Bringing Up the Rear on ‘Climategate’: It’s Over and It Was a Load of…


A routine morning click on The New York Times turned up a tiny story buried deep in the day’s news this past April. Nothing more than a blurb in a little roundup called WORLD BRIEFING | EUROPE, the headline read: “Britain: Inquiry Finds No Distortion of Climate Data,” informing me that “a second inquiry has cleared climate researchers at the University of East Anglia of allegations that they distorted the scientific evidence for human-caused global warming. “˜There was no hint of tailoring results to a particular agenda,’ an independent panel of scientists said in a report submitted to the university on Monday.”

My first thought was, “Wow, how’d I miss the first inquiry?” I’m usually on top of this kind of news. I wondered what page that story was on. Then I got angry. For how long and for how many news cycles were we inundated with “Climategate?” Beginning last November, the “scandal” spent months coloring the global warming “debate,” providing rocket fuel for naysayers, creating an entire “elitist lefty scientists lie!” industry. T-shirts and stickers declared: “Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, Global Warming,” “Green is the New Red!” “Global Warming = Global Hoax!”

So now, for a second time, the “story” behind the global headlines – Grand Conspiracy Perpetrated on Human Race! The Fix is in! It’s All a Big Green Lie! – is debunked! And we get it in WORLD BRIEFING | EUROPE. Word count: 94.

My Facebook post that morning? “Given the amount of copy dedicated to this ‘scandal,’ it’s so nice to find this paragraph buried in the NYT‘s ‘brief’ section.”

The link didn’t get much response from my 327 friends (I know, I’m picky), but at least they paid more attention than the media. Snippets from my wall:

“Thank you for posting this. I was considering this morning how we, socially, seem primed to immediately think the worst of people and then demand that they explain themselves.”

To which: “Indictment is news. Exoneration is not. Sad thing is this ‘story’ continues to be used in misinformation campaigns regarding global warming. Trumpeting this inquiry’s conclusions has true news “˜value.’ NYT drops the ball here.”

The point was eventually well made a few months later by Joe Conason in Salon: “‘Climategate’ debunking is (or should be) major news: The e-mail ‘scandal’ burned scientists on front pages last winter. But editors have buried a series of rebuttals.”

In the story, he points out: “Newspapers, magazines and newscasts ought to be informing the public, fairly and dispassionately, about the series of events that cast fresh doubt on the doubter lobby.”

This is important. That “doubter lobby” was at its zenith late last year and early this. Self-declared independent thinkers were swayed, programs reconsidered, cash flows affected. That bogus story had big old legs and it ran its ass off for months.

Ninety-four words.

So now it’s yesterday, I’m scanning the web and I find this on Green Energy News: “EPA Rejects Claims of Flawed Climate Science.”

Here’s the scoop: Ten “groups,” including the State of Texas, the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Coalition for Responsible Regulation et al (sic), and the Ohio Coal Association, petitioned the EPA to reconsider its “Endangerment Finding,” which basically says greenhouse gases are hurting us and that we’re responsible for creating them. The petitions asserted that the science used to reach these conclusions is faulty, at best, and that a conspiracy pollutes, so to speak, information from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) , the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Global Change Research Program.”

The EPA’s response boils down to: “We’ve looked at your assertions and have this to say re your petitions: Wrong!”

Green Energy News summarizes a few of claims; here’s one example: “Claim: Petitioners say that emails disclosed from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit provide evidence of a conspiracy to manipulate global temperature data. Response: EPA reviewed every e-mail and found this was simply a candid discussion of scientists working through issues that arise in compiling and presenting large complex data sets. Four other independent reviews came to similar conclusions.”

The nine others claims and responses were similar in tone and dismissal.

Stop the presses, right?

Here’s some news for today: With only a few minor exceptions, I don’t see this story getting any serious play anywhere but in the green press. And here’s the problem: In the case of greenhouse gas emissions, the media’s infatuation with inane claims and so-called smoking guns, and lack of any use for sane, consistent scientific assertions can prove fatal to the debate, if not our quality of life.

I often ask myself why people continue to get away unchecked with referring to evolution as a “theory.” Here’s the deal on that one, folks: It’s not a theory any more. And neither is global warming. We have the science. Asked and answered. Data is in. And if we’re going to give our collective attention to those who make a lot of noise asserting otherwise, shouldn’t we give them the same attention when they’re kicked to the curb?

Image: Joel Bedford

Scott Adelson

Scott Adelson is EcoSalon's Senior Editor of HyperKulture, a monthly column that explores opening cultural doors to initiate personal change. He is also the author of InPRINT, which reviews and discusses books, new and old. You can reach him at