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History of climate gets 'erased' online

Posted By Chelsea Schilling On 12/21/2009 @ 8:32 pm In Front Page | Comments Disabled


This photo of climate scientist and Wikipedia editor William Connolley was displayed on ScienceBlogs.com

A new report reveals a British scientist and Wikipedia administrator rewrote climate history, editing more than 5,000 unique articles in the online encyclopedia to cover traces of a medieval warming period – something Climategate scientists saw as a major roadblock in the effort to spread the global warming message.

Recently hacked e-mails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit expose a plot to eliminate the Medieval Warm Period, a 400-year era that began around A.D. 1000, the Financial Post’s Lawrence Solomon reports.

The warming period is said to have improved agriculture and increased life spans, but scientists at the center of the Climategate e-mail scandal believed the era undermined their goal of spreading concern about global warming as it pertains to today’s climate.

Solomon noted the warming period presented a dilemma long before the Climategate e-mail scandal.

A 1995 e-mail predating the recent Climate Research Unit scandal was sent to geophysicist David Deming. A major climate-change researcher told Deming, “We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period.”

Some scientists later expressed concern about erasing the period.

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One chief practitioner identified as Keith Briffa, said in a Sept. 22, 1999, e-mail, “I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story as regards ‘apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more in the proxy data’ but in reality the situation is not quite so simple. … I believe that the recent warmth was probably matched about 1,000 years ago.”

Briffa and other scientists, with the help of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published a well-known symbol of their movement: the hockey stick chart, an illustration reproduced in textbooks, media reports and the pages of the 2001 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, report.


Hockey-stick chart (omitting Medieval Warm Period) as it appeared in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2001 report

However, the graph showed stable temperatures over the last 1,000 years and omitted any indication of the warming period.

“But the U.N.’s official verdict that the Medieval Warm Period had not existed did not erase the countless schoolbooks, encyclopedias, and other scholarly sources that claimed it had,” Solomon wrote. “Rewriting those would take decades, time that the band members didn’t have if they were to save the globe from warming.”

Instead, the group created a website called RealClimate.org. One e-mail addressed criticism of the hockey stick graph and any suggestions that today’s temperatures were not the hottest on record.

“The idea is that we working climate scientists should have a place where we can mount a rapid response to supposedly ‘bombshell’ papers that are doing the rounds” in aid of “combating dis-information,” a Dec. 10, 2004, e-mail to the Climate Research Unit from Gavin Schmidt explained.


Excerpt from Gavin Schmidt’s Dec. 10, 2004, e-mail

The RealClimate.org team consisted of Schmidt, Mike Mann, Eric Steig, William Connolley, Stefan Rahmstorf, Ray Bradley, Amy Clement, Rasmus Benestad and Caspar Ammann.

Solomon revealed that Connolley, one man in the nine-member team who is a U.K. scientist, a software engineer and Green Party activist, took control of Wikipedia’s entries to see that any trace of the true climate history would be erased.

Beginning in February 2003, Connolley rewrote Wikipedia entries on global warming, the greenhouse effect, the instrumental temperature record, the urban heat island, on climate models and on global cooling, according to the report. In February, he began editing the Little Ice Age. By August, he began to rewrite history without the Medieval Warm Period. In October, he turned to the hockey-stick chart.

“He rewrote articles on the politics of global warming and on the scientists who were skeptical of the band,” Solomon explains. “Richard Lindzen and Fred Singer, two of the world’s most distinguished climate scientists, were among his early targets, followed by others that the band especially hated, such as Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, authorities on the Medieval Warm Period.”

Through his role as a Wikipedia administrator, Connolley is said to have created or rewritten 5,428 unique Wikipedia entries.

“When Connolley didn’t like the subject of a certain article, he removed it – more than 500 articles of various descriptions disappeared at his hand,” Solomon wrote. “When he disapproved of the arguments that others were making, he often had them barred – over 2,000 Wikipedia contributors who ran afoul of him found themselves blocked from making further contributions.”


Meanwhile, followers who adhered to Connolley’s climate views “were rewarded with Wikipedia’s blessings,” Solomon contends.

Through his control of the Wikipedia pages, Connolley is said to have “turned Wikipedia into the missionary wing of the global warming movement.”

Facts about the Medieval Warm Period and criticism of global warming doctrine were purportedly scrubbed from Wikipedia’s pages.

“With the release of the Climategate e-mails, the disappearing trick has been exposed,” Solomon declared. “The glorious Medieval Warm Period will remain in the history books, perhaps with an asterisk to describe how a band of zealots once tried to make it disappear.”

A Wikipedia arbitration committee has stated in the past: “William M. Connolley has, on a number of occasions, misused his administrator tools by acting while involved.”

A July 31, 2006, article in the New Yorker described Connolley as a “victim of an edit war over the entry on global warming, to which he had contributed.”

“After a particularly nasty confrontation with a skeptic, who had repeatedly watered down language pertaining to the greenhouse effect, the case went into arbitration,” the report states.

“User William M. Connolley strongly pushes his POV [point of view] with systematic removal of any POV which does not match his own,” his accuser charged in a written deposition. “His views on climate science are singular and narrow.”

Connolley said Wikipedia “gives no privilege to those who know what they’re talking about.”

Just today, Connolley has made edits in numerous Wikipedia entries, including articles titled, “Public opinion on climate change,” “Climate,” “Scientific opinion on climate change,” “RealClimate,” “ Global cooling,” “Climate change” and the biography of scientist William M. Gray, writing that Gray’s “views on global warming are controversial.”



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