(Source: Sodahead)
Full emails show inarguably the researchers fought transparency, to keep public in the dark

Some commenters on our recent article on the snippets of the alleged "Climategate 2.0" emails -- leaked correspondences between U.S. and UN researchers with officials at the UK University of East Anglia's embattled Climate Research Unit (CRU) --  complained that the commentary was too biased or misleading.  That's not suprising -- similar criticism has been leveled against reports on the topic in ForbesThe New York Times, and other top publications.  

And there is at least one fair point in most of these criticisms.  Thus far very few major news publications have published full emails so it's been left for the readers to blindly decide whether to trust reporters who imply the emails are disturbing and those who claim they're innocent.  While we won't possibly have the chance to review all the emails, here's an in depth review of at least one of the more important email threads -- something readers elsewhere have deserved, but haven't received.

I. Background

Many climate skepticism-leaning reports fell for the trap of searching for the "gotcha" quotes, quotes which would seemingly amount to climatologists admitting they don't believe their anthropogenic global warming hypothesis to be true.  One such commonly printed quote (which our original piece did not include) was CRU director Phil Jones commenting, "All models are wrong."

In reality this quote was almost certainly taken out of context; he was referring to his disbelief in new studies which simply averaged existing models -- something that doesn't speak to his belief or disbelief in the original models themselves.

On the other hand, what our coverage focused on was the more troubling excerpts, which seem to imply that researchers purposefully deleted emails "to cover" themselves from public scrutiny of their work and research practices.  If true, it's clear these allegations are troubling.  Thus we selected email thread 2240, one of the most pertinent emails on this particularly important issue.

House of Secrets
Were top climatologists purposefully building a "house of secrets"?  
Read for yourself and find out. [Image Source: DC Comics]

College researchers in standard disciplines rely on data gathered first hand from their experiments.  Climatologists, on the other hand primarily collate data gathered by government research agencies.  As this gathering is directly performed by a public institution, funded by public dollars, many agree that this information should be free to the public to analyze, should they wish to do so.

Indeed this email thread makes reference to a couple of documents -- WMO 40 and the "Arhus Resolution -- which seem to demand for a sharing of metrology and similar data.

WMO 40 refers to the World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) fortieth resolution, which states:

The Twelfth World Meteorological Congress in June 1995, recognizing the increasing requirement for the global exchange of all types of environmental data and the basic responsibility of WMO Members and their national Meteorological Services in support of safety, security and economic benefits of their countries, adopted the following policy on the international exchange of meteorological and related data and products:

As a fundamental principle of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and in consonance with the expanding requirements for its scientific and technical expertise, WMO commits itself to broadening and enhancing the free and unrestricted international exchange of meteorological and related data and products.

The Congress also adopted a new practice designed to strengthen the exchange of meteorological and related data and products, and urged Members to increase the volume of data and products exchanged.

[full text]

The Århus (or Aarhus) Convention/Resolution [PDF] was a UN convention held in the titular Danish city in 1998.  It resulted in a multi-national pledge (the Århus Resolution) to share any information with the public.  According to public documents, this sharing "is founded on the belief that citizens’ involvement can strengthen democracy and environmental protection."

The document explicitly suggests that the public has the tendency to mistrust environmental regulation and that Århus was designed to prevent that.

"AR" in the context of this email refers to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (UN IPCC) "Assessment Report".  So the AR5 is the fifth assessment report on climate change, AR4 is the fourth report, and so on.

TSU stands for "Technical Support Unit" of the IPCC Working Group, which handles -- as part of its responsibilities -- public interaction.

II. The Email Thread (2240 in the archive [torrent])

cc: "Midgley, Pauline" <>
date: Wed Jun 24 13:23:15 2009
from: Phil Jones <>
subject: Re: Data access and IPCC
to: Thomas Stocker <>, wg1 <>
    Dear Thomas,
        Attached is a document that you should only bother to look at it you have
    time to spare - stuck on a train or long flight. It is a submission by a skeptic
    to EPA in the USA.
       I'm sending it only for background. I wouldn't want this issue to be raised
    at the Venice meeting, but I think you'll likely to become more aware these people as
    AR5 advances. I was in Boulder last week and I spoke to Susan. We agreed
    that the only way IPCC can work is the collegiate way it did with AR4.
       These people know they are losing (or have lost) on the science. They are now
    going for the process. All you need to do is to make sure all in AR5 are aware
    of the process and that they adhere to it. We all did with AR4, but these people
    read much more into the IPCC procedures.
     See you in Venice
   At 17:17 13/05/2009, Thomas Stocker wrote:
     Dear Phil (cc to Pauline Midgley, Head TSU WGI)
     Thank you very much for bringing this to my attention. I knew about this when the first
     requests were placed on John Mitchell and Keith Briffa and they informed us. What I did
     not know is that they have already placed their focus on Bern (# 17)!
     At that time I argued that in principle there are two interests to balance: (i) FOI, and
     (ii) your own privacy when it comes to opening emails or other mail. Obviously, I am not
     in the position to judge which one obtains and in fact I think a court would be needed
     to establish exactly that balance.
     However, the Arhus Resolution, it seems to me, had another motivation: open access to
     environmental data associated with damage, spills, pollution; the latter word is
     mentioned twice - "climate" never. So to take this convention and turn it around appears
     to me like a perversion.
     One important point to consider is whether Arhus really applies to the IPCC activities.
     In no way are we involved in decision making. We assess and provide scientific
     information. The decision makers are elsewhere. More than ever need we be aware of this
     We will discuss this in the TSU but then, this should be brought to the level of the
     Secretariat, at least, since it affects the very basis of our assessment work.
     Thanks again and best regards,
     Phil Jones wrote:
      Dear Thomas,
            I hope you are enjoying your new job!  Apologies in advance
      for upsetting your morning!
         Below there is a link to Climate Audit and their new thread with another
      attempt to gain access to the CRU station temperature data. I wouldn't
      normally bother about this - but will deal with the FOI requests when they
      come.  Despite WMO Resolution 40, I've signed agreements not to pass on
      some parts of the CRU land station data to third parties.
         If you click on the link below and then on comments, look at # 17. This
      refers to a number of appeals a Brit has made to the Information Commissioner
      in the UK. You can see various UK Universities and MOHC listed. For UEA these
      relate to who changed what and why in Ch 6 of AR4. We are dealing with these,
      but I wanted to alert you to few sentences about Switzerland, your University
      and AR5.
          Having been through numerous of these as a result of AR4, I suspect that
      someone will have a go at you at some point. What I think they might try later
      is the same issue:
        Who changed what and why in various chapters of AR5?
        When drafts of chapters come for AR5, we can't review the chapter as we
      can't get access to the data, or, the authors can't refer to these papers as the data
      haven't been made available for audit.
        Neither of these is what I would call Environmental Information,as defined by the
     Aarhus Convention.
        You might want to check with the IPCC Bureau. I've been told that IPCC is
      above national FOI Acts. One way to cover yourself and all those working in AR5
      would be to delete all emails at the end of the process. Hard to do, as not everybody
      will remember to do it.
        I also suspect that as national measures to reduce emissions begin to affect people's
      lives, we are all going to get more of this. We can cope with op-ed pieces, but these
      FOI requests take time, as the whole process of how we all work has to be explained
      to FOI-responsible people at each institution.
        Keep up the good work with AR5!
     Dear Mr Jones
     As a UK tax payer from the productive economy, could you please explain why you restrict
     access to data sets that are gathered using tax payer funds e.g. CRUTEM3. Can you
     believe how embarassing this is to a UK TAX PAYER, putting up with your amateurish non
     disclosure of enviromental information.
     For reference [1] refers to your absymal attitude to
     public data, although this is just the latest in an embarassing set of reasonable
     requests from  CRU, who the hell do you think you are? There will of course be an FOI on
     the back of this
     Prof. Phil Jones
     Climatic Research Unit        Telephone +44 (0) 1603 592090
     School of Environmental Sciences    Fax +44 (0) 1603 507784
     University of East Anglia
     Norwich                          Email
     NR4 7TJ
     Thomas Stocker
     Climate and Environmental Physics
     Physics Institute, University of Bern        ph:  +41 31 631 44 62
     Sidlerstrasse 5                              fx:  +41 31 631 87 42
     3012 Bern, Switzerland                [2]
   Prof. Phil Jones
   Climatic Research Unit        Telephone +44 (0) 1603 592090
   School of Environmental Sciences    Fax +44 (0) 1603 507784
   University of East Anglia
   Norwich                          Email
   NR4 7TJ

III. Analysis

Governments of free nations, as a most fundamental principle are meant to be protecting their citizens' well being.  At times the argument can be made that this means that some state secrets must be kept from the public in order to protect it.  But it's hard to make the argument of concealing government information to protect government officials at the expense of the public well-being.

The above email isn't as outright damning as the individual cherry picked quote:

I've been told that IPCC is above national FOI [Freedom of Information] Acts. One way to cover yourself and all those working in AR5 would be to delete all emails at the end of the process.  Any work we have done in the past is done on the back of the research grants we get – and has to be well hidden.  I've discussed this with the main funder (U.S. Dept of Energy) in the past and they are happy about not releasing the original station data.

...suggests.  That said, the full email, in context, inarguably demonstrates that at least some of the researchers involved in climatology are looking to hide what they're doing from the public.

On the one hand it's important to understand a couple of contextual points.  First, researchers have only very recent received interest in the public from receiving their data sets, much less their emails.  Second, climatologists supporting AGW theory have been receiving a firestorm of criticism and scrutiny that may put some in defense mode.  

Why is there such scrutiny?

Professor Jones said it himself:

I also suspect that as national measures to reduce emissions begin to affect people's lives, we are all going to get more of this.

Indeed, citizens of the world have a legitimate right -- if not duty -- to scrutinize climatology and warming science as in it is intimately and inexorably tied to politicial decisions that effect their lives, as the IPCC acts both as scientific reporter and policy maker.  The most sweeping of the potential decisions, such as "carbon taxes", quotas on energy use, and meat rationing could quite literally force people in America and abroad to give up the comforts they enjoy today.

With that in mind, this email is arguably very troubling.  Remember, Phil Jones is suggesting exactly what the excerpted comment seemingly suggests on a most basic level -- that climate researchers destroy their emails to hide their interactions from the public.

Remember these are not personal email accounts, they are professional ones.  As the taxpayers are essentially "the head boss" of taxpayer-funded research institutions.  In that regard Professor Jones' suggestions read like a manager telling a fellow manager to delete their emails to cover up their interactions from corporate human resource folks.  

In cases like these the people involved -- Phil Jones and Thomas Stocker -- look guilty based on their actions.  As Emily Bronte wrote, "Honest people don't hide their deeds."

Thomas Stocker and Phil Jones
Thomas Stocker (left) and Phil Jones (right) have only themselves to blame for creating the appearance of improprietary by fighting to keep their conversations out of the eyes of the public, who are essentially paying their bills via taxes.
[Image Sources: Thomas Stocker (left), Chris Bourchier / Rex Features (right)]

Or in the words of the Århus Convention's report:

There is currently a perceived lack of trust between people and their governments, especially where environmental matters are concerned.  The Århus Convention is seen as an important tool for improving this situation. It is founded on the belief that citizens’ involvement can strengthen democracy and environmental protection.

Sounds like good advice -- advice Phil Jones and Thomas Stocker are doing their best not to follow.  Mr. Stocker's claim that global warming isn't an "environmental issue" is particularly laughable, given how much many AGW proponents at the IPCC and elsewhere warn of catastrophic global warming-induced weather changes.

Climatologists have put themselves in this sticky predicament.  Whether or not they were dishonest, their desire to hide their actions has made them appear dishonest in the public eye.

That was exactly our point in the previous piece, in which we wrote:

Of course Phil Jones and his supporters will likely claim that the emails were taken out of context of some larger more appropriate discussion.  But as a researcher it's pretty damning to make comments that even would seem to imply that you were engaging in trying to suppress peer review of questionable data -- academic fraud.

Particularly trouble is the phrase "cover yourself", which suggest a conspiratorial, political undertone to what is supposed to be a transparent field of research.

Our report wasn't perfect, but it got the most important point right.  The climate emails, if authentic, inarguably prove Phil Jones and a handful of other climatologists plotted to keep their professional actions out of the public eye.  And that's a big concern, no matter how much denial and nay-saying goes on about the more egregious out-of-context quotes from the emails.

After all, if there were truly damning quotes in the emails, they likely wouldn't be in the leaked trove.  Where would they be?  Consider Professor Jones' own suggestion -- "One way to cover yourself would be ... to delete all emails."

That's one quote that's not taken out of context.

Source: Emails [torrent]

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher

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