During the December 13 broadcast of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace read excerpts from two of the emails that he claimed “were either leaked or hacked” from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, falsely suggesting that the emails may not have been stolen. Wallace also claimed that the email referring to “Mike's Nature trick ... to hide the decline” was “talking about to hide the decline in temperatures” and read a comment from another email without providing the necessary context.
Wallace falsely suggests CRU emails may not have been stolen
From the December 13 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace:
WALLACE: Gentlemen, let me bring in -- 'cause I'm sure viewers are screaming at this point. They want to hear about Climategate, and they want to hear what the two of you have to say. And this of course are the hundreds of emails that were either leaked or hacked from one of the leading climate research centers in the world that happens to be in Britain. And let's put up just two that have caused some of the greatest concern.
From 1999: “I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e. from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline.” He's talking about to hide the decline in temperatures.
And from 2009: “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. ... Our observing system is inadequate.”
Fact: CRU officials have stated that emails were obtained through “a criminal breach of our security systems”
In its initial response to the reported theft, officials at the University of East Anglia stated: “Recently thousands of files and emails illegally obtained from a research server at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have been posted on various sites on the web.” In a statement about the controversy, CRU vice chancellor of research Trevor Davies stated: “We are committed to furthering this debate despite being faced with difficult circumstances related to a criminal breach of our security systems and our concern to protect colleagues from the more extreme behaviour of some who have responded in irrational and unpleasant ways to the publication of personal information.” Davies further stated, “Although we were confident that our systems were appropriate, experience has shown that determined and skilled people, who are prepared to engage in criminal activity, can sometimes hack into apparently secure systems. Highly-protected government organisations around the world have also learned this to their cost.”
Fact: “Decline” refers to unreliable tree-ring data, not actual temperatures
In a November 26 article, The Morning Call of Allentown, Pennsylvania, reported that Penn State scientist Michael Mann -- whose “trick” was referenced in CRU director Phil Jones' email -- “said his trick, or 'trick of the trade,' for the Nature chart was to combine data from tree-ring measurements, which record world temperatures from 1,000 years ago until 1960, with actual temperature readings for 1961 through 1998” because “scientists have discovered that, for temperatures since 1960, tree rings have not been a reliable indicator.” In a November 20 post, RealClimate.org's staff, which is comprised of several working climate scientists, including Mann, similarly stated:
As for the 'decline', it is well known that Keith Briffa's maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the “divergence problem” -see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while 'hiding' is probably a poor choice of words (since it is 'hidden' in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.
Fact: Trenberth's “travesty” email referred to “inadequate” system of observing short-term variability, not long-term trend
In an October 12 email, National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist Kevin Trenberth cited “my own article on where the heck is global warming” and wrote: “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. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate” [emphasis added].
Fact: Trenberth published similar comments in the journal article he cited in email
Wired's Threat Level blog reported that Trenberth “says bloggers are missing the point he's making in the e-mail by not reading the article cited in it. That article -- An Imperative for Climate Change Planning (.pdf) -- actually says that global warming is continuing, despite random temperature variations that would seem to suggest otherwise." RealClimate.org similarly stated in a November 23 post that "[y]ou need to read his recent paper on quantifying the current changes in the Earth's energy budget to realise why he is concerned about our inability currently to track small year-to-year variations in the radiative fluxes." Indeed, the Trenberth article referred to what he called an “incomplete explanation” of short-term climate variations, and maintained that “global warming is unequivocally happening.”
Wallace previously claimed emails “leaked”
On the December 6 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace stated: “All this, of course, comes amid the growing controversy over global warming which some people are calling 'Climategate.' It involves more than a thousand emails that have been leaked that indicate that some of the climate scientists were apparently fudgers and tried to suppress opposition comments.”