Climategate Conspirator Cracks

TIA DailyFebruary 14, 2010

Last Sunday, the London Times carried a profile of Phil Jones- the head of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia and the man at the center of the Climategate scandal. The professor admitted to having contemplated suicide "several times" since the scandal broke, and the article continued: "The incident has taken a severe toll on his health. He has lost more than a stone [14 pounds] in weight and disclosed he is on beta-blockers and using sleeping pills." Is this the reaction of a man with a clear conscience?

The article says that Jones is 57 years old—but in the accompanying photo, he looks about 20 years older. He looks 40 years older than he does in every other picture I've seen of him before now. The stress of Climategate is literally killing him.


 I have to admit, though, that if I were Phil Jones, I would be contemplating suicide, too, because the rest of his life is going to be rather unpleasant. What he hasn't figured out yet is that he does have a way out, a way to salvage himself financially and as a human being, a way to be allowed to disappear into a quiet retirement. His only way out is to turn state's evidence and rat out his co-conspirators.

I've been speculating to some friends that if Jones doesn't figure this out, it is just a matter of time before one of the other conspirators does. One of them will eventually crack.

Well, it looks like Phil Jones is the guy who just cracked. But he didn't do it deliberately in order to cut a deal. This is more like one of those old episodes of "Perry Mason" where the real killer, badgered by Mason's relentless questioning, confesses on the witness stand. Except that in this case the cross-examination was conducted by a previously friendly source, the BBC.

In an interview that came out over the weekend, Jones spilled the beans. Asked whether "the rates of global warming from 1860–1880, 1910–1940, and 1975–1998 were identical," he agreed that "the warming rates for all 4 periods"—he also threw in, for no apparent reason, the period 1975–2009—"are similar and not statistically significantly different from each other." Remember that a key claim of the global warming hysteria—a claim that the Climategate conspiracy was meant to protect from criticism—was that the recent rate of warming was "unprecedented" and therefore outside the range of natural variability. Jones is now admitting that this isn't true.

Moreover, asked whether "from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming," Jones replied that this was also true—but with the excuse that the tiny upward trend for that period is almost statistically significant, which is a bit like being almost pregnant. Asked about the temperature trend from 2002 to present, he admits that "the trend this time is negative (-0.12C per decade), but this trend is not statistically significant." So he has been forced to admit that global warming hasn't occurred for the past 15 years.

But the blockbuster in the interview is a question about the Medieval Warm Period (MWP)—a period of several centuries, about a thousand years ago, in which global temperatures are believed to have been several degrees warmer than today. Again, a central goal of the Climategate conspiracy was to deny the existence of the MWP by propping up Penn State professor Michael Mann's infamous "hockey stick" graph, which showed global temperatures remaining flat for the past two thousand years, then suddenly shooting up in the last 50 years. Asked about the Medieval Warm Period, however, Jones replied:


"There is much debate over whether the Medieval Warm Period was global in extent or not…. Of course, if the MWP was shown to be global in extent and as warm or warmer than today (based on an equivalent coverage over the [Northern Hemisphere] and [Southern Hemisphere]) then obviously the late-20th century warmth would not be unprecedented."

Jones doesn't say that the MWP actually happened—but he admits that it is a legitimate theory and a subject for debate.

It is important to grasp what an enormous concession this is. If global temperatures were warmer a thousand years ago, that implies two things. First, a Medieval Warm Period was obviously not caused by human emissions of carbon dioxide, since there were no automobiles or industrial smokestacks. So it must have been a naturally occurring fluctuation in climate—which means that current temperatures are also well within the range of natural variation. Second, the Medieval Warm Period was a period of relatively hospitable weather that helped Western civilization claw its way out of the Dark Age. Sea levels didn't rise, storms and droughts didn't lay waste to the countryside—in short, none of the disasters predicted for current warming. And there was no runaway global warming. Within a few centuries, temperatures fell down again and slid into a "Little Ice Age" that lasted until 1850, when the recent warming trend began again.

So if the existence of the Medieval Warm Period is still up for debate, then the whole theory of man-made global warming is still up for debate.

How many times have we been told that "the debate is over"? Jones is admitting that the debate is still very much on. In fact, asked what scientists mean when they say "the debate is over" on global warming, he told the BBC: "I don't believe the vast majority of climate scientists think this. This is not my view. There is still much that needs to be undertaken to reduce uncertainties, not just for the future, but for the instrumental (and especially the paleoclimatic) past as well."

Well, then. About that whole "restructure your society now to avert the disastrous effects of global warming" thing? Never mind.

The British papers, which have recently taken up the Climategate scandal as a straight news story, pounced on the BBC interview. The Mail on Sunday—also known as the Daily Mail; British papers maintain the quaint custom of giving their Sunday editions a different name—published a good editorial which concluded that "in the light of the 'Climategate' revelations, it is time for governments, academics, and their media cheerleaders to be more modest in their claims and to treat skeptics with far more courtesy."

In fact, that's already happening. The big news about the BBC interview is not just Jones's admissions. It is the fact that the BBC is finally beginning to ask the tough questions that journalists should have been asking years ago—and in their introduction to the interview, the BBC reveals that some of the questions were "gathered from climate skeptics."

That's the real story here: the first time a top member of the global warming establishment is subjected to tough questioning that takes climate skepticism seriously, the whole charade falls apart.

The effects of this cannot be overestimated. Take a look at the latest coverage in The Times, which offers us yet another report presenting the views of the skeptics: "World May Not Be Warming, Say Scientists."


"The temperature records cannot be relied on as indicators of global change," said John Christy, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a former lead author on the IPCC.

The doubts of Christy and a number of other researchers focus on the thousands of weather stations around the world, which have been used to collect temperature data over the past 150 years. These stations, they believe, have been seriously compromised by factors such as urbanization, changes in land use and, in many cases, being moved from site to site.

Christy has published research papers looking at these effects in three different regions: east Africa, and the American states of California and Alabama. "The story is the same for each one," he said. "The popular data sets show a lot of warming but the apparent temperature rise was actually caused by local factors affecting the weather stations, such as land development."



This story is not news to anyone who has been closely following the global warming debate. What is news is that these arguments are being discovered, taken seriously, and presented as straight news stories in the mainstream British press.

This trend has not yet made its way across the Atlantic, but the English-speaking world is too interconnected for the US papers to hold out. What began in Australia last Spring and spread to Britain this Winter will inevitably make its way to America, sooner rather than later.

And when it does, get ready for some big political repercussions. Already, as the Washington Examiner points out, Senator James Inhofe is acting like a man who has been vindicated. Inhofe is a longtime climate skeptic who was the head of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works back when Republicans controlled Congress. In a way, he is the man who made Climategate possible, because it was his effort that staved off global warming legislation for a full decade, buying just enough time for the bogus science to be unmasked. (Credit also goes to Inhofe's counterpart in the House, Representative Richard Pombo, who was defeated in 2006 by a Democrat who was backed by the big environmentalist groups.)

The Examiner links to a Fox News Channel interview in which Senator Inhofe describes Climategate as "taking every argument [the global-warming alarmists] had and defusing them." And prompted by the Fox host, he announced that he would try against to introduce legislation blocking US government funding for the UN's climate establishment.

This, by the way, is just a small foretaste of what we can expect if Republicans re-take control of Congress. It is why I can already recommend that in November we should do whatever we can to get Republicans elected to the Senate—even if that means voting for squishy semi-statist "moderates" like Mark Kirk in Illinois. If the Republicans can get a Senate majority, then James Inhofe will once again control the Committee on Environment and Public Works—and we can expect a very interesting, very thorough Senate investigation of Climategate.

On the global warming front, it has been a good year. And next year will probably be better.—RWT