Category Archives: Climategate

Ho-hum more climategate chum: sceptics flogging the Climategate dead-horse (again)

More leaked email chum for sceptics...

Nom, nom, nom: more leaked email chum for sceptics…

[Climategate: for the un-initiated see here]

The denial-o-sphere is all a-titter this morning with the exciting news that the Climategate “whistleblower” has come forward and is making available their vast trove of emails.

To recap: in 2009 a cache of emails stolen from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia were released. Selective parts were cherry picked and turned into a scandal.

Despite the fact that nine seperate (and independent) enquires across the world cleared the scientists of anywrong doing, sceptics continue to point to Climategate as evidence of a massive conspiracy.

Thus, every 12-18 months they seek to revive the scandal by releasing “new emails”, forever feeding the sharks with chum.

In an email now doing the rounds across the climate community on both sides, the individual who claims to have leaked the documents (they refer to themself as FOIA) is now requesting others help shift through some 220,000 emails:

It’s time to tie up loose ends and dispel some of the speculation surrounding the Climategate affair. 

Indeed, it’s singular “I” this time. After certain career developments I can no longer use the papal plural 😉 

If this email seems slightly disjointed it’s probably my linguistic background and the problem of trying to address both the wider audience (I expect this will be partially reproduced sooner or later) and the email recipients (whom I haven’t decided yet on). 

The “all.7z” password is [redacted] 

DO NOT PUBLISH THE PASSWORD. Quote other parts if you like. 

Releasing the encrypted archive was a mere practicality. I didn’t want to keep the emails lying around. 

I prepared CG1 & 2 alone. Even skimming through all 220.000 emails would have taken several more months of work in an increasingly unfavorable environment. 

Dumping them all into the public domain would be the last resort. Majority of the emails are irrelevant, some of them probably sensitive and socially damaging. 

To get the remaining scientifically (or otherwise) relevant emails out, I ask you to pass this on to any motivated and responsible individuals who could volunteer some time to sift through the material for eventual release. 

Filtering\redacting personally sensitive emails doesn’t require special expertise.

I’m not entirely comfortable sending the password around unsolicited, but haven’t got better ideas at the moment. If you feel this makes you seemingly “complicit” in a way you don’t like, don’t take action. 

In other words, a massive cherry picking operation is about to begin that will keep sceptics busy for months.

Of course Anthony Watts and other deniers are all over this, instantly proclaiming the world shattering importance of this latest storm-in-virtual-tea-cup. Watts breathlessly announces that “Climategate 3.0” is here:

A number of climate skeptic bloggers (myself included) have received this message yesterday. While I had planned to defer announcing this until a reasonable scan could be completed, some other bloggers have let the cat out of the bag. I provide this introductory email sent by “FOIA” without editing or comment.

James Delingpole proclaims FOIA is humanity’s savior:

I hope one day that FOIA’s true identity can be revealed so that he can be properly applauded and rewarded for his signal service to mankind. He is a true hero, who deserves to go on the same roll of honour as Norman Borlaug, Julian Simon and Steve McIntyre: people who put truth, integrity and the human race first and ideology second. Unlike the misanthropic greenies who do exactly the opposite.

Move over Jesus, FOIA just knocked you of the saviour pole.

Just a tad bit of hyperbolic James?

Climategate got press coverage, but Climategate 2.0 was ignored by the world (but not by excited sceptic bloggers).

Climategate 3.0 will also quickly pass into obscurity.

It’s like flogging a dead horse and throwing it to the sharks for chum, who then work themselves up into a feeding frenzy.

However with the IPCCs report coming out in 2014 expect to see much more of these tactics.

The war on the IPCC is ramping up once more.

Denial 101: the academic study of climate scepticism as diagnostic and risk management tool (FIRST DRAFT)

Note: As I’ve stated for some time, I’m planning on posting more detailed pieces on climate change scepticism based upon the last several years observations, research and interaction with commentators. 

This first piece sets out to explain “why” I believe a formal, multidisciplinary approach to studying the phenomenon of climate change scepticism is vital. It is not merely a question of politics: but risk management. Commentators are free to suggest changes, refute and debate. This is not an academic piece – so the views are my own. Potential flaws in analysis thus very much my own.

The value of good intelligence can never be underestimated (RAF war room 1941)

Introduction: it was never a debate 

The recent paper by Lewandowsky (NASA faked the moon landing: therefore (climate) science is a hoax) that demonstrated a clear link between “denial” and free market fundamentalism is evidence of the growing appreciation that the climate change debate is not really a debate at all.

Rather we are now beginning to appreciate “climate scepticism” as the by-product of an individual’s values (and ideology) informing and shaping their cognition.

The clash is not over opposing facts: the issue pertains to the individual, how they wish to “see” the world and if those views are somehow contradicted – or challenged – by real world data.

A recent article by John Cook (How do people reject science, The Conversation 2012) provides further insight into climate change scepticism beyond the “why”, and suggests “how” an individual can come to deny scientific facts.

As Cook notes, confirmation bias is the most common mechanism for denying well attested scientific facts. Indeed, he asks the reader to watch the comments section of his article for examples:

To reduce the influence of those who reject the science, confirmation bias and misleading rhetorical arguments need to be exposed. Now is as good a time as any to start practising so I recommend beginning with the inevitable deluge of comments to this article. Look for cherry picking, conspiracy theories, comments magnifying the significance of dissenters (or non-experts) and logical fallacies such as non sequiturs

As predicted by Cook, climate sceptics began refuting the article upon publication – unintentionally and somewhat amusingly – utilising all the methods Cook outlines.

However it is important to remember that this pattern of behaviour and value-driven cognition is not isolated to the climate debate. Because this is not a unique phenomenon, there is a surprisingly large technical literature for academics and scholars to draw upon.

Indeed, when one views climate scepticism not through the Manichean framing device of “Sceptics versus Warmists” (fighting over the contested middle ground of public opinion), but as an example of a social and cultural phenomenon we gain not only fresh insight, but potentially the tools to mitigate the effectiveness of the denial “machine”.

The Windschuttle Affair as dress rehearsal for climate change denial; yes denial is more pervasive than one imagines, but shares common attributes

One can readily find examples of those who deny not only well-tested and supported scientific theories – climate change, evolution, the effectiveness of vaccines – but well documented and witnessed historical events. Indeed, there is a burgeoning and quite prolific community of those who deny historical events – 9/11, The Holocaust, Stalinist atrocities and The Stolen Generations in Australia.

For further exploration of the denial of these historical events, I would refer readers to Denial: history betrayed (2008) by Tony Taylor which discusses ideological driven historical revisionism in detail.

Taylor’s work foreshadows the Lewandowsky paper in surprising ways, but is based upon his personal observations and not the sophisticated use of statistical survey data employed by the authors of “NASA faked the moon landing”.

The common link between many of these incidents of “denial” is what Lewandowsky terms “conspiracy ideation”:

“…Another variable that has been associated with the rejection of science is conspiratorial thinking, or conspiracist ideation, defined here as the attempt to explain a significant political or social event as a secret plot by powerful individuals or organizations…” (Lewandowsky pg. 4)

Indeed, when I read Taylor’s book I noted the mechanisms employed by revisionist “historians” mimic those of climate sceptics:

“…deniers will commonly accuse their opponents of a conspiracy against the denialist position when, as it happens, the deniers themselves are involved in a conspiracy or cover up of their own.” (Taylor, pg. XIII)

And that:

“…The key to historical denial lies in its self-deception transformed into an attempted deception of others, and this process tends to follow certain behavioural patterns.” (Taylor, pg. IX)

Taylor’s text is well worth reading; in particular how the “debate” over historical facts mimics debate over scientific facts.

It is worth noting that prior to the intensity of the present climate change debate (notably in response to the publication of IPCCs Fourth Assessment Report in 2007, the release and success of Al Gore’s An inconvenient truth and global negotiations at the Conference of All Parties (COP15) at Copenhagen in 2009) a very similar debate had already played itself out within the Australian political and cultural scene: the so called “History Wars“.

I would suggest that scholars examine the “Windschuttle affair” as a “dress rehearsal” for the climate change debate in Australia, and draw lessons from that. Keith Windschuttle was the historian who denied the sufferings of Australian Aborigines at the hands of the early settlers in his deeply flawed and debunked Fabrication of Aboriginal History (2002)..

Windschuttle’s writings kicked of a national debate – which continues in a more muted form today – and provoked considerable controversy. It is worth highlighting that Windschuttle received powerful patronage from the likes of the Herald Sun’s Andrew Bolt, the editors of the News Limited daily “The Australian” and then Prime Minister John Howard – all of who whom have featured heavily in the climate change debate as outright sceptics or enablers of the sceptical point of view.

When one looks back at the “culture wars” that have raged in Australia, one notes those who have denied the suffering of Australia’s first people also deny the science of climate change.

Strikingly, the same cognitive mechanisms and rhetorical deceits outlined in Cook’s How do people reject science were employed in this earlier History War.

The explanation for this is straight forward: the advocates for historical revisionism and climate change scepticism share a cluster of similar values – social conservatism, free market ideology and a disdain for “progressive” values.

I would suggest the same clustering of the values and world views (free markets, limited government) linked to scepticism in Lewandowsky could be matched to the conservative “culture warriors” listed above.

We may be fighting a very different war, but it is being fought with the same weapons of previous conflicts.

The antecedents for today’s debate are there for study.

Actually, I want to understand…

Climate denial as area of academic study: from confusion to understanding

This growing literature on climate scepticism – such as the Lewandowsky paper – indicates the emergence of a new area of academic study.

Cognitive scientists, historians, sociologists and the broader scientific community are now gaining a better appreciation of the underlying motives for climate change scepticism. I would also refer the reader to the most recent edition of Nature: Climate Change (August 2012, Vol.2 No. 8) for a very useful collection of articles on the “human factor” in the climate change debate.

Indeed, a recent editorial in that journal called for greater engagement from the academic community on the climate change issue titled Clarion Call” (September 2012, Vol 2 No. 9):

Today’s mitigation efforts are widely regarded within the research community as woefully inadequate. With this in mind, Anderson and Bows urge scientists to overcome their natural reluctance to offer academic judgements — “Liberate the science from the economics, finance and astrology, stand by the conclusions however uncomfortable” — is their clarion call.

This broader approach does not refute the work of scholars such as Oreskes & Conway (The Merchants of Doubt) who have detailed the long running campaign of disinformation practised by conservative think tanks and a tiny cadre of ‘sceptical” scientists.

The evidence that demonstrates how both the tobacco and fossil fuel industries “planted the seeds” of doubt about climate change is well documented and conclusive.

But we must move past the formulation “funds from big oil = climate change denial”.

As others have noted, climate change is now part of the “culture wars” (A. Hoffman in Climate Science as Culture War, Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2012).

“Big Oil” and “Big Tobacco” may have nurtured climate change scepticism into being, but it has now spread well beyond its initial staging areas within conservative think tanks. It has been adopted by segments of the general public and conservative politicians as fundamental to their world view.

One needs only to look at the stated positions of Republican Presidential candidates on global warming in the lead up to the next US Presidential election: nearly all of them rejected the science (National Public Radio, In their own words: GOP Candidates and science, Corey Dade, September 2011).

I would argue such developments should spur greater efforts to both study and understand climate scepticism. And like any discipline, we can build and expand upon the original insights and work of many scholars.

Victory to these guys?

Stepping outside the narrative frame and ending our transfixed stasis

For over two decades we have been bewitched by the sceptic’s seemingly unstoppable ability to confuse the general public and “defeat” climate science (Robert Manne in A dark victory: how vested interests defeated climate science, The Monthly, 2012).

Indeed, in a recent talk in Melbourne Manne noted “He did not know how to win a “culture war” (Watching the Deniers – Question to readers: how would you counter the denial movement, 2012)

While such definitive victories may elude us, it is the opinion of this author that we can a) understand the “why” and “how” of anti-science movements and b) gain insight into how such culture wars are fought.

Indeed it may be possible – as in the case of climate change scepticism – to develop strategies to counter the effectiveness of such anti-reality movements.

While some would see this as a partisan approach to a “scientific” debate, there is ample historical precedence.

One need only look at the academic response to the “militia movement” in the United States, and the urgent desire to understand the culture and forces that created the likes of Timothy McVeigh and the Branch Davidians under David Koresh.

Learning from academic studies of American militia movement and the Southern Poverty Law Centre

The “Waco” incident of 1993 and the bombing of the Alfred P Murrah building in 1995 were traumatic events for American’s, and profoundly influenced politics and culture at the time.

In response – indeed with a surprising sense of urgency – academic scholars began an intense scholarly study of the various militia movements in the United States.

The demographic, sociological and ideological drivers for the formation militia groups were subject to intense study: indeed, the technical literature is quite large. Many of the reference texts I’ve read stem from the late 1990s and early 2000s when it was rightly thought an understanding of such groups was paramount.

Thus, we see a rush of works at that time: A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America (2003) by Michael Barkun; Enemies Within: The Culture of Conspiracy in Modern America (2001) by Robert Alan Goldberg; and Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture (1999) by Mark Fenster.

Militia groups sprung up across the US in the 1980s and 1990s, proclaiming (very loudly) an eclectic mix of beliefs including; a severely limited or non-existent Federal government, fears about a “New World Order” conspiracy, paranoia over gun control, millenarianism, Christian eschatology and racism.

It was from this “culture” that sprung the likes of Timothy McVeigh who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah building in 1995. In 1993, a combustible mix of extreme religiosity, millennialism and militia culture fed the stand-off at Waco between the followers of David Koresh and agents of US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

In addition to the work of these academics, there are other organisations we can learn from.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in the United States has a deep understanding of militia and hate groups – indeed, their website is a rich source of information on such groups. For many years activists from the SPLC and scholars have paid close attention to the writings and activities of the various militia groups still in operation in order to a) understand their formation and operation and b) watch out for “early warning” signs of violence.

One could also argue that studies in “terrorism” have grown since 9/11 as the need to both understand and foresee risk is eminently sensible.

By shedding ourselves of the narrative “frame” we are stuck in of (“Sceptic versus Warmist”), and approaching this as simply one further area of study – requiring  a multidisciplinary approach – we can “break the spell” of climate change denial.

There is nothing unique or special about the climate sceptic community. We need only see them for what they are.

Scholarship as a diagnostic and early warning tool

Firstly, let me state I am not directly equating climate sceptics with the likes of McVeigh or extreme militia groups.

However: the “hacking” of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia (UAE) that feed the “Climategate” scandal was an act of cyber terrorism.

It was a deliberate act intended to not merely undermine the reputation of climate scientists and the science, but obviously designed to undermine negotiations at the 2009 Copenhagen Conference of All Parties (COP15).

The examples of death threats made against scientists are numerous; incidents such as the hacking of Real Climate (November 2009) and Skeptical Science (March 2012) also point to patterns of behaviour.

We ignore the climate sceptic movement – which is admittedly diverse, heterogeneous and fractious as any culture of conspiracy minded individuals – at our own risk. The historcical antecedents mentioned above should provide renewed imputeus in understanding climate change scepticism.

Conclusions: evaluating risk and the “hacktivist” nature of the climate sceptic movement

I believe there is a genuine risk that there may be fringe elements of the sceptic community who are disposed to fantasies of a coming New World Order etc. and who may fantasize about acts of retribution.

The CRU/Climategate “hack” offers compelling reason for such concerns. Should greater numbers of individuals take the claims of prominent sceptic arguments at face value – and act on these paranoid world views – it is probable we will see further incidents such as the “Climategate”.

There are antecedents for this diffusion of paranoia and conspiracy making witnessed in the militia movement in the United States. Indeed, not only should the science community be paying far closer attention to the sceptic “movement”, it may even be an issue for law enforcement agencies to monitor.

Many of the motifs of conspiracy culture – especially New World Order fantasies and fears of government control – have been “mainstreamed” by the prominence the media gives to sceptic voices and narratives.

In turn, the risk that less stable individuals or groups with less “mainstream” political agendas will adopt some of these views has been considerably heightened.

For the risks of such stochastic processes see Dances with Devils: How Apocalyptic and Millennialist Themes Influence Right Wing Scapegoating and Conspiracism by Chip Berlet and Talking points ammo: The use of neoliberal think tank fantasy themes to delegitimise scientific knowledge of climate change in Australian newspapers, Elaine McKewon for the dissemination of such fantasies in the Australian media.

In this regard, study of the climate sceptic community becomes both a diagnostic and risk management tool.

Such a tool may alert the world’s scientific community and government agencies to possible threats: i.e. cybercrimes such as hacking and tracking “grouping” behaviour on social media platforms that may lead to FOI “assaults” or targeted email campaigns against individual scientists.

Indeed, in the next piece I will explore how the climate sceptic movement is a heterogeneous virtual community composed of “core members” who provide both overt and implied cues for behaviours and norms for a much larger number of loosely aligned “associates”.

Similar patterns of behaviour can be seen with “hacktivist” groups such as Anonymous and LulzSec (though the political aims of sceptics and the “pranksters” of Anonymous are widely divergent, if not antithetical to each other).

The same pattern of recruitment by prominent voices on social media platforms – and the fractious “voting up” of “operations” by a greater collective swayed by rhetoric and exhortation – can be also be seen in way the climate sceptic community operates (see LulzSec: How A Handful Of Hackers Brought The US Government To Its Knees, Kyle Schurman and Anonymous Attack Anatomy Hacker Intelligence Report, Darshan Joshi

Again, the tools to study such communities are readily available: we should but merely “take them off the shelf” and employ them in our study of what is – in reality – a subgroup of a broader based conspiracy culture that finds its loci predominately in the United States (and to a lesser extent Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom).

There really is no need to reinvent the wheel.

I fully acknowledge each incidence of denial (of climate change, evolution and the Stolen Generations) is often a unique expression of the politics and culture of the time: however the tools for understanding are readily available.

The insiders: if climate change was a conspiracy, where are the whistleblowers?

“Human beings are not very good at keeping secrets; individual self-interest is not interchangeable with group interest and the two are often in conflict, most particularly among small groups of plotters…” – James Howard Kunstler, The Long Emergency

Jeffery Wigand is a hero.

As Vice President for Research and Development at the tobacco company Brown & Williamson he discovered the company was deliberating adding ingredients to make their product more addictive. He was fired from his role for this discovery.

However, in 1996 he stated this truth in a 60 Minutes interview that definitively proved to the public what many had been saying: the tobacco industry had not only been lying about the harm of their products, but actively working to make them more addictive.

Wigand appeared on television despite repeated death threats [1].

Peter Buxtun is another hero.

In 1972 he exposed the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. It was a horrific experiment overseen by the US Public Health Service in which the disease to run rampant amongst poor black men. The intent was to better understand the course of the disease if left untreated. The men thought they were receiving free medical treatment and financial benefits, while never told they had syphilis.

No secret – no matter how closely guarded its holders believe it to be – is safe.

It is human nature to confess, or disclose.

Disputes amongst like-minded conspirators will drive some to leak documents or crucial facts to the media. This is especially so in the age of Wikileaks, Twitter and 24 hour news.

Which is why we can say with absolute certainty climate change is not a conspiracy orchestrated by scientists or communists.

What is remarkable for a science that has been understood since the early 1800s is the lack of whistleblowers; there are no climate science equivalents like that of Wigand or Buxton.

There are no scientists coming forth and saying “Look, we faked this temperature data”.

Not a single environmentalist has stepped forward to showcase a treasure trove of documents demonstrating the workings of a cabal dedicated to taking over the world.

Indeed, we have the very opposite: there is increasing certainty about the science. Every national science academy in the world affirms and supports the work of thousands of scientists.

The work of 97% of those actively researching climate change supports the view human activities are changing the climate.

There are literally millions of scientists, engineers, software programmers, policy makers, activists, writers and members of the world’s military and business community working on climate change and related environmental issues. They have been toiling away on the research and policies for years.

And yet somehow we are expected to believe these millions have managed to maintain a vast conspiracy of silence over decades. Just how probable that is?

How could this enormous conspiracy, spanning the globe and generations, still exist without at least one conspirator breaking ranks and coming forth with the damning evidence? [2]

Perhaps we should follow the dictates of Occam’s Razor and look for the simplest, most rational answer: climate change is real.


[1] How familiar does this sound? How many scientists have received death threats?

[2] Climategate proved nothing. After nine separate inquires the science and the behaviour of scientist remains unblemished. It was a manufactured pseudo-scandal.

There will be no US Congressional investigation into “Climategate”: or how global warming sceptics got duped

In the lead up to the US Congressional elections last year, the Republicans – lead by Darrell Issa – made a great deal of noise about investigating scientists:

What else can we expect next year if the GOP assumes leadership in the House? In addition to protecting the incandescent light bulb, we can expect hearings—lots of them. Specifically, expect annoyer-in-chief Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the would-be chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform, to launch numerous investigations and wield the power of subpoena liberally. He promised as much in a dossier released yesterday listing his planned investigations.

One of the big ones: He plans to investigate climate science and the so-called “ClimateGate” “scandal.”

What a difference a few months make.

Seems Issa has dropped the idea:

Last September, before Republicans had even won the House and posted Issa atop the chamber’s main oversight committee, the California GOPer drafted a list of issues he believed should be investigated, and climate science made the cut. Issa specifically referred to a desire to investigate the so-called “ClimateGate” scandal and the scientific evidence underpinning climate regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency.

However, someone from Issa’s office has said there will be no investigation:

“As has already been stated numerous times, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee has no plans to investigate ‘Climate-Gate,'” Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella told POLITICO yesterday. “There is a substantial difference between a reporter editorializing and something actually being a legitimate priority to this Committee.”

Says Issa’s office: “There weren’t any real plans to really investigate scientists! Someone must have taken Issa’s words out of context! Cross our hearts and hope to die!”

Yes, and Eurasia has always been at war with Oceania.

Honestly, I’m not surprised.

I never thought these investigations would get off the ground. There really wasn’t any intention to actually conduct an investigation. Several inquiries have already cleared the scientists of any wrong doing. Why waste the time of Congress and spend millions on an investigation that will turn up nothing new?

However it did allow the Republicans to appeal to the Tea Party/Conservative voter base that rejects the conclusions of climate science.

“Thanx for votes! KKthanksbai!”

The “Show Trial” that will never happen

Sceptics were salivating at the prospect of these investigations:

“Just you wait… you’ll see just how corrupt these scientists are!”

I’m sorry, but did the Republicans just renege on a promise?

For the pro-market/conservative politicians, climate scepticism is a useful tool to gather votes.

Let’s be honest, “sceptics” you’ve been had.

Did you really think they’d go after the scientists?

Would they really waste millions in tax payer dollars only to come the same conclusion as the UK inquiry into the stolen emails?

“Climate science is a matter of such global importance, that the highest standards of honesty, rigor and openness are needed in its conduct. On the specific allegations made against the behavior of CRU scientists, we find that their rigor and honesty as scientists are not in doubt…”

Actually the Republicans might not be that stupid…

They know they’ll need the scientists very shortly.

While the public remains oblivious, militaries and intelligence agencies around the world are already planning for climate-driven conflicts. Resource companies are circling the Arctic, knowing as the ice retreats new resources are up for grabs.

Those much maligned “scientists” will provide much needed intelligence that will inform military, diplomatic and economic strategies.

The “Great Game” will take place in the Arctic as countries rush to grab oil, metals, gas and a refuge to relocate populations should things turn really bad.

Climategate an act of cyber-terrorism? US knew of attacks leading to “Climategate”

[Hat tip DeSmogBlog, and Le Monde]

Thanks to Wikileaks we know now the “denial machine” is waging a cyber war against US government agencies. 

Plains Justice blog reports:

Leading French newspaper Le Monde has been delving into WikiLeaks in depth with a growing online section devoted to new revelations. An article posted Dec. 12, titled Pirates informatiques contre climatologues (Computer pirates against climatologists), reveals a few American diplomats’ fears that cyberattacks on climate scientists might increase in the days leading up to the 2009 Copenhagen meeting. One email reveals an unsuccessful attack against the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science (OES) that has received very little coverage (none that I can find) in domestic press.

According to Le Monde, there was little discussion of “Climategate” via diplomatic cables, but June 19, 2009 traffic revealed by WikiLeaks discussed a failed attack against an agency of the U.S. government. During the summer of 2009, five OES employees received an email titled “China and climate change”, disguised to look as if it originated with an economics journalist for the National Journal. The body of the message was also written specifically for the recipients, according to their professional roles. Attached to the message was a PDF document carrying malware designed to take silent control of the targeted computer. At least one of the targeted employees opened the attachment. Fortunately the State Department’s frequent computer security updates detected and disabled the attack.

Breaking into US government computers is an act of terrorism as defined by the US Patriot Act 

This is a movement prepared to send death threats to scientists and commit acts of cyber terrorism. They are working against the interests of us all.

History will rightly judge them… and for those who take offense at being called a “denier”, too bad.

The science is settled. 

We know the machine is industry funded and it engages in dirty tricks.

Cablegate continues: Saudis helped create toothless COP15 accord, regulation against their “strategic interests”

More and more we are getting an insight into the politics of climate change.  

In particular, how nations such as oil-rich Saudi Arabia influence the debate.  

Cable 10RIYADH178 notes the Saudi’s concerns over global agreements, and how they could compromise their “strategic interests”: 

(C) CLIMATE CHANGE:  Your visit offers an important opportunity to head off a serious clash over climate change. Saudi officials are very concerned that a climate change treaty would significantly reduce their income just as they face significant costs to diversify their economy.  We want to get beyond the obstructionism that Saudi negotiators have often shown during the negotiations and persuade senior leaders to work with us in a partnership to meet their strategic concerns, including by cooperating on developing solar and biomass energy.  The King is particularly sensitive to avoid Saudi Arabia being singled out as the bad actor, particularly on environmental issues. Your conveying the importance the President places on working as partners with Saudi Arabia on the Copenhagen process will be very important in making this dialogue more constructive. Secretary Chu intends to explore specific areas of collaboration during his February 21-23 visit.

The Saudi’s played a key role in drafting the toothless “Accord”, however did not want to be publically associated with it (see 10RIYADH118) :  

8.(SBU) A/S Feltman noted the importance that the President places on Climate Change, and the Copenhagen Accord. Given that Minister of Petroleum Al-Naimi was involved in crafting the final agreement, A/S Feltman noted the United States is counting on Saudi Arabia to associate itself with the accord by January 31. Prince Torki said that Saudi Arabia was very pleased the United States was more actively engaged in this issue, and said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs supports trying to address this issue.  He noted that the MFA will have to consult with other involved ministries, such as the Ministry of Petroleum, and promised to respond before January

Further commentary from Grist:

“…It’s not clear if the following is an actual secret or an open secret, but here goes: A cable dated Jan. 26, 2010, records Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey D. Feltman, of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, saying that Saudi Arabia’s minister of petroleum, Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Naimi, “was involved in crafting the final agreement” of the Copenhagen Accord.

The cable goes on to note that because Al-Naimi participated in the drafting process, Feltman and the U.S. were “counting on Saudi Arabia to associate itself with the accord by January 31.” That didn’t happen, even though Saudi Arabia’s lead negotiator later declared himself “satisfied” with the Copenhagen accord.”

And that:

“…The Saudis believe greenhouse-gas regulation is one of the greatest threats to their economic future, right up there with a nuclear Iran and internal political instability.”

Stuff “Climategate” and all the faux-scandals the denial machine generates.  

This is the real debate.  

Climate sceptics are fighting a phantom war, mistaking the sound-and-fury the right-wing think tanks generate for what is important.  

To an extent the sceptics are correct – it is about power 

But it is how nations are using their power in a world becoming increasingly stressed by climate change. It’s about how the worlds economic, energy and military powers are jockeying for position.  

These powers accept the science.  

They know climate change is real.  

But they can’t put aside self interest and the habits of real politic. 

Who will pay for this arrogance and delay? 

The poor. You and me. Our children.  

Again, I ask Wikileaks release any cables related to climate politics. 

note: Wonk Room has more here.

Andrew Bolt’s memo to Internet: please stop telling me stuff I don’t want to hear!

Andrew Bolt wages war against Wikileaks:

“…Russia is said to be authoritarian, and Iran is accused of smuggling arms to Hezbollah in ambulances, just as Israel always said. Moreover, Iran is described by French officials as a “fascist state”, and its Arab neighbours are said to be very scared.

Again, nothing new, but it all confirms the world is as menacing as the US grimly says. Indeed, this picture largely excuses the most damaging leak – that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered staff to spy on foreign diplomats in UN headquarters.

Overall, then, there is more in these leaks to confirm the US view of this world than there is to comfort its critics.

Which is one more reason to damn the witless Assange for so mindlessly hampering the US’s ability to resist the very dangers its cables describe.

This is the same journalist that went all frothy-at-the mouth over the stolen “Climategate” emails. It would seem Mr. Bolt only wants those documents that confirms his world view “leaked”.

Here is a journalist, who thrives on generating outrage and scandal, condemning whistle blowers.

The tradition of investigative jouranlism and the role of keeping those in power be damned. 

Bolt would rather see corporations and conservative politicians protected from scrutiny.

Memo to internet: only tell Andrew Bolt what he want’s to hear. Please shut up about everything else!

When facts fail: study notes that facts can reinforce false beliefs

[Hat tip to reader Helen from Scotland]  

A recent study in the journal Political Behaviour provides some fascinating – and worrisome – insights into how people treat facts that challenge erroneous beliefs.  

Titled “When corrections fail: the persistence of political misperceptions” [1] it clearly demonstrates the fact that people will cling desperately to a misconception despite overwhelming evidence that contradicts that belief. As the abstract notes:

“…An extensive literature addresses citizen ignorance, but very little research focuses on misperceptions. Can these false or unsubstantiated beliefs about politics be corrected? Previous studies have not tested the efficacy of corrections in a realistic format. We conducted four experiments in which subjects read mock news articles that included either a misleading claim from a politician, or a misleading claim and a correction. Results indicate that corrections frequently fail to reduce misperceptions among the targeted ideological group. We also document several instances of a “backfire effect” in which corrections actually increase misperceptions among the group in question.”

Upon reading this paper my immediate thought was “Climategate”.   

This is the example par excellence of a misconception (that scientists have acted fraudulently to “manufacture” global warming) that has no basis in reality. It’s a belief in which large numbers within the denial community still cling too despite overwhelming evidence that no fraud took place.  

While many of us are surprised that so many individuals can continue to believe in a massive conspiracy, this paper provides some valuable insight into “why” this may be the case.  

Do corrections matter? Not according to this study…  

The authors looked at how individuals filtered information – based on their ideological preferences – on a number of issues: the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; the effectiveness of tax cuts as an economic stimulus; and the “banning” of stem cell research.  

Groups were given a mock news report followed by another one that “corrected” it. The results were interesting:  

“…The experiments reported in this paper help us understand why factual misperceptions about politics are so persistent. We find that responses to corrections in mock news articles differ significantly according to subjects’ ideological views. As a result, the corrections fail to reduce misperceptions for the most committed participants. Even worse, they actually strengthen misperceptions among ideological subgroups in several cases.”

Most of what we know about climate change is filtered via the mainstream media. The situation is not helped by the media who use the “he said/she said” formula of presenting both sides of an argument. The authors of this study note this as well:  

“…people typically receive corrective information within “objective” news reports pitting two sides of an argument against each other, which is significantly more ambiguous than receiving a correct answer from an omniscient source. In such cases, citizens are likely to resist or reject arguments and evidence contradicting their opinions—a view that is consistent with a wide array of research…”

Such “balanced” views actually distort the debate. By giving such prominence to climate “sceptics” the media helps feed the misconception that there is still debate over the facts of global warming.  

Climategate: the denier response  

As a recent poster on this blog with denialist tendencies said of the various inquires that found no evidence of conspiracy, data manipulation or fraud:

How come Phil Jones got to chose his own papers for the so-called “independent” Oxburgh enquiries?

Do they think we are stupid?

The above poster is representative of the majority of the denial community… “Of course its a conspiracy…” says the denier “Just look at the results of the Lord Oxbourgh’s inquiry!  

The above study shows why people continue to cling to false beliefs. It has nothing to do with intelligence: cognitive biases, ideology and prejudices build up a solid wall of denial that no facts, reasoned arguments or truths will breach.  

People such as this have (a) little real understanding of the science and (b) filter information based on their political views. I’d also suggest that the Dunning-Kruger effect is very much at work (i.e. the tendency for incompetent people to overestimate their abilities).  

The truth is supposed to set you free, when actually it can backfire  

The authors of the paper note that corrections can often have a “back fire” attempt:

“However, individuals who receive unwelcome information may not simply resist challenges to their views. Instead, they may come to support their original opinion even more strongly—what we call a “backfire effect.”

Within the denial movement Climategate is an established narrative. The various inquires that have cleared scientist have only served to further entrench the view within the denial community that there is a massive conspiracy.

Indeed, most “deniers” believed the results were a foregone conclusion: of course “they” cleared the scientists. What else could one expect when “they” are also in part of the conspiracy. Facts only serve to strengthen their belief global warming is not real.  

This is Climategate’s “backfire” effect.  

It also means the impact of the denial machine’s disinformation campaign are even more insidious.   

Not only are they free to lie, distort and construct fabrications, but the average person who falls for their misinformation becomes increasingly impervious to the truth. The strange logic of denial dictates that any and all information from “warmists” and “alarmists” is tainted, and thus inherently suspect.  

As the authors note in the conclusion:

“…The backfire effects that we found seem to provide further support for the growing literature showing that citizens engage in “motivated reasoning.” While our experiments focused on assessing the effectiveness of corrections, the results show that direct factual contradictions can actually strengthen ideologically grounded factual beliefs—an empirical finding with important theoretical implications.”

Before anyone rushes to say that it’s not fair to pick on “deniers” I’d note the study finds no one is free from such biases: those with either conservative and liberal worldviews are prone to making the same tendency to disregard factual corrections.  

So, we should give up then? Here’s the good news  

Despite the tendency for individuals to disregard conflicting information, the authors of the paper do note that over time it is possible for an individual to “correct” their misconceptions:

It’s important to note that the account provided above does not imply that individuals simply believe what they want to believe under all circumstances and never accept counter-attitudinal information. Ditto and Lopez (1992, p. 570), preference-inconsistent information is likely to be subjected to greater skepticism than preference-consistent information, but individuals who are “confronted with information of sufficient quantity or clarity… should eventually acquiesce to a preference-inconsistent conclusion.” The effectiveness of corrective information is therefore likely to vary depending on the extent to which the individual has been exposed to similar messages elsewhere. For instance, as a certain belief becomes widely viewed as discredited among the public and the press, individuals who might be ideologically sympathetic to that belief will be more likely to abandon it when exposed to corrective information.

One of the key driver of a persons acceptance of a fact (or belief) is its popularity.  

This is the reason why the denial machine works so hard to flood the internet and mainstream media with disinformation.  

Its also the reason why the comments field on every online news item is quickly flooded with the comments of deniers. They are working hard to create the impression that large numbers of people share their world view in the hope this has a cascading effect. The more that doubt global warming, the more will follow their lead.  

Which is why the continual, sometimes exhausting and seemingly never-ending work of correcting the falsehoods of the denial movement is vital. By providing an antidote to their campaign of misinformation, we will eventually neutralise their effectiveness.  

More importantly, clearly articulating the basics of climate science and explaining it to the general public will make an enormous difference. As I’ve already noted we have not paid sufficient attention to this issue:

Thus I’ve come to the belief that we need a body of similar scope and ambition to the IPCC that will help educate the public. And yes, in saying this I understand just how complex it would be to establish such an initiative. So I’m speculating, thinking “big”…

The IPCC materials are publically available, but they are not easily digestible. They are intended for a specific audience, and are a masterful synthesis of the science. However they are not readily accessible to a lay audience, let alone people without access to the Internet. The IPCC materials target an elite audience.

It has taken me months to read them, understand and educate myself on the basics of the science. And I have access to the internet, the benefit of a post-graduate education and the time to devote to this interest. How does my opportunity compare to the average farmer in China? Or the slum dweller living on Jo’Burg?

We need to broaden the audience of the IPCC from policy makers to a global scale… The scientists can’t do it alone, it needs to be part of a broader initiative. The remit of the IPCC could be broadened. It could be a multidisciplinary body comprising not just scientist but sociologist, historians, psychologists, communications experts and politicians that would examine communications strategies for the various demographics and “audiences”.

Sure, I’m quoting myself here: but I stand by these comments.

[1] When Corrections Fail: The Persistence of Political Misperceptions, Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler in Political Behaviour 30 March 2010 (10.1007/s11109-010-9112-2)

The chief lesson of Climategate: the depths of our naivety

“There continues to be a scientific debate about the reality, causes and uncertainties of climate change that is conducted through the conventional mechanisms of peer-reviewed publication of results, but this has been paralleled by a more vociferous, more polarised debate in the blogosphere and in popular books. In this the  protagonists tend to be divided between those who believe that climate is changing and that human activities are contributing strongly to it, and those that are sceptical of this view. This strand of debate has been more passionate, more rhetorical, highly political and one in which each side frequently doubts the motives and impugns the honesty of the other, a conflict that has fuelled many of the views expressed in the released CRU emails, and one that has also been dramatically fuelled by them. It is difficult at the moment to predict whether and how the necessary cooler, rigorous scientific debate and the vital public policy interface will develop, or the effect that it will have on scientific publication or peer review…” ICCER Report page 42

When two tribes go to war

Following the release of Independent Climate Change Email Review (ICCER) report the majority of mainstream media is catching on to the fact that “Climategate” was indeed a faux scandal. The irony is that the denial movement claims scientists are manufacturing the crisis of global warming, when in reality it is “they” that manufactured “Climategate”.

Indeed, if we ever need to study a perfect example of manufacturing a controversy, then Climategate stands as the example par excellence.

In a nutshell Climategate was this: hackers broke into the University of East Anglia’s computer network to steal data from the CRU in November 2009. Email correspondence between scientists were quote mined in order to imply they where up to no good. It is clear this was timed to destabilise the Copenhagen conference. A “perfect storm” of misinformation was created, generated and fanned by the denial blogosphere and “skeptical” journalists in the media (Andrew Bolt at the Herald Sun, FOX news, the guys at WUWT etc.).

Subsequent independent inquiries have found scientists acted with honesty and integrity, and that the science supporting global warming is sound.

And so it ends.


Climategate will live on as a powerful myth for conspiracy theorists who see sinister motives in the workings of government, science and “greens”. The blogging war will continue for a long time, with “deniers” and “alarmists” locked into perpetual conflict.

Our “two tribes” will forever be hostile to each other.

One thing we have learned is that the “deniers” will stop at nothing, using every dirty trick in the book to discredit the science and scientists.

It is a “street fight”: let’s acknowledge just how tough a fight it is, regroup and become better at countering the tactics.

But is this all Climategate has to teach us?

I believe Climategate has taught us an even bigger lesson.

The depths of our naivety.

Who is to blame for this mess? Not who you think…

“The interface between science and public policy is a crucial one in matters of great public importance such as climate change. The IPCC was set up to provide just such an interface. Its job was to draw on and synthesise the diverse strands that contribute to modern climate science (see paragraph 6) and to make this accessible to the public, policymakers and other stakeholders in a way that is comprehensible and that does justice to underlying uncertainties. The importance of this process is underlined by the potential magnitude of the economic and social consequences of governmental decisions in the domain of global climate change…” – ICCER Report page

Climategate was damaging not to only climate science, but to the institution of science.

The finger-pointing began in November of last year and will continue. Obviously the denial movement shares a large percentage of the blame. Fingers have been pointed at the media and rightly so. Some have even cast blame on the shoulders of the scientists themselves.

However I have to ask one question that I don’t think anyone else has asked: “Just how naive were we?”

Did we really think presenting the facts of climate change and “debunking” the deniers is all we have to do to shape both public opinion and policy?

The failure of Copenhagen and the continued existence and effectiveness of the “denial machine” are but symptoms of the resistance to the sweeping changes our societies will need to undertake in response to a changed climate. Because any response to climate change is a civilisational challenge.

It’s a bigger reconstruction effort than building New Orleans after Katrina. It’s a larger undertaking than the Marshal Plan that helped rebuild Europe after the Second World War. It’s a greater technology challenge than the Manhattan Project that built “the bomb” or the cumulative effort it took to build the Internet.

It’s all of this effort combined and multiplied.

The actions of all sovereign nations, corporate entities and civil society institutions will need to align themselves to the single goal of mitigating and adapting to global warming. Nations, industries and individuals will have to sacrifice some of their self-interest for the “good of the planet” and “civilisation”, abstract concepts that many people don’t share.

When did a species – not just a society – ever do this? When you stop to think about it seriously, one is struck by the enormity of what we are being asked to do in response to climate change.

So who is to blame?

We are.

There are precedents: we should have anticipated this all along

A recent poll on MSNBC (and yes I accept just how unscientific these things are) asked if the results of the ICCER were “fair”, with the majority saying “No”.

So far respondents to the poll have made the following statements:

No. The e-mails clearly evidence collusion, hiding & falsifying of data, & lack of openness, all hallmarks of scientific scamming & lying.

It is all guess work based on theory without any absolutes to build on.

It is all guess work based on theory without any absolutes to build on.

I don’t think they fabricated data, but they revealed a deep set bias that likely colours their research and conclusions.

I believe in environmental responsibility, but think that whole global warming and climate change theory is a money making scam by those who have a vested interest in selling carbon credits ie. Al Gore, most of our Congress and Senate, and certain companies like GE which just happens to own MSNBC. During the 70s and 80s they were predicting another ice age due to the rising carbon levels, now we are going to melt. It is the politics of fear in pursuit of the almighty dollar and nothing more.

As explained by Wikipedia, since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, world balance does not exist. Saying that the USA and USSR super-powers kept the world in check. What? So now many are getting behind this Global Governance concept. I started looking through the internet for Global Governance information. In the following video done on a study of Global Governance, you will notice, at the first, a famous name on it. The name keeps popping up in common with Global Governance. George Soros.That is right, the billionaire, George Soros. Obama sent $2 BILL of our tax dollars to Brazil for Petrobas along w/Soro’s 9 Billion. You libs and dems out there had best get a clue. You have put the ENEMY WITHIN in OUR White House. You’re fools at best. This guy’s entire background is Muslim/Marxist and he is dismantling our country just as fast as he can because unless he gets the illegal vote, which is why he’ll push amnesty, he’s OUT but we need to get him OUT sooner.

We can chide the writers of these comments as fools or shills for the oil companies, but to be frank we should have known that such responses were likely.

I’ve frequently made a connection between creationism and climate change denial, as both movements share similar tactics. Nearly 50% of Americans reject evolution in favour of Creationism.

As it’s been noted earlier we know many scientific theories are subject to fierce resistance if they are felt to threaten the world view of entrenched elites. We’ve known this since the days of Copernicus.

And yet in tackling global warming we did no analysis or planning of the cultural, societal and philosophical objections to change.

We failed to take into account human nature, real politick and the power of vested corporate and political interests.

We’re being asked to undertake a civilisation change: stop being naive about the challenges

“If we search for the roots of climate denial it soon becomes apparent that they lie in the reaction of American conservatism to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. As the threat of the ‘red menace’ receded, the energy conservatives had put into opposing communism sought other outlets. Islamism had for some time been building as a threat, as it seemed to challenge the achievements of the West and the inevitable march of its influence. But there was an internal enemy too. Since the 1970s ‘neo-conservatism’ had set itself against the influence of the ‘new class’ of liberal intellectuals who had betrayed the Western tradition with a sustained critique of its assumptions and achievements. Feminism, multi-culturalism and anti-colonialism not only sought to correct injustices, but uncovered oppressive structures buried deep within the foundations of Western civilisation…” – Clive Hamilton, Requiem for a Species

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the last twenty years of climate change “activism” is the belief that simply stating the scientific evidence would convince six billion (plus) people of the need to put aside the habits, comforts and luxuries of the past would be a relatively simple ask.

“Just go green! Don’t drive, take the bus! Don’t consume so much! Close down your coal fired generators!”

Because that is exactly what we are asking our societies to do.

Think of the vested political, economic, military, social and cultural interests that need to be subjected to a paradigm shift in attitude.

Industries such as oil and mining (especially coal mining) will need to be phased out. Multi-billion dollar companies will have to surrender their futures, give up market share and hand over “their business” to competitors. When has that happened before in a planned fashion on a global scale?

I can’t think of a single example.

Did we really think these industries wouldn’t fight tooth-and-nail to the death? That is why they are funding the denial industry. It is for them a fight to the death.

Consumers will most likely have to pay higher prices for energy, gas and other consumer goods. Governments will need to invest billions in infrastructure. New taxes will need to be raised. Thus, we are asking ordinary citizens to change their lives and surrender more of their earnings. If they are in an industry such as mining to change their careers.

Should we not be surprised that a healthy percentage would prefer to deny climate change so that they may continue to enjoy the perks of their lifestyles?

Countries such as the United States, Japan, China, India would need to sacrifice the concept of unlimited growth. They would have to surrender some of their power. The governance structures that need to be erected in order manage the transition of our civilisation to a “no carbon” future will see countries sacrifice some of their self-interest for not only their own good, but for that of their neighbours and rivals.

We need to undertake a planned “industrial revolution” in order to avoid the worst possible outcomes of climate change. Switching our entire civilisation from one source of energy (fossil fuels) to another (renewable) within a relatively short time frame (measured in decades, when such changes take generations) is an incredible undertaking.

At no point in the history of our species has this happened.

Our societies have grown from being a collection of warring tribes, to that of warring kingdoms and empires to warring nation states.

Again I have to ask, just how easy did we think it would be?

It is this naivety on behalf of many – scientists, activists, journalists and people such as myself – that is partly to blame. It was an innocent mistake, but a mistake it was.

We blithely assumed it was an easy task.

We trusted reason. We trusted the facts would wind the argument. We trusted governments and we trusted scientists to fix it.

But our species is irrational, short-sighted, tribal, aggressive and expansionary.

So who is to blame?

Again, we are.

We have fallen victim to a kind of monism: because the evidence for global warming is so clear, therefore the policy responses must be readily translatable into action.

Moving from A to B, and then C seemed relatively simple.

Societies do not plan their evolution, it plays out over centuries.

Global warming means we have to plan on a planetary and civilisational level: again, how easy did we think this was going to be?

The responsibility of the scientific community and the need for a global communications initiative

“The scientific literature is relatively opaque to non-specialists. Scientific understanding that is transmitted into the public domain must be comprehensible to non-specialists, make appropriate and not excessive claims, and include careful statements of the uncertainties surrounding that understanding…” ICCER Report page 40

“Therefore, the Review would urge all scientists to learn to communicate their work in ways that the public can access and understand; and to be open in providing the information that will enable the debate, wherever it occurs, to be conducted objectively. That said, a key issue is how scientists should be supported to explain their position, and how a public space can be created where these debates can be conducted on appropriate terms….” ICCER Report page 42

Scientists are being asked to be become “better educators”.

But this only prompts another question: how is this going to happen?   This has been a fierce debate within the “alarmist” (those that accept the science) community as to just how responsible scientists are for this, and how they could become more effective communicators.

We also need to ask the question “Is this their job??   In one sense the science community have already achieved this: the IPCC as a body has done an incredible job of synthesising the science of global warming and producing information for policy makers around the world.

Thus I’ve come to the belief that we need a body of similar scope and ambition to the IPCC that will help educate the public. And yes, in saying this I understand just how complex it would be to establish such an initiative. So I’m speculating, thinking “big”.

Perhaps it’s unrealistic.

The IPCC materials are publicly available, but they are not easily digestible. They are intended for a specific audience, and are a masterful synthesis of the science. However they are not readily accessible to a lay audience, let alone people without access to the Internet.

The IPCC materials target an elite audience.

It has taken me months to read them, understand and educate myself on the basics of the science. And I have access to the internet, the benefit of a post-graduate education and the time to devote to this interest. How does my opportunity compare to the average farmer in China? Or the slum dweller living on Jo’Burg?

We need to broaden the audience of the IPCC from policy makers to a global scale.

The scientists can’t do it alone, it needs to be part of a broader initiative.  The remit of the IPCC could be broadened. It could be a multidisciplinary body comprising not just scientist but sociologists, historians, psychologists, communications experts and politicians that would examine communications strategies for the various demographics and “audiences”.

Perhaps they could be the source of information tailor-made to a global audience: books, films, YouTube videos, podcasts, pamphlets…

In order to “save the world” we must “educate the world”.

[1] I appreciate that there has been some criticism of the IPCC in its failure to include other disciplines. Perhaps it is time to broaden its role and function.

The end of Climategate: review finds no scandal, now will Andrew Bolt retract his statements?

The Independent Climate Change E-Mails Review has reported  on the “Climategate” scandal.  

No surprises, the scientists have been vindicated again:

“Climate science is a matter of such global importance, that the highest standards of honesty, rigour and openness are needed in its conduct. On the specific allegations made against the behaviour of CRU scientists, we find that their rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt…”

The entire strategy of the deniers is to cast the integrity of scientists in doubt.  

On the famously taken-out of context quotes “hide the decline’ and “trick”:

“On the allegation that the references in a specific e-mail to a „trick‟ and to „hide the decline‟ in respect of a 1999 WMO report figure show evidence of intent to paint a misleading picture, we find that, given its subsequent iconic significance (not least the use of a similar figure in the IPCC Third Assessment Report), the figure supplied for the WMO Report was misleading.We do not find that it is misleading to curtail reconstructions at some point per se, or to splice data, but we believe that both of these procedures should have been made plain – ideally in the figure but certainly clearly described in either the caption or the text…”

Interestingly the note the power of the blogosphere and the need for increased openness:

“Handling the blogosphere and non traditional scientific dialogue.One of the most obvious features of the climate change debate is the influence of the blogosphere. This provides an opportunity for unmoderated comment to stand alongside peer reviewed publications; for presentations or lectures at learned conferences to be challenged without inhibition; and for highly personalized critiques of individuals and their work to be promulgated without hindrance. This is a fact of life, and it would be foolish to challenge its existence. The Review team would simply urge all scientists to learn to  communicate their work in ways that the public can access and understand. That said, a key issue is how scientists should be supported to explain their position, and how a public space can be created where these debates can be conducted on appropriate terms, where what is and is not uncertain can be recognised…”


“Openness and Reputation.

An important feature of the blogosphere is the extent to which it demands openness and access to data. A failure to recognise this and to act appropriately, can lead to immense reputational damage by feeding allegations of cover up. Being part of a like minded group may provide no defence. Like it or not, this indicates a transformation in the way science has to be conducted in this century…”

The denial movement has been able to take advantage of the usually closed nature of advanced research (in that it is almost impenetrable to most lay persons) by casting aspersions on the motives of scientists.  

They have also effectively have take advantage of uncertainty that is typical of science:

“There is a widespread misconception that science produces unequivocal and absolutely precise answers. It does not, and cannot. All scientific results contain uncertainties, and it is important that these are made clear to and are understood by those who use them. There are two fundamental sources of uncertainty in science: uncertainty in measuring a phenomenon and uncertainty in determining causes and causal relationships…”

By exploiting tiny errors and uncertainties and blowing these up into massive scandals the deniers have been very successful in creating the impression that the vast majority of climate science is uncertain.

Will Andrew Bolt retract his statements?

When Climategate broke, Herald Sun journalist Andrew Bolt made the following comments:

“So the 1079 emails and 72 documents seem indeed evidence of a scandal involving most of the most prominent scientists pushing the man-made warming theory – a scandal that is one of the greatest in modern science...”

Bolt was instrumental in creating “the scandal”, helping promote it amongst the denial-blogosphere.

Here’s the question: will Bolt now retract these statements and acknowledge he was wrong? 

If he has any integrity or commitment to journalistic standards he should.

Addendum: how a journalist should apologise

George Monboit called for the resignation of Phil Jones when Climategate broke. However, following the release of this above report he has retracted his statements and apologised:

So was I wrong to have called, soon after this story broke, for Jones’s resignation?(14) I think, on balance, that I was. He said some very stupid things. At times he squelched the scientific principles of transparency and openness. He might have broken the law. But he was also provoked beyond endurance. I think, in the light of everything I’ve now seen and read, that if I were to write that article again I would conclude that Phil Jones should hang on – but only just. I hope the last review gives him some peace.

This is what one means by integrity.

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