Climategate and the First Rule of Holes

All right, class, what’s the First Rule of Holes? That’s right: “If you are in one, stop digging.”

Events this weekend suggest that this isn’t covered in the usual climatology graduate program.


You may recall the ongoing Climategate scandal (or if not, then pop over to the PJTV Climategate roundup page and check it out). There are many details, but the short summary is that the Climategate files contain emails, program code, and climate data that suggest a small group of climate scientists massaged the data in order to make a stronger case for CO2-driven global warming than the data really supports; conspired to prevent their data from being released under the freedom of information laws in the U.S. and UK; and went to great lengths to control publications about climate science, so that dissenting scientists weren’t published in the “peer-reviewed” literature, and so that journalists were properly identified and disciplined in order to make sure the correct views were presented.

Of those, the attempt to subvert peer review and control the discussion are probably the biggest offenses, at least from a scientist’s point of view; as I argued a few days ago, those are violations of the social contract that underlies the whole of science.

You might imagine that once the scandal was well and truly launched, there would be some attempt to recover — and certainly there have been some. The UK Meteorological Office announced it was making all the raw data it holds available to outside researchers, while they started a three-year project to reevaluate that data in light of the questions raised by the emails. The National Climatic Data Center announced an open-access data policy. Mike Hulme, one of the CRU climate inner circle, wrote a limited mea culpa in the Wall Street Journal in which he allowed that the sense of the science being “settled” was overstated and itself unscientific.


But it appears old habits die hard. Steven Hayward published an item in the Ashbrook Center’s No Left Turns blog that was based on an email to the New York Times’ Andrew Revkin from a mailing list maintained by Michael Schlesinger of the University of Illinois. Here’s the interesting part of the email:

Shame on you for this gutter reportage.

This is the second time this week I have written you thereon, the first about giving space in your blog to the Pielkes.

The vibe that I am getting from here, there, and everywhere is that your reportage is very worrisome to most climate scientists.

Of course, your blog is your blog.

But, I sense that you are about to experience the “Big Cutoff” from those of us who believe we can no longer trust you, me included.

Not that this was unknown before. The Climategate letters include similar suggestions. The emails to and from Andrew Revkin show that Revkin had a pretty cozy relationship with the CRU clique, passing them embargoed papers for comment and chattily assuring them that he wanted to get their message out correctly.

(By the way, I asked Dr. Schlesinger if he could confirm this email had been accurately quoted. He has sent me a number of papers on global warming which I’ll read with interest, but he refused repeated requests for comment.)


On Monday, there was another curious incident. Roger Pielke Jr. was booked to appear on NPR’s On Point with Michael Mann of Penn State, one of the central figures in the CRU clique. It looked to be very interesting, until, at the last minute, Pielke was canceled. NPR said that it was because they had mistakenly scheduled him rather than his father. See this post on Pielke’s blog for details. I contacted On Point myself, but no one there would discuss this on the record.

What was Revkin’s offense? He mentioned the story about prostitutes in Copenhagen offering free sex in protest of the mayor’s campaign to keep the delegates from patronizing the prostitutes (prostitution being legal in Denmark), and he linked to and published comments by the Doctors Pielke (see our interview with Dr. Pielke Sr. here and watch for our upcoming interview with Dr. Pielke Jr.).

The thing to remember is that Andrew Revkin is the proprietor of the Dot-Earth blog. I don’t know about you, but to me that email reads like: “Nice little blog you’ve got there. Be a shame if something happened to all your sources.” Schlesinger’s warning is not particularly subtle: don’t let us get the idea that you aren’t trustworthy or this cozy relationship could end abruptly. As I said, this isn’t particularly a surprise to anyone: it was pretty well known that the Climategate CRU worked hard to suppress findings they didn’t like.


What is surprising is that now they’re still at it.


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