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. In another post I said that I thought that the it would take weeks or months to analyse the leaked emails properly and put them in context. Here is an example of a very fine piece of work that illustrates what I meant.


    I’m sure that there will be much, much more to come. The MSM may not fall over themselves to put such stories on the front page, but they are unlikely to go unnoticed in the scientific world and I am sure that they will slowly filter through to the politicians and policy-makers.

    There is also a surprisingly interesting post from Roger Harrabin here:


  2. The story of Jones side-step from the horse’s mouth here:


    The Vice-Chancellor’s hope ‘that CRU can continue to operate normally’ would seem to indicate that someone is in denial about the catastrophic scale of this scandal.

  3. Have a chuckle at this YouTube video spoof

  4. Hitler vs AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming, ala “Man-made climate change”)

    Hitler phones an Indian call center


  5. The BBC’s take on Phil Jones sidestep is here:


    It [the inquiry] is being conducted in the wake of the allegations by climate “sceptics”.

    If the inquiry was precipitated by sceptics, what does that say about the UEA authorities?

    This is what Jones says about the trick to hide the decline:

    The first thing to point out is that this refers to one diagram – not a scientific paper

    As with Watergate, it’s the cover-up that’s likely to do the real damage.

  6. Not exactly one of the big boys, but the MSM in the UK finally appears to have taken notice.


  7. Pass this along to your E-mail Address book…..

    Climategate: it’s all unravelling now


  8. Australia’s Parliament defeats global warming bill


  9. Brute

    I’m sure Peter Martin was pleased to hear that his Parliament has defeated PM Rudd’s climate bill.

    Will your Senate do the same?

    Will Obama sign a watered down political statement at Copenhagen (since he does not have the authority to sign a binding treaty)?

    The next several days should be interesting, as Climategate continues to roll on while the politicians of this world have their collective heads in the sand.


  10. Max,

    What happened to Peter Martin? Did I miss something?

  11. Here is a C.S. Lewis quote for our politicians going to Copenhagen:

    Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.


  12. Brute

    Looks like PM is doing the same as UEA’s Phil Jones, i.e. “stepping aside”.

    In Jones’ case I think he is attempting to step away from the fan (but it’s too late – it’s already hit).


  13. Jack Hughes #28 I’ve always stood out against terms like eco-fascist, but your link is so funny. Seriously, where do we all stand now? Those whom I have always (well, nearly always) been careful to designate as reasonable, misguided opponents are revealed as miserable cheats and liars. I can now say out loud what I have been muttering under my breath – that the likes of Phil Jones (ex-head of the Climacteric Research unit) and Bob Ward (ex spokesthing of the Royal Society) are frauds, useful idiots, (to borrow Lenin’s useful idiotic phrase). Is this unfair? Probably. No-one has been found guilty in a court of law. Does it matter? Only the net can say. Is there a danger of a Robespierrian reign of terror following a glorious moment of liberty? Maybe. A green part of me wants to predict the future, but my conscious, empirical side says: wait and see.

  14. Here’s a short summary of how Watergate played out:

    -Break-in of Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate complex
    -Watergate burglars arrested
    -Hush money paid to burglars to keep quiet
    -Nixon lies about awareness of break-in or cover-up
    -Nixon fires top aides
    -Court rules Nixon must release tapes to special prosecutor Cox
    -Nixon gives summaries, but not tapes, to Cox
    -Cox again requests tapes
    -Nixon fires Cox
    -White House aides indicted by Grand Jury
    -Nixon releases an edited transcript of tapes
    -House committee starts impeachment process
    -Supreme Court orders Nixon to hand over all tapes
    -Nixon releases 3 tapes, including “smoking gun”
    -Nixon resigns
    -Ford pardons Nixon
    -WH aides and others involved sentenced to prison terms

    How will this one play out?

    Will anyone be left to “hold the sack” and, if so, who will this be?

  15. Max:

    Have you any idea when and where that quote appeared? Google doesn’t seem to have the answer.

    It should be a permanent feature of every climate related blog on both sides of the debate.

  16. 22,200,000 Google hits for “Climategate” (and growing).

  17. Wiki is doing its usual sterling job in describing the “Climatic Research Unit e-mail hacking incident, also known as Climategate” as a “criminal breach” of the UEA security system by an unknown hacker, but no mention at all of all the incriminating evidence that was revealed.


    Is Wiki becoming irrelevant, along with the MSM?


  18. I have to modify my post #44.

    Wiki does make some general comments on the contents.

  19. Radio interview (BBC R4 World Tonight) with Mann here. It would seem that old friends have fallen out and Mike has a take on events that doesn’t altogether agree with the content of the emails:


    It’s worth listening right to the end for an increasingly interesting discussion on whether we can put implicit trust in scientists. The majority view seems to be that we should not. There are some surprises for anyone who has followed the BBC coverage of Climategate so far.

    It’s a big download but worth every second.

    Incidentally on the BBC1 10pm News last night David Shukman managed an almost impartial report on Phil Jones ‘standing aside’.

  20. No I haven’t disappeared. I’m working away from home at present so don’t have much time on my hands.

    Climategate? I’ve never liked the idea of making up these sort of words by putting ‘gate’ onto to the end of another noun to make it sound a bit like Watergate. If it does turn out to be like Watergate the scandal may yet turn on the identity of the burglars. Have they the guts to explain who they are, why they did it, and who is backing them?

    Yes, I agree with much of what has been said about Phil Jones and what he has admitted himself. His choices of words has at times been particularly unwise. Resisting FOI requests was probably the worst. I can only guess that he might feel a bit like I might if I was going to be audited by the tax department. The business is basically straight, but can I account for every bank transaction, every saved invoice, every expense claim? No, I can’t and I doubt if Phil Jones can justify every scrap of data he’s collected in the last 20 years either. In his case there wouldn’t be just one auditor, there would be hundreds: all determined to magnify out of all proportion every single gap in the records.

    What does come across from my reading of the emails is that Jones et al, who you can’t just dismiss as idiots or refugees from the now defunct CPGB, do genuinely believe in what they are saying. They do genuinely believe in the science as published. No, they shouldn’t be tempted to take any short cuts or hide any data. Compared to the Singers, Plimers, and Carters of this world who’ll happily spread whatever disinformation the Energy and mining corporations pay them to, Jones is an angel. However, he’s not perfect angel and that is the standard that has to apply to mainstream science.

    TonyN is right when he says: “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.”

    Keep digging through those emails.

  21. Wasn’t certain where to post this…..Seems to fit well here as it relates to the CRU falisfying data scandal.

    Researcher: NASA hiding climate data


  22. Peter M:

    Your sympathy for Phil Jones brings tears to my eyes, but if he’d hadn’t turned his data into a big secret then none of this would have happened, would it?

    And don’t you think that the following quote suggests that Jones’s enthusiasm for catastrophic climate predictions might have got just a little bit out of hand?

    As you know, I’m not political. If anything, I would like to see the climate change happen, so the science could be proved right, regardless of the consequences. This isn’t being political, it is being selfish.

    [Email 1120593115.txt to John Christy20/11/2009]

    So far as the following is concerned:

    I don’t think that sceptics are doing themselves any favours by making hysterical claims about fraud at CRU.

    let’s be clear; you know and I know that the operative word inn that sentence is hysteria, not claims.

    Any journalist who has had a sniff round this story (other than the BBC of course, and they seem to be moderating their line by the hour) must be aware by now that it stinks to high heaven and is going to run and run.

  23. A couple of interesting developments in the MSM today. First, The Times has a leader summarised by its subheading: “Whatever one thinks of climate change, the leaked University of East Anglia e-mails are a scandal“. And second, Richard Black (the BBC’s environmental correspondent) reports today that Saudi Arabia’s lead climate negotiator, Mohammed Al-Sabban, says that ClimateGate “will have a “huge impact” on next week’s UN climate summit, with countries unwilling to cut emissions” and that “the UN summit should encourage a “full investigation” of the affair”.

    TonyN: do you surmise that, one day, there might be conclusive evidence that would justify “hysterical claims about fraud at CRU”?

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