RealClimate's over-the-top response

Gavin must be having a bad hair day, because this headline is most certainly over the top:

Now compare the headline to the letter that was sent, bold emphasis mine:

From: Bill Hughes

Cc: Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen

Subject:: E&E libel

Date: 02/18/11 10:48:01

Gavin, your comment about Energy & Environment which you made on RealClimate has been brought to my attention:

“The evidence for this is in precisely what happens in venues like E&E that have effectively dispensed with substantive peer review for any papers that follow the editor’s political line. ”

To assert, without knowing, as you cannot possibly know, not being connected with the journal yourself, that an academic journal does not bother with peer review, is a terribly damaging charge, and one I’m really quite surprised that you’re prepared to make. And to further assert that peer review is abandoned precisely in order to let the editor publish papers which support her political position, is even more damaging, not to mention being completely ridiculous.

At the moment, I’m prepared to settle merely for a retraction posted on RealClimate. I’m quite happy to work with you to find a mutually satisfactory form of words: I appreciate you might find it difficult.

I look forward to hearing from you.

With best wishes

Bill Hughes


Multi-Science Publsihing [sic] Co Ltd

Notice the missing key word “lawsuit”. It does not appear in that letter anywhere.

Note the tone of the last paragraph. In essence it says: “hey, I’m upset, but happy to work it out with you”. No mention of legal threats whatsoever.

What follows the letter on RealClimate’s post is a whole bunch of bluster and posturing about how E&E conducts its reviews. I wonder though, did Gavin even bother to ask how they conduct their affairs of review, or did he simply (as Joe Romm loves to say) “make stuff up”?

And then there’s this paragraph:

As a final note, if you think that threatening unjustifiable UK libel suits against valid criticism is an appalling abuse, feel free to let Bill Hughes know (but please be polite), and add your support to the Campaign for libel reform in the UK which looks to be making great headway. In the comments, feel free to list your examples of the worst papers ever published in E&E.

Appalling abuse? Again, there was no legal threat. Using the word “libel” in the subject line states an issue of concern, and doesn’t automatically assume that lawsuits are attached, especially when the sender says: I’m prepared to settle merely for a retraction posted on RealClimate. I’m quite happy to work with you to find a mutually satisfactory form of words.

When that word libel is used in conjunction with the word lawsuit, then by all means, assume that to be a threat. When the word libel is used to point out an issue, absent the word ‘lawsuit” or phrase “legal action” or “our attorney will be contacting you”, it doesn’t automatically follow then that “…threatening unjustifiable UK libel suits against valid criticism is an appalling abuse” is a valid description of what was communicated in the letter. That’s an important distinction, don’t you think?

Here’s a few thoughts.

What is disappointing about all that is that Dr. Gavin Schmidt could just as easily have said all that posturing bluster in a private email to Bill Hughes. Given what RC did with a request for a change in wording, it really underscores the deliberate defiant chutzpah that The Team is famous for, which really offends taxpayers like myself that fund this NASA GISS Team.

Gavin, remember, thou art mortal (and a public servant).

And of course this post today is all a front: in reality they could not give a rodent’s posterior about anyone’s peer review standards.

Look at their own problems with “pal review”, look at the famous  ‘lets re-define what the literature is’ from Climategate emails. The reason E&E has been, and is being attacked, is that its very existence contradicts the slogans like ‘all peer reviewed science agrees’, so it has to be derided at every opportunity.

And if some papers out of the couple of thousand or so it has published over 20+ years are poor quality, then they’re wheeled out again and again as being typical of the journal, which is not the case and plenty of journals publish papers that have all sorts of problems.

Peer review isn’t perfect no matter who’s doing it. One has to wonder if the Steig et al Antarctica paper might have gotten a more thorough review in E&E than it did in Nature, because the likelihood of such a paper being reviewed by someone who might question The Team PCA style math.

So I’d suggest that

1) Gavin, when somebody actually threatens you with a lawsuit, you’ll most certainly be able to know it by the inclusion of the key word “lawsuit” and

2) I think you owe Multi-Science an apology

For those that would like to judge for themselves, you can view issues of E&E here.

Consider supporting the journal by purchasing a subscription.


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The subject line is Subject:: E&E libel! I think that is pretty clear. (Boldface mine.)


A “bad hair day” for a guy with very little hair? I’m not sure Gavin would agree, but what you say certainly sounds accurate.
Of course, if Gavin feels like he’s being hit with a libel suit, perhaps he has a guilty conscience. Beware when your guests tout their honesty at dinner-be sure to count the silverware afterwards.

Does Gavin work under a “corporate shell”? If not, he may find a nasty surprise waiting for him. If E&E cares to take the matter formal, he can be sued for DAMAGES as an individual.
Now Libel is quite hard to prove. However, it all depends on what you see as your final “end game”. Is “Real Climate” an incorporated entity? Mr. Wonderful (in his own mind) may, despite the fact “lawsuit” was not mentioned, wish to consult with legal counsel, who might give him some useful advice AKA “personal liability”, if he is not an incorporated entity.

UK Sceptic

RC’s reaction borders on hysterical paranoia n’est pas?


That email from Bill Hughes was a thinly-veiled libel suit threat and you know it.
REPLY: I do? Gosh when somebody says “hey I’m upset, you libeled me, but lets work it out together” do you automatically call your attorney? I sure don’t. Chill, dude. – Anthony

John A

The way Gavin responds tells you everything you need to know about the pressure on Gavin to deliver something for his salary and the indulgence of the Environmental Defense Fund in bankrolling RealClimate.
The Team’s biggest shot in years (the Steig Antarctica study) has gone down in flames, and Gavin & Co are not pleased. As long time followers of Climate Audit will know, the Team is not above a good “hissy fit” when things aren’t going according to plan.
We may need to stock up on popcorn. This could be a long one..


Another thing: I think you are confusing “defiant chutzpah” with what most people would call “cajones”.
REPLY: And I think you need to lay off the “Red Bull”. What next, planning my dinner for me since you “know” what I’ll be having? Heh. – Anthony

This is a more serious issue than it looks like. In America, we are allowed to say and write what we want within reason. In other countries, if you say something you often must be able to produce verifiable proof of your claim eliminating the ability to reasonably surmise.
The UK laws are extreme example but the problem comes with the globalization and attempted integration of all countries laws in a world where communications may cross the globe. People are free to chose the country of preferred law to sue the opinion holder. Judgment can be fought and rendered in that country and then payment can be sought through various collections processes.
Case in point, Steig recently threatened a libel lawsuit for Ryan’s post referring to him as duplicitous. While the threat was clearly stupid and poorly thought through, the ‘team’ has adopted this threat as a policy to prevent disclosure of their behavior. I don’t trust any of their motives at this point, I’ve seen a few things which have led me to the conclusions I hold but as a ‘free – speech’ American in a Leftist world, I am unable to write them without threat of lawsuits in whatever country they choose.
Even a vain and silly suit can be expensive in the legal world. What did the team learn from their recent experience of threats to contain opinion? Do it again.
I won’t write the rest of what I would like in this forum, but from a certain amount of experience, these are ugly and bad people IMHO. Like all the worst examples of the leftist political persuasion, censorship is a means to an end.
Clip away if you like Anthony.


Not often I find myself on RC’s side, and I agree there was no mention of libel, but I would be pretty annoyed if I was Gavin and I got that email – is he not allowed to say that he has a poor opinion of E&E standards, and that Sonja, in his opinion and by her own words, is an editor biased towards scepticism, whether for good reasons, journal balance, or whatever?
Storm in a teacup. IMHO.
If he views E&E as a ‘a backwater of poorly presented and incoherent contributions that make no impact on the mainstream scientific literature’, I entirely defend his right to say so.
REPLY: And I agree with you, saying those things is a right, but then he could have simply said so in a reply email, rather than turning it into a public slugfest. Bill Hughes used discretion in complaining, Gavin and the Team has not. It goes to motive. – Anthony

For more fun and games with Gavin, see my latest post at Climate Etc “Hiding the Decline”

James Sexton
Consider supporting the journal by purchasing a subscription.
Damn, Anthony. Between you and Gavin, you’re going to make me break a hard and fast rule of mine.
You are correct, of course, Schmidt could care less about the review process or the quality of papers submitted into any journal. Bradley of MBH98 privately admits they’ve no idea what the 1000 year trend is, destroying his own peer-reviewed paper. Steig openly and publicly states he’s no statistician, destroying his own peer-reviewed paper(seeing that it was simply a work of statistics). There are other examples………. pal review——priceless.

Paul Penrose

The word “libel” by itself does not imply an intended action. In fact, as the subject of the email (I know this because it is in the “subject” line) it simply indicates that the sender believes they have been libeled and wishes to discuss it with the addressee. The content of the letter also clearly indicates that they are seeking a non-litigated solution, so jumping to the lawsuit conclusion seems unwarranted. Of course, blowing them off like he has is a good way to move it along in that direction.

JRR Canada

Reflection and projection. I find it very interesting that every accusation of malice and ill intent made by the team has later turned out to be the very tactics they were using at the time.This was the irony of the CRU emails.So I now take their accusations as self abuse. The people they appear to address are in fact not even party to the conversation. Picture the team member talking to a mirror, maybe Josh can toon that, Gavin spewing his vitrolic selflove into the mirror. Oopes turned my own stomach.

Andrew W

“That email from Bill Hughes was a thinly-veiled libel suit threat and you know it.”
“Gosh when somebody says “hey lets work it out together””
Hughes never said that, despite your using quotation marks, and how did you manage to miss “At the moment” obviously Hughes is suggesting he’ll switch to another method should he not get a “.. a retraction posted on RealClimate.” Now what do you suppose that method might be, perhaps there’s a clue in “Subject:: E&E libel”?
REPLY: If there was no offer of working out new wording together and no offer to simply ask for a retraction, you might have a point – Anthony

Lew Skannen

“Another thing: I think you are confusing “defiant chutzpah” with what most people would call “cajones”.”
What a LAUGH!!!
For spitting out little hissy fits at public expense??
I expect Gav will be demanding asylum in Sweden and round the clock personal protection next.
Has he taken out a restraining order yet?


The articles over at RC are beginning to reflect a certain air of desperation. They aren’t completely gone yet, but they do appear to be swirling around the bowl.

James Sexton

Peter says:
February 22, 2011 at 4:45 pm
Another thing: I think you are confusing “defiant chutzpah” with what most people would call “cajones”.
Spilt beer on that one! lol, yeh, he’s so brave…………..constantly deleting contradictory views. He’s scared of pixels on his screen. He won’t debate because he’s to petrified to openly debate the science. He hasn’t got the juevos to strike out on his own, no, he’s gotta run a blog on my dime. Cajones…..bwwhaahahaaha, he hasn’t even progressed to a bottle baby, he’s still on my teat.


The amount of bluster at RC highlighting the issue is very telling. Sounds like desperation to me, all that because someone asked for an apology. Methinks they are lacking a bit of perspective.


I think you need to look at it from Gavins view point. He the great dictator of all truth has decreed something and thus it is true. He will not retract as he guards the truth and states it and thus what he states is the truth.
The only way in Gavins mind that he will retract his claim is if he’s sued(and probably after he spends alot of money that doesn’t(aka taxpayer) belong to him) will he cave in.
Thus to him this is clearly a threat of a libel suit… unless Bill Hughes decides to back off.
You must remember that these ppl are used to being treated as “elite” by the world… petty dictators don’t like it when the mere peasants dare question them.
It is also highly likely this will end in a libel suit since its highly unlikely the warming cultists will back down. They’re backed into a corner already. This even slight retraction could set off a major issue and start the landslide against them.

R. Craigen

“Gavin, remember, thou art mortal (and a public servant).”
Uh-oh. Here comes the next article in Gavin’s series, wherein he accuses you of a death threat because you mention mortality.

Garvin and the others have lost so much credibility, I am surprised anyone pays attention to what they say or do. Keep it up Garv old buddy and your hot air will be become a badge of honor.

val majkus

from my reading of the letter from Bill Hughes there’s no threat of a lawsuit; as to the response to it well … a bit bombastic … the problem is that Bill Hughes has said ‘I’m prepared to settle merely for a retraction posted on RealClimate’ that was a poor choice of words. Now that option is not available … what now.


Well this is what you would expect from professional fear mongers like the RC people, isn’t it?
They have made a career from misrepresenting the climate. Now they are branching out into the legal world.

CRS, Dr.P.H.

Gavin’s all pissy because his beloved NASA climate budget is getting whacked:
“This week, Reps. Bill Posey (R-Fla.), Sandy Adams (R-Fla.) and Rob Bishop (R-Utah) called for a budget that would “reprioritize NASA” by axing the funding for climate change research. The original cuts to the budget outlined yesterday would have cut $379 million from NASA’s budget. These members want climate out of NASA’s purview entirely, however. Funding climate research, said Adams in a statement, “undercuts one of NASA’s primary and most important objectives of human spaceflight.”
I know better scientists than Gavin who are getting whacked by the train-load at Fermilab and Argonne National Labs in Illinois, so I have no tears to shed. Hope he can find work in the real world.

Pamela Gray

Judith, more power to you for raising the bar and staying in the fight. However, it is sad to see the Ivory towers still populated by self-important scientists. I couldn’t stand it as a young researcher and left, my idealism shattered by such behavior as Gavin continues to display.

So in other words, the Realclimate team has decided that posting an apology would be more damaging to them than issuing an apology.


Here is a guide to UK libel that might be of help
and this
Nevertheless, he awarded Mr Keith Smith £5,000 general damages plus £5,000 aggravated damages to reflect the way Ms Williams – who had met a request for an apology with contempt – had behaved

Luis Dias

At the moment, I’m prepared to settle merely for a retraction posted on RealClimate.
Sounds like a veiled threat to me. I do agree that Gavin is behaving like a spoiled brat, but then again, he might as well be making a defensive attack here. By exposing the veiled threat, he is de facto stopping the threat to come about. If the journal decided to actually go for libel, Gavin would have been “right” to call it off, and put the journal’s actions into public shame.
On the downside, we have the journal leaving any communication with RC, to which Gavin replies “oh RLY? Look at me sOOOOO worried about THAT”
So it was a win win for Gavin. And, yes, he even had the time to show how bad EE was, and therefore how bad the papers that they published were too. But that’s blogosphere to you.

Mark Twang

Suggestion to Gavin: Just change one word. “Effectively” becomes “apparently”. Then let Mr. Hughes go whistle up a lawyer.

Alex Buddery

RE: Mike, February 22, 2011 at 4:32 pm
Peter February 22, 2011 at 4:45 pm
So you both think it’s impossible to bring up libel without threatening legal action. If you believed you had been libeled by someone and wanted to rectify it without legal action how would you bring it up?

On the web, the writer, the web site owner and the ISP can all be sued just like the writer, the magazine and the distributor in the print field. A link could also be potentially defamatory if you are linking to defamatory material.
Anyone who repeats allegations can also be sued. This is important. Seeing something written somewhere else doesn’t mean it is true. Repeating allegations without making sure they are true is a very good way to get yourself knee deep in litigation.

Mark T

Jeff ID,
If I were you I would welcome a lawsuit by Steig… discovery, a word not in the Team dictionary.

Mark T

Alex: exactly as was done… “you libeled me, apologize and all is well.”
Not the sharpest tack…


A. Honestly believes it, and is a true bedwetter
B. Doesn’t believe it, and is playing the femme fatale
It’s your dollar, you decide..

Eyes Wide Open

Why the surprise? Look up the term [snip – now THAT’s OTT] in the dictionary and you’ll see Gavin’s smiling face!

Mark T

Sorry, alex, I misread… it seems mike and peter are the dull tacks.

None of my comments went through on RealClimate,
It is interesting that RealClimate choose to use Wikipedia for their criticisms as it is nothing more than truth based on who edits last but their former colleague is well aware of this.
Energy & Environment is a peer-reviewed interdisciplinary scholarly journal (ISSN: 0958-305X)
– Indexed in Compendex, EBSCO, Environment Abstracts, Google Scholar, JournalSeek and Scopus
– Found at 149 libraries and universities worldwide in print and electronic form. These include; Cambridge University, Cornell University, British Library, Dartmouth College, Library of Congress, National Library of Australia, Ohio University, Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers University, University of California, University of Delaware, University of Oxford, University of Virginia, and MIT.
EBSCO lists Energy & Environment as a peer-reviewed scholarly journal (PDF)
The IPCC cites Energy & Environment multiple times
– “All Multi-Sciences primary journals are fully refereed” – Multi-Science Publishing
– “Regular issues include submitted and invited papers that are rigorously peer reviewed” – E&E Mission Statement
– “E&E, by the way, is peer reviewed” – Tom Wigley, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
As for Scopus,
– Elsevier (parent company of Scopus) correctly lists Energy & Environment as a scholarly peer-reviewed journal on their internal master list. (Source: Email Correspondence)
ISI (Institute for Scientific Information) is owned by the multi-billion dollar Thomson Reuters corporation and offers for-profit, commercial database services (Web of Knowledge) similar to other companies services such as EBSCO’s “Academic Search” and Elsevier’s “Scopus”. Whether a journal is indexed by them is purely subjective and irrelevant to the peer-review status of the journal.
Are they saying that no scholarly peer-reviewed journals exist that are not indexed by the ISI? If so then they are calling companies like EBSCO and Scopus liars.

Brian H

Gavin conducts a bloviating defense at the above JC link:
“You have gone significantly over the line with this post. …”
The core of her article:

I infer then that there is something in the IPCC process or the authors’ interpretation of the IPCC process (i.e. don’t dilute the message) that corrupted the scientists into deleting the adverse data in these diagrams.
McIntyre’s analysis is sufficiently well documented that it is difficult to imagine that his analysis is incorrect in any significant way.

So she is dealing directly with the process, not Gavin’s outrage at an inferred implicit libel action.

Definitely check out Judith’s post!

The one link was broke in my post,
The IPCC cites Energy & Environment multiple times
If a mod could fix it I would appreciate it.

HotRod, “– is he not allowed to say that he has a poor opinion of E&E standards, and that Sonja, in his opinion and by her own words, is an editor biased towards scepticism, whether for good reasons, journal balance, or whatever?
Except Gavin did not simply give his opinion of the journal but made libelous statements,
“The evidence for this is in precisely what happens in venues like E&E that have effectively dispensed with substantive peer review for any papers that follow the editor’s political line”
He is implying that the journal’s papers are not peer-reviewed but published simply based on her political agenda. Does Gavin even know that Dr. Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen is a Social-Democrat?

Brian H

And Feckless Fred Moolton has weighed in on the defense … Popcorn time!

Theo Goodwin

curryja says:
February 22, 2011 at 4:55 pm
For more fun and games with Gavin, see my latest post at Climate Etc “Hiding the Decline”
Really good post, Professor. Unfortunately, now you will have to read endless posts rationalizing “hide the decline.”

Phil's Dad

OK so this is pedantic but… in English Law you can not “threaten” someone with a law suit. This is because the courts do not recognise “the Law” as something you can “threaten” with. It is, after all, totally benign – unless you’re the bad guys!


I think the correct spelling is “cojones” not “cajones.” The thought is clear however.

Theo Goodwin

Pamela Gray says:
February 22, 2011 at 5:20 pm
“Judith, more power to you for raising the bar and staying in the fight. However, it is sad to see the Ivory towers still populated by self-important scientists. I couldn’t stand it as a young researcher and left, my idealism shattered by such behavior as Gavin continues to display.”
Since John Kerry revealed his true colors over the last few years, I propose calling it the John Kerry syndrome. Kerry truly believes in the moral and intellectual superiority of his high culture, his ideology, his personal contributions of work, and his tastes. If you disagree with him, you are a lesser human being and you are working against the truth, the ideology, and the tastes. At that point, the only question that remains about you is whether you can serve as a useful idiot. John Kerry is the very best visual aid when you are explaining “self-important scientist.”

Benjamin P.

“At the moment, I’m prepared to settle merely for a retraction posted on RealClimate.”
And if that doesn’t happen…?
Isn’t he implying something more…?
Just saying.

David M Brooks

Gavin can be brave here because New York and US law provides protections against foreign libel lawsuit judgments, a UK judgment would probably be unenforceable against US based Gavin and RealClimate.
[quote]Nationwide legislation prohibits all American courts from enforcing foreign defamation judgments that do not comport with First Amendment protections
By Laura R. Handman, Robert D. Balin, and Erin Nedenia Reid
On July 27, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by voice vote the Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act (“SPEECH Act”). Sponsored by the chairman of the Senate judiciary committee (Sen. Patrick Leahy) and the ranking member (Sen. Jeff Sessions) in an unusual show of bipartisan support, the SPEECH Act was passed unanimously by the Senate on July 19, 2010. When signed into law by President Obama, it will prohibit the enforcement of foreign libel judgments that are inconsistent with the protections accorded free speech by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


I think the implied threat was clear. Not only was “libel” in the subject line, but “At the moment” was a qualifier on accepting a mutually agreed retraction.
“At the moment” means at a later moment such a retraction may not be an acceptable solution to the problem. The inference is clear, even if admirably gentle.
That Gavin chose to escalate rather than at least attempt to ameliorate is still on him.


I think many of us make the mistake of assuming that Gavin is a mature adult. We all make invalid assumptions sometimes. When he does not get what he wants, he lashes out like a little kid.