Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
Whoever took the Climategate emails from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia (UEA) are certainly playing the long game. Two whole years they waited before publishing the second group of 5,292 CRU emails, now known as Climategate 2.0. Impressive. I’m mentioned in 17 of the emails, because I made the first Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request to Phil Jones and the CRU to release his taxpayer-funded temperature data collection. Phil at the time was the head of the CRU. His data collection was and is the basis for one of the major global temperature records.
At the time they fobbed me off using a succession of excuses. They claimed the information was available on the web. But they were unable to say where. They put me off and put me off. My contemporaneous account of the CRU and the FOI lunacy is a posting on ClimateAudit entitled “Measuring Precipitation on Willis’ Boots“. (Not my title, that was Steve McIntyre’s). You should read it first for a concise background, it’s important for understanding the following story. I’ll wait here while you read it …
Eventually, after much time, long after I’d given up the chase as hopeless, the CRU folks admitted that the reason they didn’t release the data was that they didn’t have the data. Somewhere along the line, it had been lost.
Mr. David Palmer was the Freedom of Information Officer for the CRU at the time. In the newly released emails, he expresses his frustration with the whole procedure. I absolutely love his honesty at the time, but unfortunately, it’s a shame he didn’t say the same thing publicly. These latest emails fill in some very interesting holes in the story with new information that wasn’t revealed in the first set of Climategate emails.
From David Palmer to Phil Jones, regarding my FOI request, email #1184, April 2007 (emphasis mine):
My head is beginning to spin here but I read this as meaning that he wants the raw station data; we don’t know which data belongs to which station, correct? Our letter stated:
“We can, however, send a list of all stations used, but without sources. This would include locations, names and lengths of record, although the latter are no guide as to the completeness of the series.”
Can we put this on the web? Perhaps I am being really thick here but I’m not sure if putting this on the web will actually satisfy Mr. Eschenbach – we’ve said we don’t have data sources, he says the external websites don’t have them, so who does? Are we back to the NMS’s? [National Meteorological Services -w.] I am happy to give this one more go, stating exactly what we are putting on the web and seeing if that suffices. Should Mr. Eschenbach still insist that we actually possess the information in the form he requests, I can then only give the file to Kitty Inglis for review and then we move on formally….
Dave is right, there’s yer problem. “We don’t know which data belongs to which station, correct?”. That’s staggering, it’s gotta be in the running for some kind of truth in advertising award. Shame he wasn’t that honest with me. Instead, he worked hard to obscure that fact.
Phil Jones isn’t having any of it, though. He replies to David Palmer’s email on 23 April 2007 (emphasis again mine)
I do not want to make the raw data available, as it will involve more and more requests. We make the gridded data available and that should be enough.
I think it would be worthwhile having a meeting involving a few more people in the light of the Keenan letter and what has been said on the Climate Audit website from Friday.
This to my mind is bullying and virtual harrasment. This is not for any reasonable scientific point. It is quite simply harrasment. These people are self appointed.
My conclusion after all this time is that Phil truly didn’t get it. He actually didn’t understand. He was not the owner of private data. He was the curator of public data. He didn’t understand that FOI requests are legal documents. Throughout the whole episode he treated them as some kind of optional request to grant or not as he saw fit. In this he was aided and abetted by David Palmer.
Upon reading this email, I was very curious to find out what had gotten Phil’s knickers in a twist regarding “what has been said on the Climate Audit website from Friday”. Upon looking up the ClimateAudit post from Friday, April 20, 2007, I laughed when I found out that what Phil was referring to as “bullying and virtual harassment” was the post I cited above and requested that you read. I’m sure you picked up on how I was “bullying and virtually harassing” Professor Jones.
So that was what Phil was complaining about—me pointing out the foolishness of their various excuses. And on that basis he said that would not make the raw data available, as though me laughing at his transparent dodges were a valid exemption to an FOI request.
I note that over at RealClimate they are desperately trying to spin this as two-year-old turkey. However, it’s not just my case that has new information. Regarding a host of other issues, the recent emails contain much previously unrevealed evidence of the perfidy, subversion, misdirection, and malfeasance practiced by the Climategate un-indicted co-conspirators. Among many other things, they provide clear evidence of the destruction of incriminating emails. This was not just “boys will be boys”. This was the leading lights of the AGW supporting scientists, working together to deny access to publicly funded climate data, and twisting, bending and breaking the scientific norms, FOI regulations, and possibly the law in the process. And that’s just what they did in my case, that doesn’t even begin to touch their other misdeeds that they discuss in detail.
The discouraging part is that, to this day, not a person among them has admitted that they did anything incorrect in the slightest. Not one has acknowledged that they went a ways, not just a little ways, but a long ways over the line of ethics, morality, and honesty. No one has said they did a single thing wrong, no one has admitted they evaded an honest FOI request. Silence.
And silence, unfortunately, has also been the overwhelming response of the climate science community to their misdeeds. The miscreants say nothing, their supporters say nothing, they keep awarding each other honors and prizes, and they hope it will go away.
Ah, well. The saddest part is that the new revelations of the unthinking, off-hand venality of these main scientists of the AGW movement have lost their power to shock. That is a tragedy for climate science in particular and for science in general.
Finally, my particular thanks to Steve McIntyre for his part in all of this. Not that he advised me or told me to file the FOI in question, he didn’t do either. That was my own idea and choice. But his dogged persistence, his insistence on and demonstration of transparency of code and data, and his general Canadian generosity, honesty, and geniality have been an inspiration to me. His work is generally an example of the scientific method at its cleanest.
My best regards to all,
PS—Interestingly, whoever released the emails also released a whole host of other CRU emails in a password protected archive. The purpose of this archive remains obscure, and the password has not been provided. At a minimum the publication of the archive ensures that the other emails will not be lost in a hard drive crash, or seized by the authorities. Whether it constitutes a warning or a message, and to whom it might be addressed, is unclear. Grab a beer and some popcorn, this story’s not over.