Of traceability and transparency – on the 5th anniversary of Climategate

If you happened to miss the release of the first batch of Climategate files, Paul Matthews has a summary you might want to read. And if you’re looking for an “alternate” view, you might want to check the … uh …”revisionist scholarship” of former BBC-nik, Richard Black.

During the five years that I’ve been following the “climate wars”, I’ve noticed that Black is someone for whom precision in posting has rarely (if ever) been a forté. He frequently succeeds in getting things wrong … in so many ways!

For example, in Black’s anniversary summary of Climategate (which for some reason he chose to post on the RTCC site as well as on his own blog), his narrative includes:

Then: ‘A miracle has happened,’ read a comment posted on the (generally climate-sceptic) Climate Audit blog along with a link leading to a zipped file on the (generally sceptical about Climate Audit) RealClimate blog. [emphasis added -hro]

And just look at those positively parenthetical parallels, folks! One is “generally climate-sceptic” while the other is “generally sceptical about Climate Audit”. Such talented word-smithing, eh?! But I digress …

Black’s phrase of choice (i.e. “A miracle has happened”) above, duplicates the words chosen by the fab four (aka David Leigh, Charles Arthur, Rob Evans and Fred Pearce) in which they misquoted the miracle message via the greenest-of-em-all Guardian on Feb. 4, 2010. In reality, the actual message left at ClimateAudit on Nov. 17/09 at 5:24 a.m. was:

A miracle just happened.

Think about it, folks! If Black cannot be trusted to get the small stuff right, why should anyone trust him on the big stuff, eh?!

Another example is Black’s claim to the effect that:

by endorsing the most recent IPCC report, all governments, […] have accepted the scientific picture

Unfortunately, I cannot confirm** until the powers that be at the IPCC actually get around to posting the minutes of IPCC-40 which (unless they’ve silently and conveniently [?!] changed their longstanding practice) should include the official “participants” list.

**Once upon a time, one could depend on the IISD’s reportage to include the numbers of various participant types in their helpful contemporaneous write-ups of the proceedings. And I cannot recall any such important meeting attended by representatives of “all [193] governments” in which such numbers were not made available.

Least of all (considering the much purported “danger” to the future of our planet) any meeting of such an important body as the IPCC and/or at least some of its arms and wings.

But for some strange reason, IISD no longer does this consistently. And I cannot even begin imagine why they might have changed this very useful and informative practice – at least for some (of the many, many) meetings on which they report.

For example, at least one recent gathering of the great and the good, at which IISD continued this (IMHO quite recently discontinued, if not silently and/or selectively abandoned) practice: “The ninth meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG-9) of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal” – which one can find at http://www.iisd.ca/vol20/enb2038e.html, if one is so inclined!

OTOH, one thing I should probably thank Black for is his provision of at least a likely actual source for Gavin Schmidt’s Nov. 2009:

carefully crafted exercise in damage control and spin [which] ends with the undated, unlinked and unsourced: “… official UEA statement…”

which it now appears Schmidt may well have … uh … lifted from the BBC site, without attribution. Then again, the BBC piece had no named author – merely:

A university spokesman [who] confirmed the email system had been hacked and that information was taken and published without permission.

[My sincere apologies for the following digression:

Memo to self: Update post of Aug. 23/11 to reflect BBC as probable source of Schmidt’s undated, unlinked and unsourced “official” text because when I wrote my post – and even when I checked more recently – I could not find anything that resembled such text in the UEA PR archives.]

But, isn’t that just the cat’s whisker! Even before Norfolk’s finest began their approximately two-year fruitless investigation, an anonymous “university spokesman” had concluded that UEA’s “E-mail system had been hacked”. Amazing. Simply amazing!

Clearly it matters not at all that there is an undated, unlinked and unsourced “claim” on the record (or at the very least on the pseudo-record).

But back to Black … Just for the record, his oh-so-memorable concluding 5th anniversary paragraphs were:

It is, though, the kind of victory not to be celebrated. For one thing, it just shows that the vast majority of climate scientists were simply doing their job.

More importantly, it indicates that the challenging picture they paint of the risks ahead is likely to be correct in its central narrative, if not in every detail.

And that picture continues to make the case for a grand societal transition away from fossil fuels, which is unlikely to be an easy journey.

Such traceability and transparency in the service of a “grand societal transition”, eh?!

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