Inside the IPCC: the Climategate E-Mails

November 23, 2011 at 7:12 am

Yesterday 5,000 new Climategate e-mails were released, apparently by the same person who made public 1,000 or so of them back in November 2009. Once again we get  are being given the opportunity to peek over the shoulder of some of the most prominent names in climate science. The picture that emerges isn’t necessarily flattering.

A searchable database appears here: foia2011.org/ If you visit that website, please take a moment to scan the GoogleAds on the right-hand side of the page. Should one of them be of interest – and should you click on it – the person who has gone to the effort of putting together the search engine (and who is presumably incurring hosting and bandwidth costs) will earn a few pennies.

I am travelling at the moment and therefore don’t have sufficient time to wade through this new treasure trove. But a few items of interest have come to light:

In this e-mail the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) informs scientist Mike Hulme that his services are no longer required  – not because it has found someone with more experience and expertise to replace him, but because the IPCC feels a

need to maintain a balance in geographical representation…

and because its governing body, the plenary, has decided it should swap out “about half of the membership.”

To those of us who’ve already deduced that the IPCC does not, in fact, consist of the world’s top scientists there’s nothing earth-shattering here. But it’s yet one more bit of evidence that IPCC insiders have been fully aware that the reality of the IPCC differs rather dramatically from the marketing message being delivered to the rest of us.

Similarly, in this e-mail thread coordinating lead authors Phil Jones and Kevin Trenberth discuss who, among their chapter’s authors, could be recruited for additional duties. Five authors are dismissed by Trenberth since, in his opinion, they “would be out of their depth.” In fairness to Trenberth, though, he also says that whoever is selected should be a forceful personality

who will speak up and take issue with the WG2 and WG3 people who have political agendas that go beyond the science.

In this thread dating back to the year 2000 straightshooter Hans von Storch gets testy regarding apparent meddling on the part of Sir John Houghton, who was then a co-chair of the IPCC’s Working Group 1 (the ‘hard science’ working group). He says:

I don’t think that John Houghton is particularly qualified in saying anything about regional assessments. Actually, I consider him a politially intersted activitst [sic] and not as a scientist…Thus, if Sir John thinks that something is useful or not, does not bother me…

Responding to criticism that his chapter doesn’t include a discussion of climate extremes and variability, von Storch continues:

I am happy to include in [section] 10.6 all statements in this respect if somebody is telling me where such things are published. Please come forward with the material.

It is also apparent that von Storch feels he’s being pressured to include the names of a wider group of people on his chapter’s list of authors. Once again, we see the IPCC worrying a great deal about what part of the world its authors come from:

I have listed only names of people who have contributed [to the chapter]… That many of these people are from Germany may be related to the fact that empirical regionalisation is done broadly in Germany at many institutions. If Bruce and I have overseen contributions from other countries, please let us know. Again, please come forward with material.

Speaking of politics, in this e-mail Phil Jones denies that IPCC chapters contain “politically biased” material, but admits that Summary for Policymakers documents (the only things journalists and politicians actually read) may be biased.

And in this doozy of a 2001 thread Michael Mann’s arrogance is on full display in a note he sends to John Christy, who has recently participated in the taping of an ABC news episode hosted by John Stossel (you can watch the video here). Mann says:

If ABC is looking to do a hatchet job on IPCC so be it (this doesn’t surprise me – Stossel has an abysmal record in his treatment of  environmental issues, from what I had heard), but I’ll be very disturbed  if you turn out to have played into this in a way that is unfair to your co-authors on chapter 2, and your colleagues in general. This wouldn’t have surprised me coming from certain individuals, but I honestly expected more from you… [ellipsis in the original, bold added]

Here, in part, is Christy’s remarkably restrained reply:

Regarding the IPCC. The IPCC [2001 report] is good, but it is not perfect nor sacred and is open to criticism as any document should be. In some cases it is already outdated. Some of the story lines used to generate high temperature changes are simply ridiculous. The IPCC is us. We are under no gag rule to keep our thoughts to ourselves.

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Entry filed under: climate bible, climategate, IPCC. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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