Swift Boat Sinks: In Surprise Move, Journalists Debunk Deniers

Follow-up to yesterday’s post:

After the Associated Press and Washington Post hastily released thoughtless dispatches that took yesterday’s smear campaign at face value, journalists are now, surprisingly, beginning to occupy journalism.

After posting an early heads-up to the Fourth Estate not to take the baloney released yesterday too seriously (Memo To Media: Research First, Then Report On Climate Emails), Jocelyn Fong at MediaMatters later explained how the AP and Washington Post stories were so amateur (Media Already Botching Reports on Hacked Climate Emails). I went to sleep a bit depressed, but woke up to find much better coverage by the Post, the BBC, the New York Times, Time, Politico, and others.

Peter Sinclair’s blog has a nice summary of the turnaround in in “Bad News for Deniers: Grown-Ups Weigh in on E-Mail Leftovers.” It is reposted below, including the BBC video, posted on YouTube by a disgruntled denier.

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But first, in a related story for which we should give some thanks this week, Brad Johnson at ThinkProgress Green informs us that Rep. Ed Markey is calling for a congressional investigation into the e-mail theft and re-release:

Markey Calls For Intel Investigation Of Unsolved Climate Hacking Incident | Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) has called on the United States intelligence community to uncover the Climategate hackers who stole emails from climate scientists and released them in advance of two major climate negotiations. “This is clearly an attempt to sabotage the international climate talks for a second time, and there has not been enough attention paid to who is responsible for these illegal acts,” said Markey. “If this happened surrounding nuclear arms talks, we would have the full force of the Western world’s intelligence community pursuing the perpetrators. And yet, with the stability of our climate hanging in the balance with these international climate treaty negotiations, these hackers and their supporters are still on the loose. It is time to bring them to justice.”

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From Climate Denial Crock of the Week
with Peter Sinclair

Bad News for Deniers: Grown-ups Weigh in on Email Leftovers

November 23, 2011

The Journalistic first-stringers are starting to react, and climate denialists don’t like it – note the title of the snippet from BBC above, posted on youtube, apparently by a disgruntled climate-conspiracy crank – “AlJaBeeba Does Climategate 2″.
Hmmm, I’m guessing the anti-muslim slur is a clue, once again, as to the intellectual strata we are dealing with…..

24 hours in, one thing that’s different from round one, 2 years ago, is that scientists, bloggers and journalists on the side of reason have become organized and ready to respond to these guerilla attacks, and within hours of the first release, there was a major, organized push-back on the web, with top level scientists weighing in and putting out-of-context material in perspective.
It appears that the rapidly-jelling mainstream perspective will indeed be guided by the maxim “Fool me once…”

OK, now I can go pick up my turkey.

NYTimes:

The new e-mails appeared remarkably similar to the ones released two years ago just ahead of a similar conference in Copenhagen. They involved the same scientists and many of the same issues, and some of them carried a similar tone: catty remarks by the scientists, often about papers written by others in the field.

A string of investigations following the 2009 release all came to the conclusion that scientists had not manipulated data to support their findings, though some of the reports did criticize them on minor points, such as failing to share their data or to respond properly to freedom of information requests.

Michael E. Mann, a Pennsylvania State University scientist who wrote or received some of the e-mails, said they showed the opposite of any conspiracy, demonstrating instead that climate science is a vigorous enterprise where scientists were free to argue over conclusions. “Scientists rely on the ability to have frank, sometimes even contentious discussions with each other,” Dr. Mann said in an interview Tuesday. “Science requires that.”

In one of the e-mails, Raymond S. Bradley, director of the Climate System Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, criticized a paper that Dr. Mann wrote with the climate scientist Phil Jones, which used tree rings and similar markers to find that today’s climatic warming had no precedent in recent natural history. Dr. Bradley, who has often collaborated with Dr. Mann, wrote that the 2003 paper “was truly pathetic and should never have been published.”

Dr. Bradley confirmed in an interview that the e-mail was his, but said his comment had no bearing on whether global warming was really happening. “I did not like that paper at all, and I stand by that, and I am sure that I told Mike that” at the time, he said. But he added that a disagreement over a single paper had little to do with the overall validity of climate science. “There is no doubt we have a big problem with human-induced warming,” Dr. Bradley said. “Mike’s paper has no bearing on the fundamental physics of the problem that we are facing.”

Some of the other e-mails involved comments about problems with the computer programs used to forecast future climate, known as climate models. For instance, a cryptic e-mail apparently sent by Dr. Jones, a researcher at East Anglia, said, “Basic problem is that all models are wrong — not got enough middle and low level clouds.”

Gavin A. Schmidt, a climate modeler at NASA, said he found such exchanges unremarkable. He noted that difficulties in modeling were widely acknowledged and disclosed in the literature. Indeed, such problems are often discussed at scientific meetings in front of hundreds of people.

Of the new release of e-mails, Dr. Schmidt said, “It smacks of desperation.”

Washington Post – Capital Weather Gang:

The “new” emails (not new in that they are from 2009 and earlier) – while trumpeted by some climate skeptics as “spectacular” and draining life from the manmade global warming movement – mean little substantively from a scientific standpoint, just like the set that preceded them.

The climate skeptic blogosphere has been quick to cherry pick certain snippets from the emails they claim show dissension within the climate science ranks, perhaps to demonstrate scientists may express more doubt about their confidence in the science in private than they do in public.

Time – “Climategate 2.0: A Weak Sequel” -

Otherwise the new batch of emails seem to add little to what was raised two years ago. Climate scientists—especially when you quote selectively from emails they think are not for public viewing—can be hypersensitive to criticism and clannish. Within the climate science world, there are clearly differences of opinions on aspects of climate science, on the certainty of models and on the confidence we can have in any sweeping assessment of global warming. Those differences come out in the emails, sometimes very bluntly—but that to me isn’t evidence of some kind of international conspiracy, but rather the not always pretty process of science and collective decision-making happening in real time.

Here’s an example: in the Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin quotes one of  the hacked emails:

An official from the U.K. Met Office [Peter Thorne], a scientific organization which analyzes the climate, writes to the Climate Research Unit’s then-director Phil Jones at one point: “Observations do not show rising temperatures throughout the tropical troposphere unless you accept one single study and approach and discount a wealth of others. This is just downright dangerous. We need to communicate the uncertainty and be honest. Phil, hopefully we can find time to discuss these further if necessary […]”

Later, the official adds, “I also think the science is being manipulated to put a political spin on it which for all our sakes might not be too clever in the long run.”

That might sound bad, although again, this appears to be part of a back-and-forth. But as Jocelyn Fong of the liberal press watchdog group Media Matters writes, these emails were sent in February 2005 and were discussing a first draft of what would become part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment. The final version of the chapter the two scientists were quarreling about seemed to reflect Thorne’s concerns, and cited his research several times. Isn’t that what this process supposed to be about?

Politico -”Scientists Scoff at Stolen Emails”:

Climate skeptics see gold in the latest batch of stolen emails from a British university server, purportedly showing that scientists colluded and propped up their data to demonstrate that greenhouse gases are changing the planet.

But just as a similar 2009 document dump mattered little in unraveling the scientific consensus on global warming, the 5,300 new emails and other files that surfaced on a Russian computer server Tuesday inspired little worry among researchers that the fact of human-caused climate change is in danger of being undermined.

http://thinkprogress.org/green/2011/11/22/375045/markey-calls-for-intel-investigation-of-unsolved-climate-hacking-incident/

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About Scott Brophy
Scott Brophy is a philosophy professor whose work is focused on the intersection of philosophy and public policy, especially on environmental issues, law, and education. He has also taught philosophy of science, logic, and the history of philosophy. He has served as a consultant for educational programs and schools throughout the U.S. and abroad, and as an adviser to several philanthropic foundations.

5 Responses to Swift Boat Sinks: In Surprise Move, Journalists Debunk Deniers

  1. Pingback: Snippets of Stolen Emails Cannot Make the Earth Flat « Global Warming: Man or Myth?

  2. Scott Brophy says:

    Thanks for the link to your post. it is really good!

  3. klem says:

    We’ll see just how much your beloved journalists have debunked the deniers. We’ll see the proof at Durban. At Durban a few journalists will arrive to record the arrest of the same paid protesters that get arrested every year at this time, almost no leaders will show up and almost no information will be reported from the secret meetings going on behind closed doors. This is going to be the biggest climate conference failure of the all. I’ll bet even Al gore himself does not attend.

    The journalists sure debunked those bad old deniers. Lol!

    I can’t wait for Durban. I’ve got my beer and popcorn ready, this is going to be GREAT,

    cheers

  4. Pingback: A Real Scandal (or two, or three) « SayWhat?

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