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Friday, December 11, 2009


Representatives from 192 countries gathered this week in Copenhagen to search for common ground on global warming. But the debate in the media was about thousands of leaked emails from scientists that suggest data was knowingly fudged. New York Times environmental reporter Andrew Revkin not only wrote about the emails, but was in fact the subject of some of them.

Comments [10]

Daniel Jones from Cambridge, MA

This story left me wholly dissatisfied. "Climategate" and the journalism around controversial science definitely needs a deeper look - I expect a program like OTM to give this topic the much needed treatment and hope that you will soon. There are legitimate questions over what was said in the emails, though they are questions of scientific etiquette and not science itself. However, opportunists have twisted "climategate" so violently that - given the weak attention span and scientific literacy of the media and public - it will take an extremely long time to refocus public opinion on climate in a healthy way (one need only look at the #climategate hashtag on Twitter to see the damage). Frankly, I saw a more inspired look at this issue on Fox's John Stossel program than any other source so far, and that saddens me.

Dec. 29 2009 10:21 PM
kerry treasure from ocean city new jersey

When the "hoax" emails first emerged I listened to a terrific full hour show somewhere on NPR (satellite) (possibly OTM, possibly not) debunking the email "hoax" as a trifling distraction. The scientists on the show convincingly poo-poo'd the emails and convincingly (in my lay view) the case that the climate is changing, and rapidly. I have been trying to find that show ever since so I could order the transcript and send it to my Fox-news watching father. Can anyone point me to that program or a similar calm, orderly, scientific disucssion that also debunks the so-called "debunking" emails?

Dec. 29 2009 05:48 PM
Gregory K Johnson from Burlington, VT

Thank you for devoting some time on your program to this issue. It seems odd, however, that a program which purports to be all about "The Media" chose not to confront the 800-lb gorilla in the room: why have the major new media (CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, etc) ignored the story about the embarrassing emails from CRU? Is it because it some less-than-sympathetic light on their heroes?
Also, Mr Revkin's claim that he refrained from publishing the content of the emails because they were not intended for public view is laughable. Would he have been so circumspect in revealing incriminating correspondence from oh, say, Dick Cheney? I think not.

Dec. 15 2009 03:33 PM
Jesse from Minneapolis, MN

OTM usually does well with adding a voice of reason to media noise, pushing back against the notion that there is something fair and balanced about giving equal time to polar opposite viewpoints. However, this piece repeated the sensational bits of emails that we have heard over and over again in the last month, yet can be debunked and shown to be unremarkable with some review of the context and scientific research surrounding those emails (the related studies that explain the conversations are typically and conveniently left out of the reporting). I was looking forward to OTM tackling this like the AP has recently done as well as multiple science journals and countless science blogs, but no luck this time. I hope OTM comes back and does a more thorough job in the future.

Investigation will reveal if there is anything interesting in terms of ethical violations in dealing with FOI requests and handling of data, but now we are waiting on the results of those investigations. However, that is not the narrative in the media. The narrative focuses on those who do not accept the work of climate scientists and related professionals. The narrative seems to imply that some alleged wrongs at one research institute calls into question the many decades and thousands of studies from dozens of fields to reach the current consensus as if there were some great conspiracy to hide the truth and promote some lie. This kind of false narrative is familiar to the sciences of evolutionary biology and vaccines, which have also sustained prolonged attacks based on unscientific grounds, implying some grand conspiracy to defraud the public. OTM has a lot of material on the generally poor media reporting of this matter, yet they failed to use that material and instead continued with more of the same. I would suggest sticking to the fundamentals: the scientific foundation for and published research of climate science. Best of luck getting there.

Dec. 15 2009 01:08 AM
Hank Roberts from West coast

Good grief, Bob Garfield, did you prepare for this by reading anything other than the attacks?

Up above, in his comment, Evan Harper has the facts right.

Your staff could have found that information for you in five minutes or less--and with that much preparation you could have asked a smart question and gotten an informative answer.

Instead you repeat assertions of fraud, "... assembling them artfully to tell a larger lie, is that not what this graph represents?"

Why yes, Mr. Garfield, that was not what that graph represented.

There is one kind of tree ring record that diverges in the last few decades from the way it has agreed--up til recently -- with the thermometers. So they use the good data from before thermometers up through the long overlap when they check against the thermometers, and toss the bit where clearly something's happened to that kind of measurement on those few trees because suddenly they diverged from the thermometers.

Thermometers. When we have them we use them. No problem, right?

That is, however, what you did in your paragraph, accidentally I hope: assembled assertions artfully to tell a larger lie. Oops, right?

Someone on your staff needs a swift kick toward a library skills class.
Make friends with a good reference librarian. They're there for you.

Dec. 14 2009 11:27 PM
Taylor Bennett from California

The story about the stolen UEA e-mails was reckless, ill-informed, and sensationalistic. Claims that there was "outright fraud," that the data were "fudged," or that climate scientists were trying to tell a "larger lie" are unsupportable. You've fallen into the "Intelligent Design" trap of equating "balance" with "teach the controversy." This is a manufactured controversy that was deliberately timed to cause maximum damage to the Copenhagen negotiations.

Mr. Monbiot's argument that the science has to be scrutinized from top to bottom would be fine, except that it already has been, and the stolen e-mails have very little to add or detract from the science, which is to be found in the peer-reviewed literature, not skeptics' websites. This doesn't mean that the science is "settled," a canard often repeated by the denialists. There is still much on-going research, and the scientists doing this research have been extremely skeptical and cautious with their work. Releasing those stolen e-mails was nothing more than a desperate attempt by disgruntled skeptics to undermine solid, valid research.

Skeptics complain that they are unfairly lumped into a category of cranks (e.g., Sarah Palin and Senator Inhofe), but they haven't actually raised any serious objections to the science supporting the IPCC report's conclusions that AGW is an extremely serious problem that needs to be addressed. Their arguments range from "it isn't happening," to "maybe it's happening, but it's not caused by humans," to "it's happening and caused by humans, but there isn't anything we can do about it," to "it's a good thing, and we shouldn't do anything about it," or it's simply "a hoax." If they actually want to contribute to understanding the science better, they should publish their work in peer-reviewed journals and stop complaining that they're being shut out by competent scientists.

Dec. 14 2009 02:06 PM

With respect to Andy Revkin, what does he know about the science or science in general? He's a journalist.

You would've done much better interviewing specialists in the scientific process and ethics within science.

(And near as I can tell, their consensus is that CRU was full of bad actors in terms of the scientific process and scientific ethics.)

Epic OTM Fail. (Because all fails must now be epic, especially when dealing with climate change.)

Dec. 13 2009 03:15 PM
Ric Werme from Boscawen, NH, USA

I suppose as far as media goes, you were on the media. As far as science goes, it would have been nice to have guests beyond big AGW supporters journalists.

One think I dislike about the whole climate scene are the terms used to describe the factions. Warmists and true believers detract from the science on the warming side, and deniers on the other side conjures images of people who both deny that climate is changing and suggests a tie to holocaust deniers.

A good scientist is a skeptical creature. He knows (usually by painful experience) that he can be fooled himself and has become skeptical of the literature, his own conclusions, and his own data. We much prefer being called skeptics.

Climate skeptics do not deny that climate changes - the evidence for that is overwhelming especially at longer and longer timescales. The "satellite era" with its temperature record matches that of a natural warming associated with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and I fear that the impact of CO2 has been overstated due to both its increase and the PDO effect. Now that we're in a cooling phase and warming has stopped ("warmists" used to talk about the warmest year on record, now they have to refer to the warmest _decade_ on record), we have a much better chance to understand the real roles of Greenhouse gases and other drivers. The next several years will be fascinating.

I thought George Monbiot was beginning to take a more balanced look at the field, but when he referred to deniers that claim climate isn't changing, I tossed my image of him back onto the clueless pile. Pity.

I wrote a good (at least some scientists assure me it's good) essay that is both an introduction to both scientific method and climate science. I did my best to take a balanced look at both sides. I strongly recommend it to George Monbiot. See "Science, Method, Climatology, and Forgetting the Basics" at .

Dec. 13 2009 11:26 AM
Evan Harper from London, Ontario, Canada

I've been listening to OTM for at least a year, and I can't recall a time when you guys screwed up so badly. There are questionable elements in the CRU data dump, but the "hide the decline" mail simply isn't one of them.

"The decline" is a decline in the temperatures reconstructed from tree-ring proxies for the last few decades. We know with a high degree of confidence that this "decline" is a problem with the proxy reconstructions, not an actual decline. We know this because the thermometers - you know, instruments actually designed to measure temperature - all disagree with the tree rings. This problem is very well known in climate science. You can literally find it in the textbooks.

OTM, you have conclusively lost the plot. Deciding not to use a flawed portion of a data set is not "fudging data," it is not "using nominal facts, assembling them artfully to tell a larger lie," it is ABSOLUTELY not "outright fraud" - and for you to make these suggestions was ignorant and irresponsible.

Again, there are legitimate questions raised by the CRU e-mails, and I don't mean to dismiss them. But you ignored the legitimate questions to focus on a completely bogus "flat-earther" claim. Epic fail.

Dec. 12 2009 01:23 AM
Kahlid from Philly

Krypton had only one Jor-El and he was honest.

Dec. 11 2009 10:07 PM

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