Some environmental leaders have been working to minimize the scandal of ClimateGate, by focusing on the fact the hacked email archive of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit has nothing, besides a few cherry-picked quotes taken out of context, that casts a shadow of a doubt upon validity of modern climate science. They are wrong. ClimateGate is a huge scandal, probably bigger than they even imagine.
The real scandal is not the email archive, or even how it was acquired, sorted, and uploaded to a Russian server, but rather the emerging evidence of a coordinated international campaign to target and harass climate scientists, break and enter into government climate labs, and misrepresent climate science through a sophisticated media infrastructure on the eve of the international climate talks.
One leaked archive could have been the result of an aggrieved staff member or rogue hacker, out to grind a political axe or wreak revenge upon a colleague. However, the University of Victoria was targeted in a similar attack, when two people disguised as network computer technicians attempted to penetrate the security of the facility and access the data servers of the Canadian Centre for Climate Modeling and Analysis. When challenged by an employee, the two individuals fled the scene. The network penetration effort was confirmed by University spokespeople in the National Post and was reported by Kevin Grandia of DeSmogBlog.
"This is disturbing news and it shows that there is an organized criminal campaign that is going to great lengths to infiltrate secure facilities and steal private data," said Jim Hoggan, author of the new book Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming. "We don't know who is behind these criminal acts, but we hope they will eventually be unmasked by police."
This campaign has been proved to be international in scope, with criminal acts of breaking and entering probable in both the UK and Canada, as well as coordinated with the sophisticated communications infrastructure founded and built by former tobacco lobbyists that were hired by fossil fuel interests, such as ExxonMobil, to cast doubt on the links between the sale and use of fossil fuels and the changing of the world's climate. This infrastructure was detailed by within Hoggan's book, as well as documented in extensive detail by projects like Exxonsecrets.org.
One major mistake these groups, including ClimateDepot and Newsbusters, made was in labeling this manufactured crisis as ClimateGate. Perhaps a little history is in order, as almost no news reports even referenced the fact that the Watergate scandal centered around the breaking and entering of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate hotel, by a group of right-wing shadow operatives that a subsequent investigation by the FBI connected to the 1972 Committee to Re-elect the President, CREEP.
President Nixon was exposed as having commissioned the break-in, to uncover the state of the Democratic party, as he had given into fears of electoral defeat and resorted to desperate and criminal measures. Pioneering reporters Woodward and Bernstein made history for exposing the criminal conspiracy at the heart of the White House.
Conspiracy theory has recently become mainstream within the conservative movement in the United States, with both media figures and politicians implying that President Obama falsified his birth records, is setting up death panels to euthanize seniors, or impose communism upon the people of the United States.
The two policy issues that have aroused the most conspiracy theory have been Healthcare reform and Clean Energy Reform, with hugely profitable insurance and fossil fuel companies funding massive lobbying and disinformation campaigns. The Center for Public Integrity recently detailed the massive expansion in lobbying by polluting energy interests, leading to over 1,150 lobbying groups buying influence as the U.S. Congress sought to pass the Waxman-Markey climate bill.
The actual dollar amount spent is unknown, as disclosure laws require few details and have huge loopholes, but the Center calculated that an extremely conservative estimate would give you a minimum figure of more than $27 million dollars spent in direct lobbying from April to June of this year. In a major and still unfolding scandal, Bonner and Associates, an astroturf lobbying organization contracted to the coal industry's trade association, falsified letters to lawmakers from local civil rights, veterans, and other groups opposing federal climate legislation. This comes on top of the documented campaign of industrial espionage against environmental organizations, including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, that was exposed last year by Mother Jones magazine.
The picture painted by these facts lead to the open question to if, as huge amounts of corporate money started being spent in unregulated funds, including to ethically compromised contractors and security firms, to defeat federal and international climate regulations, some of that money was diverted to fund a criminal conspiracy?
Could there be a criminal campaign to break into the climate research centers of foreign governments, review their archives for damaging snippets of text, and then elevate a fringe conspiracy theory that climate change is a hoax by the world's scientists, civil society organizations, and governments to impose socialism upon the people of the world? If so, this story would be an eerie and ironic echo of Michael Crichton's "State of Fear" that was embraced by many of the same groups currently promoting the ClimateGate talking points.
However, most journalists seem content to play into the false balance trap that has served the opponents of climate action so well over the years, by looking only at cherry-picked quotes and disinformation turned out by the climate denial industry. While the surface parallels between Watergate and ClimateGate may be strong, to uncover the truth will require a serious investigation by media, law enforcement, or even international security organizations.
An investigation into who is coordinating, funding, and leading a last-ditch effort to stall climate legislation through the use of criminal tactics and a well-funded and coordinated disinformation campaign seems to be beyond the capacity of the field of journalism. An industry so critically wounded by budget and staffing cuts that it is perhaps unable or unwilling to spend the resources or staff time to tackle serious investigative issues, even if the direction of a policy critical to the future development of the global economy depends on the outcome.
If so, the question remains, who will get to the bottom of ClimateGate? This could be a scandal bigger than anybody has imagined.