CFN – Climategate is back in the news again, but not in the way the climate science denial industry would like. It appears that one of the denial industry’s main companies, the Heartland Institute, has had some embarrassing email and document leaks, and is in heavy damage control mode.
When Climategate first broke the news in November, 2009, the Toronto Sun was one of many media voices to echo the allegations of wrong-doing by genuine scientists who were engaged in climate research. Lorrie Goldstein, one of the Sun’s wannabe Ezra Levants, wrote that he’d “been poring over one of many leaked computer files from the ‘climategate’ scandal.” He then goes on, quoting isolated fragments, all designed to promote the myth that man is not causing climate change.
The main “scandal” about Climategate, however, was not the leaked documents and emails, but the hacking of a University of East Anglia server. The truth is that none of these documents were leaked, they were *stolen.* Goldstein, with his allegation that the documents were “leaked” is just adding to the Climategate lie. The documents and emails, which have been massively edited for public consumption, received massive publicity thanks to the fossil fuel industry and Libertarian “think tanks.”
Joseph Bast, President of the Heartland Institute, an extreme-right Libertarian think tank, PR and Lobbying organisation, had this to say about the theft:
“Last week, someone (probably a whistle-blower at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, England) released e-mails and other documents written by Phil Jones, Michael Mann and other leading scientists who edit and control the content of the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“The e-mails appear to show a conspiracy to falsify data and suppress academic debate in order to exaggerate the possible threat of man-made global warming.
“The misconduct exposed by the e-mails is so apparent that one scientist, Tim Ball, said it marked ‘the death blow to climate science.’ Another, Patrick Michaels, told the New York Times: ‘This is not a smoking gun; this is a mushroom cloud.’”
Bast then continued with threats:
“This incident, then, won’t be forgotten. Journalists who attempt to spin it away and politicians who try to ignore it will further damage their own credibility, and perhaps see their careers shortened as a result.”
The Mushroom Cloud
One of the key fragments from the stolen documents that the global warming denial industry has been pushing is the following, from an email written by legitimate climate scientist 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.”
Taken by itself, the way the science deniers intend it to be, it is indeed a travesty. A single sentence from an acknowledged expert topples the whole science. The real travesty of justice, however, has been the way the denial industry has taken one sentence, isolated it, and twisted it so completely out of context that even an OJ Simpson defence lawyer would be green with envy.
The truth is that Trenberth was commenting about a recent paper he had published, in which he was trying to balance the world’s energy budget, the same way an accountant would balance a set of books. In an ideal situation, heat absorbed by the earth would equal the heat the earth radiates back into space. If this happened, there would be no long term global warming (or cooling). However, the earth reradiates less heat than it absorbs, because rising CO2 levels are acting exactly like a greenhouse, and holding some of the heat back. Trenberth is attempting to correlate a short period in which Earth’s surface temperatures have been marginally lower with the excess of heat the planet is receiving from the sun. His complaint is that we don’t have observation systems accurate enough so that we can work out where the excess heat is going. In other words, global warming is real – it can be measured and it corresponds with the increase of atmospheric CO2, but we still don’t have all the fine details. That’s the travesty.
Clearly, the “mushroom cloud” is nothing more than a puff of stage smoke.
A Terrorist Act
The hacking of the UEA server was more than simple theft. The whole point of hacking the UEA server, and releasing the edited versions of the documents, was to sabotage the Copenhagen climate change conference.
The theft of the UEA documents had nothing whatever to do with exposing “corrupt science”; the motivations were political and financial, in common with terrorist organisations such as al Qaeda. If the world’s governments took climate change seriously, and took genuine steps to try to avert a (not too distant) ecological disaster, many huge stakeholders (particularly the fossil fuel industry) would stand to lose a lot of money. In addition, the actual climate change denial industry, organisations such as the Heartland Institute, and individuals like Fred Singer, would also lose money and credibility. Singer, before becoming a professional climate science denier, worked for the tobacco industry, manufacturing junk science reports stating that cigarette smoke was harmless. Singer is paid $60,000 per year by the Heartland Institute. (Note: this is not to say that Heartland or Singer were involved in the theft in any way, although British and US police forces are ramping up their investigations).
Terrorists typically use violence, or at least the threat of violence, to achieve their aims. Many of the scientists whose emails were stolen did receive physical threats of violence to themselves or their families. Note, too, the implied threat from Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast himself (quoted above), against politicians and journalists who do not agree with his views.
The goal of 9/11 was not specifically to demolish the World Trade Center. The true goals were to terrorise Americans (and the western world in general), to destroy any sense of security, to instill fear and cause suspicion of anything and everything, and to show America and the West who in fact was boss. In short, they tried to destroy American society, and unfortunately, they seem to have succeeded rather well.
Terrorists require publicity to succeed. Climategate received exceptional publicity in both the press and on TV. Most of the coverage supported the denial industry, reporting that climate change is a fake, and in some cases a conspiracy to control the world.
Controlling the Media
Dr. Steve Easterbrook, an IT professor at the University of Toronto, has made extensive studies of the software behind the climate models. He states that the coverage of Climategate by the mass media has been its greatest failure, whereas the climate science denial industry has waged the most successful disinformation campaign ever. These people are “ideologically-driven, pathological liars, who will say almost anything in order to score political points, and will smear anyone they regard as an opponent.”
This industry lives in a world of paranoid fantasies, believing that climate science is some Communist plot to take over the world. They completely ignore the fact that every single credible scientific body in the world (e.g. the Royal Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and many others) acknowledge that global warming is happening as predicted, and will get worse. They can’t attack the science, so they try to kill the messengers with a devastating and successful smear campaign. Then they get upset and righteous when the scientists they attack “tell them to piss off.”
Incredibly, some “journalists” (e.g. Fox News, both the North and South versions, and Lawrence Solomon of the National Post) are still trying to convince the world that global warming is a fraud. The only fraud is the climate science denial industry, who will do almost anything to discredit the truth.
Dr. Easterbrook continues: “And the result is that, faced with one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced, the media got the story completely backwards. Few journalists and few scientists seem to have any conception of how this misinformation campaign works, how nasty these people are, and how dirty they play. They have completely owned the story for the last few months, [note, this was written in 2010, but is still true today], with their framing of “scientists making mistakes” and “scientists distorting their data”. They’ve successfully portrayed the scientists as being at fault, when it is the scientists who are the victims of one of the nastiest public bullying campaigns ever conducted. History will have to judge how it compares to other such episodes (McCarthyism would make a fascinating comparison). And the stakes are high: at risk is our ability to make sensible policy choices and international agreements based on good scientific evidence, to ensure that our children and grandchildren can flourish as we do.”
Dr. Phil Jones, one of the principle climate scientists targeted by the hackers, summed it up all too well in an article written at that time in the UK’s Daily Telegraph. “There were death threats. People said I should go and kill myself. They said they knew where I lived. I did think about it, yes. About suicide. I thought about it several times, but I think I’ve got past that stage now.”
A Willing Media
Research described in the Washington Post has shown that people who are bombarded by lies and misinformation tend to accept them as truth, even though they have been told the truth.
This fact is useful for people who try to mould opinions and public policy, a task the climate science denial industry and politicians understand well. An example would be the constant bombardment of Harper attack ads on Dion and Ignatieff. Although little, if anything in these ads was true, people eventually started to believe them, despite all the evidence they were lies. Unfortunately, a rebuttal of these lies usually strengthens the belief in the actual lie.
People, even when they have learned the truth, still tend to recall the lies when asked about them some days later, thinking the false information is true. These are the people that clever manipulators such as the climate science denial industry are all too ready to exploit.
Typical of the push to exploit the UEA document theft is this article, which appeared on the Canada Free Press website. The byline is Judi McLeod, a former Toronto Sun columnist, who has appeared on Rush Limbaugh, Newsmax.com, Drudge Report, Foxnews.com, and Glenn Beck.
The piece quotes extensively from Dr. Tim Ball, one of the Heartland Institution’s “experts.” In it, he says: “The files contain so much material that it is going to take some time to put it all in context. However, enough is already known to underscore their explosive nature. It is already clear the entire claims and positions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are based on falsified manipulated material and is therefore completely compromised.
“The fallout will be extensive as material continues to emerge. Reputations of the scientists involved are already destroyed, however fringe players will continue to be identified and their reputations destroyed or sullied.”
This is an interesting comment. At the time this article was published (November 24, 2009), had he actually read the documents in their entirety? Had he at least read enough of them that he could, as a self-proclaimed climate expert, come to his conclusions? If he had, in fact, read the documents (or a substantial part of them), then his own scientific credibility comes under question, given that eight different and independent enquiries have examined the whole situation, agreeing that the science and reporting were all accurate, and there was no attempt to falsify data and conclusions. On the other hand, if he hadn’t at that time read all the documents, what is he doing commenting on them? Not even the most brainless first year undergrad would think of citing a source without at least checking it first.
Ball’s own scientific credentials are, to say the least, confusing. He does indeed have a Ph.D degree, which entitles him to use the title “Doctor”, but he does not have the Doctor of Science degree he claims, otherwise he would be referred to as Dr. Timothy Ball, D.Sc. (Note: very few scientists have this D.Sc. degree, which would put them in the realms of scientific royalty). Nor is he, as he claims, the first Canadian to earn a Ph.D in climatology. His degree is actually in geography. And he has never taught at the University of Winnipeg’s Department of Climatology, as he claims, because the university has no such office.
Denialgate – Revenge of the Nerds
Unfortunately for Joseph Bast, the Heartland Institute, and the climate science denial industry in general, the real science got its own back last week, albeit through some unorthodox means. A number of sensitive Heartland documents were “leaked” to a leading climate scientist, Peter Gleick, detailing Heartland’s budget and many of its activities, including climate science denial and attempts to force K-12 science teachers to teach climate science from their perspective, and lobbying the US Government and elected US officials.
This will be next week’s article.
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