Transcript in English.
The program was first broadcast on YLE, The Finnish Broadcasting Co., TV1, Monday Dec. 7th, 2009.
Voiceover (VO), reporter Martti Backman: On Thursday night, November 19th, internal data files and copies of e-mails from the British climate research institute CRU were uploaded on a Russian internet server. The as yet unknown whistleblower or cracker explained his or her action with the following message:
(Actor reads the first three sentences, whole text on screen)
“We feel that climate science is, in the current situation, too important to be kept under wraps.
We hereby release a random selection of correspondence, code, and documents.
Hopefully it will give some insight into the science and the people behind it.
This is a limited time offer, download now:
(Background music: Hide the Decline –song by Minnesotans for Global Warming)
Episode Title: Climategate
VO: The leak opened a view into the inner workings of CRU, a scientific bastion of IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It revealed secrecy, hatred, intrigue and manipulation of research results behind the façade of climate science.
The disclosure has also prompted the question, whether world leaders gathering at the Copenhagen climate summit have been misguided by the scientists.
Professor Phil Jones is the director of the East Anglia University’s Climatic Research Unit, the CRU. He turned down our request for an interview and also refused to answer questions in writing. The press office of the University told us that they are unable to provide any answers. For this reason, MOT has talked to Finnish science professors.
Atte Korhola, professor of Environmental change, University of Helsinki: ”… quite astonishing…”
Kalevi Mursula, professor of Astrophysics, University of Oulu : ”…something suspicious…”
Antero Järvinen, professor of biology, University of Helsinki: ”…I wonder…”
Juha Pekka Lunkka, professor of geoscience, University of Oulu: ”…I am dumbfounded…”
VO: But let’s return to the CRU. The person who leaked – or hacked – the documents used a filename that is a direct reference to the UK Freedom of Information Act or FOIA. CRU director Jones and his colleagues had defied the Act for over four years. Now they have to explain their actions to investigative committees – and the police.
(Graphics: picture of an ice-hockey rink with thumbnail photos of climate scientists superimpose one by one: Jones, Wigley, Trenberth, Mann, Bradley, Hughes, Overpeck, Santer etc…)
VO: The CRU has compiled statistics of the Earth’s mean temperature since the 1850’s. This time series shows a warming of about 0.7 degrees Celsius over the past century. The curve is a result of aggregating data from weather stations around the world and calculating averages – with a secret method.
Many researchers have asked the CRU to provide measurement data and computer code used in constructing the mean global temperature. The answer from CRU director, professor Phil Jones has been frosty:
Steve McIntyre, mathematician, Toronto, Canada: ‘’’We have twenty-five years invested in this, why should I send the data to you, when your only objective is to find anything wrong with it?’, which is a very unscientific statement.”
VO: The CRU leadership has considered the world’s temperature as its private property, but now a part of the data and code used in its handling is in the public domain.
Atte Korhola: “These messages reflect that some people have had a panic-like fear about the possibility that, what if nature does not behave the way our models or our own theories predict.”
VO: One problem for the CRU-affiliated scientists has been the medieval warm period at the beginning of the second millennium. It has been known for long that, it was warmer than the present.
Juha Pekka Lunkka, professor of geology, University of Oulu: ”I have to say honestly that, we have not yet reached the conclusion that the Medieval warm period did not exist. The available proxy data, at least from the Northern Hemisphere, especially from Western Europe where we have most data, proves quite clearly that the temperature has been as warm or warmer than at present.”
(Picture of Michael Mann’s famous hockey stick graph)
VO: In the late 1990’s, scientists close to the CRU (led by Michael Mann) published this curve, known as ‘the hockey stick’ in Nature magazine. It shows the global mean temperature during the past one thousand years. Its steeply rising blade pointed to 1998 as the warmest year of the millennium, and the gently downward sloping shaft hid the well-known medieval warm period.
(Pictures of reporter Backman walking with McIntyre in Toronto.)
VO: The Canadian mathematician Steve McIntyre put the hockey stick under a magnifying glass. Neither Mann’s method nor his data stood up to scrutiny. At the behest of the United States Congress, The US National Academy of Science and the National Research Council’s Statistical Committee examined McIntyre’s claims and established that Mann had made exaggerated claims. The hockey stick was broken.
(The statisticians’ report, named after its’ chair Edward Wegman, also charted the climate scientists’ social network and found it to be very small and cliquish. The network’s core included many researchers from the CRU. The report castigated the climate scientists for their insufficient command of statistical methods.)
VO: In 1999, the hockey team prepared a picture of the stick for use on the cover of a publication by the World Meteorological Organization.
VO: An e-mail sent by CRU director Jones concerning this graph was among the leaked messages. It said:
Jones (Actor’s voice): “I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years - - to hide the decline.”
VO: What decline?
Temperature estimates on a millennial scale are made using indirect measurements called proxies. Past temperature is deduced for example from lake sediments and tree rings.
To its’ chagrin, the hockey team had established that temperature deduced from tree rings turned sharply downwards in the last decades of the 20th century. But thermometers showed that the Earth had warmed. How to cope with this divergence?
It was suspected that the hockey team had grafted or spliced thermometer readings onto tree ring based reconstructions. The inventor of the original hockey stick, Michael Mann reacted to these allegations in an offended tone:
Mann (Actor’s voice, quote from the RealClimate blog): "No researchers in this field have ever, to our knowledge, "grafted the thermometer record onto" any reconstruction. It is somewhat disappointing to find this specious claim (which we usually find originating from industry-funded climate disinformation websites) appearing in this forum."
VO: But this was exactly what Mann and the CRU scientists had done. When their tree ring based temperature estimates turned down like this: (Graph showing the decline at the end of the curves.)
- the CRU hid the decline by grafting thermometer readings to the curve ends, without telling about the trick to anybody. (Second curve showing the upwards pointing splice at the end.)
VO: With this trick, Jones’ team was able to make a hockey stick with a mighty blade. “Mann’s Nature trick” has caused astonishment throughout among scientists.
(Picture: professor Atte Korhola in his study, watching the “Hide the Decline” –clip on Youtube, by ‘Minnesotans for Global Warming’.)
Professor Korhola: ”This has been criticized severely – they should never have done this.”
VO: The hockey team did not pause to reflect, why their interpretation of tree rings did not produce expected warming. Instead, they chose to hide the problem. But if tree rings are unreliable in measuring heat in the present, they are unreliable also in estimating past temperatures.
Jarl Ahlbeck, (Lecturer in environmental technology at the Abo Akademi University): ”This means that one of them is wrong. If tree rings don’t show warming in the past decades and a thermometer does, one or the other is wrong. They can’t both be right.”
VO: The divergence between tree ring and thermometer data was hidden also in the IPCC’s 2001 Assesment Report. The report’s supplementary part included this part of the data (shown on the graph in white), but didn’t show this part (red part of the graph).
VO: Steve McIntyre was one of the expert reviewers of the 2007 report. He objected to hiding the decline in one of his comments.
Steve McIntyre (Actor’s voice): ”Show the Briffa reconstruction through to its end; don’t stop in 1960. Then comment and deal with the ‘divergence problem’ if you need to. Don’t cover up the truncation of this graphic. This was done in the previous report (IPCC TAR).This was misleading.”
VO: The IPCC answered McIntyre that, that showing the last part of Briffa’s reconstruction would be considered inappropriate.
Professor Jones has recently admitted having used this hiding trick, and he has regretted his choice of words. But he denies having meant any deceit in using the word ‘trick’.
Atte Korhola: “What’s alarming here, in my opinion, is that a lot of these e-mails indicate that the author is a person with a strong mission, belief in being right, and that this somehow justifies taking exceptions from normal practices in science like peer review or openness, self-criticism and the like, basic elements of science.”
VO: The leaked CRU materials contain 3 000 e-mail messages of correspondence between researchers. They reveal an aggressive atmosphere, where the scientists consider dissenting colleagues as their enemies, to be fought with all possible means.
Ben Santer, one of the world’s most famous climate scientists writes in one of his messages to Jones that, he felt tempted – very tempted – to ”beat the crap” out of his older colleague, professor Pat Michaels, who belongs to the skeptics’ camp.
In another message the same Santer expressed and urge to talk to Steve McIntyre and his colleagues in a ”dark alley”. CRU director Phil Jones repeatedly refers to dissenting colleagues as ”utter prats”.
When the Finnish climate skeptic Timo Hämeranta sent a message lamenting the death of Australian veteran skeptic John Daly – also known to viewers of this program –, Jones commented to his inner circle that he took the information as ”cheering news”.
VO: The leak revealed CRU’s systematic witholding of data from outside scrutiny. Professor Jones has kept the world’s temperature data as if it were his private property, and has declined requests to disclose it.
But Jones was worried that, the UK’s new Freedom of Information Act could also apply to his files. In 2005, he wrote to Michael Mann:
Jones (Actor’s voice): "The two MMs (McIntyre and McKitrick) have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I'll delete the file rather than send to anyone."
VO: Soon after this, Jones revealed his frustration to his closest colleagues:
Jones (Actor’s voice): "I'm getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don't any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act!"
VO: Nevertheless, the pressure to disclose the files kept growing. In the spring of 2008 it became clear that, even the e-mail correspondence between the researchers could be considered as documentation under the FOIA.
Jones (Actor’s voice): "Mike, Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4 (IPCC’s 4th assesment report from 2007)? Keith will do likewise. - - Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? - - We will be getting Caspar to do likewise. Cheers Phil".
VO: All recipients of this deletion order had been collaborating in studies that have been claimed to ”independently” verify the scientific robustness of Mann’s original hockey stick.
In August 2008 Jones had come up with a new excuse to reject FOIA requests. He wrote to Gavin Schmidt of Nasa:
Jones (Actor’s voice): "The FOI line we're all using is this. IPCC is exempt from any countries FOI – the skeptics have been told this."
VO: One year ago, Jones wrote to Santer:
Jones (Actor’s voice): "About 2 months ago I deleted loads of emails, so have very little - if anything at all."
VO: Soon after the Climategate scandal broke this November, Jones explained for The Guardian newspaper:
Jones (Actor’s voice): "We've not deleted any emails or data here at CRU."
Atte Korhola: ”... blacklists are kept of scientists whose work should not be seen in scientific publications, and boycotts are proposed against scientific magazines if they have published critical views.”
VO: The CRU and its top research staff excert considerable power in bringing together the consensus view about what is the state of the climate. They can influence IPCC reports and with it they can have an effect on the public opinion.
Professor Lunkka: ”Let’s just say that, because the IPCC’s politics – and it is politics – it gives ammunition for policy makers to make decisions, and therefore we have certain groups inside the IPCC that pull into certain directions; I could well subscribe to this view. Let’s say Briffa, Overpeck, and this Jones, who are very strong players, and excellent scientists no doubt, but then again, sometimes one has to ask if there’s also a political agenda involved.”
VO: In 2003, the hockey team was unhappy with the Climate Research magazine, that had accepted the publication of work by people classified as skeptics. Michael Mann wrote to Jones in March 2003:
Mann (Actor’s voice): “This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the "peer-reviewed literature". Obviously, they found a solution to that--take over a journal! So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering "Climate Research" as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal.”
VO: The sin committed by Climate Research was its’ publication of a controversial study. The CRU inner circle wanted to punish the editor of the magazine. Jones’ close associate Tom Wigley wrote to Timothy Carter, who studies climate change in the Finnish environmental authority that, editor Hans von Storch publishes ”crap science” just to provoke debate.
Wigley (Actor’s voice): ”…must get rid of von Storch too.”
VO: The hockey team has taken a keen interest in controlling the peer review process. In July 2004 Mann was irritated by two studies that in his opinion should not be quoted in the forthcoming IPCC review. Jones wrote back to comfort him:
Jones (Actor’s voice): "I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow - even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is !"
VO: In 2005, the team took aim at another science publication, the Geophysical Research Letters. Its editor James Saiers was also suspected of being a skeptic. Wigley and Mann exchanged mails:
Wigley (Actor’s voice): ”If you think that Saiers is in the greenhouse skeptics camp, then, if we can find documentary evidence of this, we could go through official AGU (American Geophysical Union) channels to get him ousted.”
Mann (actor’s voice): “It’s one thing to lose "Climate Research". We can't afford to lose GRL. I think it would be useful if people begin to record their experiences w/ - Saiers - - they have published far too many deeply flawed contrarian papers in the past year or so.- - These were all pure crap.”
VO: Jones’ trusted colleagues have taken part in reviewing each others’ work. Researchers with lower standing have asked Jones whom he could recommend as reviewers. This August he recommended nine names and ended the list with the remark:
Jones (Actor’s voice): "All of them know the sorts of things to say - about our comment and the awful original, without any prompting."
VO: It has been claimed in public that the 3 000 scientists and reviewers involved in the IPCC process share a common understanding. This so called consensus says that, the global climate keeps warming further and human greenhouse gas emissions have created the threat of a climate catastrophe.
But the climategate documents reveal that even the hockey team, the small elite of climate scientists is far from unanimous in their opinion. One bone of contention has been the levelling off of global warming in this decade.
Trenberth (Actor’s voice): "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't."
VO: This how the top American climate scientist Kevin Trenberth recently agonized to his colleagues at the CRU. He continued with his dissenting thoughts:
Trenberth (Actor’s voice): "How come you do not agree with a statement that says we are no where close to knowing where energy is going or whether clouds are changing to make the planet brighter. We are notclose to balancing the energy budget. The fact that we can not account for what ishappening in the climate system..."
VO: An important task of the CRU is the maintenance of the measurement data and the computer code needed in calculating global mean temperature. It is this material that Jones has so steadfastly refused to surrender to outside scrutiny.
The leaked documents now reveal one probable reason for the secrecy: The scientific data and computer code in the center of world politics are in a state that is not decipherable even to the people charged with its maintenance.
Recently, a younger computer programmer called ”Harry” was hired to sort out the chaos. Harry’s tired remarks are now in the public:
“Harry” (Actor’s voice): "OH FUCK THIS. It's Sunday evening, I've worked all weekend, and just when I thought it was done I'm hitting yet another problem that's based on the hopeless state of our databases. There is no uniform data integrity, it's just a catalogue of issues that continues to grow as they're found."
VO: It is exactly this database that Harry so curses, that provides the world’s mean temperature, which is being claimed to have increased by about 0.7 percent during the 20th century.
This is important for the future as well. The computer models predicting further increases in world temperature are tested and calibrated against these CRU statistics. If they are able to mimick the century long warming curve constructed at CRU, they are alleged to be able to predict the climate up to the year 2100.
VO: Many researchers have questioned whether the so called urban heat island phenomenon has been accounted for sufficiently in the CRU construction of mean world temperature.
Jarl Ahlbeck: ”I’ve asked Phil Jones many times by e-mail, what is the method used in adjusting for urban heat, and I’ve never received an answer.”
VO: Urban heat means the extra warmth measured in population centers compared to the surrounding countryside. Wasteful energy use is one reason behind the effect.
Ahlbeck (Pointing to temperature curves compiled by Nasa GISS): ”Here’s the temperature curve for Bratsk (Russia). The measurements show that it’s been quite flat, untill a large pulp factory was opened in the 1970’s – and here you can see the heat caused by the pulp mill. Temperature in Bratsk has increased dramatically because of it.”
VO: Northern Russia and Siberia have many locations where urban heat is considerable. Energy has been used recklessly during the long and cold winters. Annual mean temperatures in urban centers are up to two degrees higher than in the surrounding wilderness.
Ahlbeck: ”And on to Yakutsk, which until the 1960’s was a backward gulag town without much industrial activity. Then the development started – you can see the urban heat quite clearly in the warming of Yakutsk.”
(GISS Temperature graphs on screen).
VO: The phenomenon is repeated city after city in Northern Russia: mighty hockey stick graphs for the past 50 years. But when we go to the countryside weather stations, the pictures change: Dzardzan –warm 1930’s, warm today, colder in between. Dickson Island in the Arctic sea – no significant warming, the 30’s much warmer than today. Dudinka – the same pattern.
Northernmost Finland resembles Siberia. Professor Antero Järvinen is the director of the Kilpisjärvi research station in Lapland. He has studied Arctic nature for 40 years. He has collected long time series of temperature, the budding of birch trees as well as the nesting of the pied flycatcher.
Järvinen: ”These don’t indicate much warming at all, but there’s no cooling either. It’s more or less the status quo that we’ve had for several decades. We can not detect anything dramatic, and it seems to be the same in for example Spitzbergen – nothing big going on there either.”
VO (with graph on screen): The weather stations in the Northern Russian wilderness repeat the pattern which is visible also in Sodankylä, Finnish Lapland: a warm 1930’s, then cooling, and since the 1970’s warming again, but not by as much as in the decade before WWII.
But urban heat has badly contaminated temperature readings from Russia. And the same goes for China. How have professor Jones and the CRU accounted for this in their calculations of glogal temperature?
Hardly at all.
Among the leaked messages there is Jones’ e-mail, where he explains that their only way of correcting for the heat island effect is to completely remove the stations contaminated by heat from the aggregate completely. According to Jones’ e-mail, the CRU has removed only 38 out of a total of perhaps 2 700 stations. 31 of these were in North America and 7 in Europe.
The CRU’s station list still includes over 200 uncorrected stations from Russia, amongst them all big industrial centers.
Ahlbeck: ”This means that, Jones’ global curve is faulty. It does not depict climate, it depicts something else.”
VO: Even the IPCC has admitted that, a large part of the 0.7 degree warming in the past century was caused by natural variability. Humans contribute to maybe just half of that, but considering the urban heat effects the part played by greenhouse gases may be limited to just a few decimals
Carbon dioxide on its’ own may have such a small warming influence that it is concealed by measurement errors. It may well be that, climate change is dominated by the sun, although its direct radiation is not enough to force large changes.
Professor Mursula: ”It is interesting to see, if climatic effects caused by the solar wind turn out to be the most influential drivers of climate. It would be a suprise, a huge surprise to climate science, but this is quite possible. And in that case, climate change may be decisively of solar oorigin. ”
VO: The final truth about the CRU leak or break-in, will possibly be revealed by next spring, when the independent investigation is finished. The leak is also being investigated by the Norfolk police; one branch of the affair is also to find out if professor Jones has breached the FOIA. Jones has removed himself from his post, pending the results of the inquiries.
In the US, the Climategte scandal has led to an internal inquiry at Penn State university to establish what their world famous professor Michael Mann has been doing.
The scandal may eventually contribute to openness climate science and clear the reputation of a tanished field.
Mursula: ”Well, let’s wait and see what comes out of the inquiry and what consequences it might have on the IPCC. I am very strongly of the opinion that the scope of the IPCC should be expanded by inviting contributions from specialists in space research. It is crucial that we investigate all possible mechanisms of how the sun and space in general may affect climate. The interaction between the neutral and ionized parts of the atmosphere is very important, and as said already, it may have a very big impact in this climate change.”
Story ends, with one more quote from the e-mails:
Jones (Actor’s voice): "If anything, I would like to see the climate change happen so the science could be proved right, regardless of the consequences."