ClimateGate 2 Is A Poor Excuse For A Sequel

Movie sequels are usually futile, and the ClimateGate 2 leaked emails are equally pointless, says Peter Judge

I wish I could say I predicted it, but I didn’t. In retrospect, no one should be at all surprised at the leak of a new batch of private emails from climate change scientists, coming just before a UN climate change conference.

Like most movie sequels however, ClimateGate 2 is a shadow of ClimateGate 1 and anyone who agreed to star in this remake will be looking embarassed in the future to have it on their CV.

Two years ago, emails were stolen from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit and posted online, with climate change deniers treating them as a “smoking gun”. Here, they said, was the evidence that man-made climate change was a myth, put about by communists.

Once more with feeling

Despite taking remarks and data out of context, and wilfully misunderstanding the processes by which scientists work with data, the deniers did not manage to do anything of the sort.

The ironies were deep. Funded by groups including the Koch Foundation and ExxonMobil, climate sceptics were massaging the data in an attempt to prove that the climate science community was, er, funded by special interests, and massaging the data.

In the end, the scientists were cleared of wrongdoing, and if anyone else wants to try massaging the data, it’s all been made public at the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project.

So what will be achieved by this new release of emails? I think it could be counterproductive for climate change denial.

Firstly, there will be nothing new here. Blogs which want to disbelieve in man-made climate change are welcoming them, saying “they’re real and they are spectacular” (Watts Up With That). But in fact, they are all older than 2009. If there are any wrongdoings exposed, they will have already been corrected as a response to the first ClimateGate. Evidence since 2009 has continued to support man-made climate change.

Secondly, this is just too blatant. There is no doubt that the leak has come from people with an axe to grind, who want to wreck another climate conference. The timing is clearly aimed at COP17, and this time they include a covering letter of “background and context”, which makes their motives clear.

Thirdly though, there isn’t much for them to achieve. The prospect of global action on climate change was a faint possibility before COP15, but has receded into the distance now. The recession, the Euro crisis and all the rest of it will ensure that no one has time for a binding climate change deal, even if they had the will.

Going ahead with a new ClimateGate attack on COP17 – a conference where expectations are low –  just makes the skeptics look like unbalanced zealots.

Look after your conversations

Once again, the messages are about security, and sharing of information of course.

You should be dealing with the letter of Freedom of Information requests – even if you know they have come from vexatious protestors attempting to undermine your work (that goes for people on every side of environmental issues).

And you should expect things to be open, or at least be prepared to see them made public by other people. That way when the archives get leaked you won’t be embarassed.

If that means you can’t say what you really think about your opponents in an email, then say them by phone or face to face.

Finally, to the best of global knowledge, climate change is real, and almost certainly caused by man-made effects. Maintaining otherwise seems to lead people into absurdities like this new leak of old emails.