[Vision2020] 11-17-19: NASA's Gavin Schmidt on "10 year anniversary of ‘Climategate’ "

Ted Moffett starbliss at gmail.com
Mon Nov 18 20:04:35 PST 2019

Vision2020 Post: Ted Moffett----------------------------------------------

10 years on
Filed under:

   - Climate Science

   - Instrumental Record

   - Paleoclimate

   - Scientific practice

 — gavin @ 17 November 2019

I woke up on Tuesday, 17 Nov 2009 completely unaware of what was about to
unfold. I tried to log in to RealClimate, but for some reason my login did
not work. Neither did the admin login. I logged in to the back-end via ssh,
only to be inexplicably logged out again. I did it again. No dice. I then
called the hosting company and told them to take us offline until I could
see what was going on. When I did get control back from the hacker (and
hacker it was), there was a large uploaded file on our server, and a draft
post ready to go announcing the theft of the CRU emails. And so it began.
>From “One year later”, 2010

Many people are weighing in on the 10 year anniversary of ‘Climategate’ – the
Observer, a documentary on BBC4
I was interviewed), Mike at Newsweek
<https://www.newsweek.com/climate-gate-fake-news-climate-denialism-1471826> –
but I’ve struggled to think of something actually interesting to say.

It’s hard because even in ten years almost everything and yet nothing has
changed. The social media landscape has changed beyond recognition but yet
the fever swamps of dueling blogs and comment threads has just been
replaced by troll farms and noise-generating disinformation machines on
Facebook and Twitter. The nominally serious ‘issues’ touched on by the
email theft – how robust are estimates of global temperature over the
instrumental period, what does the proxy record show etc. – have all been
settled in favor of the mainstream by scientists plodding along in normal
science mode, incrementally improving the analyses, and yet they are still
the most repeated denier talking points.

Sure, there has been some change in community awareness of how email can be
weaponised, and consequently a greater separation (thankfully) between
official email and more casual fare. There are better support networks for
scientists caught in the “firehose of shit” than there used to be (CSLDF!)
<http://www.csldf.org/>. There is surely less naivety about how politicised
climate science can become. But the drive of right-wing ‘think-tanks’ like
CEI and the American Tradition Institute, to FOIA their way to more
email-related scandal has run aground – the political appetite for more
‘revelations’ of scientists doing science and being human has apparently
evaporated. Meanwhile the hacks involved have resorted to suing each other
whose hands should be in the dark money cookie jar.

There are still folks insisting that the ’emails speak for themselves’
without ever being able to articulate what they say without getting the
context or timing or people totally wrong (see here
a typical recent example of absolutely certainty coupled with almost total
ignorance). This is an indication that for some, ‘climategate’ has simply
become a banner to be waved around on the battlefield to encourage the
troops. Obviously, that has nothing to do with science, or scientific

The bigger changes over the last 10 years have nothing to do with ‘issues’
in climate science either. The ‘facts on the ground’ have shifted
dramatically. The warmest years on record, increasing influences of climate
change on wildfires, hurricane intensity, heat waves, coastal flooding,
coral bleaching, etc. have meant that outright denial of science isn’t as
marketable any more as the wider conversation has moved to solutions. The
issues associated with how we actually reduce emissions involve mostly a
different group of people, with different (and diverse) expertise and
controversies that revolve far more around theories of political change and
questions of equity, than they do arcane issues in paleo-climate or weather
station homogenization. Some people will continue to obsess of
two-decade-old minutae which even at the time were obscure and irrelevant,
but now I don’t see why anyone sane would want to even bother.

As I said more than a decade ago, no political decisions have ever been
made based on 15th Century trees – not even in the 15th Century. The
development of the politics of climate over the last 10 years simply
underlines that.
Google search trends since 1/1/2009
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