Analysis of stolen CRU emails by NZ blogger shows tawdry manipulation of facts — Poneke’s credibility now in tatters

By Gareth Renowden 19/01/2010

homer.jpgThis may be one of the least important posts I’ve ever written. It’s only 1,100 words (including quotes), but that’s all that was necessary. When a blogger makes as many simple mistakes, and indulges in so much gross distortion of the truth as seen in the last two posts by Poneke (aka former journalist David McLoughlin), then it really doesn’t take long to show him to be incapable of a fair-minded assessment of climate science, or the emails stolen from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the UK. This is how he begins his first post on the subject of the stolen emails:

Having now read all the Climategate emails, I can conclusively say they demonstrate a level of scientific chicanery of the most appalling kind that deserves the widest possible public exposure.

Oh really? Let’s parse that post…

The emails reveal that the entire global warming debate and the IPCC process is controlled by a small cabal of climate specialists in England and North America.

Rubbish. That’s not only untrue, it’s unfair to the cabal of NZ climate scientists who have played a key role in the IPCC process.

This cabal, who call themselves ’the Team,’ bully and smear any critics.

They were dubbed “The Team” by blogger Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit, as a reference to McIntyre’s persistent, but failed, attempts to discredit the so-called “hockey stick” graph of temperature over the last 2,000 years.

They control the ’peer review’ process for research in the field and use their power to prevent contrary research being published.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, this is simply not feasible. Poneke clearly has no idea how many journals publish climate-related material, or how the peer review process works. Grant at Code For Life does.

They falsely claim there is a scientific ’consensus’ that the ’science is settled,’ by getting lists of scientists to sign petitions claiming there is such a consensus.

Pardon? That’s what the deniers do to assert there’s no consensus — with their Oregon Petition. Perhaps Poneke is getting confused about the statements on climate change by all the world’s leading scientific bodies. But of course, they’re all controlled by Michael Mann and Phil Jones, even the Glorious Scientific Academy of the People’s Republic of Kazakhstan.

They have fought for years to conceal the actual shonky data they have used to wrongly claim there has been unprecedented global warming this past 50 years.

…followed by a considerable misunderstanding of ten year old discussions about paleoclimate studies.

They show Team members becoming alarmed and despondent at global temperatures peaking in 1998, then slowly falling to the present, while publicly trying to hide the fact that there was a peak and now a decline.

But… 1998 is only the warmest year in the CRU record, and they’re The Team who’ve been fiddling the data, so we can’t trust them can we? But never mind, it doesn’t matter which temperature record you choose, the first decade of the 21st century was warmer than the last decade of the 20th.

The Climategate emails (and accompanying computer data) were almost certainly leaked by a whistleblower inside the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (the ’CRU’ – the supplier of much key IPCC historic climate data), not hacked from there by an outsider, as initially thought.

He provides no evidence for that assertion, beyond wishful thinking. The computer forensic specialists of the UK’s National Domestic Extremism Unit are helping the East Anglia police with their investigation into the theft. The CRU servers were hacked at least twice, and the entire email database was stolen, my sources tell me. The released emails are a carefully edited selection of that database. An investigative journalist might ask who did the selection, and who stood to gain from their release? Poneke can’t be bothered.

McLoughlin then gets the Chris de Freitas/Climate Research story exactly the wrong way round (it was CdF perverting peer review to get shonky papers published, not “The Team” trying to prevent it – see Mediamatters report), further demonstrates his misunderstanding of the “hockey stick” controversy (not dropped by IPCC reports (it’s on p467, WG1, Chapter 6), explicitly endorsed by the US National Research Council review), and misrepresents what NZ scientist Kevin Trenberth meant by his comment on “cooling”. You can find out what Trenberth was talking about, in his own words, here. It was published before McLoughlin’s ill-advised and ill-educated rant.

To this outsider (I know no more about “Poneke” than can be gleaned by reading his blog), it looks as though McLoughlin has approached the stolen emails with a set of preconceptions — or perhaps knowledge of what what was being said in climate crank circles — and then managed to find his preconceptions confirmed. A modicum of research, of looking into what the scientists he so freely maligns have to say might have made for a less embarrassing article.

If any journalist produced a shoddy report like this — and claimed it to be the most important thing they’d written — any self-respecting editor would fire them on the spot.

Meanwhile, unhappy with being told he’s wrong by scientists who happen to blog at Sciblogs, he’s busy attacking the messenger:

…I really do question their using taxpayer’s money to push what looks suspiciously like shrill propaganda in support of their cause.

The only shrill propaganda in this sorry little episode is coming from a once-respected writer who has forgotten what looking at both sides of a story really involves.

[NB: Before DM complains, Hot Topic is syndicated to Sciblogs, not hosted there. I hold no brief for the SMC. They can look after themselves.]