NYT Environmental Writer Confirms Probable Authenticity of Hacked Climate Change Messages

November 20th, 2009 9:39 PM

Let us give New York Times environmental writer Andrew Revkin credit. He is one of the few in the mainstream media reporting on the hacked global warming e-mails story which has gone viral in the blogosphere and was covered in-depth by NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard. If you aren't yet familiar with this brewing scandal then I recommend you get up to speed on this controversy by reading Sheppard's blog post.

Despite Revkin's commendable willingness to at least cover this controversy, he is still stubbornly clinging to his global warming belief...for now. Perhaps his stubbornness against veering away from the global warming doctrine is more a matter of inertia. After all, he has invested over 10 years of his life in that particular dogma and it is not easy to give it up overnight despite the shocking revelations of the e-mails. Here is Revkin's not very convincing money quote disclaimer:

The documents will undoubtedly raise questions about the quality of research on some specific questions and the actions of some scientists. But the evidence pointing to a growing human contribution to global warming is so broad and deep that the hacked material is unlikely to erode the overall argument.

That sounds more like the weak hope of a latter day Millerite but the bulk of Revkin's report is actually quite good considering that the implications of this scandal could lead to the shattering of the global warming belief:

The e-mails, attributed to prominent American and British climate researchers, include discussions of scientific data and whether it should be released, exchanges about how best to combat the arguments of skeptics, and casual comments — in some cases derisive — about specific people known for their skeptical views. Drafts of scientific papers and a photo collage that portrays climate skeptics on an ice floe were also among the hacked data, some of which dates back 13 years.

In one e-mail exchange, a scientist writes of using a statistical “trick” in a chart illustrating a recent sharp warming trend. In another, a scientist refers to climate skeptics as “idiots.”

And another money quote. This time about the impact of these hacked e-mail messages:

Some skeptics asserted Friday that the correspondence revealed an effort to withhold scientific information. “This is not a smoking gun, this is a mushroom cloud,” said Patrick J. Michaels, a climatologist who has long faulted evidence pointing to human-driven warming and is criticized in the documents.

As Revkin points out,  some e-mails display an incredible level of insecurity among the scientists promoting global warming. They sure don't sound very confident in their own data:

Portions of the correspondence portrays the scientists as feeling under siege by the skeptics’ camp and worried that any stray comment or data glitch could be turned against them.

As to the authenticity of the hacked e-mails, Revkin strongly suggests that they are indeed valid:

Officials at the University of East Anglia confirmed in a statement on Friday that files had been stolen from a university server and that the police had been brought in to investigate the breach. They added, however, that they could not confirm that all the material circulating on the Internet was authentic.

But several scientists and others contacted by the Times confirmed that they were the authors or recipients of specific e-mails included in the file. 

And what will be the impact of these documents on the upcoming climate change meeting in Copenhagen?

The revelations are bound to inflame the public debate as hundreds of negotiators prepare to hammer out an international climate accord at meetings in Copenhagen next month, and at least one scientist speculated that the timing was not coincidental.

Baby steps, Andrew. Correct me if I'm wrong but it sure sounds like Revkin is more shaken by this scandal than he is letting on.  Perhaps he is not yet ready to give up the global warming ghost but the newly released hacked information seems to be loosening his moorings to a widely accepted liberal belief.