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Climategate Revised: Quotations from the Major Players

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- November 30, 2020

“It is possible that some areas of climate science have become sclerotic … too partisan, too centralized. The tribalism that some of the leaked emails display is something more usually associated with … primitive cultures.”

– Mike Hulme, CRU climate scientist. Quoted in Fred Pearce, The Climate Files (below)

Fred Pearce’s The Climate Files: The Battle for the Truth About Global Warming (2010) remains the definitive account of one of the greatest scientific scandals of our time. The book’s self-described summary states:

One of the world’s leading writers on climate change tells the inside story of the events leading up to the much-publicized theft of climate-change related emails. He explores the personalities involved, the feuds and disagreements at the heart of climate science, and the implications the scandal has for the future. In November 2009 it emerged that thousands of documents and emails had been stolen from one of the top climate science centers in the world. The emails appeared to reveal that scientists had twisted research in order to strengthen the case for global warming. With the UN’s climate summit in Copenhagen just days away, the hack could not have happened at a worse time for climate researchers, or at a better time for climate skeptics.

Although the scandal caused a media frenzy, the fact is that just about everything the public heard and read about the University of East Anglia emails is wrong. They are not, as some have claimed, the smoking gun for a great global warming hoax, nor do they reveal a sinister conspiracy by scientists to fabricate global warming data. They do, however, raise deeply disturbing questions about the way climate science is conducted, about researchers’ preparedness to block access to climate data and downplay flaws in their data, and about the siege mentality and scientific tribalism at the heart of the most important international issue of the age.

The second paragraph, certainly politically correct, can be reframed as the ends do not justify the means; emotions and agendas are the enemy of dispassionate science; and hiding and blocking data and methods from critics is suspicious and alarming.

Fred Pearce

The author of The Climate Files is no hack. His byline reads:

Fred Pearce has reported on environment, science, and development issues from 64 countries over the past 20 years. Trained as a geographer, he has been environment consultant of New Scientist magazine since 1992, has written for such publications as AudubonForeign PolicyPopular ScienceSeed, and Time, and has appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

He writes a weekly column for the Guardian, and recently published a 12-part investigation of the University of East Anglia “climategate” emails affair. His books include The Coming Population CrashConfessions of an Eco-Sinner, Earth: Then and Now, When the Rivers Run Dry, and With Speed and Violence.

Pearce himself was urged by the climate establishment to not write his history.

Some people–scientists, climate activists and even some journalists–have argued passionately that writing this story is folly. They say that it can only create confusion and undermine public confidence in the basic, unchallenged science of climate change. I disagree. (p. 7)

But he persevered to everyone’s benefit–except the agenda-driven alarmists that cannot let the “science” be questioned.

Quotations of Players

At the beginning of the book, Pearce provides quotations from each of the major players that together give the reader a helpful overview of the saga. Many of these quotations follow from the mainstream side and the skeptic side:

1. Climategate Side

Phil Jones [central figure as head of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, where the emails were located.]

“I know I’m on the right side and honest, but I seem to be telling myself this more often recently!”

Michael Mann: “Hockey Stick” manufacturer and central Climategate figure.

“This crowd of charlatans … look for one little thing they can say is wrong, and thus generalize that the science is entirely compromised.”

Keith Briffa: Climatologist who disagreed with Mann.

“I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story … but in reality the situation is not quite so simple.”

Mike Hume: CRU researcher.

“It is possible that some areas of climate science have become sclerotic … too partisan, too centralized. The tribalism that some of the leaked emails display is something more usually associated with … primitive cultures.”

Raymond Bradley: Climatologist, University of Massachusetts.

“As for thinking that it is ‘better that nothing appear, than something unacceptable to us’ … as though we are the gatekeepers of all that is acceptable in the world of paleoclimatology seems amazingly arrogant.”

Ben Santer: Climate modeler and CRU alumnus.

“[McIntyre] has no interest in rational scientific discource…. He is the self-appointed Joe McCarthy of climate science.”

Gavin Schmidt: Climatologist, NASA.

“Gravity isn’t a useful theory because Newton was a nice man.”

2. Skeptic Side

Steve McIntyre: mathematician, retired mineral prospector.

“CRU’s policies of obstructing critical articles in the peer-reviewed literature and withholding data from critics have unfortunately placed issues into play that might otherwise have been settled long ago.”

Ross McKitrick: Environmental Economist.

“The key ingredient in most of the studies that have been invoked to support the hockey stick … depends on the influence of a woefully thin subsample of trees and the exclusion of readily available date for the same area.”

Judith Curry: Climatologist.

“Climate tribes were established in response to the politically motivated climate disinformation machine … to circle the wagons and point the guns outward in an attempt to discredit misinformation.”

Lord Lawson: UK politician and founder, Global Warming Policy Foundation.

“Proper scientists, scientists with integrity, wish to reveal their data and all their methods. They do not require freedom of information requests.”

Tomorrow’s post commemorating the 11th anniversary of Climategate will focus on the role and character of Michael Mann, the infamous figure of what has also been called “The CRUtape Letters.”


  1. Ken Towe  

    Some additional interesting quotes…

    Phil Jones… Date: Mon Sep 28 10:20:14 2009

    “Maybe I’m misinterpreting what you’re saying, but the adjustments won’t reduce the 1940s blip but enhance it. It won’t change the 1940-44 period, just raise the 10 years after Aug 45.”

    “Land warming in the 1940s and late 1930s is mainly high latitude in NH.”

    At 06:25 28/09/2009, Tom Wigley wrote:

Here are some speculations on correcting SSTs to partly explain the 1940s warming blip. If you look at the attached plot you will see that the land also shows the 1940s blip (as I’m sure you know). So, if we could reduce the ocean blip by, say, 0.15 degC, then this would be significant for the global mean — but we’d still have to explain the land blip.”

    “The other interesting thing is (as Foukal et al. note — from
MAGICC) that the 1910-40 warming cannot be solar. The Sun can 
get at most 10% of this with Wang et al solar, less with Foukal
solar. So this may well be NADW, as Sarah and I noted in 1987
(and also Schlesinger later). A reduced SST blip in the 1940s
 makes the 1910-40 warming larger than the SH (which it
currently is not) — but not really enough. So … why was the SH so cold around 1910?”

    At 09:22 05/01/2005, Parker, David (Met Office) wrote:

There is a preference in the atmospheric observations chapter of IPCC
AR4 to stay with the 1961-1990 normals. This is partly because a change
 of normals confuses users, e.g. anomalies will seem less positive than
 before if we change to newer normals, so the impression of global 
warming will be muted. Also we may wish to wait till there are 30 years
of satellite data, i.e until we can compute 1981-2010 normals, which 
will then be globally complete for some parameters like sea surface 

    “Turkey indicates that they think their 1971-2000 Normals are more reliable than their 1961-1990 Normals. I would agree with them that they are probably correct in that. I believe the same could be said about the US Normals.

    1. Would it make a difference in climate monitoring? Yes for those users who make use of the anomaly values it could make a big difference. More important, probably, than reliability is that the climate changes over a decade and taking 1961-1970 out and substituting in 1991-2000 to the base period calculation may make a big difference in some cases.”


    • rbradley  

      Thank you Ken. Climategate’s snapshots in time is the gift that keeps in giving. Note, too, how the bias toward alarmism and policy activism influences researchers to not only game and spin but also to ignore research areas that might defuse the alarm. So it is not only what is being done but also what is not being done.


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