Nature Climate Change | Climate Feedback

AGU 2009:Mann hits back at “climategate” hackers

Harvey Leifert

The unknown hackers who stole and published e-mails on climate research from the University of East Anglia (UK) are engaged in a smear campaign to distract the public from the truth about climate change, because they don’t have the science on their side, says Michael Mann, one of the leading climate scientists whose messages were published.

Mann agreed to requests from reporters to comment on the so-called climategate in a hastily arranged press conference at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting in San Francisco. He said the episode has taught him that “there is no level to which the opponents of action on climate change won’t stoop in their efforts to lock progress.”

Unfortunately, said Mann, “the other side” (that is, climate change sceptics) is engaged in a well-funded and well-timed smear campaign that is sullying the reputations of scientists unfairly in the eyes of some members of the public. The timing to which he referred, just before the current climate negotiations got underway in Copenhagen, will probably have little effect there, he said.

There is plenty of legitimate controversy at Bella Centre, Mann acknowledged, naming such issues as the gulf between low-lying island nations and mid-latitude industrial nations. “Policy makers from most nations can see through this,” he said, adding that “the scientific community has spoken quite clearly.” He thought that they must be insulted at the effort to distract them through a “malicious” attempt to provoke a false controversy. Saudi Arabia is one of the few exceptions, he added; it is asserting that the e-mails undermine the case for climate change.

What lessons has Mann personally learned from climategate? Obviously, he and his colleagues will have to be more careful in future e-mails, the principal way they correspond with one another, he said, adding that this is unfortunate. Everybody – not just the climate research community – will now be more careful about what they say in e-mails. Science thrives by ideas bouncing back and forth, and circumspection will surely have a chilling effect, he said. There will be fewer passionate discussions among researchers, as they try to make every message “bulletproof,” he lamented.

There was, in fact, nothing scientifically inappropriate in the e-mails that have been released, Mann insisted, and various terms of art have been distorted. For example, a “trick,” one of the terms famously used in a message, is simply a clever approach to an issue, he said, not a nefarious effort to hide the truth.

Mann wondered aloud about the hackers and the relative lack of attention being paid to their action. “Have we really gotten to the point where it’s considered OK to break into people’s personal correspondence, sort through them and look for ways to misrepresent them, to smear them by taking their words out of context, by twisting their words? Have we really got to the point now where that is considered valid material for the public discourse?”


  1. Report this comment

    Derek said:

    Wow, I thought Mann was disconnected from reality before but this is hilarious. Skeptics in a well-funded campaign? Most of what I’ve seen has been homebrew operations and analysis using personal assets rather than the multi-million dollar shakedowns Jones et al appeared to engage in. Nothing scientifically inappropriate? I suppose Briffa detailing the problems with Mann’s and Jones’ hypotheses and data ten years ago then agreeing to not voice his concerns was entirely appropriate? Skewing the very idea of what peer review meant so favorable reviewers were deliberately sought for “friends” of the clique and unfavorable reviews deliberately sought to can skeptical articles was appropriate?

    Does the analogy of Climategate with the Pentagon Papers not strike anyone else?

  2. Report this comment

    Dano said:

    Let us note the ‘skeptic funding denial’ language from Derek.

    There is, of course, copious evidence of Exxon et al funding. It is well-known and stating otherwise is either mendacity or willful blindness.

    Note the language, folks. Familiar, no?



  3. Report this comment

    John M said:


    Do you have any non-biased sources documenting all that Exxon money? By non-biased, I mean sources at least a little to the right of Mao.

    It particular, it would be interesting to see how all that Exxon money stacks up against all the government funding aimed at showing the existence and adverse effect of AGW. Also, let’s consider all those “green investment” companies out there aiming to cash in on alternative energy sources, which of course require a “cost” to be assigned to CO2.

    I guess I might include Exxon’s own $600 million dollar investment in biofuels. Has their past funding to skeptics come anywhere close to that?

  4. Report this comment

    Jesús Rosino said:

    John M said:

    “Do you have any non-biased sources documenting all that Exxon money?”


    How about here? Or here? Or here? Or here? Or here?

    How about similar efforts such as this, or this or this one?

    Now, will you please give us any example of “government funding aimed at showing the existence and adverse effect of AGW”? You may want to begin by explaining this.

  5. Report this comment

    Michael P. said:

    This debate on the left of whether AGW deniers are driven by corporate funding or are simply out of touch with the science is too simplistic.

    Funding from ExxonMobil and wealthy individuals is very well documented. The fact that the recipients of that funding are doing politics rather than science is documented but less widely understood. That the political work of the disinformation agents is leading to a groundswell of misinformed scientific hacks up in arms about AGW is a fact that’s under appreciated. And the paid disinformation resulting in masses of climate chumps who disbelieve AGW is sad to watch.

    Number one job for climate scientists: improve your outreach. Bring the science into a coherent picture. Explain it in terms we can understand. Get your message heard and understood.

    We need paid campaigners on the side of science to counter the deniers paid by industry. Problem is, those paid deniers will not go away and their story keeps morphing. Documenting their noise can help. There are several good websites popping up to track the work of the deniers. We also need folks to pay attention to the denier tracking, so we know whom we can trust.

    Ultimately, people need to developer a good “picker” or “filter” to screen all the noise out. Tough work. But real journalists should be doing this. Many are falling down on this by broadcasting the deniers. It’s the entertainment-as-news outlets spreading disinformation that will always be an issue.

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    Richard said:

    “there is no level to which the opponents of action on climate change won’t stoop in their efforts to lock progress.

    lock progress? I do not understand. Progress in the science? I thought that was already settled?

    Progress in the Copenhagen talks? to extract money? Oh now I understand you Mr Mann.

    …the current climate negotiations got underway in Copenhagen, will probably have little effect there, he said

    There he is right. They predictably, consistently and blindly accepted the claim human CO2 is causing climate change, ignored all evidence to the contrary, silenced any debate, and ignored evidence that the science was deliberately and criminally falsified.

    Copenhagen was a 30 billion dollar success. Not as much as hoped for – but then there are other conferences to come.

    Many more dollars are needed to fine tune the Earth’s thermostat.

    “the scientific community has spoken quite clearly.”

    A very closeknit community he is talking about, who “peer review” each others papers, which are rapidly published in corroborating journals.

    “Peer review” then becomes their mantra for refuting all arguments against their findings. These “peer reviews” are crying out for proper auditing and quality control.

    And of course he said “But the messages do not undermine the scientific case that human-caused climate change is real.”

    Messages such as “..– if the greatest uncertainties are in the >100 year band, then that is where the greatest uncertainties will be in the forcing experiments”, or "… but honestly know f*#k-all about what the >100 year variability was like with any certainty (i.e. we know with certainty that we know f*#k-all), or “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.” of course do not undermine the AGW case and in fact reinforce the confidence that “the science is settled”