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More on the UEA 'Climategate' emails - recommended reading

  • 23 Nov 2011, 14:10
  • Christian Hunt

We're a day on from the release of another batch of the emails taken from the University of East Anglia (UEA) server, mirroring 2009's 'Climategate' incident. It's a story that is filling online climate forums and has also had a bit of pick-up by the media. Here's a selection of the most interesting pieces:

First: is it just us, or does The Daily Mail's coverage have a tinge of boredom about it?

New leak of hacked global warming scientist emails: A 'smoking gun' proving a conspiracy - or just hot air?

"The identity of the people who posted it was not revealed - although the clear political statement is new. The file also contains more than 200,000 other emails, which are encrypted, and no password is provided.

"Presumably, this is to protect the individuals involved - or simply because the material is so non-controversial or boring that it's not worth releasing.

"The University of East Anglia has not confirmed whether the material is genuine.

"None of the material appears to be new, either: it seems to date from the first release in 2009.

"It also occurs against a rather different scientific background, after the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature review of climate-science data by prominent climate sceptic Richard Muller, which analysed 1.6 billion temperature records, and concluded that global warming was a genuine effect."

Richard Black at the BBC has detail on the hack and the police investigation, as well as the framing of the release:

"[U]nless appearances are very, very misleading, [the emails] were hacked from UEA in the same attack that led to the 2009 posting.

"Some of the emails in the new release, for example, appear to be continuations of conversations that emerged back then - you can even find the infamous "hide the decline" phrase.

"Whoever hacked the documents and whoever's releasing them - code-name FOIA 2011 - leaves an intriguing clue to his or her rationale, in a file released with the hacked material.

"''One dollar can save a life' - the opposite must also be true,' he/she writes. 'Poverty is a death sentence. Nations must invest $37 trillion in energy technologies by 2030 to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at sustainable levels.'

"One hesitates to dive into anyone else's mind on the basis of a few words... but as far as I can see, the only logical explanation is that the writer thinks curbing greenhouse gas emissions will cost so much that the developing world will be left poverty-stricken as a result.

"It's odd, because the poorest nations on the planet - through the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) bloc, the Small Island Developing States (SIDs) bloc, and the Africa Group representing the poorest continent - are calling for action louder than just about anyone else in the world.

"What does FOIA 2011 know that they don't?...The majority of poor countries lobby for more, not less, action on climate change. If the emails disproved man-made climate change, he/she would have a point. But judging from what I have read, they do not."

Scientists have also been quoted on the topic. Including, in contrast to the last time this happened, reactions from UEA scientists like Phil Jones.

The New York Times spoke with one scientist who, according to an email, called a colleague's scientific paper "truly pathetic":

"In one of the e-mails, Raymond S. Bradley, director of the Climate System Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, criticized a paper that Dr. Mann wrote with the climate scientist Phil Jones, which used tree rings and similar markers to find that today's climatic warming had no precedent in recent natural history. Dr. Bradley, who has often collaborated with Dr. Mann, wrote that the 2003 paper 'was truly pathetic and should never have been published.'

"Dr. Bradley confirmed in an interview that the e-mail was his, but said his comment had no bearing on whether global warming was really happening. 'I did not like that paper at all, and I stand by that, and I am sure that I told Mike that' at the time, he said. But he added that a disagreement over a single paper had little to do with the overall validity of climate science. 'There is no doubt we have a big problem with human-induced warming,'Dr. Bradley said. 'Mike's paper has no bearing on the fundamental physics of the problem that we are facing.'"

There has also been analysis of the media coverage. Media Matters assesses the US media's take of the story:

"Raphael Satter of the Associated Press has also has a premature report, which has been published on the websites of countless news outlets, asserting that the emails "appeared to show climate scientists talking in conspiratorial tones about ways to promote their agenda." What agenda is that? The article doesn't say. Satter admits that the context of the emails 'couldn't be determined' because the 'Associated Press has not yet been able to secure a copy' of the documents."

Meanwhile the skeptic blogs certainly are excited about it, or at least they're pretending to be. Anthony Watts headlined his blog post: "They're real and they're spectacular!"

The Examiner is carrying a piece entitled Climategate 2: Sensational Email Release, Durban Conference Derailed, which might be a little premature.

Finally, the blog RealClimate, where many of the climate scientists who feature in the emails write, is trying to answer questions in the comments of this post. Here's a sample:

"Could you put these in context, please?:
[John] Cook: "I am afraid that Mike [Mann] is defending something that increasingly can not be defended. He is investing too much personal stuff in this and not letting the science move ahead."
[Response: Not "John", Ed, and this was in 2002, related to the Briffa/Osborn perspective in Science 2002. Those were early days in the paleo-reconstruction business and different groups had different opinions about how to proceed and interpret the results. Normal science.... - gavin]
Bradley: "I'm sure you agree-the [Mike] Mann/ [Phil] Jones GRL paper was truly pathetic and should never have been published. I don't want to be associated with that 2000 year 'reconstruction'."
[Response: Again, people are free to make their own judgements on papers. This was in 2003 (discussing Mann and Jones (2003)). - gavin]
Crowley: "Phil [Jones], thanks for your thoughts - guarantee there will be no dirty laundry in the open."
[Response: The discussion is related to SST anomalies, but I don't really understand crowley's characterisation. The difficulties in the SST record have been well discussed in the literature - most recently in Kennedy et al. - gavin]
[Phil] Jones: "There shouldn't be someone else at UEA [University of East Anglia] with different views (from "recent extreme weather is due to global warming") - at least not a climatologist."
[Response: Jones is pushing back against the idea that there are always 'two sides' on science discussions for a media event, where the organisers wanted someone else from UEA to argue with Jones. - gavin]"

Oh, and has also emerged that Norfolk police spent nothing on investigating the UEA hacking incident since March. Maybe this will encourage them to get back to it.

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