Spinning the Hacked Global Warming E-Mail

Spin is always entertaining, especially when it’s obvious and poorly done.

A couple of years ago it was revealed that Al Gore, the poster child for the Global Warming Will Kill Us All movement, used thirty times more electricity at one of his three mansions than any of his neighbors.  The apologists spin was pathetic.  “He has a huge staff.”  “He buys carbon offsets.”  (Yes, from a company he owns.)  “He’s installing solar panels and making the mansion more green.”

A year later, after his greening of the mansion, he used even more electricity.

“He’s not really our poster boy.”  (Yeah, right.)  “It’s irrelevant.  It doesn’t change the facts.”  (He has a long history of getting his facts wrong.)  “It doesn’t matter.  Only the evidence matters.”

They were right on the last one.  Facts are facts even if the primary spokesman is an egotistical hypocrite whose lifestyle completely contradicts his message.  It’s reasonable, though, to expect an issue’s primary spokesman to set a personal example.  Gandhi’s message would have been a just a little less effective if he delivered it wearing a Brooks Brothers Suit and a pair of natty oxfords.

Now the spinners are desperately trying to do damage control on the hacked e-mails that reveal a pattern of leading AGW experts trying to bury information, hide data and discredit critics.

Here’s how to do real science.  First you come up with a hypothesis.  Then you try to disprove it.   If you can’t, the next step is to give other scientists a shot at disproving it.  If they can’t then maybe, just maybe, you’ve discovered something worthwhile.

There are things you don’t do if you’re a real scientist, especially if you and your collogues are the leading scientists on global warming.  (Paragraphs in italics are direct quotes from these e-mails.  Bolding is mine.)

You don’t delete data.  Ever.

“Mike, Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise. . .
Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same?”

You don’t change it either.

*”[T]ry and change the Received date! Don’t give those skeptics something to amuse themselves with.”

And most importantly, you don’t screw with the data itself.

I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature [the science journal] trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie, from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.

When the data doesn’t support your conclusions you don’t blame the data or your instruments.

The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.

You make all your data freely available to any qualified parties who ask for it.  You don’t hide behind legal contrivances or other technicalities to keep it hidden.  (FOI refers to the Freedom of Information laws.)

The skeptics will try to hang on to something, but I don’t want to give them something clearly tangible. Keith/Tim still getting FOI requests as well as MOHC and Reading. All our FOI officers have been in discussions and are now using the same exceptions not to respond – advice they got from the Information Commissioner. As an aside and just between us, it seems that Brian Hoskins has withdrawn himself from the WG1 Lead nominations. It seems he doesn’t want to have to deal with this hassle.
The FOI line we’re all using is this. IPCC is exempt from any countries FOI – the  Skeptics have been told this. Even though we (MOHC, CRU/UEA) possibly hold relevant info the IPCC is not part our remit (mission statement, aims etc) therefore we don’t have an obligation to pass it on.

In another e-mail he says:

Just sent loads of station data to Scott. Make sure he documents everything better this time! And don’t leave stuff lying around on ftp sites – you never know who is trawling them. The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone. Does your similar act in the US force you to respond to enquiries within 20 days? – our does ! The UK works on precedents, so the first request will test it.

We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind. Tom Wigley has sent me a worried email when he heard about it – thought people could ask him for his model code. He has retired officially from UEA so he can hide behind that. IPR should be relevant here, but I can see me getting into an argument with someone at UEA who’ll say we must adhere to it!

You answer and debate your critics.  You don’t ever try to silence them.

This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the “peer-reviewed literature”. Obviously, they found a solution to that–take over a journal! So what do we do about this? I think 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 in, this journal. We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board…

In another e-mail he says:

I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is !

And so now the spin starts.

The first spin is “This data was stolen!”  That’s true, but irrelevant.  (The Pentagon Papers comes to mind.)  It’s the content that matters.

We’re told that scientists use the word “trick” to describe a clever technique.  I’m not a scientist, but I’ve worked in close proximity to them and heard hundreds of their conversations.  It was always fascinating, even when I couldn’t understand everything (or, sometimes, anything) they were saying.  I never heard them use the word “trick” that way.  “Hack?” Yes.  “Kludge?” Yep.  “Trick?” Never. And the spinners haven’t come up with an explanation for “to hide the decline,” although I’m sure they will.

We’re told this is all quote mining taken out of context.  Fortunately, we now have access to a database of all the e-mails to see if that’s true.  I checked all the ones listed in this article, and reading them in context makes them more damning, not less.

I’ve seen articles insisting that this proves nothing.  It’s just a few scientists having a private conversation.  It doesn’t show any kind of vast conspiracy, orders from the UN, secret cabals, etc.  That’s true.  What it does show is worse: respected leaders of the AGW movement showing serious contempt for the basic rules, conventions and practices that make science work.   That’s enough, and  far more damning than any shadowy conspiracy theory.

The practice True Believer’s got spinning the Al Gore story will come in handy trying to spin this mess, but even with the mass media on their side it may prove to be too Herculean a task. This goes much deeper than  a power bill from one errant hero.

True Believers will never change their mind any more than Kirk Cameron will admit that today’s bananas are the result of evolution. They’ll make excuses and nod knowingly at each other. On the other side, hard core deniers will say “See, see, this proves that there’s absolutely no such thing as global warming,” and they’ll be just as wrong.  Real Skeptics (I count myself among them) will become more skeptical.

The real damage to the movement will be the effect on people who are still sitting on the fence. This is going to have a tremendous influence on their conclusions, and if True Believers can spin enough to prevent that, we should wire them up to generators.  It will create have enough free power to solve the global energy problem and render the question moot.


2 Comment(s)

  1. Do these guys moonlight for tobacco control?

    Same tactics, different issue.

    fred | Nov 26, 2009 | Reply

  2. Even given the liberal media bias, I find it unbelievable that it’s not more visible on the news.

    Johnny Virgil | Dec 1, 2009 | Reply

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