Return to Website

Number Watch Web Forum

This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.

Number Watch Web Forum
Start a New Topic 

I haven't been following climate gate for some years now but got interested again recently. My question is, has anything new (e.g. new allegations) arisen out of the climate gate 2 email, or is it the same stuff rehashed? What is the general skeptical opinion of the second post and the letter that followed it? Thanks.

Re: Climategate

As I remember it, Climategate consisted of three distinct stages of e-mail releases: Climategate 1 In Nov 2009, Climategate 2 in Nov 2011 and Climategate 3 in Mar 2013. However CG2 and CG3 just produced material that was generally similar to what had been previously released for CG1, and while there was still a lot of interest in CG2 and CG3 in the AGW sceptic blogosphere, the mainstream media didn't really take much interest in these two later stages.

I have wondered what the idea was behind the release of the e-mails in stages, I assumed back in 2009 that it might have been inspired by the UK MPs expenses scandal that took place earlier that year in May 2009. In the expenses scandal, the Daily Telegraph newspaper released details of MPs expense claims, but only gave details for a handful of MPs at a time, and did this on a daily basis for something like a month or more. The gradual release of material would be mainly intended to improve the sales of the newspaper, but it also had the effect of subjecting the British political establishment to a more prolonged state of embarrassment than they had probably ever experienced before. However in the case of the CRU e-mails, if the objective was to expose scientific malpractice or the suspicion of such malpractice, then it would have been better to release the material all in one go.

In regard to the letter associated with Climategate, I assume you're talking about this one written by 'Mr FOIA':


To give a few comments on the letter, firstly it confirms what was suspected by many back in 2009 that the timing of the first release was intended to disrupt the much-trumpeted Copenhagen climate change conference that took place in Dec 2009.

The letter doesn't shed much light on an issue that was of some interest to AGW sceptics - whether it was a hack or a leak. The pro-AGW side always claimed that Climategate was a hack, but sceptics kept pointing out that it might possibly be a leak. The Wikipedia article on Climategate, which actually calls it the "Climatic Research Unit e-mail controversy", describes it as a hack. Mr FOIA doesn't say whether he was employed by or working on some contract for the University of East Anglia, which might clarify whether it was a leak.

I've always assumed that the hacker/leaker is from the UK, but Mr FOIA claims he isn't, and gives the impression in the letter that he is actually a Continental European - for example he refers to the "papal plural" suggesting he is from a Catholic country, uses the Continental-style 220.000 instead of 220,000, and adopts American English spellings (as I think they tend to do in Europe) like favorable for favourable, endeavor for endeavour and subsidize for subsidise. But it would be pretty easy to fake those various 'clues' as to his origin.

Re: Climategate

Thanks for your response, Dave.

My understanding of the first Climategate release was that it was the file put together by the University in response to Steve McIntyre's FOI request, that is code and data for creating the tree ring reconstruction that featured in the 4th IPCC report together with related email. It should have been turned over to McIntyre, and the material in it should have lead to "Canadian Scientist discovers IPCC Fraud" headlines. The intervention of the hacker had three effects: it cast a pall of illegality over the file; it focused attention on the email; and it made it appear that it was a problem confined to the University, rather than with the IPCC and the scientists who prepared the graph. Ergo, there was no hacker; rather it was a leak by the Hadley group or one of its members intended to reduce the damage the material was going to cause. The followups are inconsistent with the first post, and from what I've seen go out of their way to try and establish the existence of the hacker by confirming everything the group has said without providing anything new.

Sounds like conspiracy theory , but people who would commit fraud to support their theory would be capable of it.

Re: Climategate

I don't think many AGW sceptics were or are all that bothered about what was going on behind the scenes with the release of the CRU material, on the basis that "you don't look a gift horse in the mouth". Whatever was going on, the release of the material was very helpful to the sceptic cause.

I remember in the days of Climategate 1, a few AGW sceptic blogs produced some posts explaining why the incident was far more likely to be a leak by an insider than a hack by an outsider. An example of this would be this post by the enviro-sceptic blogger "Pointman", who outlines the substantial amount of patient effort that would be required by a hacker to carry out this activity, with no particular reason to suppose beforehand that the acquired material would have any impact:


There was a police investigation into Climategate, but the investigators decided to give up in mid-2012:


The police did investigate the internal leak theory, but could find no evidence that it was an inside job, and concluded that "the data breach was the result of a sophisticated and carefully orchestrated attack on the CRU’s data files, carried out remotely via the internet".

However I think a police investigation depends very much on the co-operation of the victims of the crime, and I can imagine the CRU staff not being at all helpful to an investigator who tried to pursue the leak theory. The pro-AGW side, including the climate science community, seem to have convinced themselves from day one that this was a hack. In the left-liberal politics that tends to go hand-in-hand with being on the pro-AGW side, leakers or whistleblowers are seen as quite noble people, examples being Julian Assange and Edward Snowdon, and the AGWers probably can't imagine themselves having been betrayed by one of these 'noble' individuals.