Editor Note: It was during Thanksgiving weekend 2009 that the unsettling oeuvre that became known as Climategate was disseminated. This post summarizes some remembrances from that period.
“There is no doubt that these emails are embarrassing and a public-relations disaster for science.” (Andrew Dessler, “Climate E-Mails Cloud the Debate,” December 10, 2009)
“They were shown: contriving to destroy inconvenient data in order to evade FOI inquiries; attempting to shut down scientific journals which published studies unhelpful to their cause; viciously bullying dissenters; even trying to rewrite history, for example, to erase the widely recognised Medieval Warming Period.” (James Delingpole, “My Finest Hour,” November 9, 2019)
Climategate lives in infamy. It remains a historic case study of agendas driving “science” rather than science informing agendas. Fourteen years ago, climate alarmists and friends of the involved scientists (including Dessler above) went into damage control. But with such an evidentiary record of malpractice, books solidified the record such as:
Fred Pearce’s The Climate Files: The Battle for the Truth About Global Warming (2010) is a reasonably fair mainstream look at the episode.
Here are some remembrances for the record. Expect more of a flurry of interest and lookbacks next year when Climategate turns 15.
“Of course, if you believe the mainstream media, Climategate was little more than a fake news story concocted by a small cabal of wicked deniers in order to discredit the noble cause of climate science. This is a lie and a particularly dangerous lie at that.”
“Climategate was the scandal that exposed this truth to the world. And that’s why the increasingly powerful alarmist Establishment has long fought so hard to play down its significance. The alarmists — helped by a lazily complicit media — are trying to do to the scandal what Harvey Keitel’s Winston ‘The Wolf’ Wolfe character did in Pulp Fiction: clean up the bodies, pretend nothing untoward ever happened.”
“My own involvement in Climategate was actually quite modest. At least, the heavy lifting was done by people much more diligent and scientifically minded than me, such as Steve McIntyre, Willis Eschenbach, Joanna Nova, Anthony Watts, Lucia Liljegren, Andrew Montford, Ross McKitrick, Fred Pearce, Roger Tallbloke, Christopher Booker, David Rose, Jeff Id, Jean S, Steven Mosher, and many others.”
“What Climategate revealed, however, is that the climate change ‘experts’ we’re supposed to trust just aren’t trustworthy. They lie, they cheat, they’re motivated more by grant-troughing and dodgy political activism than they are by — lol — the disinterested quest for knowledge. That was the real shocker at the time of Climategate: that the people on whose ‘expert’ wisdom trillions of dollars worth of your money and my money are being spent on sundry green boondoggles are in fact a lousy bunch of fraudulent second-raters unfit to run a cookie bake sale, let alone a scam involving upwards of one percent of the global economy.”
“In November 2009 I was in Brussels at a climate skeptic conference being put on by Hans Lobohm. I remember the first message I got…. “You need to look at this!“. Then reading the emails, wide-eyed, and realizing I [decided] … under no circumstances would we write anything about it or release it until I was back on U.S. soil. Then, after clearing customs at Dulles two days later, I sat down in the airport, and wrote the story, breaking the news on the 19th.”
“Luckily, James Delingpole picked up the story for his column, and its entry into the British newspaper The Telegraph started the chain reaction that made the story grow, becoming the ‘worst scientific scandal of our generation‘.”
“But while proponents of ‘the cause’ (most notably the execrable Michael E. Mann in a recent op-ed for Newsweek) pat themselves on the back comforting each other with ‘there’s nothing to see here’, there are reasons to rejoice about Climategate ten years later.”
“Climategate brought chaos to Copenhagen aka COP15 – critically wounding the prospects of cap-and-trade legislation in the process. It helped the world dodge the climate mania bullet for 5 years, until the Paris accord in 2015.”
Donald Trump became aware of the Climategate story, years before he became President, and I have to think (since he has mentioned it) that it affected his opinion…. And as we know, as President, he fulfilled his campaign promises and pulled the USA out of the Paris Climate Accord, and gutted the draconian EPA.
“For [the above], I am proud to have had a part, along with the Heartland Institute, whose advice and support gave Trump even more ammunition to pull off the withdrawal from the Paris accord.”
“There was no exoneration [of Climategate] by any objective analysis of the various inquiries. Ross McKitrick lays all this out in his article Understanding the Climategate Inquiries.”
“The scientists involved in the email exchanges manipulated evidence in IPCC and WMO reports with the effect of misleading readers, including policymakers. The divergence problem was concealed by deleting data to ‘hide the decline.’ The panels that examined the issue in detail, namely Muir Russell’s panel, concurred that the graph was ‘misleading.’ The ridiculous attempt by the Penn State Inquiry to defend an instance of deleting data and splicing in other data to conceal a divergence problem only discredits their claims to have investigated the issue.”
“The scientists privately expressed greater doubts or uncertainties about the science in their own professional writings and in their interactions with one another than they allowed to be stated in reports of the IPCC or WMO that were intended for policymakers. Rather than criticise the scientists for this, the inquiries (particularly the House of Commons and Oxburgh inquiries) took the astonishing view that as long as scientists expressed doubts and uncertainties in their academic papers and among themselves, it was acceptable for them to conceal those uncertainties in documents prepared for policy makers.”
“… academics reading the emails could see quite clearly the tribalism at work, and in comparison to other fields, climatology comes off looking juvenile, corrupt and in the grip of a handful of self-appointed gatekeepers and bullies.”
“Given the huge stakes and the serious structural issues surrounding the assessment of climate science and policy that had emerged from Climategate, these concerns of the climate scientists seem small-minded and naïve, not to mention counter-productive – ‘circling the wagons’ even tighter made the situation even worse.”
“At the time of Climategate, public advocacy by climate scientists of climate policy was generally frowned upon, and only a few senior, well-established scientists dared to do this (e.g. Jim Hansen). At this point, climate scientist/activists are very large in number, and such activism seems to be a ticket to professional success.”
“… Climategate lives on in numerous lawsuits that Michael Mann has filed related to criticisms of his behavior related to the hockeystick. Most of these lawsuits continue to languish since they were filed about 8 years ago (although Mann did lose his lawsuit against Tim Ball). With these lawsuits, there is no denying that the impacts of Climategate are still playing out.”
Update: The New “Denialists”
Some of the involved scientists, such as Michael Mann, as well as a five-part series of blogs at DESMOG have felt it necessary to relive the controversy. None dare do the most simple thing: provide the quotations. (I provided a dirty dozen here that speak for themselves.)
While the fossil fuel industry had for decades sought to forestall regulation of carbon emissions, Climategate illustrated the depths of dishonesty to which denialists were willing to sink in their efforts to sabotage action on climate. It was a tacit admission on their part that they no longer had a legitimate case to make.
And so citing “Climategate” as a reason for inaction has become a simple “tell” in the climate discourse. Those who do it are acting in bad faith. They are not honest actors expressing true belief. They are dissemblers intentionally misrepresenting the science and the scientists to score political points on behalf of the fossil fuel interests whose bidding they are doing.
Such an interpretation is wishful versus actual history. (It is not known who hacked the emails; just that they were hacked.) And Michael Mann was at the center of it, inspiring one professional climatologist to humorously opine that Mann “belongs in the state pen, not Penn State.”