EPISODE 7   |   DECEMBER 6, 2018
Why did Donald Trump say a lot of global warming was a hoax? We follow the biggest science heist in history to find the answer.
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EPISODE 7   |   DECEMBER 6, 2018
Why did Donald Trump say a lot of global warming was a hoax? We follow the biggest science heist in history to find the answer.
Share this Post
Red Pilled America is designed to be listened to, not read. Please reference and use the audio version for exact quotes.
Patrick Courrielche: Like every year at about this time, world leaders are meeting to discuss global warming.
The topic has been a popular political football since at least Al Gore’s 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”
Al Gore: Within the decade there will be no more snows of Kilimanjaro.
Patrick Courrielche: A mere two years after the film’s launch, the issue was so hot, candidate Obama was running on his ability to change sea levels.
Barack Obama: This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow, and our planet began to heal.
Patrick Courrielche: In his run for the White House, Donald Trump would make his own remarks about climate change.
Donald Trump: So Obama is talking about all of this with the global warming. A lot of it is a hoax. It’s a hoax. I mean it’s a money-making industry ok. It’s a hoax.
Patrick Courrielche: Once elected, he took a bold action on the issue.
Donald Trump: Therefore, in order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.
Patrick Courrielche: The Paris Accord largely singled out the US to immediately reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. But other major polluters…not so much. Trump made the reason for his withdrawal clear.
Donald Trump: I cannot in good conscience support a deal that punishes the United States…while imposing no meaningful obligations on the world’s leading polluters.
Patrick Courrielche: Instead of reporting his official reason for pulling out, the far-left media, predictably, locked in on Trump’s earlier “hoax” comment.
Chris Hayes: President Trump believes climate change is a hoax.
Reporter 1: Yes or no. Does the president believe that climate change is real?
Reporter 2: Does the President believe today that climate change is a hoax?
Reporter 3: Shouldn’t you be able to tell the American people, whether or not the president still believes that climate change is a hoax?
Reporter 4: What does the president actually believe about climate change? Does he still believe it’s a hoax?
Patrick Courrielche: Obama thinks he’s the god Poseidon…the media is silent. Trump thinks some global warming claims are deceptive…the media pounces.
But his statement did raise a question that the media would never probe. Namely, why would Trump claim a lot of global warming is a hoax?
I’m Patrick Courrielche and this is Red Pilled America...a new storytelling show. This is not another talk show covering the day's news. We are all about telling stories. Stories Hollywood doesn’t want you to hear. Stories the media mocks. Stories from everyday Americans that the elites ignore. You can think of Red Pilled America as audio documentaries. And we promise only one thing...the truth.
Welcome to Red Pilled America.
Patrick Courrielche: Global warming is one of those topics – like abortion and gun control – that has become hopelessly politicized. The Left has an almost religious belief in it…and when anyone shows skepticism towards even its most extreme claims, the media labels the person a conspiracy theorist, or worse – a science denier.
When Donald Trump said some of global warming was a hoax – the media was incurious as to why he would say such a thing. What could he have possibly meant? To find the answer, we’re going to hear the story of how a small group of climate change skeptics battled the global warming establishment – and in the process changed the course of the world’s economy.
Steve Mosher: You can’t exclude the possibility that someone from CRU was the hacker.
Anthony Watts: We were never given any information that corroborated a break in.
Steve McIntyre: He was a lonewolf partisan hacker.
Jeff Condon: And I shared it with the anti-terrorist squad.
Charles Rotter: It probably was an insider…that is about as specific as I can get.
Patrick Courrielche: On a cold December night in 2007, Steve McIntyre made his way to a restaurant in downtown San Francisco. A sixty year-old, partly balding, grey-bearded Canadian, Steve couldn’t have known that he was about to join the team that would force the biggest science heist in history.
Visiting the Bay Area for a climate conference, Steve had recently won an award for best science blog and was grabbing dinner with three locals who were regular readers of his blog Climate Audit.
He was quickly becoming a rock star amongst a group of global warming skeptics that considered themselves “lukewarmers” – people that believe humans could be warming the planet, but question the magnitude of the problem and the certainty of climate science. They weren’t science deniers as their critics would say…they were just curious.
Steve fell into climate science completely by chance.
Steve McIntyre: I became interested in climate in a very casual way in 2002 when Canada was discussing joining the Kyoto Treaty.
Patrick Courrielche: Countries that joined the Kyoto Treaty had to commit to reducing their carbon dioxide emissions.
Steve McIntyre: And one of the feature arguments of the Canadian government was that 1998 was the warmest year in a thousand years. And I wondered in the most casual possible way, how they knew that.
Patrick Courrielche: Steve wasn’t a climate scientist by trade. He was a consultant on mining exploration projects. But he discussed global warming from time to time with a friend that was a geologist. And this friend told him that throughout geological history, climate was much warmer in the past than it is today.
Steve McIntyre: And he viewed the climate science alarm as being more or less equivalent to creationism.
Patrick Courrielche: So out of curiosity, Steve read the climate studies claiming 1998 was the warmest year. The reports weren’t foreign to him. Steve was accustomed to reviewing technical papers for risky mining explorations. When he reviewed the documents, a specific diagram stood out.
Steve McIntyre: And I was struck by the care with which they had made the diagram. When you’re trying to raise money, having good diagrams is important and I noticed that there was attention to the graphics. So there was a promotional element to it which caught my eye.
Patrick Courrielche: The diagram had a distinctive shape. Picture a hockey stick placed flat on the ground, with just the blade of the hockey stick pointing up to the sky. That’s what this global warming diagram looked like. The flat shaft part of the stick represented temperature changes over the past thousand years, which looked pretty constant over time, until the 1900s, when the graph dramatically shot up, like the blade of the hockey stick.
This hockey stick graph was originally created by American climate scientist Michael Mann with several of his colleagues. One of the papers introducing the graph was titled Northern Hemisphere Temperatures During the Past Millennium. But it was the subtitle that was most noteworthy. It read “Inferences, Uncertainties, and Limitations.”
Given the admitted uncertainties expressed in the subtitle, it’s hard to believe the hockey stick graph would become the poster child of certainty of global warming – but it would become just that.
Pay close attention here, because if you understand what I’m about to say, you’ll know more about climate science than ninety-nine percent of the people in the world.
This famous hockey stick graph shows the Earth’s temperature variations over the past thousand years. The problem is there were no thermometers a thousand years ago all over the Earth to capture the temperatures. In fact, it isn’t until the late 1800s that we have any thermometer-based record of temperatures around the world. So to fill in Earth’s temperatures before this time, before the 1800s, some climate scientists turned to trees.
These scientists believe that some old trees record past temperatures in their growth pattern. Picture cutting a cross-section of a tree and looking at that cross-section. What you see are tree rings, right – those are the concentric circles that start small in the center of the cross section, then get larger and larger as they reach the surface of the tree trunk. You can typically estimate the age of a tree by analyzing those tree rings. The older the tree, the more tree rings it has. We’re all pretty familiar with that concept. But some climate scientists believe that you can go even further and calculate the temperature from year to year using these tree rings. Simplistically speaking, the more growth of a tree ring, the hotter the temperature – basically providing a picture of past temperatures when thermometers weren’t around. So some climate scientists used these tree rings to calculate and find the temperatures before the 1800s.
What was alarming about this graph was that the increase in temperature coincided closely with the beginning of the industrial revolution, which started at about 1850. If true, the world’s temperature increase could be tied directly to the beginning of humans burning fossil fuels.
Theories of human-induced climate change had been around long before Michael Mann’s hockey stick graph, but his diagram gave the first powerful graphical image of global warming…so powerful that the United Nations used a version of it in their 2001 climate report. This was the document that gives guidance to governments on which policies to enact to reduce the effects of global warming.
The hockey stick graph became iconic and galvanized environmentalists to call for urgent government action on global warming.
But as history shows, inciting one group often inspires an opposing group to rise up. So is the story of the hockey stick. Just as quickly as the graph was used as a rallying call for global warming activists, it also gave birth to a camp of skeptics.
That’s where the Canadian Steve McIntyre enters the picture.
The hockey stick graph confused Steve. A well-known Medieval Warming Period, where Earth’s temperature increased considerably sometime between the year 1000 and 1300 AD, followed by a cooling trend known as the Little Ice Age was widely accepted in the science community, and suggested that the Earth went through natural phases of warming and cooling. But these events were absent from the hockey stick. McIntyre was curious about how the graph was made and as chance would have it, the discipline of reconstructing temperatures using tree rings, largely an exercise in statistics, fit right within his mathematics background. Steve was a math whiz in his early years.
Steve McIntyre: I studied pure math at university and…I'd stood first in Canada in the high school math contest in the international high school math contest… so it was a form of almost athletic activity for me.
Patrick Courrielche: Steve studied economics at Oxford, and had been offered a PhD scholarship at both Harvard and MIT. But after his university studies he decided to enter the private sector instead of academia.
Steve McIntyre: I hadn't done any math since I was 21 or 22, but because I'd learned it well as a teenager…the comparison that I made it's like you were a Davis Cup tennis player and going in a club tournament when you're 55…you'd be a tough out. Even if you hadn't played for a long time you could pick it up fairly quickly…
Patrick Courrielche: His work in mining exploration also prepared him in another way.
Steve McIntyre: In the mining exploration business there's a lot of promotion, there's a lot of crookedness. So you have to learn to be fairly skeptical and wary and to look at data, look at what people are saying and not necessarily believe everything you're told. And so I have an eye for promotional claims or claims that were not necessarily supported. So while I hadn't spent that time in academics I spent time with tricky people and learning how to you know check things.
Patrick Courrielche: So he decided to reach out to American climate scientist Michael Mann to get his hands on the data and computer code that he used to create the hockey stick graph.
Steve McIntyre: So I emailed Mann for his data and…he responded promptly and said that he had forgotten where the FTP site for the data was…
Patrick Courrielche: An FTP site is an online location where people store data and computer files for colleagues to access over the Internet.
Steve McIntyre: It seemed extraordinary to me that the data was not readily at hand. And it also seemed particularly extraordinary to me that I guess a thirty-five year old guy who's this was his study that was his claim to fame, how he wouldn’t know at his fingertips where the data was.
Patrick Courrielche: If the hockey stick data wasn’t readily available, it told Steve something else.
Steve McIntyre. What that meant to me is that nobody had audited the data.
Patrick Courrielche: This was stunning to Steve. The UN was using the hockey stick graph to argue a reconfiguration of the entire world’s economy. Steve couldn’t understand how such important data was not readily available and seemingly not being reviewed with a skeptical eye.
Steve McIntyre: And I thought well if none of them have audited it, I will… I'll try to figure out what Mann did and I viewed it as trying to solve a big crossword puzzle.
Patrick Courrielche: The decision wasn’t a political one for Steve. At the time he considered himself a Bill Clinton Democrat. He was just curious, and had some time on his hands.
Michael Mann’s associate eventually got Steve a version of the data that created his hockey stick, and once Steve began reviewing it, he thought he saw some red flags.
Steve McIntyre: I started looking at some of the data and wasn’t entirely clear where the shape of the hockey stick came from.
Patrick Courrielche: He became suspicious that they were possibly cherry picking the temperature data so that a hockey stick would result no matter what data was entered into the climate model. To test his theory, he input random data, called red noise, into a climate model and out popped a hockey stick graph.
Steve began posting some of his analysis in skeptic chat groups online. His work immediately stood out because his analysis was not based on emotion. Instead it was data driven. And he learned something surprising about the people that liked his work.
Steve McIntyre: A lot of skeptics I guess would be people like me who felt that the climate was an issue but…were concerned that it was being oversold as an issue.
Patrick Courrielche: His posts led to a small science journal asking him to write an article. He’d never written an academic paper before. So he teamed up with an academic he met in the skeptic chat rooms. That person was Ross McKitrick, an environmental economist with a PhD in economics, who’d authored a book skeptical about global warming.
The two worked on papers evaluating Michael Mann’s original hockey stick graph, highlighting what they saw as his errors in using the data. In 2004, some of their findings forced Michael Mann and his colleagues to publish corrections to their original hockey stick paper. However they didn’t change any of their underlying results.
But the skeptics’ work drew blood. So climate scientists started a blog called Real Climate to debunk their detractors.
Steve McIntyre: They begin their existence with a series of blogs slagging me…somebody who was following it sent me an email and said…if you think you can win your disputes by, in academic journals you're getting killed.
Patrick Courrielche: Steve had a pretty amateurish website at the time.
Steve McIntyre: So somebody…proposed the name Climate Audit and proposed that I start a blog. And so he arranged to…kind of get it set up for me. And I started writing and found that I liked it.
Patrick Courrielche: These dueling websites began a daily online battle between climate scientists and global warming skeptics.
One of the main contention points between the two camps has been a concept known as divergence.
Some climate scientists noticed a problem with using tree rings to calculate today’s temperatures. What they found was that some tree rings showed a decrease in temperatures starting at around 1961 while actual thermometer readings showed a temperature increase – the science and the thermometers weren’t matching up.
So what climate scientists did in some of the hockey stick graphs was delete the tree ring temperatures after 1961 to hide the tree-ring decline in temperatures, replacing them with the actual thermometer temperatures. Their rationale was that the tree rings weren’t capturing today’s higher temperatures. The skeptics thought this was bad science. And why? Because it raised the question that if the tree rings aren’t recording the higher temperatures of today, couldn’t tree rings have also missed higher temperatures in the past as well? Today’s spike in temperatures could have also been there one thousand years ago – meaning today’s high temperatures weren’t unprecedented.
This divergence appeared to show a serious problem with some of the science behind the hockey stick graphs.
Steve McIntyre asked Michael Mann to provide more of the data and the computer codes used to create his hockey stick graphs. But by then, Mann had completely cut Steve off.
Their feud began reaching the mainstream media.
Steve McIntyre: So the Wall Street Journal writes an article and that catches the eye of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Patrick Courrielche: And in 2006, a series of government hearings began questioning climate science, and asking if they were in fact cherry picking data to create the hockey stick graph.
Steve McIntyre: I remember Roseanne D'Arrigo, one of the famous tree ring people, talked about cherry picking and said…you have to pick cherries if you want to make cherry pie…and I thought that that neatly summarized the approach of the tree ring people.
Patrick Courrielche: In other words, it sounded like the scientists were cherry picking the data to get the results they wanted – a hockey stick.
Steve chronicled the hearings and his analysis on his blog Climate Audit, and his readership grew.
Steve McIntyre: My audience was highly professional. A lot of scientists from other fields, a lot of people in finance businesses, a lot of computer programmers, business professionals, people who didn't have the time to parse the data themselves but were interested in reading about it.
Patrick Courrielche: Readers like San Francisco native Steve Mosher. An open source software developer, Mosher was aligned with most of what climate scientists believed. But when he began questioning some of their work at their blog Real Climate, he got a very negative response.
Steve Mosher: It kinda shocked me and so I pushed back against that…at some point they were railing about this guy at Climate Audit. And I thought let me go look and see what this is. So I went over to Climate Audit and he was doing math.
Patrick Courrielche: Mosher liked Steve McIntyre’s desire for transparency in climate science…and became a regular commenter on his blog.
The online feud also drew in Charles Rotter, another San Francisco native.
Charles Rotter: I had sorta gotten drawn to the whole climate argument…it really started heating up on McIntyre’s site 2006 and 2007, and it became fun serial drama, like an online community.
Patrick Courrielche: Another reader, Anthony Watts, lived just north of San Francisco. Anthony was actually a global warming activist back in the early 1990s.
Anthony Watts: And I came up with this idea of doing a series of promotions through television meteorologists around the country to get their viewers to plant trees to offset CO2. And we planted about a half a million trees because of that.
Patrick Courrielche: He’d spent years as a research assistant at the meteorology department at Purdue University. In 2006, he started a science blog called Watts Up With That and began investigating the thermometers used to measure global warming. And what he found shocked him.
Anthony Watts: It really began to start take off in around 2007. I started surveying weather stations around the country. And it got quite a bit of attention, particularly from a station in Marysville, California not too far from me that I’d surveyed. And it was basically a thermometer right in the middle of the parking lot at the fire station. The fire chief parked his vehicle in a special parking space right next to the thermometer where the grill of the fire chief’s truck was right up against the thermometer a couple feet away. And the city had rented out space for a cell phone tower and there were these two equipment sheds blowing hot air from the air conditioning vents all in this area.
Patrick Courrielche: And this thermometer had been showing that Maryville’s temperature had been increasing off the charts.
Anthony Watts: And it was just zoom off the scale. And I looked at nearby stations and the similar trend wasn’t there. And it was just another light bulb moment for me. It’s like wow, this is where climate science is measuring data, and they consider this accurate? And I put that out, and it got picked up by Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit.
Patrick Courrielche: Anthony, and the two other Bay Area natives Mosher and Charles became friendly with Steve McIntyre through his Climate Audit blog. Mosher remembers how he met the guys for the first time.
Steve Mosher: At one point, McIntyre mentions that he’s coming to San Francisco, one of the people on the site…it ends up being Charles Rotter…and he says oh if you’re coming to San Francisco Steve McIntyre why don’t we get together for dinner. And so I chimed in and I said, heck I’ll join you…Anthony showed up as well.
Anthony Watts: We had been talking online and we decided to meet up. And so we met at a restaurant in downtown San Francisco in 2007 in December. And that’s where this friendship and partnership was formed out of that.
Patrick Courrielche: Little did any of them know how pivotal that dinner would be.
Anthony told the table that his skeptic blog, Watts Up With That, was growing faster than he could handle. Charles offered help.
Charles Rotter: And I basically told him I had tons of experience moderating back from my own site days, I also had lots of time on my hands and I worked from home, and I would be happy to give him help moderating.
Patrick Courrielche: Anthony took him up on his offer.
Charles and Mosher hit it off as well, and would become roommates. These four and the many commenters on their blogs would meticulously audit the work of climate scientists.
The feud between the two camps had been reaching epic proportions – even spilling into Capital Hill. But what escalated the conflict further was something basic in science – verification of results. The climate scientists refused to allow the skeptics access to their work so that they could review it. Steve McIntyre would ask for the data and computer code used to create the hockey stick graphs, but at every turn the climate scientists would stonewall his requests. With Michael Mann completely cutting him off, Steve looked to audit graphs of a different hockey stick team – the climate scientists at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, known by its acronym CRU.
When politics enters science, the results can only be trusted when qualified people with a skeptical eye verifies the work. By this time, Steve McIntyre was a published author on the topic of hockey stick graphs. He’d even become a reviewer of the UN’s mother of all global warming reports. None of that mattered. CRU rejected his request for data claiming that they had confidentiality agreements with the countries that provided them temperature data, and those agreements prohibited them from distributing that information.
But Steve discovered that CRU had given their data to another institution, which typically nullifies a confidentiality agreement – so Steve told them they should be free to give him the data. But CRU figured out another way to reject him.
Steve McIntyre: So they responded that their confidentiality agreements prevented them from giving the data to a non-academic. Why would some agreement 25 years earlier include a term like that. That was just a fabrication. It’s that kind of fabrication by the climate community that really undercuts a lot of their claims on other topics. Because that’s something that’s easily checked, people understand, and so if they’re lying about something like that, what else are they lying about.
Patrick Courrielche: So Steve got an idea.
Both the UK and the United States enacted Freedom of Information Acts, known by their acronyms as FOIs or FOIAs. These laws provided access to information that was created using tax dollars.
Steve decided to use these laws to get what he wanted. He submitted an FOI request to climate researchers asking for the confidentiality agreements they claimed to have with five different countries. Then he turned to his blog audience.
Steve McIntyre: Then I posted up my letter and asked readers to send in FOI requests for other countries. I viewed it more as a letter writing campaign that if it was just me asking for it they’d just say, ‘Oh well it’s McIntyre. He’s crazy.’ Where as, if they got fifty letters, they’d then have to reconsider what they were doing and give it out after all. I probably underestimated their stubbornness on this.
Patrick Courrielche: CRU rejected his requests again.
But all these attempts at getting data sent Steve McIntryre’s Climate Audit readers on a hunting expedition.
You see, Steve had been taking these readers on a journey. Slowly teaching his audience along the way. About the uncertainties in climate science. Journaling the specific data that he was being refused. Their stonewalling riled up his audience. Getting their data became a game of capture the flag.
At the time of the rejection, many readers began to learn that CRU had an online data storage location – an FTP site. And they began rummaging through them to see if they could find the data that they were refusing to give to Steve.
Steve McIntyre: And I remember a couple of them saying that they fell into areas of the CRU website that were unexpected.
Patrick Courrielche: Steve’s readers were actually finding themselves in private areas on the climate researchers’ website. Their data appeared vulnerable – a vulnerability that would change the course of the world’s economy.
Anthony Watts: Sometimes you’re so busy defending the front door you forget the backdoor is open.
Patrick Courrielche: At about 5pm on November 17, 2009, Mosher was heading home from a coffee shop when he got a call.
Steve Mosher: Charles and I lived south of Market on 4th Street…And I was over in the Marina at the other side of San Francisco…I was there having coffee with friends…so I’m headed home, I got into a cab to go back to SOMA. And Charles calls me. And he says, ‘Where are you?’ And I said, ‘I’m over in the Marina. I’m headed back to the apartment. What’s up?’ And he says, ‘You gotta get here.’
Patrick Courrielche: Since meeting at dinner in San Francisco two years earlier, Charles had become the primary comment moderator at Anthony Watt’s skeptic blog Watts Up With That.
Charles Rotter: I was keeping odd hours. So I might sleep for three hours, and not sleep for three hours. But I was constantly online, approving comments, making flippant comments.
Patrick Courrielche: That afternoon he came across a comment on the site that stood out. A commenter named FOIA posted a link to a Russian server with text that appeared to be snippets of emails.
At the time, Anthony Watt’s was out of the country.
Anthony Watts: I was in Belgium at the time. I was at the headquarters for the European Union and I was there to give a presentation along with some other climate skeptics.
Patrick Courrielche: So Charles was manning the site on his own. The comment looked weird so he blocked it from going public and went to the Russian link to see what it was. It was a zip file of what appeared to be documents and emails from CRU – the Climate Research Unit. When he reviewed the contents, his first thought was…
Charles Rotter: Holy sh*t is what was going through my mind. It was a real treasure trove showing what was essentially just activist science operating. Not objective, not reasonable. I’m not gonna call it completely fraudulent or a hoax, but it was like activist scientists, as we’re now experiencing with activist journalism. Yes, people are still telling facts, but they’re telling it from such a skewed perspective, you might as well call it lies. It was the cause. They were actually saying, ‘If this guy says this it’s not going to be helpful to the cause.’ That’s not scientific inquiry.
Patrick Courrielche: This was a highly sensitive situation. The files were likely either leaked by an insider, or stolen, or perhaps something even more problematic. Charles contacted Anthony to get some direction.
Anthony Watts: And this came in an email to me from Charles Rotter you need to look at this. And he told me in the email what was going on. And I got on the phone with him. And this was a couple hours before I was supposed to go into the EU. And I had been forewarned about security and I was going to be searched and all this stuff. And so in seeing what Charles had, and then actually downloading it and looking at it briefly myself. And looking at the timing of it all I’m thinking to myself, why now? Why right before I’m supposed to go in to the EU and go through security. And so my concern was that somehow I was being set up. I didn’t know.
Charles Rotter: We were very worried that this was a set up. Anthony at this point was getting a lot of notoriety. And who knows what kind of data theft and libel laws and things existed in Europe that they could nail Anthony on if he was found with this thing.
Anthony Watts: All of a sudden I had in my possession on my laptop over there in Belgium these very sensitive files. And I was gonna go into this big security test here in a couple hours. So my thought was I need to divest myself of this file. And I purchased a professional file eraser and I told Charles that under no circumstances are you to release this on the blog or anything…because I needed to get back in the United States and I don’t want to be listed as someone who’s been involved in some kind of industrial espionage or anything like that. And so, he agreed to that.
Patrick Courrielche: Charles had strict direction not to publish the files but he was given the okay to talk about them with two people – the other two from their San Francisco dinner two years earlier – Mosher and Steve McIntyre.
Charles Rotter: And so I also called my roommate Steven Mosher…
Patrick Courrielche: Mosher was fully versed in the raging feud between the skeptics and climate scientists over access to data and code. And he was the only person that could authenticate the contents without Charles losing control of the files.
Steve Mosher: And so what he told me was that he got this link in this comment. And so he told me he downloaded the contents. And so, Charles said Anthony wanted me to look at it. He was concerned that someone had put it on his site to trap him essentially and that it was fake.
Patrick Courrielche: When Mosher walked in the door, Charles was waiting for him and made him a CD of the files.
Charles Rotter: By that point I’d already done all the virus scans, and Trojan scans to make sure it was clean.
Steve Mosher: So I took the CD, and I put it on my at that point I had an Apple computer. And I sat on the couch, and I started reading. And I didn’t stop reading. And I didn’t move and I didn’t eat. And I just read everything.
Patrick Courrielche: What was in the leaked documents was shocking. Climate scientists massaging data and appearing to pressure colleagues to change their results so they wouldn’t give ammunition to skeptics. Climate scientists appearing to collude to delete emails, withhold data, and limit the scientific review of their work. And stunning admissions of doubt and uncertainty in their methods.
As Joe Biden would say, this was a big f••king deal.
Mosher, Charles, and Anthony all thought that they were the only people that had the file. So they felt they had some time to think about what to do next. And anyways, they couldn’t do anything with the files until Anthony was back on American soil. So their first mission was to figure out if the files were authentic.
As they combed through the documents in those first few hours they noticed climate scientists had forwarded emails from Steve McIntyre. So they got on the phone with Steve.
Steve McIntyre: Mosher calls me because he sees some emails from me in it and nobody knows at the…beginning whether it’s real or not. And so he called me are those your emails. And yeah, I can confirm their authenticity.
Patrick Courrielche: Now they knew some of the emails were definitely real, but they weren’t sure that they were all real.
Mosher went nonstop reading the emails for the next day…spending hours on the phone with Steve McIntyre trying to confirm their authenticity.
Then they got a break.
A professor at the University of East Anglia emailed Steve McIntyre asking if he knew anything about a hack of their Climate Research Unit.
Steve McIntyre: He said there’s some big lock down at the University.
Patrick Courrielche: This was the sign they needed. The files were real.
But they couldn’t go public yet. Anthony Watts was still not on American soil. Mosher was chomping at the bit to go live. Charles had to hold the line.
Charles Rotter: I was just calmly making coffee in the kitchen and just telling him that if this is as important as we think it is, two or three days is not gonna matter.
Patrick Courrielche: With Anthony now in a flight pattern heading for Dulles International Airport in Virginia, Mosher had been reading the emails for almost two days straight. That’s when they decided to search the Internet to see if the hacker posted the Russian link anywhere else.
Steve Mosher: At that point Charles started looking and he found the same link. He found it at Jeff’s.
Patrick Courrielche: Jeff Condon, an aeronautical engineer, had started a lukewarmer site called The Air Vent a little over a year earlier. He started the blog to translate some of Steve McIntyre’s climate analysis for a non-technical audience.
Jeff, like the rest of the lukewarmers, believed that transparency in climate science was key.
Jeff Condon: The whole purpose of our climate blogs…was to put everything in the open where people can see the information. And there was some efforts on the science community not to allow access.
Patrick Courrielche: This belief made his website a trigger for this bombshell.
The hacker came to be known as Mr. FOIA. The first time we can see him infiltrate CRUs data server was on September 16th 2009 – just a few weeks after the Climate Research Unit denied Steve McIntyre’s request for their confidentiality agreements. Mr. FOIA infiltrated again on September 28th, 29th, and 30th. He was grabbing documents related to the hockey stick graph. Mr. FOIA infiltrated again on October 1st, 2nd, and again the 3rd. He appeared to be looking for something. But what?
Steve McIntyre: You wonder what it was? It was an interesting one.
Patrick Courrielche: What was it?
Steve McIntyre: It was the data that had been the topic about the fight about years before that Mann had refused to provide me.
Patrick Courrielche: The infiltrator found it on November 16th. It would be a matter of hours before the files hit the web.
The next day, Mr. FOIA gained access to the climate scientists’ blog Real Climate, locked out all other users, and uploaded the stolen CRU files to their site. Mr. FOIA then went to Steven McIntyre’s blog and posted a comment with a link to the file he’d just uploaded…and included the text “A miracle just happened.”
This guy was a prankster with balls.
The administrator of Real Climate quickly regained access to the blog and deleted the file from public view.
With the link to the stolen files now gone, Mr. FOIA went another route to leak the files. He uploaded the files to a Russian server, then posted a link to the files on both Anthony Watts’ blog Watts Up With That, and Jeff Condon’s The Air Vent. As we already know, the comment on Watts Up With That was held in moderation. Jeff Condon, however, had a different philosophy for his site.
Jeff Condon: In the spirit of openness, The Air Vent was a site where I literally didn’t do any moderation. I would let any comment go on the site. If somebody dropped a comment on there, it was immediately available for the reader.
Patrick Courrielche: At the time that Mr. FOIA posted a link to the stolen files on his site, Jeff was practically as far away from the heat of the climate debate as you can be.
Jeff Condon: I was out in the deep woods hunting deer…up north in Michigan where there was actually no phone service, no cell phone service, no internet.
Patrick Courrielche: The link to the stolen files sat in his comment section for two days while Jeff was in the middle of nowhere. So when Charles told Mosher he found a link to the files on Jeff’s site, the game changed for Mosher. He reached out to Anthony Watts, who was now in line at US Customs.
Steve Mosher: By this point I say, the cats out of the bag. So I went to Anthony and I said like hey I promised you that I would not post them anywhere or send them to anyone or show them to anyone. But now that we know that your place is not the only place…our agreement is off.
Patrick Courrielche: Mosher began posting excerpts of the emails at a small skeptic site, and the lukewarmer community started buzzing. The biggest story in global warming history was about to break.
Anthony Watts: I’m in line to go through Customs, and I’m getting text messages from Charles, Steven Mosher, and Steve McIntyre. And they’re starting to talk about this. And I remember saying back to McIntyre, ‘the whole thing’s gotta be a hoax.’ And that was just sort of a preemptive in case someone grabbed my phone, I didn’t look complicit. And so I got through Customs, and once I got through Customs and I’m back on US soil. The first thing that I did was find WiFi and sat down and I wrote the story. And I wrote the story sitting on the floor at Dulles Airport waiting for my flight to depart…I heard them saying, last call for boarding, and I hit send and publish and I’m running for the door…
And I got on the plane and I had a four, five hour flight back to Sacramento California. And that was a time when there was no WiFi on airplanes. So it was kind of a, what have I done kind of a moment.
Patrick Courrielche: With the biggest skeptic blog in the world now covering the story, it went viral. A reader on Watts Up With That dubbed the scandal Climategate. The name stuck. And it was a bombshell.
Brian Williams: Climategate they’re calling it. A new scandal over global warming and it’s burning up the Internet. Have the books been cooked on climate change?
ABC News Reporter #1: Hot topic. Did scientists skew their research to support theories of global warming?
Rush Limbaugh: This is a world wide hoax, and it’s primary target was you. The people of the United States of America.
Sean Hannity: Now that we find out that this institute in fact was hiding from the people of Great Britain and the world that in fact climate change is a hoax, something I’ve been saying for a long time.
NBC Reporter: Those who doubt that manmade greenhouse gases are changing the climate, say these emails from Britain’s University of East Anglia show climate scientists massaging data and suppressing studies by those who disagree.
ABC News Reporter #2: One of the most damning emails credits Mann with a trick to hide the decline in temperatures. In another the head of the National Center for Atmospheric Research writes a colleague, “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.”
Patrick Courrielche: The scandal even reached into pop culture…hitting the news desk of Jon Stewart.
Fox News Reporter #1: I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e. from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.
Jon Stewart: Ha. You see it’s nothing. He was just using a trick, to hide the decline. It’s just scientist speak for using a standard statistical technique recalibrating data in order to trick you into not knowing about the decline.
Patrick Courrielche: The leaked documents didn’t debunk human caused global warming, but Climategate did uncover serious issues with climate science. Its bias. Its attempt to avoid scrutiny. Its refusal to show its work to skeptics. Its odd massaging of data. And the uncertainties of the hockey stick graph. This could all be seen in the emails.
Mr. FOIA, the leaker of the files, was never caught. UK law enforcement closed its case after two and a half years with no suspects. Apparently Mr. FOIA wiped his trace clean.
For a brief moment it appeared change was coming. The global warming media chastised the scientists involved in the scandal, and called for a new transparency in their work. A few climate scientists even became skeptics…including Dr. Judith Curry
Judith Curry: I thank the Chairman and the ranking members for the opportunity to offer testimony today. Prior to 2009, I felt that supporting the IPCC consensus on climate change was the responsible thing to do. I bought into the argument, don’t trust what one scientist says trust what an international team of a thousands scientists has said after years of careful deliberation. That all changed for me in November 2009 following the leak Climategate emails that illustrated the sausage making and even bullying that went into building the consensus.
Patrick Courrielche: But the calls for reform didn’t last.
Charles Rotter: And the establishment managed to put up all its defenses…Then slowly the establishment crushed it.
Patrick Courrielche: Several investigations concluded, largely exonerating the climate scientists. After all was done, they proceeded to go right back to the practices that led to the leak in the first place.
Steve McIntyre: The climate scientist community has sort of become angrier as a result of it...Afterwards, they doubled down in becoming even more insular…their reaction was not to blame themselves for their language but they blamed skeptics for putting pressure on them which caused them to write badly.
I thought that the people ought to have disowned the practice of deleting data to hide the decline. But they didn’t do that, they blamed skeptics for asking questions.
Patrick Courrielche: Climate scientists returned to calling skeptics science deniers…a label meant to marginalize lukewarmers like Anthony Watts because the truth of their position is harder to combat.
Anthony Watts: I believe that carbon dioxide does have an effect on the temperature of the Earth. The only real scientific question is: How much? And that question has been in flux and unanswered for over thirty years. It hasn’t been nailed down. How much temperature increase do we get for a doubling of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere? And the estimates range in science anywhere from a half a degree to eight degrees. There’s no actual number where everyone can say, ‘This is it. This is the right number.’ They’ve not nailed that down in thirty some years of climate science. And with something that’s that uncertain, how do you plan for the future? How do you say we’re in a crisis or not? And that is the big question. And so yes I believe carbon dioxide has some effect. How much, is still the question.
Patrick Courrielche: Which brings us back to the question at hand. Why did President Trump say a lot of global warming was a hoax?
The answer is Climategate.
Donald Trump: They probably see the email that was sent a couple of months ago by one of the leaders of the global warming, the initiative almost saying, I guess they’re saying, it’s a con…
Patrick Courrielche: The hockey stick was considered to be gospel, even with its scientific uncertainties. It was then used as a weapon to try and punish the US while leaving the biggest polluters unscathed. To some, that might look a lot like a hoax. And it was all stopped by a tiny collective of bloggers.
What this small group of skeptics did was absolutely incredible. The global warming establishment’s resistance to their constant auditing forced the release of the Climategate files. The message that those files delivered eventually planted a seed in the mind of citizen Trump that ultimately blossomed into him withdrawing from the Paris Accord once elected. That decision altered the course of the world’s economy – and it can all be traced back to a few lukewarmers. That’s how big Climategate was. But you don’t have to take my word for it, believe Trump’s own words just a few months after Climategate broke.
Donald Trump: I think that the memorandum or whatever it was that they found a few months ago was devastating. By the leaders of the movement of global warming. I think that was devastating. Because that basically said you people are a bunch of jerks to follow us. And we’re just kidding. I really think that was just the beginning.
Adryana Cortez: Red Pilled America is an iHeartRadio Original Podcast. It’s produced by Patrick Courrielche and myself Adryana Cortez for Inform Ventures. To hear the story behind this story, please consider becoming a Backstage subscriber to listen to exclusive behind the scene clips. To subscribe visit Red Pilled America dot com and click the support button in the top menu. That’s Red Pilled America dot com and click support in the top menu. Thanks for listening.