Posts Tagged ‘CRU hack’

Science /-tists under attack

November 26, 2009

(Nederlandse versie hier)

What do you do if you don’t agree with the science (or with the perceived political implications thereof), but don’t have any real evidence to back up your position?

You could try breaking in the computer system of a renowned institute, to then release the stolen emails and documents via internet. If your catch is big enough, there will surely be something that could be spun to embarrass the scientists in question (and, by extension, discredit the whole field). Especially emails written before they had their morning coffee serve that purpose really well.

That must be the line of thinking of the hackers who broke into the web server of the Climate Research Unit (CRU in England), and released an enormous amount of emails of the past 13 years.

This (illegal) activity led to quite a “blog-storm” on the internet, with partly predictable reactions, as if suddenly all evidence for the human impact on climate change has been swept away. It is indicative of the speed with which so-called “skeptics” come to their conclusion. As if the conclusion was already in the drawer, waiting to be opened. Perfect timing, just before the Copenhagen climate negotiations.

Even the most eye catching emails, as discussed on several blogs, are relatively innocent if put in the proper context. Some do show a peek in the kitchen of how the scientists in question communicated with each other (not much different from other people, actually) and here and there is some dirty laundry. That scientists do not think highly of so-called “skeptics” comes as no surprise. Many emails are (logically) multi-interpretable: As Ben Hale noted, through ideological glasses it may look like there’s a lot of shady business going on, but –as an example- the same email could also be seen as a more direct way of saying the same as what was later described in a scientific paper. Some climate scientists have also reacted and provide come highly needed context (e.g. Gavin Schmidt at RC).

It is clear that in many discussions about this a mountain is made out of a molehill. No conspiracy of anthropogenic global warming being a complete hoax, or anything of that kind, has been uncovered. The scientific basis for our current understanding of climate change is as solid as it was before, in spite of all the screaming to the contrary.

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Wetenschappers onder vuur

November 26, 2009

(English version here) (Ook verschenen als ECN blog)

Wat doe je als je het niet eens bent met de wetenschap (of met de politieke implicaties ervan), maar geen steekhoudende argumenten voor je positie hebt?

Dan probeer je in het computersysteem van een gerenommeerd instituut in te breken, om de gestolen emails en documenten via internet te verspreiden. Als je vangst maar groot genoeg is, valt er vast wel iets in te ontdekken dat je kunt gebruiken om de wetenschappers in verlegenheid te brengen. Vooral emails die zijn geschreven voordat de schrijver koffie heeft gedronken zijn daartoe heel geschikt.

Zo ongeveer moeten de hackers hebben geredeneerd die in de webserver van de Climate Research Unit (CRU in Engeland) hebben ingebroken, en emails van de laatste 13 jaar hebben gestolen en verspreid.

Deze (illegale) actie heeft geleid tot een ware “blogstorm” op internet, met deels voorspelbare reacties, alsof nu ineens alle bewijsvoering voor de menselijke invloed op het klimaat teniet is gedaan. Het is in die zin tekenend voor de snelheid waarmee zogenaamde “sceptici” hun conclusies trekken. Alsof de conclusie al klaar lag in een lade, die maar opengetrokken hoefde te worden. Perfecte timing, net voor de klimaatonderhandelingen in Kopenhagen.

Ook de meest in het oog springende emails, zoals op diverse internetfora besproken, zijn relatief onschuldig als ze in de juiste context geplaatst worden. Sommigen laten wel een kijkje in de keuken zien van hoe de betreffende wetenschappers onder elkaar communiceren, en hier en daar hangt wat vuile was buiten. Dat wetenschappers zogenaamde “sceptici” geen warm hart toedragen kan nauwelijks verrassend genoemd worden. Vele emails laten (logischerwijze) meerdere interpretaties toe: Door een ideologisch getinte bril bezien kan het lijken alsof er dingen besproken worden die niet door de beugel kunnen. Terwijl eenzelfde email ook bezien kan worden als een directere manier om te zeggen wat later ook in een wetenschappelijk tijdschrift beschreven werd. Enkele klimaatwetenschappers hebben ook gereageerd en verschaffen de nodige context en uitleg (zie hier).

Duidelijk is dat in veel discussies hierover van een mug een olifant gemaakt wordt. Er is geen complot ontrafeld waaruit blijkt dat klimaatwetenschap bedrog is. De wetenschappelijke basis voor klimaatverandering staat nog even stevig als tevoren, al het geschreeuw van het tegendeel ten spijt.

‘Climategate’ blogstorm

November 24, 2009

Yet another blogstorm, and probably again a tempest in a teapot. Thirteen years worth of emails have been hacked and released on the web, and it includes some dirty laundry that I’m sure people involved would rather not have  seen public. It is not unlikely that this event may have some real repercussions for the public perception of climate science, however unfair it may seem (unfair both in terms of the actual intended meaning of the emails, as in terms of the way they were obtained). “Skeptics” will certainly try to get as much mileage out of this as possible, in order to undermine the science and the political process (e.g. Copenhagen). However, there are also plenty of sane voices commenting on the issue. A sample:

More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords. (RealClimate; also second post)

Never before has an entire scientific community been accused of dishonesty (…) The real issue is trust (…) After all, government leaders are planning deep changes in the world economy based, essentially, on trust in the scientific community. (…) Attacks on the integrity of climate scientists contribute to a broader suspicion of scientists in general. This suspicion has enormous potential for harm; consider for example the resistance to vaccination. (Spencer Weart’s comment at RealClimate)

Gavin Schmidt (of RealClimate) exhibits the patience of a saint in responding from a scientist’s perspective to the masses of comments. He is doing a tremendous amount of work to repair the damage being done to the perceived credibility of climate science. Respect.

In summary, there are probably some minor lapses in there, but everyone who has read any of the emails is already guilty of something worse and there’s no firm evidence of major crimes. (James’ empty blog)

I have no idea what exactly those words meant. Neither do you. Every single thing in those messages could be misinterpreted because we are missing the context. (…) This episode is not a window into how climate science works. It’s a window into how electronic communication has altered our standards and the way we work. (Maribo)

One of the issues with how the UEA emails are perceived is whether the reader understands the context of the dubious pseudoscience and constant harassment the field faces. If you understand that, the emails are understandable and mostly excusable. If you don’t, if you think that normal science is being stymied, then you come away with a very different impression. (Only in it for the gold)

The frame:
– pointing out that while some (and only a few) of them sound dubious, there’s no actual evidence of anything;
– pointing out that in every case there are also perfectly innocuous interpretations;
– putting these sorts of discussions in context (Greenfyre)

If one puts on some significant ideological glasses, it may look like there’s a lot of shady business going on. (…) Employing the principle of charity to what I’ve seen so far actually leaves me feeling that the e-mails are not so incriminating. (Cruel Mistress)

More damning, but mostly sensible criticisms (note that I do not agree with all the contents):

It’s no use pretending that this isn’t a major blow. (Monbiot)

Even if the hacked emails from HADCRU end up to be much ado about nothing in the context of any actual misfeasance that impacts the climate data records, the damage to the public credibility of climate research is likely to be significant. (Based on an unfortunate and unsubstantiated generalization of a few privately sent emails pulled out of context, I would add – Bart) (Judith Curry at ClimateAudit)

Humour:

The conspiracy behind the calculus myth has been suddenly, brutally and quite deliciously exposed after volumes of Newton’s private correspondence were compiled and published. (CarbonFixated)

I’ll post my own take on it later.

Update:

It reflects badly on the people who are so desperate to discredit global warming that they will unhesitatingly seize on a figure of speech, take it out of context, blow it all out of proportion and use it for their own predetermined purpose. Now that’s real dishonesty! (Tom Crowley interviewd by Andrew Friedman)

In the same interview, Crowley also gives an insider perspective on how thorough the IPCC report are vetted:

I cannot recall ANY scientific document, of any nature, that has EVER received that kind of vetting.

Update 2:

James Hansen was briefly interviewed about the issues on newsweek. I think his replies are spot on:

Do the hacked e-mails undermine the case for anthropogenic climate change?
No, they have no effect on the science. The evidence for human-made climate change is overwhelming.

Do the e-mails indicate any unethical efforts (…)?
They indicate poor judgment in specific cases. (…)


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