Climategate Part Two: The Undermining of the Scientific Method

In my previous post I provided an overview of Climategate, looked at the role tree ring proxy data played in the controversy, and provided evidence from leaked emails and source code that the climate data was being intentionally and knowingly manipulated.

Today I want to answer the following question: Was there intent on the part of the CRU team to mislead the scientific community and the public at large?

To me there are a couple of areas we can focus on as we attempt to tease out the intent of the CRU:

  1. Did the CRU openly publish their raw temperature data and fully disclose the transformations applied to that data in order to generate their models?
  2. Did the CRU intentionally circumvent the peer-review scientific process?

Let’s start with the first question.

CRU Refusal to Release Raw Data

Evidence is clear that the CRU went to extraordinary lengths in their attempts to prevent the raw temperature data from being exposed.

Why?  Well, in the words of head CRU scientist Phil Jones:

I should warn you that some data we have we are not supposed to pass on to others. We can pass on the gridded data – which we do. Even if WMO agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it
-Phil Jones email Feb. 21, 2005

This strikes to the core of the scientific process.  The whole point of peer-reviewed science is that other scientists can reproduce and verify your results.  This mechanism has been the bedrock of science going back a hundred years.  Phil Jones simply stands the logic on its head indicating that he doesn’t want to release the details since he’s got a vested interest in his conclusions and doesn’t want to give anyone the chance to prove those conclusions wrong.

As for not being ‘supposed’ to pass on the data there is some basis here.  Some of the data used by the CRU came from third party governments and was subject to various restrictions.

However, a large amount of the data was provided by U.S. and European agencies and not under such limitations.  Further, the CRU’s work was publicly funded largely by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).  On what grounds could the CRU possibly refuse to release this data given that the taxpayers footed the bill for its collection and analysis?  All people were asking for was raw temperature sensor data.  What could it possibly harm to release this data to the public?

Now, it turns out that the CRU was technically not required to release even the publicly funded raw data.  The DOE rules, while strongly stressing that data be released when possible, did not strictly require it.  So, technically the CRU wasn’t breaking any laws but their refusal to publish data is certainly highly suspect.

CRU Obstruction of Freedom of Information Act Requests

As more people started to push harder for the raw data, the CRU team started to get concerned that Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests might be used to compel them to release the data:

[D]on’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! […] Tom Wigley has sent me a worried email when he heard about it—thought people could ask him for his model code. He has retired officially from UEA so he can hide behind that.
-Phil Jones email Feb. 2, 2005

I’m getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don’t any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act.
—Phil Jones email Feb. 21, 2005

Think I’ve managed to persuade UEA [the University of East Anglia] to ignore all further FOIA requests if the people have anything to do with Climate Audit.
-Phil Jones email Jun. 19, 2007

Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4 [IPCC 4th Assessment on Climate Change, 2007]? Keith will do likewise. […] Can you email Gene and get him to do the same? […] We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.
-Phil Jones email May 29, 2008

John Mitchell did respond to a request from Holland. John had conveniently lost many emails, but he did reply with a few. Keith and Tim have moved all their emails from all the named people off their PCs and they are all on a memory stick.
-Phil Jones email Jun. 4, 2008

Finally, might I ask that you note and then erase this email. I have found that recent enquiries under the Freedom of Information Act, or Data Protection Act, can become considerable time sinks , or the basis of some inconvenient subsequent distractions.
-Keith Briffa email Oct. 9, 2008

When the FOI requests began here, the FOI person said we had to abide by the requests. It took a couple of half hour sessions – one at a screen, to convince them otherwise… About 2 months ago I deleted loads of  emails, so have very little – if anything at all.
-Phil Jones email Dec. 3, 2008

You might want to check with the IPCC Bureau. I’ve been told that IPCC is above national FOI Acts. One way to cover yourself and all those working in AR5 [IPCC 5th Assessment on Climate Change] would be to delete all e-mails at the end of the process. Hard to do, as not everybody will remember it.
-Phil Jones email May 12, 2009

For example Keith Briffa took home emails that were subject to FOI to ensure their safekeeping.
-CRU IT security team meeting notes Jul 14, 2010

It’s pretty clear from the above emails that Phil Jones and the CRU team was fairly determined to resist releasing their data or email records subject to FOIA requests.  This determination extended to physically deleting or moving emails after the FOIA requests had been commenced.  This was blatantly illegal and a conspiracy in every sense of the word.

There is simply no way to spin these emails in a favourable light.  The CRU did intentionally and illegally obstruct the FOIA process.

CRU Refusal to Release Climate Models

My previous post went into some details around the actual model used by the CRU and some of the egregious problems with the code.  From even a cursory analysis of the code it’s clear that the CRU’s model was littered with fudge factors and blatant manipulations to force the data to produce the desired result.

Given this, it’s no surprise that the CRU also refused to release the details of their model:

I got this email from McIntyre a few days ago. As far as I’m concerned he has the data — sent ages ago. I’ll tell him this, but that’s all — no code. If I can find it, it is likely to be hundreds of lines of uncommented fortran ! I recall the program did a lot more than just average the series. I know why he can’t replicate the results early on — it is because there was a variance correction for fewer series.
-Phil Jones email Apr. 27, 2005

Giving them the algorithm would be giving in to the intimidation tactics that these people are engaged in
-Michael Mann, interview Wall Street Journal, 2005

Thus, any scientists attempting to reproduce the CRU’s results were predictably unsuccessful.  The CRU, cloaking both the data and model in secrecy, were able to get away with their inaccurate conclusions.

So why didn’t more scientists stand up and protest such an obvious obfuscation?  We turn our attention to this question next.

Where Were the Dissenters?

One valid question readers may have is why didn’t other scientists dig-in and reject the global warming hypothesis if the data was being so badly manipulated?

They did.  Or, at least, they tried to.

The reality is that many climatologists rejected the CRU and IPCC conclusions on global warming and refused to jump on the band wagon.  Such scientists were quickly labelled as ‘skeptics’ and subjected to concerted attacks aimed at discrediting and marginalizing them.  And it wasn’t just one or two wing-nuts – a significant number climatologists spoke out against the distortions of the CRU team.

But it didn’t matter.  The mainstream media had already picked their side and relentlessly pushed the global warming meme.  Governments also jumped aboard the bandwagon and began formulating policy, funding further research (all to scientists on record as supporters of the anthropogenic global warming conclusion) and setting school curriculums to brainwash the youth about the evils of carbon dioxide and unprecedented global warming.

But, like all good tyrants, the CRU knew that ALL dissent must be crushed without mercy.  They could be no room for questioning or independent thought.  After all, the CRU knew how vulnerable their rigged data and models were.

CRU Circumventing of the Scientific Process

The best defence is a good offence.  The CRU took this maxim to heart and aggressively attacked dissenters where ever they were found.

The main tactic used was to prevent the publishing of any dissenting papers in journals.  This was, for the most part, easily accomplished with CRU members (or affiliates) having close relationships with the editors of all major journals.  In addition, because CRU team members, Phil Jones in particular, were considered top experts in the field, they had the opportunity to peer-review many of the papers prior to their publishing.  Phil Jones could, and did, use this opportunity to blackball papers that disagreed with his conclusions and effectively block those papers from publication.

But, predictably, some journals had editors willing to stand up for scientific integrity and who refused to be brainwashed or intimidated by the climate change zealots.  These editors caused much consternation within the CRU team.  The CRU tactics used here ranged from attempting to blacklist entire journals to forcing editors to resign or be fired.  In this the CRU was highly successful.  Virtually all dissenting voices were quashed one way or another allowing the claim of a ‘scientific consensus’ on global warming.

To give you a flavour of the coordination that went on within the CRU team here’s extracts from some of the more damning emails.

…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…
-Phil Jones email Mar. 11, 2003

In fact, Mike McCracken first pointed out this article to me, and he and I have discussed this a bit. I’ve cc’d Mike in on this as well, and I’ve included Peck too. I told Mike that I believed our only choice was to ignore this paper. They’ve already achieved what they wanted–the claim of a peer-reviewed paper. There is nothing we can do about that now, but the last thing we want to do is bring attention to this paper, which will be ignored by the community on the whole… It is pretty clear that thee skeptics here have staged a bit of a coup, even in the presence of a number of reasonable folks on the editorial board (Whetton, Goodess, …). My guess is that Von Storch is actually with them (frankly, he’s an odd individual, and I’m not sure he isn’t himself somewhat of a skeptic himself), and without Von Storch on their side, they would have a very forceful personality promoting their new vision. There have been several papers by Pat Michaels, as well as the Soon & Baliunas paper, that couldn’t get published in a reputable journal. 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… What do others think?
-Michael Mann email Mar. 11, 2003

Re CR [Climate Research Journal], I do not know the best way to handle the specifics of the editoring. Hans von Storch is partly to blame — he encourages the publication of crap science ‘in order to stimulate debate’. One approach is to go direct to the publishers and point out the fact that their journal is perceived as being a medium for disseminating misinformation under the guise of refereed work…
Note that I am copying this view only to Mike Hulme and Phil Jones. Mike’s idea to get editorial board members to resign will probably not work — must get rid of von Storch too, otherwise holes will eventually fill up with people like Legates, Balling, Lindzen, Michaels, Singer, etc. I have heard that the publishers are not happy with von Storch, so the above approach might remove that hurdle too.
-Tom Wigley email Apr. 24, 2003

I am really sorry but I have to nag about that review – Confidentially I now need a hard and if required extensive case for rejecting – to support Dave Stahle’s and really as soon as you can.
-Keith Briffa email Jun. 4, 2003

I would like to play with it in an effort to refute their claims. If published as is, this paper could really do some damage. It is also an ugly paper to review because it is rather mathematical, with a lot of Box-Jenkins stuff in it. It won’t be easy to dismiss out of hand as the math appears to be correct theoretically
-Edward Cook email Jun. 4, 2003

It seems to me that this “Kinne” character’s words are disingenuous, and he probably supports what De Freitas is trying to do. It seems clear we have to go above him. I think that the community should, as Mike H has previously suggested in this eventuality, terminate its involvement with this journal at all levels–reviewing, editing, and submitting, and leave it to wither way into oblivion and disrepute.
-Michael Mann email Jul. 3, 2003

In the meantime, I urge people to dissociate themselves from Climate Research. The residual ‘editorial’ (a word I use almost tongue in cheek) board is looking like a rogues’ gallery of skeptics. Those remaining who are credible scientists should resign.
-Tom Wigley email Aug. 19, 2003

Recently rejected two papers (one for JGR and for GRL) from people saying CRU has it wrong over Siberia. Went to town in both reviews, hopefully successfully. If either appears I will be very surprised.
-Phil Jones email March 31, 2004

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!
-Phil Jones email Jul. 8, 2004

This is truly awful. GRL [Geophysical Research Letters journal] has gone downhill rapidly in recent years. I think the decline began before Saiers. I have had some unhelpful dealings with him recently with regard to a paper Sarah and I have on glaciers — it was well received by the referees, and so is in the publication pipeline. However, I got the impression that Saiers was trying to keep it from being published.
Proving bad behavior here is very difficult. If you think that Saiers is in the greenhouse skeptics camp, then, if we can find documentary evidence of this, we could go through official AGU [American Geophysical Union] channels to get him ousted [as editor for the Geophysical Research Letters journal] . Even this would be difficult.
-Tom Wigley email Jan. 20, 2005

The panel is solid. Gerry North should do a good job in chairing this, and the other members are all solid. Chrisy is the token skeptic, but there are many others to keep him in check…
-Michael Mann email Feb. 2, 2006

Its your prerogative to suggest alternates, and I think they’ll take your suggestions very seriously. My greatest fear is that McIntyre dominates the discussion. Its important that they hear from the legitimate scientists.
-Michael Mann email Feb. 13, 2006

I see you’re down for a meeting in London tomorrow and Friday.  I have been having something of a run in with a French scientist called Vincent Courtillot. He is making Edouard Bard’s life awful in French.  If you’re there on the Friday when Vincent is talking then tell him he’s just completely wrong. He will likely say the climate isn’t warming and even if it was it has little to do with greenhouse gases. So shouldn’t be difficult!!
I’m lecturing here in Norwich to students so can’t make it to London.  If you’re not there on the Friday, just make sure one or two reasonable scientists are aware that they have invited a bit of rogue!
-Phil Jones email Feb. 6, 2008

You’ll get one awful talk on the Friday from a Vincent Courtillot. If he lays into me, or says the world isn’t warming you have my permission to go and put the boot it[sic]. Shouldn’t be difficult.
Have emailed Jim as well.Vincent is a prat, but he’s a well connected prat – French Academy and all that.  He’s been making life a misery for Eduoard Bard.  I can’t make it – I’m just trying to help Eduoard!
-Phil Jones email Feb. 6, 2008

Dear folks, You may be interesting in this snippet of information about Pat Michaels. Perhaps the University of Wisconsin ought to open up a public comment period to decide whether Pat Michaels, PhD needs re-assessing?
-Tom Wigley email October 14, 2009

These emails illustrate the key tactics employed by the CRU in their campaign against the ‘skeptics’:

  1. Applying pressure to editorial boards to ‘rid themselves’ of ‘troublesome’ editors.
  2. Organizing the blacklisting of journals which refused to be intimidated and dared publish papers critical of anthropogenic global warming.
  3. Ensuring that lectures given by ‘deniers’ would be attended by friendly forces who could disrupt and dispute any claims that global warming wasn’t open and shut.
  4. Attempting to have the PhD’s of dissenters who dared question their conclusions revoked.  See here for the full story on that one.
  5. Leveraging their positions as ‘experts’ to review papers prior to publishing and undermine any papers that disagreed with the global warming meme.
  6. Ensuring papers sympathetic to ‘the cause’ would be reviewed by friendly editors and peer-reviewers to ensure publication.

The last two tactics were especially effective.  What better way to prevent dissent than quash papers even before they get published?  This is much more efficient than having to discredit the authors of papers that have already been published.  And, if you additionally ensure that papers supporting your view always get out, you quickly skew the corpus of scientific literature in the direction of your conclusions.

Other scientists did recognize this attempt to establish a monopoly on the truth.  Raymond Bradley, head of the Geosciences department at the University of Massachusetts voiced his objection as follows:

I have just returned from Finland and have now read all the correspondence regarding the Science perspectives article you asked Keith Briffa & Tim Osborn to write. I’ve sent Tim Osborn & Keith Briffa a few suggestions re their perspectives article. If you would like to see them, let me know.
I would like to diasassociate myself from Mike Mann’s view that “xxxxxxxxxxx” [x’d out in released email] and that they “xxxxxxxxxxxxx” [x’d out in released email]. I find this notion quite absurd. I have worked with the UEA group for 20+ years and have great respect for them and for their work. Of course, I don’t agree with everything they write, and we often have long (but cordial) arguments about what they think versus my views, but that is life. Indeed, I know that they have broad disagreements among themselves, so to refer to them as “the UEA group”, as though they all march in lock-step seems bizarre.
As for thinking that it is “Better that nothing appear, than something unnacceptable[sic] to us” … though we are the gatekeepers of all that is acceptable in the world of paleoclimatology seems amazingly arrogant. Science moves forward whether we agree with individiual[sic] articles or not…


The infamous hockey stick graph is still used today in an attempt to force draconian regulations on the entire world.  The graph is the product of fault data and a brutally manipulative model.

The scientists involved knew the science was junk and covered it up.  Those scientists undertook a systematic and coordinated campaign to prevent their data and model methodologies from being made known.  This campaign extended to physically deleting emails in violation of the Freedom of Information Act.  This was completely unethical and also illegal.  It was done purely in the furtherance of their fraud.

But worst of all, these global warming advocates assaulted the core principals of the scientific method by attacking the peer-review process itself.  By pressuring journals and editors to publish papers supporting the ’cause’ while blocking publication of ‘dissenting’ papers, proper scientific debate, the means by which we arrive at the truth, was quashed.

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  • Climategate Part One: Overview, Tree Rings and the Divergence Problem,…

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