How will the media handle Climategate Version 2.0?

In 2009, emails, apparently stolen, from the University of East Anglia’s server were published in snippets. The emails were the private correspondence between some of the world’s top climate science researchers. The blogosphere and mainstream media (MSM) picked up on the hacked emails and found words and phrases too delicious to pass up, or to attempt to understand and put them back into context.

And so, the world was treated to the private emails of some of the people who were part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and found what the writers believed was a shocking treasure. The emails demonstrated that the scientists sometimes disagreed with each other.

The media seized on words found in the emails, like “trick” and “hide the decline.” Taken out of context, the words raised eyebrows and resulted in a loss of confidence in the climate change argument.

Five investigations were launched. Three of the investigations were conducted in Great Britain, where the University of East Anglia is situated. Two were conducted in the United States, where a number of the emailing scientists lived and worked. The result of each of the investigations found no scientific wrongdoing.

Some of the investigations suggested that scientists be more circumspect when communicating with one another. Don’t be so critical of other scientists, they seemed to say. Don’t blame the fossil-fuel industry funded obfuscators for your difficulties. Don’t get angry at the thousands of requests for your research documents from those who seek to destroy your work. Don’t, in other words, be so human.

Out of context
When the out-of-context words that had so jazzed up the Fox News Channel folks were put back into context, those words lost their punch. Nobody was trying to hide a decline from the public. In fact, the scientists had published their findings long before the emails were stolen. And the decline the scientists were talking about had nothing to do with the decline the reporters were talking about. My saddest recollection of the 2009 imbroglio is how awful the mainstream media handled the story.

You don’t hear much about that “climategate” anymore. Now, the question is: How will the blogosphere and the mainstream media handle what is being called Climategate Version 2.0?

Apparently, the original hackers of the 2009 emails have dumped another 5,000 on the public. (A searchable database of the stolen emails can be found here.)

These emails seem to have been taken in the original theft and held back for some reason. (None of the new emails are more recent than 2009.)

I think I have an inkling of what that reason may be. The first stolen emails were made public on the eve of the Copenhagen summit on climate science. It seemed purposeful. This email dump comes on the eve of the global climate conference in Durban, South Africa.

Coincidence?  Its purpose, I am assuming, is to derail the conference and any agreements that might be made to curb CO2 emissions. Copenhagen wasn’t a complete failure, but there weren’t many successes, and the hackers might have popped the vodka in celebration.

I mention vodka, as opposed to champagne, since there is an oddity in this most recent email cache. Whenever a number in the thousands appears in the emails, the transcriber has inserted a period where most of us usually put a comma. Example: We write 237,532. They write 237.532. That kind of mathematic punctuation occurs most often in…get ready — Russia! It also is used all over Europe, but I wanted to see what it felt like to be hysterical.

Gold mine for deniers
I’ve read most of the emails. There is a gold mine there if you are an out-of-context kind of reporter. I’m not, particularly. The denier community is already at work. They have found certain words in the emails from which to make hay. There are several instances in which scientists use the word “cause,” as in, your science is good for the cause. Deniers will say: “See. The scientists are trying to scare us into following their cause.”

Or it could be that the scientists may have another cause in mind. My guess is that the cause they are supporting is knowledge over belief. Scientific fact over ideology. Proof over politics. Seems like a cause worth fighting for, to me.

As an outside observer of mainstream media these days, it will be interesting to see if the MSM learned any lessons from its egg-on-the-face rush to judgment in 2009. It appears, at first blush, the MSM has learned a lesson. Many outlets are openly critical of the hack, deliberate in their approach to the information, and looking for context.

The scientists have learned lessons, as well. They have learned that their natural paranoia is grounded in fact. There are people out to get them.

I wonder if the mainstream media can spare just one reporter to find out who in the world is trying to destroy the laws of physics and the scientists who abide by them.

I’ve got some free time.

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Comments (19)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/23/2011 - 12:28 pm.

    “The emails demonstrated that the scientists sometimes disagreed with each other.”

    Well Don, that’s gotta be a shocker to all the warmers out there swinging CONSENSUS around like a mace, eh?

    “Five investigations were launched. Three of the investigations were conducted in Great Britain, where the University of East Anglia is situated.”

    Right, and one of those investigations, that found nothing to look at, was conducted by…wait for it….East Anglia!

    “Two were conducted in the United States, where a number of the emailing scientists lived and worked.”

    Right. One conducted by the Penn state, which oddly enough was where the most tainted US emailing scientist, Michael Mann, works and the other by NOAA which was implicated as well!

    Nothin’ to see here folks, move along.

    (BTW Don, Shawn is claiming 6 investigations…didn’t you guys compare notes?)

    That being said, it’s nice of Don to offer to take time out from constructing his Excelsior tribute to the Intuit to take up the cause.

  2. Submitted by Steve Rose on 11/23/2011 - 01:30 pm.


    Since much of the research is publicly funded and performed by public universities, shouldn’t the emails regarding climate science research be available to the public? Are we stealing what we paid for?

    I am anxious to see what weather the Durban conference participants experience. Copenhagen had a rare snowfall for the 2009 conference; 2010 host Cancun set a record minimum temperature of 53 degrees, besting the former record low by 4 degrees.

    Don, did you consider a Viking ship for your landscape art? Inuits moved into Greenland around 1250, about the time Norse Vikings were beginning to disappear due to harsh climate change. Inuits, who were well suited to the climate of the Medieval Little Ice Age, survived in conditions that the Vikings could not.

  3. Submitted by Don Shelby on 11/23/2011 - 02:06 pm.

    Mr. Swift,
    I’d love to interview you for MinnPost. Would you be willing?
    Don Shelby

  4. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 11/23/2011 - 03:21 pm.

    Without public funding, no part of the internet would exist as it now does. Does this mean we get to look at your personal emails, too? We pay for the Pentagon’s communications, too. Should we justify hacking the Pentagon’s servers by saying you can’t steal publicly paid information because it should be public knowledge? I think not. What we paid for was ALREADY PUBLIC in the form of peer-reviewed journal articles and conference presentations.

  5. Submitted by Lance Groth on 11/23/2011 - 04:25 pm.

    I actually agree with part of Mr. Swift’s scattershot blast in #1 – “nothin’ to see here.” Just more of the same – stolen emails that show nothing out of order in terms of the science. Just more desperation by people who have no legitimate science to support their position, and so resort to theft and out of context quoting to try to confuse people. Yup, nothin’ to see here.

    Regarding Don’s suggestion in #3, I say first hack Mr. Swift’s emails, then interview him. Let’s see if he musters more outrage over illegal activity directed against him than he does about illegal activity employed by his side against others. More hypocrisy by the moralistic right wing.

    Um, more seriously, exactly what would you interview him about, Don? Just curious. I would read it, I must admit. C’mon, Swiftie, go for it!

  6. Submitted by Steve Rose on 11/23/2011 - 04:28 pm.


    The freedom of information act does not apply to private emails or other private traffic on the internet.

    However, it does apply to the content of the emails in question. Emails regarding publicly funded research should be available for public review.

    BTW, if you believe that your emails are secure, you are mistaken.

  7. Submitted by Tom Clark on 11/23/2011 - 05:22 pm.

    Seems to me that if there was a climate change conspiracy afoot that there’d be no problem disproving it out in the open, rather than engage in character assassination. The reason we’re seeing this sort of underhanded tactic employed yet again is that the deniers can’t dispute the science. Yawn.

  8. Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 11/23/2011 - 09:06 pm.

    Mr. Clark: when you are using “deniers”, are you implying the pejorative as in “holocaust deniers”?

  9. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/23/2011 - 10:30 pm.

    OK. I’ve just spent more time than necessary going through the latest batch. Unless these guys can prove they didn’t send these, their goose is cooked.

    A tiny sample:

    “I also think the science is being manipulated to put a political spin on it which for all our sakes might not be too clever in the long run.”

    “I agree w/ Susan [Solomon] that we should try to put more in the bullet about “Subsequent evidence” Need to convince readers that there really has been an increase in knowledge – more evidence. What is it?”

    & piles more just like that.

    So, what did you want to talk about, Don?

  10. Submitted by Eric Paul Jacobsen on 11/24/2011 - 09:17 am.

    Scientists don’t do science by e-mail. They do it in reports to peer-reviewed journals.

    Stealing e-mails and gossiping about them is nothing more than an elaborate sleight-of-hand maneuver to avoid talking about science.

    If the theory that the Earth is warming up, that a surplus of greenhouse gases are the cause, and that we created those gases is really so weak, the deniers – yes, that’s what they should be called – would be focusing on the theory and the evidence for it. Better yet, they would be coming up with a coherent alternative theory of their own, one that has more evidence to back it up and that better accounts for what we are observing.

    Skepticism is not a religion of non-belief. A skeptic is someone who demands evidence before believing in something. A skeptic is NOT someone who refuses to believe in something, no matter how much evidence there is for it – that is a denier.

    The proper targets for skepticism today are those who would claim that something else other than humankind is causing the surplus of greenhouse gases, that something other than greenhouse gases is warming up the Earth, or that the Earth isn’t actually warming up at all. Where is the evidence?

  11. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 11/24/2011 - 11:00 am.

    The idea of the wholly rational objective scientist is and as always been a myth. Scientists are just as likely to politicize an issue related to their research as any other profession and their work. No surprise, if you spend your days researching an area of science and developing an expertise, you also develop an interest in its practical implementation and have ideas on what policy should be around it.

    It is up to the institute or national research body to ensure that scientists are working in the appropriate manner. This situation just demonstrates what happens when the group edges more towards politics than science. It is good that this happened as an object lesson for both the public and other research institutes.

  12. Submitted by Don Shelby on 11/25/2011 - 11:13 am.

    Mr. Swift,
    You represent, at least in these pages, a point of view worthy of consideration. I would be interested to know what makes you tick, where you get your information, what your background is, and more about you. To answer your question, I am working now to put the out-of-context quotes from the emails back into context. The Guardian has done some work already. You may be interested, if you are interested in context, to see what the scientists were actually talking about in the emails. You can find the link here:
    Let’s take your worst case scenario and presume the emails can be so construed as to “cook the goose” of the “offending” scientists. I ask, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, if all the mathematicians were removed from earth, would 2+2 stop equalling 4? Would the laws of physics cease to exist with the disappearance of physicists?
    The same scientists’ goose was cooked and Watts and friends had them dead and buried after the first email hack. Didn’t happen once the email quotes were put back into their rightful context. Digging deeper, which I trust you will do, you will find shocking evidence of scientists arguing the evidence, demanding more data, doubting the work of their peers. You will discover how science works.

  13. Submitted by Mitch Odahowski on 11/25/2011 - 03:26 pm.

    Mr. Shelby;

    I have always agreed with your perspective on climate change. What I would like to hear is your real opinion on Dog / Duckgate. Not the empty answers you had on Almanac, but real analysis of the monumental failure.

    Everyone knows the business is run by people who should not be in charge making journalistic decisions. Do you still receive compensation from WCCO that precludes you from criticism? How can you not be irate after watching the systematic deconstruction of the WCCO newsroom and the continuing lowering of the bar? How can you sit and watch the failures of the WCCO newsroom tarnish the legacies of Dave Moore, yourself and the countless other journalists who once proudly called WCCO their home?

    You sir, better than anyone else in town, can make WCCO admit it made a mistake and take appropriate measures to rectify the situation.

    Mr. Shelby, stand and deliver.

  14. Submitted by Tim Larson on 11/25/2011 - 06:55 pm.


    Have you ever read anything at Watt’s or McIntyre’s sites? Or do you dismiss them out of hand?

  15. Submitted by Dale Hoogeveen on 11/26/2011 - 07:10 pm.


    You’ve been called out. Put up or shut up.

  16. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/27/2011 - 09:05 pm.

    “Digging deeper, which I trust you will do, you will find shocking evidence of scientists arguing the evidence, demanding more data, doubting the work of their peers.”

    So, what of the CONSENSUS, Don? If nothing else, you have illustrated the value of the illumination of these admittedly illicitly co-opted correspondence.

    Why such vehement demonization of critical observation? When did reasoned argument become a cult of “deniers”?

    Science works by discovery, challenge and verification. The fact that pro=ACG researchers have worked so hard behind the scenes to keep their challenges quiet gives any rational, thinking person pause.

    I’ll be happy to consider your contextualization of these e=mails, as long as a full disclosure of the process by which they became re-united with context is made available.

    Dale, trust me here; I don’t need any encouragement, but thanks for caring.

  17. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 11/28/2011 - 07:49 am.

    I would go so far as to suggest that MinnPost offer Mr. Swift column space. Tom offers up a contrarian viewpoint that is often times missing from MinnPost. At a minimum Mr. Swift would certainly stimulate conversation.

  18. Submitted by Steve Rose on 11/29/2011 - 10:26 pm.

    I have been granted a Community Voices column on three occasions; I have not been turned down yet. Like Thomas, I have conservative points of view.

    Because MinnPost leans left, the discussions on the comment boards depend on conservative input. Comments fizzle when all agree with the author. After several choruses from the AGW consensus choir, people tend to lose interest. They give one another a knowing nod, shake their heads at those they label deniers, and move on to the next hot topic.

  19. Submitted by Steve Rose on 12/01/2011 - 03:10 am.

    “Tim, Chris, I hope you’re not right about the lack of warming lasting till about 2020.

    I seem to be getting an email a week from skeptics saying where’s the warming gone. I know the warming is on the decadal scale, but it would be nice to wear their smug grins away.”

    Above excerpt from email 4195 (Dr. Phil Jones).

    While many are concerned about warming, Dr. Jones is concerned about a lack of it.

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