Climategate Defense Spin Fails

Duncan Riley

If you've been following significant parts of the blogosphere for the last few days, you would have heard by now about "Climategate," the leaked emails from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia, one of the leading bodies supporting man-made global warming.

The emails ( has a decent summary of them here) show people connected to the University (and in the broader field) discussing ways to overcome climate change skeptics, including the way data is presented.

No matter which side of the fence you sit on when it comes to the idea of man-made climate change, the contents of the emails should be disturbing. But what perhaps is more disturbing is the defense put up in response to the leaked emails, because as spin goes it completely fails.

The general line, repeated across the mainstream media (often without challenge) and by those involved is that "the e-mails have been taken out of context and merely reflect an honest exchange of ideas" or as Michael Mann claims, skeptics are "taking these words totally out of context to make something trivial appear nefarious."

The main focus of the defense has been on the interpretation of an email from Professor Phil Jones where he claims of using a ‘“trick" to “hide the decline” in global temperatures. The defense argues that the term "trick" is not suggestive of anything untoward, but is a scientific related term that is standard practice in cleaning up data.

I seek to claim nothing on that contention, because I simply don't know. However, which parts of the attempt to delete public data possibly subject to a Freedom of Information request is open to interpretation or lacks context?

Phil Jones

Mike, Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise. He’s not in at the moment – minor family crisis. Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don’t have his new email address. We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.

Phil Jones again

The skeptics seem to be building up a head of steam here! ... The IPCC comes in for a lot of stick. Leave it to you to delete as appropriate! Cheers Phil PS I’m getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don’t any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act !

More Phil Jones, where he at least considered that deleting emails could be wrong:

Haven’t got a reply from the FOI person here at UEA. So I’m not entirely confident the numbers are correct. One way of checking would be to look on CA, but I’m not doing that. I did get an email from the FOI person here early yesterday to tell me I shouldn’t be deleting emails - unless this was ‘normal’ deleting to keep emails manageable!

Or how about telling the truth? How is this different in context?

Michael Mann

Perhaps we'll do a simple update to the Yamal post, e.g. linking Keith/s new page--Gavin t? As to the issues of robustness, particularly w.r.t. inclusion of the Yamal series, we actually emphasized that (including the Osborn and Briffa '06 sensitivity test) in our original post! As we all know, this isn't about truth at all, its about plausibly deniable accusations.

Or what about the issue of global temperatures cooling in the last decade, a point that many statistics show but is likewise denied by these scientists? What's the context here?

Kevin Trenberth

The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.

Mick Kelly

Yeah, it wasn’t so much 1998 and all that that I was concerned about, used to dealing with that, but the possibility that we might be going through a longer – 10 year – period of relatively stable temperatures beyond what you might expect from La Nina etc. Speculation, but if I see this as a possibility then others might also. Anyway, I’ll maybe cut the last few points off the filtered curve before I give the talk again as that’s trending down as a result of the end effects and the recent cold-ish years.

If you support the idea of man-made global warming, you should support a proper inquiry into the contents of these emails because there's no wrong interpretation on points where scientists collude to delete information, or state that the truth is irrelevant to their science.

The spin so far epically fails, and without a proper inquiry these emails are a serious scandal that undermines the science being pushed that backs the idea of man-made global warming.