Reminder to media: Claims about CRU emails were debunked

››› ››› TERRY KREPEL

Media outlets have referenced the emails apparently stolen from University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) in their recent reports on "record snowfall" and criticisms of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), suggesting that the emails "undermined" global warming research or reporting claims about what they "appeared to show." Those media did not report, however, that scientists and fact-checkers have found that the emails, in the words of FactCheck.org, "have been misrepresented by global-warming skeptics" and "don't change [the] scientific consensus on global warming."

Media claim emails were "damaging," a "major blow"

CBS: "Trust was already undermined" by emails, "which seemed to show that inconvenient facts were being hidden." On the February 4 edition of the CBS Evening News, reporting on IPCC chief Rajendra Pachauri's acknowledgement of an error about Himalayan glaciers in an IPCC report, correspondent Mark Phillips listed the apparent theft of the emails as evidence providing "ammunition for skeptics" of global warming. Phillips said, "Trust was already undermined by the series of leaked emails at Britain's University of East Anglia -- one of the world's big climate science centers -- which seemed to show that inconvenient facts were being hidden." While Phillips later said, "It's a frustrating time for those who believe the basic science in global warming remains true," Phillips did not note that the claims about the emails have been debunked.

NY Times: "[A]ccusations of errors" by IPCC "follow a controversy" over emails. In a February 9 article, The New York Times reported that "accusations of errors" by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change "have sullied the group's reputation," adding: "They follow a controversy that erupted late last year over e-mail messages and documents released without authorization from a climate research center in Britain."

UPI: "Climate science received a major blow" from release of emails. A February 3 UPI article on Pachauri's acknowledgement of the glaciers error reported: "Climate science received a major blow when leaked e-mail exchanges indicated that scientists at the University of East Anglia might have suppressed data pointing to global cooling."

Hill: CRU emails "prompted accusations that researchers may have edited the presentation of data to overstate the threat of warming." A February 9 article in The Hill stating the passage of cap-and-trade this year is unlikely reported that "One of the most damaging setbacks was the emergence last year of hundreds of private e-mail messages sent among American and British climate scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of East Anglia," adding that the emails "prompted accusations that researchers may have edited the presentation of data to overstate the threat of warming."

But fact-checkers, scientists affirm that emails don't undermine climate change consensus

FactCheck.org: Emails "have been misrepresented by global-warming skeptics," "don't change scientific consensus on global warming." FactCheck.org has stated that while the emails "show a few scientists in a bad light, being rude or dismissive," "there's still plenty of evidence that the earth is getting warmer and that humans are largely responsible." In addition, FactCheck noted that "many of the e-mails that are being held up as 'smoking guns' have been misrepresented by global-warming skeptics eager to find evidence of a conspiracy."

AP: Emails "don't support claims that the science of global warming was faked."The Associated Press reported that after "stud[ying] all the e-mails for context, with five reporters reading and rereading them" and submitting "summaries of the e-mails that raised issues from the potential manipulation of data to intensely personal attacks ... to seven experts in research ethics, climate science and science policy," they concluded that "the exchanges don't undercut the vast body of evidence showing the world is warming because of man-made greenhouse gas emissions."

Scientists reaffirm that global warming is real. Following the emails' release, more than 1,700 scientists from the United Kingdom signed a statement responding "to the ongoing questioning of core climate science and methods." The statement said: "We, members of the UK science community, have the utmost confidence in the observational evidence for global warming and the scientific basis for concluding that it is due primarily to human activities." Furthermore, in a December 4, 2009, letter to Congress, 29 prominent scientists, including 11 members of the National Academy of Scientists, stated, "The body of evidence that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming is overwhelming. The content of the stolen emails has no impact whatsoever on our overall understanding that human activity is driving dangerous levels of global warming." Additionally, a December 3, 2009, editorial in the science journal Nature stated: "Nothing in the e-mails undermines the scientific case that global warming is real -- or that human activities are almost certainly the cause," and that claims to the contrary by "the climate-change-denialist fringe" are "laughable." The American Meteorological Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Union of Concerned Scientists have all reaffirmed their position that human-caused global warming is real.

Climate emails have been repeatedly misrepresented to cast doubt on global warming. As Media Matters for America has noted, the media have repeatedly misrepresented the contents of the reportedly stolen emails in order to claim that they cast doubt on the scientific basis for the consensus that human-caused global warming is real.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
Network/Outlet
The New York Times, UPI, The Hill
Show/Publication
CBS Evening News
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