GOP "idea man" Gingrich repeats right wing's tired "Climategate" smears

››› ››› GREG LEWIS

Newt Gingrich -- whom numerous media figures have previously labeled the Republican Party's "idea man" -- recently posted an article on his website echoing other right-wing figures in advancing the dubious claims that the so-called "Climategate" emails stolen from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia indicate that climate scientists have attempted "to manipulate data sets in order to show warming trends" while trying to "suppress" research skeptical of global warming, and that the CRU "destroyed its original raw data" years ago. But Gingrich's claims are based on outlandish distortions and misrepresentations of the contents of the stolen emails, as well as a misleading report on the CRU's data, which greatly undermine his smears.

Media has repeatedly touted Gingrich as "idea man" of the GOP

As Media Matters has documented, Newt Gingrich has been repeatedly touted by the media as an intellectual force in the GOP. For example, during the February 26 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews described Gingrich as "the somewhat intellectual -- you know, the commissar of the right, you know, the intellectual idea man." Similarly, an April 14 Associated Press article stated, "With Gingrich, a former college history professor, the ideas sometimes come so fast and furious that even supporters say they can feel overwhelmed by a conversation with him." The article continued: "If Gingrich has his way, those ideas will spawn a movement, something akin to what Barack Obama found himself leading in 2008 as he ran to replace President Bush."

Gingrich "idea": Emails "show a deliberate attempt by several leading climate scientists to manipulate data sets in order to show warming trends"

From Gingrich's article posted on Newt.org December 1:

Emails obtained by hackers from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit show a deliberate attempt by several leading climate scientists to manipulate data sets in order to show warming trends.

[...]

Furthermore, Congress should allocate resources to reassemble raw weather data from around the world and make it publicly available so independent scientists can verify the legitimacy of the "adjusted numbers" of the Climate Research Unit. The United States -- indeed, the world, deserves an answer as to whether the adjusted data used by the IPCC (and Al Gore, with whom they shared the Nobel Prize in 2007) can be trusted. If the Climate Research Unit's adjusted numbers cannot be trusted, the IPCC needs to explain how the exclusion of such unreliable data from its scientific analysis affects the IPCC's current conclusions and recommendations about global warming.

Gingrich "idea" echoes claims made by Glenn Beck, IBD. As Media Matters for America noted, on the November 23 edition of his Fox News show, Glenn Beck read a portion of an email from Phil Jones, the head of the CRU, in which Jones wrote: "I have just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years to hide the decline." Beck added: Jones was "talking about a trick that another scientist previously used in a peer-reviewed journal to apparently hide the decline in temperatures -- incredible." Additionally, in a November 23 editorial, Investor's Business Daily stated: "In one e-mail ... Jones speaks of the 'trick' of filling in gaps of data in order to hide evidence of temperature decline."

Email referring to "Mike's Nature trick ... to hide the decline" refers to unreliable tree-ring data, not instrumental temperatures. In a November 26 article, The Morning Call of Allentown, Pennsylvania, reported that Penn State scientist Michael Mann -- whose "trick" was referenced in an email from Phil Jones, the head of the CRU -- "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." Jones has also stated that it is "well known" that tree ring data "does not show a realistic trend of temperature after 1960," and the CRU has said that "[t]he 'decline' in this set of tree-ring data should not be taken to mean that there is any problem with the instrumental temperature data." 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.

Several scientists have stated that the word "trick" is being misinterpreted. The (UK) Guardian reported in a November 20 article 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." RealClimate also explained that "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 good way to deal with a problem', rather than something that is 'secret', and so there is nothing problematic in this at all."

Gingrich "idea": Emails indicate scientists tried to "suppress research that calls into question the accuracy of supposed warming trends."

From Gingrich's article posted on Newt.org:

[The emails] also paint an ugly picture of a willingness on the part of these influential scientists to suppress research that calls into question the accuracy of supposed warming trends.

[...]

In response to these recent revelations, Congress should open an investigation into the degree of bias in the climate change community (including the journalists that report on the topic) toward suppressing research that shows slower or negligible global warming trends, or points to different causes than greenhouse gasses. It should investigate whether worthy scientific studies contradicting the global warming conclusion have been suppressed from peer reviewed literature. If Congress is going to consider legislation based on supposed scientific consensus, it has every right to conduct inquiries into whether that consensus is genuine.

Gingrich "idea" echoes claims made by Wash. Times, Wall Street Journal editorial boards. As Media Matters documented, in a December 1 editorial in The Washington Times claimed that Mann "threatened journals that had the gall to publish academic research at odds with the global-warming theocracy." A November 27 editorial in The Wall Street Journal claimed that "Mr. Mann went on to suggest that the journal itself be blackballed. ... In other words, keep dissent out of the respected journals. When that fails, redefine what constitutes a respected journal to exclude any that publish inconvenient views."

Mann's email refers to specific paper that Climate Research editors and publisher conceded should not have been published. In a March 11, 2003, email, Mann wrote that the paper by astrophysicists Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas "couldn't have cleared a 'legitimate' peer review process anywhere. That leaves only one possibility -- that the peer-review process at Climate Research has been hijacked by a few skeptics on the editorial board." The New York Times reported on August 5, 2003, that the Soon-Baliunas paper "has been heavily criticized by many scientists, including several of the journal editors. The editors said last week that whether or not the conclusions were correct, that analysis was deeply flawed." The Times further noted that the "publisher of the journal, Dr. Otto Kinne, and an editor who recently became editor in chief, Dr. Hans von Storch, both said that in retrospect the paper should not have been published as written" and that von Storch resigned, "saying he disagreed with the peer-review policies":

Advocates for cuts in emissions and scientists who hold the prevailing view on warming said the hearing backfired. It proved more convincingly, they said, that the skeptical scientists were a fringe element that had to rely increasingly on industry money and peripheral scientific journals to promote their work.

The hearing featured Dr. Willie Soon, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and a co-author of a study, with Dr. Sallie Baliunas, also an astrophysicist at the center, that said the 20th-century warming trend was unremarkable compared with other climate shifts over the last 1,000 years.

But the Soon-Baliunas paper, published in the journal Climate Research this year, has been heavily criticized by many scientists, including several of the journal editors. The editors said last week that whether or not the conclusions were correct, the analysis was deeply flawed.

The publisher of the journal, Dr. Otto Kinne, and an editor who recently became editor in chief, Dr. Hans von Storch, both said that in retrospect the paper should not have been published as written. Dr. Kinne defended the journal and its process of peer review, but distanced himself from the paper.

"I have not stood behind the paper by Soon and Baliunas," he wrote in an e-mail message. "Indeed: the reviewers failed to detect methodological flaws."

Dr. von Storch, who was not involved in overseeing the paper, resigned last week, saying he disagreed with the peer-review policies.

The Senate hearing also focused new scrutiny on Dr. Soon and Dr. Baliunas's and ties to advocacy groups. The scientists also receive income as senior scientists for the George C. Marshall Institute, a Washington group that has long fought limits on gas emissions. The study in Climate Research was in part underwritten by $53,000 from the American Petroleum Institute, the voice of the oil industry.

Mann: "I support the publication of 'skeptical' papers that meet the basic standards of scientific quality and merit." In response to the controversy surrounding the emails, Mann said that his email "[w]as in response to a very specific incident regarding a paper by Soon and Baliunas published in the journal 'Climate Research.' " Mann further stated: "I support the publication of 'skeptical' papers that meet the basic standards of scientific quality and merit. I myself have published scientific work that has been considered by some as representing a skeptical point of view on matters relating to climate change."

Gingrich "idea": "[D]amaging revelation" that CRU "had years ago destroyed its original raw data sets that it collected from weather stations around the world"

From Gingrich's article posted on Newt.org:

This embarrassment was trumped by the even more damaging revelation that the Climate Research Unit had years ago destroyed its original raw data sets that it collected from weather stations around the world that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) then relied on to formulate its conclusions about global warming. All that the Climate Research Unit now has is "value added data," which supposedly controls for variables. However, without the original data, the accuracy of these adjustments can no longer be verified by other scientists.

Gingrich "idea" previously advanced by numerous conservative media figures. As Media Matters noted, the editorial board of the New York Post, HotAir's Ed Morrissey, Fox News' Brit Hume, Wash. Examiner's Michael Barone, and conservative blog Gateway Pundit all made similar claims suggesting the CRU destroyed original data on which global warming theory is based.

CRU scientist: "We haven't destroyed anything. The data is still there." According to an October 14 Greenwire article, Jones said, "We haven't destroyed anything. The data is still there -- you can still get these stations from the [NOAA] National Climatic Data Center." The article said that Jones' statement came after the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) "blasted the research unit for the 'suspicious destruction of its original data.' " The article further noted that Jones "said that the vast majority of the station data was not altered at all" and that "[t]he research unit has deleted less than 5 percent of its original station data because the stations had several discontinuities or were affected by urbanization trends, Jones said."

NASA climate modeler: "The original data is curated at the met services where it originated." In response to a comment on his blog Real Climate asking whether it is true that the CRU lost the data, Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, replied: "No. The original data is curated at the met services where it originated."

Scientists note that datasets from other research centers show the same climate trends. The Greenwire article said that Tom Karl, director of NOAA's Climatic Data Center, "noted that the conclusions of the IPCC reports are based on several data sets in addition to the CRU, including data from NOAA, NASA and the United Kingdom Met Office. Each of those data sets basically show identical multi-decadal trends, Karl said." The article also said that Ben Santer, a climate scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, "said CRU's major findings were replicated by other groups, including the NOAA climatic data center, the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and also in Russia."

Gingrich "idea": "twin scandals raise serious questions about ... the accuracy of the underlying data that provides the rationale for the cap and trade energy tax legislation."

From Gingrich's article posted on Newt.org:

These twin scandals raise serious questions about the integrity of the scientific process in the field of climate research as well as the accuracy of the underlying data that provides the rationale for the cap and trade energy tax legislation that the House approved last June and that the Senate is now considering.

Gingrich "idea" previously touted by numerous other conservatives. As Media Matters noted, the claim that the stolen CRU emails undermine the global warming consensus was forwarded by the editorial board of The Washington Times, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Gateway Pundit and further touted by the Drudge Report and Fox Nation. The editorial board of The New York Post, Morrissey, Hume, and Barone all stated or suggested that the CRU's destruction of the supposed "raw data" undermined that consensus.

Distortions of illegally obtained documents from one group of scientists do not undermine overwhelming consensus. In a statement on the reported theft of the emails, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, stated that "no individual or small group of scientists is in a position to exclude a peer-reviewed paper from an I.P.C.C. assessment."

NASA's Gavin Schmidt: "There's nothing in the e-mails that shows that global warming is a hoax." Wired's Threat Level blog reported on November 20 that Schmidt 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.

NYT: "Hacked material is unlikely to erode the overall argument." The New York Times' Andrew Revkin reported on November 20 that "[t]he evidence pointing to a growing human contribution to global warming is so widely accepted that the hacked material is unlikely to erode the overall argument. However, the documents will undoubtedly raise questions about the quality of research on some specific questions and the actions of some scientists."

UCS: Our understanding of climate science is based "on the rigorous accumulation, testing and synthesis of knowledge." Peter Frumhoff, the director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists and an IPCC author stated, "We should keep in mind that our understanding of climate science is based not on private correspondence, but on the rigorous accumulation, testing and synthesis of knowledge often represented in the dry and factual prose of peer-reviewed literature. The scientific community is united in calling on U.S. policymakers to recognize that emissions of heat-trapping gases must be dramatically reduced if we are to avoid the worst consequences of human-induced climate change."

Yale Project on Climate Change director: "[T]here's no smoking gun in the e-mails from what I've seen." Reuters stated that Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale Project on Climate Change said, "It shows that the process of science is not always pristine. ... But there's no smoking gun in the e-mails from what I've seen." The Reuters article further noted that "the researchers involved were only a handful out of thousands across the world that have contributed to a vast convergence of data that shows the world has warmed." The article also quoted Piers Forster, an environment professor at the University of Leeds, stating, "Whilst some of the e-mails show scientists to be all too human, nothing I have read makes me doubt the veracity of the peer review process or the general warming trend in the global temperature recorded."

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Environment & Science, Climate Change
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Newt Gingrich
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