A week or so ago, someone broke into a server at the University of East Anglia and made off with a range of emails and other data from the university’s Climate Research Unit. This excited lots of climate change deniers, as they’ve long claimed that CRU had secret evidence that global warming wasn’t happening, or something. Much web commentary followed, in which a supposedly “random sample” of these emails were widely distributed and dissected publicly.

My first thought on reading about this was not about climate change or the ensuing storm of BS about it. I thought of the scientists’ privacy, now torn to shreds. I know I live on email, as do most scientists. In addition to work-related emails, I’m sure the server contained private notes to the researchers’ loved ones and family, email receipts for personal purchases, and a host of other content never meant to be distributed publicly, or even in their professional circles. The breach of their privacy is atrocious, and I’ve lost all respect for anyone who commented on this incident without even noting the underlying crime and the associated violation of these people’s most private discussions.

But as noted at BoingBoing, “Theft is bad. But if you’re a researcher who can explain context to the general public, decrying theft shouldn’t be your primary objective right now.” The primary point, BoingBoing makes clear, is:

Evidence of vast conspiracy is sorely lacking. Ditto evidence disproving the scientific consensus on climate change. This isn’t the “nail in the coffin” of anything. However, the emails do prompt some legit questions about transparency and how professional researchers respond to criticism in the age of the armchair scientist.

This is both true and not true. I disagree with the last sentence, but based on what people are saying about the emails (I refuse to read them or to link to sites which list the emails in their entirety), there’s no smoking gun, nor are there powder burns or any other evidence that a gun ever existed. What we see is that scientists can be jerks, can be parochial, can respond badly to criticism, can circle their wagons against outsiders (especially cranks and dilettantes desperate to prove that the entire enterprise of climate science should be tossed out the window). In short, the emails prove that scientists are human. Anyone who didn’t know that should look at some of Newton’s correspondence, or should check out Chris Mooney’s excellent Storm World – which book I previously wrote “deserves special praise for capturing the dynamic of scientific debate, humanizing the scientific process and inviting the public in to see how things work in a field they care about desperately.”

Among those who need to spend less time idealizing science is CBS News’s Declan McCullagh, who writes: “The irony of this situation is that most of us expect science to be conducted in the open, without unpublished secret data, hidden agendas, and computer programs of dubious reliability.” First, that’s not really irony, and second, anyone who has worked in academia knows that the software often sucks (as does commercial software, but scientific software is often highly customized), there are copious personal agendas, and lots of unpublished data waiting to be analyzed. Publishing data isn’t easy, and casting databases open to the world runs the risk of letting your research get scooped. Lots of journalists, including science journalists, don’t seem to get this, which is worrisome. Few deniers get this either, which is not surprising at all, though it continues to disappoint.

In all honesty, there isn’t that much more to be said about the substance of the emails. On their face and in their proper context, they demonstrate that there’s no active conspiracy to promote global warming as a plot by Jews liberals to control the world economy. They demonstrate that these scientists are not a monolithic group, but have internal disagreements which they resolve using data. The evidence that the planet is getting hotter is unchanged, and the evidence that the change is mostly due to human activity is equally unchanged. So what’s the big deal?

Part of the fuss arises from a single line in one email which refers to using a “trick” to “hide the decline.” Deniers try to claim that the “decline” in question is a decline in global average temperature since 1998, despite the fact that statisticians can find no such decline. In fact, the “decline” discussed in the email is an artifact of certain temperature proxies, which have shown a decline in their estimate of regional temperature compared to instrumental measurements (which is to say, thermometers). Since those data are known to be erroneous, the scientists have determined standard ways to represent the real data and to set aside the bogus data. This is what the scientist is referring to as his “trick.

Below you see the different datasets used to construct the temperature record for the last thousand years, with the green line showing northern hemisphere treering data, the black line showing thermometer measurements, and the other lines representing various other proxy measures. As you can see, some treering data are just wrong in the time since 1960, so the scientists substitute the thermometer record for the bogus treering record in graphing the results. As CRU explains, “CRU has published a number of articles that both illustrate, and discuss the implications of, this recent tree-ring decline.” The goal is not to hide the data, but to accurately represent the real state of global temperatures. Anyone who says otherwise is ignorant or dishonest.

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Other observers, including BoingBoing above, suggest that these emails indicate a lack of transparency or openness, or a failure of the peer review process. Again, this argument fails. As CRU notes, the data in question was almost all publicly available, with the unpublished material covered by non-disclosure agreements that will eventually expire. The results of their research are published normally and accessible the same way as all scientific papers (and while it would be nice if scientists were better about freeing their databases, doing so is rarely in the interest of the researchers who gathered the data and hope to mine it for subsequent publications, not let other people get that benefit from their labor).

Are the scientists dismissive of climate change deniers? Yes. As well they should be. I don’t recall any public outrage when biologist Richard Lenski refused to supply conservative hack Andrew Schlafly with bacterial cultures. Schlafly believed that Lenski’s research did not really show the evolution of new traits, arguably a new species of bacteria, in the course of an experiment. Like the climate change deniers, Schlafly wanted to examine Lenski’s raw data and raw materials to recheck his work. Lenski’s reply noted that “it seems that reading might not be your strongest suit,” adding “your capacity to misinterpret and/or misrepresent facts is plain,” concluding “you are not acting in good faith,” and then dismembered the strategy employed by Schlafly in that case and by climate change deniers seeking internal records from CRU:

It is my impression that you seem to think we have only paper and electronic records of having seen some unusual E. coli. If we made serious errors or misrepresentations, you would surely like to find them in those records. If we did not, then – as some of your acolytes have suggested – you might assert that our records are themselves untrustworthy because, well, because you said so, I guess. But perhaps because you did not bother even to read our paper, or perhaps because you aren’t very bright, you seem not to understand that we have the actual, living bacteria that exhibit the properties reported in our paper, including both the ancestral strain used to start this long-term experiment and its evolved citrate-using descendants.…

One of your acolytes, Dr. Richard Paley, actually grasped this point. He does not appear to understand the practice and limitations of science, but at least he realizes that we have the bacteria, and that they provide “the real data that we [that’s you and your gang] need”. …

So, will we share the bacteria? Of course we will, with competent scientists. …

Before I could send anyone any bacterial strains, in order to comply with good scientific practices I would require evidence of the requesting scientist’s credentials including: (i) affiliation with an appropriate unit in some university or research center with appropriate facilities for storing (-80ºC freezer), handling (incubators, etc.), and disposing of bacteria (autoclave); and (ii) some evidence, such as peer-reviewed publications, that indicate that the receiving scientist knows how to work with bacteria, so that I and my university can be sure we are sending biological materials to someone that knows how to handle them. By the way, our strains are not derived from one of the pathogenic varieties of E. coli that are a frequent cause of food-borne illnesses. However, even non-pathogenic strains may cause problems for those who are immune-compromised or otherwise more vulnerable to infection. Also, my university requires that a Material Transfer Agreement be executed before we can ship any strains. That agreement would not constrain a receiving scientist from publishing his or her results. However, if an incompetent or fraudulent hack (note that I make no reference to any person, as this is strictly a hypothetical scenario, one that I doubt would occur) were to make false or misleading claims about our strains, then I’m confident that some highly qualified scientists would join the fray, examine the strains, and sort out who was right and who was wrong. That’s the way science works.

I would also generally ask what the requesting scientist intends to do with our strains. Why? It helps me to gauge the requester’s expertise. I might be able to point out useful references, for example. Moreover, as I’ve said, we are continuing our work with these strains, on multiple fronts, as explained in considerable detail in the Discussion section of our paper. I would not be happy to see our work “scooped” by another team – especially for the sake of the outstanding students and postdocs in my group who are hard at work on these fronts. However, that request to allow us to proceed, without risk of being scooped on work in which we have made a substantial investment of time and effort, would be just that: a request. In other words, we would respect PNAS policy to share those strains with any competent scientist who complied with my university’s requirements for the MTA and any other relevant legal restrictions. If any such request requires substantial time or resources (we have thousands of samples from this and many other experiments), then of course I would expect the recipient to bear those costs.

I quote this at length to show that these are fairly standard concerns, published and discussed fairly widely, and not anything novel in the case of climate science. Hopefully it’s clear why a scientist wouldn’t just send raw data or private research materials willy-nilly to anyone willing to write in with widely-debunked criticisms and paranoid claims about massive conspiracies aiming to suppress new scientific ideas. Those are the hallmarks of a crank, and you just don’t encourage cranks.

None of which, of course, has kept creationists from going bananas over this. I’ll have more on the nexus of creationism and climate change denial anon. For now, I’ll simply note that the Discovery Institute’s creationism-specific blog has devoted itself entirely to commentary on these stolen emails (without any acknowledgement that they are stolen, natch), and the blog of Disco. director Bruce Chapman has been equally singleminded (note that Disco. has a project dedicated to promoting mass transit in the Northwest, a project funded in part by groups interested in averting climate change). Chapman now calls climate change “religion,” a “science conspiracy,” asserts evidence of “authoritarianism,” while the creationism blog describes the incident as “the worst scientific scandal of our generation,” describes climate change as “fraud,” accuses experienced journalist trying to explain the scientific context of “turn[ing] a climate ‘trick,” accuses scientists of “criminal fraud on a massive scale,” compares science to “money-laundering,” and so forth.

Comparably absurd and overblown claims abound on ID creationist Bill Dembski’s private website, in the writings of Disco. ally Martin Cothran (familiar to readers here as an occasional contributor to the DI blog, and for his attempts to defend Pat Buchanan’s Holocaust denial), and at Telic Thoughts, an ID blog known to veer into 9/11 denial on occasion. Many of those posts draw their own comparisons between creationists and climate change deniers, asserting that both evolution and climate change are propped up unfairly by the scientific community. I’m sure that next week they’ll be back to chiding their critics for referring to them as denialists on a par with climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers, 9/11 truthers, Holocaust deniers, etc. But for at least a few days, they’re peeling back the mask all by themselves.

Careful observers will recall that Disco. was beating the drum for greater civility mere days before the release of these stolen emails, seeking to “tone down the rhetoric” to get at real issues. Now the group is dedicating itself to inflammatory and maliciously false statements about scientists for no other reason than to tar a field of science that they find politically unpalatable.

Nor is there any sense of self-awareness from Disco. in cheering on internet crime. Barely a month ago, they were claiming that “Darwinists” had launched a “cyber attack” against the website of a creationist conference. No evidence was offered that a denial of service attack was under way, nor that “Darwinists” were responsible. Now, maybe there’s some actual evidence to back up the Disco. spin, but maybe it’s like that time Joe Lieberman insisted hackers had taken down his website, only to have the FBI later determine the site failed because Lieberman can’t do anything right. Or the time the RNC website was taken down by the same “hacker”: incompetence. And yet, they were happy to moralize about the evils of such cyber attacks, convicting an entire class of people of this alleged crime.

Now, when it’s clear that an actual hacker actually gained illegal access to files and emails and illegally made them publicly available, we hear no condemnation of the crime, just joy at the fruits of this criminal act. “By their fruits you shall know them,” indeed.

Comments

  1. #1 Nick
    November 30, 2009

    Publishing data isn’t easy, and casting databases open to the world runs the risk of letting your research get scooped.

    Straw man. The issue is that when you publish the data is made available so people can replicate. I haven’t come across anyone asking for the data to be made available in advance in this way. It’s also strange because the data in some cases is available. There can be no issue with scoops. Ask yourself, should one researcher be allowed to keep the temperature records to themselves? Contrast this with experimental data

  2. #2 Nick
    November 30, 2009

    The breach of their privacy is atrocious, and I’ve lost all respect for anyone who commented on this incident without even noting the underlying crime and the associated violation of these people’s most private discussions.

    It’s not illegal. There is in the UK a wistleblower law that protects people. The reason it applies is that it is a criminal offence (not civil) to destroy data subject to an FOI (freedom of information) request. Read the emails and you will see this being discussed. Even if the data is not destroyed in UK law a group discussing performing a criminal act is the offence of consipiracy. They are not trivial matters.

    You have also assumed that there was a hack going on. Why? People are jumping to the conclusion that because the data was moved to a Russian server that there must have been an external hack. Given the back biting and bitching nature of a lot of the emails, I would suggest that an internal leak is more probable.

  3. #3 Nick
    November 30, 2009

    Your conclusion doesn’t stand up either.

    we hear no condemnation of the crime, just joy at the fruits of this criminal act. “By their fruits you shall know them,” indeed.

    This equally applies to the CRU.

    Even the quote in the middle about wanting to know what people are going to do with the data/samples shows a serious misunderstanding of the scientific process.

    Evidence of falsification is far more significant than evidence of confirmation. You should know that. ie. If we take a true/false theory such as Newtonian physics. It was true until it was falsified and a revised version proposed which took relativistic adjustments into account (Newtonian being relativistic physics with low speeds). All the evidence confirming Newton didn’t matter once there was one bit of evidence that it was false. (Movement of Mercury in orbit)

    So when scientists try and prevent people from testing their theories by falsification, they are doing all of us a disservice.

    Now in climate science its a little harder because there isn’t truth or falsehood. It’s operating in probability space. Fuzzy logic.

    Evidence one way or the other adjust the probability.

    The other reason why lots of scientists are up in arms about the possibility of fraud at the CRU is the question of taint. The CRU committing fraud taints huge amounts of science. It basically would show that all the models have been based on a false premise. A bit like pulling the bottom card out of a house of cards. It all falls down.

    Nick

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    November 30, 2009

    In the end, it all comes down to peer review and similar related processes. This is why so many AGW deniers start off their arguments with something like “Don’t try to tell me that it all comes down to peer review in the end.”

  5. #5 DavidCOG
    November 30, 2009

    Thanks, Josh – another rational, calm and lucid analysis to add to the list.

  6. #6 SLC
    November 30, 2009

    Aside from the brouhaha over the emails and the climate models, the attached link to an article in the Washington Post on Sunday relative to the opening of the Northwest Passage to shipping certainly doesn’t point to global cooling as many deniers insist is happening.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/25/AR2009112503413.html

  7. #7 Alex
    November 30, 2009

    So by #6 great theory, if the Northwest Passage has EVER opened up before and CO2 levels were less than today, it would provide a falsifable scenario for your great “proof”. Unfortunately the magic of AGW means you’re always right, and when falsified by history, you just ignore it.

  8. #8 Gaythia
    November 30, 2009

    I agree with #5. This is a great post to share with friends.

  9. #9 Dunc
    November 30, 2009

    #7: By your “logic”, all we have to do to clear a defendant of an arson charge is prove that a building once caught fire accidentally.

  10. #10 rapanui
    November 30, 2009

    On Dutch blogs, as a response to the hype, there is now mention of this website which supposedly mentions 450 peer-reviewed ‘skeptical’ papers, ‘proving’ that there is real controversy. I hope it’s a nonsense list, of course, but I am not qualified enough to judge. It looks genuine. What to make of this?

  11. #11 debunk
    November 30, 2009

    “There is in the UK a wistleblower law that protects people”

    The Public Interest Disclosure Act of 1998 protects employees that disclose information in good faith, it doesn’t allow someone to hack a server operated by an organisation they have ideological differences with, retrieve over 3 years of email correspondence and publish it on the internet.

  12. #12 Oroboros
    November 30, 2009

    Even if the data is not destroyed in UK law a group discussing performing a criminal act is the offence of consipiracy.

    In the U.S., evidence that is obtained illegally would not normally be admissible. Vigilantes can and sometimes do destroy criminal investigations.

    Part of the goal of such prohibitions is to prevent fishing expeditions. Can I just start breaking into people’s homes until I find a crime, and then claim I had justification? No, that is an abhorrent behavior and everyone agrees.

    There should be no whistle-blower protections afforded to outsiders in any case. If I have to break the law to prove you’ve broken the law, we have a case of two wrongs allegedly making a right (or the end justifying the means, pick your poison).

    I’ll leave you with this link to a piece that I thought was also well-written.

    —-

    P.S. Josh – I really appreciate this piece and will be recommending it elsewhere. Here’s a link you might like:

    Consensus and controversy: Which makes the news?

  13. #13 SLC
    November 30, 2009

    Re rapanui

    The web site is owned by Anthony Watts, a noted global warming denier. I would be willing to bet that either the journals that the reports were published in are dubious or that the articles don’t say what nutcase Watts says that they say. This is a notable tactic which has been engaged in by other deniers.

  14. #14 Raging Bee
    November 30, 2009

    The other reason why lots of scientists are up in arms about the possibility of fraud at the CRU is the question of taint.

    What about STEALING things you had no right to take? Does that criminal action not taint the denialists who rely on the fruits of theft, and praise the thieves?

    Unlike the CRU, the denialists have explicitly admitted that they are trafficking in stolen goods. That’s a taint of crime and dishonesty the CRU have yet to match.

  15. #15 FtK
    November 30, 2009

    “…but based on what people are saying about the emails (I refuse to read them or to link to sites which list the emails in their entirety), there’s no smoking gun, nor are there powder burns or any other evidence that a gun ever existed.”

    If you haven’t read them, you have no right to even comment. Typical…turn a blind eye.

  16. #16 Woody Tanaka
    November 30, 2009

    “If you haven’t read them, you have no right to even comment.”

    False. He has every right to comment on whatever he wants. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing.

    Further, I read this post as commenting on the commentary on the email, in which case reading the emails, themselves, is not strictly necessary.

  17. #17 mk
    November 30, 2009

    “Typical…turn a blind eye.”

    Yikes! Major irony meltdown!

  18. #18 Ryan
    November 30, 2009

    If the growth rate for any particular set of trees is responding non-linearly to temperature (for some series growth rates shrink in response to higher temperatures from either 1960 or 1980 onward), doesn’t it mean the entire series is unreliable and should be thrown out, and not just the data past 1960/1980? Why does everyone seem to assume the growth rate wouldn’t respond non-linearly to temperature in the past when it does in the present?

  19. #19 Phelps
    November 30, 2009

    It is interesting that people keep pointing to peer review to save this scandal, when, in the middle of hiding the decline, throwing out the data before a FOIA request can disclose it, and being unable to duplicate their results themselves, we have a multitude of instances where the emails show that the CRU cartel were gaming the peer review system, preventing dissenting opinions from being published, and blacklisting any journals that did happen to allow a dissenting opinion to escape.

    They hid their methods. They ignored results that falsified their hypotheses. They destroyed government property. They violated government transparency laws while reaping millions in government grants. And most importantly, they turned peer review into clique approval, and gamed that system to prevent any opposition.

    That is not excusable to anyone with scientific integrity. They weren’t scientists. They were propagandists.

  20. #20 Anders Ehrnberg
    November 30, 2009

    Why discuss the contents of these emails if you haven´t read them?
    Why have faith in peer reviewed articles? The main purpose for every word in a scientific paper is to support its publication. The reason for the paper is to generate grants and tenure.
    Everything else is secondary. Seen it all in my former occupation. The link shows how important doubt is.
    Anders Eg, former medical researcher.
    http://www.medicine.ox.ac.uk/bandolier/band139/b139-2.html

  21. #21 Oroboros
    November 30, 2009

    I tried to respond earlier to the question of “Why discuss the contents of these emails if you haven’t read them” but ran into a moderation filter.

    Recently a female ESPN reporter who was illegally filmed in her hotel room for prurient purposes and that video leaked. I don’t need to see it now in order to know that her rights were violated. In fact, viewing the video would make me complicit in the violation.

    So it is with this case. Even if there is academic misconduct here, I have faith that the peer-review process will sort it out over time and that is the way it should be resolved, not by trespass and theft.

  22. #22 vanderleun
    November 30, 2009

    Ah, the peer-review religionists squeak. What a corrupt bunch of colonized minds.

    Let’s review peer-review:

    ‘Peer-reviewed studies’ is the key words. And if it comes out in peer-reviewed studies.”
    Got it: Pier-reviewed studies. You stand on the pier, and you notice the tide seems to be coming in a little higher than it used to and you wonder if it’s something to do with incandescent light bulbs killing the polar bears? Is that how it works?

    No, no, peer-reviewed studies. “Peer-reviewed studies. Go to Science magazine, folks. Go to Nature,” babbled Ed. “Read peer-reviewed studies. That’s all you need to do. Don’t get it from you or me.”

    Look for the peer-reviewed label! And then just believe whatever it is they tell you!
    The trouble with outsourcing your marbles to the peer-reviewed set is that, if you take away one single thing from the leaked documents, it’s that the global warm-mongers have wholly corrupted the “peer-review” process. When it comes to promoting the impending ecopalypse, the Climate Research Unit is the nerve-center of the operation. The “science” of the CRU dominates the “science” behind the United Nations IPCC, which dominates the “science” behind the Congressional cap-and-trade boondoggle, the upcoming Copenhagen shakindownen of the developed world, and the now-routine phenomenon of leaders of advanced, prosperous societies talking like gibbering madmen escaped from the padded cell, whether it’s President Barack Obama promising to end the rise of the oceans or the Prince of Wales saying we only have 96 months left to save the planet.

    But don’t worry, it’s all “peer-reviewed.”

    Here’s what Phil Jones of the CRU and his colleague Michael Mann of Penn State mean by “peer review”. When Climate Research published a paper dissenting from the Jones-Mann “consensus,” Jones demanded that the journal “rid itself of this troublesome editor,” and Mann advised that “we have to stop considering Climate Research as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers.”

    http://www.ocregister.com/opinion/peer-221438-reviewed-climate.html

  23. #23 Josh Rosenau
    November 30, 2009

    Ryan: The researchers have published several papers addressing exactly the questions you are asking. As I’m not a climatologist, you shouldn’t ask me, you should ask the literature.

  24. #24 Annette
    December 1, 2009

    “On Dutch blogs, as a response to the hype, there is now mention of this website which supposedly mentions 450 peer-reviewed ‘skeptical’ papers, ‘proving’ that there is real controversy. I hope it’s a nonsense list, of course, but I am not qualified enough to judge. It looks genuine. What to make of this?”

    There’s a post that addresses that list of papers:
    http://greenfyre.wordpress.com/2009/11/15/450-more-lies-from-the-climate-change-deniers/

    It seems that they aren’t what the sceptics are claiming.

  25. #25 robhoofd
    December 1, 2009

    Okay then, if this is “the nail in the coffin!!!!1!1!11″, where is the beef? Where is the direct evidence of shenanigans? Do the emails contain anything more incriminating than some allusions to, as Mr. Rosenau says, “tricks”? Where is the email that says “I can’t believe these suckers are still buying our global warming bullcrap”?

    All this is is internal (human) conversation with some rude remarks and some lingo. Only because the deniers have nothing of substance to grab on to nowadays, they have proclaimed this to be the end of all science. Bollocks.

  26. #26 kai
    December 1, 2009

    Here’s what Phil Jones of the CRU and his colleague Michael Mann of Penn State mean by “peer review”. When Climate Research published a paper dissenting from the Jones-Mann “consensus,” Jones demanded that the journal “rid itself of this troublesome editor,” and Mann advised that “we have to stop considering Climate Research as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers.”

    So, doesn’t this preceisely go to show that the scientific community is policing itself and avoiding journals and editors who don’t live up to the required standards?

  27. #27 Oroboros
    December 1, 2009

    Ah, the peer-review religionists squeak. What a corrupt bunch of colonized minds.

    The ad hominem attacks have destroyed whatever point you were trying to make.

    This hacking incident is generating some very good discussion about the larger issues of peer-review. To counter-balance the noise you added here vanderleun, I offer something more substantive on the subject:

    Redefining Peer Review

    Redubbing Peer Review

  28. #28 Oroboros
    December 1, 2009

    Josh I just had a second post held for moderation. It had a couple good links, which probably appeared to be spam. Would you be able to approve it?

    If getting a TypeKey identity can help me avoid this, I will.

  29. #29 Ryan
    December 1, 2009

    @Josh Rosenau

    Any idea what the papers are titled?

  30. #30 Alex
    December 1, 2009

    throwing out the data before a FOIA request can disclose it

    Except no data was thrown out.

  31. #31 Thomas Lee Elifritz
    December 1, 2009

    If you haven’t read them, you have no right to even comment.

    Actually, in the United States, according to the United States Constitution, you do. Why do you hate America for its freedoms?

  32. #32 me
    December 1, 2009

    Since you claim to not know anything about climate research and yet post a graph as if it were authoritative, I am including some other research on the subject so that all those “arm chair scientists” can listen to REAL scientists who are VERSED in this field and get both sides of the story.

    This whole topic reminds me of those researching Venus, only that is much worse. Proponents of different theories will use the exact same data to say it supports what they believe is true. There are few researchers in that department that are objective about it.

    This topic is only so huge because there are people worried about the government policies that will be created. That brings me to the following:

    ahh, #21 but in the meantime people are going to be making government policy on something that is unclear? In time peer review might work things out, but who’s going to reverse the gov policy if it is wrong? I think that is where people start getting freaked out about this whole thing. They don’t want something put upon them if it isn’t appropriate.

    Here is what a Finnish documentary and scientists say about the topic. Click the link to view the video.

    http://dotsub.com/view/19f9c335-b023-4a40-9453-a98477314bf2

    And also John Daly (a climate scientist) said this in 2001:

    Take this from first principles.

    A tree only grows on land. That excludes 70% of the earth covered by
    water. A tree does no grow on ice. A tree does not grow in a desert. A
    tree does not grow on grassland-savannahs. A tree does not grow in
    alpine areas. A tree does not grow in the tundra

    We are left with perhaps 15% of the planet upon which forests
    grow/grew. That does not make any studies from tree rings global, or
    even hemispheric.

    The width and density of tree rings is dependent upon the following
    variables which cannot be reliably separated from each other.

    sunlight – if the sun varies, the ring will vary. But not at night of
    course.
    cloudiness – more clouds, less sun, less ring.
    pests/disease – a caterpillar or locust plague will reduce
    photosynthesis
    access to sunlight – competition within a forest can disadvantage or
    advantage some trees.
    moisture/rainfall – a key variable. Trees do not prosper in a drought
    even if there’s a heat wave.
    snow packing in spring around the base of the trees retards growth
    temperature – finally!

    The tree ring is a composite of all these variables, not merely of
    temperature. Therefore on the 15% of the planet covered by trees, their
    rings do not and cannot accurately record temperature in isolation from
    the other environmental variables.

    In my article on Greening Earth Society on the Hockey Stick, I point to
    other evidence which contradicts Mann’s theory. The Idso’s have produced
    more of that evidence, and a new article on Greening Earth has
    `unearthed’ even more.

    Mann’s theory simply does not stack up. But that was not the key issue.
    Anyone can put up a dud theory from time to time. What is at issue is
    the uncritical zeal with which the industry siezed on the theory before
    its scientific value had been properly tested. In one go, they tossed
    aside dozens of studies which confirmed the existence of the MWE and LIA
    as global events, and all on the basis of tree rings – a proxy which has
    all the deficiencies I have stated above.

    The worst thing I can say about any paper such as his is that it is `bad
    science’. Legal restraint prevents me going further. But in his case,
    only those restraints prevent me going *much* further.

    Cheers

    John Daly

  33. #33 Turboblocke
    December 5, 2009

    Coming a bit late to the fray, but the “hide the decline” e-mail was from 1999, right after the super hot year of 1998. So what possible temperature decline could the “sceptics” imagine it was referring to?

    Just shows how limited their analytical skills are.

  34. #34 Jim
    December 7, 2009

    I see, attacking liberals is just a surreptitious way of attacking Jews. Thanks for explaining that to me. So I guess, in the same vein, contempt for conservatives is really contempt for Southern Baptists, right? Or maybe it’s OK to be contemptuous towards THAT religion.

    (Not that you’ll believe me, but I’m neither a conservative or a Baptist.)

    As for climate change, the truth is neither malicious nor compassionate (and has no agenda), so let the skeptics say what they may. There’s no need to silence them, as Dr. Mann wanted to do by coercion of scientific journals. If truth is on your side, you have nothing to fear.

  35. #35 bbbeard
    December 7, 2009

    Josh, as a scientist, I am appalled by your attitude. Not only are you defiantly ignorant of the foundation of this scandal, you haven’t even gotten basic details correct. And you seem unaware of the ethical and legal boundaries that have been crossed. Were you not required to have any training at all in professional ethics, even as an undergraduate?

    The publicized emails have never been claimed to be a “random sample”. There were no private details, like credit-card receipts, that were released in the FOIA package. Then you wrote

    What we see is that scientists can be jerks, can be parochial, can respond badly to criticism, can circle their wagons against outsiders (especially cranks and dilettantes desperate to prove that the entire enterprise of climate science should be tossed out the window). In short, the emails prove that scientists are human.

    What it shows is that scientists can form criminal conspiracies (a collaboration to destroy emails rather than turn them over in a FOIA response would be exactly that.) It shows that scientists can conspire to get journal editors fired for political incorrectness — not criminal, but certainly unethical. It shows that scientists can conspire to hide problems with their data analysis. This isn’t just being “human”, it’s called being a bad scientist.

    Honestly, you need to take off the priestly garbs and get some training in ethics, or your career in science will be extremely short and extremely unpleasant. You need to figure out that the East Anglia CRU are not the good guys here.

    BBB

  36. #36 pough
    December 7, 2009

    What it shows is that scientists can form criminal conspiracies (a collaboration to destroy emails rather than turn them over in a FOIA response would be exactly that.)

    How did you manage to read it, if it was deleted? One scientists suggested it, and we have no evidence that anyone followed the suggestion. Some conspiracy.

    It shows that scientists can conspire to get journal editors fired for political incorrectness — not criminal, but certainly unethical.

    Really? I thought, rather, that some journal editors resigned in disgust after a junk paper was included in their journal. Why get someone fired if they’ve resigned? Why avoid calling out junk as junk? You only need to remove the word “political” to truly understand what was so problematic with the paper in question: incorrectness. Please try to find anywhere in the emails where Jones or Santer or Mann talk about a paper being bad because it disgrees with them. You can’t. Every single one talks about them being crap. Why shouldn’t scientists despise crap?

    It shows that scientists can conspire to hide problems with their data analysis.

    Right. They cover up obviously incorrect proxy data with actual temperature data. How unscientific! Real Scientists™ would have included the junk and avoided anything correct. That, to me, is the most telling part of the way denialists see the world: covering up bad with good is a scandal.

  37. #37 dhogaza
    December 7, 2009

    Ask yourself, should one researcher be allowed to keep the temperature records to themselves?

    Given that CRU only had *copies* of the temperature records, and therefore wasn’t “keeping temperature records to themselves” the answer to your question is irrelevant.

  38. #38 Blair
    December 7, 2009

    Josh,

    You wrote: I know I live on email, as do most scientists. In addition to work-related emails, I’m sure the server contained private notes to the researchers’ loved ones and family, email receipts for personal purchases, and a host of other content never meant to be distributed publicly, or even in their professional circles.

    Please tell me that you don’t reveal the accounts of your personal life on the company server? Every single piece of personal information you put on that server belongs to your employer and can be released at their whim. If you want to keep your information private then use your personal computer and not your university/company account. Then you have recourse (in the fdorm of a legal contract for services) if information is released. You should never write anything on a company/university computer that you don’t want your boss/colleagues to read period!

  39. #39 sbg
    December 7, 2009

    Scientists should never hide data. I’m an undergraduate biology student aspiring to be a scientist, and when I read about the emails, particularly the one about “hiding the decline”, I’ve lost some faith in the scientific process and scientists in general. I’m surprised at the level of acceptance that many bloggers here display on that phrase and this entire situation.

    I’ve been working in a molecular biology lab for the past few months, and in my limited lab experience, I’ve had lots of failures, failures that mainly deal with getting the “right” data. However, data that do not look right or fit the hypotheses are still kept in my laboratory notebook, not hidden and remain unwritten. When I run my restriction analysis and I don’t see the expected bands, I put the gel picture on my notebook and explain what might’ve happened. When I run enzyme assays and the radioactive counts don’t match what is expected of the protein, I put the data in my notebook.

    In these emails, the data to be hidden with a “trick” are the treering data. Even if the treering data do not match up with thermometer reading, you can’t hide them. Instead of hiding the data, present them and explain the anomaly.

  40. #40 pough
    December 7, 2009

    Instead of hiding the data, present them and explain the anomaly.

    They didn’t leave out the decline; it’s the green line in the graph. There are entire papers written on the anomaly. So what, exactly, are you complaining about?

  41. #41 Chris Winter
    December 7, 2009

    Phelps wrote “They hid their methods. They ignored results that falsified their hypotheses. They destroyed government property. They violated government transparency laws while reaping millions in government grants. And most importantly, they turned peer review into clique approval, and gamed that system to prevent any opposition.”

    Your mission, Mr. Phelps — should you choose to accept it — is to prove any of this actually happened at CRU.

    Take all the time you like.

  42. #42 MarkusR
    December 7, 2009

    Good note on the Disco Institute. Following the denialists on the email rampage has been like playing Creationist bingo.

    The “peer-review is a sham” is just the latest box to mark.

  43. #43 dhogaza
    December 7, 2009

    I’ve been working in a molecular biology lab for the past few months, and in my limited lab experience, I’ve had lots of failures, failures that mainly deal with getting the “right” data. However, data that do not look right or fit the hypotheses are still kept in my laboratory notebook, not hidden and remain unwritten. When I run my restriction analysis and I don’t see the expected bands, I put the gel picture on my notebook and explain what might’ve happened. When I run enzyme assays and the radioactive counts don’t match what is expected of the protein, I put the data in my notebook.

    Great, why aren’t these bogus results online so we can see them.

    Free your data! Free your code! Let me use your lab, unsupervised!

    Why aren’t you doing this, if you believe climate scientists should …

  44. #44 Samuel Kane
    December 8, 2009

    I haven’t really used HTML before, so please forgive me if the links don’t work…but even if they don’t, the pages they point to ought to be easily discoverable with a quick metasearch.

    #10 Posted by: rapanui
    “On Dutch blogs, as a response to the hype, there is now mention of this website which supposedly mentions 450 peer-reviewed ‘skeptical’ papers, ‘proving’ that there is real controversy. I hope it’s a nonsense list, of course, but I am not qualified enough to judge.”

    Of course. But, if it’s not too presumptuous a request, would you explain a little about why you’d hope for that?

    #13 Posted by: SLC
    “The web site is owned by Anthony Watts, a noted global warming denier. I would be willing to bet that either the journals that the reports were published in are dubious or that the articles don’t say what nutcase Watts says that they say. This is a notable tactic which has been engaged in by other deniers.”

    Perhaps the US Senate is more trustworthy? Here’s their minorty report on 650 scientists who dissent to some degree with the general anthropogenic global warming scenario.

    #14 Posted by: Raging Bee
    “What about STEALING things you had no right to take? Does that criminal action not taint the denialists who rely on the fruits of theft, and praise the thieves?
    Unlike the CRU, the denialists have explicitly admitted that they are trafficking in stolen goods. That’s a taint of crime and dishonesty the CRU have yet to match.”

    And why was it necessary to steal this information to begin with? I don’t know about you, but I for one intend to find what information demonstrating the forthrightness of the CRU is available.

    #15, #16 and #31:
    “…but based on what people are saying about the emails (I refuse to read them or to link to sites which list the emails in their entirety), there’s no smoking gun, nor are there powder burns or any other evidence that a gun ever existed.”
    If you haven’t read them, you have no right to even comment. Typical…turn a blind eye.
    Posted by: FtK
    False. He has every right to comment on whatever he wants. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing.”
    Posted by: Woody Tanaka
    “If you haven’t read them, you have no right to even comment.
    Actually, in the United States, according to the United States Constitution, you do. Why do you hate America for its freedoms?”
    Posted by: Thomas Lee Elifritz

    Probably what FtK meant by “right to” was “grounds on which to”, since reading the emails would seem to be requisite to commenting upon their contents. While FtK might be well advised to consider his words more carefully, responding to such a comment by deliberately misinterpreting the spirit of its meaning, which I admittedly presume posters Tanaka and Elifritz were doing, is, at the very least, not a very constructive contribution.

    #21 Posted by: Oroboros
    “Recently a female ESPN reporter who was illegally filmed in her hotel room for prurient purposes and that video leaked. I don’t need to see it now in order to know that her rights were violated. In fact, viewing the video would make me complicit in the violation.”

    The analogy being that the CRU staff’s rights were violated, and therefore the information gained via such violation ought to be ignored (i.e. that the exclusionary rule ought to apply)? A major difference is that ESPN reporters and their hotel-room activities have little to do with the forging of inter/national policies. But perhaps that is not sufficient grounds to violate the privacy of CRU emails. The question then becomes, at least to me (though probably not to a defense attourney!), does the content of the emails, which concerns the scientific basis for the shaping of public policy on a global scale, constitute private material? And, regardless of anyone’s opinion on that question, here is a follow-up: whose rights are being violated more egregiously, the scientists’, or the public who will be living under the policies formed mainly by the scientists’ work?

    “So it is with this case. Even if there is academic misconduct here, I have faith that the peer-review process will sort it out over time and that is the way it should be resolved, not by trespass and theft.”

    The peer-review process may indeed sort it out, and we may indeed at some period in the hazy and uncertain future know what the genuine data is, but the Conference of Parties is occuring NOW, and it seems likely to me that its consequences will be felt long before the peer-review process finally gives its yea or nay.

    #25 Posted by: robhoofd
    “Do the emails contain anything more incriminating than some allusions to, as Mr. Rosenau says, “tricks”?”

    They are now part of the public domain, “rightly” or “wrongly”. So allow me to respond to your question with a question: why don’t you find out?

    “Where is the email that says “I can’t believe these suckers are still buying our global warming bullcrap”?”

    Is that really what is required, a direct, concise, unequivocal confession? Would you even believe such a confession were it to be made? What are your criteria of acceptability?

    “All this is is internal (human) conversation with some rude remarks and some lingo.”

    I took it from your previously quoted question that you haven’t actually read the emails, so I’m at a loss as to what this statement is based upon.

    “Only because the deniers have nothing of substance to grab on to nowadays, they have proclaimed this to be the end of all science. Bollocks.”

    The word “deniers” keeps popping up in discussions and articles dealing with this subject. I wonder if it’s the case that everyone just happened to hit upon this particular term following independent, logical contemplation of the issue? Terminology is very revealing, especially as regards the source(s) of a stated or implied opinion. I’ll refrain from using the phrase I’m about to coin, Climate Stability Deniers, outside of this very demonstration on the grounds that habitually labeling anyone suchly would only serve to engender and encourage unfavorable (and fundamentally dishonest) prejudice against them by assigning them to a conceptual category the sole criterion of which being that the opinions and claims of anyone assigned to said category (“deniers”) are dismissable by default.

    #27 Posted by: Oroboros
    “Ah, the peer-review religionists squeak. What a corrupt bunch of colonized minds.
    The ad hominem attacks have destroyed whatever point you were trying to make.”

    I agree.

    #32 Posted by: me
    “Proponents of different theories will use the exact same data to say it supports what they believe is true.”

    A poignant statement.

    “ahh, #21 but in the meantime people are going to be making government policy on something that is unclear? In time peer review might work things out, but who’s going to reverse the gov policy if it is wrong?”

    GOOD QUESTIONS. I’m glad you included the following quotation from John Daly: “What is at issue is the uncritical zeal with which the industry siezed on the theory before its scientific value had been properly tested.” He follows this with “In one go, they tossed aside dozens of studies which confirmed the existence of the MWE and LIA as global events, and all on the basis of tree rings…”, which is a claim I think worthy of investigation, since the absence of a Midieval Warming Epoch would make the current era seem to be the warmest in the past 1000 years, and this (artificial absence of MWE) is what Christopher Monckton recently claimed the CRU researches have done. For my part, I am skeptical of all claims, even those which tend to support my beliefs. Especially those that support my beliefs, in fact, since the strength of belief and the validity of belief seem to be inversely proportional.
    A case in point of the automatic dismissal by way of categorization:

    #33 Posted by: Turboblocke

    “Coming a bit late to the fray, but the “hide the decline” e-mail was from 1999, right after the super hot year of 1998. So what possible temperature decline could the “sceptics” imagine it was referring to?”

    The same decline the the “confident” man who wrote the email was referring to would be my guess. To quote the actual email: “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.”

    “Just shows how limited their analytical skills are.”

    No, it doesn’t show just that…

    A brief aside: My copy of the unabridged Random House Dictionary of the English Language, published 1967, gives the etymology of skeptic as sceptic(us) skeptikos thoughtful, inquiring, equiv. to skept(esthai) (to) consider. Under skeptical one antonym is included: confident.

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