ClimateGate debunked?

The AP reports no evidence of faked science. Skeptics point to e-mails entangling an AP reporter in the mess


Andrew Leonard
December 15, 2009 11:36PM (UTC)

Over the weekend, my Twitter feed overflowed with references to an Associated Press investigation of the climate change hacked e-mails, citing it is as definitive proof that "the messages don't support claims that the science of global warming was faked."

In reaching that conclusion, the story provides useful context to the e-mails, polls outside scientists for their reactions to the contretemps, and pulls no punches in describing bad behavior by the climate researchers at East Anglia University. It finishes with this coda:

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The AP is mentioned several times in the e-mails, usually in reference to a published story.... The archive also includes a request from an AP reporter, one of the writers of this story, for reaction to a study, a standard step for journalists seeking quotes for their stories.

Aha, shouted the climate skeptic blogosphere, which wasted no time in parading the e-mail in question, written by AP reporter Seth Borenstein, earlier this summer:

Kevin, Gavin, Mike,

It's Seth again. Attached is a paper in JGR today that Marc Morano is hyping wildly. It's in a legit journal. Whatchya think?

Seth

For the skeptics, this e-mail is enough to prove that Borenstein "is just too damn cozy with the people he covers." I don't know about that. It seems like typical due diligence from a reporter, in a conversational style appropriate to interaction with sources that you trust. Formerly a top aide to Senator James Inhofe, Marc Morano is, without doubt, a master at the art of wildly hyping. He is a primal font of climate skepticism, with the amp always turned up to 11. I like David Roberts' summary:

Morano's entire job is to aggregate every misleading factoid, every attack on climate science or scientists, every crank skeptical statement from anyone in the world and send it all out periodically in email blasts that get echoed throughout the right-wing blog world and eventually find their way into places like Fox News and the Weekly Standard. From there they go, via columnists like George Will and Charles Krauthammer, into mainstream outlets like Newsweek and the Washington Post.

For a good example of how Morano conducts his business, here's an attack on none other than Seth Borenstein, which he published in August at his blog, ClimateDepot.

When you cover a beat as a journalist, it doesn't take long to learn who is trustworthy and who is a tool. Indeed, one of the big problems with mainstream journalism is that too many reporters don't let their readers know what they really think about the sources they quote or cite. I haven't been able yet to find a copy of Borenstein's report on the above-mentioned study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research -- which argued, by the way, that natural causes, not humans, were responsible for rising sea surface temperatures -- but I'll bet that Borenstein did not tell his readers that Mark Morano was "wildly hyping" it. And that's a shame, because the more we know about Mark Morano's tactics, the more we can understand why climate researchers who have to deal with his misrepresentations on a daily basis were driven to injudicious decisions.

As for me, I think Morano is a tool. And for the record, his old boss thinks the same of me.


Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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