Stonewalling Climate Scientists Embolden Skeptics

Daily News Article   —   Posted on December 14, 2009

(by Seth Borenstein, LONDON (AP) — E-mails [hacked] from climate scientists show that they stonewalled skeptics and discussed hiding data, giving voice to scientists whose dissent remains difficult to find in news from the environmental conference that climaxes this week in Copenhagen.

The 1,073 e-mails examined by the Associated Press show that scientists harbored private doubts, however slight and fleeting, even as they told the world that they were certain about climate change.

The scientists were keenly aware of how their work would be viewed and used, and, just like politicians, went to great pains to shape their message. Sometimes, they sounded more like schoolyard taunts than scientific tenets.

The existence of skepticism was absent from many media reports last week on the climate change conference in Copenhagen, where officials from nearly 200 countries are attempting to draft a pact to roll back global emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases.

This week, they will be joined by world leaders, including President Obama, in a final push for a deal.

According to the e-mails, the scientists were so convinced by their own science and so driven by a cause “that unless you’re with them, you’re against them,” said Mark Frankel, director of scientific freedom, responsibility and law at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He also reviewed the communications.

Mr. Frankel said he saw “no evidence of falsification or fabrication of data, although concerns could be raised about some instances of very ‘generous interpretations.’ “

Some e-mails expressed doubts about the quality of individual temperature records or why models and data didn’t quite match. Part of this is the normal give-and-take of research, but skeptics challenged how reliable certain data was.

The e-mails were stolen from the computer network server of the climate research unit at the University of East Anglia in southeastern England, an influential source of climate science, and were posted online last month. The university shut down the server, contacted the police and suspended a director.

The AP studied all the e-mails for context, with five reporters reading and rereading them – about 1 million words in total.

They suggest an effort to avoid sharing scientific data with critics. It is not clear whether any data was destroyed; two U.S. researchers denied it.

The e-mails show that several mainstream scientists repeatedly suggested keeping their research materials away from opponents who sought it under American and British public records law. It raises a science ethics question because free access to data is important so others can repeat experiments as part of the scientific method. The University of East Anglia is investigating the blocking of information requests.

“I believe none of us should submit to these ‘requests,’ ” declared the university’s Keith Briffa. The climate unit’s chief, Phil Jones, wrote: “Data is covered by all the agreements we sign with people, so I will be hiding behind them.”

When one skeptic kept filing freedom of information requests, Mr. Jones, who didn’t return AP requests for comment, told another scientist, Michael Mann: “You can delete this attachment if you want. Keep this quiet also.”

Mr. Mann, a researcher at Penn State University, told the Associated Press: “I didn’t delete any e-mails as Phil asked me to. I don’t believe anybody else did.”

The e-mails also showed a stunning disdain for global-warming skeptics.

One scientist practically celebrates the news of the death of one critic, saying, “In an odd way this is cheering news!” Another bemoans that the only way to deal with skeptics is “continuing to publish quality work in quality journals [or calling in a Mafia hit].” And a third scientist said the next time he sees a certain skeptic at a scientific meeting, “I’ll be tempted to beat the crap out of him. Very tempted.”

Associated Press.  Reprinted from the Washington Times.  For educational purposes only.  This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization.  Visit the website at


1. Define stonewall, skeptic, skeptical and dissent as used in paragraph 1, and scientific method from para. 12.

2. a) According to Associated Press reporter Seth Borenstein, what information did many media outlets omit when reporting on the climate change conference last week?
b) Why do you think this is so?

3. a) How many emails were hacked from climate scientists recently?
b) From what source did hackers obtain the emails?
c) What did the hackers do with the emails?
d) What do you think the hackers motive was for hacking the emails?

4. a) How many AP reporters read the hacked emails?
b) What did the AP reporters conclude about the emails?

5. Why do the climate scientists’ attempts to prevent/block global warming skeptics from accessing their data raise a science ethics question?

6. How do climate scientists (who believe in the theory that man’s use of fossil fuels is causing catastrophic global warming) view scientists who are skeptical of the theory of global warming?

7. Most of the media has dismissed the fact that renowned climate scientists tried to prevent skeptics from obtaining/verifying their data.  They have ignored the evidence that there is doubt among climate scientists about some of the statistics that are supposed to prove the existence of man made global warming.  Many news reports attempt to excuse/explain away the questions that these emails raise. Do you think this indicates media bias? Explain your answer.

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Global warming is an important issue to understand.  The theory that man’s use of fossil fuels (burning coal, oil and gas for energy, which produces carbon dioxide, or CO2) is causing an imminent catastrophic change in the climate – global warming – is believed to be true by many scientists, climatologists, citizens, the mainstream media and Hollywood celebrities, and was made popular by former Vice President Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth.”  People who believe in this theory say we must reduce the amount of carbon dioxide produced by limiting/reducing the amount of fossil fuels we use, or by purchasing offsets.

The belief that man’s activities are not causing an imminent catastrophic change in the climate is held by many other scientists [see MIT’s Professor of Meteorology Dr. Richard Lindzen’s commentary in Newsweek here]. (This view is very unpopular in the media and widely condemned by those who believe man-made global warming is fact.)  Those who do not believe man is causing the global temperature to rise don’t believe it is necessary to reduce the production of CO2 by reducing our use of fossil fuels or to purchase carbon offsets.

  • Greenhouse gases are components of the atmosphere that contribute to the greenhouse effect. Some greenhouse gases occur naturally in the atmosphere, while others result from human activities such as burning of fossil fuels such as coal.  Greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. (from
  • Carbon offsetting  involves paying others to remove or [contain] 100% of the carbon dioxide emitted from the atmosphere – for example by planting trees – or by funding ‘carbon projects’ that should lead to the prevention of future greenhouse gas emissions, or by buying carbon credits to remove (or ‘retire’) them through carbon trading. These practices are often used in parallel, together with energy conservation measures to minimize energy use. (from

ON GLOBAL WARMING and the KYOTO TREATY (the treaty preceding COPENHAGEN):

  • The theory of global warming is that the earth’s temperature is rising due to man’s use of fossil fuels (gas, oil).  It is believed that this temperature change will result in catastrophic problems in the environment.  To prevent this man-made climate change, countries need to restrict energy use (reduce use of gas and oil).
  • In the Kyoto Treaty governments agreed to limit greenhouse gas emissions (reduce their use of gas and oil).  They believe this will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions world-wide and will prevent global warming. 
  • President Clinton supported the Kyoto Treaty.  President Bush did not. He said it would harm the economy and cost jobs.  President Obama recently said that it would not make sense for the U.S. to sign it as it is about to end [in two years].
  • The U.S. and Australia are the 2 western countries that originally did not sign the Kyoto Treaty.  [Australia later signed the treaty.]  Great Britain did sign on.  China and India did not.
  • Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair believes in the theory of global warming and was a great supporter of the Kyoto Treaty. However, in November 2005 he backed away from the Kyoto Protocol (it is assumed he recognized that many countries would not live up to their obligations under Kyoto).
  • Australia’s newly elected [in 2007] Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made signing the Kyoto Treaty priority for his new government.  Days after Australia’s delegation backed a plan at the climate talks in Bali to make deep cuts to Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, Prime Minister Rudd said the Government would not support the target. This announcement came after the electricity industry reported that it may not be able to meet growing consumer demand and comply with the 2020 target. The expectation after Rudd unseated (conservative) John Howard last month was that Australia would suddenly be a strong advocate for carbon dioxide emissions caps that would pressure the United States to do the same.  With Rudd doing this surprising about face, there were no definitive results from the conference.

Global warming is a controversial issue.  Scientists today have two opposing views on global warming: 

  • The earth’s climate is warming as a result of human actions; an extreme change in the earth’s climate is going to occur, caused by greenhouse gas emitted by the world’s use of fossile fuels (coal, oil, gas).  This temperature change will result in catastrophic problems in the environment. Humans must drastically reduce the consumption of fossile fuels immediately.  To prevent this man-made climate change, countries need to restrict energy use (reduce use of gas and oil).
    Liberals generally hold this view.  Check out two liberal organizations which defend this viewpoint:
    Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace.
  • Human activity does not affect the earth’s temperature.  Burning fossil fuels (gas, coal and oil) does not cause climate change.  The earth’s climate changes naturally, but not so much that it will cause a change of catastrophic proportions.  An extreme change in the earth’s climate will not happen.  There are natural warming and cooling trends over time.  In the 1970’s a coming ice age was predicted, but now that scare has been replaced with the current global warming scare. 
    Conservatives generally hold this view.  Two conservative organizations which support this view are: and
    NOTE: The UN climate conference (of Dec. 2007) met in Bali to discuss global warming met strong opposition from a team of over 100 prominent international scientists, who warned the UN that attempting to control the Earth’s climate was “ultimately futile.” The scientists, many of whom are current and former UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) scientists, released an open letter (Dec. 13, 2007) to the UN Secretary-General questioning the scientific basis for climate fears and the UN’s so-called “solutions.”
    Read the complete letter here and the list of scientists who signed the letter here.


Read a commentary “Global Warming Consensus” at

For information on a movie showing the harmful effects on humans of policies aimed at curbing “global warming” go to