With ‘ClimateGate,’ some Republicans embrace thug politics
As much as climatologists in America may have hoped the ‘ClimateGate’ scandal would go away during the Thanksgiving holiday, it’s here to stay. To recap: 160 MB of e-mails and documents (access them here) were stolen from servers at the University of East Anglia, a British school that hosts the Climate Research Unit. The unit’s climatologists have played a powerful role in shaping the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which document the established scientific consensus in favor of the existence of human-caused climate change, or ‘global warming’ as our dumbed-down media calls it.
Conservatives who deny the existence of climate change, much as they denied the harmful health impacts of cigarettes in an earlier era, are falling all over themselves. Noisily, they declare, the science is bunk, there is no climate change, and we should not pass the ‘cap and trade’ greenhouse emission reduction policy that is favored by many in our Democratic Congress. Some are going as far as to call for the criminal prosecution of the scientists named in the stolen CRU e-mails.
I’m not a fan of cap and trade as a policy, but what’s going on in the ‘ClimateGate’ controversy is worth noting because of the careful effort on the part of the climate change deniers to also cover up the criminal manner in which their bounty of ‘evidence’ was acquired.
In the setting of criminal law, you would refer to the ‘ClimateGate’ e-mails as ‘fruit of the forbidden tree,’ the legal principle that says that if evidence of a misdeed is acquired by means of an illegal act, it’s inadmissible in court. While we’re not dealing with criminal law here, but politics, you’d think that the ‘ClimateGate’-criers might at least acknowledge that their new blunderbuss was gained through a criminal act. They haven’t done so. Instead, they’re trying to cover up the fact that criminal hackers penetrated a secure university computer network and selectively published information they stole from these servers.
Take Kim Strassel’s column in today’s Wall Street Journal, which is being held up as evidence that ‘Cap and Trade is dead’:
The more than 3,000 emails and documents from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) that have found their way to the Internet have blown the lid off the “science” of manmade global warming.
‘Found their way’ is of course a complete lie. The e-mails were stolen by hackers. Strassel won’t even add the asterisk to her column that she’s crowing about something that was gained by way of the activities of criminals.
Or take Jed Babbin, the Washington Times Radio interviewer who on his program recently hosted Senator Jim Inhofe, the climate change-denying and birther-embracing Republican from Oklahoma who is the ranking minority member on the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works. On the program, Babbin described the stolen e-mails in the following manner:
Ladies and gentlemen, if you haven’t followed that story, what Senator Inhofe’s talking about, in Britain, a blogger got into some of the official government records about climate change and how the measurements were being taken to show…
Melanie Morgan: And the politics behind it.
Jed Babbin: And the – well but they were basically saying, “Oh yea, hey, let’s make it look like Jim so-and-so did that, and let’s help him cook the books, and let’s change the data…”
Again, another bald lie by a climate change denier. A ‘blogger’ did not ‘get into’ ‘official government records.’ A hacker broke into a secure university system, stole, and distributed these e-mails and files.
What’s worse than Strassel or Babbin’s lies about how the climatologists’ exchanges were stolen was the way Senator Inhofe went on during Babbin’s program condone the criminal actions that have resulted in ‘ClimateGate.’ Please, read the following statement from Inhofe and tell me that this doesn’t sound as though he is saluting the cyber criminals who broke into a secure system in order to help him out politically:
Senator Inhofe: Well, I don’t know how you do that, though, ‘cause we’re not the ones that are calling the shots. The interesting part of this is it’s happening right before Copenhagen. And, so, the timing couldn’t be better. Whoever is on the ball in Great Britain, their time was good.
The people who are ‘on the ball,’ of course, are criminals. Senator Inhofe really seems to appreciate the acts of the criminals who hacked into a computer network and published information that helps him push his extreme, minority-viewpoint that climate change does not exist. Senator Inhofe is celebrating not some ‘Deep Throat’-like whistleblower, fearful for the survival of our democracy. Instead, he’s cheering on cyber criminals who are more like ‘the Plumbers,’ the crooks who helped Richard Nixon’s Republican political machine systematically dismantle any Democratic opposition he might face.
Of course, at this stage of poisonous partisan warfare in American life, we probably shouldn’t be surprised that a powerful Senator would endorse criminal means in order to advance his narrow political agenda. Inhofe is backed up by people like Andrew Breitbart whose BigGovernment.com is under investigation in two states for surreptitiously taping staff from the national non-profit organization ACORN. And then of course there is the mother of ‘forbidden fruit’ in American politics in the past decade – the confessions to terrorist conspiracies secured from alleged Al Qaida members as a result of acts of torture. Just as the ‘ClimateGate’ screechers are trying to cover up the crime that resulted in their acquisition of the e-mails they are building their case upon, the Bush Justice Department conveniently re-defined acts of torture as ‘enhanced interrogations,’ ignoring generations of case law in order to do so.
Crime begets crime, and ‘ClimateGate’ is the same song, different verse.
Ultimately, this lemon of a charge needs to be turned into lemonade. The e-mails do not prove that climate change is a hoax. Nate Silver offers a measured explanation of why the climate change reports of the IPCC are not a fraud, and Kevin Trenberth of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research showed the AP on Monday how the e-mails were published selectively and actually demonstrate the integrity of the scientists in question:
Trenberth said he’s identified 102 e-mails stolen from a British university’s computer server. Hackers distributed only documents that could help attempts by skeptics to undermine the scientific consensus on man-made climate change.
Many of the exchanges were between him and Phil Jones, the British research center’s director. The two men worked on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessments, which articulated the scientific community’s consensus on global warming in 2001 and 2007.
“What you see in those e-mails are exchanges among a whole bunch of scientists on issues,” Trenberth said. “What you will find is that there is a tremendous amount of integrity, vigorous discussion about issues and exactly how to handle issues… So it’s far from a whole bunch of scientists agreeing and colluding to do things. They’re actually arguing, vigorously, about the science.”
Trenberth, a well-respected atmospheric scientist, said it did not appear that all the documents stolen from the university had been distributed on the Internet by the hackers.
With Trenberth’s take on ‘ClimateGate’ in mind, I think that climatologists should get ready to fight back strongly against the idea that the stolen e-mails (not the leaked e-mails) are some akin to President Clinton’s ‘blue dress moment.’ They should assent to a thorough investigation by the US Senate of their statements in private e-mails and how they relate to the credible science underlying the IPCC’s findings. And, just as importantly, they should insist that any investigation of their scientific work include a probe into how their files were stolen, and who helped distribute them in the first place.
Then we’ll find out who the real criminals are.