Saturday, January 16, 2010

Climategate: Russian Climate Skeptics Can't Decide if British Scientists Made the Porridge Too Hot or Too Cold!

"[T]he 'hacker-patriot' community which Russian security agencies are encouraging if not controlling might ultimately threaten precisely those who are currently cheering it on."--Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia: FSB Encourages, Guides Russia’s ‘Hacker-Patriots’

According to the British media, Tomsk "hacker patriots," encouraged by the FSB (Russian state security), may have hacked into the server of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) and stolen e-mails and other documents. The documents were subsequently posted on a server in the Siberian city of Tomsk that is reportedly owned by a Russian "security business" and used by Tomsk State University.

Here is a search under Российские хакеры Томск (Russian hackers Tomsk). Here is a "news" search for Фил Джонс (Phil Jones, the scientist at the center of the CRU controversy). Here is a "news" search for ФСБ хакеры Томск [FSB (domestic state security) hackers Tomsk]. Here is a search for Климатгейт [Climategate].

High UN officials have publically accused Russian hackers and even the Russian FSB of complicity in the theft of the CRU documents. The U.N. officials have charged that the Russians hoped to derail the Copenhagen climate talks. The Independent (12-7-09) reports:

The computer hack, said a senior member of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, was not an amateur job, but a highly sophisticated, politically motivated operation. And others went further. The guiding hand behind the leaks, the allegation went, was that of the Russian secret services.

..."It's very common for hackers in Russia to be paid for their services," Professor Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, the vice chairman of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, said in Copenhagen at the weekend. "It's a carefully made selection of emails and documents that's not random. This is 13 years of data, and it's not a job of amateurs.

On May 31, 2007, Russia expert Paul Goble wrote about the FSB encouragement of Tomsk hackers and predicted that the actions of Russian "hacker patriots" might eventually backfire on the FSB. I remember how the Soviet propaganda campaign to blame AIDS on the crafty plots of American scientists backfired spectacularly on the KGB. Russian scientists publically distanced themselves from the KGB-sponsored propaganda, and eventually KGB chief Primakov admitted to an audience of university students that the KGB had spread the lie that American Army scientists invented AIDS to kill black people. His admission was published in Izvestia (3-19-92):

[KGB Chief Primakov] mentioned the well known articles printed a few years ago in our central newspapers about AIDS supposedly originating from secret Pentagon laboratories. According to Yevgeni Primakov, the articles exposing US scientists' 'crafty' plots were fabricated in KGB offices.

Certainly Climategate seems to have embarrassed the FSB: the Russian state security is currently claiming that their specialists have evidence suggesting that Chinese hackers are the culprits. (The FSB aren't blaming disgruntled CRU insiders.)

At first, the Russians didn't name the Chinese. The British Daily Mail Online (12-13-09) reported:

Russian secret service agents admitted yesterday that the hacked ‘Warmergate’ emails were uploaded on a Siberian internet server, but strenuously denied a clandestine state-sponsored operation to wreck the Copenhagen summit.

..."We are not prepared to release details, but we might if the false claims about the FSB’s involvement do not stop," [a Russian intelligence source] said. ‘The emails were uploaded to the Tomsk server but we are sure this was done from outside Russia.’

Russian print media, on the other hand, has reported that the FSB may be complicit in the hacking. Sometimes, the Russian media has claimed that disgruntled CRU insiders were the culprits. The Russian media has barely reported the FSB claim that the Chinese are the hackers, although one Russian-language article in Novaya (12-7-09) suggested that the Chinese customers of the Tomcity server had a bigger motive than the Russians for hacking the CRU. The article was defensive, provided no forensic evidence, and closed with this admonition:

And so Englishmen, before you accuse hackers from the city of Tomsk, turn your attention to their customers from Peking.

The British Daily Mail On-Line (12-27-09) subsequently published a story--reportedly based on FSB sources--that blamed the Chinese. A Russian hacker site (12-28-09) promptly echoed the Daily Mail's claims and carried an English-language article titled "Chinese hackers linked to 'Warmergate' climate change leaked emails controversy." Except for Novaya (12-7-09) and (12-28-09), the Russian print and Internet media do not appear to be reporting the FSB claim that the Chinese may have hacked into the CRU server.

Some western skeptics claim that it doesn't matter who stole the e-mails because they "speak for themselves." However, Russian climate change sceptics are leveling contradictory charges of fraud against British climate scientists. Some Russian skeptics allege that the hacked e-mails prove that the CRU scientists hid evidence that the climate is really cooling. Other Russian climate skeptics, such as Andrei Illarionov's Institute for Economic Analysis (IEA), claim that British scientists are exaggerating the extent of global warming. [Illarionov is also associated with the Libertarian Cato Institute.]

An English-language analysis of Illarionov's views appears in Bloomberg (12-16-09). Maria Kolesnikova writes from Moscow:

The Moscow institute founded by a former adviser to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the U.K. government manipulated Russian climate data to make a bolder case for global warming than warranted.
Researchers at the Hadley Centre, the climate change research arm of the Met Office, Britain’s national weather service, “purposefully rejected temperature data for 40 percent of our country’s territory,” or about one-eighth of the world’s landmass, the Moscow-based Institute of Economic Analysis said in a report posted on its Web site yesterday.

“The systemic selection of data” by British researchers has exaggerated warming in Russia by 0.64 degree Centigrade, the institute said. Analyzing data for the whole world in the same way could lead to a “significant” overestimation of global warming during the 20th century, the Russian research group said in the report.

The report was edited by Andrei Illarionov...a senior fellow at the Washington-based Cato Institute [and] the Kremlin’s senior economic adviser during Putin’s first term as president. A vocal opponent of the Kyoto protocol, Illarionov quit in 2005 to protest what he said was the state’s increasing role in the economy.

...Illarionov’s institute said its conclusions were based on data made public by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia in Norwich to quell growing criticism over leaked e-mails that appeared to show that some British researchers tweaked or suppressed statistics to silence detractors. In the e-mails, researchers exchanged comments about withholding data from critics seeking to discredit their work.

The Met Office refuted the Russian criticism, saying it would be “impossible” to manipulate the data.

“It’s the World Meteorological Organization that chooses the stations for use in climate monitoring,” Met Office spokesman John Hammond said by phone from Devon, England. “Locations are evenly distributed around the globe. The Met Office doesn’t chose the observation points, and therefore it’s impossible for us to tamper with the data.”

It is ironic that athough Russian climate skeptics accuse the British climate scientists of being "fabricators," the Russian skeptics don't seem to agree with each other about what the climate scientists fabricated! Did allegedly dishonest British climate scientists hide the fact that the climate is cooling or did the British scientists exaggerate the extent of global warming? The "dishonest" British scientists probably haven't done both.

The various Russian climate skeptics sound like Goldilocks tasting the Three Bears' porridge: They complain that the British climate scientists are suppressing evidence that the climate is getting both colder and only a little warmer.

For example, the Russian InfoCentre (11-24-09), citing Science and Technology (11-23-09), credits Russian hackers for the crime and claims that the CRU scientists hid the fact that the earth is cooling:

Russian hackers have cracked the server of the University of East Anglia, which dealt with climate change and global warming problems, and found that research resuts [ie results]were forged.

Hackers have stolen the correspondence between University staff members and made it public on the Internet. Researchers have been discussing the ways to forge data in order to correspond with the idea of global warming.The real data surprisingly shows the decrease of Earth’s average annual temperatures. The University of East Anglia confirms the theft, but refuses to give any comments on the correspondence.

Even before the Climategate scandal, some Russian media had reported that the world is in for an ice age. RIA NOVOSTI (1-22-08) claimed:

Temperatures on Earth have stabilized in the past decade, and the planet should brace itself for a new Ice Age rather than global warming, a Russian scientist said in an interview with RIA Novosti Tuesday.

"Russian and foreign research data confirm that global temperatures in 2007 were practically similar to those in 2006, and, in general, identical to 1998-2006 temperatures, which, basically, means that the Earth passed the peak of global warming in 1998-2005," said Khabibullo Abdusamatov, head of a space research lab at the Pulkovo observatory in St. Petersburg.

In an article titled "Climate Scandal: new evidence of dubious research" (Russia Today (12-18-09/edited 1-2-10), the author claims that the theft of the CRU e-mails and documents was an "inside job" and claims that "conspiracy theorists point to Russian hackers." [This was published before the FSB pointed to Chinese hackers, as reported by the Daily Mail (12-27-09).]

The Russia Today author conceeds that there is global warming, but claims that British scientists are exaggerating the extent of the warming:

Russia is becoming a focal point in the battle of ideas over climate change. Russian weather data appears to have been tinkered with by UK climate researchers to overstate the scale of global warming. [This is not the same as saying that the UK researchers are frauds because they tinkered with climate data to hide cooling.]

After leaked data from the University of East Anglia’s climate change unit were posted on a server in Tomsk, conspiracy theorists pointed to Russian hackers.

Yet how would a hacker have known the University of East Anglia had manipulated climate data? Or about the climate researchers’ decade-long history of using the peer review system to silence those who disagreed with the global warming hypothesis? And where to get the emails to prove it? It was an inside job.

Now Russia is back in the spotlight. Research released through Moscow’s Institute of Economic Analysis suggests the Hadley Climate Research Unit [the U.K. Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Change is not the East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU)]...was selective and forgetful with data from Russian weather stations, and exaggerated the scale of global warming in Russia.

...The IEA [Moscow's Institute for Economic Analysis headed by Andrei Illarionov] concedes that temperatures may have increased, but much less than 2 degrees Celsius. It asks: if global warming is overstated in Russia, what errors are hiding in the data on other countries? [See also the Daily Mail, "Met Office 'manipulated climate change figures' says Russian think tank linked to President Putin," (12-17-09).]

It's curious that the Russian skeptics can't seem to decide if the allegedly dishonest British climate scientists made the porridge too cold or a little too hot. All the Russian skeptics agree on is that the British scientists fabricated their research. Some Russian skeptics say the British scientists fabricated their research in order to hide cooling. Others, such as Andrei Illarionov's Institute for Economic Analysis (IEA), say the British scientists fabricated their research in order to exaggerate global warming.

Of course, not everyone in Russia is a climate change skeptic. There are Russian scientists, such as Dr. Sergei Kirpotin of Tomsk, who believe that global warming is happening and that thawing permafrost is going to be a big problem for Russia.

Dr. Kirpotin is very angry about the CRU hacking. According to Russian Greenpeace (12-9-09), Dr. Kirpotin views Climategate as a "provocation" to damage the credibility of the Climatic Research unit (CRU) scientists and their research right before the December 2009 Copenhagen meeting on climate change.

Dr. Kirpotin says that it is clear that an "order" was given to steal selected e-mails from the CRU server, post them on the Tomsk server used by TSU, and spread the e-mails on the Internet in order to increase skepticism about global warming. As far as I have been able to determine, except for Russian Greenpeace, no Russian media has reported Sergei Kirpotin's views about the hacking. For some reason, I had problems accessing the Russian Greenpeace (12-9-09) today, so readers can also see what they wrote here. Read more about Sergei Kirpotin's research in English by searching "Sergei Kirpotin" or in Russian by searching "Сергей Кирпотин." ]

Discover Magazine (1-30-06) has published an article about Dr. Kirpotin's research titled "Siberian Thaw Releases Methane And Accelerates Global Warming." Discover Magazine reports:

The Siberian permafrost is melting, but that has been happening since the end of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago. What's new, researchers reported in August, is that the thaw appears to be speeding up. As it does, it could release tons of additional methane gas, which has 20 times the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide, possibly increasing the rate of global warming.

Dr. Kirpotin seems to have an interest in spiritual issues, too. He has even published an article in the journal Science and Religion. During the communist era, this publication used to promote an atheist outlook. Science and Religion provides a nice photo of Dr. Kirpotin and a link to his article.


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