Going viral

by Judith Curry

Climategate – where did this almost perfectly strategic — yet deeply unfortunate — catchphrase come from? Was the term the genius of a conservative think tank and industry-backed strategy or does evidence support an alternative explanation?

Matt Nisbet has an interesting post entitled “Student researcher tracks the origin of the ‘Climategate’ name.”  The post draws from the Masters project of David Norton at American University, link to the full paper [here].  Some excerpts from Nisbet’s post that summarize the study:

Norton constructed a chronology of the appearance of the “climategate” term across blog comment sections, twitter feeds, legacy media blogs, and legacy media reporting.  

Based on his research, it appears that the emergence of the term was more natural, interactive, and accidental than strategically planned, with discussants online trying to make sense of the complexity of the events in a way that resonated with history, popular discourse, and their worldview. In doing so, they turned to the well-worn “-gate” convention, a term used to describe more than 140 alleged scandals since Watergate.

It was only later, after the term was born of online discussion that advocates and ideological media began to take advantage of its interpretative resonance.  As Norton also points out, environmentalists themselves — via Twitter — may have inadvertently fueled the spread of the term.

In this sense, it appears likely that the origin of the “climategate” frame device was a bottom up process, originating within the online discussion space that Judith Curry has memorably called the “climate audit” movement


Norton’s report provides the following timeline of key events:

Nov. 17, 2009 6:20 a.m. University of East Anglia’s RealClimate server hacked.

Nov. 17, 2009 7:24 a.m. Link to stolen data first posted to a blog, but immediately deleted.

Nov. 19, 2009 1:35 p.m. Initial links to stolen data reposted to two conservative climatology blogs: The AirVent and Watts Up With That (WUWT)

Nov. 19, 2009 3:52 p.m. WUWT commenter ‘Bulldust’ writes “Hmmm how long before this is dubbed Climategate?”

Nov. 19, 2009 4:11 p.m. WUWT commenter ‘Tonyb’ reposts the above comment.

Nov. 19, 2009 7:21 p.m. WUWT commenter ‘Mr Lynn’ recommends using “climategate” trope as a strategic framing device:

It’s nice that someone has dropped a big comb of honey onto this ants’ nest. But all of the inside chatter in these emails, revealing though it may be to those lapping it up, won’t mean a thing to the average news reporter,media outlet, and the public in general. What’s needed is a panel of unimpeachable individuals (i.e. no one named in this data drop) who can go through the file, vouch for its authenticity, and issue a quick white paper explaining its implications.The media are clueless. They need to be helped to understand the significance of —CLIMATEGATE! LEAK OF SECRET EMAILS SHOWS TOP  CLIMATE SCIENTISTS ENGAGED IN MASSIVE FRAUD! GLOBAL WARMING WAS HOAX DESIGNED TO ENRICH POLITICIANS AND RESEARCHERS!/Mr Lynn

Nov. 20, 2009 8:08 a.m.;8:48 a.m.The first two tweets emerge referencing the “East Anglia” incident.

Nov. 20, 2009 9:00 a.m. James Delingpole, a blogger for Telegraph.co.uk, publishes an exposé-style post on his prominent blog. The post is entitled: “Climategate: the final nail in the coffin of‘Anthropogenic Global Warming’?

Nov. 20, 2009 9:13 a.m. BBC first reports hacking incident in article entitled “Hackers target leading climate research unit” (BBC New, 2009).

Nov. 20, 2009 10:00 a.m. –3:00 p.m. Fourteen tweets emerge referencing the incident, all referring to it as “climategate.” The hashtag #climategate first emerges.

Over the next several hours, the term “climategate” propagated through blogs and on Twitter, and  began to supplant the proper noun “east anglia” as an indexical and referable moniker. With the early, near-ubiquitous adoption of such a straightforward snowclone, the incident became implicitly controversial and scandalous by its very name. Environmentalists challenging the nascent meme could do little to stop its spread, and in fact, may have inadvertently solidified its name as a framing device.2 

Among the first fourteen tweets explicitly utilizing the “climategate” term — and in fact, the second and third Twitter users to deploy the #climategate hashtag — were two individuals opposed to the controversy’s sudden traction:

emergentorder: RE: #ClimateGate: What the fuck: supposed global scientific conspiracy.People, Wake Up! The Arctic ice cap has receded by 40% in 5 years!! on Nov. 20 at 2:09 p.m.

enviroknow: The #climategate story is out of control. Get the truth here:http://bit.ly/7RiSVK (Please RT) on Nov. 20 at 02:59 p.m.

The quandary, of course, was that to address the users responsible for the meme’s origination, environmentalists had little choice but to take up, reproduce, and thus reinforce the very term (and implicit frame) set into motion by climate skeptics. As “climategate” crystallized as the incident’s defining signifier, global warming skeptics had succeeded at narrowly crafting the terms and scope of rhetorical engagement; lexically, the proactive adoption of “climategate” as a referable, salient moniker framed the data leak as a necessarily scandalous — and therefore newsworthy — event.

Snow clones

So why was the term Climategate so effective?

Coined by Glen Whitman in 2004, snowclones are “multi-use, customizable, instantly recognizable, time-worn, quoted or misquoted phrase[s] or sentence[s] that can be used in an entirely open array of different variants” (Pullum, 2003). To clarify: “An example of a snowclone is ‘gray is the new black,’ a version of the template ‘X is the new Y.’ X and Y may be replaced with different words or phrases — for example, ‘comedy is the new rock ‘n’ roll.’ Both the generic formula and the new phrases produced from it are called ‘snowclones’ ” (Wikipedia, 2010a). At their core, these formulations are necessarily intertextual phenomena, as snowclones emphasize “the use of a familiar (and often particular) formula and previous cultural knowledge of the reader to express information about an idea. The idea being discussed may be different in meaning from the original formula, but can be understood using the same trope as the original formulation” (ibid.). Memes that utilize snowclone constructs — such as the contemporary example of “Obamacare” (a permutation of “Medicare” and an earlier snowclone, “Hillarycare”) — are likely to reproduce and crystallize certain, shared associations within individual and social imaginations. As the following example illustrates, the semiotic logic of the snowclone applies to all culturally symbolic artifacts: characters, texts, icons, images, tunes, and so on.

From Norton’s conclusion

In late November 2009, the rapid acceleration of “climategate” within the microblogosphere should have forewarned environmentalists about the narrative’s imminent break as a mainstream news story. With the high-profile Copenhagen Summit just around the corner, “climategate” was a well positioned media anchor. If environmental groups had been monitoring this emergent discourse, they may have been better prepared to respond to the ensuing controversy.

The referability of 21 century signifiers — our potential to name, index, and associate Web-based discourses — means that activists have a nascent power to crystallize and propagate certain viewpoints, and even craft strategically-framed hashtags as a means of directing the circular flow of discourse (a process which then reifies partisan structures of participation and polarizes political expression).

My finding that the adoption of the term “climategate” on Twitter preceded offline usage suggests that viral, Web-based discourses should be taken seriously; moreover, the consequences of this particular meme demonstrate that activists should avoid reinforcing rival frames (like environmentalists who reiterated the #climategate hashtag directly after it was coined), and learn to strategically make use of real-time public insight.

Based on this assessment, this paper reveals the necessity of online issue tracking, particularly when it comes to complex issues (like climate change) that so often retain salience through a succession of“nanostories” — anecdotes that serve as narrative morsels (e.g. the stranded polar bear, yesterday’s record blizzard, today’s melting glacier). By understanding the theoretical principles governing the emergence and spread of viral discourses, and by monitoring the real-time ebb and flow of trending chatter, public communicators can become their own memetic engineers, and better respond to the unexpected….

My finding that the adoption of the term “climategate” on Twitter preceded offline usage suggests that viral, Web-based discourses should be taken seriously; moreover, the consequences of this particular meme demonstrate that activists should avoid reinforcing rival frames (like environmentalists who reiterated the #climategate hashtag directly after it was coined), and learn to strategically make use of real-time public insight.

JC comment:

When I first started this blog (almost a year ago), it was difficult to take the focus off Climategate, it seemed that everybody still wanted to talk about this, almost two years after the event.  Lately, Climategate gets mentioned infrequently here, and I figured that at this point it would be pretty difficult to find a fresh angle on the Climategate story. But I thought this article provided a very interesting twist, the “radical implications of the blogosphere” and all that.

179 responses to “Going viral

  1. How about we keep it simple. Everything after Watergate that was a scandel had a -gate added to it.

    Iran-Contragate as an example. Pick your own favorite.

    Too much thinking on this one.

    • Quite. In the UK “-gate” gets added to anything that even slightly looks like a scandal, in about seventeen seconds. It signifies nothing more than the fact that most people (particularly in the media) seem to have very little imagination. Compare to the fact that anything that anyone is looking for is immediately branded “the Holy Grail of…”.

      What a waste of words from Mr Norton. Don’t these people have anything better to do?

      • As an American who checks the Telegraph web site regularly, I couldn’t have said it better. the -gate suffix is used regularly in the UK to label controversial events. The media in the United States is perfectly willing to do the same thing as well.

        In this case, East Anglia is the institution, not the event. If a scandal happened at Harvard, I certainly wouldn’t expect the media to refer to the event or the subject as ‘Harvard.’

        I’m more interested in the media choice of the word ‘stolen’ in regard to the files. Many mainstream media articles on the subject put ‘stolen’ in the first sentence, in an attempt to poison the topic and lead away from the content of the files. When hackers get into government servers and release the content, the media never calls it ‘stolen’ files. So who first used ‘stolen’ to spin this subject?

      • John Kannarr

        I don’t recall the Pentagon Papers being labeled as stolen. At the time the liberal New York Times certainly declared them a revelation of deceptive government activities in the U.S. military involvement in Vietnam. Funny, indeed, how when it’s something the liberals don’t want to be exposed, like the East Anglia climate scientist’s manipulative emails, suddenly they’re “stolen.”

      • John,
        As someone who grew up during th Pentagon papers and Watergate, the selective outrage our press is certainly somethign worth noting.
        Just this week the NYT is patting themselves on the back for getting a judge to agree that keeping the secrets of thief who provided the NYT with info on yet another CIA secret for their profit is OK.
        The juxtaposition of that with the way Murdoch is being treated is fascinating.

      • google { “Pentagon papers” stolen } ==> 607,000 hits.

        Actually, I expect the people who were mad about the exposure of the Pentagon Papers referred to it as “stolen” while those who saw it as a good thing avoided calling it that, exactly as in the current case. So does that prove Liberals are especially hypocritical? Or conservatives? Or is it just typical human behavior?

        I think “Climategate” does about as much to disprove Global Warming (to use a phrase that has been made un-PC indeferrence to the right) as Piltdown Man does to disprove evolution.

        Calling the “Climategate” emails stolen was a perhaps unfortunate reflex which added an easy to topple strawman to the debate.

      • Good point- there is and has not been ANY evidence that the information was stolen.

        In fact the (apparently) selective nature of the release strgonly suggests an ‘inside job’.

        Had it been a hack or a theft you could prove it within about a day (according to my IT expert brother). So far, no proof.

      • Well, we know for a fact that the Pentagon Papers was an “inside job”. It’s just totally irrelevant to the real issues.

      • I should add that in the UK this convention of adding “-gate” to denote a scandal came under severe pressure a while ago. The Coca Cola company started selling bottled tap water. A scandal involving water. What to call it, what to call it…

      • A leading politician spent a huge sum on a fancy gate. In less than a New York second we had Gate-Gate.

      • P.P.S. Available on Climate Depot right now: PolarBearGate. Quick, somebody write a thesis on this.

    • Agreed. Given the propensity of the use of -gate, I wouldn’t be surprised if the term climategate arose independently multiple times.

    • It is really simple:
      Watergate and Climategate have the following in common:
      1. It was a break-in.
      2. What happened after the break-in was news.
      3. “Follow the money.” Is still a good strategy to figure it out.

      • That’s an interesting question. Who funded the break-in and played the Nixon role? Does it lead to Big Oil?

      • Whoever is responsible for the break-in, I am glad to be “in their debt.” Without Climategate and that freak snowstorm, Copenhagen 2009 would have ended differently and put us ALL in much greater financial debt.

      • Perhaps the investigation into the break-in has been whitewashed, and needs an independent “Woodward and Bernstein” and insider “Deep Throat” to figure it out. It has been nearly two years with no progress on that question.

      • Climategate was thanks to an insider. Of that there can be no doubt.

        As for an investigation, put Muir Russel on the job. He doesn’t miss a trick, does he?

      • If it was one of their fellow scientists, that would be good for the community at large to know too, wouldn’t it?

      • John Kannarr

        But terrible for the leaker. I am sure the guilty parties would find a way to exact retribution.

      • Yes, it has been a long time. If the hacker would just identify himself, the denial lobby probably would pay for his defense, and send him some cookies if he goes to jail.

      • No proof of a hack.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        He and Julian Assange could be goal spouses. Although in America the hacker would get community service and Assange life.

      • Judging merely from Assange’s nauseating display when he tried to take credit for the ClimateGate leak, I’d guess his overarching goal is self-aggrandizement; something our glorious, but uncelebrated, Insight seems to have little interest in. For a long time I would have guessed that this deep pipeline feared full-throatedness, but I’ve come to wonder if the continued anonymity marvelously places the stream of curiosity on the scientists involved, rather than on the agent of the surveillance.

        In any case, the debt is incalculable, perhaps greater even than the magnitude of the complexity of climate.

        H/t My metaphors off to ya”.

  2. Norton’s conclusion is about damage control planning and “meme engineering” but viral is spontaneous. This sort of damage control is seen as phoney propaganda and sleazy that only helps the ideologues with their own falsehoods. The truth is the best policy. Climategate stuck because it fit.

  3. Michael Tobis

    With impeccable timing, I tweeted this yesterday:

    Main #climategate lesson: to get inattentive majority suspicious of a group, attach the suffix “-gate” to them somehow. Slimy but effective.


    • Isn’t it equally likely that the term used to summarize the behavior is really a very minor factor in determining the acceptance of the argument overall? The fact that some of the behaviors of some climate scientists ultimately were determined by many reading about the incidents to diminish their credibility is a known fact.

      There has been no reliable evidence presented that shows the term used to summarize the behavior influences to any great degree the acceptance or rejection of the behavior.

    • So you’re disputing Norton’s finding that “Based on his research, it appears that the emergence of the term was more natural, interactive, and accidental than strategically planned”? If so, your basis for that?

      • Michael Tobis

        No, I was unaware of Norton’s investigation when I tweeted, though I was coincidentally wondering about exactly that question.

        The fact that the name was crowdsourced doesn’t mean it wasn’t vicious or clever or destructive. Given that my perception agrees with that of the various committees and investigations, that very little of consequence was revealed in the purloined emails, and that what was of consequence was of small consequence, I think it was all of those.

      • Given that my perception agrees with that of the various committees and investigations…

        With the exception of the ICO…

      • Dont remind him of that.
        Dont remind him that our arguments finally won out
        Dont remind him that this never would have happened but for CRU’s refusal to release data.

        And don’t remind him that from the begining I said there was only one story in the mails: follow the FOIA. Thankfully the ICO did.

      • Michael Tobis

        I asked Judith at the very beginning not to use the word “climategate”; she didn’t like that suggestion. I was very disappointed when she demiurred, because of her declared intention to seek common ground. The word is prejudicial and hostile to the scientific mainstream.

        To my understanding, the ICO has been bumbling and incoherent on the matter and ultimately refused to reach any clear conclusion. As things stand UEA objects to ICO’s characterization and there it sits.

        Nevertheless, I am happy to stipulate that scientists handled the extra-scientific matters involved in FOI requests badly. This would be among the matters of modest consequence revealed.

        I remain unconvinced that this is the way to encourage openness in science. Rather, it is the way to encourage a hostile and litigious environment in which it is ever harder to get work done. The lesson I draw from this is that scientists should not be considered government functionaries for these purposes.

        On the other hand, people on both sides of this matter should in good faith encourage grant agencies to demand timely public access to all data and repeatable calculations whenever there aren’t strong arguments to the contrary. If this is among your “arguments” which finally “won out” I have been on your side from the beginning.

        But reading comments on skeptic-friendly sites (including this very thread) leaves me unconvinced that this is really the motivation. Most people who indulge in this CRU obsession just don’t want to face the consequences of the science of climate. This pernicious hobby (or, in some cases, perhaps, profession) of personalizing the matter and attacking individual scientists is a systematic distraction from rational consideration of the carbon problem.

        Just the word “climategate” puts me in a foul mood and has ever since the sorry day when I first heard it. It’s a great pile of nothing with a few scattered bits of almost-nothing mixed in, none of which was any of your business in the first place.

        Look, everybody, we have an actual problem with too much carbon in the biosphere. It’s much worse than the sorry shabbiness of the scientific enterprise in a stingy age, which I also, rather unhappily, stipulate.

        The problem at hand might affect the viability of the planet. I suggest you turn your attentions to the science; the theory and the evidence, that is to say; and not to the poor sods who have been so foolish as to spend their lives thanklessly trying to deliver it.

      • Well the ICO has spoken and the data has been released.
        My suggestion for improving the situation is on the record with Parliament. Nothing too demanding.

        The legal route was the last resort. taken after years of failing using the normal course. In 2007 when we started FOIA requests, 5 years after the initial data requests, how could we know that in 2005 jones had pre decided to thwart FOIA.

      • andrew adams


        When the FoI requests were refused did you appeal to the ICO at the time?

      • MT –
        The word is prejudicial and hostile to the scientific mainstream.

        Just as the word denier is prejudicial and hostile to the sceptics – scientific or not.

      • Michael Tobis

        Perhaps, but this site does not use the word “denier”, nor does the mass press. So what is your point?

      • MT –
        Perhaps, but this site does not use the word “denier”, nor does the mass press. So what is your point?

        Really? Then why is that term used about sceptics on a regular basis – here. Even by those of the Jewish persuasion – which is still a puzzlement to me. You don’t spend much time here, do you.

      • This is for MT since the reply chain is maxed:

        Perhaps, but this site does not use the word “denier”, nor does the mass press.

        You know, when you make an assertion (like that bolded from the quote of your comment) you should stop and take 5 minutes and Google the terms Climate Denier, Climate Change Denier and Climate Change Denial . If you had done so you would have realized that what you stated was false as demonstrated by finding links to stories by such mass press outlets as: The Guardian (UK), ABC (Aussie version), The Sydney Morning Herald (Aus), NPR (US), The Los Angeles Times (US), The San Francisco Chronicle (US) and CBS News have all used those terms.

      • MT,
        So you would suppress a term that is typically used to describe a scandal. A term that has been documented by fellow AGW believers as being grass roots. Because you find it ‘offensive’.
        But you and your ilk regularly use the pejorative ‘denier’, deliberately and knowing full well its denigrating neo-nazi overtones?
        Screw you.

      • Well, said, hunter – for goodness’ sake, the tag is MEANT to be offensive! My own choice, swiftly preempted by “Climategate” (which, let’s face it, embodies little original wit), was “Fabrigate”, which seemed to say a bit more about what was involved. C’est la vie…

      • “Look, everybody, we have an actual problem with too much carbon in the biosphere.”

        Too much carbon in the biosphere….HAHAHAHA, good one!

      • Made me laugh too. We all know which carbon based lifeforms MT sees as a problem though… It’s the ‘deniers’ and their ‘paymaster’ the ‘evil carbon polluters’. ‘Denier’ is a particularly nasty pejorative term put around by the doomsayer in chief, James Hansen, along with alliterative images of ‘death trains’. The man knows no shame.

        Tobis needs to get a grip and treat things even handedly.

        “Just the word “climategate” puts me in a foul mood and has ever since the sorry day when I first heard it. It’s a great pile of nothing with a few scattered bits of almost-nothing mixed in, none of which was any of your business in the first place.”

        Oh really? So a conspiracy to delete emails which would have revealed the extent to which AR4 was cooked to present a biased viewpoint in an attempt to persuade policy makers to enact onerous taxes on the worlds working population for the aggrandisement of people who want to overblow and misattribute the effects and causes of what is equally likely likely to be minor natural climate variation is none of my business?

        I strongly disagree Mr Tobis.

      • andrew adams

        ‘Denier’ is a particularly nasty pejorative term put around by the doomsayer in chief, James Hansen, along with alliterative images of ‘death trains’. The man knows no shame.

        I bet he knows what “alliterative” means though.

      • Why not use one of their tricks. If they can call carbon pollution, I can call it life. Biology will become carbonology. The biosphere the carbonsphere. Makes far more sense than calling it pollution.

      • I’m in favor of transparency, but I’m not sure FOIA is on balance a good thing. It could inhibit communication and the free exchange of ideas between scientists. I would be very guarded about what I said in e-mails if FOIA applied to me. Doctors practice defensive medicine out of fear. Do we want scientists practicing defensive science out of fear?

      • I doubt anyone would have been concerned about the content of the climategate emails if they had just been freely exchanging ideas about science.

        Exchanging ideas about how to lean on journal editors, subvert peer review and conspire to delete incriminating communications on the other hand…

      • I’m in favor of transparency, but

        Hey everybody. Look at the big “but”.

      • We want scientists interested in falsification of their hypotheses. That should be their highest priority.

        We want as little bureaucracy as possible.

      • At 3:11 AM on 2 August, M. carey had written:

        I’m in favor of transparency, but I’m not sure FOIA is on balance a good thing. It could inhibit communication and the free exchange of ideas between scientists. I would be very guarded about what I said in e-mails if FOIA applied to me. Doctors practice defensive medicine out of fear. Do we want scientists practicing defensive science out of fear?

        Speaking as an American physician, I’m intensely aware of the fact that everything I see and enter in patient charts, everything I dictate, every letter I write, every e-mail I receive and send in my professional capacity is eminently discoverable by the Plaintiff’s Bar.

        The instructors really hammered that home in Medical Jurisprudence decades ago, and it’s repeated in every risk mitigation CME seminar I’ve ever attended.

        Having lived my entire adult life practicing “defensive medicine out of fear” that I will be incapable of defending myself adequately if someone accuses me of dereliction of duty to a patient – the definition of medical malpractice – and aware that much less than a Freedom of Information request is required to oblige the disgorgement my records and respond to hostile interrogatories, I have precisely no sympathy whatsoever for “scientists” funded by taxpayer money on the basis of some nominal “public interest” faced with reasonable requests from those taxpayers to make accessible information developed on the public’s dime.

        Why the hell would these “scientists” be considered to be “practicing defensive science out of fear” any more than I’m considered to be practicing “defensive medicine out of fear“?

        And why is that “fear” of being held accountable such a bad thing?

        You want to take up this issue with the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA, now passing themselves off as the “American Association for Justice“)?

      • Tobis, as was pointed out to you and Verheggen at the time, your demanding that the word “Climategate” be banned is like a bunch of Christians demanding that the existence of the 15 books of the Apocrypha always be denied in ecumenical bible study groups. You don’t get to choose the colloquialism, even if it’s inconvenient to you. You don’t get to choose the topic or its title. We will have this dialogue, with or without you. It is no longer within your control; it has “broken out”.

        “Climategate” was a pretty appropriate descriptor for the UEA event way back then, but has since become even more precisely apt. What continues to reinforce the word “Climategate” more and more today is far more the catalogue of reactions and behaviours of the climate scientific community SINCE the initial event than any email, document or read_me file contained within the initial release. These have mirrored the development of the term in the “Watergate” scandal far beyond merely an uncanny similarity.

      • MT,
        Your assertion that there is too much carbon in the biosphere is wrong on so many levels.
        First, of course, it is untrue. There is just enough carbon in the biosphere for the carbon based life in it to live. Less carbon means less life. More carbon means more life.
        Second, the AGW movement has not beenabout carbon in the biosphere, but in the atmosphere. This may, if your community is right in its obsession, impact the biosphere, but then it would be carbon in the atmosphere and its impact on, among other things the biosphere that is the problem.
        Third, if the AGW movement is now wanting less carbon in the biosphere, the only way to achieve that is to have less biosphere. If that is now the case, please let us know where to start reducing the biosphere.
        The AGW movement, from utopian enviro roots, to selling an apocalypse, to pushing death is not the arc of a healthy social movement. Yet here we are, with a significant AGW opinion leader apparently joining others in his movement and doing just that.
        Add to that the need to control the discussion, to rewrite history, to impose huge expensive ineffective policies, and we are where we are today.

      • MT,

        Like yourself, I’ve had more than one career. In my case, I started off in law enforcement, which gives me some insight into the attitude that those talking about ClimateGate are “attacking” science. I’ve seen the same attitude toward those who have uncovered corrupt cops. It’s understandable, but wrong. Those harming the institution are those engaging in wrongdoing, not those who bring it to light. You see UEA and the ICO “disagreeing”. That’s a quaint way to refer to it. But for a quirk in English law, Phil et al could have been facing charges. Your willingness to defend their actions is as harmful as their transgression. But please, continue to cling to oil money and conservative white males as the source of your credibility issue.

        Credibility, you see, is the issue here. Saying that the CRU emails didn’t overturn the science is like saying that the evidence pointed to OJ’s guilt. It’s true, but irrelevant. Mark Furman’s lack of credibility allowed OJ to walk. That credibility issue was “manufactured”, but it was built out of material provided by Furman himself. Anyone defending him destroys their own credibility. Acknowledging that those in the emails behaved badly would enhance your credibility, not harm it.

      • “Look, everybody, we have an actual problem with too much carbon in the biosphere.”
        No more perfect example of the crock that is AGW could be crafted.
        The biosphere IS carbon. 100% of organic chemistry is based on it. Carbon Dioxide is the exchange medium; the atmosphere spreads it around for plants to fix and build with.
        “too much” presumably compares present levels to “pre-industrial”. AKA the LIA.
        Thanks, but no thanks.

      • It’s funny how it took the AGW’ers so long to come up with ‘ocean acidification’

      • The ocean sure has a strange pH reading for an acid.

    • Michael,
      I suggest you watch the Climategate episode of the Jon Stewart show. Stewart got it much closer to right than you have. Scientists shouldn’t destroy or hide data. Eduardo Zorita got it right when he called for the Climategate offenders to never be given any position in IPCC assessment reports in the future. The IPCC should have listened.

    • You don’t like it because it is being used on issues and causes you support.
      There is nothing slimey about the use of ‘gate’.
      By the way, William Gibson in his early SF writing, coined the phrase ‘watergating’ as a process to gin up recogniation of a scandal.

  4. the idea of combating the spread of a “snowclone” by ignoring it is risible and quasi-fascistic. this Nisbet guy is also still stuck in 2008 when the “tidbits” mattered. Am afraid their time has passed just like cold or warm conditions don’t convince anybody any longer.

  5. Ian Blanchard

    “Nov. 17, 2009 6:20 a.m. University of East Anglia’s RealClimate server hacked.

    Nov. 17, 2009 7:24 a.m. Link to stolen data first posted to a blog, but immediately deleted.

    Nov. 19, 2009 1:35 p.m. Initial links to stolen data reposted to two conservative climatology blogs: The AirVent and Watts Up With That (WUWT)”

    A few points from the above:
    1 UEA’s RealClimate server? I think someone has got a little confused – the release appears to have been from the CRU archive server (CRUBAK from the information at Bishop Hill, relating to the Norfolk Constabulary/Qinetic investigation of the computers)
    2 – I assume that is reference to the hacked/leaked e-mails being initially placed on the RealClimate server and quickly removed.
    3 – While JeffIDs site is conservative and has a political bent, I’m not sure that WUWT should be so titled – Anthony Watts certainly self-identifies himself as a political liberal, and seems to steer clear of much politicing other than where this impacts climate policy (although admittedly quite a lot of the commenters on the blog are undoubtedly well along the conservative/libertarian axis).
    4 – ‘Stolen’ e-mails? That’s still to be proven, and the use of language is (along with the inclusion of the term conservative) indicative still of some spin in much of the academic response to Climategate.

    I like the irony though that the introduction of the ‘Climategate’ term is the comment about how soon it will become known as such.

    • Can anyone clarify the first bit:

      Nov. 17, 2009 6:20 a.m. University of East Anglia’s RealClimate server hacked.

      I was not aware that it had been definitively proven whether the sever had been hacked from the outside or if data had simply been uploaded out by someone on the inside. Any cite for this?

      • The method of access to CRU has yet to be revealed by the police. Perhaps the CRU PR people (Wallis of phone hacking fame) had some role to play in making sure the investigation went nowhere

      • Unless i’m very badly misinformed, it is exceptionally easy to prove a hack (though usually, exceptionally HARD to find the source of said hack). If it were a hack the polics surely should have found the ‘evidence’ by now.

        They either can’t find any, or they’re sitting on it.

  6. Along the same lines, why was the propaganda term “Global Warming” so effective?

    Why were people who knew nothing about climate science convinced it was real?


    • We don’t even need to take sides on whether it’s true or not, but just examine the phrase from an effective communication/advertising point of view.

      Maybe Dr. Curry can use her inside connections to arrange a guest post by someone “in the know” on this.


    • Bad Andrew,
      If the marketing phrase ‘global warming’ had been effective, it would not have been carefully changed out for ‘climate change’.

      • hunter,

        I agree. Who decided to change it? Does Dr. Curry know?


      • At the time of the rebranding, there were reports of careful marketing research at the professional level. I recall reading about it, but do not have specific links.
        Which only makes the grass roots evolution of ‘climategate’ more ironic, and the efforts of the believers to falsely claim it is astroturfing more annoying.

      • Possibly by the PR firm that founded and funds RealClimate?

      • The term “global warming” implied an assumption that it would warm. I suspect skeptics had something to do with trying to remove that assumption.

      • Jim D,
        The skeptics had something to do with removing that name because we kept pointing out that it is either not warming, or certianly not warming much.
        So we had the AGW promoters develop a new brand name due to skeptics, but the name was certainly not chosen by skeptics. Skeptics know that ‘climate change’ is the normal state of the climate. But AGW requires dumbing down the conversation and disotrting definitions of terms is a good way to do that.

      • Anyway, from the White House itself, the term they want is ‘global climate disruption’. This again is not scientific enough because it again implies an assumption that has to be proved, while ‘climate change’ is a good neutral scientific term that I would still favor. I believe the AMS use Climate Change now instead of Global Warming in their conferences titles on the subject to be more neutral.

      • JimD,
        The term ‘climate change’ is not scientific, it is anti-scientific, because it misleads.
        It is ‘sciencey’- it sounds like a thoughtful name, until it is studied a bit more closely.
        Then it is seen as oxymoronic and deceptive. But deception was the point of the rebranding.

      • Ooops- hit post too soon-
        And ‘climate disruption’ is a great apocalyptic turn of phrase- it brings in images fromthat cheesy movie, “The Day After Tomorrow”, with its super tornadoes, massive snow falls and deadly invading cold drafts racing down the hall from the magic stratospheric cyclones.
        But that is science fiction, not science.

      • Actually AMS now uses Climate Variability and Change for its annual conference title, Any objection to that?

      • andrew adams

        People like hunter and Bad Andrew will see it as a sinister plot by the wicked alarmists whatever you call it.

      • andrew,

        A rose by any other name…


      • Jim D,
        When did the climate not change?

        I hope you have good access to cheap straw because your strawmen require a lot of it.

      • More Orwelian language.

        We are talking about anthropogenic CO2 caused global warming (effect). It’s not just any anthropogenic caused global warming. “Carbon” is the “problem”, right?

      • For some time I’ve alleged and asserted that they will ultimately be forced to use the term that really reflects what they believe and want to sell: “Anthropogenic Climate Destruction”. Even “disruption” isn’t strong enough to communicate the bottomless evil they want to ascribe to Hoomons.

  7. Steven Mosher

    Got some of the facts wrong. otherwise interesting piece

    • Agreed. ‘Climategate’ wasn’t coined by a big name – even among the skeptics or lukewarmers – and that’s one of the best things about it. Delingpole later said that Mark Steyn’s ‘Warmergate’ would have been better but that’s to me obviously not true. Climategate was pretty much optimal for the mass media, who need the simplest message possible to get them started (had something to do with climate change science and was similar in some way to Watergate).

      From a social media point of view it’s striking that most non-conformist opinion lives on blogs not Twitter and this trajectory is in fact highlighted by Norton: by 20 Nov 10am-3pm, when fourteen tweets appear, I’d say Climategate had already become the standard moniker in the blogosphere. Twitter was very important in the turmoil after the June Iranian election five months before (which I felt priviledge to be plugged into from early on) but for Climategate its importance to developments was negligible.

      Norton is absolutely right that the name mattered. But quite wrong in his assumption that the negative connotations of the name had no underlying substance. As others have pointed out, in calling the emails ‘stolen’ he adopts one the four pillars of the UEA PR fightback (as I currently distinguish them):

      1. the emails were stolen by criminals with evil intentions not leaked by a whistleblower with good ones

      2. Phil Jones was ‘poor Phil’, someone for whom only sympathy was appropriate, nothing stronger like forensic questioning

      3. the subject matter that was in dispute was CRUTEM, not the Hockey Stick and Yamal

      4. in order to sustain point 3, on no account should there be any direct interaction with Steve McIntyre.

      I see all three inquiries into Climategate simply as extensions of the UEA PR campaign.

      But still the name hurt. Thank goodness.

  8. Mkelly has it right. (He must be over 40.) Watergate was an office building housing the Democratic National Committee. A scandal erupted after the offices were bugged by Republican operatives. Then-President Nixon knew, but denied knowing about it.

    The suffix “Gate” became a meme, bringing to mind governmental illegality, coverup, deception, denial and ultimately disclosure.

    • By the way. The extracts from Mr. Norton’s paper refer to “stolen” and “hacked”. Both infer illegal intrusion from outside CRU. There have been a number of posts elsewhere discussing alternatives to illegal intrusion. Most of these involve internal disclosure of files collected in response to an FOI demand. The time required to assemble such a large collection is cited as an indication of disclosure, rather than external intrusion.

      “Stolen”? “Hacked”? “Disclosed”? Scotch verdict: Not proven.

      • “leaked”

        Hacked is disinformation at best and slander at worse given what is know. Based on comparables it is ten times more likely the information was leaked instead of stolen;


        Much better odds than the Earth turning in Venus because of CO2 but it hasn’t been traced.

      • Pooh, Dixie –
        “Stolen”? “Hacked”? “Disclosed”? Scotch verdict: Not proven.

        Hacked – is a non-starter for multiple reasons. Particularly because the emails were cherry picked and no competent hacker would have spent that much time sorting through the CRU server.

        The common assertion of “hacking” is an indication of the ignorance of the accuser wrt hacking and computer operations.

        Stolen – is an interesting possiblity, but they would have had to be “stolen” by an insider. Is “stolen” a legitimate concept if the assembly was done by someone who had legal access to the information?

        Disclosed – possibly, but again, that would be an “inside job”.

        Most of these involve internal disclosure of files collected in response to an FOI demand. The time required to assemble such a large collection is cited as an indication of disclosure, rather than external intrusion.

        Not just assembly but also redaction of specific information and selection of specific emails and information. Not ALL of the available emails were in the package. There were MANY emails that were “skipped” or “missing” from the file. So the FOI request concept isn’t viable either.

        So it’s still a mystery.

      • Is “stolen” a legitimate concept if the assembly was done by someone who had legal access to the information?

        Suppose I am a contractor hired to upgrade your computer. I find your “passwords” file. I copy it. You still have it. Is my action theft? You bet it is! Even if I do not disclose it to others, even if I have not used the passwords, I am in possession of intellectual property to which I have no right.

      • Jim – given the name of the zip file “FOIA….”

        I read the emails at the time, and as I recall, every one either contained embarrassing material. Those that did not contained references to an email that did, such that a hostile reader might be alerted to the existence of the ‘guilty’ email, and if it was not to be found, might ask why. I also understood them to be only a small portion of the total CRU email ‘corpus’.

        I formed the suspicion that this was a collection of emails it was intended by the ‘Tree Ring Circus’ to EXCLUDE from an FOI response that it was feared they would be compelled to make. In my scenario, this attempt to frustrate the law offended an employee with access to the server, who performed the redactions to minimise the damage to individuals deemed by the employee to be undeserving of public ridicule, and then performed the “liberation”.

        So when you say “There were MANY emails that were “skipped” or “missing” from the file.” – perhaps, but the question should perhaps be: “would a file consisting ONLY of ‘excluded’ files appear to have gaps?”

      • Pooh: on Nov 18th after learning that Steve mcIntyre’s FOIA appeal had been denied my working assumption was that the files were connected to FOIA, perhaps files collected in reponse to requests. however I quickly ruled that out:

        1. there were too many housekeeping mails
        2. The FOIA’s in play at that time only concerned CRUTEM, but the files had very little on crutem and much more on things like Yamal, bristelcones, paleo work and SRES ( which we have yet to look at)
        3. The files look like they were collected by an automated process that looked for keywords– like keywords taken from an analysis of words used at CA. At some point I will probably do that analysis, doesnt really matter however

      • Steven: Good points. Thank you. :-)

    • Some small amount over 40, but over none the less.

  9. Snowclones and metaphors are entertaining. Was “Climategate” “Going Viral” a “Grassroots” phenomenon or was it “Astroturfing”?

    • Bedrock.

    • Fred,
      Are you giong to continue to ignore the quite reasonable questions regarding mitigation, or are you going to embarass yourself further by implying that the climategate situation is a fabrication of the VRWC of cool dudes?

  10. The initial appearance of the emails was, I thought, in Climate Audit, embedded as a link to the sender of a message saying “A miracle has happened”. It went generally unnoticed for a while. This is omitted from the chronological account.
    This and other factual inaccuracies make the account less than reliable. However, it attests the undoubted fact that the moniker “climategate” appeared very early ans went rapidly viral.
    People invent monikers all the time, by the millions, but only a few prosper and “go viral”. The reason why, I surmise, is that some monikers are perceived as reflecting some reality, and others aren’t (besides some being more memorable).

    • yes. Its amazing there is not a SINGLE piece of scholarly research on climategate that has gone back to the first hand accounts. On CA there is a thread called the mosher timeline that recounts everything, plus a full chapter in the book about the days from Nov12th -19th. Nobody ever references those accounts. glad that you remembered how things went down at CA. this student got it all wrong

      • Steve,

        I’d also noticed that, and, out of curiosity, why do you think that is?

      • I don’t know. Maybe it’s an institutional bias. Kid doesnt want to quote the internet. But the book also has much of the material. The timeline post was done after the book was finished, so some details came out after the book. Early On charles and I told the whole story to the WSJ. they never ran with the story. NYT also dropped the ball. That’s when Tom wrote me and said we should do the book. In our mind the whole story was being missed. On the skeptic side they were screaming fraud and twisting it in to a CRUTEM story ( with harry readme, WRONG since harry readme has to do with another dataset entirely) and on the alarmist side they were defending against the Bogus CRUTEM storyline. What was missed was the real story: FOIA and paleo.

        In the end the ICO has essentially made all the arguments we made since 2007. Not that many notice. For this, people at places like MT’s blog call me evil.

      • It’s an important point that skeptics may have initiated the concentration on CRUTEM. As I always saw Climategate through the lens of Climate Audit I never really saw this. Certainly by the time people had read the submissions to the Commons Select Committee it must have been clear to any dispassionate observer where the real meat was. Oxburgh concentrating on CRUTEM was for me calculated red herring – but perhaps taking advantage of the weaknesses of the less informed in the skeptic world in the early stages.

      • Also out of curiosity, were you in any way consulted or quoted by any of the ‘investigations’ into climategate?

      • No. None of the investigations, even the police investigations contacted me. The police contacted some of the people who sent in FOIA. they contacted charles, but not me. In checking virtually every account of the story I have yet to find one that gets the basic facts correct.

      • Extraordinary Steve. I’m mostly interested about the police investigations for the moment. The lack of interest in the real story plus the involvement of DC Irwin from ‘Counter Terrorism’ or ‘Protective Services’ (which turns out to be the same thing, one stage up), speaking to a subset of people who had made FOI requests, seems to me now an extension of ‘PR’ in the worst sense, clumsily making the point that these were the dangerous criminals, without reference to how the emails arrived and became known. Anthony Watts’, Charles’ and your care about getting provenance right – of making sure the emails were authentic – had no match in terms of rigour the other side, even though our police are being paid for such things and you’re not. This is something that we in the UK have to get to the bottom of.

      • And they still insist that they weren’t whitewashes.

      • Yes, why bother reading the first-hand accounts of the people who were part of the process?


      • Steven:

        There is a simple answer as to why none of the research goes back to the original first hand accounts: That is RAW data, in any research that even remotely touches on Climate Science you only use ADJUSTED data. That is why they only use second hand accounts that have been “improved”.

  11. Frank Luntz finds that the choice of words is critical to winning/loosing public perception. Highly recommend Luntz’s book: Words that Work: it’s not what you say, it’s what people hear
    e.g. see Words never to say

    • Of course word choice matters. Ad do efforts to coordinate a meme. The DNC has done it for years going back to the days of fax machines. More recently, see Journolist. Everyone in the party and media outlets that support the party get their daily talking points and the phrase of the day gets repeated in interviews and press releases ad nauseum. It’s very effective.

      Example — the Bush tax cuts actually shifted the tax burden away from the middle class and increased it on the highest earners. Democrats’ talking point was and still is “tax cuts for the rich”. To this day, people who get their news from the MSM are still shocked and disbelieving when you try to explain what really happened. The meme becomes the reality.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      Hi David,

      ‘NEVER SAY: Global Economy/Globalization/Capitalism
      INSTEAD SAY: Free Market Economy
      NEVER SAY: Drilling for oil
      INSTEAD SAY: Exploring for energy
      NEVER SAY: Outsourcing
      INSTEAD SAY: Taxation, Regulation, Litigation, Innovation, Education

      When you use the words of your oppositions you are basically accepting their definition and therefore their conclusion. We should NEVER use the word outsourcing because we will then be asked to defend or end the practice of allowing companies to ship American jobs overseas.
      Rather, we should talk about the “root cause” why any company would not want to hire “the best workers in the world.” And the answer: “over-taxation, over-regulation, too much litigation, and not enough innovation or quality education.” Because it rhymes, it will be remembered.’

      I will study this intently.

  12. And there is the latest spin where some pundits are trying to claim it was all masterminded by Rupert Murdoch.

    • If that was the case then it’s extremely funny that it wasn’t front-page news in at least one of his newspapers – in fact, the MSM didn’t touch the story for ages.

  13. Climategate is still widely ignored by media and scientific community. Amazing.

    People are in denial about it. It shows that mainstream is doing junk science.

  14. The only new thing left regarding climategate is for a real investigation to happen.
    This paper is basically a way to help believers think about how to manage the next truth eruption and to suppress it better.
    The leak was propagated by near simultaneous postings across several sites.
    The BBC, if I recall, had been offered the leak some time earlier- possibly weeks- but in their AGW zealotry ignored it.
    The broadcast for of the leak was a last effort after allegedly legitmate journalists studiouisly ignored it.
    The RC claims and actions, except for the brief period when RC self-reflected on the implications of the leaks, was their only worthwhile response.

    • I seriously doubt the BBC were offered it weeks in advance, seeing the last of the emails were only a few days old at the time the story broke.

      • Peter317,
        I will keep looking. I do reall reading it, and am searching some archives.
        i ran across the first time I learned about the cliamtegate leaks- a poster named “FOIA” posted an incredible list of files with live links at the “Climate Skeptic” blog.
        I re-read my response to FOIA’s post. I was too late to grab the original leak. If I recall correctly, my concern was that this was some sort of nasty virus being offered as great data, so I moved cautiously.

      • hunter –
        I was too late to grab the original leak.

        If you want it, I’ve got it. Just have to dig it out of storage.

      • Jim,
        Thanks. I have it on DVD, and is backed up someplace on my HD as well.
        I jsut remember how that FOIA post came out.
        And now we have believers *still* not getting it, trying to either see the problem as one of applying better ‘spin’ (censorship) or comforting themselves with mutters about astroturf.

      • Ian Blanchard

        The story that the BBC had the e-mails weeks in advance came from a misunderstanding of a comment from the weatherman of BBC North (iirc Paul Hudson), who actually just confirmed that those e-mails in the leak that were addressed or cc’s to him were genuine (i.e. from UEA CRU staff and without modification). Some politically motivated commentators misinterpreted the comments and used them as a stick to beat the BBC for its liberal bias (and even I as a British liberal accept that it is decidedly biased towards the soft left).

      • Search Paul Hudson climategate BBC

  15. Latimer Alder

    I’m finding it difficult to imagine why anybody bothered to spend any time at all on writing this pointless paper.

    And (sadly) can see little purpose in Judith giving this ‘work’ such unjustified publicity.

    Is academia so overstaffed and its participants so underemployed that nothing is too trivial for them to ‘study’? Perhaps that explains the number of climatologists..and of climatological papers.

    • :-)

    • It is a case study of an incredible event.

      • Latimer Alder

        The event itself may indeed have been ‘incredible’. And IMO a very valuable one. Its place in the history of climatology is assured.

        But to write a ‘Masters’ work on exactly how the Climategate name was arrived at shows that the author and his supervisors have lost much touch with reality.

        Must dash..its breakfast time here in UK and I really must write down for posterity’s sake exactly why I choose Corn Flakes, Coco Pops or Special K this morning. I know that it will be an invaluable resource for a future ‘Breakfast Studies’ PhD from some academic in a minor university with more money than sense.

  16. I wouldn’t leave out the video produced by Minnesotans for global warming. Satire is a powerful tool and their video had a lot of viewers before being forced off of youtube. I’m sure many of the younger people saw the video that never bother watching the news.

    • steven,
      And Mann was allowed to suppress the video by falsely claiming (a pattern?) that the images were his private property.
      They were not. They were stock phots from either the schools he was worked for or public domain.
      But his legal intimidation worked.

  17. “Climategate – where did this almost perfectly strategic — yet deeply unfortunate — catchphrase come from?”

    I don’t get it. Why is the phrase climategate “deeply unfortunate”. At least it decribes a set of events with which most of us can identify. What is worse is when people like Hanson and Dessler are referred to as “Climate Scientists” while people like Spenser and Lindzen are called “Climate Skeptics” as if they have no scientific credentials. I’ve never heard Lindzen or Spenser say they did not believe in or were skeptical about climate.

    Also, what’s with this “Cool Dude” stuff. The term was coined as a result of that dreadful paper to be derisive in the same manner as Alarmist, Warmist, Skeptic, or Denier. We don’t need any more lables in this debate, especially that one. It really grates.

  18. “yet deeply unfortunate”

    Wasn’t climategate itself “deeply unfortunate”?

    The naming of it was perfect.

  19. Thank you for adding “snowclones” to my personal lexicon, Prof. Curry.

  20. Reading the emails is more fun than speculating why the term Climategate caught on. After all Watergate was about political corruption wrong doing and cover up.

    The leaked emails reveal corruption amongst climate scientists wrong doing and cover up.

    • Stacey,
      The point of the paper we are discussing is that the AGW community wants to minimze the numbers of people actually reading the climategate e-mails. Instead the strategy is clearly to psuh as much as possible either ignoring the climategate leak, or at most reading interpretations of the leaks by AGW opinion makers. Imagine a treasure trove of e-mails leaked from the CIA or a financial management firm, and then ask how the NYT or any other so-called mainstream media would treat that leak, in contrast to climategate.

      • Hunter
        Thank you for your opinion which I appreciate and understand. But if the MSM did not or are not reporting it properly then it is better that people read the emails for themselves.

        So thank you Tim Berners-Lee for the internet otherwise we would have been none the wiser?

      • Stacey,
        The people are.
        The journalists are not earning their keep on this.
        They willing participated in a coverup that would have made Nixon proud.

  21. The emails were bad enough but the malfeasance and spin continued with the AGW proponents claiming that ‘a few emails were taken out of context’. Considering the content of the emails it is really difficult to imagine what context they might be talking about.
    Just more lies; similar to ‘skeptics are funded by big oil’. I am still waiting for my cheque.

    • I love the out of context wars. Remember Steig going postal over Pielke being “wrong, wrong wrong!”. When Lucia posted the total interview highlighting Steig’s cherry picked phrases I thought I would die laughing.

  22. A most interesting study would be the Wikipedia edit wars over the use of the term “Climategate”.

  23. Thanks, Professor Curry, for this posting.

    By aligning themselves with those fudging climate data, Al Gore, world leaders, major news media, the US National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society, the UN’s IPCC and Norwegian Nobel Prize confirmed President Eisenhower’s 1961 prediction that government science might one day become captive of a “scientific-technological elite.”

    I saw this happening in the space science community and couldn’t figure out what was happening.

    Today I am grateful to Al Gore, world leaders, major news media, the US National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society, the UN’s IPCC and Norwegian Nobel Prize for foolishly revealing their game plan.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  24. Climategate came from a commentator over at WUWT by the name o “Bull gate” or something similiar(from aus, i dont really read that site often, and it was a long time ago, so name was just similiar)… i dont think it was a conspiracy, but i recall it happening, and i recall he was a commentator who normally posted funny satirical type comments… And it was picked up from there… Mystery solved ;-) But im not going to go trawling through comments to find it.

    • Im probably gettin the gate in his name from association to the comment, his name was “Bull” something though.

  25. Theo Goodwin

    Yes, this topic is interesting. However, before you go all “postmodern” on us, I suggest using Ockham’s Razor on the “semiotic” postulates offered in the material you quote. Ask yourself a simple question. If one of your highly knowledgeable commenters had fixed on “This is another ‘___gate’ scandal!” back in 2009, would he/she have found powerful confirming evidence for that hypothesis? The answer is “Yes!” beyond a doubt. Semiotics and all of the postmodern world are jolly good fun but entirely unnecessary – and usually misleading. The necessities are all in Scientific Method.

  26. Bruce of Newcastle

    Perhaps more interesting than the headline term, which was inevitable (ie parallels with the Pentagon papers and ‘Deepthroat’ are so apt) is the phrases which have come out of the emails into near-folklore. The big four being:

    “Even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”
    “Mike’s Nature trick”
    [to] “Hide the decline”
    “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.”

    These just get run and run and run. I would call them ‘quotes’ rather than ‘snowclones’ although others might disagree. Why exactly these albeit juicy quotes have gone viral I can’t say – that would be a good chapter in Mr Norton’s thesis.

  27. It does matter how the climategate information was obtained. Don’t governments spy on each other to find information? Don’t royal commissions bug suspects? Is it not necessary for an extremely important AGW science that could change the economies of the world be freely available?

    The climategate emails are damning. It shows the AGW science was manufactured to obtain a desired outcome:

    I would not give them *anything*. I would not respond or even acknowledge receipt of their emails. There is no reason to give them any data, in my opinion, and I think we do so at our own peril!

    It would be good to remove at least part of the 1940s blip, but we are still left with “why the blip”.

    Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise.

    Be awkward if we went through a early 1940s type swing!

    …the fact is that in doing so the rules of IPCC have been softened to the point that in this way the IPCC is not any more an assessment of published science (which is its proclaimed goal) but production of results

    After the above revelations, what amazes me is how AGW has not yet died!


    The above data shows that the annual global mean temperate oscillates like a pendulum every 30 years from one GMT boundary line to the other. As the Current GMT is at the upper boundary line, the GMT will necessarily move (as a pendulum would) to the lower boundary line in the next decades.

    To claim further warming is to deny basic physics and nature.

    • GiRMA, you assert “AGW science was manufactured” and quote some e-mail cherry-picks that don’t support your assertion. Then you close with some puzzling talk about oscillating global mean temperature. This was not one of your better efforts.

      • There is no reason to give them any data, in my opinion, and I think we do so at our own peril!

        Need I say more?

      • Theo Goodwin

        Sir, upon being presented with the smoking gun that was taken from your hand, it is no defense to say that your accusers are cherry-picking.

      • Denial in plain sight for everybody to see.

  28. Below are some examples of the “gate” suffix. No, I did not make these up. You can find them with “Google.”


    Because of overuse, the “gate” suffix is trite, and people who continue to use it are boring and unimaginative.

    • The greatest gate of all was Billygate.

    • You are only complaining about climategate because it is your ox getting gored.
      Toughsky stuffsky.
      What is really boring and tedious and ridiculous is to list the things AGW believers are caused by global warming:

      • “Toughsky stuffsky” ? HA HA ! Must be Cool Dude talk.

      • I would rather be a cool dude than a warm schmuck.

      • andrew adams


        Yes, linking to that site as if it actually proves anything is indeed boring, tedious and ridiculous.

      • aa,
        You know what it proves: That AGW is a pile conflicting oxymoronic crap.
        You just hope it will all go away and leave you to the comfort of your faith.
        Too bad.

      • andrew adams

        How does it prove that? I looked at three of the links at random. One referenced a paper showing that the habitat of some species of bats might be under thyreat if warming continues, hardly contentious stuff. One was a newspaper report saying that the Sydney Opera House might be under threat if sea levels riise, not an unreasonable argument given that it is built by the sea. The other one was a newspaper article about some crank searching for the Loch Ness Monster!

  29. Someone seriously got academic credit for studying this? You’ve got to be kidding me. Yet another sign of the deterioration of academic and scientific standards.

    • Latimer Alder

      Makes the educated layman wonder whether academics en masse should be trusted with walking to the end of the road to post a letter without supervision. Let alone to be solely responsible for researching ‘the most important problem humanity has ever faced’.

      They don’t seem to exercise their ‘academic freedom’ with much real-world judgement. But quite happy to take the real-world cash to support their efforts.

  30. How come AGW has not yet died after ClimateGate and after the lack of warming?

    We would have been toast (pay up) had the two did not happen.

    Bless ClimateGate and lack of warming.

  31. Please is there a web site you can look in to read the climategate letters and stuff? All I get from google is references to a book titled CRUgate Letters

  32. Judith,

    Our governments created a mistake through the funding of education, science and research.
    This created a whole society of like minded scientists with the contained area of science that none are able to understand the whole complex field.
    So anyone outside this field generated science cannot possibly have a brain to show errors in this line.
    Our planet is a highly complex system of many interacting actions that span billions of years.

    Yet current science is only interested in a few hundred to a few thousand years.

  33. Nov. 17, 2009 6:20 a.m. University of East Anglia’s RealClimate server hacked.

    Occam’s razor leads to the conclusion that a courageous whistle-blower released the file(s).

  34. Regarding timeline; when (date/time) was the “hack” first reported to police ?

  35. We were waiting for a point in time when the house of cards fell, when we could peek behind the stage. Climategate was already an idea long before it was actualised.

  36. We salute we.