13 years of Climategate emails show manipulation of science by a powerful cabal at the heart of the global warming campaign

  • This is the longest and most important article I’ve yet written for this blog and I make no apology for its 4600 words — more also than in any newspaper article. As a journalist, I believe the Climategate emails have exposed one of the most significant news stories of the decade. As the mainstream news media has so far barely gone beyond giving those who wrote them and their supporters time and space to deny their undeniable contents, I present here an extensive journalistic account of what they actually say in the context of the dates and events in which they were written, with full links to all the emails.

Having now read all the Climategate emails, I can conclusively say they demonstrate a level of scientific chicanery of the most appalling kind that deserves the widest possible public exposure.

The emails reveal that the entire global warming debate and the IPCC process is controlled by a small cabal of climate specialists in England and North America. This cabal, who call themselves “the Team,” bully and smear any critics. They control the “peer review” process for research in the field and use their power to prevent contrary research being published.

The Team’s members are the heart of the IPCC process, many of them the lead authors of its reports.

They falsely claim there is a scientific “consensus” that the “science is settled,” by getting lists of scientists to sign petitions claiming there is such a consensus. They have fought for years to conceal the actual shonky data they have used to wrongly claim there has been unprecedented global warming this past 50 years. Their emailed discussions among each other show they have concocted their data by matching analyses of tree rings from around 1000 AD to 1960, then actual temperatures from 1960 to make it look temperatures have shot up alarmingly since then, after the tree rings from 1960 on inconveniently failed to match observed temperatures.

The emails show that some of them at least concede in private that the world was warmer 1000 years ago (in the Medieval Warm Period) than it is today, but the emails also show they had to get rid of the MWP from the records to claim today’s temperatures are unprecedented.

They show Team members becoming alarmed and despondent at global temperatures peaking in 1998, then slowly falling to the present, while publicly trying to hide the fact that there was a peak and now a decline.

Revealingly, they show them even smugly nominating each other for prestigious awards, using factually wrong details in the information sent in nominating letters in support of the awards.

The Climategate emails (and accompanying computer data) were almost certainly leaked by a whistleblower inside the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (the “CRU” — the supplier of much key IPCC historic climate data), not hacked from there by an outsider, as initially thought. Their sheer volume and content makes that clear, as do postings to some websites made by the still anonymous leaker. They are a treasure trove that begins on March 7 1996 and runs to November 12 2009, just before they were released and first publicised in an incredulous post on the Watts Up With That blog, which had been sent a link to them.

Don’t take my word for what their contents reveal. Read the emails for yourselves. They have been conveniently posted online in full and in date order. My article here looks at a range of them to back up the assertions I have made about what they reveal. It would take a book to discuss all of them, and you can be sure several books are already being written.

The peer review charade

AGWarmers parrot the mantra that their view is supported by learned articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals and that peer-reviewed contrary views cannot be found. The Climategate emails conclusively show that the Team control the peer-reviewed literature, to the extent they “peer review” each other’s reports, and veto publication of research they do not support, bullying the editors and owners of scientific journals.

Worse, though, is the emails’ revelation that even material they put into the hallowed reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was not peer reviewed, and knowingly shabby.

See, for example, this email, by Filippo Giorgi, head of the physics of weather and climate section of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, writing on September 12 2000 to fellow lead authors of Chapter 10 of IPCC’s Third Assessment Report (TAR) then about to be published:

I myself think that material for a document as important as the TAR cannot be drawn from last-minute barely quality checked and un-peered reviewed material (people have barely looked at the MPI run that was completed last friday !!).

Fabricating temperature records from ancient trees

To be able to claim that recent global warming was unprecedented, man-made and dangerous, the Team had to prove current temperatures are the highest ever and going up at an alarming pace. Unfortunately, thermometers have only been around for a few hundred years and actual temperature records from many parts of the world only began around 1850. The Team therefore decided to use temperature “proxies,” looking at the growth rings in 1000-year-old trees (there are some, in Siberia and North America) and deciphering what temperature each year’s ring suggested.

In this email of September 22 1999, discussing proposals for a “nice tidy” 1000-year temperature graph for an upcoming IPCC report, the East Anglia University CRU’s tree ring specialist Keith Briffa expresses concerns to other Team members:

I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story as regards ‘apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more in the proxy data’ but in reality the situation is not quite so simple. We don’t have a lot of proxies that come right up to date and those that do (at least a significant number of tree proxies ) some unexpected changes in response that do not match the recent warming. I do not think it wise that this issue be ignored in the chapter. For the record, I do believe that the proxy data do show unusually warm conditions in recent decades. I am not sure that this unusual warming is so clear in the summer responsive data. I believe that the recent warmth was probably matched about 1000 years ago.

Briffa, as is apparent from that last sentence, believes the MWP existed, however inconvenient it might be for his colleagues needing it to disappear so they can claim it has never been as warm as today.

What Briffa was pointing out to colleagues such as CRU chief Phil Jones (who has stood aside while EAU investigates the scandal) and Penn State University’s Michael Mann (creator of the fraudulent “hockey stick” graph the IPCC has quietly dropped from its reports and whose activities are also under investigation) is that Briffa’s tree ring data showed warming 1000 years ago, and very inconvenient cooling since the 1950s. The emails show Mann decided to run several series of tree ring data and average them.

Responded Mann to the Team the same day: I am perfectly amenable to keeping Keith’s series in the plot, and can ask Ian Macadam (Chris?) to add it to the plot he has been preparing (nobody liked my own color/plotting conventions so I’ve given up doing this myself). The key thing is making sure the series are vertically aligned in a reasonable way. I had been using the entire 20th century, but in the case of Keith’s, we need to align the first half of the 20th century w/ the corresponding mean values of the other series, due to the late 20th century decline.

Mann’s highlighting the “vertically aligned” refers to his insistence that the 1000-year temperature chart they are discussing leaps vertically after 1950 from his previously straight line, to produce his now infamous “hockey stick” chart, discussed later in this article.

Hide the decline

Mann’s final comment above about “the late 20th century decline” is the genesis of the now-infamous “hide the decline” email that is the most quoted of the Climategate treasure trove, almost always out of context. The context is being given here.

Mann went on to say the problem remained that Briffa’s proxy data differed sharply in the late 20th century from his and Jones’s. He continued: This is the problem we all picked up on (everyone in the room at IPCC was in agreement that this was a problem and a potential distraction/detraction from the reasonably concensus viewpoint we’d like to show w/ the Jones et al and Mann et al series. So, if we show Keith’s series in this plot, we have to comment that “something else” is responsible for the discrepancies in this case…. Otherwise, the skeptics have an field day casting doubt on our ability to understand the factors that influence these estimates and, thus, can undermine faith in the paleoestimates. I don’t think that doubt is scientifically justified, and I’d hate to be the one to have to give it fodder!

The problem Mann saw was soon solved, as shown by that infamous email dated November 16 1999, from Phil Jones to Mann, Briffa and others:

I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.

What this is saying – and no amount of obfuscation can alter the fact – is that a 1000-year “global temperature” chart was created – fabricated – by using tree-ring proxy data from 1000 to 1960, then using actual temperatures from 1961 on, to “hide” the fact that the tree ring proxies showed a “decline” from 1960 onwards. There can not be a more blatant example of using apples and oranges to “prove” a point than this, and they would have got away with it if not for the Climategate whistleblower.

NZ link in push to ban contrary views

In 2003, the peer-reviewed journal Climate Research decided to publish a paper by astrophysicists Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas that declared the the 20th century was “probably not” the warmest climatic period of the last 1000 years nor a uniquely extreme one. One of the editors at Climate Research was none other than Auckland University associate professor Chris de Freitas, a climate contrarian who is constantly vilified in the news media by AGWarmists and their journalist allies. The Climategate emails show the hysteria the Soon-Baliunas paper aroused in the Team as it slipped through their control of the peer review process.

By email to the team on March 11 2003, Jones said: Best to ignore probably, so don’t let it spoil your day. I’ve not looked at it yet. It results from this journal having a number of editors. The responsible one for this is a well-known skeptic in NZ. He has let a few papers through by Michaels and Gray in the past. I’ve had words with Hans von Storch about this, but got nowhere.

De Freitas is of course the “well known NZ skeptic.” Von Storch, a German climate scientist, was a member of the journal’s editorial board. The email shows Jones was happy to dismiss the article without even having read it. The Team followed up with a welter of actions to discredit the article, the journal and all associated with it.

Later that day, Jones emailed the Team again, after a quick look at the article: I am becoming more convinced we should do something – even if this is just to state once and for all what we mean by the LIA and MWP. I think the skeptics will use this paper to their own ends and it will set paleo back a number of years if it goes unchallenged. I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor. A CRU person is on the editorial board, but papers get dealt with by the editor assigned by Hans von Storch.

To which Mike Mann replied: The Soon & Baliunas paper couldn’t have cleared a ‘legitimate’ peer review process anywhere. That leaves only one possibility–that the peer-review process at Climate Research has been hijacked by a few skeptics on the editorial board. And it isn’t just De Frietas, unfortunately I think this group also includes a member of my own department… The skeptics appear to have staged a ‘coup’ at “Climate Research” (it was a mediocre journal to begin with, but now its a mediocre journal with a definite ‘purpose’).

Mann realised that a contrary paper being published in a peer reviewed journal jeopardised the Team’s smug claim that there was no peer-reviewed research questioning the Team’s line. In the same email, he said: This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the “peer-reviewed literature”. Obviously, they found a solution to that–take over a journal! So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering “Climate Research” as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board…

This exchange, and the lengthy campaign against Climate Research that followed, is but one of many examples in the Climategate emails that show the lengths the Team have gone to attempting to prevent publication of any contrary peer-reviewed research, and demonstrates the control Team members believe they should have on the supposedly independent peer review process.

Totally destroying the Hockey Stick chart

Worse was to follow. In 2003, Canadian mathematician Stephen McIntyre and economist Ross McKitrick began investigating Mann’s now infamous “hockey stick” graph, the centrepiece of the IPCC’s 2001 report. The hockey stick –based on the tree ring data cited above — purported to show the world’s temperature being stable from 1000 to 1950, then shooting upward, in the shape of a hockey stick.

McIntyre and McKitrick earned the hatred of the Team by demonstrating major mathematical fallacies in the chart — this long before anyone realised how it had actually been put together — leading to its being totally discredited and dropped from subsequent IPCC reports.

Hiding data in breach of information laws

McIntyre went on to request the raw data and computer programs behind numerous climate change charts, graphs and papers. You can find the results of his work on his Climate Audit blog. The Team responded to his requests for information under US and UK freedom of information laws by stonewalling, ignoring him, claiming to have lost data and, most outrageously, by discussing destroying their data to stop it being checked.

Apart from the latter being in serious breach of the freedom of information laws, it is in flagrant breach of the scientific principle that research should be capable of replication by others. If you refuse to tell others how you came to your conclusion, your work cannot be replicated, or, more to the point at issue here, it cannot be falsified, another important scientific principle.

See this email from Phil Jones to other scientists on May 7 2004: Many of us in the paleo field get requests from skeptics (mainly a guy called Steve McIntyre in Canada) asking us for series. Mike and I are not sending anything, partly because we don’t have some of the series he wants, also partly as we’ve got the data through contacts like you, but mostly because he’ll distort and misuse them.

And this from Jones to Mann, headed HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL, on July 8 2004: The other paper by MM is just garbage – as you knew. De Freitas again. Pielke is also losing all credibility as well by replying to the mad Finn as well – frequently as I see it. I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!

Jones to Mann, again, on February 2 2005:Just sent loads of station data to Scott. Make sure he documents everything better this time ! And don’t leave stuff lying around on ftp sites – you never know who is trawling them. The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone. Does your similar act in the US force you to respond to enquiries within 20 days? – our does ! The UK works on precedents, so the first request will test it. We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind. [Emphasis added]

The discussions about hiding or destroying data and entire sets of emails became more frantic as the months and years rolled by. The tone of the emails became increasingly hysterical, suggesting the Team was feeling ever more pressured because of the requests to produce the raw data their conclusions were based on, despite revealing such data being a basic scientific tenet.

Mike Mann on April 26 2006: I’m saddened to hear that this bozo is bothering you too, in addition to NCAR, NSF, NAS, IPCC and everyone else. Rest assured that I won’t ever respond to McIntyre should he ever contact me, but I will forward you any email he sends related to this. I assume Scott feels the same way…

New Zealander Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder Colorado, to Phil Jones, April 21 2007: I am sure you know that this is not about the science. It is an attack to undermine the science in some way. In that regard I don’t think you can ignore it all, as Mike suggests as one option, but the response should try to somehow label these guys and lazy and incompetent and unable to do the huge amount of work it takes to construct such a database. Indeed technology and data handling capabilities have evolved and not everything was saved. So my feeble suggestion is to indeed cast aspersions on their motives and throw in some counter rhetoric. Labeling them as lazy with nothng better to do seems like a good thing to do.

Smoking guns

And, on May 29 2008, the smoking gun of the many smoking guns related to document destruction in the Climategate emails. Jones to Mann: 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. Cheers Phil

The AR4 referred to is the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC, published in 2007.

But wait, there’s more. Mann replies: I’ll contact Gene about this ASAP.

McIntyre and others continued to use the US and UK freedom of information acts to try to extract the information they sought, with the US law in particular forcing material to be made public, including by being placed on the websites of various institutions for everyone to see.

The Team’s increasing paranoia is palpable in this email from Mann to Jones 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. It isn’t coincidental that the original McIntyre and McKitrick E&E paper w/ press release came out the day before the U.S. senate was considering the McCain Lieberman climate bill in ‘05.

Such comments show clearly that the Team see their work as political — they are fighting the good fight for the green left, while their opponents are a rabble of right wing bigots funded by the oil industry, or whoever. It’s certainly not science, which does not sit on the political spectrum.

But there is no doubt they sincerely believe in their mission — they believe they are saving the planet, no less, as have so many other religious fundamentalists before them.

That does not excuse their way of operating. One gets the impression from their emails, so condemnatory of any other view but their own, that the Team would have been at the forefront of the priests and bishops demanding Galileo’s execution, had they been alive in 1633 (coincidentally during the Little Ice Age, which, like the Medieval Warm Period, they deny happened, as it upsets the hockey stick).

Their hiding and calls for destruction of data are not just a historic event. It continues. Tom Wigley, former head of the EAU CRU, to Jones, regarding growing controversy over Briffa’s tree ring data, on October 5 2009 — just three months ago: the issue of with-holding data is still a hot potato, one that affects both you and Keith (and Mann). Yes, there are reasons — but many *good* scientists appear to be unsympathetic to these. The trouble here is that with-holding data looks like hiding something, and hiding means (in some eyes) that it is bogus science that is being hidden. I think Keith needs to be very, very careful in how he handles this.

You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours

The emails give an extraordinary insight to the vanity and personality of these cardinals of global warming. There is a delicious series of emails in which Mike Mann offers to nominate Phil Jones for an award by the American Geophysical Union. Jones tells Mann the award he’d like, then works with Mann to help with the nomination. Jones duly gets the award, and Mann then asks Jones to nominate him for one.

Mann to Jones, December 4 2007: By the way, still looking into nominating you for an AGU award, I’ve been told that the Ewing medal wouldn’t be the right one. Let me know if you have any particular options you’d like me to investigate…

Jones to Mann, same date: As for AGU – just getting one of their Fellowships would be fine.

Mann to Jones, same date: Will look into the AGU fellowship situation ASAP.

Mann to Jones, June 2 2008: Hi Phil, This is coming along nicely. I’ve got 5 very strong supporting letter writers lined up to support your AGU Fellowship nomination (confidentially: Ben Santer, Tom Karl, Jean Jouzel, and Lonnie Thompson have all agreed, waiting to hear back from one more individual, maximum is six letters including mine as nominator). Meanwhile, if you can pass along the following information that is needed for the nomination package that would be very helpful. thanks in advance! mike

Jones sent him the requested information, including information for an index based on the number of papers he’s had published and how many times they have been cited. Jones to Mann, June 11 2008:this is what people call the H index. I’ve tried working this out and there is software for it on the web of science. Problem is my surname. I get a number of 62 if I just use the software, but I have too many papers. I then waded through and deleted those in journals I’d never heard of and got 52. I think this got rid of some biologist from the 1970s/1980s, so go with 52.

But Mann, shamelessly, thinks the higher, wrong, number would look more impressive. Mann to Jones, same date: OK–thanks, I’ll just go w/ the H=62. That is an impressive number and almost certainly higher than the vast majority of AGU Fellows.

Lo and behold, on January 29 2009, Jones gets the wonderful news. He emails Ben Santer, an American Team member, one of his nominators, though he’s not supposed to know that (see the Mann email of June 2 2008 above): I heard during IDAG that I’ve been made an AGU Fellow. Will likely have to go to Toronto to Spring AGU to collect it. I hope I don’t see a certain person there!

The person he does not want to see in Toronto of course is the Team’s Canadian nemesis, Stephen McIntyre.

Mann waits a decent interval before he blatantly asks for Jones to return the favour. Mann to Jones, May 16 2009: On a completely unrelated note, I was wondering if you, perhaps in tandem w/ some of the other usual suspects, might be interested in returning the favor this year ;) I’ve looked over the current list of AGU fellows, and it seems to me that there are quite a few who have gotten in (e.g. Kurt Cuffey, Amy Clement, and many others) who aren’t as far along as me in their careers, so I think I ought to be a strong candidate. anyway, I don’t want to pressure you in any way, but if you think you’d be willing to help organize,I would naturally be much obliged. Perhaps you could convince Ray or Malcolm to take the lead? The deadline looks as if it is again July 1 this year.

Jones to Mann, May 18 2009: I’ll email Ray and Malcolm. I’d be happy to contribute.

Then some bad news. Jones to Mann, May 19 2009: Mike, Have gotten replies -the’re both happy to write supporting letters, but both are too busy to take it on this year. One suggested waiting till next year. Malcolm is supporting one other person this year. I’d be happy to do it next year, so I can pace it over a longer period.

Mann takes it like a man. Mann to Jones, May 19 2009: thanks much Phil, that sounds good. So why don’t we wait until next round (June ‘10) on this hen. That will give everyone an opportunity to get their ducks in a row. Plus I’ll have one more Nature and one more Science paper on my resume by then more about that soon!). I’ll be sure to send you a reminder sometime next may or so!

The ‘travesty’ of unpredicted cold weather

As noted early on in this article, the Climategate emails ran until late last year, until just before the failed Copenhagen scare fest. The very last word must go to the expatriate New Zealander, Kevin Trenberth, from his cold hole in Boulder Colorado on October 12 2009.

In an email series between Team members bemoaning the normally staunch BBC’s running an item asking what has happened now there had been 11 years without global warming, the shivering Dr Trenberth now famously stated: Well I have my own article on where the heck is global warming? We are asking that here in Boulder where we have broken records the past two days for the coldest days on record. We had 4 inches of snow. The high the last 2 days was below 30F and the normal is 69F, and it smashed the previous records for these days by 10F… 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.

Poneke's weblog  January 15, 2010