Climategate’s 10th Anniversary: The Stain Continues

“I gave up on Judith Curry a while ago. I don’t know what she thinks she’s doing, but it’s not helping the cause, or her professional credibility.”

—Dr. Michael Mann, Climategate email, May 30, 2008

“In the end, Climategate ended my academic career prematurely…”

—Dr. Judith Curry, November 12, 2019

This month marks the ten-year anniversary of Climategate. The episode was more than just “embarrassing and a public relations disaster for science,” as one sympathizer stated at the time. The leaked emails revealed a mainstream intellectual cartel trying to hype climate alarm by methodological tricks and resorting to secrecy and outright bullying (see selected quotations below).

Were lessons learned among the guilty? Probably not. As Paul Matthews wrote on the 5th anniversary:

Climategate did not change my own views very much, but made me more confident that my assessment that climate change is exaggerated and politicised was correct. To me, the real scandal was not so much that two or three climate scientists behaved badly, but that virtually the entire climate science community tried to pretend that nothing was wrong.


On November 19, 2009, a whistle-blower downloaded more than 1,000 documents and e-mails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia University, United Kingdom. Posted on a Russian server, these documents were soon accessed by websites around the world.

These e-mails were a subset of confidential communications between top climate scientists in the UK, the United States, and elsewhere directly involved with surface temperature data sets, the “Hockey Stick” global-temperature reconstruction, and the assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Branded “Climategate” by British columnist James Delingpole, the communications gave rare insight into practices ranging from unprofessional to fraudulent. Bias, manipulated data, admissions of doubt, dodging transparency (and freedom of information requests), and efforts to subvert the peer-review process were uncovered. Richard Nixon might have blushed.

Quotations: A Dirty Dozen

Whole books have been written on the subject, such as A. W. Montford’s Hiding the Decline. The establishment continues to claim that it was just dirty work by “climate-change deniers” inflated by “media outlets hostile to global warming.” A ten-year retrospective by BBC, “Climategate: 10 Years On, What’s Changed,” is biased to the extreme, excluding viewpoints questioning climate alarm and then-and-now bias.

But words are words, sentences are sentences. The emails cannot be taken back. Here are but twelve excerpts from the Climategate trove that speak for themselves.

“I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story as regards ‘apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more in the proxy data’ but in reality the situation is not quite so simple.” [Keith Briffa, Climatic Research Unit, September 22, 1999]

“Keith’s [Briffa] series…differs in large part in exactly the opposite direction that Phil’s [Jones] does from ours. This is the problem we all picked up on (everyone in the room at IPCC was in agreement that this was a problem and a potential distraction/detraction from the reasonably consensus viewpoint we’d like to show w/ the Jones et al and Mann et al series).” [Michael Mann, IPCC Lead Author, September 22, 1999]

“…it would be nice to try to ‘contain’ the putative ‘MWP’ [Medieval Warm Period]….” [Michael Mann, June 4, 2003]

“I’ve just completed Mike’s [Mann] Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e. from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s [Briffa] to hide the decline.” [Phil Jones, Director of the Climatic Research Unit, November 16, 1999]

“Also we have applied a completely artificial adjustment to the data after 1960, so they look closer to observed temperatures than the tree-ring data actually were….” [Tim Osborn, Climatic Research Unit, December 20, 2006]

“Well, I have my own article on where the heck is global warming…. 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.” [Kevin Trenberth, IPCC Lead Author, October 12, 2009]

“If you look at the attached plot you will see that the land also shows the 1940s warming blip (as I’m sure you know). So, if we could reduce the ocean blip by, say 0.15 deg C, then this would be significant for the global mean—but we’d still have to explain the land blip….” [Tom Wigley, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, to Phil Jones, September 28, 2008]

“We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try to find something wrong with it.” [Phil Jones, email to Warwick Hughes, 2004]

“I’m getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don’t any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act.” [Phil Jones, February 21, 2005]

“Mike [Mann], can you delete any e-mails you may have had with Keith [Trenberth] re AR4? Keith will do likewise…. Can you also e-mail Gene and get him to do the same? I don’t have his e-mail address…. We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.” [Phil Jones, May 29, 2008]

“You might want to check with the IPCC Bureau. I’ve been told that IPCC is above national FOI Acts. One way to cover yourself and all those working in AR5 [the upcoming IPCC Fifth Assessment Report] would be to delete all e-mails at the end of the process. Hard to do, as not everybody will remember it.” [Phil Jones, May 12, 2009]

“I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin [Trenberth] and I will keep them out somehow, even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!” [Phil Jones, July 8, 2004]

A Turning Point

“Climategate was a turning point,” Professor Judith Curry remembered, where “pronouncements from the IPCC were no longer sufficient.” She continued: “Institutionally, Climategate triggered the formation of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), which has become quite influential in UK climate policy and to some extent internationally.” Furthermore,

The skeptical climate blogosphere has thrived and expanded, largely triggered by Climategate (Climate Etc. was triggered largely by Climategate). Whereas the ‘warm’ blogosphere for the most part has waned (notably RealClimate), with the exception of Skeptical Science. It seems that most of the ‘action’ on the warm side has switched to twitter, whereas skeptics prefer the blogosphere.

The growth of the technical skeptical blogosphere (pioneered by Steve McIntyre) has challenged traditional notions of expertise, i.e. credentials and sanctity of journal publications, through Climate Audit’s blogospheric deconstruction of many publications, particularly related to paleo proxies.

And today:

While the technical skeptical blogosphere seems to have provided the motive for the Climategate ‘hack’, the technical skeptical blogosphere has thrived, and many of these sites are followed by the media and decision maker.


The skeptics of climate alarmism continue to be ostracized. Such ideas as the positive effects of carbon dioxide, and benign, even beneficial, warming (natural or anthropogenic), are verboten. Even the happy middle ground of global lukewarming is not to be entertained. Alarmist science settled, there is to be no debate.

But reality bats last. Climate alarmism is exaggerated, the latest stanza in the litany of Malthusian scares intended to check industrial capitalism and cede power from the people to government/intellectual elites. The political failure of climate activism will continue to shine critical light on climate science in general and Climategate in particular.

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