Briffa's arm and got him to "hide the decline" - which Briffa didn't want to do. Briffa, to his credit, fought doing it, but in the end, he capitulated. And the curve was truncated - just at the point where it nose-dived. Because it was on a graph with several other curves which all converged in the late 1900s, its missing "decline" was not noticed for several YEARS.

Where is the need for alarm today, if it was actually warmer in the Medieval Warm Period than now - as the 855 peer-reviewed studies show? After all, the MWP was before any industrialization. If it could get warmer without industrialization, how can anyone claim that this current period is warming because of our industrial activity? If it warmed up without industrialization before, then it implies this warming may also be from some other cause.

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