2010-08-19 15:15:33Draft post Climategate CRU emails suggest conspiracy


[This is a very early draft, but wanted some early feedback to ensure I'm on the right track. As such very rough, however looking for early feedback on 1) length 2) tone style 3) grammar/spelling and 4) clarity for a lay audience:

In November 2009 the servers of the University of East Anglia were illegally hacked and emails were released. Select portions of those emails published on the internet and "Climategate", as it was quickly labelled, gained significant coverage in the media.

or those already sceptical of the claims of scientists, the emails seemed to confirm their suspicions of a conspiracy to falsify data. While there is no denying that some of the contents of the emails where embarrassing, they mostly reveal the frustrations of scientists with "climate sceptics".

During the course of 2010 a series of independent inquires looked into allegations that scientists had falsified data or engaged in fraudulent behaviour. Each one delivered a verdict of "not guilty", thus vindicating the reputation of the scientists.

Hide the decline and "the trick"

The most quoted email is from Phil Jones discussing paleo-data used to reconstruct past temperatures:

"I've just completed Mike's Nature 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."

"Mike's Nature trick" refers to a technique (aka "trick of the trade") used in a 1998 paper published in Nature by lead author Michael Mann. The "trick" is the technique for plotting recent instrumental data along with reconstructed data. This places recent global warming trends in context over longer time frames.

The "decline" does not refer to declining temperatures, but a decline in the reliability of tree rings to reflect temperatures after 1960. This is known as the "divergence problem" where tree ring proxies diverge from temperature records after 1960, an issue well understood by climate scientists.

laced in context, the contents of the email are readily understandable, as Jones comments relate to data handling techniques. They are in no way evidence of a conspiracy as others have tried to infer.

Other emails widely quoted reveal a simular pattern of being taken out of context, and can thus be easily explained.

nvestigations conclude no evidence of fraud

A number of independent inquires were established to investigate the actions of the scientists and allegations of fraud. To date four independent inquires have concluded that….


While some people continue to claim the hacked emails provide evidence of a conspiracy, the investigations conducted in 2010 have exonerated scientists of any fraudulent behaviour. 

important is Climategate in context with the actual science?  

The controversy was mostly fuelled by individuals deliberately cherry picking quotes from the contents of the emails and using them out of context. Focussing on a few suggestive emails merely serves to distract from the wealth of empirical evidence for man-made global warming.

2010-08-19 15:59:31


"...where illegally hacked and emails were stolen." ---> "were" for "where"


On a general note, no official investigation has clarified whether the emails were hacked or removed by somebody w/access. What we do know is that they were stolen. So if I were doing this I'd use "stolen" instead of "hacked." Theft is what happened so "stolen" is the best word. 

I'd also increase the assertiveness of the "How important is Climategate in context with the actual science?" The theft of the emails had zero impact on the science as we know it, has not caused any revisions, retractions or recalculations. The thefts and subsequent associated PR campaign may have stimulated some rethinking on data access but that has no bearing on what we presently know of climate behavior.

This is a great start and I think will not need much more work. 

2010-08-19 16:20:09Where/were


Thanks Doug... my usual where/were dyslexia :)

I actually had more on the impact on the science, but that might confuse. I'll place more emphasis on how it "proves" the science remains robust.

2010-08-19 16:28:20Tricky subject
Graham Wayne

Hi - following on from Doug's point, I wouldn't even use the word 'stolen'. I'd use the word 'released' - less emotive and sounds less defensive too.

Generally, Doug's point is for me the key to this matter. The science remains intact. You have chosen to address certain points, like 'hide the decline' but personally I wouldn't get that far into the mud. What this farrago reveals is that denialists have so little to work with that is legitimate, they need to construct massive, time and money wasting campaigns designed to discredit people and institutions, rather than the work they do. The work remains intact, all allegations have been found to be without substance, and what we are left with is some people whose emails reflect the duress they are subject to all the time. If they sound defensive and display a ghetto mentality, it is because of the constant attacks perpetrated on them by the same people who then took exception to the emails in which these unhappy scientists expressed their frustration, assuming they were doing so in private.

It's a different emphasis, but one that reveals the denialist's methods, which I think is helpful in the propaganda war this has become, and that denialists foisted on us.

2010-08-19 16:43:35Typos


"...Mike's Nature trick of adding..."

"While some people continue to clime the hacked" --> claim

2010-08-19 17:07:45


Thanks, some very good suggestions.

I was going to use the second section to address the issue of the science remaining robust by using the inquires to support this argument. Agree that this needs to have a strong emphasis, so feedback very constructive.

Re use of "theft" versus "released" I'm still inclined to say stolen, as the CRU itself uses similar terminology:

I think it is OK to emphasis the fact that they got hacked, and the materials were illegally removed. Otherwise it panders to the frequent denier fantasy that the emails where "liberated" by a CRU insider.

[Note: thought about, released may be better]

My first attempt, I think it will get there pretty soon!

2010-08-19 21:34:27Comment
Robert Way

The major investigations concluded there was no fraudulent behavior but they did conclude that more open-ness and the more readily available access to data and methods is required.

Perhaps include something about how gossiping about colleagues was hijacked as meaning scientists were trying to destroy skeptics.

I wouldn't put in the words "trick of the trade" it sounds like you're trying to massage people to view it a certain way.

Lets just let the people come to their own conclusion based upon the independent inquiries which find no fraudulent behavior

Off the record,
This whole climategate fiasco has had a lot to do with changing public's perception of climatologists and the failure of the copenhagen agreement. It came at an unfortunate time really though. Most of the quotes are clearly out of context and so on but there is behavior there which is shown that even I have to admit crosses ethical boundaries. To clearly vindicate the scientists 100% is not something anyone will believe. I prefer to look at it like this. It was (and still is) a bareknuckle brawl so it may not always be pretty but such is the way of science sometimes. No data manipulation, no problem
2010-08-19 21:58:13I like it!
John Russell


Geerally I like it. There's no 'quick reposte' to this argument, so I think it does the trick as best it can.

Only one comment, I'd suggest ending with something like a quote from one of the reports.  So the final line would read... 

In their report, the British House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee said that, as far as it was able to ascertain, “the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact,’’ adding that nothing in the more than 1,000 stolen e-mails, or the controversy kicked up by their publication, challenged scientific consensus that “global warming is happening and that it is induced by human activity.’’

I got the above from an assocoated press article: http://www.boston.com/news/science/articles/2010/03/31/british_inquiry_clears_scientists_in_climate_data_scandal/

Best wishes,


2010-08-20 04:15:01Released versus stolen, stolen versus hacked


"Released" introduces ambiguity that does not exist, opens the way for confusion.

"Released" may be interpreted as "CRU released the emails" or "a malefactor released the emails." Forcing readers to make this decision is not helpful.

We know as a fact that the emails were not "released" by CRU, they were obtained outside of official channels, purloined or stolen, then published.

As to "hacked" versus "stolen,"  the use of "hacked" again introduces ambiguity and is a euphemism in this case for "theft." If I break into a safe with a welding torch and take money, I'm not a welder, I'm a thief. If I hack into a server and take a file, I'm not a hacker,  I'm a thief. If I creep into my office at night and download a file and take it offsite to be illegally distributed, I'm not an office worker, I'm a thief.

2010-08-20 05:40:54
John Russell


I agree with Doug's point.

In the interests of brevity (which, as some have come to realise, is my middle name) how about  simply...

"In November 2009, emails at the University of East Anglia were illegally taken and select portions published on the internet and in the press. "Climategate", as it was quickly labelled by sceptics, soon gained significant coverage in the media."

I think this objective approach makes it clear that it's only sceptics and deniers who think of it as a '...gate' -- that is, a scandal. We also know nothing about how the emails got into the hands of those wanting to make mischief and I think this suggestion reflects that.

Best wishes,


2010-08-20 05:52:46


"Illegally taken" is indeed the best we can say, most accurate.

Point on X-Gate is good. (Instrumentation failure --> SatelliteGate? Puh-leeze...)

2010-08-20 08:34:34Taken Illegally...
John Russell

'Taken illegally' would be even better! I was a bit slow not to spot that split infinitive!
2010-08-20 09:26:44


Thanks guys some very good suggestions - should have a finalised draft today.


2010-08-20 12:35:23"made public without authorization"


I think the statement above "made public without authorization" is probably as good as any.  It was used in the latest review.

Good start and nearly done.


2010-08-20 17:55:28Rockytom nails it
Graham Wayne

'made public without authorization' is better than my suggestion. Think that's the best one yet...

...as for the rest, this is damn tricky. Not sure what I think about the approach, since virtually any way you come at it has pitfalls. What's the take-home point? I think it is that the science hasn't changed one jot and the whole thing was manufactured by opponents with no science to support their agenda.

2010-08-21 05:53:08

If "made public without authorization" is the official word, can't do better.
2010-08-24 07:24:19


I'll have this wrapped up tomorrow, been at a work two day conference.

Final draft then hopefully good to go.


Mike aka WTD

2010-08-30 17:46:00Ping

Mike, ya still there?
2010-08-31 01:07:52Comment
Robert Way

May I suggest somewhere the words that Gavin Schmidt used to describe this situation

"More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords. The truly paranoid will put this down to the hackers also being in on the plot though."

2010-09-04 19:02:49I think you have to admit


that inappropriate remarks were made about dealing with "Freedom of Information act" requests. This has to be defended on the grounds of being harassed.