Two years after an unknown hacker released about 1,000 private emails between climate scientists, he or she struck again Tuesday, dumping a collection of about 5,000 more emails and documents from Britain's University of East Anglia. As with the original "Climategate" dump, this batch appeared via a Russian server a few days before a United Nations climate summit. Climate change skeptics are already digging through the emails, looking for correspondence that casts doubt on the scientific consensus that the earth is warming due to human activity. Have they hit pay dirt with "Climategate 2.0"?
What ever came of Climategate 1.0?
The original dump of emails contained snippets of conversations that, according to critics, showed climate scientists putting politics before science, planning to ostracize researchers who disagreed with them, manipulating their results, and withholding data. Several independent inquiries into the emails, including investigations by the U.S. and British governments, cleared the scientists and the University of East Anglia of all charges except that of being excessively secretive with data. Though East Anglia has since modified its freedom-of-information request policies, critics maintain that the investigations merely "whitewashed" the scandal.
Are the new emails real?
Probably. East Anglia says they seem to be from the same batch pilfered from its servers in 2009, apparently held back "to be released at a time designed to cause maximum disruption to the imminent international climate talks." Several of the scientists implicated in the new dump say the emails appear to be genuine, too. The hacker, who goes by FOIA, claims to have 220,000 more emails in reserve.
What's in the Climategate 2.0 cache?
Not surprisingly, given "the politically charged world of climate politics, it depends on who's looking at them," says Ned Potter at ABC News. Conservatives flag excerpts like one in which Penn State climate researcher Michael Mann talks about research "helping the cause," and several exchanges in which scientists trash each other's work. In a floating snippet PowerLine's John Hinderaker calls "dynamite," Peter Thorne from Britain's Met Office says he thinks "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." Liberals and scientists say the "stolen, out-of-context emails" tell us merely that someone is trying hard to discredit a group of researchers.
Are the emails damning?
Absolutely, says James Delingpole in Britain's The Telegraph. These emails between "global warming loons" confirm that "the great man-made global warming scare is not about science but about political activism." Hardly, says Gavin Schmidt in RealClimate. This round of warmed-over email leftovers "seems a little forced," like the hacker is getting frustrated that nothing much has come of the first leaks. "Even the out-of-context quotes aren’t that exciting, and are even less so in-context." Mostly what we learn is that in real science, "people disagree, they criticize each other's work, and they sometimes aren't very nice," says Kate Sheppard in Mother Jones.
Will they have any impact?
Not if the media does its job this time, says Brad Johnson in ThinkProgress. The real "scandal" of Climategate 1.0 was the "corrupt, deceitful, and shoddy reporting" that mostly parroted the deniers' talking points. Even a study funded by the über-skeptic Koch Brothers found that manmade climate change is a real, "incontrovertible threat." Despite the institutional "whitewash" of Climategate 1.0, public doubts about global warming shot up, says Ed Morrissey in Hot Air. I'd expect that skepticism to "rise even more" now. Well, Climategate 2.0 won't derail the upcoming U.N. meeting in Durban, South Africa, says Schmidt in RealClimate. There's no proposal to sink, and nobody's paying attention. If anything, this email dump "might even increase interest!"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- China's leader is telling the People's Liberation Army to prepare for war
- How I lost all my money
- The best books we read in 2014
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- How to save money: 12 great personal finance tips
- The religious right isn't retreating — it's reforming
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- How to wrap a present with mathematical precision (and waste less paper)
Subscribe to the Week