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. Robin:

    I don’t see how hysteria can ever be ‘justified’, so far as I’m aware its a morbid psychological condition.

    So far as ‘conclusive evidence of fraud’ emerging from the emails is concerned, that seems unlikely, but then there are the data files and it will probably be months before those will be analysed thoroughly. Is this going to be left to the sceptical blogosphere or will mainstream scientists or politicians eventually require it to be done formally in order to clear the air?

    For acusations of fraud to be proved, firstly there must be actions that can reasonably be defined as fraud. Then they must be brought to light and substantiated.
    Last night (BBC 10pm News) professor Acton, the UEA Vice-Chancellor, spoke of their ‘independent’ inquiry that should be announced any time now. Setting aside the absurd notion that an inquiry and terms of reference deriving from the UEA can be considered credibly independent, at this stage it is not an inquiry that is needed.

    The emails are discontinuous and fragmentary. There must be far more material on the CRU servers that is relevant to this scandal and which the hacker or whistle-blower did not release. What is needed is a thorough investigation before an inquiry is even mooted. Without this no inquiry can be credible unless it is limited only to discovering who nicked the family jewels.

    A thorough assessment of the integrity of scientific practices at CRU over the last decade is not possible just on the strength of what is in the public domain at the moment.

    In the BBC interview i linke to in #46 above, Mann criticises Jones savagely. If there was a conspiracy, and that seems at very likely, then the conspirators are now playing the blame game, and that is very dangerous for all involved. Then there is always the possibility that someone involved in the correspondence will turn Queens Evidence in an attempt to save their own skin.

    In other words, the answer to your question is that I haven’t a clue.


    As I was about to click submit on this comment a news flash came up. FInd our who the inquiry chairman will be here:


  2. Sir Muir Russell

    Sir Muir Russell seems not to have had an altogether troublefree career.

  3. TonyN,

    I’m not sure why you think Phil Jones’ comment “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.” undermines the scientific argument. Its nothing more than a case of ‘over honesty’, as it were. Maybe even the best cancer specialists secretly feel the same way when their diagnosis proves to be correct. Of course, they’d want to make sure it wasn’t something to be put on the record.

    I’m sure that deep down James Hansen feels a sense of pride that his prediction of imminent global warming made in the 70’s proved to be correct. Its just human nature.


    Whether you are correct about the demise of AGW will depend on whether temperatures will stay flat or, as I’ve been predicting, will shortly make their next jump.

    Is our bet still on? Maybe you’d like to switch to the NASA figures rather than the Hadcrut data?

  4. TonyN,

    What’s the “operative word” in this sentence?

    “There is no conclusive evidence that I have seem to justify this [fraud] – yet.”

    Max and co have been screaming hoax and fraud for many years now without the slightest need for “conclusive evidence”. And, as you say, there isn’t any.

  5. Thought this would cheer everyone up-once Britains premier cartoonist sees fit to comment on the scandal the matter has reached the masses.

    Wonderful cartoon today that has a seasonal twist


  6. I bet you guys are happy now that Nick Griffin of the far right BNP has now decided he’s on your side, and has somehow wangled an EU appointment on some AGW committee.

    And his take on the subject?

    “It is a global Marxist mantra that is going to be used to beat people around the head, tax us to the hilt, smash nations and impose a one world government.”

    I think Nick probably owes Brute a drink for supplying that line of argument.

  7. Peter

    Good to see you back. I’m not sure I have ever used the word fraud, but certainly there has been some extreme manipulation of data going on.

    James Hansens 1987 paper clearly set out the rationale for his choice of historic stations from 1880. This is the original article by him.

    “Global trends of measured surface air temperature. Author: James Hansen”


    Figure 2 sums the numbers up. Essential readng for climate researchers as it puts the GISS datasets into context.

    Phil Jones chose ones from 1850-presumably to steal a march on Hansen. Unfortunately after stalling for a decade Jones admitted he had destroyed the raw data so they can’t be audited.

    However, I have recreated many of them here

    The IPCC and the Met office use the global databases (which are nothing of the kind) to subsequently claim there was little variability in our climate before our emissions of the last half century, and that the LIA period was uniformly cold (which it wasn’t).

    They also said that every place on earth was warming except South Greenland and a few places in the tropics.

    The global data sets commence from deep troughs of the Little Ice age, it would be astonishing if temperatures didn’t subsequently rise. Clear evidence of variability is shown in the thermometer and observed records, whereby a temperature rise prior to the 1850/80 dates can be clearly seen. Why not measure summit to summit instead of trough to (possible)summit?

    Both Hansen and Jones knew full well about these aspects, but let the myth circulate that the temperature rise is unprecedented and temperatures were relatively constant until we started interfering.

    To supplement this data, a newly qualified Phd, DR Mann, was allowed to foist his experimental hockey stick science on the world-overturning the knowledge of our climate built up over centuries.

    Can you explain why this double myth has been encouraged at such great expense?

    In checking the individual records it is also clear there are many hundreds of places that have been cooling for a meterologically significant period of at least 30 years. Why isn’t this mentioned? Both scientists must know this.

    If it’s not fraud, is it incompetence or manipulation or what? Perhaps you can provide a suitable phrase from the green lexicon that covers this. How about ‘imaginative interpretation’ perhaps.


  8. Results from a first post-Climategate Rasmussen Poll in USA: Majority of Americans believe scientists have falsified research data to support their own theories and beliefs about global warming


    Most Americans (52%) believe that there continues to be significant disagreement within the scientific community over global warming.
    While many advocates of aggressive policy responses to global warming say a consensus exists, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 25% of adults think most scientists agree on the topic. Twenty-three percent (23%) are not sure.
    But just in the last few days, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs seemed to reject any such disagreement in a response to a question about global warming, “I don’t think … [global warming] is quite, frankly, among most people, in dispute anymore.”
    Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Americans say it’s at least somewhat likely that some scientists have falsified research data to support their own theories and beliefs about global warming. Thirty-five percent (35%) say it’s Very Likely. Just 26% say it’s not very or not at all likely that some scientists falsified data.

    Thanks to Phil Jones, Michael Mann, etc. folks are starting to get wise, proving Abraham Lincoln’s saying.


  9. Peter M (54)

    Welcome back! A lot has happened since you last posted here.

    Is AGW a hoax, a fraud?

    That depends entirely on how you define AGW.

    If you define it as “the theoretical greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide and the premise that human CO2 emissions have been at least partially responsible for increased atmospheric CO2 levels” then I would not agree that this is a hoax or fraud.

    If you define it as “the projected increase of global temperature by 2 to 6 degrees C by year 2100 due to rising atmospheric CO2 caused by human CO2 emissions, resulting in a serious threat to our society and environment”, then I would say it is a hoax or fraud.

    Of course, the recent revelations only tend to reinforce this. And it could well be that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg so far.

    Which definition do you favor, Peter?


  10. Peter M (53)

    Yes. Our bet is still on, based on HadCRUT.

    Hadley data will probably be scrutinized more closely now now that irregularities have been discovered. And greater transparency can only help in the future.

    I’m betting on “natural variability” (a.k.a. natural climate forcing), as the Met Office’s Vicky Pope calls it.

    And since both the surface air temperature and ocean are cooling, despite all sorts of desperate attempts to “adjust” the Argo results upward to make them agree with the theory, I’m feeling pretty good about our bet.


  11. “Most Americans (52%) believe that there continues to be significant disagreement within the scientific community over global warming.”

    Do they? Well that’s no surprise. They are subject to the sort of “they call it (CO2) pollution – we call it life” ads which are designed to make them think that way. I’ve seen all sorts of claimed statistics about Americans, such as: most Americans think that Russia and Germany were on the same side in WW2, and that the Israel has existed, continually, since Biblical times.

    Unfortunately American popular opinion won’t change the realities of Climate science one little bit.

  12. Peter M

    You opined:

    Unfortunately American popular opinion won’t change the realities of Climate science one little bit.

    The “realities of climate science” have been dealt a mortal wound by the shennanigans of Jones, Mann et al. plus by the current global cooling trend (surface air plus ocean), which does not seem to reverse despite all-time increases in atmospheric CO2.

    Maybe the American public is a bit more “in the know” on the “realities of climate science” than you think.


  13. I think Nick probably owes Brute a drink for supplying that line of argument.

    And I’ll accept…..Coca Cola or a cup of coffee.

    Glad you’re back…….we need you to liven things up.

    Now that global warming has been proven a fraud…..I’ve been wondering what TonyN, Real Climate, Watts Up, etc are going to do with their websites?

    Real Climate can’t keep spewing the tired, fraudulent histrionics and TonyN and Anthony won’t have to counter….

  14. Whether you are correct about the demise of AGW will depend on whether temperatures will stay flat or, as I’ve been predicting, will shortly make their next jump.

    I know Max wrote that you guys plan on using Hadley temperatures; but who’s to say those are accurate and not “adjusted”. These guys have been playing fast and loose with the rules…..falsifying data to fit their theory…..I don’t know that I would trust Hadley or GISS…….at this point I have a hard time believing UAH.

  15. Max,

    I do now believe in manmade global warming…..I believe that Michael Mann, Phil Jones and others made the whole thing up.

  16. TonyN, Reur 46

    Radio interview … 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:

    Thanks for that Tony, very interesting.
    As an engineer, I detest the work of Mann, and it was with pleasure that I heard him voice his displeasure with Jones!

  17. TonyN, I note variously above that you felt, (back then at least), that there was no proof of scientific fraud revealed in the Climategate Emails.
    However, I would like to submit that at least on one topic; the MBH 99 hockey-stick, that the evidence of fraud was beforehand already overwhelming, but it is herewith even more confirmed by the “Hide the Decline” Email.
    Pray; how many nails are required in that coffin…. Is there enough clear wood grain remaining to enable non-splitting it with yet more nails? Sheez!

    The important well broadcasted key sentence in that Email is; (my bold added):
    “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature [science journal] trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.”

    Widespread attempts to explain away the use of the word ‘trick’ ignore the unavoidable context in the very same sentence of ‘hide the decline’. To anyone familiar with the detail in the hockey-stick, and the “divergence problem”, (see below), it is abundantly clear that the “trick” is to deny that divergence problem.

    For those not overly familiar with tree-growth proxy data, the divergence problem, and the Hockey-stick:
    The unsolved “divergence problem” is that since about 1960, despite the increasing levels of CO2, (which is the main feedstock for plant growth), and the reportedly warmer and extended growing seasons, contrarily, the growth of annual tree-rings has declined relative to the preceding calibration period. (that calibration period relates growth rates versus recorded temperatures over a period of some temperature change, prior to 1960!). This calibration was then apparently used (amongst a great heap of secret computer code), to infer the same past millennial relationship, assuming that all other things such as cloud cover, precipitation, insect predation, disease, and whatnot etc, were unchanging, millennially! (prior to 1960, but OK to diverge since 1960!)
    Because it is admitted (even a dozen years later) that the post 1960 declining trend is still not understood, it would have been scientifically correct to include that data, and to discuss the problem as part of an hypothesis, together with the caveats in consideration of merging of dissimilar data sets. None of this was done, and the historic and scientific litany of the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), and Little Ice Age (LIA) were expunged by the IPCC et al.

    Furthermore, here is what the Mann et al website (RealClimate) declares about the divergence problem, my bold added:

    As for the ‘decline’, it is well known that Keith Briffa’s maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the “divergence problem”–see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while ‘hiding’ is probably a poor choice of words (since it is ‘hidden’ in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.

    Geez, need I explain why, as an engineer, I’m glad these “academic scientists” don’t design infrastructure things like bridges that might get people killed!

  18. Bob_FJ

    It’s like Brute just wrote: “Mann-made global warming”.


  19. Bob_FJ

    Looks like Mann is telling us that Jones has made “poor decisions”.

    Has the cabal decided to let Jones hang out to dry, or is this an “every man for himself” emergency panic action?

    With Jones as coordinating lead author of one chapter in IPCC AR4, plus authoring or co-authoring 22 reports cited by AR4, which cover almost all chapters, this begins to raise doubts about AR4 (Mann is only cited in 13 reports, including the discredited Hockey Stick, which has lost its “star status” in the SPM summary, but still shows up in Chapter 6 as a legitimate study).

    Has this all raised serious questions about the validity of the entire IPCC AR4 report?

    What do you think?


  20. Bob and Peter:

    At the moment it’s difficult just to keep up with developments in the CRU story. A post that took a lot of time to draft yesterday, and was finally ready after midnight, is now almost out of date in view of the IPCC’s intervention. And so it goes on.

    I haven’t missed the comments addressed to me and I’ll come back to you when I get a chance.

  21. Climategate: The Smoking Code


    For discussion………..

  22. Brute, Reur 71:
    Great stuff!
    I think study of the ‘other documents’ and their cross correlations is likely to be much more important than the Emails themselves.
    Any revelation that the computer model’s code is ‘fudged’, as it already seems, would be dynamite. However, it remains a massive job to work through all of it.

  23. Max, Reur 69:
    After following the carnage in Oz politics recently, I can’t hazard a guess as to what might happen between UEA, PSU and the IPCC etc.
    I was listening to the BBC World Service overnight…. I sometimes do that to help me fall asleep…. and noticed a marked increase in Climategate reports, some naively defensive, but less evasive was that the IPCC (Pachauri) cannot ignore it and will “investigate”
    I see that since your #43 on December 3rd, 2009 at 2:46 am the Google hit number for ‘Climategate’ has increased from ~22,200,000 to ~30,000,000.…. Hmmm…. Rounding off to the nearest million now!
    I’ve Emailed around some stuff, and have asked people to forward it around also.
    Hopefully with a growing swell in the ether, the MSM and policy makers will get feedback that makes them run with it. I’m intending to Email the two Oz Liberal senators that crossed the floor on the ETS bill vote. (in defiance of their new leader)

    You asked; Has this all raised serious questions about the validity of the entire IPCC AR4 report?
    Well I think it certainly adds to the already serious questions not known in the MSM. The bigger ask is whether the MSM will pick it up or just listen to what I guess Pachauri is likely to say from his review.

  24. On a more personal note, snow here tomorrow.

    But, it is December…..although we usually don’t get snow this early.

    By the way Pete (Martin) when it snows, it usually is associated with COLD temperatures…..

    Not to worry though, I’ve got lots of wood and shredded car tires to feed the massive, carbon belching, Brute® Wood Stove. Mrs Brute and I will be toasty!

  25. Met Office to re-examine 160 years of climate data


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