The biggest news story of the day is one that has barely begun to break and will continue to reverberate for months or years to come. Someone hacked into a computer at the University of East Anglia’s Hadley Climatic Research Centre, one of the main centers of anthropogenic global warming research. The hacker downloaded over 200 megabytes of data from the server, consisting of around 1,000 emails and a variety of other documents. He uploaded them to an FTP server, where they were available to the public, apparently, for only a few hours. The event is described here.
Before the documents disappeared from that location, several people had downloaded them and posted them in other locations. I downloaded all of the material earlier today and have begun to review it. The emails are stunning. They are authored by many of the leading figures in the global warming movement: Michael Mann, James Hansen, Phil Jones, Keith Briffa, Stephen Schneider, and others. They are remarkably candid; these individuals talk to each other with the knowledge that they are among friends.
The emails I’ve reviewed so far do not suggest that these scientists are perpetrating a knowing and deliberate hoax. On the contrary, they are true believers. I don’t doubt that they are sincerely convinced–in fact, fanatically so–that human activity is warming the earth. But the emails are disturbing nonetheless. What they reveal, more than anything, is a bunker mentality. These pro-global warming scientists see themselves as under siege, and they view AGW skeptics as bitter enemies. They are often mean-spirited; the web site American Thinker is referred to as “American Stinker;” at one point an emailer exults in the death of a global warming skeptic; another one suggests that the Ph.D. of a prominent skeptic should be revoked because of an error he made decades ago in his dissertation; another says that he is tempted to “beat the crap out of” the same scientist. The emails show beyond any reasonable doubt that these individuals are engaged in politics, not science.
They also suggest that pro-global warming scientists fudge data to get the results they are looking for. Just over a month ago, on September 28, 2009, Tom Wigley wrote to Phil Jones of the Hadley Centre about his efforts to get the right-sized “blip” in temperatures of the 1940s:
Phil, 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.
I’ve chosen 0.15 here deliberately. This still leaves an ocean blip, and i think one needs to have some form of ocean blip to explain the land blip (via either some common forcing, or ocean forcing land, or vice versa, or all of these). When you look at other blips, the land blips are 1.5 to 2 times (roughly) the ocean blips — higher sensitivity plus thermal inertia effects. My 0.15 adjustment leaves things consistent with this, so you can see where I am coming from. Removing ENSO does not affect this.
It would be good to remove at least part of the 1940s blip, but we are still left with “why the blip”.
This and many other emails convey the impression that these theorists are making the “science” up as they go along, with data being manipulated until it yields the results that have been predetermined by political conviction.
Left-wing politics is a common theme of the emails. Thus, Michael Mann, author of the notorious “hockey stick” hoax, attacked those who don’t buy the AGW theory on September 30, 2009:
Its part of the attack of the corporate-funded attack machine, i.e. its a direct and highly intended outcome of a highly orchestrated, heavily-funded corporate attack campaign. We saw it over the summer w/ the health insurance industry trying to defeat Obama’s health plan, we’ll see it now as the U.S. Senate moves on to focus on the cap & trade bill that passed congress this summer.
This sort of paranoid thinking is odd, since the vast majority of the money in climate science is on the pro-global warming side. Among themselves, the pro-AGW scientists make no bones about their desire to get their hands on some of that cash. Thus, a British scientist wrote last month:
How should I respond to the below? [an article questioning AGW theory] (I’m in the process of trying to persuade Siemens Corp. (a company with half a million employees in 190 countries!) to donate me a little cash to do some CO2 measurments here in the UK – looking promising, so the last thing I need is news articles calling into question (again) observed temperature increases–
No wonder pro-global warming scientists are dogmatically committed to their theory, no matter what the data say: their livelihoods, as well as their professional reputations, depend on it. As a result, they conduct themselves like a secret cabal. Outsiders–that is to say, independent thinkers–are viewed with suspicion. One of the most striking emails I’ve come across so far is from Michael Mann to Phil Jones. It replies to an email from Jones that was copied to another scientist named Andy, relating to a recent fiasco in which tree ring research that was a basis for the U.N.’s IPCC report on global warming proved to be inaccurate if not fraudulent. [UPDATE: A reader says that “Andy” is Andy Revkin of the New York Times. That’s possible, but I can’t see anyplace in this email or elsewhere where “Andy” is identified.] Mann included this postscript in his reply:
p.s. be a bit careful about what information you send to Andy and what emails you copy him in on. He’s not as predictable as we’d like
A world in which those who are “not as predictable as we’d like” are viewed with suspicion is a world of politics, not science.
Much more to come. In the morning, we’ll see how liberal scientists circled the wagons to stave off criticism of inaccurate or fraudulent tree ring data.
UPDATE: This is the email that has gotten the most attention so far:
The language is certainly suggestive–using a “trick” to “hide the decline.” This is one of many emails that suggest pro-global warming scientists manipulate data freely to achieve their desired political ends, but it’s possible the words used could have a relatively benign explanation. The surrounding emails do not provide context that sheds any light on what those words mean.
UPDATE: More here.