I suppose that it is inevitable that the sensational revelations in the hacked CRU emails have  been labelled Climategate, but is it reasonable to compare what is happening now with the Watergate scandal of nearly forty years ago?

Pat Michaels, climatologist and long-time global warming sceptic, certainly thinks so. When he was interviewed on Fox News by Stuart Varney he suggested:

The other side’s going to say that this story will go away. No! It’s not. There is so much in here its like Watergate. Things are going to come up, and up , and up, and up for the next year.


He may well be right that there are many more revelations to come from the CRU computer files that are now in the public domain. As I pointed out in a previous post, the amount of data is vast and assessing it will be a complex task. Although initial frenzied searches by sceptics have yielded many quotations that apparently reveal sensational wrongdoing, this is just the first stage. In the coming months far more detailed analysis will take place so that the complex relationship between various strands of the email exchanges and the extensive data files can be untangled. This process will takes time, scientific expertise, and a very great deal of patience. Such research is likely at the very least to prompt more questions about just what has been going on at  one of the world’s leading climate change labs.

So is this process likely to be analogous with the dogged investigation carried out by Washington Post reporters Woodward and Burnstein, which revealed the cover-up that was the most devastating aspect of Watergate scandal? It is tantalising to consider what might happen if the initial release of information from CRU emboldens some ‘deep throat’ to divulge even more damaging material, perhaps showing that the unacceptable culture that has been revealed at CRU is not confined to just one institution.Although Pat Michaels is no doubt right to make the comparison between Climate and Watergate on the grounds that this too is likely to be a ‘slow release’ scandal with new stories emerging over a long period, does the similarity end there.?

At the moment, it may seem ridiculous to think that the alleged misdemeanours of a few climate scientists, albeit at a very high profile research centre, could cause the kind of seismic convulsions that led to a US president’s resignation. On the other hand, when the Watergate break-in looked as though it was just the work of a few renegade Republicans, that too seemed pretty parochial. But even at this stage there is nothing parochial about the CRU scandal. The address headers on many of the emails read like a listing of all the great and good of climate science, and extend across the world to a multitude of similar academic institutions. And these lie at the heart of the IPCC process on which global politics depends for its understanding of climate change.

Considering the Wateregate scandal in its historical context, it resulted in the resignation of a single head of state and confirmation that politics in the US could still be a very dirty business. Dramatic, distasteful and prejudicial to the public’s confidence in political leaders this may have been, but essentially the damage was limited to the domestic politics of a single country and a certain tarnishing of its image abroad. In this respect, the potential global impact of Climategate differs markedly from the Watergate scandal.

For over a decade, concern about climate change has increasingly shaped international politics until we find ourselves swept along by a crescendo of demands for action to control Earths climate that will culminate in the Copenhagen Summit next month. This is not a parochial matter. Decisions taken at this meeting are likely to shape global economic well-being and the dynamics or intergovernmental relations for decades to come. This is not only a matter of committing hundreds of billions of dollars probably trillions in the long term to averting and mitigating climate change, on the assumption that this is both necessary and possible. Attempts must also now be made to address a new rift between the developing world, which justifiably claims that historically it has contributed little to Co2 emissions, and those in the developed world who are now requiring their poorer countries to take measures that will prejudice their economic growth so that the planet may be saved.

All the new policies that will be considered at Copenhagen have been dictated by what scientists, and their supporters in the eNGOs, have been telling politicians, policy makers, the media and the general public for a decade. If evidence emerges from the CRU files that experts worldwide have manipulated evidence, downplayed ignorance and uncertainty, and attempted to stifle dissent in the cause of presenting an illusion of consensus, that calls into question all the concerns that have led us down the long and weary road to Copenhagen via Rio and Kyoto.

The potential fallout from Climategate is capable of making Watergate look like a very puny storm in a teacup.

100 Responses to “CRU Email Hack – will Climategate be the new Watergate?”

  1. Call me cynical, but although this is great news, the climate zealots in the general public and all layers of government are so entrenched in their commitment to the climate change agenda that I don’t think this will even scratch the surface.

    Copenhagen is a little over a fornight away, and, sad though it is, I just can’t see the global warming locomotive being derailed.

  2. Manolo:

    I’m certainly not expecting the CRU hacks to de-rail COpenhagen, but I’m not expecting the summit to achieve much more than Bali or Poznan either although it will surely be spun as a huge leap forward.

    If Michaels is right, it will be the slow dripping out of more and more details as the data is analysed that will eventually lead to the media having to take the story seriously.

    According to the BBC, the University of East Anglia will announce an inquiry on Monday. As the CRU is part of UEA, not even warmists are likely to see an internal investigation as being credible. With Watergate it was the cover-up that did the damage, rather than the break-in.

  3. The new Watergate? Well, it should be – but the MSM seems determined to bury it and I suspect that, by not reporting it, it believes the story will be dead by next week (i.e. before the Copenhagen Conference). That may be a good assessment – unless some new revelations come to light soon.

    This (from American Thinker) is a good commentary.

  4. TonyN, thanks for a very thoughtful analysis. It certainly looks as though your key observations are likely to be spot on.

    First, Climategate has far greater implications for the entire world than Watergate ever did.

    Second, the demise of AGW as a major policy issue will not occur overnight, but this will occur as a process, much like Watergate, with new revelations of data manipulation, other skullduggery and arrogance being released along the way as the process continues.

    It appears as though a “tipping point” has been reached from which AGW will never be able to recover, and although AGW has been mortally wounded its final death will not occur rapidly but slowly and painfully.

    As far as Copenhagen is concerned, I agree that it will not be officially derailed. It will just be irrelevant.


  5. TonyN

    Two thoughts that have already died as a result of Climategate:

    The science is settled. It is time for action.

    An overwhelming consensus of scientists supports the IPCC premise that AGW is a serious threat.

    These two thoughts have become redundant. I believe they are being replaced with:

    Let’s have an independent audit of everything the IPCC has told us before we go any further with any mitigation proposals.


  6. Whether Copenhagen is derailed or not, everyone must see this with a long term view.

    “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” George Orwell, 1984.

    Whatever stitched up shonky deal is made at Copenhagen, the verdict of history and of science will remain the same; climate alarmists are frauds, and their stooges within the science establishments and in the media are guilty of collusion, lies and deceit. The information is now released, more no doubt will be forthcoming. The stink and shame of corruption will follow those who wilfully choose to ignore it…

  7. Robin;

    I don’t think that sceptics are doing themselves any favours by making hysterical claims about fraud at CRU. There is no conclusive evidence that I have seem to justify this – yet.

    If the MSM are going to focus on this story then they will need to be able to rely, in the first instance, on what the sceptical blogs are saying. For that reason if non-other now is a very good time for restraint, caution and careful reporting with credible analysis of the facts.

    Max #4:

    Perhaps we will only know whether that tipping-point has been reached if media coverage of the Copenhagen jamboree routinely includes references to the CRU fiasco.

    Max #5

    I certainly hope that you are right and I think that you are right that the next stage will be growing demands for a reassessment of the evidence. But as you say, it’s still likely to be a long haul even if there are more revelations.


    It is easy to assume that there is collusion between the press and the warmists, but I am not at all sure that it is right to do so. An editor’s primary concern is what the people in the back-room who look at the accounts say.

    Techniques of newsgathering, if the process can still be called that, have changed radically over the last decade. In fact the media no longer gather news except in some rather specialist areas like politics, finance and international affairs. They merely sift what they are provided with by people and organisations that have something to say. Their computer screens fill with it every time they look at their mailboxes.

    This suits the accountants and editors very well. Journalists are expensive and researching and checking stories takes time. If you have ten seemingly authoritative and dramatic stories on your screen saying that the planet is doomed then there is a strong incentive to just use them. It’s quick, its cheap, and such stories produce eye-catching headlines.

    The eNGO’s are very good at this kind of press manipulation and have the resources and the co-ordination to dictate the news agenda. The sceptics are hopeless in this respect.

    Nick Davies’ Flat Earth News is well worth getting out of the library for anyone who is interested in how the news is made at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. It is written by an insider and, for me at least, explains a lot of things about why the media have been so uncritical about what they are told about AGW.

    The good news is that if it becomes apparent that the scientists, and their cheerleaders among the activists and the lobby groups, have been routinely misleading the media over the evidence for global warming then the reaction of editors and journalists is likely to be swift and savage. Monbiot’s outburst last week is a good example and I expect that there will be others.

    Journalist don’t like to be seen to be wrong any more than anyone else, in fact there reputations do usually depend on getting the story right. And that can ver quickly bight the hand that feeds it.

  8. I appreciate the Watergate comparison, Tony, but I think that even with the overwhelming evidence of connivance, this might turn out more like the Jim Garriosn JFK case than the fall of Nixon.

  9. Well, Tony (7), of course, you’re (as always – well. nearly always) correct: yes, it’s unwise to start “making hysterical claims about fraud at CRU”. However, I feel bound to observe that the acronym for CRU Data is “CRUD” – defined as something that “is disgusting or unpleasant [or] nonsense as in they just want the simple truth without any religious crud.” Little to add really.

  10. Tony:

    You keep plugging Nick Davies’ Flat Earth News. But Davies insists that Y2K was a fraud. It wasn’t. Perhaps he gets other things wrong too.

  11. Guys,

    Just wanted to get the “consensus” opinion of these two clips……This guy is examining the CRU code. (Once you get past the first 10 seconds of irritating music it’s bearable).

    Climategate – CRU Source Code Confirms AGW Fraud From Hacked Documents


    Update – Climategate – CRU Source Code Explained



  12. Global Warming Partisan Divide


    “I’ve spent 4 decades studying global climate change and as a scientist I am appalled at Krugman’s cavalier shrugging off the Hadley email scandal as ‘just the way scientists talk among themselves.’ That’s like saying it’s alright for politicians to be corrupt because that’s the way they are. Legitimate scientists do not doctor data, delete data they don’t like, hide data they don’t want seen, hijack the peer review process, personally attack other scientists whose views differ from theirs, send fraudulent data to the IPCC that is used to perpetuate the greatest hoax in the history science, provide false data to further legislation on climate change that will result in huge profits for corrupt lobbyists and politicians, and tell outright lies about scientific data.” [End Easterbrook statement.]

    -Don Easterbrook

    Easterbrook’s full resume is here.


  13. Robin;

    But they seem strangely reluctant to spit it out!

  14. Try some of the links in this story………astonishing.

    Phil Jones has collected a staggering $22.6
    million in grants


  15. Brute:
    Keep them coming — they don’t go un-noticed.

    Your #14 is interesting in that it can be compared, I suppose, to the $23m that Exxon is reputed to have devoted to promoting scepticism. The difference would seem to be that this was a one-off exercise by a multi-national. The figures in the spread sheet seem to only refer to one strand of funding at CRU which is only one climate research lab among very many. And this $22m is dwarfed by the $147m allocation to climate modelling in the US Energy Security Bill.

  16. At last the truth!

  17. This is what I mean when I urge bypassing “the media”. News is passed along from person to person through personal E-mail. The effect multiplies as one person will CARBON copy (pun intended) others in their address book.

    While I don’t believe that it will change a congressman’s vote, (only bribes or extortion seem to accomplish that), I believe it will expose this fraud thoroughly and hopefully will change voter’s views regarding prospective future political candidates.

    The credibility of these “scientists” has been shredded and the data that they have produced and championed has been exposed as falsified.

    Any politician that stands on a stump next year proclaiming to “solve” or “attack” the global warming “crisis” will be figuratively pelted with rotten vegetables. Politicians avoid scandals like the plague (any scandal)……this one is no different than a illegitimate child or a tryst with an intern and politicians of any stripe will back away from this indignity.

    Climategate e-mails sweep America, may scuttle Barack Obama’s Cap and Trade laws


  18. Brute

    There are many parallels between Watergate and Climategate, but you have hit on one major difference.

    Watergate occurred before there was an Internet (Al Gore hadn’t invented it yet, as he was still a student at the Vanderbilt Divinity School at the time).

    Watergate was exposed by the mainstream media (Washington Post) and a single inside whistleblower.

    For now it appears as though the MSM has largely decided to ignore Climategate, but the MSM itself has become irrelevant, as you have pointed out.

    Instant information, youtubes, blog sites, etc. give Climategate a whole new platform, which makes cover-ups impossible. In addition, there are now freedom of information laws, which did not exist during Watergate.

    Many politicians and climatologists haven’t gotten the word yet, but the AGW movement will not survive Climategate, just as the Nixon presidency did not survive Watergate.

    Keep those youtubes and blogs coming.


  19. Comments about ClimateGate made by Dr Rajendra Pachauri, IPCC Chairman, in a Times interview reported this morning were disgracefully complacent. Here’s the relevant extract:

    Dr Pachauri, speaking to The Times on Saturday … suggested that the fossil fuel lobby could be behind a hacking incident last month that led to the publication of thousands of leaked e-mails between climate scientists. He said that it was entirely possible that “corporate interests” had had a hand in the leak.

    Dr Pachauri … demanded an immediate investigation into the hacking of e-mails from the University of East Anglia’s climatic research unit, which he branded an “illegal act”.

    He said: “One needs firstly to find out personally who is responsible, who the culprits are and what were their motives. And unless we do that it is likely that similar things will happen in the future.”

    And that’s it. What’s needed, of course, is an investigation to determine the identity of the hackers and to ensure no more information becomes publicly available – nothing about investigating the fact that the emails indicated seriously unprofessional behaviour by CRU scientists.

    Oh, and he was in London for a lecture organised by – you guessed it – the BBC.

  20. Phil Jones is stepping down temporarily, pending enquiry, 7.22pm From the Air Vent via the Jackson Sun via AP. They have the story in Mississippi, but not at the Guardian, Times, or Independent.

  21. Robin

    Dr. Pachauri tries to deflect attention from the content of the leaked emails by pontificating about the fact that they were “stolen” (whistle-blowers almost always use “stolen” evidence to expose scandals).

    By ignoring it, the MSM has become largely irrelevant in the Climategate process.

    The next step will be that the IPCC and Dr. Pachauri also become irrelevant.

    This will not happen overnight, but I am convinced that it will happen, now that Climategate has gotten “legs”.

    Pandorra’s box has been opened.


  22. What Geoff said……on The Drudge Report and all over talk radio in the U.S.

    UK climate scientist to temporarily step down


  23. From US News and World Report…..

    Penn State Will Investigate ‘Climategate’


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