July 7, 2010

The New Scientist has an interesting piece on the Climategate Scandal that never was:

In truth, climategate was a pseudo-scandal, and the worst that can be said of the scientists is that they wrote some ill-advised things. “I’ve written some pretty awful emails,” admitted Phil Jones, director of the CRU at the time. The scientists also resisted turning over their data when battered by requests for it – requests from climate sceptics who dominate the blogosphere and don’t play by the usual rules.

But there is nothing very surprising, much less scandalous, about such behaviour. Yes, a “bunker mentality” developed among the scientists; they were “huddling together in the storm”, in Pearce’s words. But there really was a storm. They were under attack. In this situation, the scientists proved all too human – not frauds, criminals or liars.

So why were their hacked emails such big news? Because they were taken out of context and made to appear scandalous. Pearce repeatedly faults the sceptics for such behaviour. Yet he too makes the scientists’ private emails the centrepiece of the story. Pearce’s investigations don’t show any great “smoking gun” offences by the scientists – yet he still finds fault. And who wouldn’t, when they can read their private comments in the heat of the battle? (I can’t help but wonder what Pearce might think if he had the sceptics’ private emails too.)

Meanwhile, the Guardian offered some insight into the vitriol sloshing around in the buckets and pails immediately afterwards.

The scientists revealed they have been told to “go gargle razor blades” and have been described as “Nazi climate murderers”. Some emails have been sent to them without any attempt by the sender to disguise their identity. Even though the scientists have received advice from the FBI, the local police say they are not able to act due to the near-total tolerance of “freedom of speech” in the US.

Mmm. Razor blades. Made in Germany.

And on that note, today Germany will slash Spain.

[UPDATE: Doh!]


  1. Yes, Pearce is one of the few environmental writers who at least acknowledged that there were problems revealed in Climategate. Most, like Chris Mooney writing for New Scientist (that’s a strange combination) stick their head in the sand and pretend there is nothing there. In today’s column Fred Pearce reveals that Muir Russell and company never bothered to ask Jones and colleagues if they had deleted any E-mails. Probably the most serious actions seen in the Climategate E-mails were the requests to delete E-mails to prevent release by FOIA. I bet few environmental journalists will report that either. Chris Mooney sure won’t.

    Fred Pearce shows it is possible to be for the environment and truth at the same time, something many journalists have had trouble with in regards to Climategate.

  2. Somewhere a headline: “Octopus pwns philosopher” 🙂

    JimR, Pearce is a tool with a book to sell. As was noted in much earlier coverage, the emails were on a back-up server where Phil couldn’t delete them. That’s also why the comments about deleting emails were clearly hyperbole. I know this is wasted advice, but try to pay attention from now on.

    • Steve, love that you are always an example that the AGW tribe will turn on their own if they don’t toe the party line. And I do appreciate the way you are always around to be one of the first to attack person (Pearce in this case) without addressing the actual topic. Your excuses for the Jones ‘please delete’ E-mails provided much amusement here last year, but even you have to be a bit surprised that the Muir Russell panel never asked the parties involved if they had deleted any E-mails.

      But hey, why bother with the issues when you can take a shot at an environmental writer who has championed the causes you support for the past two decades.

  3. Why would I be surprised at that if I think they already knew the answer? It’s a logic thing. Anyway, I hope you and other denial hobbyists are enjoying the view of your high-water mark in the rear-view mirror.

  4. Steve, it’s very poor “logic” to claim that since the E-mails must have been on a backup server therefore they couldn’t be deleted. Even Muir Russel didn’t try that one finding “evidence that emails might have been deleted in order to make them unavailable should a subsequent request be made for them [under Freedom of information law]”. You don’t even know if the Briffa and Jones E-mails actually were on a backup server. How about the others who Jones coordinated the deletions, Mann, Wahl, Ammann? And if purposely deleting E-mails to prevent release via FOIA there being an unknown backup doesn’t diminish these actions.

    It’s a shame after multiple investigations none of the actual charges have even been addressed. Why, it’s scandalous behavior to ensure that the results were scandal-less. At least the ICO has made a ruling that UEA/CRU violated UK FOI/EIR in the case of David Holland, although that news doesn’t seem to get much press.

  5. JimR and Steve Bloom:

    The logic which says that trying to delete emails, but failing because the “may” be on a backup server must be a great relief to George Bush. After all, he “tried” to delete 18,000,000 emails, but failed because they found them on a backup server. Now, thanks to Steve, he has a great defense.

    • RickA, LOL thanks for the humor. Yes this defense of the deletions is especially amusing. I suppose I’m naive since I still find it amazing that Muir Russell never even inquired into the matter of deleted E-mails to avoid FOIA requests. I’m still reading through the report but it reminds me a bit of a Monty Python sketch.

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