Limbaugh distorts apparently stolen emails to falsely claim global warming is "made up"


Rush Limbaugh -- who had previously condemned the "thugs" who hacked then-Gov. Sarah Palin's email account -- joined right-wing bloggers in touting a series of emails that were apparently stolen from the UK's Climate Research Unit [CRU]. Limbaugh proceeded to distort at least one of the emails in order to falsely suggest that it is evidence that global warming is "made up" and that leading climate scientists have been engaged in "substantial fraud."

Limbaugh distorts email apparently stolen by hacker, claims global warming is "made up" and scientists are engaged in "fraud"

On his November 20 radio show, Limbaugh referenced the alleged theft of CRU emails by what he described as a "hacker." Limbaugh went on to read from an email sent in 1999 by CRU director Phil Jones. Limbaugh falsely suggested that a phrase in the email -- "hide the decline" -- was somehow "evidence" of "substantial fraud."

From the November 20 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: By the way, folks, I want to give you a website to go to when you get a chance. It's called Something fascinating has happened, and I was first alerted to this today by our official climatologist, Dr. Roy Spencer. A hacker has gotten into the computers at Hadley CRU. That is Britain's largest climate research institute. They are a huge proponent of global warming.


LIMBAUGH: I don't know if the jury's still out on that, but more and more people are picking up on this. The whole thing as we've -- I've instinctively known this from the get-go 20 years ago. The whole thing's made up. And the reason I know it is because liberals are behind it. When they're pushing something, folks, it's always bogus. It's never what they say it is. There's always a hidden reason behind the objective. The objective -- stated objective is just designed just to get you feeling guilty, responsible, frightened, scared -- and your kids as well. But it looks like substantial fraud, a lot of evidence of substantial fraud in reporting the evidence on global warming. And Clarice Feldman at the is posted one this, and she's got a sample of the purportedly hacked materials on here -- of the 1,079 emails and 72 documents, and they are available online -- the hackers put them up.

"Dear Roy -- or Ray, Mike, and Malcolm, Once Tim's got a diagram here we'll send that either later today or first thing tomorrow. I just completed Mike's nature trick of adding in the real temperatures to each series for the last 20 years, i.e., from 1981 onwards, and from the 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline in temperature." To hide the decline in temperature. "Mike's series got the annual land and marine values while the other two got April-September for NH land N of 20 north. The latter two are real for 1999 while the estimate for 1999 for NH combined is --" blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.

NASA scientist: Emails do not show that "global warming is a hoax"

NASA's Gavin Schmidt: Critics "are using language used in science and interpreting it in a completely different way." Wired's Threat Level blog reported on November 20 that Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said: "There's nothing in the e-mails that shows that global warming is a hoax. ... There's no funding by nefarious groups. There's no politics in any of these things; nobody from the [United Nations] telling people what to do. There's nothing hidden, no manipulation. It's just scientists talking about science, and they're talking relatively openly as people in private e-mails generally are freer with their thoughts than they would be in a public forum. The few quotes that are being pulled out [are out] of context. People are using language used in science and interpreting it in a completely different way." Schmidt is a contributor to the Real Climate blog, which has stated that some of the stolen CRU emails "involve people" at Real Climate.

Email Limbaugh read was distorted, "pulled out of context"

Real Climate: Jones email "pulled out of context." In a November 20 post, Real Climate's staff, which is made up of several working climate scientists, cited Jones' 1999 email -- which Limbaugh read -- as "one example" of "instances of cherry-picked and poorly-worded 'gotcha' phrases [being] pulled out of context." Jones' November 16, 1999, email reads:

Dear Ray, Mike and Malcolm,

Once Tim's got a diagram here we'll send that either later today or first thing tomorrow.

I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline. Mike's series got the annual land and marine values while the other two got April-Sept for NH land N of 20N. The latter two are real for 1999, while the estimate for 1999 for NH combined is +0.44C wrt 61-90. The Global estimate for 1999 with data through Oct is +0.35C cf. 0.57 for 1998.

Thanks for the comments, Ray.

LSE Prof: Scientists use "trick" to mean "a clever way of doing something." A November 20 Guardian article reported that Bob Ward, director of policy and communications at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, said of Jones' email: "It does look incriminating on the surface, but there are lots of single sentences that taken out of context can appear incriminating. ... You can't tell what they are talking about. Scientists say 'trick' not just to mean deception. They mean it as a clever way of doing something - a short cut can be a trick."

Real Climate: "trick" Jones referenced is a method for making the "context of the recent warming ... clear" and isn't "problematic ... at all." Noting that "[s]cientists often use the term 'trick' to refer to a 'a good way to deal with a problem,' " Real Climate explained:

No doubt, instances of cherry-picked and poorly-worded "gotcha" phrases will be pulled out of context. One example is worth mentioning quickly. Phil Jones in discussing the presentation of temperature reconstructions stated that "I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline." The paper in question is the Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) Nature paper on the original multiproxy temperature reconstruction, and the 'trick' is just to plot the instrumental records along with reconstruction so that the context of the recent warming is clear. Scientists often use the term "trick" to refer to a "a good way to deal with a problem", rather than something that is "secret", and so there is nothing problematic in this at all.

Real Climate: "hiding the decline" refers to method that is "completely appropriate." Real Climate further explained:

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.

Jones reportedly "explained he was not trying to mislead." The New Zealand magazine Investigate reported on November 20:

TGIF asked Jones about the controversial email discussing hiding "the decline", and Jones explained he was not trying to mislead.

"No, that's completely wrong. In the sense that they're talking about two different things here. They're talking about the instrumental data which is unaltered -- but they're talking about proxy data going further back in time, a thousand years, and it's just about how you add on the last few years, because when you get proxy data you sample things like tree rings and ice cores, and they don't always have the last few years. So one way is to add on the instrumental data for the last few years."

Jones told TGIF he had no idea what me meant by using the words "hide the decline".

"That was an email from ten years ago. Can you remember the exact context of what you wrote ten years ago?

Limbaugh previously denounced Palin email hackers as "Obama thugs"

Limbaugh called Palin email hackers "thugs" and asked: "Do we live in a sick era, or what?" On the September 18, 2008, edition of his show, Limbaugh decried the "thugs" who hacked Palin's email account:

And then of course Obama, folks, is showing who he really is. The community organizer, the street agitator, the Chicago thug, clear the playing field, it's on display for everybody to see. Sarah Palin's e-mails, personal e-mails have been hacked, no doubt by Obama thugs, they dropped 30 people up there in Alaska trying to dig up dirt on her. Now they got some thugs that found her personal e-mail address, and the reaction to this is stunning. The Drive-Bys are not upset about this at all.

In fact, ABC, get this headline: "Palin's E-mail Habits Echo Worst Practices of Bush Administration, Expert Says." So we have the vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket's personal e-mail hacked, they post screen shots on the Internet of her personal e-mails, she's now being criticized for using a personal account to conduct state business. This is why, by the way, presidents and vice presidents do not use e-mail, be it personal or business. And now we've got people coming around saying that she's irresponsible, the hackers have uncovered some fraud on her part. Do we live in a sick era, or what?

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
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