«Edited and Annotated by John Costella The Lavoisier Group March 2010 About the Author John Costella was born in East Melbourne in 1966. After being ...»
The Climategate emails show that these self-regulating mechanisms simply failed to work in the case of climate science—perhaps because “climate science” is itself an aggregation of many different and disparate scientific disciplines. Those component disciplines are extremely challenging. For example, it would be wonderful if NASA were able to invent a time machine, and go back over the past hundred thousand years and set up temperature and carbon dioxide measurement probes across the breadth of the globe. Unfortunately, we don’t have this. Instead, we need to infer these measurements, by counting tree rings, or digging up tubes of ice. The science vi of each of these disciplines is well-defined and rigorous, and there are many good scientists working in these fields. But the real difficulty is the “stitching together” of all of these results in a way that allows answers to the fundamental questions: How much effect has mankind had on the temperature of the planet? And how much difference would it make if we did things differently?
It is at this “stitching together” layer of science—one could call it a “meta-discipline” —that the principles of the scientific method have broken down. Reading through the Climategate emails, one can see members of that community—usually those with slightly different experience and wisdom than the power-brokers—questioning (as they should) this “stitching together” process, particularly with regard to the extremely subtle mathematical methods that need to be used to try to extract answers.
Now, these mathematical and statistical methods are completely within my own domain of expertise; and I can testify that the criticisms are sensible, carefully thoughtout, and completely valid; these are good scientists, asking the right questions.
So what reception do they get? Instead of embracing this diversity of knowledge— thanking them for their experience (no-one knows everything about everything) and using that knowledge to improve their own calculations—these power-brokers of climate science instead ignore, fob off, ridicule, threaten, and ultimately black-ball those who dare to question the methods that they—the power-brokers, the leaders—have used. And do not be confused: I am here talking about those scientists within their own camps, not the “skeptics” which they dismiss out of hand.
This is not “climate science”, it is climate ideology; it is the Church of Climatology.
It is this betrayal of the principles of science—in what is arguably the most important public application of science in our lifetime—that most distresses scientists.
vii viii The Climategate Emails and What they Mean Climategate began on 19 November 2009, when a whistle-blower leaked thousands of emails and documents central to a Freedom of Information request placed with the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom.
This institution has played a central role in the “climate change” debate. Its scientists, together with their international colleagues, quite literally put the “warming” into Global Warming: they were responsible for analysing and collating the various measurements of temperature from around the globe and that, going back for many years, collectively underpinned the central scientific argument that mankind’s liberation of “greenhouse” gases—particularly carbon dioxide—was leading to a relentless, unprecedented and ultimately catastrophic warming of the entire planet.
The key phrase here, from a scientific point of view, is that it is “unprecedented” warming. There is absolutely no doubt that mankind has liberated substantial quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the past two centuries. But mankind did not “create” this carbon dioxide out of nothing. It was released by the burning of “fossil fuels”, which were created over millions of years from the remains of plants and animals (who themselves ultimately obtained their nutrition from those plants). So where did those plants get their energy and carbon dioxide from?
They absorbed the radiant energy of the Sun, and breathed in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as plants continue to do today. In other words, when we burn fossil fuels, we are utilizing a small part of the solar energy that had been collected and stored by plants over millions of years, and in the process we are liberating into the atmosphere the carbon dioxide that those plants had absorbed from the atmosphere in the first place.
This may sound like a fairly benign sort of natural cycle, until you realize that a couple of hundred years is a mere blink of an eye compared with the millions of years it took for the planet to build up those resources. It is right for scientists to worry about whether that massive and almost instantaneous “kick” to the planet may throw the equilibrium of the biota into complete chaos. It is a valid question, of ultimate global importance—one that most people would have thought would have demanded the most careful, exacting and rigorous scientific analyses that mankind could muster.
Climategate has shattered that myth. It gives us a peephole into the work of the scientists investigating arguably the most important issue ever to face mankind.
Instead of seeing large collaborations of meticulous, careful, critical scientists, we instead see a small team of incompetent scientists; abusing almost every aspect of the framework of science to build a fence around themselves and their fellow activists, to prevent real scientists from seeing the shambles of their “research”. Most people find it impossible to believe that this could have happened; and it is only because “climate science” exploded from a relatively tiny corner of academia into a hugely funded industry in a matter of a few years that the perpetrators were able to get away with it for so long.
But, as wisely noted by both P. T. Barnum and Abraham Lincoln, You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.
An increasing number of highly qualified scientists slowly began to realize that the “climate science” community was a façade—and that the vitriolic attacks upon the sensible arguments of mathematicians, statisticians, and indeed of scientists using plain common sense were not the product of scientific rigour at all, but merely attempts at self-protection at any cost. At this point the veil began to lift on what has arguably become one of the greatest scientific frauds in the history of mankind.
This is one of the darker periods in the history of science. Those who love science, and all it stands for, will be pained by what they read below. However, the crisis is here, and cannot be avoided.
For simplicity, I have maintained the numerical and chronological order of the emails, as they appear in the Climategate files. I considered reorganizing them by topic, but quickly realized that this would require the replication of large numbers of excerpts—which would lengthen what is already a long document. Thus, the various issues involved in this scandal are explored chronologically, in parallel.
To assist the reader in getting acquainted with the various characters in this saga, I have colour-coded their emails, as described below. To make the emails understandable to any normal person, I have edited out scientific jargon, expanded acronyms where appropriate, and inserted explanatory comments where I thought it necessary. All of my comments, and the editing that I have done to the excerpts, are in black.
Unlike the Climategate perpetrators themselves, however, I have made all the raw data—the emails themselves, in unredacted raw text format—available through the Lavoisier Group website in an online version of this hard copy document. Simply go to the website at www.lavoisier.com.au, follow the obvious link to the PDF version, and you will find that the corresponding heading for each email contains a hyperlink to that original Climategate email. Thus, if you believe that I have excerpted from the email unfairly, or out of context, then you can simply read the original email to determine if that is the case.
So let us begin.
Cast of colourful characters Mike Mann: lead player in the United States Phil Jones: lead player in the United Kingdom Tom Wigley: older player who becomes increasingly worried about the unfolding scandal Keith Briffa: older player whose blunders lead the others to all but abandon him Ben Santer: dangerously arrogant and naive young player in the United States Other players: of varying degrees of complicity and integrity Skeptics and other unrelated parties March 6, 1996: email 0826209667 This earliest email of note in the Climategate collection reminds us that—as with many things in life—money plays a key role in this saga. Let me emphasize that Climategate is not riddled with financial scandals of Madoff magnitude. Rather, we are reminded of the fact that the entire industry of “climate science” was created out of virtually nothing, by means of a massive influx of funding that was almost universally one-sided in its requirement that its recipients find evidence for man-made climate change—rather than investigate whether or how much mankind had caused climate change.
In contrast to the trillions of dollars of global expenditure which these scientists urged world leaders to spend by the end of 2009, the amounts involved in funding their research appear trifling—typically measured in “mere” millions of dollars. But many “climate scientists” built their entire careers on this funding, and so it is not surprising that they became so completely dependent on this conditional lifeline that they singlemindedly focused on achieving the ends for which they were commissioned—and attacked any intruders who threatened it.
In this unfortunate case, a scientist in the former Soviet Union appears to descend to the level of tax evasion, in order to maximize the amount of money available. As
Stepan Shiyatov writes to Keith Briffa:
Also, it is important for us if you can transfer the … money on the personal accounts which we gave you earlier and the sum for one occasion transfer (for example, during one day) will not be more than 10,000 United States Dollars. Only in this case we can avoid big taxes … Unfortunately, all other emails relating to these cash transfers have either been lost, deleted, or withheld by the Climategate whistle-blower, so we don’t know whether Keith Briffa complied with this request or not.
I believe that this level of financial impropriety would be a rare occurrence—although it does highlight the fact that some of the people involved in this research were prepared to “bend the rules” in order to achieve their goals. It also reminds us that scientists in general are often ignorant of the requirements of the law; but, most of the time, this does not lead to any significant ramifications. Therefore, although there are other examples of low-level financial impropriety and misappropriation sprinkled throughout the Climategate emails, I do not believe that they are of any significance over and above the general comments that I have made here, and I will not explicitly list them in the following.
July 11, 1996: email 0837094033 In the next email we are introduced to a number of key aspects of Climategate, which run throughout the saga. The writer is Phil Jones, head of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England. The recipient is Alan Robock, a climate scientist who was, at the time, at the University of Maryland.
Phil Jones has apparently become aware of a climate skeptic in the United Kingdom—
seemingly the first, from his words:
Britain seems to have found its Pat Michaels / Fred Singer / Bob Balling / Dick Lindzen (American climate skeptics). Our population is only 25% of yours so we only get 1 for every 4 you have. His name in case you should come across him is Piers Corbyn. He is nowhere near as good as a couple of yours and he’s an utter prat but he’s getting a lot of air time at the moment.
Robock requires a translation into American English:
Could you please define “utter prat” for me? Sometimes I think we speak the same language, and sometimes I’m not so sure.