NYT Tackles Damning Global Warming Emails, But Reveals Own Hypocrisy

A trove of emails back and forth among climatologists stolen from a server at the University of East Anglia in Britain has caused shock waves and may even have repercussions against the idea that humans are making a significant and harmful contribution to global warming. The emails include some shockingly shoddy science and venomous attacks on climate-change dissenters by ostensibly objective climate scientists.

In a Saturday front-page story, environmental reporter Andrew Revkin showed, albeit too politely, that the emails show global warming propagandists in a bad light: "Hacked E-Mail Is New Fodder For Climate Change Dispute."

But why won't the Times post the raw documents on its site? Revkin's corresponding post on his nytimes.com Dot Earth blog displayed institutional hypocrisy:

The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won't be posted here. But a quick sift of skeptics' Web sites will point anyone to plenty of sources.

Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard found that to be choice:

This is the position of the New York Times when given the chance to publish sensitive information that might hinder the liberal agenda. Of course, when the choice is between publishing classified information that might endanger the lives of U.S. troops in the field or intelligence programs vital to national security, that information is published without hesitation by the nation's paper of record. But in this case - the documents were "never intended for the public eye," so the New York Times will take a pass.

Credit the Times for putting the story on the front page, but in a way it came too soon (the emails first became known Thursday afternoon). Revkin was unable to unearth all the nuggets from the massive file dump. By contrast, the Washington Post story by Juliet Eilperin, which appeared a day later, was more thorough and made perhaps a bigger impact in the Sunday edition.

Eilperin caught a vital tidbit about the advocates ("scientists" doesn't really fit, does it?) pressuring peer review journals not to accept work from climate skeptics, and then, in ultimate chutzpah, denigrating those same skeptics for not having published in peer-reviewed journals!

Here's what Eilperin found:

In one e-mail, the center's director, Phil Jones, writes Pennsylvania State University's Michael E. Mann and questions whether the work of academics that question the link between human activities and global warming deserve to make it into the prestigious IPCC report, which represents the global consensus view on climate science.

"I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report," Jones writes. "Kevin and I will keep them out somehow - even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!"

Revkin's story hit the high points, though Revkin also clung to the theme that global warming is man-made and harmful.

Hundreds of private e-mail messages and documents hacked from a computer server at a British university are causing a stir among global warming skeptics, who say they show that climate scientists conspired to overstate the case for a human influence on climate change.

The e-mail messages, attributed to prominent American and British climate researchers, include discussions of scientific data and whether it should be released, exchanges about how best to combat the arguments of skeptics, and casual comments - in some cases derisive - about specific people known for their skeptical views. Drafts of scientific papers and a photo collage that portrays climate skeptics on an ice floe were also among the hacked data, some of which dates back 13 years.

In one e-mail exchange, a scientist writes of using a statistical "trick" in a chart illustrating a recent sharp warming trend. In another, a scientist refers to climate skeptics as "idiots."


Some of the correspondence portrays the scientists as feeling under siege by the skeptics' camp and worried that any stray comment or data glitch could be turned against them.

The evidence pointing to a growing human contribution to global warming is so widely accepted that the hacked material is unlikely to erode the overall argument. However, the documents will undoubtedly raise questions about the quality of research on some specific questions and the actions of some scientists.

Revkin finished with climatologist and global warming skeptic Patrick Michaels, the target of some venomous emails from global warming pushers:

He said some messages mused about discrediting him by challenging the veracity of his doctoral dissertation at the University of Wisconsin by claiming he knew his research was wrong. "This shows these are people willing to bend rules and go after other people's reputations in very serious ways," he said.

- Clay Waters is the director of Times Watch, an MRC project tracking the New York Times.